“Venus Boyz”

My Beau and I had a date last night – well, we started out on one, anyway. (As parents and curmudgeons, we don’t get out much.) We made it to a favorite restaurant, had supper, then almost saw an actual movie in an actual movie theater, but the wind was freezing and my Beau, recently recovered from a sore throat and nasty cold, realized she hadn’t recovered after all and I fussed and insisted we go back home. We did manage to get to the video store that has a Queer section (so refreshing!) and rented “Venus Boyz.”

For those who haven’t seen it or heard of it, it’s a documentary by a Swiss director, Gabriel Baur, nominally about the drag king scene, but actually about gender, identity, race, fucking, and just what the hell does it mean to be human, anyway? The cinematography, pacing, and directing are seamless, and the people she interviews are fascinating. At one point, the photographer Del LaGrace Volcano says that he (probably he would use that pronoun) wants to show the genitals of intersexed people in the most beautiful way possible; Baur also manages to show the people she follows in “Venus Boyz” in a haunting, respectful, and gorgeous way.

I loved that the people she talks to are often 40 or over – folks a ways along life’s journey who’ve put in time thinking and experiencing what it means to fit but nominally into the status quo of the binary. What I also love is the focus was not on these people’s pain – of which they’ve obviously had way more than their share – but on their art, their exuberance, their delirious sex, their love of themselves (hard won) and of each other.

There are a lot of laudatory reviews on the back of the cover, and I do hope this film was viewed by people other than queers and freaks (a word I use here lovingly and which I would also use to describe myself). I remember a dinner party long ago at which I hugely embarrassed my ex by getting up on a soap box and going on and on about what “normal” people could learn from the SM community, even if they themselves are not interested in getting flogged. I still believe that, and I know that “normal” people do need to have “normal” busted wide open for them – not that everyone has to shrug off their gender and cavort in the chaotic/erotic universe (although wouldn’t that be interesting?), just that I truly believe that it’s useful to push the boundaries and feel a fresh breeze against your cheeks.

It was fun seeing a few familiar faces from back in the day: Diane Torr and Shelly Mars (who I saw perform long ago and far away), and Judith Halberstam (yum). I was doing quite a bit of cavorting myself in the early 90s before I got pregnant and almost as quickly realized I had seriously fucked up in my choice of partner. (The reason I didn’t see this film when it first came out in 2001 is because I was the stay-at-home mom of 2 kids, 5 and 2 and was trying to figure out how to get out of my marriage and regain my sanity, sexuality, and frivolity without completely ruining my kids’ lives.)

How grateful I am to the people filling the spaces “normal” society ignores: the inches between a “normal” clit and a “normal” dick (Del LaGrace Volcano shows us a chart on his computer), the emptiness on the chart of female genitals that we’ve all studied in the gynecologist’s office, and, of course, that limitless limbo between “boy” and “girl.” How lucky my Beau and I are to have been able to watch this movie, snuggled together on the couch, hearing things about our own lives, seeing our own concerns, joys, questions, loves, desires, and hopes being taken seriously and lovingly discussed, lived out, honored and respected.

We must write! We must do our art! Do our work! We must reach out to each other! The zeitgeist rushes on, the new becomes old and we are admonished for continuing to think that “old fashioned” ideas are still important, despite that fact that for so many of us, these are not just ideas, but complex and gorgeous and deep parts of who we are that could take lifetimes to explore and musn’t be thrown out with yesterday’s news. When Judith Halberstam talks about her brand of butch in an almost apologetic way, I just cheer her on – your brand of butch buoys up my brand of femme and without you I would be diminished, no matter that perhaps the loudest queer voices are now advocating a different brand. All our flavors are delicious, we are like a farmer’s market at the height of the harvest, shining, plump, luscious, and we are mixed up together in an aromatic, nutritious queer soup. Sup daily to bolster your soul!

Published in: on February 1, 2009 at 8:16 PM  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. hello total femme! i am totally getting caught up on your blog! this sounds like a fantastic film & one i will add to my list. any film that has halberstam in it is worth seeing, in my humble starstruck opinion. her books are pretty good too. 😉

  2. Hey there! Thank you for stopping by and staying to get caught up! ( : I really appreciate it. Yes, this film is one I think my Beau and I are going to have to buy and own so we can watch it at will. I wish Halberstam was in it more, actually, but a sighting is a happy thing! And I’m still thinking about issues the film raises — it’s really wonderful when a piece of art can start out looking at something that seems to just be a microcosm (drag kings) and then expand out to address universal, human issues.

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