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Ever since the beginning of Et Alors? Magazine we have had a soft spot for singer, model, bon vivant and muse Le Pustra. Being inspired by the same artists and artwork such as the Oskar Schlemmer’s costumes for the Bauhaus movement, Georges Méliès, Klaus Nomi and Leigh Bowery, we always make sure to keep in touch with his work in progress and latest endeavors. Leave your inhibitions at the door and say welcome to Le Pustra’s Kabarett der Namenlosen.
It’s the first time I’ve seen you without make-up, which is quite weird, but I guess you get that a lot.
All the time. I guess when people see the make-up, they don’t ponder on the fact that it’s not real. Like they expect to see me in white make-up all the time. It’s quite interesting really because it’s the same thing with movie stars where people fall in love with the image. The reality is quite different though.
In reality you’re a different person to the one you are on stage?
The last 4 or 5 years it’s definitely ‘me’ but with make-up on. In the beginning it was more a character as such. More exaggerated. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be. Time brought me more confidence and I’m more relaxed now, yet I’m not one of those performers who have to be on stage all the time. I’m very happy to be natural, at home and be quiet. For me it’s not a lifestyle.
Tell me about your new project.
In 2012 I went on a Christopher Isherwood-tour through Schöneberg, Berlin. He went there in 1929 and wrote Goodbye to Berlin in 1939. During the tour, the guide mentioned the Kabarett der Namenlosen – the Cabaret of the Nameless – and it intrigued me very much. Little information is available but this Cabaret existed from 1926 till 1933. It was one of the most disreputable yet very successful shows because the host, Erich ‘Elow’ Lowinsky, would put talentless or disabled performers on stage just so the audience could make fun of them. It was a bit like today’s talent shows where people let themselves be humiliated on TV, just because they want to be famous. When I read the story of the Kabarett it was not exactly what I wanted to do, but I really liked the title as such.
You moved from London to Berlin. Why there?
It’s difficult producing new shows in London nowadays. The scene is so oversaturated and there’s too much happening all the time that people get bored. So it’s really a struggle to get people’s attention, and if you do it’s very fleeting. When I ended up in Berlin last year it all came together. I contacted Else Edelstahl from Bohème Sauvage – Berlin’s biggest 1920 party concept for over ten years now – pitched my idea and she was interested. Plus we found a beautiful venue called Ballhaus Berlin, a gorgeous building from 1905 and an original ballroom from the ’20’s, so it all sort of came together very easily. The city is having its moment in the spotlight and if you are very motivated it’s a perfect place to create something. All the opportunities are there.
Tell me about your fascination for the ’20’s?
Coming out of the restrictive and repressed Victorian/Edwardian period and then the First World War, it must have been an exhilarating, liberal time. Especially for homosexual men – who were finally able to have easier access to gay sex. Berlin suddenly became this Sodom and Gomorra where you could live out every filthy fantasy that you ever had. In contained spaces that is. But the reality was that Berlin was gripped in poverty and struggle. We tend to only focus on the glamourous side of the ‘Golden Twenties’ in Berlin but cabaret was mostly enjoyed by the privileged and the rich. I think we all have different ideals and fantasies of different times. We may fantasize about the ’60’s or ’70’s for example. For me, this show is my fantasy of the 1920’s. It’s what I envision. I wanted to present it in a fresh way by mixing a lot of contemporary music and live original ’20’s songs with a lot of dark undertones. I really took all my inspirations including fashion, film, music, and put it all together. And it worked. The show really transports you back to that thrilling and interesting time.
This show is a stepping-stone to you becoming more and more of a producer?
More than anything it was a personal challenge. For the last 10 years I’ve performed in other people’s shows, therefor you’re never really in control of the environment. Promoters cast you as one of your personas but the setting is not your own world and a 5-minute performance is not that satisfying, not to me anyway. I’ve changed a lot over the years and I want to establish myself as a producer and a creative director. Basically it’s about using all the experience I’ve gained which – I’ve been lucky – are many different skills. For me it’s the perfect time to move on to the next step and create something that satisfies me. This show has given me a lot of opportunity to blosom into something new. To keep evolving and reinventing myself. Like Madonna.
