By Erin Rook, PQ Monthly
Whether or not we know the results of the elections by Thursday, there will be something worth celebrating. The amazing Michelle Tea will be in town promoting the first ever Sister Spit anthology. The queer author will host a reading at Powell’s to celebrate SISTER SPIT: Writing, Rants and Reminiscence from the Road with reading and art by Cooper Lee Bombardier, Sara Seinberg, and Nicole J. Georges.
Not familiar with Sister Spit? Read on and check out the tour website here. I interviewed Tea before the 2011 tour for an article in another publication that no longer exists online. So I’m going to share some snippits with you here.
On how Sister Spit got started:
Sister Spit started in the ’90s during the spoken word sort of heyday. It was before the poetry slam [movement] started but it was a really big scene happening mostly in bars and coffee shops and it was primarily male and primarily straight. I mean, there were definitely girls that would go and read their stuff at these events – and queers – but they were definitely the minority. You had to have a certain temperament to want to take part because there was a lot of misogyny, there was a lot of alcoholism, there were a lot of drunk dudes pretending to be [Charles] Bukowski or Henry Rollins, so you had to have a certain temperament as a female to kind of get in there. That was really fun and I met amazing poets that way. I met Sini Anderson, I met Ali Liebegott, I met Beth Lisick, I met Justin Chin. But you know, San Francisco is such a queer town that we’re like, there’s gotta be a million queer girls, feminist whatever writers out there that just don’t want to come and be part of this scene. They’re just not interested because of what you’ve got to do to be part of it. They don’t want to have to yell at hooligans to shut the fuck up, they don’t want to read their potentially vulnerable pieces in an atmosphere like that. So me and Sini Anderson decided to start an all-girl open mic.
On Sister Spit’s evolution to include trans and cisgender men:
It’s definitely changed in that in the ’90s there was a perception that it was all lesbian or all queers girls, but it actually really wasn’t. We always had one straight lady with us, but it was all girl. But what happened of course was that people started transitioning so we had to figure out, “Do I want to not work with those people now because they’re men?” and that just seemed bad and dumb, so we changed it so that we could bring along trans men. And then I think that there’s a real problm with lumping trans men in with girls all the time, I just feel like it’s kind of screwed up and it completely misunderstands trans men and then I figured if we’re bring trans men then we just need to bring men period, we can’t just only bring trans men and not bring cisgendered guys.
Some of the trans men that we brought are heterosexual, they’re barely at all queer identified, so why would we just bring anyone really as long as they fit the Sister Spit aesthetic and have the Sister Spit feel to them and I was completely open to the notion that there’s a cisgender straight guy out there that’s totally right for the Sister Spit van and Blake Nelson is totally that person. He had sent me an email that was like, “I wish I was a lesbian so I could go on Sister Spit,” and I was like, “Well, you never had to be a lesbian and now you don’t even have to be a female, so why don’t you come with us?” This tour is a totally new sort of tour for sister spit. Voila!
So there you have it. Sister Spit is a celebration of all things writerly and feministy and awesome. It also tends to have moments of hilarity. You should probably check it out.