Monday, October 18, 2010
A note was released on Facebook some time ago, mentioning the
prospective end of IDKE due to lack of support/interested host cities.
I wanted to write this one last piece of correspondence regarding IDKE
since feedback was requested in the above mentioned note. I cannot, in
good conscience, spend a dime of my troupe’s money on attending IDKE
this year, so hopefully this letter will find its way into the right
In my view, IDKE is failing for a few reasons.
1.) High cost of attending/hosting IDKE. Host cities have gone into
tremendous debt trying to make the conference accessible, affordable
and enjoyable for the attendees. While scholarships exist, not
everyone can get them, and the cost is quite out of reach for a lot of
performers. Even though my troupe paid the cost of transportation,
lodging and tickets to IDKE events, I still had performers who
couldn’t afford the trip the last 3 times the Carnival Kings attended.
IDKE has become insolvent, but doesn’t appear so because it spreads
the debt around from city to city.
Solution: Corporate Sponsorship. Companies that benefit from our queer
community have proven that they will put their money where their
market is. Several gay-friendly, wealthy businesses sponsor Prides and
parades throughout the country. This would drive down the costs
assumed by the host city, so would also drive down the cost of IDKE
tickets and lodging.
2.) Lack of leadership. There is no discernable leadership at the helm
of IDKE. The Board insists that its sole function is to select the
next host city. One person owns the rights to IDKE, but holds no other
real leadership role, leaving the Board without any real authority.
So when issues pop up (like whether performers can do rap/hip hop at
IDKE or not), no one is the “law”. There are no clear rules as to the
administration of the actual conference, because someone in leadership
would have to make them. Having hundreds of people gathering, even just
once a year, without solid, stable leadership is begging for disorganization,
mixed messages and an untimely demise of that traditional gathering. IDKE’s
desire to offend no one has apparently offended everyone, and since no one is in
charge, no one can fix it.
Solution: Create leadership, either by empowering the Board or
selecting a diverse panel of performers to lead. Have this leadership
group make and enforce rules…not just abstract respect clauses that
are so open to interpretation that no one is accountable. (And even if
they were accountable, who would they be accountable to without
3.) Bias against types of drag performances/performers. IDKE welcomes
certain types of drag, but not others. Jukebox Drag (pure performance
of a song), performers doing rap/hip hop and performers not wishing to
engage in academic discussions about drag are all openly frowned upon.
Preferential treatment appears given to those troupes and performers
that construct pieces high on the obscure, intellectual art scale.
(Acro-yoga…great. Straight up performance of any given top 40
Solution: Make IDKE’s mission and target attendees clear. If IDKE is
only for theatrical drag performers, be honest about that. If mid-act
protests are allowed for a piece people disagree with, be clear about
why. If rap/hip hop is not welcome, be open about it. Lastly, if IDKE
only wants academics to attend, be plain about that.
Without change, IDKE will most certainly die. It needs to remedy its
insolvency, create leadership and be clear about its target attendees.
IDKE is an unattractive package to any host city right now…it offers
debt, obscure leadership and drama. That is my honest opinion. New
Orleans was ready to host IDKE XIII…so ready that we already had
venues committing to it. But after the treatment we received (both the
Carnival Kings AND the Crescent City Kings) at IDKE XI, being
attacked on Facebook and being blackballed from events like FaGG, it
was clear that New Orleans wouldn’t be hosting anything for the
greater drag community in the foreseeable future.
IDKE appears, on its surface, to be an opportunity for the entire drag
community to meet one another, perform and discuss drag-related
topics. At least, that’s what the Carnival Kings thought when we first
heard of it back in 2006. But beneath it all, it appears to embrace
elitism over individualism, academia over entertainment and
homogenization over cultural diversity. It rejects its own ideal of
accountability; when confronted with controversy and asked to be
accountable, the Carnival Kings were just that. We agreed to a pre-Town
Hall Meeting and listened to what everyone had to say, but it was not enough. It seemed the protesting parties did not just want accountability…they
wanted blood. The IDKE that allows such behavior should die; I hope it does.
