my suburb just made queer history again.
Queer prom was proof positive that queer folks are everywhere, and we’re done hiding.
Queering the Burbs is a weekly-ish distillation of pop culture, politics and queerness written by Joe Erbentraut. If you like what you see, please consider subscribing (it’s free!), liking or sharing this piece.
The other week, a popular queer TikToker took to social media to declare that “being gay in the suburbs is so sad.” As you could probably guess from the name of this newsletter, I’m obviously annoyed.
The video from Eric Sedeno (who has over 500,000 followers as @ricotaquito on TikTok) was shared on the Gay Times Instagram account as part of the publication’s “Reel Queer Talk” series. In it, Sedeno goes on to say “everything’s boring, everyone’s straight, and everyone dresses so bad. … Gays are meant to be in the city, talking shit, drinking alcohol, making fun of people. … I could never move back to the suburbs, that’s where Karen lives.” Many comments on the post agreed (though there are plenty of dissenters as well), with one individual saying “Being anything in the suburbs is sad to be fair.”
Obviously, everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I would never deny the trauma that many queer people (particularly queer folks of color) endure growing up in a suburban setting. The suburbs are, by nature, a more isolated and “traditional” family-oriented experience, and they aren’t for everyone — especially queer folk. And it is a lot more difficult to build community and connect with other queer individuals with few explicitly LGBTQ+ public spaces like bars or community centers to gather in.
But videos like these punch down and rely on patently dated stereotypes. As though queer people should all be confined only to the largest metro areas and live out a Queer as Folk existence of going to clubs, getting fucked up and fucked, and rinse and repeat. It’s really not that different from cis gay men who have entirely cis male friend groups and say “ewww vaginas!” at any mention of women. Or, if we’re being real, TERF “feminists” who claim that the trans movement is some sort of attack on cis queer women. It’s lazy, reductive and, honestly, pretty offensive.
Most importantly, these proclamations undermine the efforts of queer folk in suburban (as well as rural) settings who are working to make those environments more celebratory and inclusive of LGBTQ+ people who live there (whether by choice or, as is often the case, not).
Look no further than what’s happening in the Fox Valley, the west suburban region that was (until relatively recently) a Republican stronghold not particularly well known for progressive or inclusive leanings. This weekend, the organizers of Geneva Pride held their inaugural trans and queer teen Halloween party at Peck Farm Park. According to social media posts, about 80 area teens attended the event.
And the previous weekend, I was lucky enough to DJ Annie Hex’s Queer Halloween Prom at Soma Studio Batavia in downtown Batavia. To my knowledge, this was the first-ever queer prom to be held in Batavia. The party sold out and the vibes were truly immaculate — we had a crowd of about 35 people come together under the disco ball to dance in our costumes and prom regalia to all the intergenerational queer bops — Lil Nas X, Robyn, Missy, ABBA. This is how Hex put the aim of the event, beautifully, in a written message she shared with all the guests:
“We’re bringing you a night of queer culture and unrepressed joy. We are going to dance our pandemic blues away & celebrate all the parts of ourselves we’ve had to hide. You are safe here. … Don’t forget - the world needs you to be exactly who you are. SHINE BRIGHT TONIGHT.”
The fire department was briefly present because our fog machines set off the smoke alarm (oops). We screamed with delight, we posed for photos, we snacked on pizza and sipped beverages. We line-danced to a Reba McEntire remix at one point. And we capped off the night with a singalong to Cyndi Lauper’s seminal “Time After Time” transitioning into one of the queerest, spookiest songs ever: Rocky Horror’s “Time Warp.” The night was perfect, the space was special, and we’ll hopefully be doing it again.
But queer-celebratory spaces like this don’t materialize miraculously — not in the suburbs and not anywhere. It takes a tremendous deal of bravery, tenacity and creativity to create these spaces where there otherwise would not be any. And I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the fostering of these spaces not only feels good — I believe it literally saves lives. Yes, we’re talking about parties here. We’re talking about disco balls and costume contests and looking our absolute fiercest (it should be noted that, sorry Sedeno, absolutely nobody was “dressed bad” at queer prom). Yes, we’re talking about lives here.
Another beautiful aspect of what happened at queer prom was a number of individuals who stepped up to donate funds to sponsor tickets to the event for those who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford to attend, as well as to help fund the purchase of decor and gift bags. Justine, Rupa, Sarah, Kandarpa, Ellen, Cyndi, Lourdes, Anthony, Katie, Tory and everyone else, I cannot thank you enough.
Keep it spooky and keep it queer out there, folks.
LINKS, BUT MAKE THEM SPOOKY:
The Broadway production of The Phantom of the Opera just celebrated its reopening with a block party featuring DJ set from 73-year-old Andrew Lloyd Webber. Also in the DJ booth for the occasion was (incredibly!) Luann “The Countess” de Lesseps. Based on tweets, the set ranged from “Rain on Me” to “Who Let the Dogs Out.”
As part of its Vampire Veek, Vulture just published an oral history of the 2002 nu-metal vampire blockbuster Queen of the Damned. The movie flopped, but of course there’s a lot more to the story than that. (Among the juiciest nuggets from the piece: Cher was considered for the film’s lead role over Aaliyah.)
Deeply cheugy Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema presided over the U.S. Senate wearing a denim vest and soul artist Aaron Neville wasn’t having it. And before you say it shouldn’t matter what Sinema is wearing, read Tressie McMillan Cottom’s op-ed in the New York Times on why it’s worthy of discussion.
Bob Mehr @BobMehrLooks like someone's Aaron Neville Halloween costume is coming together nicely. https://t.co/w21bdaEs1I
Speaking of the Times, the Grey Lady also just published a story that claims millennials are “afraid of” zoomers who work for them. The piece feels genetically engineered to stir up quote tweets on Twitter, though it’s an interesting read and I did learn that the laughing-sobbing emoji is over. Oops.
Behold, in all of its glory: Pinhead Chihuahua, the viral star of a recent NYC dog parade. This dog is how I’m trying to be.
With the spooky season officially coming to a close, it’s now time to bring on the made-for-TV holiday movies. Frankly, I’m ready, and so are the homophobes. My friend Alyssa Dalessandro Santiago flagged on Twitter that a website called It’s a Wonderful Movie is making a “nice list” of which of these movies are free of gay people and therefore “family-friendly.” Cool cool cool.
Tori Amos just released her first new album in four years (which is a long time for the prolific singer-songwriter-siren). The album, Ocean to Ocean, is definitely a big ole step into the adult contemporary realm, but I’m not mad about it. Additionally, Amos is doing a fresh round of press, my favorite of which comes from Christopher Rudolph in NewNowNext and goes deep on what the album has to say about themes like grief and regeneration.
British artist Shygirl just dropped a sensational new track called “Cleo” that I truly cannot stop listening to. The lushness of the strings, the freshness of the production, the cutting melancholy of the lyrics. It’s got everything.