Why Mattachine This Sunday Perfectly Bookends My Decade As An Out Queer (thanks John Cameron Mitchell!)
The post-Hard French period of my life (it’s pretty much like a BC/AD difference at this point) has been marked by so many previously unthinkable and magical experiences — from slinging records across 11 states and 2 countries in a wild road tour with Amy to curating a balls to the wall pride party with some of my favorite all-time DJs and performers to igniting a queer takeover of a haunted hotel. Each of these memories and so many more continue to blow me away but these still don’t reach any where near the level of awe I feel when reflecting upon what is the craziest of them all – meeting & throwing a party with John Cameron Mitchell.
I’m pretty sure that most everyone out there who’s seen John’s film, Hedwig & The Angry Inch at the very least appreciated the music & the message that have turned the film into the definition of a cult-classic. To me, Hedwig was something far deeper than a film — it was a crucial pillar of validation at a time when I was desperately clinging for any semblance of self-worth and identity. I came out when I was 14 — it’s not a particularly remarkable coming out story, but like all others it led to a complete inner panic. One where I felt myself completely losing the heteronormative identity that had shaped me and also many of the friends and support systems that had come with it. I was a lone-wolf queer in my circle and while some folks gave me an “it’s ok to be gay” pat on the back, I still had little to no clue what that meant, or where to find community or a sense of who I now was or to become.
Then, less than two weeks after first uttering the words “I’m gay” to another person, I rented a new “gay” movie that had just come out with the hopes that it would somehow toss me some sort of lifesaver and at least make me feel slightly less isolated in my newly articulated gayity.
Thank movie, was of course Hedwig and the Angry Inch and after watching it more times than I could count over the subsequent 3 day rental period it was patently clear that I wasn’t alone, and that the queer me was going to involve a lot more guts glitter than I had perviously imagined. I can’t fully express how empowering it was to be told that, yes, I may be the only gay I know, but goddammit that makes me a a rockstar in the sexual identity world of high school and it was time to own it, dress the part & make my mark. I was ready to shine.
I took not only the film’s message of staying strong in your wicked little town, loving yourself & sharing your worth with the world to heart but also grabbed onto its aesthetic directives – ditching my cargo shorts & Shaq jersey and donning sparkly Mac eyeshadows and sequined tops from Limited Too. It’s one thing to be gay at your high school, it’s an entirely different (and more empowering in my opinion) experience to do it in heels. I performed Queen in my high school talent show in Bettie Page pumps, gender-bended my way into being named Ventura’s Punk Rock Prom Queen and also could be found in my best face at monthly Hedwig midnight screenings at the Laemelle in West Hollywood. It was at one of these that I first met John Cameron Mitchell – I was too stunned for words and after his handshake refused to wash my hands with soap for over a week.
Flash-forward nearly a decade. I’ve traded in my lipgloss for a mustache (can’t get enough of these clichés, can i?) and am in Toronto to bring Canada it’s first Hard French. While there, I met John at a Toronto International Film Festival afterparty and sloppily drunk, dug up the courage to invite him to the Hard French we were doing in NYC that weekend. Imagine the shock when 4 days later, I saw the man who’s creation made me the gay I am today walk through the doors of the East River Bar. This story is long & involved, but suffice to say we chatted about music & as a lover of soul we made plans for him to DJ with us next time he was in SF. Having him as our guest at the BYOQ festival some months later was one of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever had (and not just because we were outdoors in Golden Gaet Park in the middle of a fall-rainstorm) and one that awed those who’ve seen me through my life as well – I sent a photo of us DJing to my Mom, she had it framed.
So, this is why, it is beyond an honor and more aptly considered a mind-blowing divine priveledge to be presenting John & his now infamous New York Party, Mattachine, here in San Francisco this Sunday, July 31st at El Rio. In the same way that Hedwig imbued me with a sense of self worth so many years ago, I’m again feeling particularly empowered to be able to assist someone who’s meant so much to me in bringing his creation to the city that I love and has continued the identity-shaping process he helped initiate when I was 14.
Mattachine too, is a particularly galvanizing club to be hosting here in that its name and its roots are born out of the country’s first gay rights group, the Mattachine Society, who used bars and dancefloors to assert their worth and demand their rights. As someone who believes that so much of our queer collective power is born out of our bars, parties & community meeting spaces this party is in every way an affirmation of my beliefs. That being said, it’s also going to be an ass-kicking rock n’ roll dancefest the likes of which San Francisco’s outdoor party scene has never experienced. John along with his partners Amber Martin, PJ Deboy & Paul Dawson are my kind of classic rock queers and I cannot wait to honor my younger self by sweating it out, shedding my shirt & celebrating my official decade of queerness on the dancefloor with the man who helped to kick it off.
Mattachine Dance Party with John Cameron Mitchell & Amber Martin
Sunday July 31st from 3-8pm. EL RIO (1465 Mission Street, San Francisco)
Mattachine is a now-legendary NYC dance party brought to you by director/actor JOHN CAMERON MITCHELL (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Shortbus, Rabbit Hole), former-Portland performance queen AMBER MARTIN, PJ DEBOY (Shortbus), and PAUL DAWSON (Shortbus). For over three years, it’s been packing the dance floor and overflowing onto the sidewalk at the West Village bar Julius’—the very bar where members of the Mattachine Society, the country’s first gay-rights, pinko-commie organization, demanded a drink in 1964 to fight against the city’s “no service for known homosexuals” law. Before Stonewall, there was the infamous “Sip-In.” Now, 48 years later, those men are honored once a month in Julius’ by scores of fancy-dressed folks careening into each other’s arm to the songs of queer yesteryear and beyond. Like John says, “ALL music is dance music!!”
Now they’re taking MATTACHINE on the road, promoting ethical homosexual culture everywhere. Tonight is your night to be an early-era, pinko-commie, downtown homo, demand your drink, and careen into someone else’s arms.
$5 at the door.
Dress: Up and Come: Out!