Last nite a DJ saved my life::Just how political can you be in the gay club scene?

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I spied an interesting conversation on my Facebook sidebar, going on between my friend Alex aka Strapped Partys and Cynthia Moghanian aka DJ Cynful. I had already known the story of Alex being kicked out of the women’s restroom at the Geisha House even after she showed the security guard her ID and sex listed as female, she still had to leave. I have known of more than one humiliating or violent bathroom incident happening to some queer I knew in LA before this one, so this incident of course, did not exist in isolation in LA or the U.S. DJ Cynful, a lesbian identified DJ was posting on Facebook about an event that she was hosting at the Geisha house and Alex got an invite for it. Instead of stay silent about the incident that Alex had endured they posted something about how LGBTQ should not support the Geisha House for reasons of discrimination, as “a forewarning to butches who may have to pee”. DJ Cynful removed Alex’s post promptly. In talent rich competitive clubs of LA/Hollywood espcecially EVERY SINGLE DJ, promoter, singer, drummer, even back up dancer is REQUIRED to bring heads in on a consistent basis in order to stand a chance to EVER make money and not play for free and just make the venue and bar money off of your work. This is as age old rule of the game, “the way things are” and have always been in Hollywood. It is NOT nearly good enough to be GOOD at what you do, you must ALSO be GOOD at marketing yourself and getting people out to support you. PERIOD.
Other rules include making a feature film with 20% or more slave/”school credit” labor for up and comers dying for an opportunity. Undocumented labor is the rule of capitalism and is not isolated to a white supremacy production model why should Hollywood clubs be any different? So, on the one hand I might be able to understand why someone would not want a comment like “FUCK THE VENUE NAME I’M SOON TO BE PERFORMING AT” to be left on an event page. But, that’s about where my empathy for DJ Cynful stops.
This summarizes Alex’s action’s in their own words…

Strapped Partys “I spoke out against the club Cynthia Moghanian and you removed my comment. u can read that as hating on you, you can read that as a reason to file a lawsuit against me. I don’t respond to threats and I don’t tolerate discrimination. please refrain from encouraging queers to support this establishment. it’s not cute!”
DJ Cynful: I think what the club did was wrong…but i was hired the other day-this happened to you i dont know when, and i dont event know you!…I wasnt there when this happened to you! Not my responsibiity! You have a voice-USE IT AGAINST THE CLUB and SPEAK UP not against the djs who are dj ing clubs! Society sux and does fucked up things however…your only doing what they did-voicing your opinion the wrong way. STRAPPED PARTYS-i dunno who you are but you really need to voice yourself better. good luck to you and refrain from messaging me again.
Strapped Partys again, it’s not about me. it’s about discrimination. you name was mentioned because u made to hide the discrimination you where made aware and then threatened to sue me which was weird and sad.
January 3 at 5:09pm · Like
DJ Cynful “there not supporting the establishment…they come to support ME- thats where your confused.
January 3 at 5:09pm · Like
DJ Cynful “and im cute ;) so it doesnt matter”

DJs like Cynthia are exactly what the Budweiser Pride tour are looking for! Good looking on camera, not too political and most importantly willing to keep their mouth shut if it means making money. Check, check, and check.
I encouraged Alex to create a Facebook event as a form of activism that I had become familiar with during a similar incident of gender exclusion policy that the “Rivers of Honey” show at WOW Cafe Theatre in NYC had newly passed which created a rift for some of the transgender performers in the collective.

In August 2011, a small and closed Rivers of Honey team stated the cabaret is now a “platform for womyn of color, defined as female-bodied individuals.” Under this new policy trans women are no longer welcome to produce or perform. Trans men and other female-assigned gender non-conforming people are still welcome provided they identify with the “female-bodied” women’s only space.

The Facebook event page which was ran the entire month of October collected 1,184 supporters from all over the Facebook virtual world. It looks as if “Rivers Response” did not yield a policy change for the WOW cafe, but it did generate strong awareness of the venue within an already politicized queer and people of color theatre community in Greenwich Village. It looks like Rivers Response has created some training events as a response to the exclusion from WOW including the amazing TRANScending Exclusion:A Teach-In on Trans Inclusion & Solidarity in Women’s & LGBQ Spaces in Communities of Color. I had just gone to WOW cafe theatre collective meetings the last time I was in New York and seen a great show there in hopes of possibly staging my one woman show “Modern Day Asian Sex Slavery: the musical” at that theatre, but because of that Facebook event, I will definitely check up on how trans inclusion has or has not improved since that incident before doing so. But I am also a politicized artist to begin with. I thought “female bodied” included trans women myself but I must admit the learning curve for gender non conforming/transgender folks and me has been a non stop one since I’ve come out in 1997. I just adopted using the pronoun “they” in 2011 because someone that I really wanted to listen to and honor actually preferred it, and I just understood what a “cisgendered” person was in 2010, so I understand how things take time to sink in.
But, What happens when you take the gay club scene and try to make it political? Do you automatically fail or does that depend on who we are dealing with? Can LGBTQ DJs and promoters be expected to care about the community that they are serving or is that too much to ask?
Alex and I created the page “Being Butch is not a Crime” on Facebook. We only got 152 attendees to the event, but it succeeded in getting DJ Cynful to change the location of her event away from the Geisha House “due to popular demand!” Activism that works is always exciting. Especially when it is works so quickly. What stood out to me were the stories and support that were shared on that page by fellow gender warriors who had experienced similar or worse treatment. The idea to write a bad review on yelp came up as another great form of social consciousness raising activism. People follow yelp reviews like they follow people on twitter. Social media has proven to start revolutions. One butch revealed that they had been brutally beaten by a group of heterosexual men who attended a High Society LA event looking for women to hit on and beat t[hem] up because the women who attended that club were into t[hem] instead. High Society promoters or the venue had nothing to say to advocate for this person. At queer women’s money making event Dinah Shore in Palm Springs, a cisgendered male hotel staff at the Hilton is assigned the wonderful job of blocking the entrance to the mens bathroom by spreading out his ostentatious male privilege as he sits back in a chair taking up as much space as possible with his one person so a line forms outside of the “women’s” bathroom and female assigned folks do not DARE use the men’s bathroom. Is or will Mariah Hanson move Dinah to another venue that is more gender friendly or post signs to a gender neutral bathroom at her event? Not in the last 3 years that I’ve attended.
There is no one more than a sex worker that understands the “gotta make a dollar” mentality. Believe me. However, as a politicized queer, artist and activist I am always making choices about where and how to spend my money and of course, I am making choices to ignore certain evils in order to have a good time. If you were a DJ and you KNEW of injustice, or if you were a performer and you KNEW of an instance of transgender discrimination would YOU pull your event or would you just hope you could earn community approval based on your cuteness or based on “just the music?” When do you draw the line between surivival and selling out?


One thought on “Last nite a DJ saved my life::Just how political can you be in the gay club scene?

  • January 25, 2012 at 10:53 am

    You bring up some interesting points Mariko! I am always happy to see how active you are in the community. You and strapped parties rock!


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