Summer Crush: Bebe Huxley ♡
by Eros Mortis
Self-proclaimed Gender F*cker, Transfeminist, and Singer/Songwriter Bebe Huxley goes in depth with identity, guilty pleasures, fashion choices, and their experiences in the drag world.
Our all time fav question: Where do you get your inspiration from?
Being a music-video-writer-performer-exhibitionist, I pull influences from cinema, literature, ballet, Broadway, drag, Gonzo, soap operas, Surrealism, Psychedelia, the suburbs, nightlife, religiosity, intense femmes, gay daddies, hard techno, classic rock, soul, and funny New York Jews, who were my parents and probably made the biggest impression on me.
Growing up I was deeply affected by the glam tastes of my mother, which were Madonna, Abba, Kate Bush, Michael Jackson, crossed with the heavy rock groove that my dad blasted through the house to wake me up for school: Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, Cream, the Rolling Stones. Dad’s favorite Beatle is George, but mine is forever John. I watched Jem and the Holograms everyday on VHS until middle school when my parents split up and I cried in the backyard to Fiona Apple. In college I obsessed over indie-rock-electronic hybrids: Brian Eno, TV on the Radio, Animal Collective, The Fiery Furnaces, and my queen queer Jew Peaches who probably compelled me the most to get on stage with my own act. It was right after finishing at Berkeley that I began performing as Glittoris—writing songs about reincarnation over dark bass while covered in glitter. This act brought me to the drag club which allowed me to develop new material every week for two years, bridging live music and lip-syncing, femme, and butch drag—an exploration that has been essential to the integration of my self and stage persona which are coming closer and closer together in my music and day to day life.
My deepest ongoing inspiration is to release the pain in my gut, to let out grief and anxiety and put it somewhere… reaching around in places to feel more, love more, leave the old shit behind. If this brings someone in the audience to let it out as well—that’s my ultimate payoff as an artist. Singing and songwriting has been one of the best ways to shed my heart, along with crying, laughing and screaming at the top of my lungs. All of which I love doing with my audience!
To someone who is not familiar with you and what you do, how would you describe your view of gender and how you express your gender identity?
Well, if you meet me at the club, it’s possible that I’ll be wearing a penis packer in my undies. This is a flaccid penis “dildo” that is not intended for penetration, and gives me a sizable bulge in my Tommy Hilfiger tighty whities, trousers, dresses, miniskirts, whatever I’m wearing. This is my one of my ongoing experiments in the nightclub whether I’m singing or whether I’m out dancing and exploring. I see the nightlife as a microcosm of human identity and interaction, ripe for transgression and illumination. Wearing my cock is a way I’ve discovered and can enact my queerness, opening up who I attract and who am I attracted to, how I take up space, what are my fears, where can I enter an interaction with questioning—and no two experiences wearing my cock out clubbing are the same. Every signifier in my ensemble and environment (straight, mixed or queer crowd, cock in dress or cock in boy’s briefs, beard or femme makeup, going alone or with friends, etc.) makes a contextual shift in my behavior and in the way I am perceived. I like to be a detective in the nightclub, picking up clues for where gender rules are reinforced and where they are broken. I look for when people treat me like a woman or a man, where they are attracted or uncomfortable (my cock sometimes makes me more sexually attractive to gay men which is some of the height of my titillation). My thrill playing with gender is the state of psychedelic uncertainty and vulnerability that it puts me in, and the kinds of questions that arise from people I meet. I’m a nudist and exhibitionist, queer in my politics and in my soul, so I really get off making my gender questionable in public to break down perceived roles, mine being “woman.” I identify as a queer woman.
During the day I present as a soft boyish butchy with glasses, or hard cunty femme who likes to be loud and make people laugh. Accessing my masculine side after years of femininity for male approval has really helped me be more outgoing and jokey without throwing “flirtation” and unwanted sexual overtures (especially with testostrionic straight dudes) in the mix. I want to be able to connect with as many people as possible without being hit on or disregarded. This queering of my day drag has translated to my performance aesthetics as well. I’ve done drag queen, piling on costumes, wigs, femme accouterment for my performances, and then king with excessive male signifiers like beards, binding my breasts, unibrows, shaved heads, etc, and now I feel those personas breathing inside of me even when I’m not wearing makeup. I feel a new desire for rawness in my presentation on and off stage, shifting my masculine and feminine for the context I’ll be in.
