Tag Archives: lgbt

Mami Slut Will Decolonize Your Culo

Mami Slut is one of the only dance parties in Mexico City with a mission of "desculonialization," the liberation of culos with Latin beats. Since it was started a year and a half ago by DJ Travieza (Jovan Israel) and La Mendoza, the monthly celebration at Bahia Bar has become a premier gathering point for queer folks looking for a safe space to grind to reggaeton, cumbia, dembow, and basically anything other than the house music and Madonna songs that dominate the city's gay parties.

Like many of the revelers who come to the celebration, La Mendoza and DJ Travieza are artists who push boundaries with their creativity. La Mendoza identifies as a "travestí," a word reclaimed by activists that embodies an anti-colonial spirit and rejects Western gender constructs. When La Mendoza's not turning up at Mami Slut, she's designing clothes and teaching people how to vogue. DJ Travieza, on the other hand, is well known for his genderqueer drawings. When he DJs, it's almost always in drag. The two often coordinate their outfits, from candy-colored wigs in Sailor Moon–style buns, ripped fishnets, and wild décolletage to imprudent heels worn with carefully, hyperbolically lacquered pouts.

Their emphasis on style has spread to the attendees and helped turn Mami Slut's dance floor into a runway. Kitty ears, studded dog collars, and several dance partners at once are all popular accessories. Drag queens and twinks come out in full force to pay the 50 peso ($2.61) cover. Still, a large percentage of Mami's attendees are straight girls, who feel free to body roll without the persistent male douchebaggery they face at other local reggaeton parties. Travieza and La Mendoza are not the kind of people who would discourage this—their resident DJs Mataputos and Rosa Pistola project a distinct girls-first atmosphere.

Some might say that gender equality on the dance floor won't change the world. But I know that having a positive, communal space like Mami Slut can change someone's life, because it changed mine. At Mami Slut, I'm a better, more brazen, and somehow more gracious version of myself.

I remember one recent night when my friends lifted me onstage for the party's monthly twerk contest, which had a prize of 250 pesos (approximately $13.30 USD). I was wearing a long blue wig and an ominously short dress. Right when I hit the stage, I assumed the perreo position. The competition eventually came down to a final round between my ample hips and a boy whose rock hard six pack fought for attention with his piston-like go-go moves. I'm not going to lie, the kid was athletic. But don't believe what they tell you about potheads having weak lungs: My cheering section went hard.

In the end, Travieza had a difficult time judging the crowd's winner from the screams of the audience. It didn't seem fair that the Mami Slut crowd was going to have to decide between me and the go-go guy, two visions of perreo perfection. So I leaned over to my dance foe, put my mouth next to his ear, and asked, "What if we tied?" Go-go babe's eyes lit up, and he grabbed the microphone. "We're going to share the prize!" he shouted. The crowd squealed triumphantly. We were the conquerors of the night, our hang-ups, and reggaeton gender essentialists. Thanks for sharing the love Mami Slut, air kisses, and perreo duro para ti, siempre.

Scroll down for more photos of Mami Slut by Erin Lee Holland.

Follow Caitlin Donohue on Twitter.

See more photos by Erin Lee Holland.

Cheap Pints and Sanctuary in the UK’s ‘Most Remote’ Gay Bar

This article first appeared on VICE UK. 

It's just past 11PM on a dreary Saturday when I arrive at the Central Bar in Strabane. It's not the only place to get pissed in this small Northern Irish town; the pubs and bars that line the high street are a clear signal that people here like a drink. But unlike the other watering holes, this bar is out, proud and gay.

Sitting right on the border of Northern Ireland and the Republic, Strabane isn't a place you'd expect to have a thriving queer scene. Back in 2005, professional stud-wall finders Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer named it the eighth worst place to live in the UK, and this traditionally conservative corner of the British Isles is a far cry from the bustling streets of Soho, or Manchester's Canal Street. Northern Ireland is yet to legalise same sex marriage, so in a town of just 17,000 an LGBT venue is quite unexpected.

But since its opening in 2008, the Central Bar has become a favourite among Strabane's younger locals, opening its doors Monday to Sunday for queers and straights alike.

"I always thought there was a market for a gay bar in the area," owner James Mccarran explains over the phone. He's 46, heterosexual and unashamedly proud to be the landlord of the UK's most remote gay bar. James has been in the bar business since the age of 13, and time and time again would ask his bosses to put on a gay night. "They'd always refuse to," he says, "so I knew I wanted to open my own – it's a market that needed to be tapped into."

