Kings of Joy podcast interview with Trans Mission: sharing joy with LGBTQ refugeesOct 04, 2022
Danica Lani 0:00
Hello, and welcome my friends. Welcome to my podcast. My name is Danica Lani. I am the King Coach, also known as Daddy Joy and Mother of Drag Kings. And today I am thrilled, absolutely over the moon to introduce you to Trans Mission.
Trans Mission 0:19
Hi. Thank you so much for having me.
Danica Lani 0:27
It's a pleasure. Do you want to let us know where you're calling in from today Trans Mission?
Trans Mission 0:32
Yes, I'm calling in from Naarm, the lands of the Wurundjeri people. And yeah, really happy to be here and excited. And thank you so much. And obviously, you know, paying respect to the land you're on as well, which is:
Danica Lani 0:46
Gadigal country. Yes, awesome. So tell us a bit, Trans Mission about your Drag King journey through Kings of Joy? What was it like before and what happened as you journeyed through?
Trans Mission 1:01
Yeah, so I have a friend Malaika, who's a producer of Queers of Joy, who sent me like a sneaky DM one day and was just like, hey, you live in Naarm? Would you be keen to do a Drag show? And I kind of was like, I mean, I never thought about it before. But I have a background in performing. So I was like, why not? Like what could be wrong with that? It sounds really fun. And just got recruited into the Midsumma Festival performance that Queers of Joy was running last year, or was it earlier this year? Time is wild. Can't remember.
Danica Lani 1:37
Time has fused together. Nobody knows... So that's how we met, right? So we met online, and started doing these zoom rehearsals with the Naarm group, in preparation for Midsumma and we'd intended to have an in person show. But do want to let us know how that ended up?
Trans Mission 2:02
There was a really big rise in case numbers and the pandemic was raging. And it was getting really bad. So I think everybody didn't quite feel like it was the right thing to do to come together in person and do a performance where we could potentially be a super spreader event. So and this was like before, a lot of other things came into place like vaccines. And yeah, it was definitely a bit of a scary time. I don't think there was a lockdown announced for the date that we'd set but we all just kind of agreed it was best to just convert to online.
Trans Mission 2:38
Which was fine, because we'd been rehearsing with you in Sydney and us in Naarm the whole time anyway. So it really was pretty, sweet to just switch to online. And it meant that people who had family or friends internationally, could attend. And it also obviously gave us this beautiful opportunity for our friends over at Block 13 Kakuma refugee camp to attend and speak during our show.
Trans Mission 3:07
And it was just a very diverse eclectic mix of people. There was someone from Finland, there was someone from Canberra. People from all over came and joined. And there was over 100 something people on the call and yeah, it worked out really well.
Danica Lani 3:22
Amazing. It was totally special, wasn't it? Turning something - a situation that was kind of like a shitty situation into something that was truly magical and made the world rounder.
Trans Mission 3:34
Yeah, it was very positive. And it was definitely like we could all see the silver linings and the positives of that - and even just being able to perform in your own space. And it was a little less nerve wracking, I think.
Danica Lani 3:45
Yes. And tell us what was your journey? How did you discover your Drag King persona? Trans Mission?
Trans Mission 3:53
Yeah, I mean, I knew that I would be doing this program. There was like a lot of time in between me signing up for it, and it starting. So I had a lot of time. There were a couple of months and I was thinking I really wanted to have a pun because I love puns. I thought it was really funny. How so many Drag artists have puns in their name.
Trans Mission 4:13
But I also I didn't want to be too dirty. I mean, we love Chase Cocks, like we love it. But my personality is a little less raunchy. So I didn't really want it to be something too, I guess, sexual. So I was looking for a pun that was a bit more wholesome. And I came across a meme, which is classic. If you know me, I'm a meme master. My meme stash has no end. It's just all about the memes. It's how we process our trauma. It's how we laugh.
Trans Mission 4:45
So I saw this meme that was like, have you seen or have you heard of the Trans mission? It was like a car or something. And it was kind of playing off this idea that there there is an agenda. There's a gay agenda. And then there's also a Trans mission. So it's like we're going out there, we're trying to spread our agenda and all of the like, you know, non queer people are afraid of us. I thought that was really funny.
