Pictured above: Attendees and performers at October’s LEWK at Mozy Chicago/Photo: FOR ALL HUMANS
Editor’s Note: This is an expression by Nick Benz in response to LEWK at Moxy Chicago presented by Wussy Magazine. The expression includes a series of love letters between two lovers representing both Atlanta and Chicago.
Based out of Atlanta, Wussy Magazine is a publication focusing on queer art and culture with a panache for all things femme. Archiving publications from as early as 2015, Wussy Mag has stayed on the pulse of alternative nightlife, boasting interviews with our queer greats including Trixie Mattel and Violet Chachki. Their publications cover a wide array of topics from covering large-scale events, to thoughtful insight into the implications of Grindr in modern queer culture.
This year, Wussy has expanded their reach to the Chicago market. This past summer, Wussy hosted their first Chicago event which included a screening of Spice World (*cue queer excitement*) hosted by Chicago icon Lucy Stoole (*queer excitement intensifies*). Their other events have ranged from poetry readings to drag performances and continue to aim for the expansion and inclusion of queer voices in modern publication.
As a fellow queer, I was honored to join Wussy for their event, LEWK with Vander Von Odd (*cries in queer*).
I pulled up to Moxy about a half-hour too early. I always do this. I guess I didn’t realize just how cold it was actually going to be. Okay, so now what? Smoke a cigarette. Or two. Walk the block. Pretend you’re not freezing your ass off. I notice a pink carpet being rolled out. They’re all wearing shirts that say “This Free Life.” Isn’t that an anti-smoking campaign? Aww damn, my smoke is totally getting into their space. My bad!
I go in. I’m definitely too early still. This is becoming a theme in my work. There’s a large group of drag queens preparing for the events. As a trans person, sometimes it can be weird to be around large groups of drag queens. They’re so beautiful. They are costumed though. My identity is not a costume; this cheap wig makes me feel more like me and not a character. I hate being miscategorized. Ugh, I hope no one thinks I am a drag queen ‘cause this wig is ratty and my makeup aims to make passable this 6’2” body. The bar is in a hotel lobby. The straightsTM seem confused.
The night proceeds. I have one drink. Another. The sweet tastes of blueberry and honey marry on my lips. She is sweet. She is relaxing. The crowd grows larger, queerer with each new human joining. I shift from sad lonely trans girl alone in the bar to being part of something. A collective.
Sometimes, even in my queer spaces, it’s hard not to feel like the freak at the freak show.
And that’s not to say freak is a derogatory term. I love the idea of being freaky. In this regard, Vander Von Odd is a G-D. To be queer, by its nature—to be different is a compliment. Queer is safe and aggressive faggotry pushes us to greatness. I love the reclamation of our words. Faggot is no longer a weapon that can hurt me. Nor sissy. We are perfect in our devotion to otherness. Why do I still feel like an other among the others?
I party on. I dance. I meet the vibrant community around me. I smoke more cigarettes (sorry This Free Life). I thrive. I grow. I am part of something.
There is a tarot reader.
Four of Pentacles. Nine of Swords. The Lovers. The Tower.
Across the table, my life displayed. Deep truths for an exhibition.
I am revealed.
Throughout the night, I can’t help but shake this idea that Chicago and Atlanta are lovers. Metaphorical, perhaps. To be completely in awe of each other’s vibrant beauty. I am perplexed by the concept of two lovers, separated by space. I asked myself what love letters between these two remote lovers might look like. I further took inspiration from my experiences at LEWK for these letters. Below is the byproduct of this thesis:
I’m writing to you today because I simply cannot get you off my mind. I cannot stop thinking about how it felt to dance with you. I can still feel your gentle caresses, your hand brushing my cheek and the bright moon in your eyes.
You are soft. You are gentle. Perhaps everything I’ve ever known of you has been false.
Yes, I have come to know a heart like this in my life. I too have been misunderstood, made to feel hardened and distant. But you never made me feel this way. You swept your way into my home, and now I don’t ever want you to leave. Stay with me. We can build a home. We can be queer and weird and so perfectly wrong. I can show you who we are here and we can become one. Please. Write me back that you are here to stay.
To the Moon,
You are one weird place, and oh my, it feels so right. I am too.
I believe it was Emily Bronte who said, “whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” While somewhat applicable, I would assert that the very composure of souls resonates with each other, but what we are made of is not the same—what we value is.
Our love does not necessitate being of the same thing. We are distinct but entirely complementary. This is what invigorates our dance, our duality.
What is shared? Community. Inclusion. Unapologetic queerness. Chicago, you are so bright.
Behind a false narrative of violence is a heart of compassion. You are humbling. You are exciting. I believe we are a perfect match.
I will come to you, my dear love. Together, we will find what it means to not only love but to support each other. We can build spaces for every kid who never felt right. For every kid who felt wrong for being too femme, or too butch. Or too ugly. Too tall. Too short. Too brown. Too disabled. Too shy.
There is nothing too about any of you. We can protect our most vulnerable and shower them with the love of validation. In the morning, I will come to you. We will build a home together.
Forever staring at your skies,
In closing, welcome to Chicago, Wussy Magazine! Like me, I expect you, too, will fall in love. You will be recklessly carried high above the skylines, majestically. Skyscrapers and the lights alike will hold you closely. She will love you. Love her back.
Wussy Magazine hosted LEWK, featuring Vander Von Odd of Dragula, on October 20 at Moxy Chicago. This Free Life will host another LEWK kiki, featuring Jupiter Velvet, on December 15, 9 PM – 1 AM at Moxy Chicago Downtown 530 North LaSalle Drive. Wussy Magazine will return to Chicago with their monthly film screenings in March. More information and upcoming events in Chicago can be found at wussymag.com or on their Facebook page.
Nick (they/them/theirs): A Bio-Haiku (Baiku??)
This is Nick’s bio
They are a theater maker
So they do not sleep
Nick Benz is a Trans* identified writer, theater practitioner and aspiring goth gf. Nick is a (soon-to-be) Graduate Student at Virginia Commonwealth University studying theater movement pedagogy and intersectional higher education policy.