I was recently in Denver to do Primordial (thank you, Redline Gallery for hosting me!)- to get my body hot, sensual, and full of feeling and then to cover myself with blankets and pretend to be a rock - with other performers for the first time - ever! - and with rocks making their creation stories be known, visible. It was exciting to dive in with the smarts and tender loving attention of artists and performers Jaimie Henthorn and Nile H. Russell. I had traipsed through some amazing landscapes - Roxborough State Park, Red Rocks, Clear Creek Canyon - that stirred my body, thinking about my small 40 years in their 300-600 million year old story, imagining visuals and how the rock might look. But how would it feel? What we were doing, actually?
I pulled a tarot card before our first day dancing together, on the rocks, under the blankets, after hauling them up steep trails and hopping fences; I got The Fool. Beginner’s mind — know nothing. Deep play and foolishness.
In 2019, my kid turned 4 and I was thinking about my queerness, my gender, and how it related to me being a mom. I am body-oriented person and am fascinated by how it moves away from me, how it changes, how it can hold so much multiplicity or at times align to a singular presence. I was overwhelmed during pregnancy by the sensation of housing a stranger, who was also a partner.
Carmichael asked me what I hoped for for our child, when I was pregnant. We are a queer and trans family so we had talked a lot about who we are individually and how that had been recognized, tolerated, or not growing up. I said I wanted Cadence to feel free and loved to be who they are.
Being pregnant is a strange simultaneous feeling of sameness and difference; you are a part of me, my body materials build your body materials, but I do not know you. We have not touched yet; you are so close that you are inside of me, but you are suspended in a fluid sac, protected by YOUR PLACENTA, a whole organ just created to keep you alive. To protect you from my bodily systems that may want this foreign being to be gone. The question of self and other and who you will become are literally embodied.
A child "born into queerness" - feminist activist, essayist, poet, and playwright Cherríe Moraga in Waiting in the Wings: Portrait of a Queer Motherhood
And then and then and then, on top of all that, for me, my strictures of femininity cracked. The way I was femme was no longer possible. And everyone thought I was straight. I felt myself mothering - becoming a mother - at the same time that I felt less feminine. Mothering has nothing to do with gender? Or mothering is just parenting self-identified by a parent’s gender identity. Or mothering is action and cultural resonance that transcends gender? I don’t know, and I assume that a bunch of parents - especially those conscious and critical of gender construction and assumption - will have a bunch of different answers.
And I haven’t even shared about my experience of Cadence leaving my body yet and how my partner and I continued our gender creative parenting, building a house of queer joy and trans joy. And how that changed me - the only cis member of our household. And I feel more like my gender is the hot guy exiting the pool and shaking the water off their hair more than it has to do with any expression of femininity… that is until, we get in the bedroom or I want to put my sex forward and have it be seen. My cisness lives in the bedroom I suppose. But I digress…
As an artist, my practice has long housed itself on one’s body - on a riding of your own presence, material mechanics, and illustrious imaginations and associations - so how could I possibly make something ABOUT my experience of queer motherhood and the puzzling of gender and intensity of gestation??? I don’t know, but I covered myself in blankets, and I felt like the fort and the person inside the fort and it was hot and obscured and private. It was the opposite of what I’d done for years, developing a performance practice that strategically exposes the transformative interior of a performer’s experience, as choreographic form.
So I kept covering myself in blankets in a landscape of time. And then I was a time boulder, I was born in the belly of a rock. A seed. An egg. A zygote. And of course, that is where my lineage comes from, my queerness, from the earth.
So it begins.
"There are many ways to be." - badass midwife, birth worker, and educator Pati Garcia
I'm gonna put a little plug here because I want to have this conversation with others. If you want to talk about this, please join us for a Queer Parent Convenings Interest Meeting this Sunday Oct 17 12-1:30pm PT / 3-4:30pm ET online. The Convenings will be facilitated by Garcia, Paloma N. Irizarry, Darcelle Lewis, and Michèle Steinwald.
This WHOOOOOLLLLE project, Blood Baby, begins from these questions and is sustained by a deeper unpacking of the varied aspects of queer and trans parenting -- with six different arms that each approach the facets of the gem experience that is family-building and parenting from a distinct perspective. One arm is Queer Parent Convenings. Let's talk about it... <3
-Nile under a pile of blankets on mountaintop, amongst boulders with mountain views behind him. Only Nile's hand is visible, peeking out from in between the blankets in the center top of the pile. The image is overlaid with a large circle, half blue and half purple.
-A dark-skinned child sitting on the sand next to their sand art. They are only visible from the shoulder down, with outstretched sandy legs and their hand resting on the sand. The image is overlaid with a large circle, half blue and half purple.
Images were taken by me, and the circle overlay was designed by artist Logan Cryer.