Nonbinary Comics, Right Now

for The New York Times


Over the course of two weeks, I joined five nonbinary comedians for an evening on the town, watching them perform, and getting a peek behind the curtain of their rising careers. With words & interviews by Shane O'Neill, this Arts feature was a laugh-filled dive into the queer side of comedy.

- Peter Smith is philosophical about the concept of nonbinary gender identity. “All language is wrong,” Smith said. “To pick an identity still has a binary nature to it because there’s still a decision that needs to be made.”

- The stand-up comedian Jes Tom has a go-to pronoun joke: “I like when people call me ‘they.’ It makes me feel less lonely.”

- During their more traditional stand-up sets, Spike Einbinder sometimes uses their trans identity to toy with their audience. “I’ll say ‘Who here thinks I’m a girl?’” Einbinder said. “And usually people are too afraid to answer that.”

- James Tison bristled at the idea that a comedy night by and for L.G.B.T.Q. comedians represents a radical departure from comedy at large or a softening of jokes. “I don’t think anybody has neutral material,” they said. “It’s a made-up concept. There’s just a lot of straight men in the business and we call that neutral.”

- While they do tell jokes about their gender identity (“I’m nonbinary, so I’m not like other girls. Because I’m a person.”), Lorelei Ramirez often veers into absurdist body horror monologues delivered in voices that can test the line between cutesy and creepy.



The Young Fans of Drag

for TeenVogue


In 2017, for the first time, RuPaul’s DragCon arrived in New York City. During that year, the fanbase for drag culture was exploding in surprising ways. What used to be a culture mostly consumed by gay men was becoming a source of inspiration for many young people both in and out of the LGBT community. An article in Slate quoted young fans expressing, “Drag’s emphasis on creativity and individuality can be an effective way to express yourself. It does not promote narrow or restrictive understanding of beauty or femaleness.”

In the following portraits and interviews, I sought to gain more insight into the power of drag and what it means to the rising generation.

Peyton & Aaron, "People stare at what I wear on the street and in here. The difference is, on the street I am being judged. In here I am being admired."

info
×

Onyx Black, "I came here to network, first of all. I am a brand new drag queen, only nine months in. In Delaware, we don't have an accepting scene. People's reactions went from 'What?' in Delaware to 'Yas! Twirl!' in this space. My look is inspired by Monster's Inc, a little Mike Wazowski meets Sulley."

info
×

Ava & Bella with Zuzu & Zunky, "We just like expressing ourselves, and ruffles. We like ruffles a lot."

info
×

Liv, "Sasha Velour is my biggest inspiration, because she says no to the standards. She delivers with her heart and I am always blown away. DragCon feels important for meeting others who are interested in pushing boundaries. You can go up to anyone and ask 'Where are you from?' and you've made an acquaintance, if not a new friend."

info
×

Emily, "We see more and more kids each year. These kids that are growing up and being bullied, they come to a beautiful safe space like this and it's like, this is normal. A different kind of normal. Though it feels like the natural progression of fashion. You look at runways and it looks weird and bizarre, until it's not."

info
×



Pride After Pulse

for VSCO


In June of 2016, 49 people were shot and killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida for being part of the LGBT community. Two weeks later, New York would host its annual pride celebration, bringing tens of thousands of queer people together in public. In the wake of this tragedy, despite how unsafe the streets felt, I worked with a small team to capture portraits and interviews to understand why people still felt the importance to show up. Living queer in public is a gift, and pride in 2016 was a loving memory of the ones we lost and the triumph that can be found in finding a reason, in spite of it all, to pour into the streets and be joyful.

Brian, "We have to claim our space so it doesn't get taken by other people. Being afraid would be giving into exactly what they want."

info
×

Samantha, "I was up all night reading the stories. It hurt, I was crying, but I am here. We have to go out, but stay vigilant."

info
×

Stevie & Emma, "This is the best feeling in the world, to be here with my community. We can't let those people win, and not being afraid is a form of activism. I would cry, but I don't want to mess up my make up."

info
×

Allie, "I would rather die here in an environment where I feel accepted, than an environment where I am not."

info
×

Andrew, "This is my first Pride and it feels like the most important. I am from the Midwest and have been a closet case my whole life. I was self-conscious going out like this, but today has been endless smiles."

info
×

Eliza, Travis, & Rowan, "Having a kid, safety's always on my mind, no matter where I am in large crowds. I'll admit, part of me didn't want to bring her, but everyone was coming out, so we did too."

info
×

Suzie, "Some of coming out in public, just like after 9/11, is to say: 'Too bad, you can't do it to us.' You have to keep coming out."

info
×

JD, "I had my coming-of-gayge when I was 16 in San Francisco, and I've been coming to Pride ever since. This year is different. We are mourning as well as celebrating. I needed to come out and take back what the terrorist attempted to take away–our joy, pride, happiness."

info
×

Ray & Jim, "We're from Minneapolis and we never had a second thought about canceling. Look at the past, Stonewall 47 years ago. Those queers got shit done. This fight isn't over. We're here to get shit done."

info
×
Using Format