The show is a success, I guess that makes you proud?
First and foremost it was a validation. You always have to prove yourself and as an artist there’s always this doubt that never goes away. So the result was good and it showed me that you can do a lot of things if only you believe in yourself. I know this sounds cheesy but it really did affirm my abilities. You don’t know if it’s going to succeed. There are no guarantees with artistic endeavors. I wanted to put great performers like Bridge Markland, Lada Redstar and Reverso – who possibly wouldn’t normally collaborate – together. It’s a mixture of disciplines, aesthetics and oh a lot of nudity. Naturally.
The nudity is not presented in a sleazy way, it’s part of the whole experience. After a while you just don’t even notice it anymore. In a lot of productions nudity feels so sanitized nowadays, so I wanted to see how far I could go. It’s not a question of trying to be provocative, it’s just an essential part of Berlin Cabarets from the Weimar-era, to which I’m staying as true as i can. In Kabarett, the performances are happening around the audience, the spectator is part of my darkly twisted and sexy little world. They are transported back into a Weimar ‘nachtlokal’ and my intention is to have the audience forgetting where they are by creating a disorientating smoke bubble and moving art. It’s not a traditional Cabaret but a complete theatrical experience and the moment you walk in, it’s already happening.
What are you plans for the show?
I want to establish it in Berlin as a main theatre show. Tourists go to Berlin in search of the movie Cabaret but are unable to find it. You’d be amazed to see how many people are actually searching the Internet to see where Sally Bowles performs, while she doesn’t even exist. Now it’s quite interesting that an Ausländer – which I am – has created this vision. A lot of Germans don’t have a clue of their city’s rich and naughty Cabaret history. I think the fact that I have a direct link to the grandchildren of ‘Elow’ who created the original cabaret – his granddaughter found me on the Internet – makes me a good candidate to keep this piece of history alive. Since we tend to romanticize this period I wanted to make my show a ‘surreal version of what i want it to be’. I’m also producing a Revue version of the show, with myself and my fabulous pianist, Charly Voodoo, which can tour anywhere. And the third idea is to offer Kabarett as the ulitmate luxury show for private events and clients thus making the show versatile and creating more job opportunities in the process.
Aiming big. I like that.
If you really believe in your vision and are focused, something good ought to come out of it. If you compromise too much it translates and the end result becomes sloppy. I think I’m confident enough now not to compromise anymore. It’s a hard thing to do for a lot of performers because you are scared you won’t get booked again but you need to find a balance between being very assertive in what you do and being able to communicate this in a polite and professional way. But you need the confidence to say no. Artists will always be challenged and I sometimes wonder why I have all these talents and can’t make a living out of it. But I’ve accepted that this is who I am and just get on with it. I feel I’ve come too far now to stop and you never know when your big break will come. From this moment on I just want to enjoy what I’m doing. And if it pays the rent, then that’s great. There was a time when I wanted fame, now it’s not my priority anymore.
If it’s not fame, then what is it?
I think you can call it destiny. This is what I’m supposed to do. It’s as simple as that. It’s just who I am and I know that if I would stop, I would be very unhappy. It’s something that’s part of you and I’ve accepted that. Sometimes it can be pretty scary because as an artist there are no guarantees, you’re constantly stressed about money, and then there’s this whole issue about being validated. But I’ve accepted this and have completely surrendered to it. Once you get over it, you can get on with the more important things.
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Text JF. Pierets Photos Amanda Arkansassy Harris
“If you don’t see femmes as queers, it’s because you choose to not see us. You are invested in our erasure. We are here. We have always been here.” A strong quote, coming from Dulce Garcia, AKA Fierce Femme, one of the participants in Femme Space, a photo project exploring queerfemme identity and reclamations of space through portraiture. Queer femmes of all genders choose locations to reclaim sites of marginalization, erasure and invisibility. A conversation with co-conspirator and photographer Amanda Arkansassy Harris.
Can you give me your personal definition of ‘femme’?