In its wake, though, I hope something better is created; something we can all endorse. It will be an event that will have a sensible business plan, stable leadership and a sense of fair play.
It will be an event where protests during an act aren’t allowed.
It will be an event that doesn’t attempt to solve in-depth problems
via Town Hall Meeting.
It will be an event that doesn’t allow amateur mediation among large
groups to take place.
It will be an event that allows for cultural differences without
immediately labeling it “racism” or “cultural appropriation.”
It will be an event that will frown upon using academia as a weapon
against those who aren’t academics.
It will be an event that welcomes all types of performances, with
different stages for each and with the cream of the crop submitted to
a Showcase-like event.
It will be an event for the whole drag king community, not just those
with college degrees and an academic bone to pick.
That’s an event I would gladly spend money on attending. And hosting.
The New Orleans Carnival Kings
Sunday, November 15, 2009
New Orleanians are a little shaken today, and if you aren’t one of them, you should be. Again, if that offended you, stop here. Srsly. This is your last warning.
I have followed the Saints for years; New Orleans is a huge football town, and it’s impossible to escape news of how LSU and the Saints are doing no matter how hard you try. Somewhere, right this moment, someone who hates football in New Orleans is rolling his eyes as the waiter who is supposed to be taking his drink order is bitching about how we couldn’t stop Steven Jackson from stomping through for positive yardage, and “what the hell was Brees thinking in the second quarter, spiking the ball like that?” The man just wants his bloody mary, garcon. (Or whatever it is that pansy asses that don’t like football drink.) This is a city steeped in tradition; one of those traditions just happens to be attending Saints games with brown paper bags over our heads. The Saints are one of five teams in the entire NFL that have never been to the Super Bowl; for those who are wondering who else has earned this dubious distinction, that would be the Lions, the Browns, the Jaguars and the Texans. As an interesting side note, we’ve hosted 9 Super Bowls here in New Orleans, with #10 happening in 2013, yet we’ve never played in one. The farthest that the Saints have never gotten in terms of NFL glory was in 2006, when we went to the NFC Championship game and dropped a heartbreaker to the Chicago Bears, 39-14. Saints fans have been through a lot since they got their start in 1967; we’re known as an emotional team, and an emotional crowd. Other teams dread playing in the Superdome for no other reason than this…we are some loud, rambunctious mother fuckers known for making so much noise that other teams have trouble calling audible plays on the field. We are the ultimate 12th man. We’ve been let down for 41 seasons, and yet, we still come back for more every year. So far, in 2009, we’ve been rewarded for our dedication, and our paper bags are now holding Mardi Gras beads in our attic, as they should be.
We’ve gone 9-0 this season, a franchise best and what could be the beginning of the Saints actually earning respect in the NFL and from the bobble heads on ESPN. That looks great on paper, but as an overall football fan, I must be honest about what I’ve seen. Over the past five games, our defense has allowed 131 points; our offense has scored 187 points. During our first 4 games, the defense allowed 66 points while our offense scored 144 points, which says to me that our defense is falling apart, and our offense is slipping. Any Saints fan who watched today’s 28-23 victory of the New Orleans Saints over the St. Louis Rams walked away from their TV sets a little rattled, and no doubt drained. Under no circumstances should we be screaming for the clock to wind down to 00:00 at the end of the fourth quarter against a team like the Rams, who walked into their Edward Jones Dome today as a 1-7 team and damn near left a 2-7 team. The Rams’ Steven Jackson proved a nearly unstoppable force for their offense; our defensive line simply failed to see him coming time after time. When we did try to neutralize Jackson, the Rams capitalized on our distraction by hitting up otherwise mediocre players for plays and points, and we didn’t see that coming, either. Football is a game of inches, and giving up 3 yards here and 4 yards there can mean a major upset like the one that almost happened in St. Louis today. Our defense is leaky and it’s going to take more than Brees to get this offense going. The turnovers are crippling the Saints by way of giving otherwise sad-sack teams the opportunity to score, which gives them the morale boost they need to give the Saints a real run for their money.
