A PIECE OF RETRIBUTION
I really don’t know a single frocking thing about Bruce LaBruce, acclaimed northern darling of the queercore movement except that he’s a creep fuck shitbag. As I’m sitting down to write what I feel like is going to amount to something roughly equivalent to a wednesday evening angsty teenage journal entry, I can honestly only recall that one of his movies was called “Don’t Shave My Rump”, or something somewhat similar, but I wouldn’t cite me on that. I’m not a film scholar, nor a reviewer of cinema, in fact, I don’t care much for celluloid at all, unless it’s an uncut director’s edition documentary about real life with no color correction or weird distorting lenses like the fish one, because, for real life and truth, I much prefer my daily newspaper which I receive a free prescription for (is that the right word) every single day at the nearest metro station, which is either Rosemont or Beaubien, I don’t really remember. I’m not even clear whether or not his last name should be spelled with a space in it or not, like « La Bruce » and to be quite honest, given details that will be revealed as this story progresses, I don’t freaking give a hoot.
In case it hasn’t already come across, this is not a review of Bruce’s movies or even an intimate, yet laudatory look into his life and times. This, dear readers, is about something much more interesting: revenge, and more specifically, me trying to get just a little tiny bit of it in order to feel right in my boots again. This impulse for very mild retribution against a famous successful man may seem brute and callous to some but there is no use denying that it has taken a strong hold of me and despite my best intentions does not appear to be diminishing. In more hollow moments, I have framed this desire as a beautiful sapling in a winter field, rooted in the celebration of collective retaliation that my foresisters have taken against the cold machine of misogyny, but I also fully realize that to fight back, in a much more profound sense, is about feeling kooky and groovy. When I can be honest, and I try to be, I admit that I do not seek justice (as if there even is such a thing) but rather the rapture and merriment that may rush through my body when I think about Bruce’s mouth slightly frowning for a second on the very slim chance that he hears or even cares about this article which is hovering around a very low 1% odds.
Some scaredy-cat alarmist cravens have warned me that vengeance can only lead to a never-ending cycle of retribution which will surely end in my shameful demise. What these bitches don’t realize is that besides researching different kinds of bugs on the internet, I really don’t have that much on my plate right now and I would kind of love to have a new passion because I just turned thirty and it would be excellent if I had something to discuss at the next vernissage I attend which could honestly be any day now. Becoming fully embroiled in a back and forth revenge affair with Bruce LaBruce could really help me meet new people, learn new skills, and even travel the world, because the latest intel I have received is that he lives in Toronto, which is not only the capital of Canada, but also an international centre of business, finance, arts, and culture OF THE EARTH. It could really spice things up for me if I had an excuse to visit The Big Smoke every once in a while. I haven’t fact checked yet, but since he’s an A-list celebrity it would make sense that he chose Toronto to live in because other well-known celebrities live there, like Don Cherry, and it’s important in life to be around others who are similar to you or else you might be misunderstood and feel sad. I imagine he probably lives in the CN Tower, at least I would if I were a rich celebrity and wanted the best view money can buy. Actually, it would be incredibly silly for Bruce not to live there, considering there is a very good restaurant close by and the radio reception is probably quite exceptional being, as it is, a radio tower and all. Not only that, but being closer to our Sun, his clothes would dry a lot faster on the clothing line which is a huge time saver when you are busy making films destined for the screens of cinema and beyond.
The big question on everyone’s lips however, is what could someone who has selflessly dedicated his entire life to the production of a new language, the language of cinema, a world that recreates life as a dream and makes everyone happy possibly have done to merit such vitriol and slander from a self-identified cinephile and Bruce LaBruce fanatic like me? Well if you have a few moments, I would like to tell you the story, but you’ll have to let me travel back in time, all the way back to the beginning, back to the moment that the story actually happened.
The incident in question took place during the summer of 2015, a sweltering and hazy series of bright flashes and mumbling noises that don’t really make that much sense to me. Not because it was unremarkable mind you or because things didn’t happen, but mostly just because I wasn’t paying much attention to my surroundings (I had textos coming in on my cellular telephone) and I forgot to register everything that was happening on a movie camera like I had planned. It sucks for sure, but I’m not gonna shave my rump over it or anything. I do remember one thing though but it’s pretty boring so I won’t waste time speaking about it here or really even mentioning it because then I might leave you wondering about the unknown, the unarticulated, the unclear, and the unreal, if you will, and it may distract you from the known and real parts of this story, which absolutely cannot happen, because I need your full attention.
