Tag Archives: Del LaGrace Volcano

Fight or Flight?

Bird La Bird & Bird Club

Wearing frilly knickers should not be dependent on what’s in them. When I hear the word “real” before any category of person whether it’s woman, lesbian or femme I head for the hills. If you’ve ever been told you’re not “real” you’ll probably like Bird Club.Bird La Bird (on friction.org.uk)


‘Armageddon Fem’ Bird La Bird screeched onto the stage as a part of the Femme Programme at London’s 21st Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, performing at the screening of Campbell X (Inge Blackman)’s ‘Fem’, in which she also appears. At the following London Pride Bird organised a Femme Pride Bird float with the maxim ‘Femme Invisibility: So Last Year!‘ In 2008 Bird graced the cover of Ulrika Dahl and Del LaGrace Volcano’s ‘Femmes of Power: Exploding Queer Femininities’ and I met her for the first time at the book’s launch in London. When, there, Bird sang her song ‘Do you know what kind of club this is?’ (about gay clubs who can’t/don’t recognise a queer bird), I fell a little bit in love. And I was not the only one. So many cheers and thanks and acclaim and joy was bestowed upon her that she determined to turn the mythology of Bird Club into a reality – a real club, if only once a month – where Anyone Can Be A Bird.

I’m interested in post Butch/Femme and what happens when players themselves question and rewrite the roles. I find the hostile reaction many non-players have towards butch/femme enthusiasts fascinating. I can’t think of another consensual sexual activity that has so much scorn and derision poured on it. I’m fascinated why many people find it so threatening and I’d like to see if that anxiety can be played with. – Bird La Bird

When I started feeling good about the word ‘tranny‘ and dressing ‘as a boy‘ and ‘as a drag king‘ I never felt like one (a boy that is). I was stable (if slightly uncomfortable) as a dyke and (therefore) as a woman. But then I found a place that did to me what I do to so many people; made no assumptions about me. And it had a huge impact on me. Clearly. Because it happened. I started having moments where I didn’t feel so much like a lesbian anymore, like a dyke, like a woman.

I was lost. And it was sublime.

That is where Bird Club lies. When Bird La Bird says Anyone Can Be A Bird, that’s how it is. Everyone can be anyone they want, and maybe even someone they didn’t quite know they were.

Dear Bird, Thanks for opening my eyes and my wings, Love Max xx

The next Bird Club in London is March 12. Go to www.birdclub.org.uk for details.

Photograph by Sam Nightingale.


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Ask Max


Chris asked Max on September 29, 2008:

I need you to do me and the English language a favour. Can you come up with a gender neutral singular pronoun? When I write, I tend to use ‘he’ and ‘she’ in equal balance for gender-unspecified singular persons.

I see how and why you would object to this, and I think I do, too. I think this is an interesting exposure of how gender specific language is. Even when the gender isn’t specified, the rules of English compel us to specify one of two genders. Hey look! A microcosm of society!

Problem being, most people solve this (or commit a grammatical error) by referring to ungendered singular persons as ‘they’, which is grammatically incorrect. English specifies three pronouns here: ‘he’ or ‘she’ for singular, and ‘they’ for plural.

I would like to know your thoughts, as a writer and queer activist, on how to solve this dilemma. It is curious that the answer might be the problem. Perhaps ‘they’, ungendered and plural, is fittingly applied to catch gender identity in its plural state. I don’t feel that pluralising gender is any kind of solution, though. Just because you are not male or female, does not mean that you are both male and female. As I understand it, a lot of the notion of queer gender is not deciding between male and female, or even finding a middle ground, but perhaps associating with an ‘other’ that isn’t traditionally recognised. I am ignorant of the current thought on this. I am ignorant of your thoughts on this.

So, solve my linguistic riddle and assuage my grammatical conscience.



Max replied:

ah yes indeed – English does force us into this unfortunate situation. As you have drawn attention to, by forcing us to choose, English (as a language/system) reinforces/perpetuates the gender binary we see in everydaylife. However there are gender neutral pronouns (neologisms) available. 

A trendy set of gender neutral pronouns which are used by trans/gender theorists (including me & Kate Bornstein) is ze/ hir, as in

he, she, ze / him, her, hir / his, hers, hirs

which is pretty sweet in writing because it doesn’t look too weird (though weird enough), but obviously is a bit problematic in speech (hir sounding the same as her), but I’m ok with this. 

Michael Spivak suggests and uses the pronouns ey/ em, as in a singular of they/ them, but to me this sounds and looks too weird and people probably won’t know what the fuck you are doing / you can lose the meaning of the whole thing (ze/ hir does look like a pronoun).

Also, Del LaGrace Volcano uses herm/ herm’s – I think that’s pretty cool too.

Volcano says: “Herm is a term that works in some instances better than others. Her and him equals herm, it’s also short for HERMaphroDYKE and is a play on words. I also use male pronouns in my everyday life because that is the gender people see and I don’t have the time or energy to educate every person I meet, some of whom might want to cause me harm if they knew I was a transgendered intersexed queer! However, since what people see is not just a ‘man’ but what looks to them like a short chubby gay man using male pronouns does not guarantee physical safety.” (in G3 Magazine, September, 2008)

All of these however I fear you might not be able to get away with in ‘official’ / formal / legal writing. In which case, I recommend (politically) that you use the feminine she/her throughout. This is because in theworld at large the masculine/male is considered universal. So by using the feminine, you put women back in (to writing/’reality’). By using both, I fear (politically) it comes across as ‘equal’, when things aren’t. (This is also the case (problem) with s/he or (s)he, although there are instances where this may be more appropriate). That is, even if you always used only feminine pronouns, you would not come close to making even the number of feminine and masculine pronouns in use.

When/If you are using it as a universal, I think ze/ hir serves the purpose very well – it draws attention to the way the English language forces us to choose, and defies this expectation. At the same time, if you are referring to someone specifically, ask them. It’s not always obvious which pronoun a person would like to use, and not your place to assume or guess.

Queer love,



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