Awake in the pink light of dawn, having feelings about the video shoot we are attempting today – a music video for Mizz June’s song “Light the Way.” This morning I am struggling with the word “director” within a process that – from the start – has attempted to collapse traditional hierarchies within the filmmaking process.

The song was originally written by Star Amerasu, chosen by Mizz June to be sung by the character she created for our movie, and recorded this winter and spring with Princess Tiny. From day one June and Ky’iera and all of the main performers have controlled the narratives of their characters and how they choose to represent themselves in the immortal language of film.

We move slowly in this process. We think a lot about what messages we send, what values we represent. We have lots of dinners where we talk about ideas and tell stories and only get through part of the agenda. The “we” is constantly shifting – which complicates things and adds to the magic. The ideas need to hold up through many different filters and changes. We keep re-writing the script and we accept this as part of our process.

Sometime this winter, as Light the Way was in the works, June and I invited somethKristen Parker, Angel Favorite, Dominika Ksel and Jack Jackson into our imaginations, along with Carlo Maria, Emmersun Lunarbow, and others involved in the movie dreaming process. Ultimately it’s Angel who had the capacity to make this shoot happen quickly enough to coincide with Miss Major’s visit to NYC, and many friends from the Werrrqshop like Danielle Rye and Ka Sue Jeong and Qing Xzavier are working on makeup, accessories, costumes…. friends like Lucretia John and Willow T C Rosenberg and Tilly McGill DeWolfe are stepping up on food and costumes, dancers we’ve met through Sylvia’s Place Ma’at Black St. Jamesand Dawn Kimberly Cole, and my roommates Carlo Maria and Chris Roberts who have been with us every step of the way along with so many other friends and helpers.

Angel officially plays the role of “director” in today’s shoot, as the creator of the storyboard and the shot list and the person whose wisdom guides the lights and cameras. And yet – is the real director Mizz June and Kristen, whose ideas and imaginations guided Angel’s visions? Or Star, whose lyrics have moved us emotionally through this journey? Is it all of us combined? What words fit my role as person with a certain aesthetic who finds and redistributes resources and moves the process along? How do we properly honor the work contributed by all the people who are giving to the best of their ability and imaginations?

Why do we have words in the first place? Whose language are we even speaking?

I feel extra sensitive about this because of considerations of race, gender and ability as they relate to the filmmaking process, even in our all-queer-and-trans by-us-for-us production. From day one I accepted that being a white person with power “directing” friends of color could be perceived as problematic, and yet, I refused to use my power as a producer to perpetuate white supremacy in film. I am anxious about how outsiders will perceive our filmmaking process, how it looks when reduced to certain words, vs. how it actually plays out for us, what it feels like to collaborate on nearly every decision in a deeply engaged collaborative process that prioritizes relationship-building and difficult conversations.

And I worry about patterns of patriarchy and colonialism and how they play out in our process, even as we try to hunt down the beast and create a wild pony from its carcass.

I worry about how they play out in me.

It is both a miracle and an act of resistance to be queer and trans and in charge of the telling of our own stories. Miss Major is participating in today’s shoot is an honor I am grateful to live through. Working collaboratively on a collective effort that involves the talents and imaginations of so many amazing people is richly rewarding and the thing I am loving the most about filmmaking. I am grateful for the knowledge in Angel’s head that will help the performers look great and well lit and keep the shoot moving forward. Grateful to be part of a community that questions itself, even while we stumble forward, making mistakes and learning from them and moving forward always.

As June sings — “someday, we’ll laugh the pain away….. someday.”


Another collaboration for the Wrrqshop TONIGHT:

In the fall, a few incidents of trans/homophobic hate violence occurred in Central Brooklyn back to back. The Audre Lorde Project (ALP), New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP), The Brooklyn Community Pride Center(BCPC), and Make the Road New York (MRNY) joined together to host an event in which the community could discuss ways to respond and resist hate violence in our communities.
Many people suggested increased spaces to learn to defend oneself/ones community and to reflect on/creatively express rage at violence through art. So, along with the Werrrqshop (WRRQ), we decided to organize a free “Safety Night” where community members could learn some basic self-defense/alternatives to policing & make art! Folks will also have the opportunity to network and learn about other great community resources such as Center for Anti-Violence Education (CAE)! Metrocards and dinner provided!