I have thought about that since my mother first tried to wrap her head around me. It’s difficult to explain. It’s feminine and it’s queer and it’s different from straight femininity. My mother asked if femmes shaved their legs, which is actually an important question because some do and some don’t, so I think that’s really illustrative that you can’t define queer femme. When you’re in a community of queer femmes you feel what it is, you feel part of a tribe. But I cannot put an exact definition to it.
You identify as queer femme, so is this a personal project?
Definitely. I’ve had many experiences where my femme identity was either invisible, erased or attacked. Speaking with other femmes, I’ve learned that my experiences aren’t isolated to me, and in fact femmes of all different backgrounds experience marginalization daily. So this project is personal, political and an act of solidarity with femme community.I think there’s something about collaborating with another femme that feels safe. We’re going back to locations where they have experienced daily harassment or judgment,so having another femme there with you to have your back, is a very empowering experience. Plus, I have seen many masculine photo series centered on butch identities and thought we needed to add more femme faces and voices to media.
You talk about reclamation of space. Reclamation as in ‘winning back’?
Reclamation is taking it back for yourself or owning it in a way you didn’t get to own it before. Queer feminine people do not often get to navigate the world in ways that feel good to us or authentic to our experience. This project is about getting to do something on our own terms and to be seen, as we want to be seen.
You thought it important to accompany each picture with the model’s story.
There are a lot of photo projects out there that don’t use any narrative so what I didn’t want was just to have images without the femmes being able to use their own words. Some images have a lot of strength but I find there’s also a great deal of assumption. Femmes already live in a space where they have assumptions made about them all the time, so it’s about getting to say what they want and on their own terms. I wanted to avoid having people trying to guess who they are and how that experience was for them.
You say Femme Space exists to draw attention to the experiences of queer femmes and to amplify those stories in art and media. Are you aiming for a mainstream audience?
A mainstream audience is a secondary audience for me, with Queer community being the primary audience. If part of the mainstream can look at our stories and really see us, then that’s great. Yet if they can’t, we are doing the storytelling primarily in queer community, which is also fine by me. I want to elevate those stories to whoever can hear them.
You are taking the word “queer” as a political identity. Can you elaborate?
Queer is a great catch all term, but indeed I see it as a political identity. For me it’s about not assimilating: not trying to be like straight people or live our lives based on heteronormative values, but to really set our own standards and values that aren’t mirrors of what straight people think we should be. Classic example questions of this are “should we be fighting for gay marriage?” Are we trying to get the same things as straight people, or do we want to set our own terms of what relationships should look like? To me that’s a very queer issue, and I do consider myself queer because of the way that I view the world. My art is queer activism. Curating is activism, because it’s about trying to bring as many people to the table as you can to tell a larger story.
I guess such an involvement doesn’t happen overnight?
Not at all. I grew up in a rural town with one stoplight in the south in Arkansas. I always felt a little bit different and couldn’t quite place what that was. I didn’t know that it was queerness at the time, but I didn’t see myself fully reflected in the people around me. I’ve always been a writer, always making things. Once I came out as queer I got involved in an organization in Arkansas that uses art for social change, Center for Artistic Revolution. And I saw the power of that: the power of artists creating art to make change, the introspective process and how people responded to it. From portrait photography to holding a sign on a street corner, art stops people in their tracks to have a conversation with you. I was in my 20’s when I saw the power art has to tell stories and I’ve been pursuing it ever since. I’m really fortunate to live in San Francisco where you can get small amounts of arts funding to dream up these projects.
Tell me about your plans with the Femme Space project?
The Femme Space project is still unfolding itself to me and I’m trying to be really patient with that. I’ve been trying to digest the femmes who are coming to me – telling me what the project means to them – and thinking about where I would like that to go in the future. I have a form on my website for people who want to participate and I’ve received responses from Germany, the UK, Taiwan, all over the world. So if these femmes see value in this project and they want to participate, then maybe I need to go to them. But what I definitely want for a project like this is for it to be considered as radical, revolutionary and important. These are stories that need to be told.
