Michael Strangeways: Hey Lady Bunny! We’re delighted you’re visiting Seattle this week with your new one woman show, Trans-Jester!
But, we have questions…this is basically a free form one sided conversation flow with questions thrown in helter skelter…Jump in where you want!
Not surprisingly, there are some folks who aren’t happy that you or this specific show are coming to town. We had to deal with some complaints last year after you appeared at Seattle PrideFest. Some transgender community members aren’t fans of your type of humor…they called it divisive and phobic. We pointed out to some of them that comedy, like any art/entertainment, is highly subjective. Not everyone is gonna like every form of it. If you don’t like a particular form of art/entertainment…don’t go. In the case of PrideFest, they had the option of visiting other stages or wandering off to buy a $12 bratwurst or a “Dingleberry” treat.
Lady Bunny: I saw a sign in Seattle for a Steppenwolf tribute. I don’t like Steppenwolf, so I didn’t look for the date. Maybe they should see my show before judging it so harshly. It actually has a message of inclusivity and sticking together to fight the real enemy instead of each other. People are so tripped out that they assume that a show called Trans-Jester! is bashing trans people. But trans is a latin word meaning cross. I crossdress for a living. I’m a transvestite. Am I not allowed to refer to the nature of my own act without someone getting their panties in a bunch? Drag queens nationwide are complaining about this. Suddenly, the acts they’ve done for years now cross the line. Someone took me to task for even doing the show at Stonewall Inn, where a trans person had allegedly been raped a few weeks before. Really? One allegation of rape erases the decades of Stonewall as a gay landmark? But to the PC crew, even saying gay offends them. They’d have us say LGBT every time or I’m not inclusive. I’m inclusive, but I just don’t have the time to figure out new configuration of letters they are using today. When Trump referred to us during the campaign, he used LGBTQ. I thought “Damn! I still thought it was LGBT.” And I saw it LGBTY recently. Coudn’t tell you what that Y stands for. Can you?
Strangeways: “Y”? Not a clue…
We also pointed out that you have DECADES of experience behind you not only as a comedic entertainer but as a community leader and activist dating back to the 1980s and have supported and fought for LGBTQ rights for ALL queer people for over 30 years. Including as a commentator and writer in many publications and media outlets over the years. Lady Bunny isn’t just the funny foul mouthed big haired queen in the short skirts.
That’s a long lead up (jump in at any point to comment!) but how do you deal with that criticism? It has to sting somewhat…we’re guessing under the 80 lb wig and 200 tons of make-up that the Lady Bunny still has feelings to hurt.
Lady Bunny: My feelings are hurt and I’m confused that these activists have driven a wedge between drag queens and trans people–who were always close with each other. Look, when I started doing drag I was shocked to learn that some hardcore feminists thought drag was inherently misogynist. So if I cared that much about what every single kind of person thought, I would never have embarked on a career which I love. And which has brought joy to many. Why would someone want to squash something they don’t personally care for? In my eyes, THAT is bullying. If you don’t like something so you try to shut it down, how are you different from evangelicals who want to shut down gay and abortion rights? Is that your idea of freedom and inclusivity? To stifle or smear anyone who doesn’t agree with you? Sounds more like Trump than any high-minded activist. People are so sensitive that a few audiences gasped a a joke I made about my own weight. Babe, if I don’t care about being fat, why should you? I’m not fat-shaming myself–I just have a sense of humor. Someone tried to tell me that they were gender neutral and to please call them a “they.” And I said “Honey, you’re not that fat!”
Two summers ago, Paris Is Burning was to be screened in Brooklyn. Because the promoter booked “white” bands to accompany the film, some militant trans activists protested it. So one one hand, they’re lamenting that there are few trans roles in movies and that when they do come up they often go to cisgendered actors. On the other hand, they seek to shut down on the only movie I know in which trans women of color tell their own fascinating stories and which made millions fall in love with them. Their words became catchphrases a decade or more before “Drag Race”, which takes a lot of inspiration from the documentary. So at some point, I have to say “They’ve lose their minds and go about my business of making people laugh.” We’re so politically correct that we just made Dick Van Dyke change his name to Penis Van Lesbian, for chrissakes!
