PUBLISHED IN ISSUE 16
WRITTEN BY ESTELLE DAVIS
I really don’t know a single frocking thing about Bruce LaBruce, acclaimed northern darling of the queercore cinema movement, except that he’s a creepfuck shitbag. As I’m sitting down to write what feels like something roughly equivalent to an angsty teenage journal entry, I can honestly only recall that one of his movies was called “Don’t Shave My Rump,” or something 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. 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 an intimate look into his life and times. This, dear readers, is about something much more interesting: revenge, and more specifically, me trying to get 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 fore-sisters have taken against the cold machine of misogyny, but I also 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 don’t have that much on my plate right now and I would 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 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 the international centre of business, finance, arts, and culture OF THE EARTH. 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. 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 big screens of cinema and beyond.
The 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, I would like to tell you that 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 events that doesn’t make any sense to me, not because it was unremarkable, but just because I wasn’t paying much attention to my surroundings (I had textos coming in on my cellular telephone) and I forget to record everything on a movie camera like I had planned. The thing is, 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 necessary steps to prevent such a crisis. There must have been a major slip up at the Montreal newspaper building that day because I don’t remember seeing anything, LIKE ANYTHING AT ALL, letting the people know that Bruce LaBruce was visiting. I guess it’s hard to do top notch celebrity journalism when you don’t charge for newspaper prescriptions. 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.” The thing is, celebrities constantly have to reproduce their celebrity in order to be celebrities and this means that they consistently engage in sketchy behaviour 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 particular evening, I mega blew it by forgetting to put up my sign. Some people seem to think it’s charming when celebs show up to a party and start going off about all the cocaine they did on their yacht with Jennifer Garner or whatever, but I find that 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 the fancy 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.
The other thing that needs mentioning is that I wasn’t planning on having a party that evening. My plan was to put on a conservative and restricting sweater (grey turtleneck most likely), go to the 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 with a slice of apple, then retire prematurely and decently like all girls should in order to arrive at work early in the morning and please their superiors. But something went terribly amiss on my way to the bank. As I was strolling down the street whispering the lord’s prayer over and over, an extremely beautiful and scary group of homosexual dancers taking a break from grooving circled me and forced me to take a puff from a cigarette stick! As the stick touched my lips, a horrible feeling of fervent abandon began to rise within me. I felt wet. I immediately entered into the dark venue with a desire that was unknown to me tingling through my body. Thoughts began rushing through my mind. Am I not alive? Do I not deserve to experience pleasure, freedom, and orgasm? Is my mouth not perfectly shaped to swallow pills of different sorts? Why yes, I thought to myself, yes it is.
I fear you could hardly understand the things that occurred inside that place that particular evening. 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 rainbow 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.
At some time early in the morning the music was shut off and we were rudely and abruptly ushered outside onto the street. As all of us dancers were standing around on the sidewalk, I glanced around and could distinctly see the despair sinking in. The reality of returning to our bedrooms alone to stare out our windows desperately seeking any action like a chip bag blowing in the wind was much too much too handle. I pondered suggesting that a few people continue getting to know each other nearby at my place. It was actually an exciting idea because I had just moved into a new apartment and needed to show off the curtains that I had 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, while dancing I noticed that a friend who I hadn’t seen in years was unexpectedly (at least to me) back in town. While I didn’t know them that well, this persyn had made a tremendous impact on me when I first moved to the city about ten years ago. It was a fearlessness in the way they embodied and expressed their own queer-ness and it deeply affected me. In some ways, 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 a moment to talk to them.
Surprisingly, they 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. Not only did they recognize 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 anything to do with the way that I looked, but rather that they saw a joy in how I looked, a happiness and even a confidence that I was projecting through my newly claimed femininity. Feeling elated and open about the possibilities of the evening I started spreading the word that the after party was at my house down the street, and that everyone was invited.
I can’t remember if we left the sidewalk together that night or if we 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 arrive. I am normally quite inept at reading cues, but when we were in my bedroom I was positive that there was a tension between us. We sat down on my bed and they looked at me and I remembered, like somewhere 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. We began to make out pretty heavily on top of my sheets and when 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. 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 duties as hostess came rushing to the forefront of my mind. I fully started to panic. I’m not proud to admit it necessarily, but I take hosting really seriously. I told them 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 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 could see the desire pulsating on their lips and I didn’t 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, but not right now, I just want to run out into the party and make sure that everything is chill. 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. 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 told me 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 levelled 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 movements 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 each other is to try and 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, 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” for a static state when really, in order to “be”, we must constantly become, 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 venting is the only revenge I will ever get, fuck you Bruce, all you had to do was ask.
© 2019 The Editorial Magazine