Tag Archives: storytelling

Queer Memoir 50+ (with intergenerational speed friending!)

QUEER MEMOIR 50 PLUS 2 PT 0Queer Memoir is New York’s community based LGBT storytelling multi-venue series. This month’s theme is 50+ guest and this special event is being curated by Ryn Hodez and Stephanie Schroeder.

In addition to our storytelling, we’re adding something very special to this event: intergenerational speed friending, where LGBT people of one age can meet LGBT of a much different age, with the hopes of starting some lifelong friendships!


Queer Memoir 50+ YWCA OF BROOKLYN




DOMINIC AMBROSE was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1950. He is the author of two gay themed novels Nickel Fare, set in New York City in the 1970s and The Shriek and the Rattle of Trains, set in Romania in the 1990s. During his lifetime he has spent 14 years in Europe, living and working in such places as Berlin, Bucharest, Trieste and Paris. However, no matter where he has lived, he has always felt a member of the New York community and a part of its invisible diaspora. Presently, he lives in Staten Island, just above the harbor, and is dedicated to his writing and photography, and to working with other lgbt writers on memoir projects.

LISA E. DAVIS has lived in Greenwich Village for many years and loves to write about it. With a PhD in Comparative Literature, she worked for years in SUNY and CUNY, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College, and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, NYU. Her essays in North American, Latin American and European journals, and lectures in the US and abroad, explored diverse topics. Lately, her writing has appeared in anthologies and periodicals dedicated to LGBTQ culture, i.e., “The Butch as Drag Artiste: Greenwich Village in the Roaring Forties” in “The Persistent Desire. A Femme-Butch Reader” (Alyson, 1992), “Camp Good News,” in “Early Embraces II” (Alyson, 1999), and “Chagrin d’Amour,” in “Gazebo Connection” (Vancouver, BC, 2006). Her historical novel Under the Mink (Alyson, 2001), about drag queens and kings who worked in Village mafia-owned nightclubs of the 1940s, grew out of her long-time friendship with many of them. Her latest project is a non-fiction book with the working title The FBI’s Lesbian: Angela Calomiris in the American Communist Party, the true story of a notorious Village lesbian who worked undercover for the FBI in the CPUSA and testified at the first federal trial (1949) of the Party leadership.

RYN HODES is a late-blooming 56-year old Femme, third-generation New York lefty Jew, mother, lover, domestic violence advocate, martial artist, teacher, and survivor. She has been writing a memoir for ten years, and sends much appreciation to her writer’s group –Anne, Ilana, Judy, and Danielle.

CARY ALAN JOHNSON is an author and human rights activist, born and raised in Brooklyn. Cary has been active in LGBTQ politics since 1975, when at the age of 15 he joined Gay Youth of NYC. During the eighties he was instrumental in the founding of the Committee of Black Gay Men (CBGM), the Blackheart Collective, Gay Men of African Descent (GMAD) and Other Countries: Black Gay Expressions. Cary’s work has appeared in Other Countries, the Road Before Us, the Greatest Taboo, In this Village, Gay Travels, the James White Review, the Agni Review, Changing Men, and Joseph Beam’s Brother to Brother. He is currently at work on a memoir.

BRENDA JONES has been a member of The Center for Anti-Violence Education in Brooklyn, NY since 1981, where she has been a student, volunteer, board member, karate and self-defense instructor, staff member, and member of various committees and anti-oppression groups. Currently, she is a senior self-defense instructor with “Power, Action, Change for Teens,” as well asworking at Safe Horizon Brooklyn Community Program. In her not-so-spare time she sews her own clothes, participates in various fat, queer, & POC activist movements and listens to Joe Jackson music (no, not the father of Michael!) while hanging with her cat, Ms. Liberation Jones (aka Libby).