I'm somewhat hesitant as I step inside; middle-aged straight blokes don't often run gay bars in small towns, and a part of me thinks this all might be some sort of god-awful trap. But the place feels reassuringly familiar: rainbow flags on the walls; a DJ in a polo shirt pumping out trashy pop songs; a sign advertising "BIG GAY WEDNESDAYS" hanging proudly above the bar.

Shauna

"I've been working here for nine months now, see," 21-year-old Shauna tells me, "but I definitely drank here before then." Passing me a pint – it's two beers for a fiver tonight – she shows me around the busy bar. There are two main rooms, but just one is currently open, plus there's a slightly dingy smoking area outside.

"Generally it's a gay bar," Shauna continues, "but it's a mixed crowd of everybody, as everyone here is welcomed equal. There aren't really gay bars in small Northern Irish towns like this – the nearest to here is Belfast [an hour and 45 minutes' drive away]."

Shauna tells me that they never have any trouble, besides the occasional drunken spat, and that it's rammed almost every night of the week. "It's such a small town, but we sometimes even need to get extra staff in," she adds proudly.


WATCH: 'Living Through Gay Conversion Therapy'


With Shauna off to serve another punter, I take a seat at an empty table, turning to talk to a group of guys. "No, I'm definitely not gay," one of them assures me when I ask if any identify as LGBT, "but there's nothing wrong with being gay either, mind." Nobody else in the group is forthcoming, with one guy looking at me slightly awkwardly before also turning around.

In gay bars in larger towns and cities, straight invasions are often bemoaned by the queer clientele. But if Stonewall's estimate that 6 percent of Brits are gay is correct, it stands to reason that, here, straight people are a necessary demographic to keep business ticking over.

Steven

Outside in the courtyard 18-year-old Steven Patton is drinking, and welcomes me over when I ask for a chat. "I'm here because I'm gay," he tells me matter-of-factly, "and to be honest it's the only bar I feel comfortable in in the town." Born and bred in this small community, the bar has been a godsend for Steven. "This place normalised being gay in the town," he continues, "so when I came out it wasn't such a shock. Knowing there's a gay bar in the town has helped people understand, to see. I already know so many trans people coming out here – I never thought that would happen in this town."

We talk about coming to terms with our sexuality; how as a young queer person it's an indescribably lonely task. LGBT isn't a heredity condition, so finding guidance among your immediate support network can be a tricky prospect. Pop culture references and googling "what does gay mean" in an incognito Chrome window only takes you so far; human contact and an understanding ear are vital.

The gay bar, therefore, becomes nothing short of a sanctuary; a pilgrimage to be made when it's time to explore and to escape. They're spaces for contact, for community; places to embrace your desires in ways straight kids had for so long taken for granted. Small town teens usually have to travel for hours to find one, but not in Strabane.

"If this place wasn't here, I don't know what would have happened," Steven smiles.

Kelly

As I head back inside someone shoves a shot in my direction. "Drink it!" they yell, and I happily oblige. Perched on the stool opposite is Kelly Devlin, another regular who lives just down the road. Born in London, the 34-year-old has been in Northern Ireland for nearly a decade, moving to Belfast before ending up here in Strabane.

"When I lived in Belfast for a wee while I met a guy and had a child," she explains. "Then I came to Strabane and figured out that actually I like women. I got with a girl and, well, me and her split up, but since then I've been rolling with it! When I was younger you'd go to a certain bar and act a certain way around here; you'd have to talk a certain way, be a certain person. Now you can just come here and be yourself. It's changed the community – it's changed Strabane, for sure."

Whitney (centre)

With the place getting busier, an off-duty barmaid called Whitney grabs me to have a chat upstairs. "There are a lot of younger fellas who do come into the bar, but who've not come out to their family," she says. "They feel it's alright to talk to us about it; they feel comfortable here."

A few drinks in and it's normal for a guy to ask to pop outside with one of the team for a fag, for him to say that he's gay and not sure how to handle it, looking desperately for a helping hand. "It feels great, like you're helping people, as if you're their mammy," Whitney grins. "Sometimes they'll come back during the week, when they're not drinking, and have another chat. It's such a small town, and I think people still find it hard to speak about being gay. It's nice to be here to help them."

The next few hours are pretty blurry, but there's enough music, booze and unwanted groping to match any other big gay night out. As I stumble towards the exit, and beeline for the local chippy, it dawns on me just how much of an impact this place has already had. A home for local queers, and a place of advice and refuge, the Central Bar clearly serves its customers well. But more than anything it's quite literally put "gay" on the map in this small town, starting conversations that force people to open up and chat.

Gay shame and stigma still run deep in our culture, and the earlier we confront what it means to be queer the easier the coming out process – and what follows – will become. And when there's a gay bar at the heart of a small town community, you know that, at the least, it'll be getting people to talk, especially when vodkas are a quid.

