On Saturday May 27, Mark Lipman, who recently told his story for the first time publicly to Qwear, will be performing a brand new piece, “Welcome to the Closet” with collaborator Jenee Halstead at The Lilypad in Cambridge, MA on May 27.
Welcome To The Closet is an event that weaves personal storytelling & musical performance with the aim of providing the audience an invitation into the multi-faceted process of “coming out.”
Welcome To The Closet will be presented at the fifth installment of All Together Now, a multidisciplinary event series that makes space for women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ performers in partnership with allies. The show is all ages (alcohol sales available to 21+). Tickets are available in advance, and cash is accepted at the door.
One of the primary themes of Welcome To The Closet is the acceptance and expression of desire, including but not limited to sexual desire. While preparing for the event, Mark unearthed a small photo collection of “Sparkles,” a persona he created in college to explore gender performance as well as desire.
“Sparkles arrived at parties with lipstick, eye shadow, groomed eyebrows and long hair, and usually a fairly low-buttoned shirt and jeans," shares Mark Lipman. "Sparkles was a way of performing gender that matched a more womanly part of me that existed at all times on the inside, but that I rarely felt comfortable making visible in day-to-day life.
"The difference between Sparkles then and me now is that, at this point, I am directly revealing my more womanly inner self in a less comfortable environment than the female-friend-saturated dorm parties of an uber-liberal college.”
Mark shared that for the past decade, his overwhelmingly straight music community has known him "perhaps as a man who keeps the expression of his desires as muted as possible with the misguided intention of 'blending in.'" Mark found that suppressing his true self was interfering with his music. "What I’ve come to understand is that performing for straight audiences while caging my desire on- and off-stage is an emotionally unhealthy and oppressive experience, and I want to change it.
“Performing gender as Sparkles is, for me, a vehicle to openly express my authenticity as a person that desires men. In Welcome To The Closet, I’m trying, among other things, to engage with the fear that my desire is a threat to all straight men, and to test the validity of this fear with the straight audiences of my community. I wish to explore what’s really at stake when my desire is expressed in an artistic venue, and, in turn, I hope to feel more comfortable exploring my desire within my community off-stage.
In short, Sparkles is a way for me to nonverbally make space for myself as 'other,' and a way to spark conversation (pun intended) about the intersection of desire, sexuality, self, and community.
Mark explored a series of questions while writing this show:
- Why am I not allowed to show my feelings of attraction for men in straight-occupied spaces? What is the real threat there?
- If there is discomfort in witnessing my authenticity, can it be tolerated? If there is excitement, can it be embraced? If there is curiosity about what this means, can it be truly and deeply respected?
- What is the process of creating a space for expressed desire to be non-threatening, and for the person expressing desire and the receiver to both experience a mutual respect?
- Is there a place for Sparkles in the music community that calls itself my friend?
In Welcome To The Closet, Mark and Jenee will be use costume, props, and live music to investigate the universality of the coming out process as it relates to the oppression and liberation of their desires. The hope is to create a space of acceptance and peace with desire, and then to invite the audience to explore the "how to” of navigating the steps out of the closet together.
To learn more about this event, you can join the Facebook event page, explore the All Together Now website, and follow Mark and Jenee. Advance tickets are recommended due to the small size of the venue.
As Qwear's Founding Editor, Sonny’s work centers around envisioning a future in which the clothing people wear does not dictate their chances of survival. Sonny was awarded 2015 dapperQ of the Year and was the first trans blogger to be sponsored by Topman. In March 2016, Sonny spoke at South by South West's first official queer fashion panel.