EVA KOLLISCH was born in Vienna and is an American writer, literary scholar and specialist in German, as well as pacifist and feminist. In July 1939, she fled on a Kindertransport to the UK. In New York, Kollisch was active in the 1940s in the Workers Party. She studied German literature and science at Brooklyn College and later at Columbia University. Then she led, together with Gerda Lerner and Joan Kelly, a course for women’s studies at Sarah Lawrence College where she eventually became a professor and taught English, German, and comparative women literature. Kollisch published her first autobiographical novel in 2000: Girl in Movement. She is the 2012 winner of the Theodor Kramer Prize for her second autobiographical novel, The Ground Under My Feet.

NAOMI REPLANSKY is the author of Ring Song (1952), a nominee for the National Book Award; Twenty-One Poems, Old and New; and The Dangerous World: New and Selected Poems, 1934–1994. Her poems have appeared in numerous anthologies including No More Masks!, Against Infinity: An Anthology of Contemporary Mathematical Poetry, Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust; Inventions of Farewell: A Book of Elegies; and Poets of the Non-Existent City: Los Angeles in the McCarthy Era. Replansky’s recent Collected Poems won the 2013 William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America.

NANCY RODRIGO: I’m a visual artist, queer, feminist activist, social worker, and mom. My son Jonathan is 28, now. Taking care of my own health has been the focus of my energy since I became permanently disabled in 2001 with the auto immune disorders. I’m happy and grateful for each day. I’m a proud Latina and Jewish-Buddhist butch lesbian, native New Yorker, domestic violence survivor, fierce proponent of universal health care and legalizing marijuana. I live with my partner, Janice and our cat Molly.

STEPHANIE SCHROEDER is a lesbian-feminist writer and activist based in Brooklyn. She is the author of the memoir, Beautiful Wreck: Sex, Lies & Suicide. Her work has been anthologized in the classic queer anthology That’s Revolting: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation as well as Up All Night: Adventures in Lesbian Sex, Hot & Bothered: Short, Short Fiction on Lesbian Desire (volumes 3 & 4) and other erotic anthologies. She was also an original reviewer for Erotic New York: The Best Sex in the City and has an essay included in the 2012 Lambda Literary nominated anthology, Here Come the Brides: Reflections on Lesbian Love and Marriage.

CHE VILLANUEVA is the author of Bulletproof Butches and Jessie’s Song. Hys work has also been published in numerous anthologies. Much of hys writing is based on people, places, and situations in hys life. Che is 61 and lives in Philadelphia, PA.

As we celebrate the vibrant lives, stories, and voices of queers over 50, we also acknowledge ageism, ableism, looksism, and other discriminatory ideas and practices that silence elders and often render older LGBTQ individuals and communities invisible.

5-10 sliding scale donation, no one turned away for lack of funds

Queer Memoir: CANCER

Looking for storytellers!

On Saturday November 17th, the Lesbian Herstory Archives is sponsoring a marathon reading of Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich’s works, and Queer Memoir will be facilitating the last hour of the the marathon, from 11 pm until midnight.

 We’re looking for folks of ALL GENDERS who have had their lives changed by cancer to read a passage from Audre Lorde’s ground breaking book The Cancer Journals and share their cancer story and how it relates to what they’ve read.

If you want to participate but are new to this kind of storytelling, or to speaking in public, we can work with you to help shape your story.

Please email kellidunham@gmail.com with questions and if you’d like to be a storyteller at this event, include a little bit about who you are and your story.

Info about this particular program of the Lesbian Herstory Archives can be found here



Have you been wanting to share at Queer Memoir but feel unsure how to put together your story?

No problem, we’ll work on it together.Bring your notes and thoughts and we’ll scheme both as a group and later, one on one, to

-Find the narrative arc (every good story has a beginning, middle and end)

-Figure out the best way for you to share you story (read from a prepared draft? read from notes? tell spontaneously? )
-Talk about dealing with performance anxiety and other discomforts.

Time and place TBA, but most likely in Brooklyn (Prospect Leffert Garden) between 2 and 4 pm. Date is Saturday October 6th.

The idea is that you’ll come away with a story ready to share at Queer Memoir, and we’ll book you for an upcoming show.

If that doesn’t happen, that’s cool too, we can keep working with you.

Or you might decide you’re not ready yet. That’s cool too.

Anyway the point is we WANT to HEAR YOUR STORY.

