Blurring the Binary: David Bowie, Queer Activism, and the Lipstick Movement

    Yesterday, I sat down with Women and Gender’s studies student Aly Cameron to discuss the Gender and Women’s Studies Alliance (GWSA), Gender Performativity Awareness Week (G-PAW), and their upcoming David Bowie themed social. This group of students, mostly hailing from the gender studies department, was formed at Brandon University this year and have already been involved in many events both in the university, and out in the community.

    Aly and I started our discussion by talking about the Brandon queer activism scene overall. In my limited experience I could not tell if the community was rapidly growing, or if I was just becoming more aware of the events going on on around town with more progressive slants. According to Aly it is probably a bit of both, there has always been a bit of a “underground” activist community in Brandon, the events they host can just be difficult to find at times. 

    Relatively new additions to the community such as Dr. Corinne Mason of the Gender and Women’s studies and Sociology departments at BU, and Rune Breckon the LGBT Program Facilitator at SERC are attempting to reverse this, and have been doing great work to bring awareness to and making LGBTQA issues more accessible in small town Brandon. The GWSA hopes to be the student ambassadors for this activist scene.

    There are two main parts to the G-PAW week we are in the midst of. Today, the alliance is kicking off a social media campaign, the #Lipsticklove movement. This movement, brain child of the alliance’s president Teague Luhr, is based on self-love, and will be active at GWSA’s ticket booth. Members of the alliance will be encouraging people to don lipstick for the day, regardless of gender. This is meant to be a way to break down barriers, in a fun and simple rebellion against the rigid gender binary. 

    This Friday, the “Blurring the Binary” David Bowie tribute social will be taking place in the basement of the double decker. A location Aly promises will have some “very good vibes”.

The purpose of the Bowie social is to “open up a dialogue within the community” as well as to “celebrate diversity, and self-love of all regardless of gender expression”. One recurring theme in our conversation was how do these ideas transfer between spaces; from the university to the community, from a gender studies department to the public at large. In short, how do you take the ideas of academics such as Judith Butler, and make them accessible and fun for a general audience. 

    To Aly, David Bowie was very important to the modern queer community because of the way he “broke down gender norms” in both his appearance and presentation in public. Prominent non-binary musicians such as Rae Spoon weighed in this January to celebrate his life, and importance to their early identity formation. It is quite fitting then, that a social in Bowie’s honour, also functions as a cap to a week full of festivities that celebrate non-conforming, non-binary gender identities.

    Musical entertainment will be provided by DJ B Zwax (aka Blake Hamilton the local Community Gardener). There will gender neutral washrooms, pool/foosball, and a best Bowie costume contest. $5 from the GWSA’s table, or $6 at the door.