ARTS & CULTURE

Queer New World: Radically Creating And Existing Together

04/19/2014 07:36 am ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016
Stephanie Keith/Santiago Felipe

This is the twenty-fifth and final installment in an ongoing series that explores drag culture and the nightlife scene in Brooklyn, N.Y. Over the past several years, following the large-scale exodus of artists across the East River and into northern Brooklyn, those engaged in drag culture in this outer borough have created a new, queer world entirely their own. Accompanied by a larger movement to understand drag culture outside of the pageant circuit, many individuals engaged in the drag community in this borough approach drag culture through a nontraditional lens of "alternative" drag or performance art, enabled largely by the malleable and queer nature of this part of New York.

Over the past six months, HuffPost Gay Voices Associate Editor JamesMichael Nichols sought to provide a platform for the spectrum of artists, performers and events that collectively form the Queer New World of the drag and nightlife scene in northern Brooklyn, N.Y.

Having been both restructured and extended at points, the project aimed to evolve alongside the narrative of Brooklyn drag and mirror the nature of performance in this part of New York City. In the end, Queer New World involved the contributions of 21 different performers with a wide-range of styles, including self-identified drag queens, drag kings, one cisgender female drag queen and various embodiments of drag artists.

Queer New World also brought visibility to four specific events in the Brooklyn nightlife scene that in some way represent the aesthetic of many major events in this outer borough. Bushwig drag festival served as the first featured event, a groundbreaking new festival that both builds on the legacy of Wigstock and forges a new space for radical, artistic queer expression and new practices in community culture.

In contrast, Alotta Stuff Live Auction followed this feature several weeks later -- a uniquely Brooklyn event that provides community members the chance to snatch eclectic and low-cost clothing at a live auction within a safe, queer space.

The Brooklyn Nightlife Awards immediately followed, a massive community effort curated by Merrie Cherry that serves as an important opportunity to recognize, honor and celebrate both collaborative and individual accomplishments within Brooklyn nightlife and the cultural production occurring throughout this outer borough.

Finally, Mr(s) Williamsburg functioned as the last featured event, a round-robin, nine-week tournament inclusive of all forms of artistic expression and performance.

Separate from these events, HuffPost asked each artist and performer featured in Queer New World to be a part of this series because of their specific role in evolving and augmenting the drag and nightlife scene in northern Brooklyn -- all of which owes a massive debt to the rich history of drag and artistic performance in New York City over the past several decades.

In an effort to step back from the singular installments of Queer New World and formulate a larger perspective about the radical potential for queer identity, experience and new practices in community culture in this scene, we reached out to each individual featured in this series to hear their thoughts on one final question:

"As an artist and performer, what do you consider to be the most important thing that you've personally contributed to the Queer New World that is the Brooklyn drag and nightlife community?"