The interesting thing is that I had no idea that Bruce LaBruce was even in town when the events in question came to pass. If I had known, I assure you, I would have taken the steps necessary to prevent such a crisis. Normally, when people similar to Leonardo DiCaprio or Clint Eastwood come to town the whole city is buzzing about it. My daily newspaper usually averts me to the movements of the stars in the celebrity gossip section and I make a point to take note whenever anyone of import visits our fine city. It seems to me, however, that on this particular day, there must have been a major slip up at the Montreal newspaper building because I don’t remember seeing anything, LIKE ANYTHING AT ALL, letting the people know that Bruce LaBruce was visiting. I mean maybe it’s hard to do top-notch celebrity journalism when you don’t charge any money for newspaper prescriptions, but if I had known that Bruce LaBruce was in town I would have definitely put a sign on my front door stating my number one political position which is « ABSOLUTELY NO CELEBS MAY ENTER HERE AT ANY POINT ». See, the thing is, celebrities constantly have to reproduce their celebrity in order to be celebrities and this means that they consistently engage in sketchy behavior in order to attract attention. The most important thing to me at every single moment in my life is that celebrities are not welcome, but since I didn’t know any stars were in town on this sweltering summer evening, I mega blew it by forgetting to put up my sign. Some people seem to think it’s really charming when celebs show up to a party and start going off about all the cocaine they did on their yacht with Jennifer Garner last Tuesday or whatever, but I find that particularly distasteful because first of all there are whales all over the ocean and I’m scared of them and second of all I really don’t want to hear about all the fancy good cocaine celebrities get to do while boating because I become jealous and enraged. Plus, I always want celebrities to sign my tits at parties and I find that to be a pretty dehumanizing and objectifying experience for me. To be honest, I was in such a good mood that day and the sun was shining so warmly on my skin, that I may have even unconsciously decided in my brain before the party started that “celebrities aren’t actually that bad, they’re just normal people like you and me” which is absolute fucking bullshit!!
The other thing that needs mentioning is that I really wasn’t planning on having a party that evening. In my head my night was going to play out something like this: I put on a conservative and restricting sweater (grey turtle neck most likely), attend the local bank down the street from my home, pay my bills on time, walk quickly back to my place without making eye contact with anyone, drink some warm milk and a slice of apple, then retire prematurely and decently like all girls should in order to arrive at work early the next morning to please my superiors. Except this is not at all what happened! Something went terribly amiss that evening and the strangest thing occurred. As I was strolling down the street whispering the lord’s prayer over and over to myself, an extremely beautiful and scary group of what could only have been homosexual dancers taking a break from grooving circled me and forced me to take a puff from a cigarette stick! Once the menthol flavor crossed over my lips and into my mouth, a horrible feeling of fervent abandon began to rise within me. I felt…..wet. I immediately entered into the dark venue with a curiosity that was unknown to me and the deep grooves the dance DJ was making with her rectangular button box took a hold of my body and I absolutely could not stop wiggling my knees. I knew this meant trouble was brewing because no one, let alone me, can ever predict what sort of deceit, double dealing, and loitering the night may bring into our lives. For if we know anything, we know that the night is NOT the day because scientists have discovered that at roughly 7:45pm each day it is quite a lot harder to see when you’re outside. The results of many studies show that this is not good, not good at all. Not only are we much more likely to bump into tree branches and pylons which are dangerous but also how can you even gush about Justin Trudeau or ask people when they are going to get married when you’re yawning every ten freaking seconds? But on this particular night I thought to myself, why not stay up a little later, why not let my hair blow free in the wild winds of chance, and seize life by the horns just this one time? Am I not alive? Do I not deserve to experience pleasure and freedom and orgasm? Does my skin not have nerves so I may be touched and feel desire tingling inside of me? Is a mouth not perfectly designed to swallow pills of different sorts? Is the nose not just a direct inward passage for fine and fanciful powders to enter into the nervous system?
Why yes, I thought, yes they must be.
I could describe the dance event to you but I fear you could hardly understand the things that took place inside those walls. But I will anyways. If you can imagine, it was like a movie that was in a dream, upside down and playing backwards through an ultraviolet harp. It was like living inside a balloon full of ultraviolet moss that was on a cloud traveling through a wormhole towards the time when dinosaurs were alive and they all hung out underneath a giant sparkling crystal dome and drank constantly from a river of Cristal Champagne. It was, in other words, fun.