How has being a cis girl in the drag world impacted you as an artist?
It’s had many stages. At first I felt quite out of place in the drag world; I was a young woman doing my sexualized music performance that was entertaining for a drag audience and decided to do it weekly at High Fantasy, an avant drag night at one of the last standing gay bars in SF’s tenderloin, Aunt Charlies. Doing a drag queen persona was an “easier” transformation for me because it was an amplification of everything I knew about being a fierce woman, modeled after my loud blonde Jewish grandma and mom. I really learned how to be strong, big, deliberate and story-driven by doing woman drag and learning from SF legends David Glammamore, Honey Mahogany, Vivvyanne Forevermore, Fauxnique, Rahni Nothingmore, Dulce de Leche, Gina LaDivina, and my mommy Mandy Coco. These queens taught me about the power of stillness and drawing an audience into your spotlight with your lips, eyes, and razor focus. And a reveal. Drag is acting, and you always shoot for an Oscar. It took years for me to feel relaxed backstage with a room full of queens. You definitely have to earn respect from the community; it’s a sacred underground world and there was an added pressure as a woman for me to kill on stage, I felt I had something to prove. Which can be bizarre in a medium that truly glorifies the feminine, but mostly on stage in transcendent exaggeration. If I was out of face in certain drag clubs, I could feel invisible in the sea of hot dudes cruising, sometimes joking about the vile-ness of pussy, which didn’t offend me so much as make me recognize fortitude of the gay spaces that were hard fought, and face the challenges of assimilation in the post Drag-Race society. And made me realize how sexually attracted I am to gay men.
Then I cut my hair. And suddenly it was boy drag all the time. This was the moment that transformation really possessed me. A door into the masculine was opened, never to be shut again. I didn’t know how to walk like a man, gesticulate like a man, so my first number as a King was totally unrehearsed. At Aunt Charlie’s there’s no “stage” so the audience is right near you when you perform, and a guy was standing with a drink right in my playing space, so I instinctually butched him out of my space with my lip-sync. I felt the aggressive, fuck you, this is MY space juices rush through my body, an entitlement and ferocity that was unmistakably masculine. I have been high on it ever since.
And now, I am working on figuring out how to wield my entitlements as a queer masculine-junky white woman, particularly when I have my cock piece on. I am learning when it’s appropriate for me to take up space with my genderfuck, and when it is not. I am in a place of privilege with my gender play. Being a white cis girl in this society is one of the easiest constituencies to navigate in public spaces; I have not been bullied, taunted, harassed by police or public officials, violently accosted for using gendered bathrooms, threatened, hurt, or feared for my life during my penis wearing experiments. This is cis privilege. This is white privilege. I do not speak for the trans community, I fear exploiting trans values, and I know that this is a messy experiment. I am committed to learning, listening, and standing with my trans family to fight for a world where it is safe to identify how we choose and to be seen how we want to be seen. My liberation as a woman depends on trans people being liberated and seen with full humanity and combatting racism where I see it happening in the world and in myself. This is what I take from the theory of Transfeminism, a movement I deeply admire and associate with.
Of all the personas / characters you’ve portrayed in your gender-bending routines, can you choose a favorite?
Fred Durst, lip syncing “Nookie” while shamefully masturbating. Also doing an Italian Stallion, 90’s rocker Dave Navarro type, while lip syncing 50 Cent “Candy Shop,” humping Mandy Coco and “playing” an electric guitar.
What’s your all time favorite go-to dance move?
When I’m feeling butch and wearing sneakers and a sports-bra I love to do lots of footwork and get into my legs all over the dance floor. If I’m more femme and have platforms, I love getting deep into my groin to grind the speakers. I think all good dance music should make you wanna jog around the block.
Who is your ultimate style icon?
Mona May, designer of Clueless, Romy and Michelle, and Never Been Kissed. 70’s Yves Saint Laurent. Tom of Finland. Lenny Kravitz.
We’ve seen your mom in your music video! Do you also have a 'drag mom’ as well or would you consider her both?
Yes, Barbara A, therapist and author by day, drag queen by night is my biological mother, but she is my drag daughter. I named her and first put her into face (this was when I went by Brittany B, so obviously she would be Barbara A.) Mom really kills Barbara Streisand numbers. She lip-syncs like a pro. She will always be my stage mother because she is my ultimate female inspiration and has given me with so many clothing treasures. She is a 62 year old pea-cock. My official drag mother is Mandy Coco. She always took care of me backstage at Charlies, helping me with makeup and yelling at me with her thick European accent that I should have been aborted. Calling her Mommy felt so natural that I eventually asked her to be my drag mom.
