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West Dakota
West Dakota
Photo by Oliver Mint

Gender Blender Celebrates Two Years of Queer Punk Attitude

The queer and punk movements have always been intertwined. Though you couldn't tell from today's pop-punk acts or even from the more aggressive hardcore-punk acts, queer people have been integral to the scene. The queercore subculture eventually spun off from punk in the '80s, keeping punk's DIY ethos while championing a message about nonconformity and eschewing the heteronormative.

For the past two years, Miami has had its own monthly party that celebrates punk's queer bent: Gender Blender.

"Gender Blender focuses on queer punk and live music," promoter Sleeper says. "It's not always about dancing. We want to see what talents there are outside of drag."

Sleeper, who cofounded another popular local queer party, Counter Corner, says he joined Gender Blender after his partners Karloz Torres and Ian Terrell Brown started the event at Churchill's Pub two years ago. After a few months, the party moved to Las Rosas, where it's been ever since.

Gender Blender's punk persuasion is very much by design, according to Sleeper. In a city where Latin machismo rules, the party intentionally subverts Miami's stereotypes. It's a femme-friendly environment where everyone is welcome to express themselves however they like. It also highlights the many queer performers often overlooked by straight and even LGBTQ spaces in town.

Unlike most of Miami's queer parties, which incorporate drag performance and dance music, Gender Blender sets itself apart by doing things a little differently. Live music also plays a major role in the party's entertainment strategy, with a focus on queer- and femme-friendly acts from all over Florida.

That contrasts with the average punk show. "It's not necessarily a harsh environment, but it's very male-dominated and heteronormative," Sleeper says. "Gender Blender is not only queer performances — we pride ourselves in having a very femme-heavy presence."

Elizabeth Shelly
Elizabeth Shelly
Gender Blender

Don't get it twisted, though. The crowds still come out for the drag performers, who serve as an intermission of sorts between each band. However, thanks to Gender Blender's ethos of basically anything goes, performers can take many more risks and skip the diva lip-synching by delving more into performance art. This is where local performers such as Kunst and Florida Man push the boundaries of what's considered drag.

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"That's very intentional," Sleeper says of the boundary-pushing performers. "There are so many places for your typical drag performer to get booked. We also need a space for people who are making art and questioning things. These people are doing the show that they want, not the show the venue wants."

For its second anniversary this Sunday, March 24, the party has booked New York performers West Dakota — who has been featured in Vogue — and Dynasty, as well as Miami's Elizabeth Shelly, known for her outrageously over-the-top performances that often include a chainsaw. Music-wise, expect appearances by Sandratz, Lipstick Alley, and Dextro.

Like most of the queer events around town, Gender Blender is free, something Sleeper says is important to ensure young partygoers don't feel there's an obstacle to attending.

"I don't want a cover charge to be a deterrent for someone to not be a part of this community," Sleeper says.

Ultimately, the lack of designated queer spaces in Miami means parties such as Gender Blender happen at venues frequented mostly by straight patrons. Not that Sleeper would have it any other way. He says Las Rosas' owners and staff have been nothing but supportive of the party and want to see it thrive. Its location means you'll see an oddball mix of characters hanging out Sunday. Queer kids, crusty punks, curious bystanders, and fervent partiers all commingle happily, and what's more punk than that?

"Queer is punk whether you like it or not."

Gender Blender Second Anniversary. With West Dakota, Dynasty, Elizabeth Shelly, Sandratz, Lipstick Alley, and Dextro. 10 p.m. Sunday, March 24, at Las Rosas, 2898 NW Seventh Ave., Miami; 786-780-2700; lasrosasbar.com. Admission is free.

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