At some time early in the morning the music was shut off and we were ushered outside on the street in what I considered to be a very rude and abrupt manner that didn’t make me feel very good. As all of us dancers were standing around on the sidewalk, I glanced around and could distinctly see the despair sinking in on everyone’s face. The reality of returning to our bedrooms alone to stare out our window’s desperately seeking any action on the street like a cat to pass by, or an empty chip bag to blow in the wind in order to distract the swell of our empty lives was much too much too handle. I decided that maybe I should take action and pondered suggesting that a few people could continue getting to know each other at my place a few blocks away. It was actually an exciting idea because I had just moved into a new apartment and needed to show off the curtains that I purchased with money and also it would be a perfect opportunity to finally use that chip and dip bowl purchased I believe with my debit card.
ABRUPT TRANSITION IN TONE – I’M NOT A PROFESSIONAL WRITER FOR THE NEW YORKER SO CHILL
Maybe more importantly though, at the dance party I noticed that a friend who I hadn’t seen in many years was unexpectedly (at least to me) back in town. While I didn’t necessarily know them very well, this persyn had made a tremendous impact on me when I was first moved to the city about ten years ago. They weren’t someone that I hung out with, but they were someone that I explicitly saw and paid attention to. It was a fearlessness in the way they embodied and expressed their own queer-ness and it deeply affected me. I believe that seeing them navigate the world confidently and glamorously when I was an extremely closeted young transwoman helped me find the resolve and tenacity to begin embracing my desires and exploring parts of myself that I had only ever known before in brief moments of what I will describe as shameful rupture. A small part of me hoped that if the party continued that I would get maybe a small moment to talk to them. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was looking for in this encounter exactly, but I knew that at the very least, I wanted to thank them, even if they didn’t remember who I was.
Surprisingly, as we were all mulling around outside the space with sweaty clothes and smeared makeup all over our faces, they actually ended up approaching me long before I had enough courage to make the first move. It was a wonderfully sublime moment, because even though it’s mildly embarrassing, I can’t deny that on some basic level I was hoping to get attention from them. As they began to speak, their words sent a butterfly loose in my stomach. They didn’t just notice me that night as a person they had briefly met years before, but actually saw me as someone who was resplendently coming into my own. They looked right at me and with a sincerity that was impossible to ignore said to me “girl, you are absolutely fucking stunning”. Underneath their voice wasn’t the suggestion that this had much if anything to do with the way that I looked, but rather that they saw a joy in how I looked, a happiness and maybe even a confidence that I was projecting through my newly claimed femininity. Right there on the sidewalk, I actually got to thank them for being such an inspiration to me years before and how in some small way, seeing them move around the world helped me find courage to be myself. I was ecstatic. Feeling elated and open about the possibilities of the evening I started spreading the word right there on the sidewalk that the after party was at my house, just down the street, and everyone was invited.
I can’t remember if we left the sidewalk together that night or if we both just happened to reach my place before most people got there, but either way, I found myself giving this persyn a private tour of the house . The tour was quick, I’ll be honest, and we ended up in my bedroom just as waves of people started to come into the house. I am normally quite inept at reading thesecues, but when we were in my bedroom together I was positive that there was a tension between us. We started passing a wine bottle back and forth and in between swigs I was asking them about life in Toronto and a performance they had done earlier in the evening. We sat down on my bed and they looked at me and I remembered, like somewhere in my deep in my body, how radiant and piercing their eyes were. I started to feel a nervousness and excitement rise within me and as I was contemplating whether or not I should kiss them, they leaned over closer to my chest and asked me what it felt like to be so beautiful. Rhetorical questions usually annoy me, but in this moment it didn’t really matter, I was craving a little bit of flattery and I felt my body beginning to melt.
They leaned over to kiss me and as their soft lips pressed firmly into my own a warm shiver ran across my skin. We began to make out pretty heavily on top of my sheets and the reality of what was happening finally set in, I was completely beside myself. They swung one leg over my waist to straddle me and I felt their crotch press slowly into my chest, the excitement building. Grabbing my face and looking down at me they asked if they could spit in my face and I breathed out a deep and affirming yes. I knew at this point that the door to my bedroom was still open, but I figured that as long as our clothes stayed on, it wasn’t such a big deal, it was only my friends here anyways. Then, of course, clothes started to come off. Their tank top flew into the air and my dress was pulled up over my chest. I could hear their breathing close to my ear and soft moans escaping my own throat as their fingers pushed slowly into my mouth.
