Sister Spit series celebrates queer culture, looks beyond sexuality

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Phoenix Delman/Staff

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“It never occurred to me that I could be one of those perverted monsters!”

So realized Chana Wilson, a blogger for The Huffington Post, during her story of self-discovery in a place where many young people first begin to notice their burgeoning sexuality — summer camp. After curiosity prompted her to consult her counselor about how lesbians actually have sex, her response (“with their knees”) brought Wilson this strange realization — as well as a curiosity about the lesbian lifestyle that never went away.

Wilson was one of many artists who spoke about queer life on July 28 in Kerouac Alley behind City Lights Bookstore. Curated and hosted by poet Michelle Tea, the Sister Spit literary series attempts to fairly portray, poke fun at and empathize with queer women and poets in the Bay Area in arenas beyond their sexuality. While originally a girls-only group in the ’90s, the “Sister Spit: Next Generation” spoken word and performance art collective has grown to include and represent all gender identities and sexual orientations. Poetry and short story topics at the event ranged from the pretentiousness of yoga culture to binge eating to haunted houses.

On writer Sara Seinberg’s decision to begin running, she said, “I was tired of being a shitty landlord to a good life.” Running later became a habit that has extended into her life far beyond just a mere fitness regime. From the joys of being completely unplugged (she would leave her phone and music at home) to becoming more aware of her body, Seinberg spoke of a new philosophy she’d gained from running — that of complete failure. “What other people think of me is none of my fucking business,” she said. “Runner’s high is an alchemy of wholeheartedness.”

Another artist, poet Carmella Fleming, sported an Amy Winehouse-esque beehive and spoke of Winehouse’s favorite topic: “I grew up, and all I got was a drug problem,” she sighed. Referring to two girls in love in her poem “These Girls,” a lyric too heartbreakingly personal not to be autobiographical, “Who are these girls, and how do they get away with behaving this way?”

One of the most strikingly flamboyant performers was DavEnd, a genderqueer songwriter and performer who took to the microphone in fishnets, a shiny blue dress and giant gold hoops. DavEnd began with jokes about the venue of the performance (“My friends asked me where I was performing, I told them ‘in an alley'”), then played accordion with utmost tenderness while singing about the process of self-acceptance: “I’ve been holding a match thinking I invented fire.” DavEnd is currently working on the musical “Fabulous Artistic Guys Get Overly Traumatized Sometimes,” otherwise known as “F.A.G.G.O.T.S.: The Musical!”

Two of the most unexpected performances were those by Mariko Tamaki and Brontez Purnell, the former an actor and comedian and the latter a writer, dancer and musician. Tamaki described her experiences with haunted houses and offered helpful tips — “Don’t buy things that look like they might be important to a ghost” — as well as advice for a younger audience: “The evil kid (at school) is never the goth kid playing magic cards at recess … They play magic cards with your soul.” Purnell, an Alabama native turned Bay Area musician, told “stories from down South,” beginning with the minglings of his anxiety and his desire for sex and food and then going back to his childhood. Of his mother’s involvement in church politics, he quoted her as saying, “The new preacher was as crooked as a Baptist minister,” to much laughter from the audience.

Sister Spit is an eye-opening, earnest look at a world that either remains hidden or is out in the open enough for us to no longer consider. Coming a month after the neon colors and drunken revelries of San Francisco’s Gay Pride Parade, Sister Spit is an honest reminder that queer culture is more than a celebration that takes place once a year — it is a way of life for many individuals, containing all the mundane, simple joys of our own.

Contact Mohana Kute at [email protected].

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