Velvetpark's Official Top 25 Significant Queer Women of 2012

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Velvetpark's Official Top 25 Significant Queer Women of 2012

Thirty-nine year old South African photographer Zanele Muholi has spent much of her life taking exquisite photographs documenting South African lesbian life and sensuality. The images capture the power of true desire—intimate, bold, thoughtful, and very sexy. Their force lies in a photographic technique which bursts of affection and dedication to sorting through the complications of representing race, African women, and queer/gay/lesbian sexuality in photography. The work has been so effective in breaking silence, in fact, that former Minister of Arts and Culture Lulama Zingwana publically walked out on one of Zanele's exhibitions, declaring the photographs "immoral and against nation building." This year Muholi's work met with shocking resistance when the photographer entered her art studio to discover that her entire body of work—all the equipment, cameras, memory drives, more than five years worth of photographic projects—had been stolen. Yet the reality of hate this act expressed did not stop Muholi from continuing full steam ahead. Likewise, the heinous statement to erase South African lesbian visibility and push it to the shadows was met with failure. Rather, the theft pushed Muholi's work right into international media spotlight, giving her work and the subject of South African lesbian and gay erotic identity a tidal wave of attention, applause, and compassion.  There are hundreds of people on the lookout for Muholi's stolen work, which still has not been recovered. Her recent film Difficult Love (2011) is available to screen free online and contains many of Muholi's images and interview footage with the artist.

"Our Saturday Night Special"—Kate McKinnon, Comedian, Comedy Writer

Forbes just named Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live’s newest funny lady (and first out cast member), one of the “Top 30 Entertainers Under 30” of 2012—and with good reason, even though we lesbians have known McKinnon’s talents for years. A staple of New York’s improv troupe the Upright Citizens Brigade, Kate hit the small screen as a fan favorite (Fitzwilliam, the prettiest boy who ever wanted a vagina) in Logo’s Big Gay Sketch Show and then moved on to feature in the hilarious web series Vag Magazine. Her career track is inspiring; few if any comics start "out" before their big break. With the recent departure of Kristen Wiig at SNL, McKinnon has already stepped up comfortably into those big shoes with her spot-on imitations of Ann Romney, Penelope Cruz, and, most recently, Ellen DeGeneres. McKinnon’s consistent performance as well as unfazed openness about her sexuality send a message to mainstream America that women, and especially lesbian women, are very funny.

“Force of One”—Urvashi Vaid, Community Organizer, Activist, Writer, Attorney

Urvashi Vaid is one of the people who built the foundation of today's queer politics. From her work at the National Gay and Lesbian Task force in the 80s and 90s to her work as a funder supporting LGBTQ issues at the Ford Foundation and the Arcus Foundation, Vaid has been one of the queer consciences of the gay mainstream for a long time. In her 1996 book, Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming Of Gay And Lesbian Liberation, Vaid pushed for a movement that looked beyond bare equality to a larger vision for a just future. With the 2012 release of her latest book, Irresistible Revolution: Race, Class and the LGBT Imagination, Vaid is once again pushing the LGBTQ movement to look beyond easy, safe equality to try and push for a real inclusion of racial, economic, and gender justice. (Meet her at Astraea’s “Writeous” event next month in NYC.) Lambda Literary calls Irresistible Revolution a "challenge to the present state of LGBT activism, and a rebel yell for the future." As Vaid says in the introduction to her book, "I have long believed that what made the LGBT movement 'irresistible' was its honesty." The vision Vaid has for our future? Irresistible indeed.

“A Symphony of Our Own”—Juliana Snapper, Avant Garde Opera Singer

Juliana Snapper has a hot set of ears, and if you were lucky enough to see them in Los Angeles this past year during an Occupy protest, you’ll know what we mean. Snapper, an opera-trained soprano and interdisciplinary artist, put what lesbian composer Pauline Oliveras calls “Deep Listening” to the test.  With three other artists she formed a collective organization called ARLA (Audio Receptives Los Angeles) wherein the sounds of the 99% were part of their sonic scavenger hunt and public protest. Snapper’s work has focused on both fostering an environment of sonic awareness and the power of the body as a tool of expression. She regularly has collaborated with live artist Ron Athey, matching Athey’s serious inquiries about radical queer resistance to conventional art history in performances combining stunning theatricality, punk, DIY, high femme, and a fiercely feminist vocal experience.  In 2009 along with composer Andrew Infanti, Snapper wrote an underwater opera, You Who Emerge from the Flood, which premiered at the Victoria Baths in the U.K. Bringing together over two dozen local singers, she trained her chorus both in the water, and poolside, in a lavish performance of a protagonist who is abandoned at sea, given bad advice, and remains a witness to the post-apocalyptic world when the environment and society has broken apart. Between teaching, protest, and her own scholarly writing, Snapper explores voice at the edge of societal comfort zones or expectations. Much like Meredith Monk, Diamanda Galas, and Laurie Anderson, Snapper pushes her own voice to the limits of traditional composition, rhythm, tone as a way to reconfigure and confront normative conceptions of women’s roles and feminine agency.  

“Ink Master”—Stephanie Tamez, Tattoo Artist, Graphic Designer, Painter

Comments [3]

Del's picture

Re: On NOT being a (queer) woman OR a (gendernon-conforming) MAN

Hey! Thanks for including me in your list and the nice things you said about my work. Just wanted to mention though that although I am what could be called gender non-conforming and queer I am not a MAN or a WOMAN but INTERSEX! That means my anatomical body does not conform to standard definitions of male and female, not hormonally, not chromosomally or in what you see (at least when I'm naked!) 

Thanks for the space to say so! HERMLOVE XX XO Del LaGrace Volcano

Marcie Bianco's picture

We think you're pretty

We think you're pretty amazing, Del. While the overarching list is constructed under the rubric of "queer women," our definition of this already-fraught, already-complex, identity is broad to try to encapsulate all of its complexity and fraught-ness. I'm super thankful to you for this clarification and for your willingness to be included on this list -- the intersex community is (at least I'd like to think) very much a part of our larger community.

Grace Moon's picture

*Editors note*

In case anyone misses this in the intro: "As with past years our criteria is to honor female-identified or non-gender-binary persons"

Since our title would get quite long if we tried to identify all identifiers we've kept it at "...Singnificant Queer Women..."

we understand not everyone identifies as "women" on this list. I hope that clarifies.

xo Moon

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