Issue 2: Feminisms

GAUDY BAUBLE: From a Queer Avant-Garde Novella

Isabel Waidner


The breathless zoo were falling all over themselves welcoming them back. When P.I. Belahg and Blulip returned to the workshop, several members of the breathless zoo appeared to have fallen over. Fluorescent green chalk had appeared on the floor. Fluorescent green chalk contoured an unusually shaped body on the workshop’s linoleum floor. Neon-green, glow-in-the-dark, high-vis specialty chalk was staining the floor around various fibreglass animals’ hooves. P.I. Belahg could not concentrate in this chaos. She could not function in this farrago. Look, Blulip, look. Look at the state of it. Let’s clear up. Help the fibreglass Bear off the lino, for example. The fallen Otter. What other fibreglass animals. Bear, Cub, Otter, Owl, Gazelle, Cygnet and Pussycat. A Marmoset. A cygnet is a baby swan. Let’s arrange these fibreglass animals in a meaningful order. What we got. Bears, Cubs, an Otter, an Owl, Gazelles, Pussycats, Marmosets, Afghans and a Cygnet. BEAR, CUB, OTTER, OWL, GAZELLE, MARMOSET, AFGHAN, CYGNET?! This animal sequence might not signify to most people. This animal sequence might mean nothing to most people, but it signaled in full Technicolour rainbows to P.I. Belahg. BearCubOtterOwlGazelleMarmosetAfghanCygnet. B. C. O. O. G. M. A. C., these were the ghosts of Gayness Past. “Blulip,” Belahg said. Hm? Where did you get these from, again? Internet. Not ebay, admittedly. Historical interior décor of a rural gay dive. The Gay Cygnet. Or The Hooved Cygnet, Blulip could not remember. The Gay or Hooved Cygnet had been closed down in 1991 at the height of the AIDS crisis. The police had worn neoprene surgical gloves to protect against the HIV virus. Wet wipes, moist towelettes. Following the force-closure, The Gay Cygnet’s décor had been stored away in the landlord’s garden-shed. The Gay Cygnet’s landlord had been Faglord Cygnet. Faglord Cygnet had preferred a feminine pronoun at all cost. Recently, The Gay Cygnet’s décor had been auctioned off as part of Faglord Cygnet’s late estate. She had had no immediate descendants.

The Gay Cygnet’s hysterical décor embodied a 1980s taxonomy that in return emblematised Post-Village people gay stereotypes. Arguably, this taxonomy had been the invention of newspaper columnist George Mazzei, whose Who’s Who at the Zoo? had been published in The Advocate on July 26, 1979. Effectively, Who’s Who at the Zoo? had been a Gay Taxonomy, or as the original subtitle had had it, A Glossary of Gay Animals. The article had categorised homosexuals as Gay Bears, Owls, Cygnet Swans, Pussycats, Gazelles and Afghans. Marmosets. Predating for example Bear Magazine, which had not appeared until 1986, Who’s Who at the Zoo? had inaugurated the prolific Gay Bear identity category. Cub and Otter were subdivisions of the Gay Bear identity category that had not featured in the original Who’s Who. Neither had Ursula featured in Mazzei’s Who’s Who. An Ursula was a lesbian-identified Bear or a Bear-identified lesbian. Was it true that post-identity Britain did not know what a Bear was? A large, hairy, butch, gay man, with “notably muscular legs” (Mazzei, 1979). Or what a Cub was. A younger, large, hairy, butch, gay man. An Otter. A less large, less hairy, gay man, whose age was irrelevant. Ursula derived from Latin ursus, for bear, and/or the Disney character, octopus sorceress, and The Little Mermaid’s main antagonist, Ursula. Beyond baby swan, ‘cygnet’ might not signify to most people. According to Mazzei (1979), a Cygnet devoted his life to cultivating a perfect body and the sporting of Gucci loafers. Neoliberal Britain, however, was post-that. Post-Cub, post-Otter, post-Ursula. Certainly post-Cygnet. Neoliberal Britain was post-identity before having learned the first thing about Cubs. Confounding post-identity Britain, gay taxa took centre stage in Blulip’s studio and workshop. Gay taxa experienced einen zweiten Frühling. Flummoxing, consternating, insulting, disturbing and haunting post-identity Britain, lazarus taxa, things rampant, were outstaying their welcome. Historical gay identities had taken control of the workshop! Also The King’s Arms on Old Compton Street. And The Duke of Wellington on Wardour Street. The RVT, Royal Vauxhall Tavern. And Horse Meat Disco at the manly Eagle on Kennington Lane. Bear culture was thriving in post-identity Britain. And the Bears were recruiting. Historical fictions were alive in Blulip’s DIY workshop and studio, and also The King’s Arms on Old Compton.