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Text JF. Pierets Photos Courtesy of The Trans*Tapes
The Trans*Tapes is a series of six short portraits about transgender people in the Netherlands, made by three transmen; Bart Peters, Jonah Lamers and Chris Rijksen. Released in 2015, The Trans*Tapes focus on strength, positivity and human resilience and reveal a more layered image of what it can mean to be transgender. We spoke to Jonah Lamers, one of the three Transketeers.
Your collective is called The Transketeers. Tell me all about it.
We are a collective of three trans guys and started working together soon after I went to the first trans-pride in Amsterdam in 2014. Although I thought it was great that there was actually a trans-pride, I didn’t really recognize myself. I couldn’t quite identify with the target audience. So I made up my mind that if I wanted to change that, I had to make a contribution. I already knew Chris and Bart from earlier on, so I asked if they thought it would be interesting to work on a project together to create some trans visibility that we ourselves could identify with. This collaboration led to our first project; The Trans*Tapes, six portraits of transgender people here in The Netherlands. We liked working together very much so now we’re developing other projects as well and are becoming a “company” for trans and queer diversity and visibility.
What makes you guys different from the trans audience in the pride you talked about?
The majority of the audience was transwomen, male-to-female transgenders from an earlier generation. These women go through something completely different than for example what I went through. Most of them were born in an age where they had to hide their identity, they didn’t grow up with the internet where they could find all the information online. Their needs are very different to mine. I also met a lot of people who felt comfortable within the binary of male and female. While I don’t necessarily identify with the ‘man’ or ‘woman’ box. Let’s say I didn’t see a lot of diversity.
In the Trans*Tapes there is much less drama and sensation to be found than in what the media usually shows us. I guess that was a very important choice in the creating process?
We really tried to show the people in their strength and from a completely different perspective than what we usually get to see. And of course there are quite a few hurdles down the road – that comes with a social and/or medical transition – but we’re human as well, so there is also a lot of fun involved. A lot of exciting things happen if you go through this social and medical transition. When trans people are portrayed it’s usually all about surgery and hormones. We – on the contrary – ask how great it was to go swimming for the first time after the chest surgery. It’s a different approach.
Transmen often choose to live in anonymity after their transition. Why did you three choose to step up?
For me personally, it’s very important to start a dialogue about society’s fixed boxes. I am a sociologist and I’m very aware of the social constructiveness of the culture that we live in. Since I don’t completely identify with the boxes that are there, I chose to expand the subject and make it more visible. I completely understand if you identify – and feel comfortable with societal norms, if you choose to live in anonymity. I get that. However I do find it important to mention that not everybody shares that. I don’t necessarily want to be read as a man – in fact I am trans and not on testosterone so I’m often read as a butch lesbian. I find it problematic that trans people are also striving for the cis-gender beauty ideal, because a lot of us just don’t fit in there. So the Transketeers chose to step up and try to give a different angle to what it can mean to be transgender.
How do you identify? Or is that too much of a box to talk about?
It’s always difficult to say because of the limited amount of words that are available to us, yet a word that more or less fits is Genderqueer. Queer is almost an anti-identity, an anti-label and my definition of the word is that it’s an awareness of patterns of what is going on in society. When I was young I went through a very difficult time because I really wanted to be ‘normal’, but when I started to educate myself more, started to study about gender, and became more aware, I found that I could decorate my life and live how I wanted to live outside that heteronormative blueprint. Sometimes it’s very challenging, but I also find beauty in those challenges. That agency of not having to follow any paved ways, is something I would like everybody to experience. Even if you identify as straight, you can also be queer. You can have that same awareness. If people would empower themselves or find that agency, that would change so much.
Can I say you’re an activist?
Definitely. At the moment it’s not my intention to make radical work nor am I aiming for a revolution, rather we try to build a bridge, to have a dialogue with people who might not be very aware. I think that if you try to build bridges, you don’t necessarily have to relate to a radical approach. Let’s see how far we get with this dialogue. I’m an optimist. Sometimes you have to work through a lot of ignorance, yet I think it’s more productive to stay positive.
You also work with young people. What do they need to know?