Friday, March 20 at GLOBE-Bushwick

6-6:30 Welcome & food
6:30-7 Introduction to the night & centering activity
7-7:45 Self defense training 101
7:45-8:30 Alternatives to policing training 101
8:30-9 Art making to respond to/resist violence
9-9:30 Announcements & hang out/network time

This event is free and open to all. Globe Bushwick is wheelchair accessible. The nearest trains are the M at Knickerbocker, and the M/L at Mrytle-Wyckoff (which has an elevator).

family dinner at sylvia's place

family dinner at sylvia’s place

another inadvertantly epic FB post, reproduced here:

Ruminating again on the intersections between racial justice and environmental concerns… particularly after reading this amazing post.

a) underlying root causes (white supremacist capitalist patriarchy causing devastation and destruction; disregard for violence against people and the earth)

b) the movements with momentum that have gotten significant numbers of people on the streets recently//the not-totally-overlapping casts of each, and whether it’s possible to consider that a strength somehow in undermining the greater forces at work//what alliances are possible or already happening.

c) the urgency of each of these movements; the different conceptions of time meant by the word “urgent”

d) I still hear the voice of a queer activist from Fiji in my head, who spoke of how all differences in her country were being set aside in order to deal with the more immediate problem of their land disappearing under rising seas.

e) and the voices of queer filmmaker friends from Kenya, who are restricted by severe homophobia in their culture, which – at its roots – emerged from white supremacist capitalist patriarchy

f) What would it mean to flatten the heirarchy assumed by patriarchal systems?

g) We are all human, we all breathe air and drink water. In our current systems some human lives are valued or violated more than others. We can’t work to heal the earth without simultaneously working to immediately and creatively address the crises caused by these systems.

h) There’s a lot of work that needs to be done in this giant and massive project of decolonizing and healing our earth. There is a role for literally everyone on the planet in this work, and for lots of different kinds of work to happen simultaneously. I continue to be inspired by projects that offer solutions and alternatives to current systems, particularly projects led by people of color and others who have borne the brunt of these fucked-up systems. I think about change that happens in small ways, by individuals.

I gotta go to work now.

But I LOVED reading about these projects — which make all these ideas more concrete.

also still thinking about this, which I posted on FB last month.

download it here!!! WRRQSHOPzineDec2014

WHAT MATTERS at the Wrrqshop

from our recent interview on the Visual AIDS blog:

The decision to make the “WHAT MATTERS” zine was both intentional and intuitive—there was so much going on in the streets and in our hearts, so much to respond to and reflect on and heal from. It was, and still is, an emotional time. One of the beautiful functions about making art is how it can provide a release for hard feelings. It also felt important to acknowledge and capture the sentiments in a format more tangible than Facebook or Instagram.

It felt not just appropriate but, somehow, necessary, to direct the resources we had available at the WERRRQSHOP to doing SOMETHING to contribute to the seemingly seismic shift in public dialogue around police brutality, state violence, racism, all of the issues that play out in the lives of the young people we love, and the others like them who have gotten killed by police. It felt equally important—as two white artists—to acknowledge our whiteness and open up space for other white queers to work through the feelings raised by witnessing the anger and injustice of our loved ones, brought on by a system of racism that I for one was raised to support. Lots to unpack there.

Zines are awesome as they allow different perspectives and voices to co-exist. Everyone gets their own page, first-person confessionals are totally encouraged, it is a good space for release and creativity. The group of people that responded to the call was a really diverse mash-up of age, race, work style, a lot of perspectives and levels of experience. Joan Mitchell Foundation let us print the zines in color which is pretty awesome. Ethan just dropped off a bunch of copies to the Bureau—check one out for yourself and let us know what you think.

making WHAT MATTERS at the Wrrqshop


My lovely collaborator Ethan Shoshan and I did an interview with Visual AIDS (who we love) about the Wrrqshop.  Here it is in its entirety.  (actually believe it or not originally it was longer!!)  For me it felt good to articulate some of the thinking behind what we’ve been up to.  Here is an excerpt:

How do you see art, craft, fashion, and style as important for activist or community-building causes?