I’m not trying to be a role model, just a comedian. I put in the ticket link some language to this effect: “This show is raunchy and offensive by nature, so if that’s not your cup of tea then skip it.” But the fact is, a lot of people enjoy offensive humor. Look at the success of Bianca Del Rio, who is an insult comic whose style is very cutting. I developed my style of comedy in late night clubs where drunk and high audiences enjoyed anything twisted. I’m always curious as to how these politically correct types want to expand the number of gender variations, yet deny what I identify as: a trash-talking drag queen who doesn’t mince her words. If you don’t like something, don’t attend it. Or change the channel. I’m an atheist who doesn’t like to see our presidents sworn in on a Bible. But I try and pick battles I can win.
In Trans-Jester!, I mention two departed trans friends: Holly Woodlawn and Codie Ravioli. A friend of Holly’s came Tuesday night and said “Holly would have been so proud to be included in this show.” That’s my experience with trans people. Knowing them and loving them for years. Now someone who doesn’t know my history, know that I have tons of trans friends, has bought some of the nonsense that GLAAD is spreading and thinks I’m the enemy and wants to knock me out of my own community or sanitize me? The enemies of LGBT everything just took over the White House and both houses of Congress–not to mention most state senates and governorships. They want to strip all of our rights away–and you’re taking time to demonize a drag queen’s comedy act where no one is harmed? Maybe some feathers get ruffled, but I was ruffling feathers of the more conservative elements of the gay community long before Drag Race’s TrannyGate. One message in my show is that we need to stop some of this in-fighting within the community and focus on the real enemy. A few loudmouthed, misguided people think that RuPaul and Lady Bunny, two drag queens, are the enemies of trans people because of a few words? Does anyone remember “Actions speak louder than words?” Have RuPaul or I ever questions trans people’s equal rights? Of course not!
As for Seattle Gay Pride day, I agree that was a different situation because it’s not a late night club thing. It’s outdoors and for a wider audience, sometimes even with kids. I once performed at gay pride day in Richmond, VA and the church-y protesters took issue with my vulgar show. But as I do with every gay pride I’m asked to perform at, I sent whoever booked me in Seattle video examples of my act so they would know exactly what they are getting. I actually don’t like to offend people–I like to perform raunchy and sick humor for those who seek it out. I don’t want to be the typhoid mary who shut down Richmond’s gay pride permit, or make PC types in Seattle uncomfortable at a pride event where they need for every act to be uplifting So I’d bring that up with the person who booked me at Pride. They are in charge of gauging local tastes, not me. I performed at The Cuff’s block party and they worshipped the filth. When I’m booked, I do my act. I have one act. If you book me, that’s what you get. So clearly some people take issue with what’s in my act, but others seek to promote it as entertainment. Peaches Christ told me that people howled with laughter at the trailer when she screened it at Legally Black a month ago. Some people are just more precious than others. Or misinformed, Or simply have a different opinion. But there are black people who never want the “n” word used. Other black people put that word all over their songs which play all over the radio. In the same way that some black people see the “n” word as their community’s lingo, I know how often trans people use the word tranny with no intention of it being a slur. Or to refer to themselves.
Strangeways: Is it a tad annoying that your “non-pc” viewpoints get you in trouble while others seem not to? You and RuPaul are old, old, old, old friends and for anyone who’s actually followed Ms Charles over the years, it’s apparent she’s also very much a renegade, potty mouthed non-pc type of queen as well but she now has a layer of expensive PR to cover for her and the mantle of “Mama Ru” from legions of devoted fans that tend to ignore the fact she “She-Mailed” her way out of too much criticism over various pc scandals over the years..
Lady Bunny: I don’t think I’m in trouble. The show is booked all over the country for over a year now. I have a very different viewpoint on politics, music, etc, from most of the people I know, so I’m accustomed to butting heads. As far as the She-Mail controversy, long before Ru used that term on Drag Race it was (and is) my contact information on my website. See, I’m a drag queen so I use the feminine she-mail instead of email. A silly pun. When I came up with that pun, never did I think “How can I hurt trans people or remind them of she male porn?” I made a pun.
