Am I queer enough to be here and why am I doing this. Every queue and lobby bursting with gorgeous people alive with gender expressions and aesthetics. I’m ashamed that the moments of swapping compliments about what we’re wearing were the greatest affirmation I’ve felt in years. (Well, of course my friend group bolsters me against varying hostilities and I couldn’t live without this true love in our homes and the places we always meet, but,) Strangers in a queered public space with no obligations celebrating how we look together gives me a different sense of belonging. If I give love to everyone’s queerings then that love fills the space and everyone seems to glitter. And Ismail called me gurl when I wore a skirt and now we’re Facebook friends oh my babies I die I die I die.
Clearly I need to spend more time at queer arts festivals and outside of my wee group, for queerly I am under-socialised. I’m sorry for that moment when I asked someone in the Feral Camp if and how they were queer and I’m pretty sure it came across as gatekeeping, though I was trying to connect. You were very generous and it was so lovely to meet you.
The performance work though, perhaps that was the point. Khansa, their muscular tension on a rope in leather studded bellydancing transcendence, blazed with polymath integrity. With liquid compassion Ismail Fayed taught about Egypt’s politics through stories of Um Kalthoum, with the precise precarity of a first ever public performance which I will treasure forever. Dima Mikhayel Matta’s performance flew by on my nerves of being watched on stage while watching her, leaving me with fuzzy memories of her thorough emotional and academic intelligence. I feel deeply grateful to be able to see such accomplished work in Belfast. I’m also feeling the benefit of real live memories of performances as inoculation against the inescapable tabloid indoctrination of dehumanising lies about the Middle East.
Being part of the Feral Camp meant I shared these experiences with a group of people I didn’t know very well. So I chose my words differently and felt more part of the festival and the discussions after the shows, compared to how it would feel going with my friends. Maybe because I knew I was going to write this feedback, I knew I was going to be examined on it later, so I formed more defined opinions that I usually would. I was influenced by other Feral Campers to notice that the spaces for discussion needed to be chaired with more respect for power dynamics, and black, minority ethnic & non-anglophone voices needed to be heard more. The discussion in Queer Theory for Queer Artists started to address this and I hope this steers the future direction of Outburst.
– Feral Camper