Continuing on from June’s Pride month celebrations, July’s Ignite meet-up focused on connections between gender and creativity, with two speakers from the local LGBTQIA+ community.
First up was Bucky Ringsell, owner of Chelmsford’s independent comics shop Dark Side Comics, who delved into gender and queer representation in the Marvel universe. While many of us are probably familiar with characters like Spider-Man or The Avengers in some form or another, Bucky showed us how their vastly their portrayal can differ between comics and movies respectively. For example, Loki is a genderfluid comics character but this is left unmentioned in the Avengers movies; similarly Deadpool’s open pansexuality is only loosely hinted at in the cinematic universe. Bucky also highlighted the issue of representation: of 23 Marvel movies across the last decade, just 2 featured a female title character (and one of those, Ant-Man and the Wasp, is a co-title) and there are no queer title characters whatsoever.
This brought Bucky to discuss their role as a comics-seller – they believe it is important for everyone to see themselves reflected in the media they consume. As the comics industry is generally less profit-driven than the film industry, there is often more room for creators to explore different aspects of characters’ identities, which results in better representation for all groups of people. Bucky was also keen to point out that there is much more to comics than just superheroes – Dark Side regularly stocks books from all genres that include queer characters or are made by queer people.
A healthy discussion followed regarding the politics of using the word ‘queer’, which is now generally agreed to be an inclusive, umbrella term rather than a slur. There was also advice for allies such as listening, asking questions, and checking pronouns. Bucky finished by recommending a few comics series including Midnighter and Apollo, Iceman (from X-men), anything with Loki, and Young Avengers. And of course there are many more titles to be found on the shelves at Dark Side.
Next up was Garry Patrick, who performs as drag queen Ruby Violet, speaking about how drag helped him find confidence and freedom. Garry began with a great quote from Gloria Gaynor, summing up the pride he feels as a queer man and drag queen: “I am what I am and what I am needs no excuses”.
Garry’s personal and intimate account of his formative years was filled with humorous anecdotes, like when he won an award for “best entertainment” at football camp after dressing up in different outfits every day. We also heard about Garry’s influences, including Lily Savage, musical theatre and the strong women in his family. But Garry experienced his fair share of darkness on the way to becoming a performer, too. After struggling with depression and anxiety, Garry was encouraged by his best friend to perform in drag for the first time at a cabaret fundraiser. This performance gave him power and acceptance he never knew he had. The next day he set up Ruby Violet’s instagram account and drag became an integral part of his life.
Garry describes Ruby as giving him freedom and, with her cheeky, naughty and risque personality, he is able to say things he might not otherwise get away with! Drag was also described by Garry not as a mask, but armour – something that empowers you and makes you stronger than you would be without it. Like Bucky, Garry believes that representation is key, especially for young queer people, so advocates for events that increase queer visibility, such as drag storytime. He also works within the queer community and believes it’s important to give others the opportunity to express themselves however they wish. One of the ways Garry does this is though Ruby’s Rendezvous, a monthly drag revue where queer artists across all media are invited to take up space on the stage. Ruby also hosts a Chocolate-Coated Quiz night in London, and performs at other events locally and further afield. You can catch Garry performing as Catherine of Aragon (alongside Henry VIII and 5 other (drag) queens) at Chelmsford Museum from 19th August.
Discussion about Chelmsford’s queer scene followed, with members of the audience expressing that they often feel unsafe in the city and so are unable to hold their partner’s hands, show affection or wear certain clothes. Garry suggested a club night to give local queer people a safe space to meet, while Bucky highlighted their new initiative, Queer Chelmsford, to create a queer-friendly network of local businesses across the city.
Other local events coming up:
August Drink and Draw – social gathering with drinks… and drawing!
6th August, 6.30pm – 9.30pm, The Bay Horse
Culture in the Park – a free festival organised by Chelmsford Creatives, celebrating culture and community.
31st August, 11am – 5pm, Chelmsford Museum
Next Ignite meetup – Thursday 8th August
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