Let the gays begin

Six city culture makers attempt to answer our burning-possibly flaming-questions.

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MEET THE PANELISTS (below)


So what the hell is “gay culture” nowadays?

Kai Wright: It’s anything, I guess.

Douglas Carter Beane: It’s remarkable how incredibly assimilated it is. When I see Pixar cartoons, I know there’s a gay sensibility involved.

Glenn Marla: I heard someone use the word gaystream, and that sounded so ugly to me. Because it’s a world that’s not much more friendly than the heterosexual mainstream. There’s no chance I can pass there.

Staceyann Chin: There is no such thing as gay culture anymore. The community is so large and the people who qualify as gay are portrayed as more diverse in the media. But people pretty much still expect me to show up in a flannel shirt and not shave my underarms. I wear cotton shirts; they just have checkered patterns.

Ariel Schrag: It’s all so vague and blah that it’s hard to even tell who is gay. Which is good in the inclusive sense, but it’s a little sad, too. It’s fun to be part of a subculture.

Christian Siriano: On the one hand, it’s the world I’m in­—all fashion and style and design and stuff. And it’s a big world out there, with so many causes and benefits and charities. But that’s all totally over my head at this point in my life.

Glenn Maria: Sometimes I feel drenched in positivity, because I’m constantly inspired by New York. It’s like, “I live in New York City and I’m a performance artist, and I’m surrounded by all this gender-fucking and badass shit!” But then I can get bummed because Rapture, the place where I performed a lot, just closed. I get concerned about “the state of gay culture,” but I’m a big fucking homo whether I like it or not, so I continue to create it, as we all do.

NEXT QUESTION »





the panel

Douglas Carter Beane, 48
Tony-nominated playwright (The Little Dog Laughed and Xanadu) and screenwriter (To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar)


Staceyann Chin, 35
Activist, poet, spoken-word performer and self-proclaimed “lesbian Jamaican immigrant”


Glenn Marla, 25
Outré plus-size trannie performer


Ariel Schrag, 28
Author of the autobiographical graphic novel Awkward, and former writer for The L Word


Christian Siriano, 21
Project Runway winner, hot trannie mess popularizer


Kai Wright, 34
Author, Drifting Toward Love: Black, Brown, Gay,and Coming of Age on the Streets of New York

MEET THE PANELISTS (below)

Okay, what do you do for fun on a Saturday night? Is a trip to Splash in the cards?

Douglas Carter Beane: Not really; I’ve got to take my three-year-old son to Super Soccer Stars at 9am. Besides, I think that bars are a fading dinosaur. With Craigslist and Manhunt, the need for them is dwindling. When my plays are being done around the country, people are like, “We’d love to take you out for a night on the town, but the neighborhood’s been completely dismantled. Seattle doesn’t have a gay neighborhood anymore.”

Kai Wright: Splash is pretty much not in the cards. It’s hard to get me out of Brooklyn, to be honest. I do love the West Village, though. There are great piano bars. You get all the old Broadway queens who’ve just gotten off work—it’s good, unself-conscious, old-fashioned faggotry. Plus, I’m always looking for a good slutty party. They’re just a lot harder to find now.

Staceyann Chin: I haven’t seen any space that reflects the kind of dyke I am. So every Saturday night I go to Trader Joe’s, get some cheese, a couple of cases of wine and fill my own home with lots of women and an eclectic brew of music.

Ariel Schrag: I usually go to a house party in the Williamsburg-Bushwick area.

Glenn Maria: I usually go see, God forbid, a performance! People always complain about how much it costs to see a show, but they’ll go spend $80 to be in a bar for two hours. But there’s a lot of great entertainment in New York City for under $10. We can totally complain about the Box—the awful venue downtown—and how it costs, like, $80 dollars to get inside. But you can see the same performers at the Slipper Room for $5.

Christian Siriano: It’s hard for me to go out. People either want to ignore me or touch me and pick me up like a little pocket gay. But I’m more into trashy bars and gay house parties and little events.

