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Panel Discussion

Dykes and Queers vs. Gays and Lesbians: The big question was how to keep subcultural queerness from being appropriated by inappropriate audiences.

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Johnny Noxzema isn't just another pretty face who has branded himself with the name of a beauty product. This kid is one pissed-off queer punk from Toronto ("Home of the Coma") who publishes Bimbox ("Free to Those Who Deserve It"), an underground fanzine ("All material is anti-copyright") that serves as a soapbox for "queers" and "dykes" as opposed to gays and lesbians. Bimbox is dedicated to "the absolute destruction of lesbian and gay culture." In a recent issue, under the heading "people who should have their heads bashed in with lead pipes," it listed the entire editorial staffs of five mainstream lesbian and gay publications. "We will not tolerate their voluntary assimilation into heterosexual culture," Johnny declares.

He's also unhappy about "crazed psycho-Christian suit-wearing sub-human slime." Bimbox "is not for the masses. The masses elect oppressive governments. The masses buy newspapers. The masses watch television. In short, the masses are scum." The Noxzema solution is to eradicate "EVERYTHING that is heterosexual, from organized religion to zip-lock freezer bags."

Noxzema came to Chicago last week for the first-ever convention of 'zine publishers. Although the poster had promised "NO boring panel discussions. NO pointless workshops," Randolph Street Gallery had nonetheless scheduled its own panel discussion called "Appropriation, Representation & the Sub-Culture of the Queer."

One of the attending panelists was a six-foot-six self-described "Award-Winning Blacktress," publisher of a 'zine in LA, who goes by the name Vaginal Creme Davis when doing her drag show but uses the pen name Fertile La Toyah Jackson. She recently reported in her column how she bitched at the "stupid trendy people" at the next table, "Stop talking about existentialism!" Vaginal--many call her just Vag--strutted to her seat at the panel wearing a pair of black spike heels, a black bra, black panties, and a black corset--all designed by Mistress Antoinette. Her contribution to the evening took the form of haikulike send-ups and put-downs. "For all my black intellectual friends who say I'm not politically correct: I can't help it if I'm not bright--I wasn't bused to the suburbs like you....For all the old-school homos--pre-Stonewall, pre-Stonehenge--Judy Garland is dead. When did she die? Yesterday....I don't like little men with little hands and little feet. How'd you like something little crawling all over you?"

"What is the University of Chicago doing here?" a professor on the panel asked herself out loud, flaunting her self-consciousness. "Maybe if I wore a blond wig," she suggested, "I'd have a way of putting myself in quotation marks." Wearing her real hair (black) and dark sunglasses, she touched on "improper spectatorship" and "dismantling the regimes of censorship." But the big question was "how to keep subcultural queerness from being appropriated by inappropriate audiences."

Out in the audience, it didn't take long for Mr. Noxzema to reach his limit. Perhaps he sensed the eggheads holding the floor were out of order. When an admitted "straight white male" asked for a clarification of the terms "gay" versus "queer," Noxzema sneered from the back, "You're so fucking stupid, you don't even know."

"THAT'S TOTAL NORMATIVE TRANSGRESSIVITY!" shot back a woman in front, with the force of a surface-to-air missile.

The discussion returned to detaching "sub" from "subculture," and to "stealing" and "owning" images of dykes and queers. Supporters of the Queer Nation concept argued for appropriating the U.S. flag. A young man in a navy blue skirt exclaimed that the purse in his lap was also a flag of identity, chiding a critic, "Don't own me! Don't tell me what to feel." One panelist raised in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, kicked off her presidential campaign, passing around a sign-up sheet for supporters.

Noxzema put down all the "five-dollar words" being used and started to smoke and talk too loud with his estranged contingent of Canadians. Noxzema mouths a mean agenda on the printed page ("ALL victims of gaybashing DESERVE what they get," "If we see lesbians or gays being assaulted on the street, we will not intervene--we will join in") but he missed a chance to show his stuff in person.

A few days earlier the word "queer" had been hurled through a car window at another 'zine publisher. When the queer in question embraced the epithet in a belligerent tone, the basher got out of his car and made his point with a knife several times in the queer's back.

Driving away from the panel discussion, a carload from the audience tried to continue the evening's deconstruction of "queer." But everybody was more concerned with hearing the nurse in the backseat tell how stab wounds heal.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Bill Stamets.

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