Spectrum: Queer as Funk takes the stage
Alison Gorman talks about the band, the influence of BIPOC artists, and the importance of visible queer artists in society
Columns / May 17, 2021
When Alison Gorman began performing with the butch choir Leadfoot, she felt like she had finally found her community.
“In that choir, I had the great opportunity to meet people who looked like me,” says Gorman, who is both manager and trumpet player for the band. “It’s such an amazing thing to finally find your queer community, and that’s what Leadfoot was for me.”
Gorman also had the opportunity to meet talented musicians such as Connie Buna among Leadfoot’s ranks.
“I was blown away by their talent,” says Gorman. “I was like, ‘You know, it’s fun to play in this choir once a week. I’ve got this hilarious name for a band. What do you think about getting together and playing some music?’ And they were down.”
From that exchange came Queer as Funk, an all-LGBTQ+ event band that, prior to the pandemic, played for weddings, birthdays, and various Pride events, including the Vancouver Dyke March. They also performed for QMUNITY’s International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia virtual brunch.
“[In 2019], we took a year off, which I’m really kicking myself for doing now because who knew this was all going to happen?” says Gorman.
Once the band got together, the first two songs they rehearsed were covers of “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” by Stevie Wonder. To this day, Gorman says that Motown and Soul are still big musical influences for the band — with more recent forays into 80s music and contemporary hits.
The origins of Queer as Funk’s influences among the BIPOC community are certainly not lost on Gorman.
“We try and do it in a really honest way that is true to the music,” Says Gorman.
During their shows, Gorman says it’s really important to state that the music comes from Black artists during their shows.
“The music comes out of a time of civil rights, and if you’re paying attention to the world right now, you will see that that time period has not ended, and there’s a ton of inequality against Black people, particularly against trans women of colour,” says Gorman.
“So, while we are a fun event … we also take the music very seriously, and it is important to us to speak about where that music comes from, and what a privilege it is for us to be able to play that music.”
Having queer representation on stage is very important to Gorman, who says it’s a chance for many to see people like themselves in society. It’s particularly important for queer youth to see themselves and the possibilities available to them by having openly queer role models to look up to.
“It’s so nice these days to see big mainstream queer artists,” says Gorman. “I certainly didn’t see that when I was in high school, it was this shameful thing, and now it’s freeing, and it lets you see the possibilities.”
A particularly striking example of this is Queer as Funk’s annual Pride show, which was hosted at the Commodore Ballroom before the pandemic.
“They don’t have gender-neutral bathrooms, but … we put the signs up,” says Gorman. “And some people that are not used to seeing that feel a little weird about it.”
“It’s a good experience for them because I feel nervous every time I walk into a bathroom. So, it’s kind of nice to have the shoe on the other foot.”