@MikeSegalov

Apparently No One Will Hire the Former Governor Who Signed the Transphobic Bathroom Law

Former North Carolina governor Pat McCrory cemented his legacy when he signed House Bill 2 into law last March, which forces transgender people to use bathrooms according to the gender they were assigned at birth. He also signed a bill preventing "cities, towns, and counties from enacting any local ordinances prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and sexuality." Now, it appears that legacy is haunting McCrory.

The guy who made it legal to discriminate against LGBTQ people in North Carolina now says he's become a victim of prejudice—apparently, he can't find a job, the News & Observer reports. On an evangelical Christian podcast, the ex-governor said Monday that HB-2 "has impacted me to this day, even after I left office. People are reluctant to hire me, because, 'Oh my gosh, he's a bigot'—which is the last thing I am."

Complaining of left-leaning groups harming his reputation, McCrory continued, "If you disagree with the politically correct thought police on this new definition of gender, you're a bigot, you're the worst of evil."

The News & Observer reported that in response the North Carolina Democratic Party spokesman Mike Gwin said, "North Carolina has already lost hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity and thousands of jobs as a direct result of House Bill 2, but I guess we can start adding Governor McCrory's career to the total as well."

In the immortal words of DJ Khaled: "You played yourself, Pat McCrory."

Follow Eve Peyser on Twitter.

What 90s Anime ‘Ranma 1/2’ Taught Me About Gender Fluidity

I must have been six years old the first time I ever saw Ranma 1/2. At the time I didn't know why I was so drawn to this Japanese anime that featured a character who was a boy that transformed into a girl every time he came into contact with cold water. And there were boobs. Lots and lots of boobs.

At the time, I lived in the US, where the only channels my brother and I were allowed to watch were the Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. We used to spend the summers in Mexico, where we would stay at my grandparent's house. They didn't have cable, so we were stuck watching Canal 5, a children's TV network owned by Televisa.

Boy Ranma

Canal 5 broadcasted a bunch of anime shows. It was through this channel that I realized I wasn't into Dragon Ball Z, but grew to deeply love Samurai Pizza Cats and Ranma 1/2. Ranma was nothing like the shows I was used to watching. For one, it had so much nudity and homoeroticism. It was, without meaning to be, the first LGBTQ show I ever watched.

Ranma 1/2 takes place in Tokyo. The story centers on a boy and his dad who have just returned from a martial arts training trip to China where both of them fell into cursed springs. Ranma turns into a girl when he is splashed with cold water, and his dad turns into a panda. After returning to Tokyo, Ranma's father informs him that they will be staying with an old friend of his and that he is now officially engaged to one of his daughters—Akane.

Girl Ranma sleeping

This premise allows for some incredibly racy, and notably queer and trans positive scenes. Ryoga, another male character, becomes obsessed with Akane, as well as female Ranma. This provokes a lot of conflict and confusion for Ranma, who is suddenly having homoerotic dreams that he's grossed out by. Six-year-old me was especially interested in interactions between Akane and female Ranma, who had the mind of a boy but was attracted to girls.

The show also has its share of homophobic and misogynistic content—not unusual considering that the anime version was originally aired nearly 30 years ago in 1989. In 1993, it was bought by Viz Media and dubbed into English in Vancouver, BC.

While other LGBTQ-themed shows that came later in the 90s, like Will and Grace, were written off by mainstream audiences as "too gay," Ranma 1/2 managed to bypass any reactionary protest—perhaps because no characters explicitly identified as "gay" or "trans." Yet to queer and trans youth, it not-that-subtly reflected back our current and future struggles.

Comic writer Charlotte Finn reviewed the manga version of Ranma 1/2, which predates the anime, in a series she created called Lost in Transition, in which she explores trans characters in comics. "When it comes to transgender themes, there is a link there, but not in the way someone may expect," she wrote.

"When Ranma is doused with cold water, Ranma winds up with a body and a social status that feels wrong, and which Ranma plainly doesn't want—much like how many transgender people feel physical and social dysphoria, a feeling of disconnect or being out of sync with one's body or social role. Ranma isn't a boy who turns into a girl. Ranma is a cisgender boy who turns into a transgender boy."

I was interested to know if Finn had had a similar experience to me, mainly that she realized later on that this show might have played a role in helping her discover who she was, so I contacted Finn to ask: Did Ranma 1/2 play a role in your journey toward coming out as trans?