  • Scarlet Envy
    Haus of Acid
  • “Firstly, a huge thank you for asking me to kick this flavorful series off! In addition to contributing to a majority of Williamsburg's rising whiskey tolerance, I hope to continue falsifying the barrier between Brooklyn and Manhattan. I have performers from Manhattan and Brooklyn on stage with me every Friday at This N' That. Our community prides itself on claims of inclusivity, you're allowed to be whatever you please in Brooklyn, and for me that happens to be polished. Until about 3 a.m.” --Scarlet Envy, Host Of 'Scarlet Fever' At This N' That
  • Merrie Cherry
  • "I'm sure other people would be able to answer that question better than I ever could. But -- in reverse -- the Brooklyn drag and nightlife community has contributed to me figuring out exactly who I am. It may sound corny, but once you experience that feeling you know how golden it is to say something like that. Like most queer teens and young adults I suffered from identity issues and self-hatred. Being on a stage and being accepted by various members of life, I know I am an amazing and beautiful person that deserves all that life has to offer. I hope everyone will have the chance to know that about themselves." --Merrie Cherry, Host Of 'DRAGnet' At Metropolitan
  • Untitled Queen
    Grace Chu
  • "I'd like to not be so presumptuous to think I'd contributed some revolutionary epic change in the Brooklyn drag scene. I hope I played a part in the small moments: an unexpected tug of a heartstring from an old throwback song you remember all the words to, a simple smile we shared in the club, or some flicker of fantasy from a glint of glitter or a felt crafted costume I wore. An art historian once told me in school: teachers will show you how to make, critique and show art, but they won't talk about whom you make it with and why. So what's left is really an experience with friends, family and strangers more than anything else.“ --Untitled Queen, Host Of 'Calendar Girls' At This N' That
  • "My greatest contribution can only be the process of perpetual refinement, not only because I take pride in my work but because our dynamic community demands it! I always aim for ultimate looks, because the people deserve a full fantasy. I guess what I'm really trying to say is that everyone should be grateful for how beautiful I am. You're welcome!" --Amber Alert, Drag Artist And Performer
  • Cher Noble
  • "I think I would say I've brought makeup to the scene. Or at least a greater appreciation for make-up. I am nothing if not painted and since I've started doing drag in Brooklyn I've seen some major changes in many different faces. At the very least, I'd say eyelids have gotten much larger." --Cher Noble, Host Of 'Marry/Fuck/Kill' At Tandem
  • Horrorchata
  • "I'm just a little boy from San Antonio, Texas. Never in thousands of years would I have thought that I would be part of a huge movement in Brooklyn, New York. The Bushwig drag festival that I co-founded alongside Babes Trust is about bringing everyone together to celebrate love and peace -- in all shades of DRAG! I'm so grateful to have my Brooklyn family!" --Horrorchata, Co-Founder Of Bushwig Drag Festival
  • Babes Trust
  • "Alongside my sister Horrorchata it would be the Bushwig drag festival. I thought it would be amazing to create a community festival that could showcase all of these amazing creatures and to create a meeting point for them all." --Babes Trust, Co-Founder Of Bushwig Drag Festival
  • K.James & Pussy Diet
    Elisabeth Fuchsia
  • “[Our drag collective] Switch N' Play's Open Drag Night has created an open and encouraging space for people to push the boundaries of drag and gender performance. As kings, we want to promote the visibility of drag king performance as an integral part of the Brooklyn nightlife community. With our drag alliance of kings, queens and burlesque artists we hope to provide a model of collaboration and experimentation that will help form a more inclusive drag scene in our borough -- and everywhere.” --K.James And Pussy Diet, Members Of Switch N' Play Drag Collective
  • "I bring a conversation to Brooklyn. You either love and admire me, or you really can't stand me. Over time I've definitely seen it come to a very extreme place and it kind of seems fitting for me. The crowd is almost always in a debate about what they just saw after I walk off stage. Some are annoyed or reading while some are living and want more -- but either way at least they're talking about me!" --Lady Simon, Drag Artist And Performer
  • Hamm Sammwich
    Peter Pascucci
  • “This cultural moment makes no sense to me and I'm waiting for it to be over before I try and figure out what any of it means. It's going to be sad looking back on these pieces when half of us are dead and the rest are irrelevant, but at least by then we'll have a better understanding of how important or unimportant it all was. As for my contribution, hopefully I will have provided a cautionary tale on the danger of hating too many things. And I would like to be remembered as Cher Noble's sidekick.” --Hamm Samwich, Host Of 'Marry/Fuck/Kill' At Tandem
  • Crimson Kitty
    Elisabeth Fuchsia
  • “I've shown to a whole new drag generation that drag comes in all different shapes and sizes -- and most importantly GENDER! I've rebelled against every notion that only cis-gendered males can do drag and am building a small army of fierce female queens that will entertain for generations to come! Drag Equality is not only important to our community but ESSENTIAL to our culture!” --Crimson Kitty, Member of Switch N' Play Drag Collective
  • Chris of Hur
