At QAF’s Queerotica, everything is sex, except sex, which is power

Written by Kaila Johnson, The Ubyssey

Bisexual lighting — saturated beams of blue, pink and purple — coated the stage of the Queer Art Festival(QAF)’s Queerotica: Literary Readings on July 6 at the Sun Wah Centre. Four different writers shared their work on stage surrounding the theme of “the masc & femme we wear.”

Rather than simply reading aloud steamy poetry, Queerotica complicated the erotica genre with questions around how our authentic sexual selves are disguised and warped by colonialism and white supremacy.

One of the featured artists, Aly Laube, was unable to attend in-person and shared her collection of poems via a YouTube video with event attendees. Their collection, titled “Gay and Confused,” mentioned U-Hauling, the common Queer experience of thinking you’re in love with a friend, and R&B artist Teyana Taylor’s ballroom-inspired track “WTP.”

Kyle Shaughnessy spoke of his experiences as a Two-Spirit Trans person of mixed Indigenous and European ancestry. His introduction flowed into a non-fiction work about deciding to go back in the closet for his grandmother’s funeral. Shaughnessy described how he did not want an unfamiliar name to be a barrier to connecting with his family in their mourning. Still, he didn’t sacrifice his transmasc gender presentation to attend her service. Even when dressed up as yourself, there can still be parts of you in hiding.

Janice Esguerra, a recent graduate of the UBC Bachelor’s of Fine Arts creative writing program, shared poems and a piece of nonfiction. In the excerpt of nonfiction, she described her relationship to religion and what it would be like meeting god in a Chinatown bar.

Esguerra made attendees laugh during her final poem, “religion is whatever you do on your knees,” with the stanza, “because sex is just another way/to finish/each other’s sentences/and lord knows i’m tired/of commas.”

Elmer Flores shared a collection of poems which highlighted the frustration that BIPOC Queer people can feel towards white gays with works titled “fuck you, you fucking fuck” and “another poem about a white man.” In the former, he also described how his white classmates have been praised for using “fuck you” in their poetry while Flores was criticized for doing the same.

“I think this is the event where I’ve heard the most f-words in my life,” joked QAF artistic director Mark Takeshi McGregor after Flores’s set. By playing with the multiple meanings of “fuck,” Flores’ collection of poetry grappled with how oppression and animosity can bleed into sexuality.

UBC theatre production and design alum Laura Fukumoto kept this sentiment alive by starting her set with the phrase “fuck Canada day.” Musicality oozed through their collection of poems. She broke out a harp that was found in the alleyway by their apartment to elevate the feeling of haunting — QAF’s 2022 theme.

During their last poem, which was inspired by an AURORA song, Fukumoto had the audience hum two tones throughout the reading.

The warmth of the bi lighting and the hums of the audience provided a blanket of safety for attendees to listen and let the artist’s words wash over them.