I think they need an example. It’s something we talked about a lot when we started this project, because we wanted to make something that we wished we would have seen when we were younger and were asking questions. From that point of view we started to make the Trans-Tapes. To show that even if you are questioning your gender, you can be a successful human being. They need to see that you don’t have to follow a blueprint and they need to learn new words in order to be able to express themselves in a way that they feel comfortable with. So this is what we try to provide.
What would you say to someone inspired by your story?
I would urge them to speak up, to talk about it. We always jokingly say that sharing is caring, but I’m sure that the more you talk about these topics, the more good it’ll do you. And if you want, get in touch with us.
Text JF. Pierets Photos Lukas Beyeler
“I’ve promised you the story of my adventures for a long time. Today I’m finally going to keep my word. My unhealthy curiosity and my depraved imagination are the true product of Roman immorality, which is the basis of your education.” These opening sentences are the start of a new video by one of Et Alors? Magazine’s favourite artists Lukas Beyeler. Satyricon or The Book of Satyrlike Adventures, is based on the work of fiction believed to have been written by Petronius Arbiter and shows us a highlighted version of Beyeler’s favourite scenes.
The video is a bit like a painting; you observe very slowly.
Originally the book was huge, but they lost quite a lot over time. Basically there are about 300 pages left. Speculation as to the size of the original puts it somewhere on the order of a work of thousands of pages. In the video I wanted to show that there is something missing, like an unfinished puzzle. It goes from one chapter to another without a clear story line. There’s no plot, nor a narrative, nothing that resembles a story. We just observe the protagonist going slowly from one scene to another. The slow rhythm is accentuated by my use of 120 frames per second. The stationary camera makes you feel that there is no fixed time.
Tell me about your work method when it comes to story telling?
After I read the book I just took the scenes which spoke to me the most. A lot of them are the ones that wouldn’t interest a hetero filmmaker. In one of them the witch provides the narrator with a cure for something you don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s syphilis, maybe gonorrhea, or maybe he’s just impotent. It’s a scene I very much liked, maybe it’s because you wouldn’t expect such scenes in a book where the action is happening before Christ. I often have the feeling that everything before Christ was in a way easier because there was no taboo, no religion, no morale, and everybody was bisexual. What you see is in that book is the sex habit and the social behaviour of the old Roman Empire. Most of them have no objective in their lives, no jobs. They just eat and have sex all the time.
Both Fellini and Polidoro tackled Satyricon in 1968 and 1969.
If you watch Fellini’s movie, it’s only about twenty percent of the actual story. The minotaur, the labyrinth and many other characters are nowhere to be found within’ the book. Gian Luigi Polidoro is much closer to the original text but replaced the gay character by a woman.
A true Hollywood phenomenon.
Indeed. When Disney makes a movie about Hercules, he’s of course one hundred per cent straight. But Hercules was bi in the texts. So there’s this straight-washing going on all the time. Same when movies or media talk about Da Vinci or Lincoln, there’s a lot of heterosexualising, if you can call it like that. I also guess that what we read now is very different from the original book. From BC till now, people copied the texts. And those scribes were often religious so sometimes when there was a sex scene, they would just leave it out. Some of them would even re-write the story the way they wanted it to be. Nobody will ever know how close the current text is from the original. So you know, after all this text massacre, incorrect Latin translation and straight-washing corrections: I thought, now I’m going write my own version where Ascyltos is the Main Character. And I’m going to let him having an affaire with whoever I want.
You’re very outspoken about the gay-factor in your work.
My work is about my environment, and of course part of it is a certain gay scene. It’s my life so in a way I just project my surrounding. My inspiration comes from the people I work with. When I meet the right person: it just happens. The idea for Satyricon Beta has been going through my head for about two years now but I didn’t act upon it until I met the right people to do it. As there’s no rush to execute a project, I do not believe in casting for this kind of artistic projects. But when I see the right actor or model that can match a certain project then there’s no way back. I think there’s a special actor for any project, you just have to cross paths. Unfortunately I cannot change my ideas after that. I get obsessed with that person and I can be a real pain in the ass until they agree to do the project. I’m a stalker without a budget, so I guess people just have to trust me, or not.
Why did you choose to make the video in Italian?
