Fool Master

Working as a nurse has given me the (financial) freedom to travel a ton, move spontaneous, take a variety of classes and go to lots of parties. I do not get emotional satisfaction from the work, and I do not get virtue points (but I do notice others endow me with them. I invite you to experiment with this, the next time you talk to a stranger who you won’t meet again, say you are nurse. If you are a nurse, say you are a sex worker. Please report back if the stranger had a different response to you regarding moral assumptions about your character).

It was requested that I explore the trope of the high school mean girl who goes into nursing. I mean, the logic is flawed. I offer the following arguments:

(1) gendered profession, specifically “traditionally” female occupation. Relating to assumptions around female/ femininity & caretaking.
— In Canada, about 91% of nurses were female in 2021 (CIHI, 2022).
— Historically, the body of the trained “modern” Canadian nurse was a white middle-classed ciswoman (McPherson, 2003). Prior to the era of the “modern’ nurse, much of Canadian health care was provided by nuns or lay women. Thusly, the female high schooler, bully or not, has a higher probability of entering a female profession like nursing.

(2) the ideals of nursing – compassionate and caring – make a strong contrast between the profession’s virtue and the cruelty of adolescent behaviour.
–reinforces a binary between “good”/”bad”
–accusation of bullying are an ego hit for the profession, resulting in defensiveness + more attention to the trope
–more interesting/memorable for the person looking up their bully due to the [moral] expectation that nurses are good/nice/kind/caring/compassionate.
The public’s perception of nursing generates expectations for the behaviour and morality of the nurse that may or may not align with their lived experience/ impression of the human being doing the work.

(3) Nursing is a job. People, in all their complexities, do jobs to survive in capitalism.

$$$

In my final year of high school, I made a video yearbook. Most of the footage has me behind the camera – but in this short clip, I am the subject.

Context: We are in chemistry and setting up for an experiment. I recall that in the end, we needed to use another group’s data to complete the lab report. I also know, I tried to get even more safety goggles from surrounding groups, but my other classmates were unwilling to give them to me as they were working. Finally, my intention was purposefully to be funny/silly, and my speech is improvised.

C : Say hi Kyra, the fool

K, in a serious voice: Hi, my name is Jessinta Kyra Philbert [N: and I look like an idiot], and today, I’m looking at children… in chemistry.
As you can see, I’m being extra safe by wearing as many safety googles as I could get my hands on.

A: Practicing for journalism school Kyra?

N: Yeah, you sound kinda stupid.

K: N____, A____ secretary.

A: I’m not the secretary! I got turned into secretary ’cause N can’t do his job properly.

N: I told you I wasn’t going to be secretary.

K: This is Kyra Philbert, reporting.

N: Get this on film! [*throws a balled up piece of paper at Kyra’s face*]

K, in regular voice: *laughing* I hate you!

Kyra- the fool.

What strikes me – beyond the casual violence – is that I didn’t go to journalism school. Not even comedy or an arts degree! I went into nursing! A choice that everyone thought was bizarre. A choice I double-downed on, in part, because everyone else thought it was a terrible idea.

I wouldn’t say I was mean in high school but I also wasn’t particularly nice or kind. I was known for being weird, smart, social, funny and emotional. (My whoremoans were next level. I am thankful everyday for wise ageing and less raging).

I went into nursing because I wanted a university degree, able to work immediately after and to be financially independent. I also went into nursing because I did not feel brave enough to be a creator.

I cry at the start of every movie
I guess ’cause I wish I was making things too
But I’m working for the knife

I used to think I would tell stories
But nobody cared for the stories I had

Mitski, “Working for the Knife”

Working as a nurse has given me the (financial) freedom to travel a ton, move spontaneous, take a variety of classes and go to lots of parties. I do not get emotional satisfaction from the work, and I do not get virtue points (but I do notice others endow me with them. I invite you to experiment with this, the next time you talk to a stranger who you won’t meet again, say you are nurse. If you are a nurse, say you are a sex worker. Please report back if the stranger had a different response to you regarding moral assumptions about your character).

Speaking of nursing and morality!
I have completed my master’s of science in nursing thesis. It is written in an academic style, but also I think there are some spicy moments (particularly in chapters 4 and 5). If you like my favourite theorist Sara Ahmed, you will appreciate the sweaty, sweaty, stinky conceptual work I’ve done in these 92 pages!

[and full disclosure, I do not feel “proud” beyond intellectually. I feel that I should be proud. What I notice is that I’m fixated on small errors that are now forever viewable; that I got an 90% (A+) but immediately obsessively googled to see what the average thesis grade was at UBC… and then felt relief in my shame when I saw the ‘average’ for the course was 91%– validation that I am not actually good; that I feel bad for feeling bad; that I am not meeting expectations; that I am forever difficult; that I had a series of escalating meltdown writing the acknowledgement/dedication because it brought up a lot of complex feelings for me; that I amplify those complex feelings by denying them; that I amplified them more by shaming them: you are a fool!] So I hold of this suffering, imperfection, and self-criticism in love and kindness while sharing in the spirit of common humanity.