Trans Mission 5:13
So I definitely do have a queer agenda. And I do have a trans mission. I think it's really hilarious. Anyone who's afraid of it, or threatened by it, that just gives me even more kicks, because I'm like, What are you scared of? Like, what are you actually afraid of? So I just loved the joke of having some secret mission that I'm on. And what am I going to do? What am I going to do to you? Are you quivering in your seat? Are you afraid? Good?
Danica Lani 5:42
Yeah, so many giggles with that one. That's awesome.
Trans Mission 5:46
And I also had this experience where I did a zoom performance, like a year or something ago, where the tech issues around zoom were really bad. So I tried to make my background a trans flag, and the white wall behind me stayed white. And I turned into the trans flag! I was dancing. I was like a flag. You couldn't see my face. And everybody laughed so hard. They were like, even though it was unplanned, it was actually funnier that the tech didn't work out.
Trans Mission 6:15
Thankfully now, our zoom technology has upgraded - this is at the start of the pandemic. So I just thought that was a funny throwback to like, me being the trans flag, and really, exuding that joy and gender euphoria. And just as a non binary person, just being really excited and proud to have that be a part of my Drag persona.
Danica Lani 6:37
Yeah. And that's one of the things I love about your Drag persona is that it is about the mission. It is about the joy, it is about spreading love. That's been very inspiring to see Trans Mission developing that way.
Trans Mission 6:51
Danica Lani 6:54
And what was it like performing with other people who, some of you hadn't met in person, right? And then developing your Drag personas together through Kings of Joy performing at Queers of Joy?
Trans Mission 7:07
Yeah, it's interesting, we bonded straightaway. We were all really excited, all on the same page I felt like, coming together and choosing a song and hearing everybody's different Drag personas, and how their cultural background informed what they were doing with their name, and all of that stuff. Some of the backstories were just beautiful in our group. Really well thought out. Almost like a fictional world had been developed and they're about to start writing a fantasy trilogy or something, you know? It was so awesome.
Trans Mission 7:40
So shout out to all the other people in my original Naarm Drag group. There's some amazing artists out there. And they're still kind of posting on Instagram. Someone's going for their first solo gig soon. So it's just beautiful. And I think we all were really like, had never, ever, ever done anything like this before. So we're all on the same sort of starting as well, which I think is awesome.
Trans Mission 8:05
Because sometimes, when you go into performance spaces - and this has just been my experience - there is like divas, and there's people who are like, really, like, 'I've been doing this forever.' And not really nice to newcomers. And kinda like, there's a bit of this hierarchy that happens in art spaces that always was a major turnoff for me. I was always like, oh, people like that do not click with me.
Trans Mission 8:30
Whereas the culture and the inclusivity that's just kind of embedded straightaway, as soon as you start Kings of Joy, you set it up. You were like, there's no cultural appropriation in this group, there's no like, you know, you were like bam! And we were all super supportive, inclusive, making sure everyone felt comfortable. You know, sort of pushing each other up and lifting each other up. Without any of that... stuff that sometimes comes into performing arts spaces. You know, everybody's in competition with each other. It's auditions. You got cut. That stuff does not happen in Kings of Joy. We are not about that. We're like, do you want to be a part of this? You could have never ever been on a stage before in your life. And we'd be like, You're amazing. You're the best. Let's do this. You know, it's just so great.
Danica Lani 9:23
I'm so glad that's been your experience, because I've also experienced that other culture that you were talking about and intentionally wanting to create a space where it's like, no, we're in this together. So that is so great. And then there was something else that happened in the journey of your Kings of Joy group that really brought everyone together. Do you want to speak about that? And the Midsumma Festival?
Trans Mission 9:46
Yeah. So you know, there was a few people of color in our group and we were quite politically engaged. We're all on Twitter, on various news platforms. We were all reading that there was this really, frankly, disgusting display of kind of collaboration with corporations that Midsumma was doing.
Trans Mission 10:10
First off was Serco, which is a company that participates in imprisoning refugees, and one of our members was a refugee. And so that was deeply unsettling. We were like, Why is a queer festival promoting, objectively promoting this like carceral company that profits off of putting asylum seekers who are all predominantly brown and black people in detention?
