Queer Hip Hop

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Homo Revolution is a national tour of Queer hip hop artists. It’s interesting to reflect on the acts and meanings of queer hip hop as we think about building queer tango.

One of the first observations is that artists have a lot of very different messages around gender and sexuality. Queer hip hop is…. gay people who want to create hip hop…. drag kings and queens who use hip hop images as part of their gender performances… transpeople who want to play with hip hop’s gender constructions…. and so much more…

The second observation is that hip hop is a space and language of joy and play, a space of liberation, which queer artists are expanding on, by challenging its boundaries. When they critique hip hop they are doing so from a position of also loving it and wanting to express themselves within it. But they also need and push it to get bigger.

The third observation is the power of the intensity of gender challenge (is that a gay man or a drag king?), which eventually results in a collapse of categories and an invitation to travel to another place… what that other place is, well, i don’t think we know yet.

We failed to grasp the names of all the performers we saw, but the whole list is at the bottom. Most of them can probably be found on Myspace, others mentioned being part of some kind of interactive function of MTV. We did see 5 of the 8 artists on the tour.

FoxxJazell is an African American high femme (transwoman). She performed with male dancers wearing (awkwardly) underwear. Her lyrics drew attention to gender expectations such as “women you better shake that ass, guys you better earn that cash”. She challenged gender roles in the larger society, and reproduced in hip hop, while also demonstrating the possibility of taking a different route. She played with her power (as a femme? as a gay man?) to reveal hip hop’s objectification by placing men in the role of women dancers, producing pleasure for the audience. In her lyrics, she also asserted the possibility of some women wanting casual sex as agents, rather than victims of male desire (and disempowered victims of prurient onlookers and critics of hip hop).

The next artist was a white person who identified as a gay man and who called out other men for being “low down tricks” because they wanted sex with men but then pretend to be straight.

Later, an African American performer also challenged the exclusion of gay men from hip hop.

Unecc, an African American lesbian artist visually analogous to Supernatural, without at all presenting herself as a man, engaged in the hip hop contest over male sexuality. Yes at 1 am she’s fucking, at 2 am, at 3 am, and still at 4 am, she’s fucking, but she asserts her sexual prowess in ways that her straight male competitors don’t…

To reiterate the earlier points and apply them to tango: It’s important that we understand that critiques of gender roles that we will make as part of queer tango are not anti-tango. We love tango. It is a space of liberation and joy. But we also want and need this space to get bigger. It needs to get bigger so that gay and transpeople can enjoy it. It will also get bigger in its meaning as a space of playful experimentation and challenge, where we may expand the macho and femme fantasies to the point that their absurdity is made plain and their possibilities explode. Not only who is the most macho man? But what does he do?

The artists: DEADLEE, MelAnge, LAVONNE, Bigg Nugg, Shorty Roc, DaLyrical, FoxxJazell, Unecc, CATEYEZ

I want you to know that you are not alone…

embrace orig crop

… neither in your dreams for tango nor in your frustrations.

My deepest desire is the same as all my students and friends … those who have yet to start dancing and those who dance a lot.

It’s partnership.

One thing I’ve learned on this quest, we need to:

Stop Waiting for Partners, and start Building them.

I’ve written a 10-step Action Plan.

Are you ready to find the Partners you want?

 

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Important Insights

Books

Power is the courage, confidence, and competence to make things happen. I want to create in a way that’s incomparable and define my own compensation package. You too?

Syntax of Power is a raw, potent, and spare revelation of how I got to where I am and how I take on the struggle every day.

This book is not about tango, it’s about everything else.

It’s about stepping into the darkness of change, learning how to take care of yourself, and making things happen.

Dyv stands for Duro y Vio. We were inspired by a 2007 conference at Harvard University about tango as a transnational culture. Also we wanted to create something that would help people to imagine a queerer tango. We forbid ourselves to use the word ‘passion’ and instead tried to articulate the experience more precisely.

Argentine Tango is more than an elaborate and difficult dance, it is an international culture of intimacy, desire, and dignity. No mere romance or memoir, the intricately woven stories evoke tango’s true mysteries … the elation, the frustration, the compulsion…

We published the book in 2009. Dancers asked “how did you know what I was feeling?”

Silences in history. Silences by code. Silences of fear. You already know that Tango’s silences can be sublime and they can be devastating.

What I do in my blog is use myself as a lens – sometimes a microscope, sometimes a telescope. I try to be as honest with myself and you as words concede. Then I try to find a deeper meaning and imagine a pathway for us.

A blog post can be a fragment, a wisp of inspiration, an outline for thinking. A book must complete and reconcile it all. Now I drag the social scientist to the scene to enumerate the facts of the case, the mystery which brought both stardom and tragedy to my life.

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