  • “I care about people and I care about ideas… not “Brooklyn.” That’s just some bullsh*t brand that helps people other than me sell real estate. No offense, but here’s the question I’d like to answer: What do you consider the most important thing that you’ve contributed to drag? I’ve been doing this for less than a year so I haven’t contributed anything yet but what I WANT to contribute is a sense of freedom. Drag and I get along really well because we’re not in love –- we’re just good friends. So, I’m not precious about it and I don’t care if I “do it wrong” or if I have an idea that someone might not consider “drag” enough. Drag has been too uptight recently. I want people to see beyond their bodies… no boys, no girls, no “trannies.” Everyone calm down, have a drink and dance with me.” --Chris Of Hur, Drag Artist And Performer
  • Goldie Peacock
    Stacie Joy
  • “I think that my very presence in this Queer New World as a drag king is my greatest contribution. Mixed drag scenes can definitely be a bit of a sausage fest and, while I do have a sizable kosher salami, the fact that I wasn't born with it makes me unique and reminds people that there's more than one type of drag performer.” --Goldie Peacock, Drag Artist And Performer
  • Manifestany Squirtz
    Mr. Means
  • “I think the best thing I have done for the community is offer up a platform for my friends to showcase their work via my monthly party 'RI†UAL' (which happens every 3rd Tuesday at Tandem in Bushwick). I'm so proud of my 'RI†UAL' sisters and the way they bring it together and turn it out every time we get together. If I can continue to offer space to those in the Brooklyn performance community I would love to be able to do that.” --Manifestany Squirtz, Host Of 'RI†UAL' At Tandem
  • Charmin Ultra
    State of Emergency
  • “The most important contribution I have made to the Brooklyn Drag Community is the blood (real and fake), sweat and tears that have flowed from my body. And the occasional piddle of pee in my nylons. As a performer, I don't hold back and I hope that my bodily fluids inspire others to take a big ole dump every time they hit the stage.” --Charmin Ultra, Drag Artist And Performer
  • Macy Rodman
    Courtesy of Macy Rodman
  • "I hope that what people understand about Brooklyn drag performance from these HuffPost Gay Voices pieces is that what's going on here has nothing to do with location. The influx of drag in Bushwick to me demonstrates the passion of youth in the face of bleak times, and the need to seek self-actualization by any means necessary. I hope that what I've contributed is the perspective of someone who is vulnerable, lighthearted, tragic and unapologetic." --Macy Rodman, Host Of 'BathSalts' At Don Pedro
  • Severely Mame
    Alesia Exum
  • “I think the joy of being a performer is getting to change the world around you through your performance. With that, I am giving young dead girls a role model --someone they can relate to, look up to and strive to be like when they get older! No one is born dead and glamorous, but in 2014 Brooklyn you can be anything you want as long as you try. I really think I embody this -- I really only do it for the children.” --Severely Mame, Host Of 'Scream Queen' At Don Pedro
  • Mocha Lite
    David Phelps
  • "I don't think any of us 'contribute' anything to the Queer New World; we are tributes to the art that has come before us. Any person of our generation who creates any kind of thing should know and respect this. We work hard to stand out -- drawing inspiration from those who have come before us. It's a beautiful cycle that needs a better reputation.” --Mocha Lite, 2013 Brooklyn Nightlife Drag Queen Of The Year
  • Thorgy Thor
    Rebecca Smeyne
  • "I'm not very good at big, sweeping questions about myself and my impact on other people. I really just focus on following through with some crazy idea I have and hope that it will go over well. I think this question would best be answered by someone else who knows me pretty well and has followed my lil' career here in Brooklyn. I've always loved making people think and making people laugh through performance. I will continue to do that until I'm pulled to go a different direction.” --Thorgy Thor, Drag Artist And Brooklyn Legend
  • Trey LaTrash
    Eddie Clearwater
  • “I don't think I've done as much for the Queer New World as it has done for me. My goals are to bring people together, and shine light on things that I find to be important. But as I said before, north Brooklyn had the resources I needed. I'm trying to do it justice.” --Trey LaTrash, Curator Of 'Dizzyland' And Pop Psychic

While the Queer New World of northern Brooklyn isn't new in a lot of ways, the radical potential for a world that queers actually want to live in feels more tangible than ever within this scene. In many ways, the intersecting factors of a thirst to create and perform, the necessary resources, gentrifying neighborhoods and a community of people that want to live, exist and thrive outside a world of mainstream cultural expectations are really what allows this idealistic sentiment to be a reality.

This community is remarkably important for what it means to be queer in the age of gay marriage and the gradual folding of LGBT identity into cultural consciousness. There are queer people that don't have these same, more mainstream values, ideals or conceptions about what makes life meaningful, fulfilling or important, and this scene is acting as both a preservation of those ideas and a platform to push them further through expression, performance and identity.

While all things are impermanent and the factors enabling the scene right now aren't sustainable forever, what is happening in the queer community in northern Brooklyn in this moment is notable and will, at some point, have a place within the history of queer performance and identity. For now, it's important to at least recognize the radical potential invested in living outside of cultural boundaries and expectations, and what it means to create and exist, together, in a Queer New World.

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