Trans Mission 10:37
And there was a lot of collaboration with Victoria Police, which, you know, there was a First Nations person in our group, and that really didn't sit well, how much they were promoting police being at the festival. And how much that was saying, like, 'Oh it's so great that police are going to be supporting the queer community' when we know how violent they are towards First Nations people. I mean, you don't have to look very far in the Australian news sort of scene to see that cops murdering black people is just like a thing that happens regularly.
Trans Mission 11:13
Or if it's not police, then it's Correctional Facility staff, or it's, you know, people all involved in that system. So, yeah, there was just a lot of corporations that didn't sit well with us. And we didn't know how we could justify performing in a festival that was so violently excluding members of our group. And we had a bit of a discussion, there was some, like, should we pull out of the festival, but then obviously, there was going to be quite a difficulty with selling tickets and all of this other operational stuff. Like, are we going to have to pay back money or things like that? It was just pretty complicated.
Trans Mission 11:55
But I think we all felt super supported by the Queers of Joy team, who were just like, Look, if you don't want to do this, there's no point us performing in a festival that doesn't represent who we are, and our values of social justice, which is so fundamental to Queers of Joy. You know, Kakuma refugee camp, and that people at Block 13, had been in contact with Queers of Joy for months at this point. There'd been a huge fundraiser that had been on the project. It was pretty big news that Queers of Joy was very pro refugee.
Trans Mission 12:27
So it just wasn't very compatible to be performing at this festival that clearly didn't have the same, I guess, attitudes, as our group and as Queers of Joy as a whole. And, you know, personally, I'd previously written an open letter to the staff at Midsumma. I'd tried to contact them, we'd gone through all of this, sort of, I guess, what you would see as the logical process to complaining about something really damaging like that. And they'd ignored us. They just didn't respond. Or if they did respond, they actually sent me an email saying, Oh, look at this, isn't this funny? Like, they were laughing at us.
Trans Mission 13:07
Whereas as soon as Queers of Joy pulled out of the festival, they had the CEO at the table, at that meeting. It was far more effective in terms of solidarity and campaigning and getting people who were important to listen in the room. They were there, because they were worried about the image when artists started pulling out of their show. So I think that just shows the power of art and how interesting it is that there's so these CEOs and these big, you know, whatever corporate people... we can be heard a lot easier when we have access to sort of things like Queers of Joy and media, and art. It's a lot harder to get that kind of traction, simply by doing traditional sort of campaigning. So that was really interesting. I'm glad we pulled out. I'm glad that we had our stand and we performed online anyway, so there was no real impact on being part of the festival or not. So it all worked out pretty well.
Danica Lani 14:09
Yeah, it really did. And you're right, the power of the collective really did speak volumes, in that we got to operate from this place of integrity and from a stand and do what was integrous for us as a community. So yeah, that was very, very powerful to be part of. So that's great. And so you were mentioning Block 13, and our friends who are LGBT refugees living in Kakuma, Kenya in Block 13. And I believe you created something really quite special recently, inspired by that community. Do you want to share with us about that?
Trans Mission 14:51
Yeah. So the first contact I had with them was on our zoom performance. Where these beautiful, you know, I think was Lucretia came and spoke. Just about the violence that they face and how hard it is. And, you know, that really brought us all together. We were like, this is something. This is a cause that we all feel super passionate about. And we're all really keen to have the profits from our ticket sales be going towards raising funds for them, and all sorts of stuff, and even extra donations were going through. And that's all like, amazing work that Chris is doing. And all the folks who are on that.
Trans Mission 15:32
It kind of like, didn't quite form an idea at that point. But it was just that feeling of like, oh, this is such a great connection, this is so awesome. I have so much love for these people. And then I went to a Queers of Joy, live performance. And that was when the seed started, because they had sent through for that live performance, a video of lip synching and art and stuff. And they had this song that was playing, and one of the lyrics was like, reach your hands across the world, or something like that. It was like a very beautiful, sort of corny song, but I loved it. And it just got me thinking. I was like, Oh, do you remember, back in the early 2000s? There was this craze, (other time periods as well), of people making charity songs.