Strangeways: We know you have trans allies and friends and have worked with many trans performers including Candis Cayne. We’re kinda guessing that if you were really a nasty transphobe that Candis would slap the shit out of you instead of share a stage with you…
Lady Bunny: While Candis has not seen the show, many of my trans friends have enjoyed it. And came back to see it again. Some say that my commentary on trans stuff is dead on. None of them like Caitlyn Jenner or feel that her story represents theirs. The notion that strikes me as so odd is that I might be a transphobe because I don’t bow down to the word police. No, I’m just irreverent.
Strangeways: We’re guessing (based on the press release and the fact that she is universally awful) that you go after the lovely Caitlyn Jenner. Even though the majority of the trans community is no fan of Ms Jenner at this point, apparently it’s still taboo to make fun of her or any trans person for poor behavior.
Lady Bunny: It’s interesting to me that when I started the show a year , I’d mention Caitlyn Jenner and the crowd would cheer. She had been shoved down our throats as some sort of role model, and she has neither the talent or intelligence of a Laverne Cox, does she? Now when I mention Caitlyn, the crowd practically boos. So perhaps audiences have come around to my way of thinking–that you can joke about someone who’s transgendered without being transphobic. Especially if they are as rotten as Caitlyn and her whole family of overhyped no-talents. Some PC type took me to task for making a joke about Bill Cosby and claimed that even joking about his alleged rapes condoned rape. Nonsense! Did all of the comedians on TV who made fun of Michael Jackson diddling with kids seek to legitimize pedophilia? Mainstream comics refuse to play colleges because many are so uptight. This show asks “What we can still laugh at?”
Strangeways: Or, the adorably vapid but stylish offspring of Miss Will Smith and Miss Jada Pinkett, Jaden Smith…he’s cute but should barely educated spoiled celebrity spawn really be role models?
Lady Bunny: Jaden is off my radar, so I don’t know if he’s spoiled and uneducated or not. But I’ll believe he’s gender queer when Chris Brown punches him in the face. Everyone wants to explore their gender nowadays. Go right ahead–I’ve done it my whole life. But when Ryan Seacrest is producing shows about trans people, they are cashing in on a trend. As a lifelong friend of many trans people, I think it’s unwise to tie your rights to a trend. When that trend goes out of style, so may your rights. With Caitlyn, and Jaden, and the gender neutral categories at award shows–I think producers are exploiting trans/gender issues to seem current and often getting it wrong.
Strangeways: There is indication in your press release that you actually discuss your own gender identity in this new show. Why does it seem like some members of the trans community want to invalidate or at least dismiss the gender issues of any one who doesn’t strictly identify as trans or even genderqueer? Many (if not most) gay and lesbian people deal with gender identity at some point in their lives…it’s part of who we are. It makes us queer.
Lady Bunny: They want to expand the gender umbrella to the 58 gender identities that Facebook allows you to call yourself, yet PC harpies seek deny me the right to be who I am. Despite not knowing what I am since I myself don’t know. If everyone is meant to tell their truth, why is mine suddenly invalid because it doesn’t jive with the PC-gone wild crew? Someone called me “Ma’am” at the airport this morning and I wasn’t in drag. If I’m passing as a woman out of drag, clearly I’m not your typical cisgendered male who wears women’s clothes to work as a drag queen. I don’t fall squarely under any category. If you put your personal ads on a trans site instead of Grindr because you’re looking for tranny-chasers, you’re not exactly an alpha male, are you?
Strangeways: Did you struggle with gender issues as a youth growing up in Georgia?
Lady Bunny: Sure–that’s why I left those rednecks behind. Moved to NYC and never even went back to get my stuff!
Strangeways: You are VERY political in your public writings on social media and your blog and in pieces you’ve written for the media…I think many people are unaware that Lady Bunny is a very opinionated, astute and informed public person. And, to any one who’s ever read any of your writing it’s more than obvious you’re a big old progressive lefty…yet you’re criticized by some for being “out of touch” and not in tune with social justice politics. How do you respond to that?