Quito: From the beginning the WERRRQSHOP was conceived of as a space for queer movement-building and collaboration. It isn’t *just* about connecting the young people to artists who can mentor them—it is about helping them understand the systemic forces behind their very personal struggles, and connecting them with groups like Trans in Action or the Audre Lorde Project who are organizing to address some of those issues. It doesn’t always work, but we try to seed the conversations we have while we craft with current issues or histories they should be aware of. We’re really excited about the upcoming Play Smart WERRRQSHOP with Visual AIDS on February 13, where we can be super explicit in discussing HIV/AIDS. The first one we did, last fall, was a blast, with some pretty vibrant cross-pollination.

For many of the artists Ethan and I have pulled into the WERRRQSHOP, being queer is an inherently political identity. Many of us are involved in one form of activism or another—the very way we live our lives is a form of resistance. How we present ourselves in the world as queers, the external markers of fabulosity or gender non-conformity that become part of our personal style, are a form of visual resistance to the dominant culture. Not to mention many of us are in one stage or another of questioning our genders. Providing encouragement and a safe space to make identity-specific drag is a form of activism we are delighted to provide.

Every time I read about another state deciding to allow gay marriage, I think about the young people. Our problems as a community are not over when the issues personal to one demographic are resolved. As long as there are young people who still show up at Sylvia’s for emergency shelter, we as a queer community are not fully mended.

We queers are supposed to be looking out for each other, supporting each other in healing from the lies and violence of our post-colonial world, sharing our skills and resources with each other. But the bridges between us are not always there, or can have fucked-up power dynamics attached to them; not everyone has worked out their shit yet. Family Dinners are great—we all have to eat, so why not eat together? Making things together at the Wrrqshop is an extension of that family time, another cross-community-building opportunity.

Ethan: I’m glad to be part of all this with you Quito. I would note though we are not living in a “post-colonial” world, in fact we are living in a very misogynistic, xenophobic, racist, homophobic, classist, economically disparate gender-biased patriarchal consumer culture which disconnects us from the very real impact and weight of our actions and words. In fact its very colonial. I think bell hooks says it best with “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” because its the interplay of the social and political systems prevalent in the US and much of the world. Its like we live as 2 or even 3 different kinds of identities and sometimes have to fight with our own internalized destructive tendencies, self hate and shame on top of all the social injustices. Anyway this is a larger discussion and we try and let it all out creatively.

Read the whole interview here.


Friday Feb 12th from 3-7pm at the Wrrqshop!  Please come.

Wrrqshop is at the Joan Mitchell Research & Education Center, 137 West 25th Street, 2nd floor

From the Visual AIDS press release:

Visual AIDS is thrilled to partner for a second Play Smart packing event with the Werrrqshop of Quito Ziegler and Ethan Shoshan at the Joan Mitchell Foundation, Education & Research Center. Workshops, conversation and refreshments will be part of a fun evening that includes supporting youth and stuffing Play Smart condom packs for national distribution. Artist Rebecca Levi will be joining from 5:30-7:00 for a hands-on workshop on how to do basic embroidery techniques that can be stitched into almost any fabric. She’ll also demonstrate how she uses these deceptively simple stitches to create embroidered portraits, including the Play Smart card “Breakfast Bear.” Kristen Lovell, HIV Testing Coordinator at Metropolitan Community Church of New York Charities, will facilitate a discussion from 5:00-5:30 about how HIV affects the lives of youth and transient communities. Play Smart safer sex kits will be packed throughout the event from 3:00-7:00pm. Feel free to drop by for four hours,  four minutes or however long you’d like!

in case you have not yet seen the trailer:

screening at the Kent Theater in south Brooklyn Tuesday 12/30!

