A dedicated LGBT writer since 2000, covering cultural topics from “LGBT Folklife,” electro parties, and Winter Music Conference (WMC), Mickey Weems has lived a noteworthy life.
Once lost at sea and rescued between some Hawaiian islands, Weems was also a marine, an ocean lifeguard, did fieldwork abroad in Brazil, studied in Jerusalem with a rabbi, has a BA in Philosophy, an MA in Cultural Anthropology, a second MA in Comparative Studies with an emphasis in Religious Studies, and a PhD in Education focusing on Cultural Studies, LGBT Studies and Somatic Studies.
His dissertation on the gay men’s circuit community was published as a book.
Weems also has abysmal immersion in the electronic music circuit. His involvement in the industry stemmed from his love for dance. As reflected in his book on circuit parties, The Fierce Tribe, where he delves into the connection between music and dance as well as nonviolent masculine performance.
Another echo of his passion is Beachmonkey, a site focused on social life—music, events, parties and the like. Launched with his friend, Mike Luczaj, whom he lifeguarded with for years, the site began on a whim, deciding to cover WMC.
“He had a cheap-ass camera and was walking up to glitterati like he owned the place,” Weems told 429Magazine.
“I had a pen, notepad, and designer messenger bag (so I’d look like a journalist). Things have changed: Mike now has a fancy camera, and I have a notepad and pen but no designer bag. I gave the original to my husband.”
In addition to covering WMC for 7 years now, “mostly because it gives [him]the chance to dance to some really great house music,” Weems’ key project at hand is Qualia, a conference of scholars and activists on gay folk life.
Established in 2003 with husband Kevin Mason, the site combines academic presentation with performance. Initially purely a desire to do something for the LGBT community, Qualia was born also in part due to Weems’ severe ADHD.
“I cannot sit through an academic presentation longer than 45 minutes without falling asleep, so adding elements of performance to a dry presentation helps me keep focus,” he said.
When funding for the conference diminished due to the “ever-increasing lack of investment in education in America,” the couple adapted and rehabilitated Qualia to become a competitive scholarship for students “who present an academic treatise on LGTB culture in a performance frame (costume, song, dance, poetry, pretty much anything goes as long as it is equally academic),” Weems explained.
The program, called the Goodwin-Stewart Competition for presentations on LGBTQ folklore, or PoJo, awards each contestant monetarily on the spot; with a greater award bequeathed to the victor—a “direct investment in education.”
“The term gay folk is a way of framing the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer-identified population as people who are defined by mutual emotional investment in a shared identity, ethos, and aesthetic,” the website reads.
A significant function of Qualia is its Encyclopedia of Gay Folklife, which is completely accessible, free of cost, and individually funded so as to prevent the rendering of the material as obsolete.
“It is my opinion that 80% of all encyclopedias should be online and updated on a 4-month basis or they are useless in this day and age,” Weems says.
In its contents, one can find a range of topics involving gender, orientation, and embodied sex. The Encyclopedia was fashioned to “redefine the topography of folklore so that the discipline fits the folk in question,” and “vernacular patterns implicit in this nonconformity.”
Qualia describes how the gay culture can be “understood through a folkloric lens, once the lens is adjusted to recognize fluid patterns and movements associated with femininity and masculinity, erotic-romantic desire, and the body in multiple contexts.”
Aside from the site, Weems also plans to work on a second book and eventually have a series of 3-4 “outlining how we can end war and reduce terrorism by changing the definition of what it means to be a man.”
Thus far, he says the highlight of his career is “giving a presentation on homophobic-erotic folk speech in the US military for the American Folklore Society with [his]face done in half-drag, half-camouflage.”
“A young woman asked me if she could take a picture of me to share with her brothers, one a Marine and the other a drag queen,” he said.