Lady Bunny: I may be criticized by some, but I’m praised by others. The reviews have been great! I never set out to please everyone. Who can? One thing’s for sure, I’m not like Donald Trump who gravitates towards political correctness to mask my hatred of Muslims, women, immigrants, etc. I’m from the far-left and a big fan of Seattle Kshama Swant, who is a refreshingly honest voice in the scummy world of politics. But some of us on the like to laugh. I’m friends with Anohni (formerly Antony of Antony and The Johnsons). She and I share a fear that the world needs a dose of femininity to neuter itself away from it’s current collision course. Men have run the world and fouled the climate into the ground. War, oppression of people of color, LGBT people and women are all very male. We need the feminine qualities of nurturing and empathy more than ever right now. I’ll bet I agree with many of my PC detractors on these big ticket items like war, prejudice and oppression. We could be allies, since we agree on much. But they want to focus on policing my language for often questionable reasons.
Strangeways: You are famous for keeping your private male persona out of the spotlight. There’s only a couple (old) photos we can find of the Lady Bunny in “Jon” mode. Do you actively work at keeping your identities separate or is it really more of a case of, “No one tends to recognize me at the A&P when I’m out buying toilet paper and YooHoo at 11 oclock at night”
Where’s the Lady Bunny coffee table/ memoir? Seriously…why haven’t you written a book? Would you like to?
Lady Bunny: As if I could maintain this figure drinking YooHoos! KIDDING! Since I work in clubs, I don’t go out much out of drag. I get my fill at work. So very few people recognize me out of drag. I don’t hide who I am, but I’m also not from the generation of every moment requires a selfie. So if I’m not in a wig, most of my friends know not to pull out the cameras. Listen, if could make a living as Miss Jon, maybe I would; But I need to wear all of that mess to express myself and look the way I think is my best. As far as a book, I think this loooooong interview is a great start!
Strangeways: Do you have any rituals/things you try to do when you’re in Seattle? Eat sushi? Cruise the waterfront?
Lady Bunny: Pike Street Market! Just got back from there and stocked up on tie dye t-shirts, coconut dusted fruit roll-ups and jams made from your local berries. I have no idea why obscure berries like marionberries and lingonberries excite me so much. Bought my mom a huge batch for Mother’s Day. I also just love the look of Seattle–the color scheme, the fonts on some of the older signs, and there is a definite Seattle style.
Strangeways: Do you miss Wigstock? Is there any way to resurrect it?
Lady Bunny: I do miss it. NYC really came together at Wigstock to see everyone from drag to trans to rock bands to dance artists performed. But the city was very different then–affordable, funky and everyone lived near the Pyramid Club which Wigstock sprang from. We’ve done Wigstock-themes cruises the last couple of summers, but the full festival can’t return until I find a way to control the weather. Or find an indoor/outdoor space. The rain really killed it. But the festival of wigs, love and hair piece hasn’t totally curled up and dyed!
You’ve been a figure of NYC Celebrity Culture and Nightlife back when the Donald was still married to Ivana….any good Trump tales from back in the day?
Lady Bunny: I never ran into Trump. Always hated him as an entertainer/personality. I remember going to a drugstore in LA while we were filming Drag U. There was a life-size cardboard cut-out of him advertising some photo developing offer. I remember thinking “Don’t they know we hate him in NYC?”
I do hate that Melania is in the White House now, since I really liked her as a jewelry designer. She designed a bracelet in 2015 that I bought at Macy’s in 2013.
Strangeways: Is there anything else you need to plug?
Lady Bunny: I have a new dance tune out that I co-wrote with producer True2Life called (For You) I’ll Wait. On iTunes, Beatport, Traxsource, etc. Two hot mixes which I’m thrilled that NYC’s WBAI and UK’s Gaydio have been playing. My original music shows a very different side of me which is not (intentionally) comic. I’ve been writing and releasing dance music bit by bit for years, but it’s something I’d like to focus more of my time on. I’ve been busy DJing for decades at venues like The Cuff and getting people dancing. Hopefully, now I can do that with my own tunes. And they aren’t offensive! (I hope!)
Lady Bunny appears in her highly acclaimed new solo show TRANSJESTER! at Seattle’s Egyptian Theater on Thursday, May 11th (tickets here) and in Portland, Oregon on Thursday, May 25th at the Aladdin Theater (tickets HERE!)
For More Things Lady Bunny, check out her highly entertaining website which also includes her blog as well as links to her schedule and her videos, music and merchandise.