Danica Lani 16:25
Trans Mission 16:25
For all these artists to come together, you would see them in the studio, their headphones on, and they would be singing, like, 'support-' whatever cause they were raising money for. And I just thought, I'm a singer, songwriter. I could write a song, like, it's not that hard. You know, got my guitar out and started like playing a little bit. And in the end, I had written this song that was sort of like, what I wished... the life we could have.
Trans Mission 16:56
And it was about the folks from Kakuma living with us in safety and in peace and all of our children going to school together. And, you know, just being able to actually be together and for them to be safe. And that was my vision. So I kind of put that down in writing. And I tried to tell this story of like, even though you're so so far away, and we might never ever meet you. This is the vision, this is the hope, this is the imagining of a world where we're together, and we're all safe. And I was just like, came out and I sent it to Chris and Malaika, and they were like, we should record it.
Trans Mission 17:31
So we finally got it down. It's on Bandcamp, you can buy it, or you can just listen to it for free as well. And it's like a really sort of sweet short song about the struggle of what they've gone through, what they've shared with us and the world that I wish we will live in, you know, someday that we'll be able to have. And yeah, hopefully we'll be able to record or perform it or, you know, do more stuff so that we can keep raising funds for them. Because when you purchase it on Bandcamp those funds will be going to our friends at Block 13.
Danica Lani 18:12
Just amazing. What an incredible contribution Trans Mission from making this song that's going to live on. It's going to have a life and it's already touched so many people. I mean, Lucretia said, (I'm gonna read this) "I can't stop listening to it. I feel like I am more strong and energetic every single second of listening to it. All I can say is that thank you for this."
Trans Mission 18:34
Oh, that's so sweet.
Danica Lani 18:36
And that's what she said when she heard the song. And I had the same kind of reaction. I just couldn't stop listening to it. 'The joy...', you know, like, playing in my head. It's a beautiful, it's a very touching, heartwarming, beautiful, soulful song that really captures something about the shared spirit between us all and being there for our friends. So thank you. It's a beautiful, beautiful piece of art. And I thought maybe we might have a moment now where we could hear it. Shall I play it?
Trans Mission 19:14
Absolutely. Yeah, we can lip sync!
Danica Lani 19:17
Yeah, here we go. Yeah, that's right. Let's hear 'Joy.'
Send some joy and some love to our friends at Kakuma. Over the sea and sky. if you feel alone, if we seem so far, this song reminds you It's a fight, it's a fight for a right to life. I know it's been hard just to survive. You don't just have to be strong, you can be soft, you can be fun, those moments show us how far we've come Send some joy and some love to our friends at Kakuma, over the sea and sky. if you feel alone, if we seem so far, this song reminds you where we are. In my mind, in my mind, I see a stream. We're all walking down it hand in hand. We drop all our kids at school and we walk along the river. We love it how we didn't let this life make us bitter. Give me that sweet, sweet hope. Bring it back to that moment you first said my name. Oh and I shaved my head and I felt sun and wind and rain on my head oh the joy. Send some joy and some love to our friends at Kakuma. Over the sea and sky. If you feel alone, if we seem so far. This song reminds you where we are. This song reminds you where we are...
Danica Lani 21:50
Trans Mission 21:50
Oh my god. So cute.
Danica Lani 21:54
So sweet. And just your vocals as well! The beautiful tone and raw sound of your vocals is just like captured something really beautiful, as well. Really close to the heart. So thank you.
Trans Mission 22:10
And shout out to Malaika Mfalme for producing, recording, doing all of the tech, all of the behind-the-scenes on that. I have never sounded so good. Because I usually just hit record on my phone and I just sing into that. So it's just like that beautiful clarity that comes from good recording equipment as well.
Danica Lani 22:33
Thank you, Malaika for making this happen and for inviting Trans Mission to even participate in Kings of Joy to start with. We all grow from lifting each other up, don't we? So, yeah, thank you so much for being here today. Love you.
Follow Trans Mission @trans_mission_drag
Buy 'Joy' on Bandcamp here
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