Party Goals: International Edition

Put in your vacay request, dust off your passport, and stock up on vitamins. Lots of vitamins. There’s a big wide world of LGBTQ parties you need to see to believe, and the list below should be more than enough to help you rack up frequent flyer miles and hazy memories for all of 2017. How many are you down for?

Easter Berlin, Germany: April 12th – 18th 2017

Well established as one Europe’s biggest leather and fetish weeks with a range of parties and events across the city. Our tip – check out Woof!

Dragcon, Los Angeles, USA: April 29th & 30th 2017

With Rupaul mania approaching maximum world domination, this is the holy grail of all things Drag while mingling with the superstars of the show.

World Out Games, Miami, USA: May 26th – June 4th 2017

Held every 4 years, Miami hosts thousands of participants at more than 450 events covering sport, culture, and human rights. They aim to stimulate debate through emotional, competitive, and intellectual events. And maybe a dance party or two.

Korean Queer Culture Festival, Seoul, Korea: June 2017

With just 50 attendees in 2001, Seoul now hosts over 15,000, making it one of the largest LGBT events in Asia. In addition to the political angle, the event places heavy emphasis on art and culture to pack in even bigger audiences.

Queer Arts Festival, Vancouver, Canada: June 20th & 21st 2017

Pushing the boundaries of queer modern art, Vancouver’s QAF aims to curate challenging, thought-provoking work that pushes boundaries and initiates dialogue. Buckle up.

World Pride, Madrid, Spain: June 23rd – July 2nd 2017

Fact: The Spanish know how to party, and this summer they’re celebrating 40 years since the first pride parade in Spain. Madrid hosts with a action-packed schedule of jaw-dropping parties, open air concerts, sport events, and more.

Brighton Pride Festival, UK: August 4th – 6th 2017

The UK’s largest gay pride festival has an impressive line-up this year including Pet Shop Boys (still going strong) and Years Years.

Bear Week Sites, Spain: September 1st – 11th 2017

The picturesque coastal town of Sitges, just 30 minutes from Barcelona, turns into a gay mecca in the summer months with Bears Week rounding off the season.Insert bear hunting joke here.

Homotopia, Liverpool, UK: November 2017

Now in its 14th year, Homotopia showcases an impressive queer art scene in the UK’s cultural melting pot that is Liverpool.

And because it’s never too early to plan ahead….

Sydney Mardi Gras, Australia: March 3rd, 2018

An institution, Sydney’s vibrant, balls-out crazy celebration celebrates its 40th Anniversary next year. You can’t miss this. No, you just can’t.

Special thanks to Oliver Broad from travel agency RB Collection for giving us the low-down.

Turning Shame Into Pride

Why do we hold Pride parades?

I get this question a lot. Sometimes the question comes from people outside our communities, but more often, it’s from folks who are themselves lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Occasionally it’s even aggressive, betraying that the speaker believes the speedos and leather and drag dotting the crowds somehow constitute participation in our own oppression. What’s clear to me in these cases is that the person is asking from a place of shame. And it’s tough to know how to respond because that shame is the exact thing we’re marching against.

Most of us don’t grow up with parents who share our sexual orientation or gender identity. For many, we may not have had any visible role models at all. We don’t come up learning that the ways we love and fuck and form families are contemporary manifestations of histories and cultures that are themselves as old as humanity. And, as a result, too many of us never learn that we, as LGBTQ people, are just as worthy of love and belonging as everyone else.

For me, what makes shame easiest to understand is placing it next to another feeling—not pride in this case, but guilt. Guilt is what we feel when we’ve done something wrong and we assign that error to our actions. Shame, by contrast, is when we turn against ourselves. In that case, we say—and, on some level, believe—that not only were our actions wrong, but we are inherently wrong because of them.

The stakes here are shockingly high. Consider the work of Brené Brown, our country’s leading researcher on the subject. Brené has documented how high levels of shame are correlated with many of the things that destroy our lives, from addiction, to depression, eating disorders, self-harm, and aggression.

