Angry Plant // Plant Dad

Content note: abuse

Last week, myself and another (anonymous) survivor of abuse teamed up and disrupted an abuser’s upcoming gigs by messaging all of the bands who were going to play the shows he was promoting under the name Shapeshifter. Unexpectedly, enough of the bands responded positively to us and refused to play the abuser’s shows; so they were cancelled! I was surprised but very happy, and we wanted to make sure the bands weren’t punished by losing a gig, so we decided to put on our own gig in celebration/vengeance. We became promoters, calling ourselves Angry Plant.

Born out of anger.

Angry Plant is a tiny collective of outspoken survivors, fed up with the silence and acceptance of abuse in the music scene.

Support survivors; support bands who support survivors.

We organized a gig at the Beehive in Bow with one of the bands from the abuser’s gig (Artefact), and another great band (Witching Waves), and myself playing as Plant Dad. It was my first time promoting a show in London, and my first time playing a solo cello set, and it went well! People liked my noisy cello and we made enough money to pay the bands which is always a victory. We also had lots of support and solidarity from friends and many bands in the scene. There was minimal bullshit, from people resistant to the idea that they know an abuser.

Predictably, the abuser is threatening to sue us for “defamation” which is hilariously unlikely to work in his favor. He’s also trying to work with other abusers to delegitimize survivors’ claims against him. Advice to all abusers (including you, Charles Potashner): if you want people to stop publicly denouncing you as an abuser, try not abusing people; if you have already abused people, try apologizing and offering to do whatever the survivors ask to restore their agency and be accountable. It’s actually really boring to constantly talk about abuse but since the music scene is still full of abusers, here we are, and we’re not shutting up about it any time soon.

 

[Image description: a grainy photograph of myself, wearing a pink cap and a gray scarf, playing the cello on a stage next to a drum kit, under green lighting. Photo by Christopher Gill.]

“I Pity The Cis” reading at SALT. Magazine launch

[Image description: Me, smiling in a white-walled art gallery, holding a copy of the magazine]

Content Note: non-graphic mentions of rape, abuse, and transphobia

Last night I read my piece “I Pity The Cis” at the launch of SALT. Magazine‘s launch for issue 9 at Deptford X. SALT is a feminist magazine run by women, and this issue was themed on The Furies (not to be confused with “the furries”). My piece was about the slow realization of being trans made slower by my abusive rapist ex-boyfriend, and how I pity cis people for having such narrow, heavily policed genders.

The gallery was sparse and the room eventually filled with art school graduates (or people who wanted to look like art school graduates) sitting on the floor. The first performer read an excerpt from her piece on what we will do under duress; the next un/did a hex; and the night ended with a dramatic reading about articulation and cadavers, done over a very wet, reverby soundscape. My piece was angry and bitter and quick, and people seemed to like it. Two friends came with me and I had a nice enough time—but if I’m honest I’m bored of how insular (uncritical) and abstract (inaccessible) the art scene is. I didn’t talk to anyone but my pals and the organizers, who were all very gracious and complimentary, because everyone else was doing that aloof posturing thing that artists and their critics do.

The only acceptable ways to behave in an art space are: like an enthusiastic, just-so-happy-to-be-there puppy with no complaints; or, like a cynical, self-righteous edgelord who is too cool to enjoy anything. Even now I feel guilty for what feels like whining. I’m always glad to be given a platform to talk about stuff I think is important like transphobia and rape apologism, and I did get paid a small sum: £20 with the promise of more, contingent on fundraising. I don’t want to be an edgelord, and I want to be invited back to do more readings. But like my friends have been saying lately, no more fake orgasms to boost the art world’s self-esteem (thanks for sharing that link, actual-artist Megan Pickering). Who is it for? Who’s allowed in and are they legitimate if they’re doing any less than a dozen projects? Am I going to be let back in after trans stuff isn’t “trendy”? Or will I be left outside, a killjoy yelling about rape culture? Maybe I feel the need to be extra nice because if I’m not, I’m a scary/angry trans person (or survivor, or sex worker, or migrant, or autistic, or Jew, depending on what I’m shouting about that day, can’t be all at once tho that’s Too Much). No one wants ‘people like that’ around because it’s uncomfortable. Imagine how much nicer I’d need to be if I wasn’t white.