I’ve read the book in Italian, in French and in English, and I chose to go for Italian because it’s the closest to Latin. Since my actor, Rocco Schira, is Swiss-Italian and is a voice talent, we had to use all that in the video. I wrote it in French, my mother tongue, translated it to Italian and subtitled in English. For me it was good to mix up all these languages because you really feel how it changes the text. I like to work with language and translations. They all have their different culture and colour which highly influences the image. You’ll find some text from Lucius Annaeus Seneca, some poems of Robert Lee Frost and of course some original parts of Gaius Petronius Arbiter. We also shot the video in Ticino, the Italian part of Switzerland. The nature is beautiful there, very Roman and completely cut of from the rest of the world. Not an easy place to live in but a great location to shoot.
Satyricon Beta will be shown at the Queer Biennial II in LA. What happens after that?
I’m very happy to premiere that video in Los Angeles at the Biennial, but ‘after that’ to tell you the truth:
I have no idea. Sometimes the work travels to other festivals or is screened in other gallery spaces but you never know if it’s gonna work or die there. My biggest problem in this creative process is that when I’m done, I’m done ! The showing of the work doesn’t interest me much, it’s not part of the work itself anymore. That’s why I’m not the best seller of my own work: I love to make it but I always feel way to vulnerable to take it on display. It shows too much of myself. When a project is finished, I’m just starting something else. My part is to create, to shoot, to edit and to spend time with people making it. You think I should get an agent?
2016, Full HD, 16/9, 21min
Written and directed by Lukas Beyeler
Ascyltos Rocco Schira
Oenothea Nils Amadeus Lange
Camera operator Carlotta Holy
Voice over Rocco Schira & Ayana Glam
Subtitles Anja Draeger
Text JF. Pierets Photos Courtesy of Greg McGoon
Author and theatre performer Greg McGoon challenges the norm of children’s literature. By choosing a transgender princess as main character of the fairytale The Royal Heart and teaching self-acceptance in The Tanglelows, McGoon tries to establish a healthy open-minded relationship between parent and child. A conversation about imagination, gay characters and overcoming obstacles.
You studied psychology and political science. How does one become an author of children’s books with this background?
There’s a theatre program in my hometown and that’s where I fell in love with both theatre and working with children. This background basically evolved into writing for – and learning to connect with – kids through theatre, an art form not only about acting but something that also strengthens your social skills and your engagement. I think dealing with kids, theatre and art, while keeping the psychology I studied in my mind, naturally developed into writing down stories. It just happened as I was trying to process my own growth and understanding of the people around me. I realized that my words would have a broader reach if I found ways to adapt them to reach out to children.
Your imagination immediately takes off running in your first book, Out Of The Box. A story about the limitless places our creativity can take us to.
I kind of wrote Out Of The Box for myself, when I was developing a project with children on creative arts. Rather than write some angsty melodrama of my own life, I wanted to rediscover the creativity and imagination that I felt I had lost long ago. I wanted to find some solutions to my own struggles and challenges in a more universal, but also playful way. This book is not only about the simplicity of children playing with a cardboard box. It’s about maintaining and owning your imagination in order to make honest connections with others, even though that can prove challenging. It was my response to the concept of imagination and allowing that magic out of the box once again.
It sounds like your personal pursuit became a tool to help others.
I did. I thought I’d rather live with the possible pain of expressing my feelings, than live with the pain of denial. My personal life story became so dark and I got so tired of living in that darkness, tired of denying things, that I had to take ownership of myself and of my self worth. Writing these children’s books and trying to work past this fear of speaking about your feelings was very important. Because once you’re an adult, it gets a lot harder to start opening up all of a sudden. But when you’re a child you get into that habit of not only talking about your feelings, but also learning how to do so. There are so many ways to express yourself, but some ways are more healthy and effective than others. If children start recognizing that and start being comfortable, it will help society as a whole.
Your second book, The Royal Heart, is a fairytale. The first fairytale ever with a transgender princess.
