A Night At A Bi Visibility Cabaret
There is a scene happening north of the border, a vibrant budding Bi+ community up in Vancouver that I recently had the pleasure to experience. A Canadian theater artist and bi activist named Katie Sly has been putting on “Too Queer: A Bi Visibility Cabaret” for the past few years in Toronto. Katie recently moved to Vancouver and was putting on their first West Coast Edition. Their pronouns are them/they, for the record, so as reading, take note. Ah, Katie. They made me feel extraordinary. They made us feel extraordinary. They is Katie Sly.
The Fox Cabaret was packed for the show. No one knew what to expect, all walked away titillated, tantalized, more aware of other’s struggles. We were provoked to be out and proud, enticed to be more visible as bi people – respected and seen. The event was a safe space, it began by Katie saying
Too Queer would like to acknowledge that this event will take place on the unceded traditional lands of the Musqueam, Skohomish, and Tseil-Waututh Nations. Too Queer acknowledges the weight all of us feel, carrying the knowledge of white supremacy and colonialism. Our positionality means we all carry that weight, and it affects our families, our health, and our opportunities, differently. When we gather, our hope is that we can be unafraid to name things what they are, while also being soft with one another.
Invisibility is not new to the region. Nor is naming things what they are. Being soft.
My experience from arrival to departure in Vancouver was exemplary. Katie picked me up at the airport wearing big red sunglasses and little shorts with colorful pastel desktop computers from the 90’s on them. They brought me to a Youth Leadership Mentorship program they run and I spent four hours invited into the sacred safe space of LGBT youth sharing their writing for an upcoming July 22nd performance. The next morning, I strolled the streets of Vancouver, enchanted by the First Nation art and symbolism powerfully visible; taken aback by the disparity of the harsh street life, and homelessness; and dazzled by the snow-capped mountains and bodies of water embracing the city from all angles.
The invite to perform at “Too Queer: A Bi Visibility Cabaret” kicked me into full gear. It brought me back to my Bi self, to my identity, to that which, since moving to Los Angeles in January, has been somewhat neglected. I felt a renewed sense of purpose. Sitting in that room with LGBT youth sharing their stories, “checking in” as Katie called it. It made me yearn to have had such a space back at 13 years old, when I knew I was Bi+ but felt I was so alone, as if I were the only Bi+ person on Earth. And mind you, this was me, living in Los Angeles of all places. Sitting with them reminded me just how important being visible is. We Bi+ people are so easily made invisible, we need to create visibility, to show up, to hold space for each other. We need to loudly and proudly make it known that we are Bi+ and not ashamed and not afraid.
Enter “Too Queer: A Bi Visibility Cabaret.” The evening was such an empowering showing up. Artists, dancers, poets, actors, and even a brain-scan reading person in sparkle jeans who revealed his Ok Cupid likes and dislikes by a headpiece he wore. The space was inviting.
This washroom is for everyone
Katie’s Emceeing was off the hook. They made us all feel like “hell yeah, we’re bisexual and together, we are community, roar!” The bathrooms at the Fox Cabaret were specially labeled, by the venue, as “This Washroom is for Everyone.”
I was newly confronted with my discomforts in the nicest of ways. I felt at home in this Bi space, and I felt challenged in the Trans and genderqueer spaces. I also felt people understood my good intention, my massive respect, and that I was trying to use the right pronoun at the right time. I still struggle with using them/they. As a person who loves languages, I’m not sure whether to conjugate in singular or plural. They are one person, one human, right? In addition, I still am unsure with how to be myself and natural amongst Trans people. I have so much immense respect (and perhaps a hidden envy of their courage) that I sometimes feel tongue-tied and afraid of being rude or making an inappropriate comment. I think I did okay last night. I hope I did!
One beautiful moment was inserting a new rap into my song “TMBLGBT.” The line went “So I got this invite from Katie Sly, yeah, they know I’m bi”. I rehearsed it many times to make sure I said “they” and not “she,” as “they” is Katie’s preferred gender pronoun (PGP). Hooray, I did say it and after rehearsing it felt confident and proud to have actively respected and acknowledged Katie’s preference. It was a small step for me, that perhaps no-one noticed, but for me it was huge. I am slowly beginning to learn new language, new terms, breaking out of my outward seeming heteronormative 40 years lived up to now, and hoping to make the next 40 much more queer.
Monique “Honeybird” Mizrahi
However, at the closure of the cabaret I said “Katie is an amazing woman.” As I said it I realized, OOPS, I think I made a mistake saying “woman.” I told her the next morning and apologized, asking her what noun she preferred. She said “genderqueer.” I then and there realized that “genderqueer” is a noun. I have much to learn still. . . So, as it were, for the record I will correct my sentence “Katie is an amazing genderqueer.”
From the airplane flying back from Vancouver to Los Angeles, I feel inspired by Katie to continue Bi-Visibility in whatever city I find myself, which as the moment is LA.
Thank you for this space. This safe space. This sacred space.