By Erin Rook, PQ Monthly
What do you do when you’ve got a notebook full of naughty poems and no place to read them? You create one, of course. That’s exactly what Sossity Chiricuzio did, with the help of friend Kelli Dunham. Tomorrow, Chiricuzio will celebrate the 6 year anniversary of Dirty Queer, an x-rated open mic and an institution in the Portland LGBTQ community.
Tomorrow’s anniversary celebration will begin at In Other Words at 6 p.m. with a social hour and photo booth by Bloodhound Photography. The open mic will run in two sections (7-8 p.m. and 8:30-9:30 p.m.) with an intermission between. Performers can start signing up at 6 p.m. and are encouraged to bring diverse types of performance including dance, improv, magic, music, performance art, and more (not just poetry).
Guests will enjoy snacks from New Seasons and Dovetail Bakery (potluck dishes are also welcome) and are eligible to win door prizes from Pencil Test, Ritual Arts, Pervert the Cirque, and Aster Wolfe, LMT.
As always, there will be a quiz portion — this time about Leah Lakshmi Puepzna-Samarasinha, with prizes from Slow Jamz PDX. The event will also include boot blacking by Kyle Minstrel, chair massage from Aster Wolfe,
In honor of the milestone, I chatted with Chiricuzio about where the event came from, why it’s so important, and where it’s going.
PQ Monthly: How did Dirty Queer come to be?
Sossity Chiricuzio: Dirty Queer came about late one night as my friend Kelli Dunham and I were waiting at a bus stop downtown. I had just read a poem at a cabaret show, and it was a bust. People liked the poem, but spoken word and shiny dancing drag acts don’t mix well — too much variation in energy. So, we were pondering what would be the right venue for my work, and then we realized what I needed was an X rated open mic! However, none existed in Portland at that time, so I did what so many of us do when we have a need that there’s no outlet for — I created one. Kelli was my co-founder, and really helped me find my footing as an MC (I’d never done that before). She wasn’t able to participate after our first month, but I’ll always be
grateful for her help in bringing Dirty Queer from theory into reality, and to In Other Words for taking a chance on me and this event. They were very excited about the idea, and it’s been a wonderful and mutually supportive relationship for 6 years now.
PQ: How has it changed over the years?
Chiricuzio: Our basic format and mission haven’t changed — it’s still about creating and holding a space that is as safe as possible where we can see and be seen without shame, find community, and support each other in healthy sexual adventures. However, over the years we’ve needed to make clarifications or changes in our process, and I’ve tried to be as accountable and transparent in that as possible. For example, on a few rare occasions we’ve had people (usually folks who have never been before and don’t really get what we’re about) bring racist, sexist, fatphobic or otherwise inappropriate material to the stage. I feel pretty strongly about not shaming each other, but I also have a zero tolerance policy towards such things, so finding the right way to address it — both in stating the parameters of the event, and in how to interrupt such moments — has been an ongoing process for me, the event, and the community that’s come together around it.
PQ: What have been your favorite Dirty Queer moments?
Chiricuzio: There have been so many! There are particular moments: like when I was blessed by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in a beautiful, glittery ritual; and the dirty juggling act with handcuffs, lube, and a dildo; and the improv haiku rounds; and of course the 4 year anniversary when my mom flew out from Arizona to be there! There are also the moments when someone
says something like: “I never read in public before, but this stage feels safe” or “I was afraid there was nobody else like me until I came here” or “I was so inspired I wrote my first poem after the last Dirty Queer.” Knowing I’m helping create a space where people can find their voice, their community, and a connection to sex that isn’t about shame is the greatest gift of this entire process.
PQ: What does the future hold for Dirty Queer?
Hopefully another 6 years, at least! I plan to continue to have this event as long as it’s vital and productive for all involved. We changed to a quarterly format this year to keep it sustainable, and it’s my hope and plan that this will create more time for other Dirty Queer projects like the anthology, and writing workshop series.
PQ: Why do we need Dirty Queer?
Chiricuzio: We need Dirty Queer because sex is still more about shame and fear and abuse of power in this world than it is about personal empowerment, pleasure and health. We need Dirty Queer because we still have so many unhealthy myths about sexual health, practices and options. We need Dirty Queer because we are not raised to negotiate for ourselves, or with each other, for what we genuinely want and need. We need Dirty Queer because we need each other. This is our village square, our group therapy, or, as so many have said, our church.