What makes this even more difficult is that we don’t just experience these feelings on an individual level. When we haven’t learned to love ourselves—and often even when we have spent years working towards that—we may be prone to feeling shame at the community level. The actions of others who share our sexuality, nationality, hometown, or last name may leave us feeling humiliated and self-hating. So seeing a drag queen or a motorcycle dyke out on the street during Pride Month reminds many of us that we’re not so sure we like being queer and that, deep inside, we’re not so sure we like ourselves at all.

My intention in writing this is not to shame those who are uncomfortable with pride. The truth is that almost all of us have felt something like that at some point in our lives and it isn’t an indication that we’re defective. My recommendation to everyone looking at these photos from the long history of our marches is actually to get more deeply in touch with the memories of that discomfort, whether we had it at a march or in a gay bar or any other LGBTQ space. Sitting with that feeling can be instructive and ultimately transform ourselves into our own best teachers.

When I feel shame, my heart beats faster and my brain starts buzzing. I start over-performing and seeking the praise of others to give me some sense of relief. But the bodily experience of shame is different for each of us and learning our unique manifestations is the first key step in building our ability to cope.

Brené Brown says one of her greatest goals is to start a national conversation about shame. For our part, many LGBTQ communities around the world have been having that conversation, marching in these parades for all these years. The pride we cultivate in these spaces may never fully take the place of our shame, but the more time we spend with the feeling, the dimmer it becomes.

Jack Harrison-Quintana is Director of Grindr For Equality for Grindr and was recently named one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business.

My First Heartbreak

British photographer Elliot Morgan makes teenage heartbreak the subject of his recent photo series. The sequence follows a young guy—hair dyed like Cruella de Vil and dressed in a multicolored leather jacket—during what seems to be the day of a break up. The guy is clearly depressed; he keeps rubbing his eyes, holding his forehead, and he shows us his phone as if that’s how the break up happened. He does all the things you might suspect from a hormonal, overly dramatic teenager who believes they will never find love again. We’ve all been there, right? But love somehow always prevails.

I was lucky. My first boyfriend was my first kiss and my first sexual experience. We were together for one year and then we broke up. It wasn’t hard. I simply found someone else.

What was really hard during those teenage years was the crushes on all the “straight” kids in school. You had your typical jock, the jock’s super cool and flirty (but straight) friend, the teacher (don’t try it, you know you had a crush on one of your teachers, too), the boss at your first internship (I may or may not have sent mine a four page letter after the first week), and so on and so on.

But what was it about those unfulfilled teenage crushes that makes them so much more memorable than anything after? Is it purely hormones? Is it because they are the first? Is it because they shape what your future love life is going to look like? Or is it simply because they were unrequited?

Unrequited love does not die; it’s only beaten down to a secret place where it hides, curled and wounded.” – Elle Newmark, The Book of Unholy Mischi.

That quote makes so much sense for the direction I was trying to take this article in. But I just admit….I have never read the book. I Googled it. It does, however, end my anecdote and segue nicely into the reason for writing this.

It’s for good reason that teenage love is the subject of the most romantic love stories in history—Romeo Juliet (Shakespeare), The Fault in Our Stars (John Green), 10 Things I Hate About You (Gil Junger), and many more—as it is the most passionate and unruly years in our lives. And most of us will probably look back at the period with a light head shake and a smirk thinking about how ridiculous we were.

Words: Lars Byrresen Petersen
Photographer: Elliot Morgan
Model:Tadgh Ahern @ Profile

Art Through Activism: A Chat With Artist Slava Mogutin

Russian contemporary queer artist Slava Mogutin engages in activism as part of his practice, and explores legislation, sexuality, and religion in his work. Coming from homophobic social systems has equipped him with a compelling perspective on our community’s progress around the world, and that shows both in his visual work and in his words.