At this exact unfortunate moment, my hostess duties suddenly came rushing to the forefront of my mind. I had invited hordes of people into our apartment and I wasn’t even out in the party to make sure everything was okay and that everybody was having fun. I fully started to panic. I’m not proud to admit it necessarily, but I take hosting really seriously. I told them that this was really fun but that I needed to go out into the party to scope the scene. I tried to get up but I felt some resistance from them, which was definitely surprising. No, they reassured me, the party is going fine stay in here with me we can go out into the party afterwards. I tried to take a moment to relax, but I couldn’t do it, I could hear how big the party had become in the last twenty minutes and I absolutely had to get out there. I tried to get up once more but they stayed right on top of me. I really want to lick your ass, they said to me. I really want to taste your asshole in my mouth. I could see the desire on their pulsating on their lips and I didnt know what to do. In the background I heard a sound like someone shut the door to my bedroom. That sounds really hot, I responded, like really fucking hot, but not right now, I just want to run out into the party and make sure that everything is chill, we can come back later. Your ass is so hot, they responded, just let me eat you out really quickly, it will only take a minute. No, honestly, I said, not right now. Please, they pleaded, just let me lick you, it will be really quick, I just want to taste you on my lips. Fine, I finally said. I got up on my knees and they pulled my tights down over my ass. I felt their warm tongue and mouth on my asshole and I let out a sigh of pleasure. They licked me up and down for about a minute and it did feel good, but not as good as it could have had we negotiated that moment together. I pulled up my pants and left the room feeling disillusioned.
A few months later a really good friend of mine let me know that Bruce LaBruce had posted a picture of me having sex in my bedroom on his Instagram and Facebook accounts and that unfortunately the pictures had been up for months. It appears that he was in my house the night of the party and figured it was completely appropriate to take a picture of me having sex in my room and upload it to his thousands of followers. I wonder where we have arrived in the realm of queer politics when entitlement over other people’s bodies and the complete erasure of consent is considered a banal gesture. How did I not find out about this for months? I am aware that Bruce LaBruce’s whole shtick is transgression against what he calls the institutionalization of politics, a concept that I find deeply appealing, but when the transgressive act in question becomes a simple reproduction of misogyny, then we are not moving in a radical direction at all, but a reactionary one. In a social moment where so-called “revenge porn” is being leveled against a whole range of people in order to inflict coercive harm and punishment, you would think that someone like Bruce LaBruce who is invested in queer liberation would be able to see the obvious parallels between this practice and his decision to take and post a picture of two trans people having sex without their consent to his humongous online network. It boggles my mind how Bruce LaBruce could be so completely unaware and unsympathetic to how harmful this was. Not to mention the fact, that I was at the same time, navigating a tricky sexual situation where I was being pressured to perform. Now I have a physical memento of that double erasure of consent, woohoo.
I know that in many ways, queer and homosexual liberation movement’s were entrenched in and used a radically and militantly sexual approach to challenge state repression and attempt to liberate our desires from heteronormative and colonial frameworks. I fully believe that pleasure and desire contain trans-formative potential, but sex in and of itself (queer or otherwise) does not, I mean how could it really? One of the most important parts of engaging with the world and with each other is to attempt to create liberatory relationships, and I have trouble imagining this process outside of collective action. When we are talking about sex, we have to realize that pleasure does not exist in a vacuum, but that it is always negotiated between bodies affected by power, desire, trauma, and memory. Truly radical sex is not measured by what kinds of acts we are participating in necessarily, but rather how we negotiate and bring those acts into being collectively. Bruce LaBruce says it himself when he echoes John Waters’ statement that “being gay is not enough”. We often confuse “being” as a static state when really, in order to “be”, we must constantly become, meaning, we must act in the world. Sex is the most empowering and pleasurable, I believe, when we negotiate our desires together, when we act together, and when our bodies communicate. I believe that Bruce LaBruce found it pleasurable to watch us have sex, take a photo of us, and post it on the internet, but unfortunately, it was a type of pleasure removed from collective negotiation and action. When queerness becomes equated with a vapid form of essentialized pleasure (anal sex! Orgasm!) and becomes detached from collective actions of solidarity, I believe it loses transformative power. And really, if we want to get down to it, this type of entitlement over other people’s bodies that an uncritical approach to desire and pleasure can produce, is one of the main dynamics driving misogyny and rape culture.
So, I know I have said it before, but I’ll say it again because this kind of venting is the only revenge I will ever get, fuck you Bruce, all you had to do was ask.