All views expressed are that of the writer.

Desperate abductors, constructors, becoming infected, vexed

By an alien virus, so alien, so viral

Living spaceapes, creatures, covered, smothered in writhing tentacles

Stimulating the audio nerve directly

You wanna come flex with me


I get a lot of ideas on the dancefloor. The idea for this collection of Free Your Body texts was one of them. I was, as it happened, attempting to free this body. Sometimes dancing works to achieve that, and sometimes it doesn’t. This was one of those times when it didn’t. Instead, I was turning over various things going on in my life. One of which was the offer from Factory+ to curate some texts in anticipation of the premiere of Free Your Mind. Well, what if it was about freeing your body? Sorted. Back to trying to actually do that.

I like to go dancing once a week, if I can manage it. I’ve being going out to queer and trans techno parties and raves in Brooklyn for a few years now. I know some of the regulars and they know me. Nested inside the general run of nightlife is a pocket or two where trans people might feel relatively at home, and where we can dance with intensity, what we’ve gathered to do, together. We’re there to get free. But who is this we?

What are we to call such a grouping of people? The word community has become meaningless through egregious use. I wouldn’t say we’re family, either. Or a network. Let’s say we are a clade. It’s a word meaning any group with a common ancestor. Perhaps we’re the clade spawned by David Mancuso, or maybe of Larry Levan, either of whom have claims to have created New York queer dance culture. Ancestry works differently for us.

A corridor bathed in pink light with a person at the far end

McKenzie Wark

The movie theatre, like the nightclub, gathers people together in darkness to share an experience of light and sound.

McKenzie Wark

Maybe we’re mutant spawn of an alternate sensory intelligence from an outside time. A clade of aliens, a clade producing a future ancestor to have been bred by. Maybe we want to be no human thing. Want out. The clade slips through the cracks of sideways time. Or so it seems, sometimes, in the fog of beats, in the clamor of morning. But that’s a different science fiction scenario.

When Factory+ told me about Free Your Mind, a dance piece based on The Matrix, my first thought was of the two nightlife scenes. In the first film, Neo meets Trinity at a nightclub inside the Matrix. In the second film, there’s a rave in Zion, outside the Matrix, but still within The Matrix, still in cinema. That relationship between cinema and dancefloor seemed interesting to me. The movie theatre, like the nightclub, gathers people together in darkness to share an experience of light and sound.

In thinking about who I wanted to commission for Free Your Body, I wanted to center another clade to which I belong. The clade of trans people. We share a common ancestor—ourselves. We gave birth to ourselves. The Matrix is a series of films made by two of ours, two trans women. Taken together, those films and their associated “assets” are probably the biggest cultural artifact the trans clade will ever get to make. The culture industry doesn’t hand us millions of dollars to make things.

Neither Lana nor Lily Wachowski were out at the time, and to the extent that trans-ness is one of the many strands to the allegory of the Matrix, it’s discreet, indirect, and as such part of a long history of sub-rosa queerness in cinema. Although for anyone who had watched with a queer eye their earlier film Bound—which literally opens in a closet—the sisters coming out was not entirely a surprise.

Many of my trans clade have a special place in their movie-watching heart for The Matrix. My trans clade overlaps with my raver clade, who love to dance. This seemed like a delightful opportunity to work with some trans writers, to get them paid, to share their perspectives. It made me very happy when Factory+ accepted my proposal for an all-trans collection of texts called Free Your Body. But who should write for it? Ever since I came out as trans, I’ve devoted myself to cultivating connections to the various clades of trans artists in all media. I go to the performances. I read the books. I buy the art. And when I’m lucky, I get budgets and support to share. This was one of those lucky moments.

To find writers, I would call upon the clade of trans ravers, and its various connections into other clades. Trans people know other trans people, and look out for other trans people. It’s a bit like Trinity and Morpheus and Neo. Everyone has heard of everyone. It’s just that in our world, nobody is “the one.”

Many of my trans clade have a special place in their movie-watching heart for The Matrix. My trans clade overlaps with my raver clade, who love to dance.

McKenzie Wark

I wanted writing from a film maker who was also a raver, and also trans. So I reached out to Jessica Rovinelli. I met Jessica via trans Twitter, just before the premiere of her film So Pretty. It was she who brought me back to raves a few years ago. Her response to the Free Your Body brief sees the dancefloor itself as a kind of cinema. As she rightly points out, there’s three, not two, “rave” scenes in The Matrix films. She makes a good case for how the third film’s nightlife scene reframes how we can see the earlier ones.