I’ve seen this all before; a strong start with a heart breaking ending as we crumble before the finish line. It’s the Saints’ calling card, and an ill-deserved punishment to the fans that pay the salaries of the team via ticket sales, merchandise, support of the team’s corporate sponsors and taxes (used to rebuild the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina’s rampage to the tune of $185 million, including $13 million in state taxes.) I hear people talking about a Black and Gold Super Bowl…not the way we played today, or since our BYE week. Something’s gotta change, and it has to happen fast. While it is very common for teams to go into a Super Bowl with losses on their records (save for the undefeated ’72 Dolphins and the ‘07 Patriots), the odds aren’t good for teams that lose their shit half way through the season. True, the 1988 San Francisco 49ers got to the Super Bowl after a 10-6 finish and won against Cincinatti, 20-16. However, the '79 Rams were 9-7 when they lost to Pittsburgh, 32-14, and that’s the worst record for Super Bowl losers. The more you lose in the regular season, the less likely you are to win the Super Bowl, if you make it there at all. Super Bowl XLIV is the least of our worries right now; if sorry teams like St. Louis can make us sweat like this, what’s going to happen when we face the Patriots on Monday Night Football on November 30th? How about on January 3rd when we meet the Panthers again? Hell, how can we even think Super Bowl when we’re worried about the effing Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are 1-7 just like the Rams were today?
I’m not saying to give up hope; that’s un-New Orleanian. I just have to say this out loud…I’m not a pessimist, I’m a realist. I love the Saints, but don’t expect me to instill blind faith in the team’s ability when I see their limitations weekly. Because I’m not the only one who is watching…the other teams are, too, and you can bet your Marques Colston that they are adjusting to bring us down. Time to get serious, Saints; all I want for Christmas is a 15-0 team, but I want a Super Bowl ring for Valentine’s Day.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
The blessing and burden of freedom of speech is that all people have the right to say what they want. For me, it can be immensely frustrating to listen to the likes of David Duke, Pat Robertson, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck; I find their opinions and condemnations infuriating. It might surprise some people to know how much I listen to those individuals; I don't listen to every broadcast or watch every show, because I value my sanity, but I do follow them. I do it because I believe that you can't exist in a vacuum of ideas, that to maintain intellectual honesty you MUST know what the opposition is saying, within context, and not simply label them as fanatical extremists. I don't want to be considered a fanatical extremist simply because someone doesn't believe what I believe, and I can be just as sure of my convictions as they are of theirs. Their actions and words may be despicable to me, but at least I can say that I hear them...and in the same breath, I can also say "I disagree." It doesn't mean that they are necessarily bad people, or uneducated, or ignorant...they just have different opinions than me. I say that fully understanding that they undeniably fuel the fire of inequality...they fund actions and initiatives that deny me basic rights and dignities in America, and feed the anger and fear that people who want to hate are hungry for. I know this, and it makes me angry, but I still listen to them. It fuels MY fire so that I attend protests, sign petitions, vote in elections and talk about the issues I feel so passionately about. This is how informed opinions are created.
The Carnival Kings have done ALOT of listening over the past 3 years, and in particular, over the last 3 weeks. We have heard, truly heard, what people have had to say about our drag, good and bad. We attended the IDKE pre-Town Hall and Town Hall meeting and only did about 15 minutes of talking, compared to 1 1/2 hours of listening. We have listened, even when people wouldn't tell us directly about their opinions and beliefs; we've read the personal comments and public discussions about us and our performances on Facebook and MySpace, and listened to third party accounts of conversations by performers who didn't think it was important to tell us their viewpoints directly. We have read the allegations and discussions on the "Dragstars for Social Justice" Facebook group, and read Michael Normand's essay regarding his actions and beliefs about the drag that the Carnival Kings do. I feel confident in saying, we have done a lot of listening.
We simply disagree.