I don’t have conclusions about how to navigate the tension between performing gratefulness in an ugly institution (the Art World) and relying on that institution for money and networking (to get money), but I want to highlight it anyway. It seems valuable to put a spotlight on tensions.

You can pre-order a physical copy of The Furies issue of SALT. here. I don’t think it will be published online but I’ll update this if I hear otherwise.

Review of Travis Alabanza’s “Stories Of A Queer Brown Muddy Kid” for Beyond The Binary

[Image description: Travis, a black trans femme, wearing black lipstick, a black headscarf, black shirt and chunky gold chain, sits in a bookshop facing camera with a stoic expression. Photo by Alexander Lijka]

Beyond The Binary asked me to review “Stories Of A Queer Brown Muddy Kid” by Travis Alabanza. It was their final performance of the intense, funny, moving autobiography of queer black life in London, and I’d already seen it twice before. The piece is all about, and for, queer black femmes, so I was reluctant to take on the task as a white boy(ish), but I gave it my best.

Acutely aware of racialized violence in the queer scene, Travis scornfully highlighted colonialism in sexual relationships, their role as “his bucket to empty his microaggressions” and a “brown fetish of the week”. “I’m not your black boy top”, they insisted, but then, “Why do I still need him?” Their vulnerability about intimacy, about simultaneously recognizing abuse but longing for your abuser(s), was bold and affecting.

tl;dr I absolutely loved it, Travis is amazing, give them all your money.

Review: Shakesqueer’d A Midsummer Night’s Dream

[Image description: Black and white shot of an actor in masc clothing with a donkey’s head, and a femme actor in ethereal wispy white clothes sitting together in a forest]

Last week the Arcola Theatre in Dalston, London put on a wonderful queer take on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Nick Connaughton. This Shakesqueer’d version features both original text and added monologues which capture a wide array of modern queer experiences.

As I took my front-row seat, I was informed by a middle-aged fairy wearing nipple clamps that if I wanted to partake in drugs all I needed was to slip some money in Puck’s pocket and he’d make sure I was amply supplied. The lights dimmed; a spotlight on Puck. He opens with “Ladies and gentlemen, genders outside and in between…” (Can everyone please use this?)

The setting is split between a closing gay bar in Athens and the traditional magical forest. The main four characters (Hermia, Lysander, Helena, and Demetrius) are genderfucked and queer: Demetrius is masc with some internalized homophobia, Helena is a lovesick gay boy, Hermia is a lesbian, and Lysander is a woman who loves women. All four wore variations on white dresses (tunics?). The King and Queen of the fairies are both fabulous drag performers. The actors within the play were enjoyably camp, excepting one very sexy dance scene. Theseus and Hippolyta were an adorable and hilarious old couple trying to mediate the disputes.

This version of Shakespeare touched on key queer themes: coming out; deviating from gender norms; HIV poz stigma; substance ab/use in the queer scene; moving to the big city, thirsty for a sense of community; and of course, worshipping queer idols like Cher. The foursome’s intertwined love-square is easily adapted from traditional Shakespeare to modern queer social groups, which tend to be intimate and entangled.

Hermia (Krishna Istha) gave a desperate monologue about coming out to her homophobic father (who interrupted harshly) made me cry, and Bottom (Camilla Harding)’s monologue broke the fourth wall to call out white, masc-as-default cisnormativity in queer spaces and proudly claim their non-binary identity (“I’m using labels to defy labels, get it?”). The traditional Shakespearean dialogue was punctuated by modern interjections like “oh, for fuck’s sake” for both clarity and comedic effect.

It closed with an amusing musical number: “So Long, Farewell” from The Sound Of Music, culminating in the entire cast stripping. What this has to do with AMSND exactly is lost on me, but it was cute nonetheless.

My only disappointment was that there was not enough time between scenes to properly emote: the lighting would change too quickly, and I felt the actors deserved an enthusiastic response. Shakespeare shouldn’t be taken too seriously, and audiences should feel uninhibited in making noise (clapping, booing heckling, and wolf-whistling alike) rather than quiet and grave.

There is great power in seeing yourself represented on stage, in adjusting stories to accommodate marginalized experiences (I’m a big fan of queer headcanons), and Shakespeare’s plays, populist by nature, are absolutely ripe for reimagining. I’m very much looking forward to more from the Arcola Queer Collective.