I also wanted a dancer. Although I have to admit I have never seen Benedict Nguyen dance, I have heard her read. The Brooklyn-based, trans-run, feminist press Little Puss holds salons for trans writers. That’s where I met Benedict, when she read at that gathering of the trans lit clade. I like the way she writes about an entire night as if all of it were a kind of dance. I like the way it displaces the experience of trans-ness onto the figure of the horse girl, which some trans women and trans femmes will find relatable, and some not-trans people might find a helpful way to imagine what it’s like to be treated as a magical creature rather than a human.

Gavilán Rayna Russom I met on the queer dating app Lex. I don’t think I ever had a single good hook-up from Lex, but I did make some wonderful friends, including Rayna. We started writing, talking, sharing work with each other. Rayna invited me to work with Voluminous Arts, her trans-fem music and sound art clade. It was a pleasure to be able to reciprocate. Rayna writes about the peripheral spaces around the dance floor, the conversations, and connections. When Neo meets Trinity at the club, it’s not to dance.

A pink plastic web with green light behind it

McKenzie Wark

Sul Mousavi is a former student who is trans, and a writer, and a raver, who I invited to read at the Genre Trouble reading series I put on occasionally. I asked Sul to recommend another writer for that show, and she suggested Zora Jade Khiry. They work retail together. They belong to the doll clade together. Zora’s piece is a special one for me because I was at the rave at [Warehouse] where the main action of her piece takes place. I saw Zora on the dancefloor. We hugged. I moved away. Zora was with the doll clade, dancing to Juliana Huxtable, and were having a moment together.

Xiomara Cervantes-Gomez I only know through social media. I think I reached out on Facebook, of all places. I try to keep up with what is happening in trans studies scholarship and that is where I came across Xiomara. In the reading of The Matrix as a trans allegory, the “red pill” is estrogen. Premarin, the form most common at the time the film was made, was a red pill. These days, ironically enough, the most commonly prescribed pill is blue. Xiomara writes about taking the blue pill, and ending up, not in “the desert of the real,” but in the club as a simulated world. The one where trans people can find the movement in our body that might get us through the various worlds we’re obliged to inhabit.

At an earlier iteration of my Genre Trouble reading series, I was introduced to SJ Norman by a mutual friend. I’d already read SJ’s book Permafrost. At the time it was only available in Australia. I’d had it shipped across the Pacific. SJ brings several things I was really hoping would be in the mix, including a richer sense of clade, an indigenous one. The Matrix has an additional, spooky layer if you’re from Sydney, as its exteriors were shot in familiar Sydney streets, and there’s extras in the film who are familiar faces. The Wachowskis also make a personal appearance in SJ’s piece, at Berghain, the legendary temple of techno.

Trans people know other trans people, and look out for other trans people. It’s a bit like Trinity and Morpheus and Neo. Everyone has heard of everyone. It’s just that in our world, nobody is “the one.”

McKenzie Wark

I’m on the dancefloor again, trying, and failing to get free. I think instead about this concluding text I was asked to write to Free Your Body. It’s a later iteration of the same rave Zora wrote about, in a different [Warehouse] this time. I’ve not seen Zora, but I have seen Jessica. Our clade affiliations overlap. I’ve not come up with much of an idea for this text although for an unknown period of time, a pocket in time filled with more time—I got free.

It's morning. This rave is supposed to end now but there’s still so much energy on the dancefloor. The house lights go on. I’ve never seen that happen before! Looking around, I can make out the assembled array of bodies, the white light rebounding of sweat-slicked flesh. It’s a beautiful mélange. The bodies of queers, of transes, of freaks, of aliens. Night clade in bright light. I love everyone right now. I see people I know, or know of, or see around. And they see me, if they choose to. Here’s our clade, borne along by limbs in motion.

What I see with the lights on is all the connections, and disconnections, smothered in writhing tentacles. Friends and ex-friends, lovers and ex-lovers. The canceled and the cancellers. It’s not queer community, or family by choice, certainly not a house although some here belong to one. It’s the clade. I see other connections and disconnections too. Most of us wear black. We look like extras in The Matrix. Those films borrowed some of this world’s aesthetics, but they also returned it.

I decide what I’ll write about, in conclusion, is the clade, a world in which nobody is “the one.” None of us are Neo, or Morpheus, or even Trinity. We’re Switch, Tank, Dozer, White Rabbit, Apoc, and probably around here somewhere there’s a Cypher.

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