NEXT QUESTION »





the panel

Douglas Carter Beane, 48
Tony-nominated playwright (The Little Dog Laughed and Xanadu) and screenwriter (To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar)


Staceyann Chin, 35
Activist, poet, spoken-word performer and self-proclaimed “lesbian Jamaican immigrant”


Glenn Marla, 25
Outré plus-size trannie performer


Ariel Schrag, 28
Author of the autobiographical graphic novel Awkward, and former writer for The L Word


Christian Siriano, 21
Project Runway winner, hot trannie mess popularizer


Kai Wright, 34
Author, Drifting Toward Love: Black, Brown, Gay,and Coming of Age on the Streets of New York

MEET THE PANELISTS (below)

Why do we all seem to end up in our own little niches in the city—the leather queens over here, the gay Asians over there, the lesbians on the other side, etc.?

Ariel Schrag: It all has to do with location. Like the Williamsburg-Bushwick scene: They all look alike. They have the same jobs. They do the same sort of art on the weekend. There’s no need to venture off to other places when everything you want is right where you live.

Douglas Carter Beane: You create the world you want. And dating is so much about types, isn’t it? I remember when there only used to be Asian bars on the Upper East Side, and you’d go to the Townhouse if you wanted, say, a guy in a jacket. Now you go to the Townhouse if you want a guy that you want to pay for.

Glenn Maria: It’s not like that in other cities, and certainly not in smaller towns, where the queers all party together and it’s so beautiful. I guess New Yorkers don’t want to move through a sea of people they don’t want to fuck to get to the people they do want to fuck.

Kai Wright: I’ve been to smaller cities and towns where there’s only one bar and everybody’s got to go to the same place, and it’s a blast. But that’s only going there for, like, one night. After that, I imagine I’d be really over it. The beauty about being in New York is that you get what you want. If you’re a bear, there’s a bar full of bears. And who’s stopping you from checking out something new? Being compartmentalized isn’t terrible, unless it’s so rigid that people aren’t welcome.

Staceyann Chin: The gay scene is only a microcosm of the larger world, and the larger world has always been a segregated place. People like to think of New York as a melting pot. Even though it’s compartmentalized, it is still the place to be if you’re gay. If you’re a Greek or Turkish or Muslim and gay, I’m sure there’s a society somewhere. The community’s there if you know where to look and how to get in.

NEXT QUESTION »





the panel

Douglas Carter Beane, 48
Tony-nominated playwright (The Little Dog Laughed and Xanadu) and screenwriter (To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar)


Staceyann Chin, 35
Activist, poet, spoken-word performer and self-proclaimed “lesbian Jamaican immigrant”


Glenn Marla, 25
Outré plus-size trannie performer


Ariel Schrag, 28
Author of the autobiographical graphic novel Awkward, and former writer for The L Word


Christian Siriano, 21
Project Runway winner, hot trannie mess popularizer


Kai Wright, 34
Author, Drifting Toward Love: Black, Brown, Gay,and Coming of Age on the Streets of New York

MEET THE PANELISTS (below)


What about the stuff we see in movie theaters and on DVD? Why are there so many bad gay and lesbian films?

Staceyann Chin: There’s a lot of bad movies about straight people, too. Popular art isn’t good art.

Douglas Carter Beane: There was a time in the ’90s when I think we were so desperate to see ourselves reflected in any way that we would put up with atrocious movies to see two men holding hands and kiss.

Ariel Schrag: I went to the Mix festival once, and there was this movie that had all these kaleidoscopic images of genitals—and no sound! It was the most painful experience of my life. We were trying to imagine tumors and the Holocaust—anything to keep us from laughing out loud.

Glenn Maria: I don’t have Logo, but I once got a gift bag filled with movies from Here! TV. They were so bad! I thought the idea of putting us on TV was to see something you might relate to. But everyone passes, everyone’s skinny and white. That’s not the queer community I know.

Kai Wright: But there is a lot of fun stuff. Another Gay Movie, that gay take on American Pie? What’s not to like there? My friend just made a gay thriller, 2 Minutes Later. There’s a lot of good stuff out there. You just need to look for it.

Christian Siriano: I’m really bad about pop culture, even though I’m a part of it. Like, I love cheesy movies.

NEXT QUESTION »





the panel

Douglas Carter Beane, 48
Tony-nominated playwright (The Little Dog Laughed and Xanadu) and screenwriter (To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar)


Staceyann Chin, 35
Activist, poet, spoken-word performer and self-proclaimed “lesbian Jamaican immigrant”


Glenn Marla, 25
Outré plus-size trannie performer


Ariel Schrag, 28
Author of the autobiographical graphic novel Awkward, and former writer for The L Word


Christian Siriano, 21
Project Runway winner, hot trannie mess popularizer


Kai Wright, 34
Author, Drifting Toward Love: Black, Brown, Gay,and Coming of Age on the Streets of New York

MEET THE PANELISTS (below)

Have you seen Gypsy?