"I read and saw a lot of media in that general vein, those kinds of webcomics and mangas and cartoons and animes that are trans-adjacent but not actually about being trans. Where gender is fluid and maybe that's good, but maybe it's also a curse or a joke. Alternately called 'forced feminization' stories or, more crudely, the what-the-heck-happened-to-my-genitals genre."

It wasn't until recently that I realized just how much Ranma's gender fluidity and the subsequent homoeroticism present in the show are vilified. I only remembered that this show sometimes had a girl in it that liked girls. It also had a guy who was forced to be different gender every time he was splashed with cold water.

"I clicked with that, because I definitely felt a kinship with the desire to be a different gender than the one I was designated as having from birth," said Finn. "But I also felt so, so ashamed about it, because the world told me it was shameful since before I could even speak, and I internalized that message. So media that treated it like it was a bad thing tended to play into those feelings of shame that I had."

"Once I made the connection in my head, once I realized I was trans, I instantly saw why it appealed to me, and also that it couldn't really be all that I wanted. It didn't have all the pieces of the puzzle, but it had some, and I think that's why it's such a well-remembered trans and queer text even as we grapple with its blind spots."

This tends to be the case with shows that feature any form of queer representation. As a 28-year-old lesbian, I'm finally over that need to watch a show just because some usually poorly constructed character happens to be gay. And luckily, nowadays, there are many more shows, some of them are even good shows, that feature LGBTQ characters who aren't vilified or killed off.

It's surprising that a show about a gender-bending martial artist was so easily available to children in Mexico in the early and mid 90s. I honestly can't see it being aired anywhere in North America without protest today. But it's still pretty amazing how many young boys watched that show and apparently had no issues with the homoeroticism and the gender bending. Finn has a theory as to why this is.

"The martial arts battles were the gateway drug—even if you weren't into Ranma grappling with fraught questions of gender and sexuality, you could at least see the characters beat seven kinds of hell out of each other. There was even a fighting game, the perfect video game tie-in," explains Finn.

"Humor can go a long way in defusing gay panic amongst the straights… and Ranma 1/2 was equal parts classical farce sex comedy as it was martial arts battles and general queerness. Top Gun was the number one movie the year it came out in, and I'm fairly sure all those tickets weren't bought by gay men, even though it is just about the gayest movie of the 1980s."

Follow Aurora Tejeida on Twitter.

What Actual Lesbians Want to See from TV Lesbians

This post originally appeared on VICE UK.

"I will sit through anything, however bad it is, if it's got lesbians in it," admits Alice, 29, a London-based web designer. She's far from alone; my friends and I have also been doing the "endurtainment" thing for years. Why? Because five years on from the UK's last lesbian-centric TV series (RIP, Lip Service), we're still perpetually desperate for credible primetime portrayals of ourselves on the small screen.

This is despite living in a period in which queer female characters are more visible than ever—in soaps (EastendersCoronations Street), sci-fi (Dr. Who), tea-time dramas (Call the Midwife), and popular imports (WentworthThe Good Wife). But it's quality not quantity that matters—something Jacquie Lawrence, the BAFTA Award–winning producer wants to get across on her new series, Different for Girls. "I've always said: You don't have to be a policeman to write The Bill, but it helps—enormously. LGBT writers know their world, and the lack of these writers in mainstream TV really shows."

Right now, we're kind of here, and kind of queer, but rarely for long enough or in any meaningful capacity. I spoke to other gay women about how they felt about LGBTQ characters on TV. "We're fed crumbs," says Bettie, 34, a mental health nurse from Sheffield. "We get rubbish stereotypes, or seasons of queer-baiting [all subtext, no pay-off]. And we get to see our faves killed off, over and over again."

It's true. Execs are still, inexcusably, burying our gays: Kate in Last Tango in Halifax, Lexa in The 100, Dr. Denise in The Walking Dead, Wendy in Jessica Jones, Poussey in Orange Is the New Black. Autostraddle crunched the numbers last year, and the results were un-fucking-forgivable. It doesn't just suck for viewers, points out Jacquie—it endangers the most vulnerable of us. "Disposing of lesbian characters so regularly has an acute effect on young lesbians and their self-esteem, particularly if they're struggling with their sexuality." It's a correlation the Trevor Project, a US suicide-prevention helpline for LBGTQ teens, has been vocal about in recent months.

Programming doesn't have to be this tragic. Ask queer women what (and who) they want on TV, and they'll tell you, in precise and loquacious detail.