How would you describe your sound?
Dark experimental pop. I like to make music that has dynamic shifts, is vocally driven, and tells my story of love, loss, and rage on top of driving electronica.
You write all your own lyrics. Could you describe your songwriting process to us?
Yes, I am very particular about my lyrics and vocal arrangement. I am working with Vincent Parker on my next two EPs. He is based in Canada, so we are basically talking everyday on Facebook messenger, sending each other drafts on Dropbox. We have such great creative chemistry—we’re both such strong willed artists, but we have two distinct roles in creating the songs. He produces the beats, I produce the vocals. We happen to have a very synced idea about how beats and vocals should relate to each other, so there’s a lot of trust in each other’s individual process. He’s a really diverse beat producer, consistently heavy and beautiful with evolving arpeggios and deep chords. Songs evolve in different ways, sometimes I’ll send him a sketch of a song with midi information from my keyboard and he’ll build a beat around it. Sometimes he’ll send me an instrumental and then I’ll sit alone in my Claremont garage and smoke copious clouds of marijuana and let me heart dance all over his sketch it until something inspired comes out. Which is sometimes immediate and sometimes months later. I’ve learned not to judge anything that comes out of my mouth when I’m songwriting. I simply do not hear anything “bad” come out of my mouth in a stream of consciousness—it’s all digging through mud to find the diamond underneath. We record drafts back and forth for months until it’s perfect, and it takes a long time to be perfect. The idea of a song lyric can be with me for months, marinating in my back-brain until it shoots out the solution months later for what it could really mean, and what each word actually is. With this album, I’ve attempted to make songs where the lyrics and vocals are loud and upfront so you can actually hear the words. Unless it’s not about words but sounds, because a lot of the vocals get very trippy. But every syllable of my vocal arrangement is very deliberate.
Guilty pleasure song?
Anything by Lana del Rey. The relentless reverb and the glorified misogyny make me cringe but I love Westcoast and Blue Jeans.
Best advice someone has ever given you?
Enjoy the moments when you are bored.
When it comes to sexuality and the pressures women face, do you have any wisdom / advice that you would give to those who look up to you?
I have done a lot of exploring in my twenties and plan to never stop questioning the roles I’ve been assigned in the society, and am now trying to own up to my responsibilities and privileges. I think for women it’s especially important that we contradict certain priorities of beauty and sexiness when we can. Being beautiful is not that important. Sex and being sexy is not that important. It doesn’t make you any better or any more whole to have a partner. We’re not defined by our fuckability or wifability. I think it’s important for women to value their time and energy and not give everything to their romantic partners, parents, colleagues, whoever, and try to identify our own needs and values. The feminine mind has been trained to give give give, in the smallest and largest ways, to make way for men in our space, and to put ourselves way down on the list of priorities when dealing with others. We get to communicate our needs with our lovers and friends and never settle for mind-fuckery and bullshit with those we invest our time. Our individual intellects are really valuable because we are obviously brilliant, but also have a trained feminine instinct for empathy.
As we acknowledge sexism and raise awareness to where it has impacted us especially when we were young, I think women get to step out of the victim role. Especially if we are white, as I am. We have been hurt but this does not stop us from hurting or stepping on others. We have the ability to not be stuck in the places we have been oppressed, and recognize where we are ourselves oppressors and accept that we are going to make mistakes when connecting to new groups of people (but not like “reverse sexism” against men, that’s not my point. I think I’m speaking more about feminism and white intersectionality). This generation is going to harness feminine empathy and problem solving to step into leadership and really change the picture of who suffers and who wins in this society, to fight to end racism and oppression.
What’s your most used Emoji?
The smile face with the two hearts for eyes.
What’s next for Bebe Huxley?
I’m releasing the first of two EPs and a collection of music videos this summer. I’ll be doing some sick live shows with Vincent Parker in the fall. I’m also going to publish some fiction inspired by my nightclub experiments as well this year. Many crazy collaborations are starting since my move to LA and I feel like 2016 is a very special time to be an artist.
Photos by Morgan (@wolfbitch666)