Trish Bendix: Queer Fest Midwest

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Trish has written for Time Out Chicago, The Village Voice, Punk Planet and AfterEllen.com. She is one of the Hook-up bloggers on Ourchart.com, one of the curators for Queer Fest Midwest, and was the co-founder and publisher of the now defunct, chillmag.com.
Trish took time out this week to report back on Queer Fest Midwest in Chicago last weekend and her views on mainstream queer media. Here’s Trish…


How did you get involved with CHILL Magazine? Can you talk about your work on the magazine?
My girlfriend, Jamie, and I started CHILL for a couple of reasons. We both had journalism degrees and were freelancing for different publications, but both of us had a strong desire to create something of our own. The idea came about when we saw an issue of Curve Magazine in 2006 that had Katherine Moennig (Shane of “The L Word�) on the cover, touting an “exclusive interview.� It turned out that the interview was from three years prior, before “The L Word� had even begun. I thought, “Is this what it has come down to? Curve is using a press photo of ‘Shane’ and an interview from three years ago to sell magazines?� It was insulting to me, as a queer woman, that one of the only pieces of national press that we have available to us would choose to skip over anything relevant and feed us a boring and pre-printed interview.
As soon as this incident occurred, we started talking more about starting one of our own, and came to the conclusion that Chicago itself is without any coverage of queer women. So, we thought we’d start small for our immediate targeted audience, and by being online, reach national readers to gage interest and go with it from there.
What did you love most about CHILL Magazine?
CHILL lasted for a year, from June 2006-June 2007. We loved putting it together and to have stories available that we would want to read. Too often the coverage we do get as queer women in gay publications or otherwise, tend to be a little lackluster. They cover the typical mainstream celesbians like Melissa Etheridge, and the focus is always on the individual being gay. If it’s a gay magazine, that’s going to be quite obvious, or it should be quite obvious that you’re profiling someone who fits into the description of your magazine. Now what is it that they do that makes them worthy of print, as they would be worthy in any other form of media? Yes, this person is a queer woman, but more importantly, she made a film about a new wave of reclaiming “femme,� or she runs a successful non-profit and here’s how she did it.
We decided to put CHILL to rest when we realized we had done what we could in Chicago and that it was time to help create something for a new young generation of queer feminist women interested in online media every day, not once a month, and national content that included specific cities and events. So, we started girlfriendisahomo.com, a daily blog.

What is the mission of Queer Fest Midwest and how do you think that mission affects your life indirectly and/or directly?

Queer Fest came about because Jamie and I were originally part of organizing Ladyfest Chicago. The group was very unorganized and there were too many cooks in the kitchen with no sous chef, so to speak, so we felt kind of disconnected, especially when the date of the festival kept getting pushed back and back. This was right around the time we’d decided to switch from CHILL to a blog format, so it would also be a lighter load for us where we wouldn’t be constantly rushing to make the month-end’s deadline and coordinate things with our web designer.
We still wanted to put on a festival that meant something to us, and when I think about the two most important parts of myself and the community I want to be a part of I instantly think feminist and queer. We contacted a friend of ours who runs Think Pink Radio, Chicago’s only gay music radio show, about putting on a queer music and arts festival and he was instantly into it. We all liked the idea of Homoagogo, Mondohomo, and similar festivals, and wanted to bring the energy of gatherings like that to the Midwest because we also have a lot to offer in the queer arts arena.
It directly affects my life because I am constantly seeking out representation for myself. I am a young queer feminist woman from a new generation of artists and thinkers. I’m just looking for myself to be reflected in the music I listen to, the films I watch, the art I view, and the books I read. I’m not looking for in everything I do, but I want it to be there because I, like everyone else, deserve to have a presence in American culture.
How did Queer Fest Midwest go? Was it the turnout you were hoping for?
QFM was completely DIY. In other words, our sponsorships were in-kind partnerships and much of our funding came from ticket sales and poor Erik’s pockets! We had a very specific aim for Queer Fest, which was to have it all-ages, in an independent and DIY space that allowed for all kinds of musical acts and art installations. We charged $20, and sure we would have loved to have charged less, but alas we were in it to give money to About Face Theatre, not ourselves. The turnout could have been better. And interestingly, before the fest went on, I read an interview with one of Mondohomo’s organizers who also said their turnout could have been better, and it made me think about what we could have done better. Honestly, we got a lot of press, and we booked artists that we believed in as opposed to high-profile money makers. So, maybe we put together a festival that we would want to see. We’re a little counter-culture compared to most, but I am proud to say that those who did come had a great time and probably learned about at least one new awesome queer MC or dancer or bluegrass group or filmmaker.
What’s your take on the queer scene in the Midwest? Are things mobilizing? Do you think it’s easier to be queer in Chicago than it is, for example, to be queer in a small town in Indiana?
When people refer to the Midwest as being a barren and a closed-minded place, I almost forget I’m part of it. Chicago is definitely separated from those small towns, but yet it’s right in the middle of them all. We certainly attract gays from Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa and other surrounding places that lack a sizeable queer scene. I think it’s fairly “easy� to be a queer in Chicago, meaning I would never feel afraid to be out in any situation, but that doesn’t mean it’s free of homophobes. Unfortunately Boystown is right next to Wriggle Ville so there are the stories of unruly Cubs fans taking out their internalized homophobia on gay passerby.
But I think the bigger issue in queer Chicago is the separatism. At QFM I was talking to Team Gina about living in Seattle, which is such a gay music mecca, and they said it was so supportive and such a great community to be a part of. I think that the community in Chicago is a little less supportive. It’s kind of segregated, in fact, where certain partygoers or throwers will only attend their own events or events of their friends, and there are a lot of gay men that refuse to leave the confines of Halsted Street. It would certainly be nice to have a little more support for each other, and that’s one thing I wish we could have had at Queer Fest as well. I think, if anything, we learned that there are strangers willing to give you the benefit of the doubt to pay $20 more so than there are acquaintances because of their preconceived notions. I suppose this is a bigger issue than I was asked to comment on, but I strongly feel that Chicago’s queer scene, in comparison to others like San Francisco, Seattle, or Portland, is somewhat more divided.

In ‘08, do you think same-sex marriage will be as hot and divisive an issue it was before Bush came into office? Will Democrats stand a chance this time around? Any advice for the Democrats? Who would you love to see running that’s not in the race?

I think same-sex marriage will be a hot issue, but not THE hot issue. I think there’s so many things that the candidates are being challenged on because they feel more accessible to us than ever. It’s definitely going to be a more intrusive election, where it’s getting very personal and very US Weekly, meaning there are no boundaries in assumption making and gossip. I think Democrats stand a great chance in the wake of Iraq, but I also fear that many Democratic voters will become divided over their own party. My only advice would be to investigate; voting based off hearsay or Youtube videos doesn’t make an educated vote. I still am not sure about my vote because there’s time, still, to look into flip-flops or comments made, and after Logo’s HRC Equality forum, a lot to consider on the civil unions vs. marriage debate.
Is there anything you would like to add?
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One Comment

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