Like many kids I had a childhood fascination for Disney and the exploration of the origin stories. What fascinates me in fairytales is not just the lesson they can teach, but how they’ve been shared over time and what has been changed due to the time that they were written. They are evolving and are adapting to society’s influence in a lot of ways. Children are connecting and relating to that. When I grew up, all I was seeing and reading were all these beautiful men and women falling in love with each other. I could connect with the essence of the story, I could connect with the love, but the visibility of it was limiting. Fairytales are magical, grand and beautiful, so why should people be excluded from that?
Why use the transgender theme?
It just so happened that the idea of a transgender character fitted the essence of what I was trying to convey. Transformation is a common theme in fairytales; Ariel’s goes from fins to legs, the frog becomes a prince, a princess becomes a swan, and so on, and most of those transformations are due to an external force. I never intended the book to be about being transgender, because that’s not something I personally experienced, but it’s about the love for everyone around me. The acceptance of that as being a part of life. If somebody comes to me and says “this is who I truly am”, there’s no part in me that would ever ask “why?” That’s not a question that comes into my mind, I’d rather say “thank you for sharing.” A lot of people are still stuck on the “why?” Why are you a woman, why are you a man, why are you gay? However, there is no “why” to begin with. It’s a reality that needs no explanation. It’s just about love.
Did you intentionally use a medieval setting to make it more timeless?
Yes, I wanted it to look like it’s been around for many years because transgenderism is not new. And history has a way of denying the voice and the human experience when it is not understood. The book is very minimal, yet I was very careful in choosing the words to take it a little bit further then just about gender. For me it’s also about taking on the responsibility of self and becoming a leader. I want people to look at it and wonder if hundreds of years ago there actually was a prince who could never fully realize himself. We’re talking about a whole spectrum of human life that has always been around. It’s not that all of a sudden people are being born who identify in a different way. It’s just that those voices are finally starting to be heard. We get so caught up with this idea of male-female that we lose sight of just living life. And there are so many ways to live life that I don’t think it has to be dictated how that should be. Let’s just try and live together instead of trying to impede on other people’s lifestyles. We don’t have to hold hands and get along, but we do need not to abuse each other. And that’s what The Royal Heart talks about; it’s about celebrating life.
A true idealist?
I don’t know how I became such an idealist all of a sudden since my mantra through my mid-twenties was “I’m gonna die alone!” I was this melodramatic person until I finally realized I was only going to die alone if I forced that upon myself. I had to believe that there was more to it, and since I can’t be the only one in the world with those feelings I started sharing my stories and my writing. Because why can’t the LGBT community have those unrealistic, magical, love at first sight, fairytale stories, if everybody else does?
I’ve said you’re working on a book about a gay prince. Are you looking for a fairytale character you can relate to?
Well, I still want to write this epic adventure I was looking for when I was a kid. Having stories that represent LGBT characters is adding to the positive visibility that hasn’t been around for children. You can only have so much fun looking at blog posts of genderbending Disney characters. We’ve all seen those, and it’s great, but where are our characters? I’m not trying to be groundbreaking or evolutionary, I just want to have a character that happens to love men.
How would you convince a parent to buy an LGBT themed book for their child?
Having an LGBT character doesn’t necessarily make a book LGBT themed. The Royal Heart is not LGBT themed, nor is the story of the prince I’m developing. The main theme is love. To establish a healthy relationship between parent and child, you have to be open to each other. The book can be a message for parents to show their children that this character worked up the courage to express their true self. That no matter what that is, their child can feel that way too. They can come to them, no matter what they have to say, and that they are going to be ok with it. So it’s an invitation to children to know that if their parents share this story, that they have their full support of their full existence.
You recently released your third children’s book, Traveling the Twisting Troubling Tanglelows’ Trail. What’s it about?
It’s a rhyming, poetic story that deals with creatures that live inside your mind and tangle everything up, making you feel that you are worthless. In this book I’m saying that life is full of challenges, and that you’re might feel useless, but you have the ability to start untangling that. With this book I hope to introduce some practical applications to an abstract thought. Children need to understand that feeling unhappy is sometimes part of the beauty of life. And while bad things can happen, good things can happen also. The characters are saying that pain exists, but that joy can be found. You’re going to face obstacles, but you’re only going to be able to overcome them once you start to realize that you have the strength to do so.