Please share this like, eight million times and bug your friends who might be interested but need encouragement. We’re going to be doing massive outreach, but TELL US who Queer Memoir is leaving out and we’ll try and find those people.

Email queermemoir@gmail.com with questions, interest or concerns, complaints, or just a good recipe for homemade pesto.

You can also rsvp on facebook.

The Seven Traditions of Queer Memoir

Genne and I [Queer Memoir co-founder Genne Murphy] have been trying to figure out what has made Queer Memoir so popular. Queer Memoir evolved in a city where EVERYONE. IS. ALWAYS. LOOKING.FOR.THE.NEXT.BIG. EXCITING. THING:

“Look, it’s a bear doing burlesque juggling cupcakes covered in glitter with a spoken sorry music video starring a Laverne and Shirley drag duo playing in an all harp band.”

Yet, Queer Memoir is about one person standing alone on a stage (mostly without a stage present) and saying “I have a story I’d like to tell” and people come out, in droves, and stay out, and put up with our temperamental venue heating and sitting on horrible five buck bucket chairs from Ikea (not to discourage you, we do actually have regular seats as well). Perhaps it’s because while we Respect The Glitter, we are not glittery, not at all.

What has evolved over these past two and a half years is an event with certain characteristics we’ve started calling the Queer Memoir Traditions. We’ll probably add to this over time, but for right now they are…

#1. We always start the show with “welcome storytellers.” Sometimes we try and do it in unison (when Genne’s in town, that is) and sometimes we say it one at a time. Stage awkwardness aside, we start begin each event this way because we want to remind the audience that truly, we are all storytellers.

#2 We introduce each storyteller by first name only. Because we want to hear a range of voices, we don’t discriminate against the Well Connected And Well Accomplished Queers, but everyone gets the same intro. “And now, we’ll hear from [insert first name here] After storytellers share, we encourage them to tell us all about their latest project, book, show, pet or whatever it is they’d like the audience to know about.

#3 We don’t do “trigger warnings.” We don’t ask our performers to give any kind of special advance notice about the content of their stories. Our performers share first person, true stories in other words, stuff that really happened to them. Sometimes these are intense, sad, scary and sometimes they’re funny and oftentimes they’re both. Sometimes these stories can make those of us listening uncomfortable and we think that’s AWESOME because it’s at the edge of discomfort that healing and change can happen.

As for a story itself serving as an actual clinical trigger of a post traumatic experience, we are assuming that folks who attend Queer Memoir are adults in charge of their own emotional health. We encourage stepping out of the venue if things become overwhelming and there are always folks present to talk with afterwords if you need support.

#4. We trust our audiences to support our storytellers. Just say “I’m nervous” and you’ll see what we mean! (edited July 2017 to add: we recently found out that our friend Bevin Branlandingham borrowed this “I’m nervous (they say awkward) ” + participant applause for her Fat Kid Dance Party video that has over a million hits!).

#5. Queer Memoir is cheap and, if possible, free. Most of our events are 5-10 bucks sliding scale to cover expenses, but no one is ever turned away for lack of funds. Sometimes when we have a collaboration with another arts org, we don’t have this flexibility, but if you want to come and don’t have the cash, always email us. We’ll make something happen.

#6. Queer Memoir doesn’t happen in a bar.

#7. Queer Memoir is an event of deep honesty. That doesn’t mean you’ll always hear dramatic or traumatic stories, although sometimes that might be the case. It just means you’ll be hearing people sharing just a level or two deeper than they normally might and that the audience supports our storytellers in this. And it almost always means you’ll be actually LOLing at some point, since humans seem to be funnier the more honest they are!

Queer Memoir: PETS

New York’s only queer storytelling event is back with a special guest curator, the amazing Sassafras Lowrey, editor of the Kicked Out anthology and nationally known storyteller.

Announcing the amazing line-up of storytellers:
Jessica Pabón
Julie Blair
Kelli Dunham
Sassafras Lowrey

Jessica Pabón received her MA in Women’s Studies with the completion of the project “Girls Unchained,” a mural by Claw, Dona, Lady Pink, and Miss 17. Now ABD in Performance Studies NYU, her dissertation analyzes the strategies of resistance employed by female graffiti writers navigating presence and belonging in a male-dominated subculture.

