Image Description: Sparklemuffin/me, standing on a stage. I am side on to the photographer. It is a full body shot. I have heavy stage makeup on, and am looking at the photographer. I have one leg forward and a hand on my hip. I am wearing a white dress with a split up the side, it is halter neck and has sequins sewn all over it. I have long, white fingerless gloves that end just past my elbow. I am wearing silver shoes and a giant white feather head dress.
It is hard not to feel waves of grief as I scroll through my Facebook feed. Facebook simultaneously gives me a window to the world, yet it gives me pain. Yeah, yeah. I know it is heavily curated, but that does not make any difference to my feelings.
I scroll through my feed, and I see photos and posts from queer performers about the shows they did last night. The remarks about it being great getting back into it.
The stage was my space, this was my world. This was my connection to my queer communities. This was the way I was visible and providing a social commentary about my identity. Being a queer performer is political. For a short period, I was a shining star. People wanted to see me. Now they do not even know I exist.
It is hard to know if it’s because they think I’m a shit performer, or if they somehow don’t think I want to perform. Maybe I put out some kind of ‘don’t come near me’ vibe, given my ongoing illness and disability, I can take responsibility for that. However, this argument does not hold sway, because there are others who do the same thing, yet they seem to perform all the time. Also, this was how it was before I became ill and started ‘talking’ about disability. Is it because I am old now? I do think that ageism plays a big part. Fat, old and disabled. Often masculine presenting. It’s not what people want in their shows.
Occasionally people tell me that I am respected; That I am an icon; That I paved the way for current performers; That it would not be, what it is now, if I hadn’t been there first.
This is nice. However, I am not dead yet. I am still trying to perform. I have many acts I want to develop. Occasionally over the last few years I have had someone say ‘I have not seen you perform for ages’…… um, because I rarely get offered a spot in a show.
I am trying to be brave and reach out to various producers to let them know I am keen to perform. As a disabled performer, this is full of hard, challenging things. Having to educate people on my needs, adds to the inaccessibility and challenge of it all. Asking someone to reach out, who is using all their limbs to stay afloat, is asking a person to risk drowning.
Do not get me wrong. I am pleased for the people who are out there, shining away. I’m glad they get to do their thing, make their art, however, that doesn’t help me feel any better.
To add salt to the wounds, people also do not know how much I still encourage and support others. They do not know about the bullying and criticism I have been subjected to over time, and even recently. There are a couple of people who thank me from time to time. This helps my damaged ego, soothes my pride and feeds my hungry soul.
Covid has been harsh on artists and believe me I feel the pain of not being able to perform, I totally get what it is like. However, unlike other performers who will spring back to stages when restrictions lift, I won’t. I do not get the opportunities and there is only a couple of people who will occasionally hold space for me.
Most of all though, I just want to belong. I want a big, extended, queer performer family. People to share ideas and experiences with. It’s basically all I’ve wanted for many years now. I do not have one. Well, I do, however it is very small, and for the most part I rarely see my family members, maybe a couple of times a year, not every month, let alone every second weekend. Anyone who can attend shows or events and have their soul fed, who can be around people like them to share the glitter, is fortunate. If they get to do this regularly, they are fortunate because some of us are starving and rarely get out glitter souls fed.