The US Is Ahead of the UK by a Mile

UK programming is notoriously hit (Sugar Rush, Bad Girls, Skins) and miss (Candy Bar Girls)—especially when compared to our American counterparts. That's partly down to funding, says Sophie, 38, a feminist film critic from London. "There's more money in US television. In the UK, there are fewer pipelines for creators and a narrower range of commissioning channels." Little wonder, then, that so many of us still cleave to boxset staples of lesbian yesteryear: The L Word; Xena, Princess Warrior; Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy reruns are a constant," says Sophie, "not just for lesbian and queer fandom, but for basic survival."

Amazon

Streaming Sites Are Killing It

The queer lady next door in straight-centric soaps and dramas may be increasingly common, but it's streaming sites—Netflix, Amazon—that are putting us center stage, en masse, in flagship originals where we're myriad (Jessica Jones), diverse (Orange Is the New Black; Sense8), and playing the protagonist (Transparent) rather than the wing woman. "Streaming shows have been a major driver of change—which is a problem, because they're expensive to access," notes Sophie. "Teenage me definitely wouldn't have been able to afford the subscription fees," agrees Alice. "It's so important to have positive LGBTQ representation easily accessible to young people, without needing their parents approval or credit card."

We Struggle on Primetime

However applause-worthy streaming shows are, terrestrial remains key. "You can't beat the power of [offline] TV's reach when it comes to straight audiences," says Dana, a London-via-Trinidad-based musician and activist. "We have to come to them, so to speak, in order to challenge their preconceived and often ignorant notions of who queer women are and how we live." Tara, 28, a film curator, agrees. Taking up space in conservative broadcast media is essential, she says. "I want to hit society right in the mainstream—especially for viewers who see lesbiqueer content as a niche thing; but also for people who would never seek it out online, for folks who would never otherwise realize they need to be seeing it."

Not All Lesbians Look like They Do on 'The L Word'

Young, thin, white, and able-bodied remains the default portrayal of queer womanhood. "I want to see more lesbiqueers of color," says Tara. "I want trans characters played by trans actors, disabled characters played by disabled actors. I want a landing place for queer TV. I want stories that feature multifaceted characters telling interesting stories." And when it comes to class, we're as hungry for reality as we are escapism," says Alice. "The bougie LA wealth of The L Word is fun to watch, but it's nothing like most people's real lives."

Orange Is the New Black,  Jenji Kohan's landmark prison drama, proved what we've been saying for years: Queer women want diversity. We're hungry for the conspicuously absent woman: the older, fat, non-binary, disabled, migrant, and polyamorous characters that straight TV has either studiously ignored or actively othered. When these characters are cast well, and given worthy arcs, dialogue, and sets, we'll pay a monthly fee to keep them in our lives.

We're Done with Coming-Out Stories

As Dana points out, those narratives tend to serve straight voyeurism over the queer gaze. "I want to see more women who know who the fuck they are and are beyond struggling with self-acceptance. It's one of the reasons I love (L Word favorite) Bette Porter so damn hard." Shows like The Fosters are great for depicting the bittersweet daily grind of family life in gay suburbia, but it's important to note that we're not all chasing that assimilationist dream, says Betty, 30, a London-based editor. "Can we say it's OK that not all of us want children?"

We Want Less Drama, More Ingenuity

Romance is nice but needn't define us, points out Sophie. "I'd like to see more queer women presented through their professional expertise, like Annalise Keating on How to Catch a Murderer, or queer women getting shit done in other ways, via politics and science, like Cosima and Delphine in Orphan Black." That said, we also want more sex. Lots of it. And we want those scenes written and directed by women with lived experience of queer sex. Don't think we can't tell the difference, Cosmo.

Crowdfunding Helps, but It's Not a Cure-All

Different for Girls—which promises not to skimp on NSFW scenes of the aforementioned kindraised nearly 25 percent of its budget via IndieGogo. Is that route the best way forward when it comes to sharing our stories? Or should mainstream studios work harder to fold us into corporate programming? "In a perfect world, it would be both," says Jacquie.

On that note, what would our readers commission if they had their own TV network to command? Dana would reboot The L Word, starting with a rewrite of the final season—a season so trash that even Lucy Lawless couldn't save it. Dana would play herself ("an out, gay musician") and cast Priyanka Chopra as her love interest. "We're meant to be together, but she can't/won't come out to her conservative Indian parents—her dad is a prominent Republican in Trump's administration, caping for family values—and I'm forced back into the closet. We have intense chemistry that rivals Sharmen/Tibette, and everyone is rooting for us, but will it work out?"

Tara's hankering for an Afro-futurist space saga. "As a lover of ridiculous action movies and sci-fi, I dream of a feminist-style Firefly with QTIPOC characters of all backgrounds and abilities. The script would require lots of banter and kicking white men in the face."