We do rap and hip hop for the same reason we do rock, country, punk and alternative...because it's what we listen to, and what the audience wants. We do any kind of music we actually listen to and appreciate. Simple as that. If a song is offensive to someone, we are open to listening to why, and better, we will engage in a dialog. That's what we did in Tucson this year. Here's another important part, though...we have to be heard and respected, too. People don't have to agree with us, but I object to the allegations that we are ignorant and uneducated simply because we don't agree with opposing opinion.
It has to be okay to disagree. It has to be acceptable to stop and say "Look, I just don't agree," and that should happen without people calling us stupid, uneducated or racist. THAT is dismissive and disrespectful.
Don't agree with that assertion? That's your right, but I disagree. And I don't have to think you're uneducated, racist, classist, sexist or elitist in order to disagree.
I simply disagree.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
I am a member of a drag troupe...The New Orleans Carnival Kings. My troupe members and I went to IDKE XI in Tucson, AZ this past weekend; IDKE is the International Drag King community Extravaganza, an annual convention where there are a few opportunities to perform, lots of workshops, films to see, art to appreciate and people to get to know.
The Carnival Kings, as a group and after much dialog on the subject, opted to perform our weekly show theme song: "Put On" by Jeezy feat. Kanye West at Dragdom on Friday night. After discussing our piece with the Tucson drag kings, and in particular the host city liaison, we were encouraged to write a brief disclaimer that would be read prior to our piece being performed. The disclaimer read:
The following piece contains a song written and performed by artists of a different ethnic background than those of these performers. However, this musical genre is an integral part of our culture in New Orleans, and is performed not in a spirit of mocking or hate, but emulation and celebration.
We ask that you judge us not on the color of our skin, but on the passion for performing that we display.
The Carnival Kings
New Orleans, LA"
Our performers took the stage (Tucker Hardley, Kris Lique, Shane Cockring, Dirk T. Sanchez and Rod T. Bagger), and while the piece was loudly applauded both before and after, around 12 people opted to protest the piece during the performance by standing up in front of the stage with their backs turned. Among them were two members of the Crescent City Kings, our brother troupe in New Orleans. It must be said that both protesters are seemingly "white" and have done rap/hip hop acts before themselves while performing in New Orleans, making this the height of hypocrisy in my eyes.
The following day, a special "pre-Town Hall" meeting was held. We were given 10 minutes to give our side of the story about why we did that particular piece, and I think we made all the points we could make within that small time frame. We were then witness to a round-table discussion, largely around us as we only got called on once to speak, where people both supported and objected to our act. While it was tremendously difficult, the Carnival Kings handled themselves with grace and dignity, earnestly listening to other viewpoints but ultimately certain of their own. The Carnival Kings were accountable from the beginning that this piece would possibly be controversial, but that it was done with respect and love for our culture; we knew people may not understand.
What we hadn't expected was the blatant disrespect that would be displayed during the act itself; people protested it without even seeing it. One IDKE board member walked into the auditorium, saw people protesting and joined right in...without hearing the disclaimer or even seeing the piece from start to finish. They turned their backs to the stage, not even pausing long enough to see the act in its entirety before objecting. I was grateful that only a couple of our performers noticed the protest from the stage as they were performing; how disrespected they must have felt. We had already seen acts earlier in the show that were "Caucasian" performers performing to non-Caucasian artists...why were we the only ones protested over the ENTIRE weekend? I have my theories, but here are a couple.
Set the performance aside for a moment...I know rap scares some people, or otherwise angers them. I have heard the arguments for years...that rap is misogynistic, homophobic and hateful in general; I've heard that it perpetuates stereotypes of black culture. I've heard older people describe it as "noise", and not music at all. Rap always turns heads and gets people thinking, no matter who is performing it. So first, I think we were protested because we were performing to rap.