tickets here


image by Micah Bazant for Jewish Voices for Peace

image by Micah Bazant for Jewish Voices for Peace

Monday, December 15th, 2-10 pm
Great Small Works
20 Jay Street #214, in Dumbo, Brooklyn. (Studio is accessible by elevator but the nearest subway stations–F to York, A/C to High, 2/3 to Clark–are not.)
* puppets * patches * stencils * signs *
* cardboard * spray paint * broken lives *
* broken windows ~ broken hearts *
* sadness * anger * heal our hearts *this coming Monday please join
Jews for Racial and Economic Justice [JFREJ]
the The People’s Puppets of Occupy Wall Street
for an

in association with 11 Days of Action
(or rather : the remaining 5 nights of action after monday)

open to protestors of all ages
(especially in the after-school hours)
no skills required

stop in before heading out to the streets
express your rage visually
build community with other artivists
cross-pollinate across movements

11 nights of action = a whole lotta signage

from 2-6 we will be slightly-more focused on materials for JFREJ and the Arab American Association of NY’s action on Tuesday night 12/16

after 7 the Puppet Guild does their amazing weekly thing, this time in support of #BlackLivesMatter and #ThisStopsToday

but really :
stop in anytime
stay as long as you can
make things
make change
make connections
make it happen

revolution” : a weekend’s worth of thoughts

sixth avenue, tuesday night after darren wilson was let off the hook for the murder of michael brown in ferguson

sixth avenue, tuesday night after darren wilson was let off the hook for the murder of michael brown in ferguson

These thoughts started on Wednesday, freestyled with two thumbs and no premeditation directly to Facebook:

I’ve been sitting here all morning listening to the rain, trying to write about last night’s revolution in the streets and mostly just thinking, gawking at the images and feelings burned into my consciousness, how many thousands of us were there last night? A swell of rage and support, two black women stranded in their vehicle on Houston, honking and screaming their thrill and appreciation. pushing through that internal wall of not giving a shit anymore, not playing by the everyday rules of traffic and public behavior, because these systems are racist and fucked and every day it makes me angry. art is a release, imagining and enacting a better world is power, I am doing the work but there is just so much of it, always. we live with that and keep going. but to see the guts of the revolution splashed open and spilled out into the streets last night… just a couple months after 400,000 of us were out there for the people’s climate march… the ground is shifting below our feet and all we can do is keep marching.

“Revolution” I reflected afterwards.

What a weird word to use so freely.

What does it even mean?

What does it mean to me?

So strong, so loaded, true or not true?

I made a page just for it in my book of ideas, so I could think about it more:


On the next :




* * *

What would a queer revolution look like?

What would feminist leadership do?

How would this entire culture be structured differently?

Could a peaceful shift be possible in our liftetimes? (or maybe, like, NOW??)

What can we learn from Arab Spring / are there relevant parallels?

Is our government still effective at managing the needs of a society no longer willing to defer to the judgments of privileged white men?

Is it still possible to separate democracy from capitalism? What can we salvage from this rubble? What would we keep and what would get overhauled?

How would things run differently if capitalist goals (ie making money off each other’s backs for personal reserve) were rewritten in favor of collective/humanitarian goals?

What would be involved in a mass cultural shift away from capitalist values? Isn’t this already happening in queer spaces? What are we learning? Can any of it be applied to a larger cultural shift?  Or is it more reasonable to imagine a more contained separatist culture/value system?

And how on earth to deal with the prisons?

And people stuck in the immigration system?

What movements of the past are relevant to these questions, and what can we learn from them?

What is the difference between what flared up in the 60’s, what flared up after Rodney King in the 90’s, and now?

How do we deal with the very natural conflicts that arise between humans sharing a planet?

What if we just said NO? Who would be included in that WE?

What happens next??? Oh my gosh I want to KNOW.

* * *

What IS the revolution now?

The revolution now
has been going on for years
(for those who have been paying attention)
and is recently going
stronger than ever.

The revolution now
is thoughtful
& wise.

We have learned how to listen.
We are learning how to listen.
We are listening.

We think down to the roots
of every belief and behavior we’ve been taught
and reconsider it,
knowing what we do now.

We practice basic human kindness,
which is a practice.

That means sometimes we fuck up,
and need to be accountable for that.

Anger is released without violence.

In our revolution
We are treated with respect.
We treat each other with respect.
We respect each other.

