Out in the Woods :: Mx Justin Vivian Bond on the Easton Mountain Music Festival
Mx Justin Vivian Bond: Singer, stage and film personality, out and visible pioneer in the world of trans entertainers. Pronounced by Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shears to be a "great New York" entertainer.
Easton Mountain: The GLBT spiritual retreat center in upstate New York that serves as a home in the wilderness and social hub for many gay men -- and where it’s not uncommon for matters of the soul and matters of the flesh to convene in common conviviality.
Town and Country, the glamorous and the pastoral, the amorous and the supernal. How such two disparate realms ever meet?
At Easton Mountain’s Aug. 10 Out in the Woods Music Festival, of course. This year’s festival boasts not only the talents of Mx Bond, but also Namoli Brennett, Jorge Avilla, Sean Kagalis, Freddy Freeman, Gary Wayne Ferris, Martin Swinger, and others, with Rev. Roger Yolanda Mapes serving as host.
There are just a few things to keep in mind when enjoying a chat with Mx Bond. The first is that the appropriate gender pronoun in Mx Bond’s case is not "he" or "she" but "V." The second is that, when addressing V, it’s only polite to use the proper honorific (that would be "Mx"). And third, rather than speaking of V as a "man" or a "woman" or even "transman" or "transwoman," one refers to V as a "T" (or "Trans").
Simple enough, and yet there were moments when your correspondent had to slow down, think twice, and get his thoughts in order. It wasn’t a challenge, exactly; it was more akin to those rare occasions when one has the chance to exercise one’s familiarity and skill, however nascent (or rusty) it might be, with chatting in a second language or observing the decorum of a different culture.
Of course, it only helps when one is speaking with someone gracious enough to overlook the occasional slip! In this regard, Mx Bond proved to be a treasure: Poised, thoughtful, and considered.
EDGE: Mx Bond, can you give us an idea what you’ll be doing at the Out in the Woods music festival at Easton Mountain? Emceeing, performing, a mix?
Mx Justin Vivian Bond: Well, I’m only doing a 20 minute set, but there are so many great acts I wouldn’t want to hog up the stage for too long anyway.
But since I’ve got so many friends attending who are also performers I think it’ll be hard to resist bringing people onstage to sing with me. Who knows? Maybe I can get Amber Martin, Nath Ann Carrera, and Brett Every to each do a duet with me. Over the years I’ve worked up great songs with each of them!
EDGE: How did you happen to become involved with the Music Festival?
Mx Justin Vivian Bond: [Publicist] Wil Fisher asked me to emcee last year and I was so into the idea of bringing economically challenged young people into the woods to create music that I couldn’t say no.
I write most freely when I’m in the woods, and I know how important nature can be in helping us get in touch with our own natures as individuals that it seemed liked a very important thing to do. I’m really thrilled that so many other artists are getting on board.
EDGE: You’ve been called "One of the great New York City performers" by Jake Shears, but here you are, ready to go out into the wilds of upstate New York -- do you have any preference for getting out into the country? Or would you say you are more of a city T?
Mx Justin Vivian Bond: I grew up in the country. My grandparents had a farm and I used to ride my bike 13 miles round trip to sit at my grandmother’s knee on her porch in Maryland, to walk the fields and to be with my cousins. I’ve always felt much more comfortable in the woods than in the city.
But I have to be in the city to make a living, and because I’m very stimulated by the nature in an urban environment -- namely other animals, my species, people.
EDGE: As trans youth speak out, trans artists create work from their perspective, and lawmakers take note, would you say we are making real progress in getting away from that binary model? Is that the purpose of honorifics such as "Mx" and gender words such as "V?"
Mx Justin Vivian Bond: Yes. We feel these things as individuals. Everyone is unique. If we learn to trust ourselves as individuals and assert ourselves with respect and conviction then we can then lead by example into a new paradigm.
It’s mindless, lazy, groupthink that is destructive, not individual freedom.
EDGE: Popular culture, and especially music, has a tremendous influence on where we’re headed as a people. In this regard, do you feel yourself to be a cultural leader? Or perhaps an entertainer who also serves to educate?
Mx Justin Vivian Bond: All I know is that I made a commitment long ago to pursuing a career as an out, visible, and vocal queer artist and I’ve done that. Any affect that may have on others is up for them to decide and think about. I’m thinking about what my next creative project will be.
Easton Mountain’s "Out in the Woods Music Festival" takes place August 10. Tickets cost $30 (attendees under 25 pay $20) and be ordered online. For more information, please visit the festival’s website.