Second, I think we were protested because of our perceived race. We were a group of seemingly "white" performers performing to music created by Jeezy and Kanye West, performers from a different ethnic background than those of the kings performing the piece that night. To this, I can only say how sad I am that my performers' rich ethnic backgrounds were reduced to a color...white. Au'Tumn is Italian and Cherokee, and Anna is largely German. Our show coordinator, Jenna, is Italian, Irish and German...I am Irish, Creole French, English and Cherokee. I won't belabor the point by describing all of our ethnic backgrounds; you get the point. To call us "white" or Caucasian belittles our rich ancestries and perpetuates the "black/white" stereotype that you can only be one of the few main racial options in America...black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Arabic, or Native American. Furthermore, if you happen to fall under "white", you must apparently be ashamed of yourself, and acknowledge how much privilege you have just because of your skin color. Not only this, but you must refrain from doing what you want because you come from a place of privilege. Had any one taken the time to have a conversation, a real and true conversation, with any of the Carnival Kings who were on stage that night, they would never associate the word "privilege" with these girls. Some of them come from startling poverty and acute discrimination; four are unemployed as I write this.
This is a bold statement that will no doubt raise eyebrows among some, but I have thought a lot about my life and my experiences and I feel confident in saying this...my skin color hasn't been a much of a comfort or privilege in my life. I'm not going to pretend to make others feel better about themselves or me...to my knowledge, I have not received special treatment for being white. I did not grow up prior to the civil rights movement, when people who looked like me were given the best seats on a bus, better food, cleaner water, higher paying jobs, or a stronger education. It was only because my mother worked herself to absolute exhaustion and put herself in outrageous debt that I didn't realize how poor we really were back when I was a kid. No one has ever told me or given me the impression that "You got this job/seat/respect over that other person because you are white and they are not."
Am I saying such situations don't exist? Of course not! This is not a perfect world, and it can be a cruel, unjust place to those who are perceived as different. But that is not my experience, and to pretend that I have enjoyed privilege when I have not is disingenuous. To judge others by that place of perceived privilege is just as bad as ignoring the reality that not all of us experienced that privilege.
Should I shy away from doing music that I love because someone, somewhere got beaten down by injustice? I don't think so. Should we be mindful of others' experiences and be ready for a civil dialog about it? Of course, and we were. Was the protest and ensuing dialog as civil and fair as we would have liked? Not at all.
Third, I believe we were protested and not other kings who did similar music because we are not as accepted or intimately known as other troupes. We don't appear to be the kind of drag kings IDKE wants attending the conference; at least, they don't want to hear from us on stage. I have a sneaking suspicion that the only interaction some of these other performers want with us as far as IDKE goes is to sit us down in workshops to "teach" us how wrong we are about everything. How privileged our skin color makes us, and how we should do nothing but "white" music. This is a shame, because I believe we are the kind of kings IDKE should be reaching out to; there are so many troupes and performers who have either never heard of the conference before, or just don't think it represents them accurately. "'The L Word' of the drag king world" has been used to describe it by kings who don't feel welcome there.
We had far more positive feedback about our piece than negative, and for that I am extremely grateful. However, it still somehow didn't take the sting out of the judgement we encountered by people who couldn't even give me the names of the kings involved in the piece. To call these performers anything without even knowing their names, to judge their actions without understanding their culture is abhorrent.
Will we go back to IDKE? Probably, though I will have my work cut out for me trying to convince them that it's worth it. For most, it was their very first IDKE and they were heartbroken at the rejection and judgement they encountered, when they expected dialog and mutual understanding. Will New Orleans actually bid for IDKE XIII? I don't know. It would be an IDKE unlike any before it, but again, can I really look these Carnival Kings in the eyes and tell them that we should throw a party at our own expense for the community we just left this past weekend?
I don't know that I can sell that to myself, and that's saying something.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Our troupe is comprised of people with diverse personalities, so social fit and harmony is of equal importance to how good a drag king they are.
Last night I received a concerned, urgent phone call from Whitney, one of my kings, asking if anything had happened to Emily, as she had not been heard from in several days. As Emily is quite the social butterfly, I found this out of character. I took a few minutes and attempted to contact her to no avail. Whitney called again; she was told via text (from Emily’s cousin in
With my girlfriend, Ked, we drove to the Westbank and picked up her sobbing best friend, Alex, who goes by Shane Cockring when she performs with us. Alex had received the news, and was devastated. We drove towards Emily’s house to get answers, and Alex got a text from Ms. Becky, Emily’s mother. The text asked if Alex was alone; we pulled over and let Alex be alone. She responded that, yes, she was alone. A call came through Alex’s phone. It was Emily.
