Performance artist Susana Ventura (better known by her stage name of Penny Arcade) has been a fixture in the New York City Lower East Side artistic scene since she joined the budding Play-House of the Ridiculous in the late 1960s. Although she has a number of film credits to her name, including the satirical Andy Warhol production Women in Revolt, the attention she’s garnered comes largely from her live shows like Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore!. Inspired by her years living on the margins of the queer community, her works incorporate drag and heavy improvisation. In response to the rising gentrification of Manhattan she helped found the Lower East Side Biography Project, which collects film footage of local artistic luminaries. In the early 2000s she unsuccessfully ran for State Assembly through the Green Party.
Multimedia talent Apaulo Hart has dabbled in everything from stone masonry to logo designs. As depicted above, his training extends to feats of burlesque aerial acrobatics on the Spanish web, which he integrates into performance art on thought-provoking topics such as religious deconversion and cabaret acts reimagined as queer. He has also been an active member of the San Francisco kink and sex work scenes; he has appeared in films with Courtney Trouble and James Darling, and creates leather fetish gear both on his own and for local company Mr. S Leather. At the time of this posting he is an apprentice at Modern Electric Studio, a tattoo parlor with a distinctive style drawn from its artists’ backgrounds as painters. He views art as his legacy, and advises up-and-comers to “Go with your passion. There is no reason not to in this day and age. We are very lucky!”
When asked how he identifies, Hart had this to say: “I’m more of an animal than anything. I want to create something original at this point.” (But, as he clarified, ‘transgender’, ‘genderqueer’, and ‘trans man’ are all fine for everyday use.)
Sonya Renee, a poet and activist, got her start on the stage by accident. She was recruited to perform at a small work event and fell in love with the open mic style. Things kept escalating, and she began collecting titles like International Poetry Slam Champion. Her work has appeared in numerous spoken word and gender-related publications, and she published her own anthology in 2010. (This was on top of her other work in HIV outreach.) In 2011 she launched a new project called The Body Is Not An Apology intended to foster positive self-image; it even comes with a 30-day challenge.
As the tagline for her memoir Kate Bornstein is a Queer and Pleasant Danger advertises, Bornstein’s life is “the true story of a nice Jewish boy who joins the Church of Scientology and leaves twelve years later to become the lovely lady she is today.” “Auntie Kate,” as her fans call her, is the author of seminal gender studies texts Gender Outlaw and My Gender Workbook (now in its second edition) and a performance artist and lecturer. Her material argues for an expansive definition of gender (or, as the full title of Gender Outlaw puts it, “men, women, and the rest of us”) and includes themes of harm reduction that stem from her personal struggles with suicidal ideation. She has distributed “Get out of Hell Free” cards along with a promise to – as she says in her It Gets Better video – “do your time for you.”
Bornstein was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2012. She underwent treatment and was ruled cancer-free. However, cancerous cells have since been discovered in a lymph node and at the time of this writing she is collecting donations to continue paying her medical bills.
(While Wikipedia’s page employs Bornstein’s name in lieu of third-person pronouns, her partner refers to her with female pronouns on Bornstein’s blog; due to her personal knowledge of the source, her account is considered authoritative.)