Julie Blair is a hack of all trades, a closeted musician, and ex-vlogger. She loves the internet so much she wants to live there. She works as a web developer, and runs a weekly drop-in internet development class that is 100% free for self-identified trans women.

Colten is an event planner, production manager, licensed barber, pet photographer and all-around dog-obsessed individual. He has been known to plan entire vacations around hitting all the right dog parks and dog boutiques and thinks this is totally normal behavior. Colten lives in Upstate New York with his partner and their dogs and identifies as a genderqueer transmasculine dog dad. For the past ten years, he has worked with his partner to create sex education films, present workshops around the world, and produce events. He has presented workshops about kink, trans sex, and service—this will be his first time talking about his life shared with animals. He is combining several of his passions to launch a new business venture in 2012, Dogged Pursuit Photography

Kelli Dunham is everyone’s favorite ex nun genderqueer nerdcomic., She is busy promoting her CD recording show in San Francisco and will submit a relevant bio as soon as she’s done.

Place “fierce” + “kind” in the same sentence & you’ll probably find allisonjoy. Their continuous work is a demonstration of their passionate commitment to social justice, whether it was as National Recruiter for ACORN, Co-Founder of media justice coalition R.E.A.C.Hip-Hop, National Organizer/touring member of We Got Issues, or Road Manager and performer for Mango Tribe. They have organized, created events, facilitated leadership & empowerment trainings and anti-oppression workshops with youth, women, & people of color all about North Amerika. As a Reiki Master Practitioner through their own practice, and with the Audre Lorde Project’s 3rd Space Wellness program, allisonjoy seeks to make holistic health care accessible to the LGBTSTGNC POC community. This queer pin@y believes in the strength in all of us, community building, art as activism, grassroots organizing, linking arms with all oppressed peoples, and manifesting visions of liberation! But, perhaps allisonjoy is most proud to be a dog-parent, a positive reinforcement trainer, and a member of the international Association of Pet Dog Trainers. This is where they’ve found that building healthy relationships, radical politics & practice, healing, joy, supportive learning, and transformative justice can reside. When they’re not geeking out teaching dog training classes, reading training & behavior books, and watching training science documentaries, they can be found playing with, learning with, and cuddling with their rescue dog, Cornbread Siopao who they co-parent with their partner, Kay. allisonjoy says, “But really, my dog rescued me.”

Sassafras Lowrey is an internationally award-winning storyteller, author, artist, and educator. Ze is the editor of the two time American Library Association honored and Lambda Literary Finalist Kicked Out anthology, which brought together the voices of current and former homeless LGBTQ youth. Hir prose has been included in numerous anthologies and ze regularly teaches LGBTQ storytelling workshops at colleges and conferences across the country. Sassafras is a lifelong dog lover and lives in Brooklyn with hir partner, two dogs, and two cats. To learn more about Sassafras and hir work, visit www.PoMoFreakshow.com

March 26: HOME

Our March line-up is off the hook! We’ll also be debuting our new “One Word Memoir” audience participation project.


Geleni Fontaine
Robin Cloud
Taueret Manu
Paul Blore
Kate Bovitch

Warning: This bio relentlessly and awkwardly resists gender pronounery! Geleni Fontaine is a fat, queer, Latina/o transperson; has been living and thriving in Park Slope, Brooklyn in the same apartment since the age of four; and has been witness to many layers of gentrification. As a lifelong poet Geleni has studied with Eileen Myles and other seasoned writers, and at many workshops including the Writer’s Voice at the West Side YMCA, but has been AWOL from the NYC poetry and writing landscape for many years. A licensed acupuncturist and registered nurse, Geleni is working to integrate a background in human rights and anti-violence activism with hands-on healing and empowerment work. Geleni is a former board member of the Audre Lorde Project, the first queer people of color center for community organizing in the U.S., and current board member of NOLOSE, an organization dedicated to ending the oppression of fat people and creating vibrant fat queer culture. Today Geleni practices out of home, treating folks in a living room clinic and working to help them create personal and social change toward a loving and more just world.