Sophie doesn't have to dream; her ideal show is already in the works. "Kirsten Johnson announced last year that she's working on a pilot with the Soloway sisters. I have no idea what it will be about, but the meeting point of Cameraperson (Kirsten's 2016 documentary) and Transparent is everywhere I want to be."

Lead image: The L Word/Showtime

Different for Girls premieres this month at BFI Flare. It will be on YouTube on Saturday, March 18.

Follow Charlotte Richardson Andrews on Twitter.

The Violence of Growing Up Gay in a Poor French Village

Click here to read an exclusive extract from The End of Eddy by Edouard Louis

Edouard Louis' first book, The End of Eddy (En Finir Avec Eddy Bellegueule), was a sensation and fired him to the forefront of French literary society. Published in French in 2014, when Louis was just 21 years old, it was ostensibly a memoir about the brutalities of growing up gay in one of northern France's many neglected, impoverished villages. The book's directness about violence, sex, his family, and those in his neighborhood is stunning. But it is also far more than a just memoir, it is a scathing condemnation of the cycle of poverty and violence inflicted upon those he grew up with, those same people who tormented him for much of his early life. VICE published the first chapter of The End of Eddy in the 2016 Fiction Issue. With the book now released in the UK, we caught up with Louis to discuss the pervasiveness of violence, the book's relevance in light of the growing influence of the far-right Front National and its leader Marine Le Pen, and the difficulties of being a working class touchstone for the world's liberal, literary elites.

VICE: The End of Eddy works on two levels. There's the personal side which examines your early life and the violence you endured, then there's the wider implication of that life: the condemnation of poverty and violence in certain sections of French society. Was it your intention from the outset to tackle such broad political and social issues?
Edouard Louis: What I wanted to do, firstly and above everything else, was to talk about these dominated, excluded people whom I describe in the book. It is about this village in the North of France, far from any city, any station, where 20 years ago everyone would work at a factory—which has now closed—where people are now jobless and hopeless. And about how this violence which people suffer from ends up creating more violence. If you suffer from violence all your life, in the end you inflict it upon others, for example upon gays, upon what people call "strangers," or women.

"Violence is the invisible foundation of our lives"

So from the outset that is what I wanted to talk about—these people who we never hear about and never talk about. I didn't know that the book would be translated into 20 or 25 languages, I thought I would sell maybe 800 copies—so I didn't think about "will it be about the north of France, or something more?" At the same time you could say that William Faulkner wrote about a tiny region in the American South, but all the issues he discussed were universal. And precisely because he focused on a microcosm it exposed all the characteristics of this world we live in, the racism and the violence.

Another thing that's remarkable about the book is that your tone is rarely accusatory. Many people may find that surprising given the litany of abuses you suffered growing up. But the feeling in the book is that it is not the fault of those who persecuted you.
I think violence is at the heart of the book. The fact is that violence is the invisible foundation of our lives. You are born and suddenly people tell you, "you are a nigger," "you are a faggot," "you are just a woman"—you don't even understand language, but you realize that there is already something that labels you, and this label will define your life, your future. And that sort of thing is much more present in the region I grew up in, precisely because of the violence people suffered from, that they then perpetuated. People there are excluded, so they exclude. I could just as well have called the book something like "Sociological Excuses."

When I was a kid I hated my mother, and hated my father. My father would say "we need to put gays and Jews in concentration camps" almost every day and I thought he was talking about me, that I was included in this category of people who were to be killed.

And then in leaving the village and starting to write the book, I realized that the causes of this violence and hate are not in my father, they are much bigger. The book is not saying "my father is poor," but that the system made my father poor. Not that "my father is violent," but the system makes my father violent. There is a chronology to this in the book, and chronology is important. When I first introduce my father I describe his life first, that his father would beat his mother, and then I say my father was violent.

Your decision to use your own life, to name and describe your parents, cousins, grandparents, the people you went to school with and knew from birth to the time you left the village, as all being complicit in this situation must have upset a lot of people. Yet it is the personal aspect that acts as a vehicle for the wider sociological issues. That must have been a hard call to make?
It was sometimes very difficult to write such personal things. Even to expose myself like I have in the book. In the first scene of the book two guys come up to me at middle school and spit in my face. I was scared because I didn't want to be seen as a victim, or only as a victim. Of course I was a victim at one point, like most people are at some point of their life. Who can say, "I was never a victim in my life"? Nobody, except liars. But my revealing these intimate things I would imagine is precisely the interesting thing about the book. The border between what is private and what is public is a historical border and we put in the shadows of privacy what we don't want to address. When Simone de Beauvoir talked about the woman, people (including Camus) would say, "Oh it's not our business to know about women's lives." You have to expose these things.

