Justin Vivian Bond: Call me V
July 1, 2011
This is the first interview I have ever written that needed its own glossary, but Justin Vivian Bond, the performer most famous for creating the deranged lounge singer Kiki in the stage act Kiki And Herb, recently published a list of personal ‘key terms’. The 48-year-old transgender cabaret stat (and friend of Debbie Harry, Siouxise Sioux, Jake Shears, Emmylou Harris and Rufus Wainwright) had objected to being described as ‘he’, and a ‘cross dresser’ in a magazine article.
So, first things first, Bond is neither a Mr or a Ms, but ‘Mx’; Bond is neither ‘he’ not ‘she’ but ‘v’: his gender is neither male nor female, but a ‘transperson’. Some readers may think it precious, oversensitive and indulgent to dictate one’s own lexicon, but Attitude aims to respect Bond’s wishes.
The night before we meet I see Bond’s wonderful one-person show at Joe’s Pub in New York. Kiki, the valkyrie spread-eagled across the top of a grand piano screeching about the indignities of the world, is long gone. Bond now sings beautiful bluegrass and folk songs with a band and sets to music a verse by the radical American poet and activist Essex Hemphill, who died of AIDS-related complications in 1995. On stage, v is intriguing to look at: slim, womanly and glamorous with a slinky dress and red bob (Bond reminds me of my current favourite soap diva, Phyllis from The Young And The Restless). If the singer’s mission is to screw with our notions of gender, v can judge it a mission accomplished.
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