ROBIN CLOUD is a New York City based comedian, writer and actor. Robin can be seen sharing her comedic observations to the masses at Caroline’s, Gotham Comedy Club, The Broadway Comedy club and many more; at times in the form of characters Jerri Beige, Angela Davison and Super Cunt. Robin is also called upon to be the master of ceremonies and is proud to have teamed up with fantastic artists such as Toshi Reagon, Doria Roberts, and Brown Girls Burlesque Performance Group.

Robin’s sassy, politically charged delivery coupled with her on point character work has gotten the attention of the press and Robin was just included in GO NYC Magazine’s Top 100 Women We Love.
Robin’s solo show “Tales from the Big House” has been in the Fresh Fruit Festival, Emerging Artist Festival, and the Hot! Festival at Dixon Place. Tales is a comical coming of age story about a young African-American woman who gallantly claims her lesbian identity at the age of 16 only to find that coming out is only the beginning. Robin’s writing was highlighted in Time Out New York’s Gay Pride Issue as the quote of the week and feature story about comedians telling their hysterical coming out stories. In the fall of 2008, Robin was awarded a month long writing residency at the Hedgebrook. During her time there she developed a new solo show, which will debut later this year.

Taueret Manu is a New Yorker to the marrow. She loves the divine, sriracha, pitbulls, friction, hibiscus juice, pink prosecco, sexual currency, poetry, and rioting. She dislikes White Santa/White Jesus/White Male God, the prison industrial complex, and the NYPD.
She blogs at afrotitty.tumblr.com

Kate Bovitch is a third culture kid, on-and-off pop culture junkie, and one person craft revolution. Kate holds a BFA in Creative Writing and once wrote a master’s thesis on sexual desire and lesbian poetry.
The Boston Globe has called her “a series of contradictions”.

Paul Blore is a Philadelphia-based activist, public speaker, writer and performer. Currently, he is Director of Development for Power Up Gambia, bringing reliable energy to healthcare facilities in West Africa through solar power, as well as the Interim Development Coordinator at the William Way LGBT Community Center in Philadelphia’s Gayborhood. He’s written, directed and/or produced a number of creative works, including plays, movement pieces and a short film. He was also very involved in fundraising for the recent 50-State Story Tour of I’m From Driftwood, an online repository of first-person written and video stories from LGBT people all over the world.

As always, your hosts and producers:


KELLI DUNHAM is a ex-nun, butch-identified stand-up comic and author of four books of humorous non-fiction, including two children’s books being used by a conservative home schooling association in their science curriculum. She has appeared on Showtime, the Discovery Channel and was once asked to emcee a livestock auction. Her website is kellidunham.com. She is the co-founder, with Genne Murphy, of Queer Memoir.

GENNE MURPHY is a Philadelphia native, playwright, and arts educator. She is the co-founder, with Kelli Dunham, of Queer Memoir (queermemoir.com). She’s passionate about the intersection of the arts, social change, and community-building. Genne works for Philadelphia Young Playwrights, a local arts education non-profit, and is involved with initiatives to expand new play development in her hometown.

Queer Memoir, One Year. Our Stories, Our Lives

I love this photo, twitpic’ed from our first event: Queer Memoir: FIRST KISS.  It was taken at intermission with my crappy camera phone. It’s so dark you can’t pick out individual faces, but can tell people are connecting. I wrote “Queer Memoir Intermission: Bliss.” One year later, I still feel the same way.

[Kelli shares her thoughts about Queer Memoir’s anniversary…]

So it’s been just over a year since we had our first Queer Memoir event at the beta version of Collect Pond. We had seating for a little over 30 and more than 100 people showed up. And stayed. And listened. We were amazed by the spirit of the storytellers and by the audience response. That night, as Genne and I unpacked our stuff from a friend’s car on Lincoln Road in Brooklyn, someone who was at the event recognized us and shouted out their car window “thanks for Queer Memoir. Thanks for the stories. I really needed to hear those tonight.”