On top of that I didn't really think about these revelations as a risk because I didn't think I would sell many copies. There were no books in my village, no books in my house. I simply never thought it would reach those people, that it would reach my family.

People tell me, "You didn't think enough about your family," but for me when I write a book I think more about queer people, or people of colour, or women than I think about my family. What is this rebirth of the family values? Be kind to your parents? When I talk about women being beaten, gays being assaulted, or these people voting for Marine Le Pen—more than half my village have voted for her—that is far more important to me than my Mama or my Papa.

As I said, the book's tone is not accusatory, in the wider context it is not these people you are attacking.
Some people have told me that the book is "contemptful." I asked them which part they found to be so, and they said, "For example you say in the book that your father didn't wash every day," to which I said, "I don't despise that. It's your problem if you think it's disgusting. I don't." I am just describing the situation and plus, I explain why this situation takes place.

You mention Marine Le Pen, and clearly the book's vivid depiction of an under-exposed section of French society—the section from which a part of her voter base is likely to come—is very timely, given her growing power.
Of course the way people read or interpret books is always different, but in one way of course the book is about the rise of all this populism, all around the world. When I was reading articles about Brexit for example, those voting for it who were quoted in the media were saying the exact same things that my mother would say when voting for Le Pen: "Nobody listens to us, nobody cares about us, we are worthless…" Those responsible for what is happening are those often left-wing people who have never listened to these sections of society who feel ignored.

The End of Eddy was written out of anger. I had moved to Paris and I would hear these Parisians talking about the working class, well they thought they were talking about the working class, but they were actually talking about the distance between them and the working class. Everything they said just illustrated that gap instead of the subject they meant to discus.

This must have left you in an odd and, at times, uncomfortable situation? You are feted by the left wing, literary crowds around the world—seen as a contact point for that elite with the working classes. Yet you are part of that working class, and are left somewhere between those two worlds?
It was complicated. Part of these elites attacked me when I published The End of Eddy. Some of the liberal left, when they talk about the working class, they like to create a mythology about "the good people," the simple and honest people, who are not "pretending all the time" like the bourgeoisie. Who are these people? Who are they talking about? About white, straight, men? They aren't talking about the poorest, about queers, women, Arabs. They are talking about a minority, the brave white straight working class man, and because of that the others, the majority, suffer.

Lately, some so-called intellectuals have tended to see the class war in opposition with what they call "identity politics." They suggest that, since the end of the 20th century, political movements for emancipation have focused more and more on gender, race, sexuality, and less and less on social class war. But this opposition between class and identity is wrong. I try to point out that every single class issue is an issue of gender and sexuality, as the philosopher Geoffroy de Lagasnerie pointed out.

For example, in the book, to be a working class man means to reject what was perceived as the "feminity" of the bourgeoisie: the men who cross their legs when they sit, the bourgeois who eats small plates in place of the big meals of real men.

Even more, constructing your masculinity in this village means refusing to play by the rules of the education system, to challenge the teachers, and to auto-exclude your self from the possibility of further study and therefore, to be condemned to stay in the same social class as your parents. To read was considered as something effeminate, sexually suspicious, something for "faggots." So, we will never achieve a class revolution without achieving a sexual and gender revolution.

In the same way that the intelligencia, if you want to call them that, have maybe reacted badly to your book, presumably there's also been a reaction from those depicted in The End of Eddy?
Obviously the big problem here is that when you talk about the reaction of poor people—most of the time they will not be reading the book. Mostly they were excluded from school young, they were excluded from legitimate culture… some people want to say that everybody can read.

But it's actually so much more radical to acknowledge that these people are so harassed by their work, and had such violent experiences at school that most of the time they do not read a lot. Of course there are exceptions, but mostly they don't. My father never read a book in his life, my mother neither. So it's hard to address the question of how the book affected those depicted.
I do however think that a book can play a role beyond it's readers, for example the life of black people was changed by the work of James Baldwin or Toni Morrison even for those who didn't read the work. It entered the minds of people who read and made the issues discussed present in the political arena.

And what of those critics from that section of society, those who said it the book isn't a true depiction of that life?
This is the very key to book! I wrote it to find the violence that I didn't feel when I was a kid. If violence is always with you, you just call it life. You think it's normal. When I was a kid, sometimes we ran out of food. My mother would say "just drink some milk for your meal," I was hungry, so I wasn't happy, but I didn't find that to be "violent". I needed to leave the village to understand that that is indeed a sort of violence—for a 10-year-old kid to not have food to eat. So that's another issue, that those from that world who do read the book may just see these things as normal. As a queer person of course I had a different point of view from many of those around me. In the end the book was not so much about homosexuality because I don't have much to say about it. For me being queer was a tool for investigating this milieu. To see things differently. I was excluded for it and that meant I could see that world differently.