Pedro: What’s been happening in Slava land recently?
Slava: This last year was very productive and eventful. I traveled a lot, did several shows and performances, directed two music videos, made lots of new art and wrote a new book of poetry in English and Russian. I also had the honor of presenting the Lost Boys series in my first outdoor public exhibition in Prague. There’s nothing more encouraging for an artist than seeing your work stretched on billboards, and I couldn’t be happier with the way it was received.

Sexuality and breaking social barriers is obviously an important part of you as a protester. What made you start creating art about it?
I could never separate my political activism from my art—something that is not going to change as long as I’m alive. My work celebrates diversity and nonconformity. Ever since my teenage years as a punk poet in Moscow, I’ve been addressing the issues that are personally important to me, from homophobia, censorship, hypocrisy, bigotry and social inequality to displacement and identity, disaffection and alienation, alternative subcultures and gender crossover. Coming from a hostile and oppressive country like Communist Russia, I had to fight for my existence and acceptance from an early age, and I did it through my poetry and art as much as my political statements and actions.

You’re known for being quite the renegade in Russia, as shown by your famous first Russian gay marriage attempt back in 1994. How has your relationship with the country evolved over the years?
Quoting the great late Leonard Cohen, “I love the country, but I can’t stand the scene.” I have a love-hate relationship with Russia. Being forced to leave my country at such a young age was a very traumatic and challenging experience for me, but thanks to my exile, I became the person and artist I am today. I’m still proud of my roots and my culture, but I haven’t been back home in over 10 years, and I have no desire of endorsing Putin’s homophobic corrupt regime in any shape or form.

What are your hopes for the near future of queer visibility?
Radical, unfiltered queer imagery is still being restricted and routinely censored on social media and in most mainstream media outlets. Instead, we’re being served with a homogenized sterile substitute presented as the new “gay norm.” This is not to mention a list of nearly 80 countries where homosexuality and any expressions of queer lifestyle or sensibility are still illegal or semi-legal. Sadly, that long list includes most populist countries like Russia, India and China, most of Africa and the entire Arabic world. It’s fair to say that we live in a queer bubble that only covers some patches of our planet, which still remains largely homophobic. I’m afraid this situation is not going to change on its own anytime soon, unless we continue to fight for our universal rights and acceptance.

Can you tell us a little bit about your most recent series, Young Blood Open Heart?
This is, perhaps, the most experimental body of work I’ve produced to date. It combines traditional paper and photo collage with bodily fluids, rust, wine, vinegar, lime and beet juice, and even some vaginal cream (all the good things). I revisited and deconstructed some of my earlier images, giving them a whole new meaning, with less focus on sexuality and more emphasis on the existential, spiritual, and the Occult.

What is the reason behind collage as your choice of medium?
Collage is one of my favorite mediums, along with photography, video, text, and drawing. I like the idea of turning trash into treasures and using found and appropriated material, from vintage erotica, comics books, newspapers, and stolen Bibles to feathers, stickers, and random objects that I collected on the street.

Religion seems to be a recurring theme in your work. What are your thoughts on the coexistence of religion and sexuality?
I came full circle from being an atheist to getting baptized at 17, then rejecting God and my religion for most of my adult life, and then becoming a born-again in recent years. A couple of years ago, I had a show in Greece and I had a religious epiphany there, so I went to each and every Orthodox cathedral I could find. It was like rediscovering my own roots through the Byzantine roots of Russian culture, religion, and Cyrillic alphabet. It was very empowering and enlightening for me on the personal and artistic level.

I think a lot of gay men reject God and religion because they get off on the idea of being “bad” or “evil.” Over the past 20 years I’ve documented many fetish subcultures, and I think the entire BDSM etiquette and mythology are based on the Catholic guilt complex. I would call it reverse spirituality, because you cannot believe in Satan without believing in God, just like you cannot be “evil” without knowing something about “good.”