“It’s attitude that makes a Bear.” (Mazzei, 1979)

Blulip’s fibreglass taxa were hooved. A horse’s foot is a horse’s foot is a horse’s foot. Everything was equipped with a Pferdefuss. A Pferdefuss is a jinx or a drawback. Pferdefüsse wherever you looked. Pferdefüsse galore in Blulip’s and Belahg’s working environment. The Pferdefüsse signified certain retrospective or contemporary problems with Gay Bears, Cubs, and significant Otters. The stereotyping. Also, lesbians had been included in the Who’s Who as a sort of afterthought. They had been mainly Owls, maybe Cygnets. As far as “gay women” (Mazzei, 1979) were concerned, none of the categories had really caught on. Ursula did not sufficiently redress the derivative status of lesbians in Mazzei’s original Zoo. Arguably, the derivative status of lesbians resulted in the unquestioned absence of the womanly Eagle on Kennington Lane. How many self-identified Ursulas per one-thousand Bears. Had there been a lesbian equivalent to the historical, hysterical, galvanising, generative, prohibitive, empowering, limiting, liberating, inclusive, exclusive, and offensive Gay Zoo? Had there been a Lesbian Zoo? There were lesbian taxonomies. But neither Blulip nor Belahg had heard of a Lesbian Zoo. Blulip, have you? No. No. You?! We could have been fruit flies. Jellyfish. Carnivorous plants. We could have been crystals. There could have been a Lesbian Toxicology. Mineralogy. There probably had been. There probably was.

The sculptures in Blulip’s workshop embodied a proto-queer genealogy, inklusive Pferdefuss. They were critical taxa, with a heightened Ursuline disposition. The breathless zoo were the Ursuline Ungulates, the new UUs. Belahg termed them the new UUs. The new UUs were Not Quite a new animal. Not Quite a new taxonomy. Not on the level of a Lesbian Mineralogy. But. You know? A start. And who, by the way, is she?! Who’s who? There on the floor. Oh, her. Forget Who’s Who. Who’s she!?? Chalk is calcium carbonate or CaCO3. Chalk is porous rock. Chalk is mineral. Excessively green pigmented.

Fluorescent green chalk contoured an unusually shaped body on the linoleum floor. Neon-green, glow-in-the-dark, high-vis specialty chalk contoured what resembled the reversed flower of a toxic tulip on the linoleum floor. The contours of a toxic flower had appeared on linoleum, resembling those of the classic icon of a trivialised ghost. Looked like the Pac-Man™ 8-bit green phantom. Rather than the Pink Pac-Man Ghost Machibuse, or the Cyan Pac-Man Ghost Kimagure, this looked like Greenish-Grey Orson. Hello Orson, you greenish-grey, intellectual Ghost. Was hast du hier verloren? Allegedly, T. Iwatani, the Japanese video game designer and Pac-Man creator, had “designed each Pac-Man Ghost with its own distinct personality”. But this was not Greenish-grey Orson. This was Orsul Urson. Urson Orsula haunted the new UUs. Phantom of the Past’s Prohibited Futures. Ghost of Taxonomies Yet-to-Come. This was Urson Orsula, gender-transcender and defender of the she pronoun. Neon-green agent of nouveau-she. She-chique. Urson Orsula was a miniscule part of a wider insurrection. Millions of taxa would diversify any future taxonomy to the extreme. Orsul Urson, you say?! CaCO3? Blulip touched her with the tip of her trainer. Blulip tested her with the tip of her trainer. You’re smudging her, P.I. Belahg said. “Chalk faery,” Blulip said. “It’s the scrawl of a chalk faery, contaminating the scene.” Deriving from an Ursuline genealogy, spliced with Iwatani’s Orson and a helping of faery dust, Orsul Urson revitalised a jinxed taxonomy through alien contamination. Orsul Urson revitalised the new UUs, their bodily incarnation of a proto-queer past including its problems, through extra-taxonomic contamination. Orsul Urson revitalised an already contaminated taxonomy through her mineral, digital, media-friendly, computer-gamely, ghostly, neon-green, neo-pomp, nouveau-she-chique version of extra-taxonomic contamination. Maybe Urson was a little flat yet. But she was bound to come alive like everyone else had.