Ariel Schrag: What is Gypsy?

Staceyann Chin: I’ve never seen it.

Christian Siriano: I haven’t. Wait, I think I’ve seen the movie, but I can’t remember. What’s it about?

Ariel Schrag: Isn’t there a mother and a daughter in it? It’s kind of coming back to me.…

Christian Siriano: Sounds fabulous!

Douglas Carter Beane: I haven’t seen it for a while. I like to see it every 72 months—I love that overture. I even put a joke in Xanadu about Gypsy!

Kai Wright: I haven’t seen it, but for gay Broadway, give me Xanadu. That was fucking brilliant! I urge you to go.

Douglas Carter Beane: Working on Xanadu made it pretty clear that the word camp is still used to dismiss something. People are still saying the show is too gay, even though it appeals to a wide audience. They would never think of calling Fiddler on the Roof “too Jewish,” or The Wiz “too black” or Camelot “too long”—oh wait, they do say that.

Glenn Maria: I actually saw Gypsy. And I’m the weird, fat trannie—the one who’s supposed to be into weird and freaky shit. People always come up to me and talk about obscure avant-garde artists that I “should” know. But the reality is, I love Gypsy. When I perform, I jump out of spandex sacks and tap-dance to show tunes.

NEXT QUESTION »





the panel

Douglas Carter Beane, 48
Tony-nominated playwright (The Little Dog Laughed and Xanadu) and screenwriter (To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar)


Staceyann Chin, 35
Activist, poet, spoken-word performer and self-proclaimed “lesbian Jamaican immigrant”


Glenn Marla, 25
Outré plus-size trannie performer


Ariel Schrag, 28
Author of the autobiographical graphic novel Awkward, and former writer for The L Word


Christian Siriano, 21
Project Runway winner, hot trannie mess popularizer


Kai Wright, 34
Author, Drifting Toward Love: Black, Brown, Gay,and Coming of Age on the Streets of New York

MEET THE PANELISTS (below)


Which leads us to our last question: Drag has always been part of our experience and always will be. What is its everlasting appeal? Why won’t it ever die?

Ariel Schrag: I don’t want drag to die! It’s a way to differentiate yourself and live between the genders a little bit. Sort of like how gay men lisp to make a point—or maybe they feel more feminine at a certain moment and that’s how it comes out.

Kai Wright: You gotta look at something when you cruise, right? What do you get when you go to straight bars? A basketball game. I’d rather look at a man dressed up as a woman.

Staceyann Chin: It’s good to play with the lines. We’ve still got a long way to go in terms of acknowledging the multiplicities that exist in the world, and I think drag is pushing us in the right direction in terms of expressing a human condition. I know women who have hair growing on their faces. I know men who prefer high heels over sneakers. Everybody can’t be fit into a type, and the ones who do probably have to work really hard to stay that way.

Douglas Carter Beane: When a gay man does drag, it’s the most beautiful feminist statement. When straight men do it, you’ve got to train them not to be negative. I learned that from making To Wong Foo.

Christian Siriano: I love To Wong Foo! It’s so good, so fabulous.

Glenn Maria: Drag can be a release for a lot of people. People live in such a daily grind, so it’s very empowering to see someone fuck things up.

Douglas Carter Beane: It’s part of the tradition, part of the fun of who we are. If it weren’t for the drag queens, we wouldn’t have had a gay revolution at all. They’re our little George Washington patriots.

Christian Siriano: If you think of heterosexuals, they have white-trash women and trailer parks, and we have drag queens and trannies. I don’t know if I’m the one who can explain it. It’s, like, drag queens are just there. These answers are hard!





the panel

Douglas Carter Beane, 48
Tony-nominated playwright (The Little Dog Laughed and Xanadu) and screenwriter (To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar)


Staceyann Chin, 35
Activist, poet, spoken-word performer and self-proclaimed “lesbian Jamaican immigrant”


Glenn Marla, 25
Outré plus-size trannie performer


Ariel Schrag, 28
Author of the autobiographical graphic novel Awkward, and former writer for The L Word


Christian Siriano, 21
Project Runway winner, hot trannie mess popularizer


Kai Wright, 34
Author, Drifting Toward Love: Black, Brown, Gay,and Coming of Age on the Streets of New York

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