You collaborated with Bruce LaBruce, Edmund White, and most recently, with No Bra on a video piece inspired by Leonard Cohen, I’m Your Man. What brought all of you together?
Collaboration is one of the key elements of my practice, and I was fortunate to work with many great artists, writers, and musicians. I’m Your Man is a cover of Leonard Cohen’s classic song that I did with Susanne Oberbeck of No Bra. We recorded the track in New York and then filmed the video on our recent trip to London. It’s a song about modern romance and disaffection that we both found very engaging, so we thought it was appropriate to film it in Hampstead Heath Park, the famous gay cruising area where George Michael was busted for “dogging” several years ago. Susanne and I wanted to retrace his steps before the arrest amidst the actual cruisers who just happened to be there. It was a beautiful sunny day and we managed to capture the anxious mood and excitement of cruising while filming each other on my small undercover camera. Sadly, the video premiered days before Leonard Cohen’s death, followed by George Michael’s, so the project turned out to be a double tribute to both of them.

Has the work of Leonard Cohen inspired your practice in the past?
I’ve been a huge admirer of Leonard Cohen’s work ever since I discovered it as a teenager in Moscow and I still find him very inspiring. “First We Take Manhattan” used to be one of my anthems. It seemed like a perfect script for my early artistic aspirations.

Cruising seems to be one of the themes the video explores. Is this something you have dabbled in?
When it comes to cruising, I’m more of a voyeur than participant. As a gay virgin, I used to go to the Alexandrovsky Park, Moscow’s main cruising spot right next to the Red Square, where I would watch gay guys meet. It was my first exploration of the gay underground at the time was homosexuality was still considered a crime punishable with up to five years in prison. Sometimes I saw gays being harassed, arrested, and bashed just based on their looks. So for me, cruising is forever associated with danger and breaking the law. Despite all that—years after exile—I still find cruising very exciting and romantic. It’s about breaking the walls, rejecting societal norms, and creating your own alternative queer space. In my view, cruising is a healthy alternative to claustrophobic and restricted gay venues and the culture of online dating, which renders all senses and personalities useless.

You have a new book coming out called Bros Brosephines, which features a lot of your photography work for magazines over the years. How do you find your subjects for these shoots?
This book is very different from my previous ones. It’s a survey on my commission and editorial work going back 15 years. The title comes from two separate projects I did for VICE magazine, “Bros Blowing Shotties” and “Brosephines.” Both stories became quite popular and were republished in various VICEeditions worldwide, from the U.K. and Germany to Australia and New Zealand. In some cases, the casting was arranged by the magazines and I worked with professional models, although I still prefer to shoot my friends and fellow artists, so there are many familiar faces, like Gio Black Peter, François Sagat, Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst, Sophia Lamar, Candis Cayne, Omahyra Mota, and Brian Kenny, who was a principal collaborator on several series.

The photos seem to be both documentary and staged, and they look like a lot of fun! How do you get your models to behave like that in the shoots?
My creative motto is, “Work is play.” I always think of my shoots as collaborations with the subjects. The point is that I would never impose anything or ask them to do something that I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing myself. It’s about having a good time and creating together something beautiful and meaningful, something that all the people involved can be proud of.

Are they ever nervous? I can imagine if they are, that can make the shoots a little awkward. If so how do you make them feel more comfortable?
I usually work with people who are already familiar with my work, so I don’t really have to direct or control the situation. Most of my work is improvised and spontaneous and I never use my camera as an intimidation tool. It’s about trust, compassion, understanding and collaboration in a very broad sense. It’s about capturing real people, moments and emotions worth sharing with the universe.

You’ve achieved a lot, both as an artist and as a queer figure. What’s next for you?
I have more projects and creative ideas than I could possibly realize in my lifetime. I’m very excited about my next book of poetry based on my recent journals, Satan Youth, and a book of essays and interviews covering over 20 years of my journalism, Gay in the Gulag. I’m also working on a new series of text drawings and abstract paintings, a record album featuring collaborations with some of my favorite artists and musicians, and developing my fashion line.