Emily intended to let everyone believe she was dead except Alex, as she intends to move in two weeks to a new state and wished to hurt her ex-girlfriend with news of her death. Her mother and cousin were in on the scheme. I immediately let everyone know that this was a hoax; news of her suicide had spread like wildfire. She obviously forgot that we live in
Needless to say, she is no longer with our troupe.
These bitches is crazy.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
My mother and sister had experimented with South Beach, so after reading up a little online, I started working myself up to it...it takes some real preparation when you lead the life I do. It's a 3-Phase diet that focuses on lean proteins, certain vegetables and extremely low carbohydrate intake. This means no fruit, no bread, no carb-rich vegetables, no alchohol, no sugar, at least for Phase One which lasts two weeks. For me, this sounded like a true challenge, as I never cook at home. For several reasons, I'm seldom found at my apartment during traditional meal times, so I end up eating out for just about every meal. That means a lot of cheap, fatty, greasy fast food or slightly more expensive restaurant tabs for better (sometimes?) food. Ideally, I should be baking chicken and turkey breasts, grilling steaks, hand making salads of romaine lettuce, boiled eggs and turkey bacon. Well, as my Honda Civic didn't come with a factory installed oven, though it feels that way in mid-August in New Orleans, and boiled eggs feel like eyeballs in my mouth (I have SID, or at least my doctor thinks I do), that wouldn't work. I know myself; I knew that I would not alter my busy lifestyle in such a severe way to accommodate a diet. I'd accommodate the diet to suit me.
No doubt, I cooked a couple of times, but I lost 45 pounds with very little excercise and not eating in my or anyone else's kitchen. My staples? Low carb choices like Wendy's chili, cheesburgers with no bun (and little to no ketchup), grilled chicken sandwiches (same thing: no bun, no ketchup) made any fast food restaurant accessible. At regular restaurants, it was just as easy: salads with proteins and light italian dressing or vinaigrette (no root veggies, like carrots, which are high in carbs), and dishes like salmon teriyaki with sauce only on the side (toss it...it's full of sugar) and edamame instead of rice. I did this strict Phase One for three weeks before beginning Phase Two. I felt like a million bucks.
The biggie: no more regular soda. Diet drinks or water only. And if I wanted an alchoholic beverage after Phase One, no beer. Crown Royal and diet Coke became my carb-free drink of choice.
What worked for me? How adaptable the diet is to any lifestyle. Also, your body only wants to eat so much protein in one sitting; it's dense and filling. My cholesterol dropped along with the pounds...I thank the lean proteins and veggies for that. The diet also encourages snacking (yay, cashews) and eating til you are satisfied. FYI...you will be "satisfied" long before you finish that 2 lbs of bacon in front of you.
What didn't work for me? I had to start really watching my salt intake. Restaurants using not-so-fresh meats and vegetables tend to use salt to compensate for the lack of natural flavor. Snacks like nuts usually come salted, and chicken-broth soups contains tons of sodium more often than not. Drink more water to try to compensate, and ask the restaurant for low sodium options or preparation.
I've 60 lbs or so that I'd like to lose until I'm where I should be. I'm at 225 nowadays; well, 224 since I started on Monday. 59 to go.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
a + 9 = 16
a + 9 - 9 = 16 - 9
a = 7
That's about the extent of my mathematical skill. It's more than enough to get me by in the world, though, when my job consists of solid, basic math. It's not enough, however, to foster a desire to devote thousands of hours to fruitless study of calculus just so I can try to forecast when a volcano will wipe out a village of 200 in Africa. Those people deserve a better class of volcanologist. :)
No, if I have a calling, it's to write. I love the English language, and despite myself, I have a love of writing. I've developed a concept for my first book, joined a writer's group and intend to write a short blog every day to start developing some discipline and comfort with writing. Blogs will be short, just enough to get me started.
I'm also going to revisit some old stuff I've written on previous blogs.