Ross, the transplant
By Daniel Borgen, PQ Monthly
You’ve undoubtedly seen Ross Milam preparing your delicious adult beverages at one of your favorite local watering holes — Red Cap (RIP), Boxxes, or Vault. We sat down to chat with the dashing Milam post-PQ cover shoot — and got his take on everything from doppelgangers to the future of Vaseline Alley.
On choosing Portland: “I moved from Denver this past January. I think of Portland as a quality over quantity type place. I’ve traveled to or lived in over 30 cities across the world and none have the perfect mix of aesthetic, intellectual, diverse, and quaint appeal Portland offers.”
On how queer Portland compares: “It’s been my experience that the LGBTQ community — in every place I’ve been—is constantly seeking the next evolutionary step for themselves. The community here changed so fast in the early 2000s — between the degradation of Vasoline Alley and the arrival of the Internet and smart phone apps — that it’s become difficult for promoters and leaders to convince our people to congregate and evolve together. I believe the people voracious enough to convince this community otherwise will make a drastic impact on the future of the scene.”
On how often he’s mistaken for his doppelganger — Wes at the Eagle: “It happens at least three times a week. Wesley is one of my favorite people in the world, and I consider it a compliment.”
On his college days studying math, biology, and chemistry: “I’ve been part of research teams that have studied everything from the Marmoset monkey endocrinology to drug protein targets for tuberculosis. I am currently working on a project at the Center for Research in Occupational and Environmental Toxicology at OHSU — I’m teaching scientists from the Congo to test urinary levels of thiocynanate as these are related to the Sub-Saharan neurological disease. I’m still not sure what I want to do when I grow up.”
On fitness: “I work out to high energy house and EDM music. Many of the DJs that have been brought to Portland by either Matt Bearracuda or Wesley of Glitterbear Productions tend to get my blood rushing.”
On the (immediate) future: “I’m working on building some fun events for Vault on Sundays. Next month be on the lookout for a party called ‘Beards and Broads’ — a mixer hosted by me and Wayne Bund. Boxxes has a major renovation in the near future which will add some much-needed freshness to Stark Street, and I’m there many weekend nights.”
Writer and artist Cooper Lee Bombardier
By Erin Rook, PQ MonthlyVitals: This 43-year-old writer and painter is originally from Abington, Mass. He is the recipient of the 2011 Lambda Literary Foundation Fiction Fellowship, the 2012 Equity Foundation Larry McDonald Endowed Scholarship, and the 2012 RADAR Lab Residency. He is currently working toward a master’s in book publishing at Portland State University.
PQ Monthly recently chatted with Bombardier about art, life, and identity. Here are some of the highlights from that conversation. You can read the full interview soon on our blog.
PQ: How would you describe your art/writing?
Bombardier: My visual art is pretty illustrative. I love outlines, representational images, text and typography, color. I work in a few different mediums. My work is influenced by Americana tattoo, my Catholic upbringing, WPA murals, the works of Diego [Rivera] and Frida [Kahlo], tarot, and circus sideshow art, among other things. … I draw in pencil and pen, watercolor, etc. I primarily work in 2D, but have dabbled in sculpture. Last year I collaborated with Portland artists Julie Perini and Wayne Bund and created a video installation with them for the National Queer Arts Festival. It was unlike most of the work that I do, but the process of collaborating with them outside of my artistic comfort zone was fantastic.
My writing has gravitated in recent years toward essays and nonfiction short stories. I primarily write from my own experiences. I am plugging away on a memoir right now about certain experiences of my early 20s, and have two other book projects that I am mapping out. I am interested always in writing about the rub between social worlds, the experience of the trans body in the world, masculinity, work, and of course the meta overtone of most writing: sex and death.
PQ: You were one of the early member’s of Michelle Tea’s Sister Spit tour. Tell me how you got involved in that.
Bombardier: I met Michelle Tea in my early 20s, when I moved to San Francisco in 1993. I met Sini Anderson the following year, if I remember correctly. We were all friends. At that time the city was a thriving hub of young queer artists, writers, filmmakers, and musicians. It was a welcoming and enthusiastic creative environment. I had been a featured reader at Sister Spit a few times when it was an open-mic night that Sini and Michelle hosted. They invited me to go on the inaugural Sister Spit cross-country tour in 1997.
PQ: When you came out as trans, were you aware of many other trans writers?
Bombardier: Yes, a few: Max Wolf Valerio, Kate Bornstien, James Green, Leslie Feinberg, Patrick Califia — probably a few others that are slipping my mind. With the exception of Leslie, though, I don’t think any of these people wandered into the realms of fiction or creative nonfiction. But as my elders their work is so incredibly important and necessary. There was no internet to find words for what I was feeling when I started to more consciously explore and express my sense of my gender in 1995-1996.
PQ: I know your writing doesn’t always, or even often, address trans issues or identity, but do you think it’s important to be out?
Bombardier: Yes, to me it is incredibly important. Although I feel very strongly about reserving the right to steer my own ship in terms of when, where, and how I “come out” as trans.
PQ: What’s been the hardest thing for you to write? The most fun?
Bombardier: The hardest stuff is what I am working on right now, a memoir of my early 20s when my brother was murdered and just a few months later my then-girlfriend was diagnosed HIV positive.
Most fun? I had a blast writing an essay on competitive bearding from a transman’s perspective that was published in the Rumpus recently.
PQ: When you’re not writing, painting, or doing other work for school, how do you like to spend your time?
Bombardier: I love to exercise and lift weights, have a pint with friends, spend time with my awesome partner, walk Kelley Point with my dog, get out into the woods, and travel. I love traveling and rarely pass up an opportunity to go anywhere.
Check out Bombardier’s work online at www.cooperleebombardier.com.