Started: Sunday, September 17, 2023.
Finished: Sunday, September 24, 2023.
Bornstein, Kate. (1998). My Gender Workbook. Routledge.
NOTE: This post took care and consideration to create, so it is Jason's Sunday School post covering both Sunday, September 17, 2023, and Sunday, September 24, 2023.
Sunday, September 17, 2023, was the Haight Ashbury Street Fair. I am part of a crew of artists organized by Andrea Fuenzalida that had a row of booths. This was my third year doing the fair, and my second doing Chaos Poetry. I’m definitely doing it again next year. I love everything about it.
Chaos Poetry is named as such because it is about the infinite possibilities made possible by two (or more) random things colliding (chaos) and the singular result resulting from that collision (poetry). I am incredibly comfortable amidst this chaos, and that on Sunday I got to channel its poetry through colliding with so many wonderfully amazing people is what I understand to be the actual essence of the cosmos, of magic, of not just surviving but of truly living amidst the death and decay and atrophy of the universe.
Chaos Poetry is sparked by two things: consent and a question. Consent establishes a positive bond between two (or more) random things / strangers. The question determines the trajectory of that bond. Thus, I spend a lot of time sitting with questions trying to figure out exactly where I want to go with others.
The initial questions for the fair were lumped into two categories: Explicitly Queer and Not Explicitly Queer. Chaos Agents (aka the passersby who said yes to Chaos Poetry) got to pick a starting point from one of the two columns of questions. From there, our journey began.
Here’s the questions they got to choose from:
Not Explicitly Queer:
On Sunday morning, I woke up and reviewed the list of questions. While all meaningful, I realized that I wanted some follow up questions prepped. People’s responses can sometimes be short, and I didn’t want to solely rely on asking questions inspired by the moment as inspiration can be fickle.
I took Kate Bornstein’s My Gender Workbook from off my bookshelf and started thumbing through the pages. I got my copy from A Different Light Bookstore, which was the queer bookstore in the Castro, in 1998, the year it came out. It shaped and widened my understanding of my queerness to include my gender. It was no longer just my sexuality that was queer. I’ve been genderqueer for over 24 years.
My eye stopped on the chapter “Fuck Your Gender! Love, Sex, Desire, and Gender,” and I read, “Gender over the past couple of millennia has been twisted into a lop-sided arena as represented by the gender/identity/power pyramid. Within that framework, gender is virtually useless beyond perpetuating its own system.”
I realized that my upcoming durational performance was an opportunity to disrupt the system and invite chaos into gender. As I kept reading, I brainstormed questions that could do just that.
Here’s the questions that emerged:
I was now ready to embrace the chaos of the Haight-Ashbury Street Fair.
I stood on a six-inch high soap box for almost seven hours inviting people into conversation. Over that time I interviewed 23 people and created 23 poems. One teenage poet with whom I co-created a poem asked if she could return the form to me. I invited her to stand on the soapbox and ask me questions. A few minutes later, I received her Chaos Poem. The whole day was an experience of deep listening, bearing witness, and giving testimony. It was chaos made flesh through poetry.
Here are (some of) the (edited) poems:
This is a space
where the dark is welcome
where chosen family gather across great distance
where Mom & Amelia & Happy & Me all have one another’s backs
where two things are held simultaneously
where there is ease
Deep connection is
(I have a Scorpio moon.)
Even in a world that
seems to not
we commune naked in the woods,
create ritual in the rivers,
we transmute anxiety & isolation into
sharing breath &
co-regulating with another
reclaims & repairs
what generations of violence has
stolen, lost, denied, silenced
& makes possible
Izzy & Connie & Clark &
all my beautiful & loving
Family of Choice
Smell that rock climbing gear
take a deep whiff after
it’s been vigorously used
Then, pick up a fruit
one you’ve never eaten &
deep & hard
let its juices spill
It’s still an ongoing process
That feeling of
the numbers come together
quickly in my head &
the puzzle gets solved…
Jason by Clo -
no mere existence
no mere truth
growing in love
like a dream
shepherding the way
the way for
for how are you
to love without
Jason’s Sunday School is an attempt to keep a regular schedule of studying so I don’t lose my way in this great big cosmos. It has some guides, though they were broken the following week. It has a praxis (that will definitely evolve.) There is a duration: all of Orion Season (or the months when Orion is visible in the night / early morning sky. If you’d like to read more about how it started, here’s the first post.