Last night, we toddled off to The Eagle to catch Steel Queer N'At, a quarterly performance of Pittsburgh queer talent put together by a local eclectic queer art collective. For months, we've talked about going to the monthly K'vetch performances (third Thursdays at Modern Formations in Garfield), but something always came up. So this was our big chance to see what all the fuss was about.
It was awesome (except for one detail I'll get to later). The organizers did a great job staging an outrageous, sexy show that made me think and, even more importantly, made me want to take some action … to pick up my pen, pick up my picket sign and pick my ass up off the couch.
The performers were this amazing group of rowdy, righteous, motivated babes (and a few gents) who had something important … a whole lotta something important …. to say and did it with style and words and music and movement that left the audience panting for more. In a good way.
It was also easily the most diverse group of queer women I've encountered in Pgh. Most every gay event is pure white with maybe one or two token minorities. And most every gay event organizers claim that they don't know how to connect with gay minorities. Perhaps they should get in touch with the collective because they seem to be doing a fine job.
We loved 'em all for speaking their truth, for speaking out loud and for getting up on that stage to just speak.
The next Steel Queer N'At should be in October. We'll post it here with plenty of advance warning so you can catch the show. October is also the Celebrate the Night performance night, but we'll post on that separately.
Now here's our concern. The performers howled about women taking back control of our bodies, our sexuality, our health and our identity. They called out corporate America for filling our bodies with poisons and to society for boxing us in with few choices. It was chilling and it was the truth.
It was also done in a room filled with smoke. And there lies the rub. If I wanted to hear the message, I had no choice but to expose myself to second hand smoke for the entire evening. Every smoker in that room took away my control over the very air I breathe. To hear their message, I had to sacrifice my own ability to breath and speak. How is this inclusive or empowering?
I respect that each woman, each person, in that room has the right to choose to smoke, but they shouldn't have the right to force me to smoke, too. If someone drank too much or acted obnoxiously, I could choose to move away. There's was nowhere to hide from the smoke. I had to leave the space to reclaim my breath.
On their website, they write:
We are creating a new aesthetic and we do this collectively because it is absolutely necessary for our health, well-being and struggle.
If you take the beauty industry to task for seducing us into inserting carcinogens into our vaginas, what about the tobacco industry's well-documented coercion of smokers? Studies show that lesbians are 70% more likely to smoke than heterosexual women; 25 % of lesbians smoke. I can't find the stats on the incidents of lung cancer and emphysema for lesbians versus heterosexual women, but I'm guessing there's a statistically significant difference.
That means roughly 75% of us don't smoke. Why force us to compromise our health to be part of the Steel Queer N'At experience? Why not have a smoke-free event and ask the smokers to respect me and my choices about MY health enough to step outside? Even make the performance area itself smoke free and have the smokers go downstairs to the third floor to smoke — its not even outside. If a few smokers choose not to attend, I guarantee more non-smokers will gladly take their seats.
A smoke-free event would rock. I want to go again and want to take my women friends with me, but they won't willingly go into an environment where they can't breathe freely. No one should.
Look for another post soon comparing and critiquing the lesbian performance experiences in Pittsburgh.
And check out the Steel Queer N'At collective for a consciousness raising jolt to your LGBT identity. You won't regret it.
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