“Some of them say that we’re sick, or crazy, and some of them…

“Some of them say that we’re sick, or crazy, and some of them think that we’re the most gorgeous, special things on earth.” – Venus Xtravaganza
.
Picture: Venus Xtravaganza (May 22, 1965 – December 21, 1988), center, c. 1988. Photo c/o Queensland Art Gallery. [TW]
.
Venus Xtravaganza, who was born fifty-two years ago today, was among the legendary children of the New York City drag ball scene featured in the 1990 documentary “Paris is Burning.” Venus, a trans woman who relied on survival (i.e., sex) work was murdered by a client before the documentary was completed; her death shed light on the ever-present threat of violence faced by trans women, and particularly trans women of color, in America.
.
Venus, who left home as a teenager, was accepted into the House of Xtravaganza in 1983, and she quickly made a name for herself in Harlem’s ball culture. In that scene, where, as one writer put it, “the allure of costume, high fashion, status, and wealth combined to form an enveloping world of love and acceptance,” Venus’ ambitions of finding a rich husband were within the status quo. But, as a number of queer theorists point out, Venus articulated her dreams in a way that emphasized the gross inequities faced by trans women of color: “I would like to be a spoiled rich white girl,” she said. “They get what they want, whenever they want it. They don’t have to really struggle with finances, nice things, nice clothes, and they don’t have to have that as a problem.”
.
In her 1993 book, “Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of ‘Sex,’” preeminent gender theorist Judith Butler discussed “Paris is Burning” and Venus specifically as illustrative of the performative nature of gender, race, and class; Butler’s work inspired academic criticism that led to an ongoing discussion regarding the painful intersection of norms and prejudices that trans and gender nonconforming people are forced to confront.
.
Venus Xtravaganza was killed on December 21, 1988; she was twenty-two. Her murder remains unsolved. #lgbthistory #HavePrideInHistory #VenusXtravaganza #TransLivesMatter #Resist