We respect ourselves.

We respect our planet.

We actually consider the future.

* I know there is more to this. The ideas are still coming. Drop me a note with yours? *

* * *

Conflict resolution

I often think our approach to conflict resolution is what will mark us as a movement, long-term.

Conflicts are a natural part of being human together on the planet.

In the current system, how are conflicts dealt with? Prisons, law suits, money changing hands. Shame, guilt, punitive measures rooted in a false hierarchy. Mass incarceration, emphasis on control not rehabilitation, support, understanding. No acknowledgement of the greater injustices at play.

In queer communities, how do we deal with conflict? What does accountability mean? Consensus process has its challenges but there are things we’ve learned from it over the years. But there are also flame wars on the internet, public shaming and shunning, intergenerational misunderstandings where we write people off instead of engaging in the bridge-building that could lead to greater understanding, deeper alliances.

Call-in culture is what interests me the most. There is a great article on the Black Girl Dangerous blog by Ngọc Loan Trần, a Viet/mixed-race disabled queer writer grounded in the US South, which describes their experience/understanding of calling people in – you should read it, it’s called “Calling IN: A Less Disposable Way of Holding Each Other Accountable.”

  • Here are some of the essential points Trần makes:
  • Allow mistakes to happen. Everyone fucks up, and we need each other.
  • Consider what makes your relationship with this person important. Where is your common ground?
  • When speaking with them – identify the problematic behavior, define why you are choosing to engage.
  • Prioritize your own values.
  • Invite them to think about theirs, and where the two overlap.

And then :

  • Talk about it with patience and compassion
  • But also keep it real.

Think about it. If THIS were how conflicts were managed – by people, as part of a commonly-held cultural practice – what impact might it have on the criminal justice system of the future? Could a system of care and rehabilition be created to prevent the prisons of the future? Could communities that hold different sets of values co-exist and thrive?

To be continued.

* * *

P says the word “revolution” makes her wanna barf. P is a salty femme who worked for years on the AIDS movement, then the human rights movement, then the sexual health & reproductive rights movement. Occupy Wall Street made her feel old and jaded (me too). She gets annoyed when I flippantly say “there’s a war out there in the streets.”

And it’s true, I’m being annoying, and going over the top, and yet there IS a shift going on right now, a confluence that I feel certain we will talk about for years. You can’t be transgender in 2014 and not know that things have evolved very rapidly, very recently.

And yet :

I feel slightly uncomfortable and slightly dangerous using this word, yet it keeps slipping out of my mouth and I’m trying to figure out what that means. Influenced by images of Arab Spring – why is this word OK to use for things happening “over there”, when thousands flood our streets after Ferguson and there’s no proper word for what that felt like?

“Revolution” implies urgency, immediacy. But capitalism won’t end overnight, its values have been deeply stitched into the consciousnesses of more or less everyone on the planet. Ending violence is a multi-generational challenge; HIV/AIDS is an emergency that proliferates globally. It is easy for some of us to go about our lives while others are stuck in detention centers, government bureaucracy, the prison of their own bodies due to inadequate health care systems.

And yet – “revolution” implies total overhaul. Which is what this conundrum in its entirety requires. Which is what I sometimes sense we are on the verge of demanding, as the boundaries between movements collapse and our collective voices become ever more powerful. Which – in a way – is what we are doing when we create autonomous queer spaces, when we spill over into the streets, when we go beyond demanding the justice we deserve and just DO BETTER, ourselves, creating models for the future and finding better solutions for the challenges that arise when we try.

Ultimately – I don’t know if it’s better to use this word, or to come up with a new one that doesn’t have the same baggage.

So I’ll end this with an imagination exercise I thought up this spring. Try different combinations of these words like mad libs for further reflection:

What does a
look like/value/consist of/feel like/do

* * *



Look! The trailer for Act One is up.  So is a web site for the film and so is the site to buy tickets to the preview screening on December 30, 2014.  SO PROUD of all of the work done so far, so excited to see the first half hour when it’s done.  Working like mad to get it done in time but it’s definitely coming together, and that’s really exciting.  This project is kind of ruling my LIFE and I love it so much.