My Gay Toronto - 416 Scene

Coming Out Queer:
Raymond Helkio, Keith Cole and a cast of dozens destablilize the normal

"It started as a bit of a joke but now it's turned into the very thing that we wanted to see," says Raymond Helkio of the event Coming Out Queer. "I was at Cineforum with Reg Hartt watching a bunch of Bruce LaBruce films. We had this really great chat about the state of art and boundary pushing and what the limits are, how the gay community can censor ourselves. We realized this was a much larger conversation that should take place somewhere like at Buddies. Enter Keith Cole ..."

Cole didn't believe that 100 people would come out for a talk, discussion or panel, and Helkio agreed. So, "Let's do something a little more extraordinary," and the night evolved into a performance/film screening/discussion. He references the Daytona Bitch and Donnarama scandals and "how they were handled. There are those scenarios and how we respond as a community. How cool and powerful that they were trying something new, too bad it may or may not have worked, and we say, 'When boundary pushing doesn't work: you're over.' We usually cast out really great people in our community for trying something extraordinary."

Cole is going to screen his controversial Nancy Boy vs Manly Woman as well as  perform an iconic Sharon Needles performance in the audience while the films are screening. Helkio is premiering a video, Nobody Knows Freedom starring Donnarama, that was made for Madonna's #ArtForFreedom project. Rolyn Chambers as Reid from the boy band One Complextion, Miss Butter, Magina Hurts and Pepper Highway - all boundary pushers - are also scheduled to do something unspecified but most likely transgessive. "It's all right to have babies and get married and dance wherever we want and all that stuff that's deemed 'normal,' but there's still a place for the drag queens standing at the front of the picket line, for AIDS Action Now, activism, art and queerness. It takes a lot of guts to come out as gay, but it takes more guts to come out as queer. Are we living the extraordinary life we deserve?"

They are aiming for Helkio's response to the first time he saw Lena Love perform, "Wow. This is crazy shit! And we need more of that, not less. It's the unreasonable people who get unreasonable things done. The unreasonable man. Or woman. Or non-gender." Reg Hartt is going to moderate the discussion after recounting a personal story. That begs the question, will anyone else get a word in? Helkio laughs, "Reg will do whatever he wants but I'll be there to tell him to shut up. I hope it will be a spirited dialogue but if not Reg will just keep talking and fill the space. I don't agree with everything he does or believes in it but I respect his opinions. It's a rare offering. And so are his eyebrows."

Helkio worries that we as LGBTs are "slowly diluting ourselves. The rest of the world still sucks in terms of LGBT rights. Once we stop fighting and pushing forward, they'll push back. There's a sense of safety in polished perfect performances and polished perfect people and it makes me worry, 'Am I the only one who's broken?' If there's that ick factor at first, that's okay. Maybe we all just need to take a deep breath and realize that there's room for all of us, including the mistakes we make."

Buddies has a history of boundary-pushing nights with The Gaza Strip Club morphing with much scandal, gossip and infighting into Andrew Harwood's Revue of Beauty and Talent,and then into The Keith Cole Experience, and finally Fuck U Fridays. "We also lost Will Munro and Vazaleen, that place were you could be unapologetically queer, just being fun," says Helkio. "As long as there is a need for it, we'd love to keep this going. It would be great to recapture that experience of being so excited you wanted to stay up all night without the use of drugs. It's empowering to see people hold their head up and say, 'This is what I'm doing bitch.' One Rhubarbshow I saw, that I thought was failing the whole time, I couldn't get out of my head, it stayed with me for three weeks. You don't get great gifts by being safe. That all being said, we may be presenting the world's biggest pile of shit if the experiment doesn't go as planned. One thing I'm convinced of though, you really can't go wrong with Keith Cole. He's got a really long dong so that will save the day."

Coming Out Queer d├ębuts on Thurs, June 4 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander St.