I’m a slightly goofy looking, chubby genderqueer person. That’s NOT the kind of thing people I usually hear yelled out car windows. Genne and I looked at each other and knew we were on to something.

Since that time, we’ve curated 11 events in three states with 60 unique storytellers to an estimated audience of just over 1000. We’ve collaborated with five different organizations, hosted one guest curator and used six different venues. We’ve had audience members from as far away as Toronto for our NYC shows and we have a regular Philly to NYC following. We’ve had a number of collaborative storysharings, including two set to music!

Our storytellers have been brave and amazing: our Philly event included a storyteller who shared about why he didn’t like the word queer; in our sober event an ordained minister stood up, holding his bible in his hand and told the story of choosing between a boyfriend and crack.

Our family-themed event was especially poignant. One couple shared how they had fought through their own difficult upbringing to start a family that included multiple teenagers from the foster care system, Genne’s (straight) dad and my (straight) sister traveled from Philly to NYC to share on stage with us. We explored what it means not only to be gay in a straight family, but to be a straight person interacting with the queer community. One storyteller shared an extremely difficult childhood experience and then asked “how do you turn around these moments?” the answer was “make a new memory, by sharing here, with people you love.” I can’t even write about that moment without getting choked up a little. As intense as these kind of stories sometimes are, they’re often very funny as well since the most difficult of human experiences are often the most absurd also.

It’s not just been the storytellers that have been amazing: the audiences that we’ve drawn have given me real hope for the queer communities. Due to broken air conditioning at the venue, the temperature at the July Sober-themed event (guest curated by Cheryl B) topped over 100 degrees. Despite this, more than 75 percent of the attendees stayed for the entire event. At every salon, the response to the very real sharing is warm and gracious and I often see strangers grabbbing and hugging storytellers (consensually I am sure) after the event.

Although Genne and have discussed it at length, I can’t say that we understand exactly, why this event has been successful in this way. Part of it, I’m sure, is timing.  Certain types of LGBT people are more prominent in media representation, but it’s become grossly obvious that it will still be a long time before queer stories, told by queer folks, with queer roles played by actual queer people will be commonplace. Hey, maybe we’re not satisfied with a storyline about a trans guy played by some Hollywood-type “beautiful” female with a penciled on mustache. Maybe we want to hear real stories. How about that!

I’m not so humble that I would omit Genne and I as part of the equation. I think it works that we’re both (as I was once called by a theater critic) “terminally earnest” and that we are willing to work with folks who are inexperienced. We often sit down with nervous storytellers and talk them through how to tell their stories and have been known to (lovingly of course) harass people into sharing. I think having both a “regular person” (Genne) and a performer (that’s me) on stage also reassures inexperienced storytellers. Our skill sets are complementary: I’m good with social media and getting the word out, but collaborative stuff we’ve done with other organizations has been all Genne’s doing: she speaks that arts education language fluently and doesn’t mind going to long meetings.

Although we say that Queer Memoir is for “writers, performers, and anyone with a queer story to tell”we are also aware that we’re only hearing a tiny fragment of the queer stories there are to hear. All our events have been in urban areas. Seldom do we have a storyteller sharing who is over age 60. We’ve heard from few storytellers whose first language was not English, and although presenting a wide range of voices is one of our highest priorities in choosing our line-ups, we’re also acutely aware we have a long way to go with that. We’re taking steps to address these challenges in the upcoming year and to expand the “preserving and documenting our complex queer history” part of our mission as well.

This past twelve months have been challenging for me personally, but Queer Memoir is one of the things I’ve done this year that I’ve been most proud of. It’s not just that I’m proud of what Genne and I have built, although it’s been some hard-ass work. I’m also proud of our storytellers who have shared in such an amazing, open and sometimes hilarious way. And I’m proud of the queer community for so enthusiastically supporting an event that is not about glitter, or drinking or house music or even, exactly, politics but instead simply consists of the sacred but not always glamorous act of telling and listening to our own stories.

PS our next event is February 26 in NY. All the details are here.