For the past few Prides, queer after hours party Slip hosted by drag entertainer Cucci Binaca has been an event where you—necessarily—touch your friends' faces, eagerly breathe in other partygoers' breath, willingly cram into the club/shed that is Timbre Room to throw crumpled dollars bills at drag performers on stage, and watch the morning sun filter in through the skylights.
This year, the social distancing rules set in place because of the, you know, global pandemic, and the technical limitations of Zoom won't stop this party's roll—if anything they make the party even more urgent.
A staple of Seattle’s Pride week, Slip usually starts at midnight with drag performers and house/techno DJs keeping the party going all night until the next morning. This year, it'll be hosted on The Stranger's Zoom, with drag performers sending in prerecorded numbers to stream over the platform as everyone watches from the comfort of their own self isolation, dancing to sets by DJs from Chicago, New Orleans and Seattle until 6 a.m.
The after hours was founded as an alternative to parties hosted across the city that Cucci felt mostly catered to the white cis gays of Seattle. Slip is specifically a space for QTPOC to have space to gather, cry, fall in love, break up, tip their favorite queens, and engage in the primal act of spinning around the dancefloor to pulsating, ethereal beats as lasers swirl around, making you feel like you're a part of a future queer utopia. Cucci calls it a "refuge."
“People are on their best behavior [at the party] and are kind to each other,” she told me over the phone recently. “People are more open to giving and receiving love.”
She told me that Slip has always been a “joyous” event but it’s also been “reminiscent of how far we need to go and the horrors that are still experienced in this world by queer people, Black people, indigenous people, people of color, trans people.”
That context seems ever more pressing now, especially considering the role that the queer community—specifically Black drag performers—has played in the protests in Seattle, at the frontlines of marches calling for defunding the police, holding killer cops accountable, and demanding for charges against protestors to be dropped by the city.
Initially, Cucci had a mind to cancel Slip after the protests erupted earlier this month in order put attention where it was necessary. But after some reshuffling, the event became a platform to showcase and get tips flowing toward the performers of color—specifically Black performers—and provide a much needed release during a time of heightened anxiety and surveillance.
Seattle drag queen Issa Man, who will be performing in one of the late night sets, has been taking a break from her drag to focus on organizing marches and other actions calling for defunding the police and justice for Black victims of police brutality. Before the protests, drag was like a "part time job" and the "love of her life" but there's a momentum to this moment that she wants to be a part of.
“I’m approaching Pride the way Pride should be approached: [as] a protest. It always has been, it always should be,” Issa told me. “Fuck having police at pride, fuck having corporations at pride—that’s not what it’s about.” She “100 percent” believes in the political power that drag has, explaining, “There’s not more of a fuck you to cis straight culture in any way.”
"For me, this Pride is one of a kind, one for history,"Tinashea Monét said of the work she's been doing in the weeks before Pride. "I haven't even been calling it 'Pride month,' I've been calling it 'extended Black history month.'"
Just yesterday, she performed during the Black Trans Lives Matter march right on Westlake and Denny, in front of the Whole Foods that kicked out employees wearing Black Lives Matter masks on Juneteenth.
Artist @Tinasheamonet performs part of @Beyonce’s “Formation” in the middle of the intersection outside of the SLU Whole Foods to huge cheers during a #blacktranslivesmatter #BLM march in LGBTQIA+ solidarity pic.twitter.com/j9xIgfSJdr
— Lindsey "Member of the Media" Wasson (@lindseywasson) June 26, 2020
Focusing her attention on mobilizing her community and city around supporting the Black community has been vital to her. "I would be damned to have kids and they ask me about Black Lives Matter and I wouldn't be able to say anything," Monét said. Attending and performing at marches has been drawing her away from the (now digital) drag and ball scenes in Seattle, but both quarantine and the protests have given her enough space to be able to "fine-tune" her craft and focus on her mental health to come back better than ever.
Another Slip performer Kylie Mooncakes has been taking a step back from posting and performing online because "as a non-Black person, it doesn't make sense to put out content and personal things right now," instead using her platform to support Black queens and community members. But she see the organizations of drag queens—especially Black and trans queens—around protesting and being on the front lines as part of the fabric of the history of the art form.
"We're still doing drag, it just looks different," she told me. "We're not dancing on the stage, we're not lip syncing to memes or Tik Toks, but what we're doing is the heart of what drag represents and should always be standing behind."
The Black and queer-led actions and protests being held this Pride get at the very heart of the radical and revolutionary history of this month. Though celebrations are held virtually in a time when touch and embrace seems so important (and charged), being able to individually come together to scream affirmations at the drag performers on our computer screens and rearrange our furniture to create a dance floor feels like a needed pause.
Slip is not an escape, but rather a necessary moment to remember who we're fighting for. Queer joy and celebration is absolutely part of the revolution.
Ten percent of the proceeds from Slip and the Stranger's Pride weekend in general will go to both Black and Pink and the Trans Women of Color Solidarity Network. Be sure to follow and tip the drag performers and DJs for the night. Here's the full list:
HOT PINK SHADE (SEATTLE)
ISSA MAN (SEATTLE)
KYLIE MOONCAKES (SEATTLE)
LAVISH LEON (TACOMA)
LONDYN BRADSHAW (SEATTLE)
MILA SKY (SEATTLE)
ROWAN RUTHLESS (SEATTLE)
TINASHÉA MONÉT (TACOMA)
LATE NIGHT/SUNRISE MUSIC SETS BY:
HIM HUN (CHICAGO)
HEAVY PLEASURE (NEW ORLEANS)
MUTUAL RESPECT (SEATTLE)