I’ve been enamored with Justin Vivian Bond from afar for a while now. You probably know Mx Bond as Kiki DuRayne from the drag cabaret phenomenon, Kiki and Herb. By the way, ‘Mx’ was not a typo. Bond has adopted the prefix ‘Mx’, believing that it “clearly states a trans identity without amplifying a binary gender preference.” Mx Bond also prefers the pronoun ‘v’ to ‘he’ or ‘she’. It’s sort of confusing–especially to write–but v has a lot of interesting things to say about the transgender identity on vs website, so if you take the time to read his statement, the whole thing makes a lot more sense.
But anyway, Mx Bond is amazing! Aside from famously portraying the old lady alcoholic Kiki DuRayne, v is also a performance artist, a musician, and a writer. Last year v published the memoir Tango: My Childhood Backwards and in High Heels. V also starred in John Cameron Mitchell’s 2006 film Shortbus, and in 2007 v was nominated for a Tony Award for Kiki & Herb: Alive On Broadway.
My specific interest in Mx Bond came when I read that v is a dendrophile, meaning someone who is sexually attracted to trees. Pretty hot. V is also a Radical Faerie. If you are unfamiliar with the Radical Faeries, they are a group of gay men–and a few women, too–with a free spirit nature vibe who believe that being queer is part of their spiritual identity. Every year they hold about fifteen Faerie Gatherings across the world where they all dress up in costumes, paint their faces and cover themselves in glitter, and then hold Pagan sex/love/happiness rituals in the woods. Their mission statement goes something like this: “We are a network of faggot farmers, artists, drag queens, leathermen, political activists, witches, magicians, rural and urban dwellers who see gays, lesbians and trans-genders as a distinct people, with our own culture, way of becoming, and spirituality.” Sounds cool, right?
I recently got the chance to have a lovely chat with Mx Bond about tree fucking, Tilda Swinton, and just generally being a freak. Enjoy!
You’ve talked publicly about being a dendrophile. Do you have sex with trees?
Mx Bond: Well, I’ve communed in deep, meaningful and sensual ways with tress, and I have sex in trees a lot, and I’ve had sex under them and against them and on them. So technically I have not had sex with a tree, but we’ve definitely commingled fluids.
So how does one have sex with a tree, exactly?
Well, I suppose there are people who top for trees, and people who bottom for trees. Personally, there is normally no dominant in my relationship with trees. I feel like we are equals.
Tell me about being a Radical Faerie. I’ve always wanted to go to a gathering, they look so insane.
They are! The Radical Faeries started out as mostly gay men who were trying to escape the recurrent gay mentality–the mentality of the urban clone–who were reaching for a deeper spiritual connection. For me it’s a bit different–it’s a place where my freakishness makes me normal. And although I embrace my freakishness and love it, and certainly take a lot of power from it, sometimes it’s nice to be able to relax and just be one of the freaks, instead of being the freak.
Have you always been this much of a freak? What were you like when you were twenty?
I was in college, and I was much more closed off and conservative. I hadn’t really blossomed, so I was trying to fit in and to hide my truth, because I felt it was dangerous to expose it. The world didn’t seem ready for it, and I wasn’t ready to fight to be myself at that point. In hindsight I think it was actually wise, because you can only be as strong as you can be, and at that time I didn’t have the skills or the support network to really be myself. I think that’s part of growing up too–not only finding yourself but finding the people and the places that will allow you to be yourself, and that you can gain strength from. And that takes time.
So what was the turning point for you?
When I graduated from college I started working as an actor. I was living in Washington DC at the time, but everyone kept telling me, “You have got to move to San Fransisco!”, so I got myself fired from my job so I could collect unemployment and just left. On the way to SF I was wearing a watch–the last watch I ever owned–and I was driving on the highway outside DC going over a bridge, and I thew my watch into the Potomac River and I swore to myself that I would never be a slave to the clock again, and I never have. And then I got to SF and met all of these amazing queens and queer artists–people who were so vibrant and non judgmental and who were experimenting with so may ways of living that I felt I could just relax and open up, and it was wonderful to finally fit in. So that was the turning point, and it’s been a lot better since then.
Last year you published a memoir. Where does the title Tango: My Childhood Backwards and in High Heels come from?
Well the book is the story of my first love relationship. I was lovers with one boy from the time we were eleven to sixteen. A few years ago he was busted for impersonating a drug enforcement agent and leading the police on a high speed chase outside of our hometown, and his DEA code name was Tango. So it started off as a book about him, and then the second part comes from a famous quote about Ginger Rogers saying that Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in high heels. And it just made sense for me, because when I was a child I walked around in imaginary high heels all the time, and I was always looking backwards over my shoulder, because if you’re a trans kid you’ve gotta watch your ass.
This is random and off topic, but I know you’re good friends with Tilda Swinton and I just wanted to say that I love her.
We all love her Darling.
How did you guys meet?
I was living in San Fransisco and Edward II was playing at the Castro Theatre, and these queens came to me and said, ‘Girl, you need to go see Edward II, there’s a witch in it who’s moppin’ your look!’ And I said, ‘Oh, she must be beautiful!’ So I went and Tilda was rocking this Dior Ice Goddess look and I was smitten, perhaps a bit narcissisticly, but not really because sisterhood is power. I try to surround myself with people who inspire me, and Tilda is one of those people. Sometimes I find myself asking, ‘What would Tilda do?’, because I’d rather believe in her than Jesus.
Me too! So what are you up to next?
Well I just put out my first solo record, Dendrophile. I’m going to start working on my second record this winter in LA, because, you know, everybody has to do a California album. When I turned forty I went to London and got my masters degree at Central Saint Martins. I was like, “Botox or a degree?” And in the end I chose degree. And now that I’m approaching fifty, I think it’s time to release my California album. You know, just ticking off the boxes.
I also wrote a musical with Sandra Bernhard called Arts and Crafts, and we’re going to try to get that produced. We play cousins in it, which I think is good because cousins is an undermined genre within musical theatre.