So I went to go see Pacific Crossings.
Pacific Crossings was a concert sponsored and hosted by the Wang Center on campus, which featured music by two artists: Te Vaka (a completely righteous and amazing performance ensemble) and Kaumakiwa Kanaka’ole. The latter of the two performed first, and if you can indulge me a moment, I will tell you why I left the theater thinking about him.
For starters, Kanaka’ole’s stage presence is enormous. He seemed totally at ease sitting on his stool, telling us stories about his home island and how he was raised by the women in his family, the lot of them “big, brown and brassy.” But his voice eclipsed all of that. He sang accompanied only by a guitar in a stripped-down performance that managed to grab us and hold us without any sort of spectacle. The technique he had on display was beyond words. I’ve never seen another professional do what he did with his voice, which has netted him a laundry list of awards.
It was really a triumph of artistry.
So of course all I managed to hear was the conversation behind me about his gender presentation. He was so sassy! His hair was so big! What fabulous earrings he had on! No mention of the sort of control he had over his voice to get the range that he has, the folklore his songs were based on, or even how he’s using his music to keep his culture alive. Not a word was to be had about his musical performance—just his gender performance. Because I know I paid eight bucks with the student discount to see that.
So, yes, music is a queer issue.
Queer issues are hiding all over the place, sort of like Easter eggs that aren’t a whole lot of fun to find. I am often greeted with questioning looks—even a confused tilt of the head—from my straight friends when I bring them up. Of course, adoption is the sort of thing I’m concerned about, but healthcare? Everyone needs that! How the heck can I say it’s a queer issue? (For the record, a nice start would be to address the transphobia that’s pervasive within the healthcare system.)
Homelessness? It’s a queer issue. Forty percent of the kids on the street are LGBT-identified. It would also be nice to see that they can get access to healthcare, because goodness knows they need it most.
Classism? Queer issue. While it’s a popular tactic nowadays to boycott retailers who have homophobic policies—with one name standing out in particular—they are usually the ones selling things at affordable prices. What do you do when you’re queer and can’t afford to take your business elsewhere?
Feminism? You guessed it. There are nasty pockets of transphobia in certain circles of it. Heck, let’s bring it a bit closer to home; there’s transphobia in the cisgendered LGBT community that desperately needs to be addressed.
My point is that queer issues are common, as soon as you know where to look. Some of us don’t even need to look; they jump out at us, screaming for our attention. In a society of white, cissexual heteronormativity, those of us who fall outside of the mold tend to start noticing problems very quickly.
So the next time somebody says to you that something’s a queer issue, do yourself a favor and try to educate yourself. Goodness knows that education’s a queer issue, too.