So you all know me. I’m The Lady Ms. Vagina Jenkins and I’m a pretty crabby bitch. Mostly cuz I ‘m a person with some pretty severe social anxiety. My inability to just relax and shoot the shit with people means I have to pick my social outings verrry carefully. I usually go with events where there’s some sort of higher purpose than just drinking and good times. I like to involve myself in an event, work behind the scenes so that should any strange social awkwardness arise I always have my work to focus on. When you have an innate inability to make small talk, pushing papers around and looking as “official” as possible is always a saving grace.
So when I went to my first QueerStory Spaghetti Bingo I volunteered to work as a server. And I didn’t have to make small talk. All I had to do was get gussied up in my vintage waitress realness drag, and ask people if they wanted vegetarian or regular meatballs. And that suited me just fine.
But then a funny thing started to happen. I watched all the other people having *their* small talk. Except it wasn’t small talk. It was HUGE and IMPORTANT talk. I overheard The Duchess talk about her early training as a dominant and studying abroad to learn her art and bringing it back home to the South. And Charone Pagett holding court and talking about living out, loud and proud in the south as a black, queer identified woman before folks even knew what queer meant. And Richard George was there looking so handsome and talking about how illegal kink was back in the day. And Lorraine Fontana talked about her work with the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance. And god damned if The Queen Herself, Diamond Lil wasn’t there, too! She was holding court, performing old school southern femme and calling BINGO all at the same time.
And I fell so deeply in love with Atlanta. I felt like there was this history, this queerstory, in Atlanta that connected me to a long line of gay-as-hell rabble-rousers. I think sometimes younger queers feel like our radical/social justice activism stands alone. Like we invented the wheel and then put it on 22 inch rims, too. We act tough. We roll in packs and act like there is no one out there queerer than thou.
Basically, we act scared. Scared that the work we’re doing doesn’t matter. Scared that in 5 years it could all go away, given the right set of Republicans in office. We’re scared cuz we don’t and can’t physically SEE that we’re part of something with roots. Like Dave Hayward of Touching Up Our Roots says “our history is so undocumented.”
TUOR is working on documenting a large art of Atlanta’s queer history, working with the Atlanta Center for Civil and Human Rights as well as the Atlanta Public Library to build up a LGBTQ collection. And all that work is so necessary and so right on time. But there’s something to be said for hearing the stories directly from their sources. Reading about Berl Boykin and the 1971 Gay Pride March is one thing, but sitting down with Dave Hayward and *hearing* about it and really *understanding* its significance is huge. Anyone can read about Pat Hussein’s campaign to keep the Olympics from holding events in uber-homophobic Cobb County, but to see Pat tell the story about that battle is the stuff you’ll tell your gaybies about.
I no longer reside in Atlanta. And while I get to visit pretty often, it’s just not the same as being there. I miss it all the time. But it feels especially heartbreaking to not be there for Queerstory Spaghetti BINGO. I always thought of it as my change to get all charged up with the Queer Holy Ghost to sorta sustain me for the year. I’ll miss it. I’ll miss it terribly. But I really hope that you do yourself a favor and make it. Seriously, it will change your life.
I miss you Queerlanta.
excess and ohs,
The Lady Ms. Vagina Jenkins