In the rolodex of performers who've made it big playing bitter, middle-aged, alcoholic women (Megan Mullally, we're looking at you), none have done it with as an outrageous (or sincere) twist on gender as Justin Bond. Those unfamiliar with Bond as Kiki, of New York cabaret duo Kiki and Herb, will likely remember the performer as the ringmaster of sexuality in John Cameron Mitchell's Shortbus. On the eve of Bond's directorial project playing at The Kitchen, Out spoke with downtown NYC icon about Lady Gaga, the transgendered community and, of all things, pie.
Out: You once described Kiki as just one slice of the Justin Bond pie. So I think the obvious question here is'what's your favorite kind of pie? Justin Bond: I think my favorite is peach.
Have you seen The Waitress with Kerri Russell? It's about a waitress who makes all sorts of exotic pies with crazy names. No, I haven't, but my nickname was pie-face when I was a kid. My grandfather called me pie-face because I was always asking for more pie at family dinners.
What are the ingredients in Justin Bond pie, be it nutmeg or six-inch heels? Let's see'lord. Something sweet, something bitter, a dash of liqueur, a few sprinkles of tobacco, some liquid eyeliner for good measure and a flaky but well-formed crust.
Perfect. So now that we know what you taste like, I'm curious how inherent the word 'trans' is in defining who you are. That word is key because it's the closest word that I've found to accurately describe myself, because inherently it has no specific definition.
You've said everyone is in one way or another trans. Will you explain why that is? I think the construct of what it means to be a man or a woman is so indefinable that all we can do is aspire to be a man or woman, because what those terms mean is so different to every person. And we'll never actually be able to satisfy the definition. All of us will fall short. If no one can ever truly be a man or a woman, then we're all trans.
As someone who moves between genders, do you think that means you aren't acting out a gender role at all? I think that I can play with what people's perceptions of gender are. But as far as my own identity, I don't identify with one or the other. People say, 'Should I describe you as he or she?' and my response is, 'That would be fantastic.'
How long ago did you start saying that? Just recently. I've always felt that way, I guess. Someone said to me, 'Oh, I thought you were a woman' and I said, 'Well, if you had thought I was a man, you would have been wrong also, so don't worry about it.' I'm very rarely offended, but I am taken aback by how freaked out people get because they feel like they have to be right, when in fact they very rarely will be.
Do you see a gap in the LGBT community between gays/lesbians and transgendered people? I do, but for me the root of homophobia is misogyny, more specifically femme phobia because that which is perceived as feminine is perceived as weak. A lot of gay people experience homophobia long before they're aware of any sexual desire. But they are perceived quite frequently as being femme or different or 'sissy.' And that doesn't come from problems with sexuality, it comes from problems with gender. I think that's why many gay people have so much disdain for transgendered people, because they feel like, 'If you would just stop being so outrageous, if you would somehow assimilate, it would make it easier for us all to be palatable.' There's always a tension between the gay community and the transgendered community. But if it weren't for people who insisted on expressing themselves in a more flamboyant way, there would have been a lot less movement for gay rights. People who are assimilationist are less propelled as activists because they can blend when they need to. People whose lives are threatened on the street have no choice.
What would a gendered world of your own creation look like? I think it would look a lot like the one we have now, there would just be a lot more acceptance of fluidity. I don't think everybody needs to change, I just think everybody needs to be who they are and recognize difference in others.
Speaking of people who already do that, your new show at The Kitchen includes a group of trans performers called 'The House of Whimsy.' Any rivalry there with the 'Haus of Gaga'? I don't even know what the 'Haus of Gaga' is, although there is definitely an allusion to heterosexual women who become cultural imperialists by taking queer creativity and claiming it as their own. I don't know if there's a rivalry, but there's definitely a commentary.
Well then how do you view Lady Gaga's activism for the queer community? I think it's great. All voices are helpful and I definitely applaud her outrageousness. I think what she says is heartfelt.
Who's in your dream lineup of nightclub performers? I've already performed with my dream lineup: The Scissor Sisters and Debbie Harry and Sandra Bernhard and Rufus Wainright'most of these people are my friends, so I like being onstage with my friends and fellow revolutionaries.
Not Bette Midler? Better Midler? She's all right.
Do you have a favorite Bette? Maybe fiery redhead Bette or Hocus Pocus Bette? My favorite is the live DVDs of Bette Midler in the '80s. The Divine Miss M Bette Midler on her motorized wheelchair. Classic Bette.
Justin Bond and the House of Whimsy's Re:Galli Blonde (A Sissy Fix) plays at The Kitchen, 512 West 19th Street, New York, NY, Friday'Saturday, October 22'23, 8pm and Wednesday'Saturday, October 27'30, 8pm.