Finally, how did the book's success effect your relations with your family, who are so thoroughly examined within it?
There were two very different reactions. With my father I talked to him again after five years of silence. I was 21 when the book was first published so it had been a quarter of my life not speaking to him. He called me and said, "Edouard, I am so proud of you." He stopped saying racist and homophobic things. My mother was angry and went on a campaign against me, saying I had betrayed her. But then again she was manipulated by the media. A very stupid French paper went to the village and took my mother to a house that wasn't hers, and shot her in a more bourgeoisie environment, asked her to dress differently and so on. There was something disgusting about that, these journalists going to see the poor, like on a safari of some sort. And what did they think? Did they think they would go to the village and see crucified gays in the street? Violence is something so much more subtle.

Click here to read an exclusive extract from The End of Eddy by Edouard Louis

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The Gowns and Glitter of Vienna’s Rainbow Ball

All photos by Edo Chang

Vienna holds more than 400 balls a year, and most of them are places of conservatism and tradition. Men and women dance the Viennese waltz together; debutantes are presented in a tiara and diamonds to a suitor suitably reputable to marry; etiquette, dress code, and family background are paramount values; and any diversion from these somewhat archaic values would have you deemed unsuitable for ball culture. Although traditions are loosening, some of the more elite balls on Vienna's winter calendar are, even today, like selective breeding programs for Austria's social elite.

The unwavering commitment to tradition has meant balls in Vienna have historically excluded anything that is not strict heterosexuality. That's kind of baffling, because after attending a waltz lesson at Elmayer—a traditional dance school in Austria's capital—and learning about Viennese ball history, I realize these events are pretty much the gayest thing ever. It's ball gowns, fake diamonds, catered mini-food, and the ultimate in high-society glamour. The balls closely mirror the performativity in the vogueing scenes seen in Paris is Burning, just with a shitload more cash.

At my waltz class, I asked Thomas Schafer-Elmayer (great-great grandson to the dance school's original founder) whether same-sex couples were allowed to dance at any of the non-gay balls. He gave me a dirty look, which I assumed meant no. Ball culture isn't subculture in Vienna; it is the heart of growing up as an upstanding member of Viennese society. If you're gay, balls are just another central feature of a culture from which you are rejected, from which you are forced to sit out.

In recent decades, a number of LGBTQ-friendly balls have emerged. There's the Creative Ball, the Rose Ball, and the Rainbow Ball, or the Wiener Regenbogenball, the most traditional and spectacular of the three events. I'm in town for its 20th anniversary.

Arriving at the Regenbogenball, you can see what a powerful and transgressive event it is by nature of its very existence on the Viennese social calendar. Each room was filled with the most fabulous, proud members of the queer community I had seen in one place for such a long time: queens, queers, young gay boys wearing slicks of red lipstick, older lesbian couples spinning one another around across the waxed floor and making out furiously at the end of each song, the most-glamorous trans women flirting over a Spritz in the corner of the bar. Unlike so many LGBTQ-nightlife spaces, this gathering was remarkably not centered on fucking: There was no intended seediness, or thumping house music and dim red lights. Instead, there was an air of celebration, of taking an overbearing patriarchal, exclusively straight, cis-gendered structure and making its content queer.

At 9 PM, the real dancing started: "Boys to the left, girls to the right." The usual gendered call to begin the opening ceremony of any ball was laughed at by the crowd, who are all privy to the fact that gender is a lie. Traditional roles of men in black and women in white dancing the Fledermaus Quadrille were shattered, with a massive array of genders and sexualities taking part in the traditional opening number. Drag queens with Sachertorte headdresses (a cake that is arguably Vienna's most famous export) danced the waltz. Later, Vienna's other most-famous export Conchita Wurst took to the stage in a suit to sing the beloved Eurovision anthem "Rise Like a Phoenix" to an audience full of German yelps and Facebook Live videos.

The party continued until 5 AM, unusual for balls that are supposed to finish at midnight, with dancing and DJs in the basement. Deborah Woodson (google her, she's iconic) joined the lineup to bring the house down with bangers such as "It's Raining Men" and "One Moment In Time" sung in half-German-half-English.

I thought I was going to hate this ball. I usually dismiss tradition and tend to be a critic of moneyed apolitical gays; it totally proved me wrong. In this space, more than 2,000 people normally excluded from the ball scene came together to make their own queer, beautiful traditions that fly in the face of a society that has branded them with the brush of "failure" in the first place.

Follow Tom Rasmussen on Twitter.