You might call me the accidental pussy faggot. An independent performance curator and producer based in Brooklyn, I have presented hundreds of events over the past 7 years, most with a queer sensibility. However, I never imagined that a performance-driven party called PUSSY FAGGOT! would end up being one of my signature projects. I didn’t realize the term would resonate so strongly with so many people, but I suppose I could have guessed it would put me at odds with Facebook.
The party started as something of an inside joke. As the Festival Director for the 2009 HOT! Festival I wanted to pimp out my birthday as a fundraiser. The most viable venue for the event proved to be The Delancey Lounge on New York’s Lower East Side. Having thrown a weekly party there a couple years prior I was intimately familiar with the club, but I hadn’t set foot in the joint since the party came to an abrupt end during a fabled bar fight with my co-promoter. Curled up in a fetal position on the floor of the bar I was kicked, spat upon and called “pussy faggot!” The assault ended when cabaret star Justin Bond and transgender performance artist Glenn Marla intervened. My assailant protested, “But he threw a drink in my face!” to which the ever-unflappable Bond responded, “And you’ve kicked him three times. You’re even.”
Naming the benefit PUSSY FAGGOT! was a cheeky way of calling out the 800-pound elephant in the room. Since then the event has taken on a life of its own, becoming a periodic one night mini-festival of queer performance; I even presented an edition of the party in Manchester, England as part of the Queer Up North Festival in May. The response from participating artists, audiences and the media has been overwhelmingly supportive, doing much to remove the sting of that earlier attack.
Language evolves over time, and there are many precedents for reclaiming slurs, epithets and other words that have been used to verbally assault and demean people. These linguistic acts of defiance frequently help diminish the power these words have to hurt or inflict pain. The rehabilitation of the term for a female dog has progressed to the point that we have Bitch magazine and a singer/songwriter named Bitch (formerly of Bitch and Animal). This didn’t happen overnight. In 1990 performance artist Penny Arcade’s sex and censorship show “Bitch!Dyke!Faghag!Whore!” had some feminists so incensed they tore down posters advertising the piece. Arcade’s provocative embrace of terms she had been called throughout her life were an affront to the standard-bearers of political correctness.