Nurse Angélique : revisioning French Catholic nursing history as an ethical intervention in contemporary Canadian nursing practice

$$$
Finally, I am grateful that I am experimenting in creation more.
Two quick things:
(1) Thanks to everyone who voted in my last post, please look forward to a podplay experience in Trout Lake, about self-compassion and intertwining!
(2) Save the date(s) peeps on unceded territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm Nations: I’ll be hosting a weekly event over 5 consecutive Sundays evenings in Mount Pleasant specifically to showcase queer performance art. March 19th to April 16th, 7pm-9.30pm. READ MORE

Kyra loves Drag: October 2022

Based on my love of unruly femininity, I’m sharing with you my absolute devotion to the work of Bongganisa (they/she)! Bong was generous enough to let me have an exclusive interview with her. The photos are from their instagram, and are used with her consent. Finally, I end this post with some other musings on the local drag scene here in Vancouver.

Vancouver is located on the unceded territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm Nations


The last time I saw Bongganisa– their name a play on a Filipino meat stick known as a longgonisa- she was hurling her body onto the grass by Í7iy̓el̓shn beach. Whereas other drag performers might gently, gracefully, and gingerly lower their bodies down to earth for stunts, Bongganisa flings, throws and yeets herself as if tumbling off a cliff.

In other performances she might forgoes lip-syncing completely to instead laugh manically or run into the audience with outstretched arms or my personal fav, hide in plain sight. The power in their movements, always consistently timed with the intense emotionality of their performance reminds me why they are my favourite drag performer in the city.

Bongganisa holds your attention, even while she is perfectly still. Her uniquely deranged aesthetic combined with a portrayal of ugly feelings, leaves one captivated. Ugly feelings–despair, disgust, guilt, rage, fear — I am not suggesting watching Bong is comfortable or pleasing but I am promising they reliably deliver a memorable audience experience that will leave you wondering… wtf?

An interview with Bongganisa

In August 2022, right after the Vancouver Pride season, Bong was generous enough to let me ask them a few questions:

How would you describe your drag?

Bongganisa is an unhinged woman. They are a manifestation of tumultuous romance in a vengeful ghost format. She also wears a lot of head pieces!

What do you admire most about the “Vancouver” Drag scene?

I am really drawn towards fucking things up, and this is a local speciality. The abnormal really speaks to me because I find it so inspiring.

Top moment in “Vancouver” drag History?

My personal top moment ever in Vancouver Drag history was being asked to join the House of Rice.

[Kyra’s note: House of Rice is the only all-Asian drag house in Vancouver. It showcases the talents of the queer Asian diasporic community — with mother Shay Dior at the helm & her many, many children. House of Rice hosts a super fun party RICECAKE and monthly drag dim-sum at Cold Tea Restaurant.]

Thanks so much!

You’re welcome!

Kyra’s Top 3 Bongganisa Factoids:

  1. She is a fashion designer.
    Bongganisa creates all her celebrated looks — a rare talent in an era of online shopping– Bong is known for serving ‘I actually didn’t know you could wear that’ with an unparalleled flair. Recently I sent them a message complimenting a fashionable creation to be informed “it’s just tablecloths lol”– if only we could all rock dining room vibes so casually… but if we could, we wouldn’t be so (rightfully) obsessed with Bongganisa!
  2. They are the ‘most bizarre’
    Not only is Bongganisa a drag icon, they are also a heavy hitter in Vancouver’s vogue community. She is in Kiki House of Andromeda and won ‘most bizarre’ during the 2022 pride ball. Bongganisa consistently brings her dancing skills into her drag performances in unusually charismatic ways. We have all seen a dip (also known as a ‘death drop’), but have you seen one with a head ricocheting so forcefully you wish they had a helmet? you will if you watch Bong!
  3. She went to art school.
    That’s right, Bongganisa is more than a terrifyingly beautiful face– they also have an expensive piece of paper that validates her talent! Although art school might have refined her skill set, it’s really Bongganisa’s passion that fans the fire within my heart– and that’s something that cannot be taught (but they also have a degree in teaching! SHE IS MULTIFACETED!)

Musings on YVR Drag

I started regularly watching local drag in 2018 at a now defunct weekly show in East Vancouver. Full disclosure, it had a reputation for being sorta trash but that was the charm. So, if you really like polished queens emulating femininity as soft, beautiful, lovely… well that’s just not my vibe. I am into weird, unnecessary, excess and gender play that disrupts those traditional tropes.

I recall attending a drag show on Commercial and being accosted by pre-queers (aka ‘heterosexuals’) who wanted to share their knowledge about my culture as they just loveddddd drag. They had driven in from a suburb to see the show — their first live show ever— and were amazed to see that drag was more than cismen in dresses being sexy pretty ladies. Of course, they didn’t even know to bring cash to tip since that’s not a part of what is seen on T.V….

Which brings me— inevitably, to money! Currently, we live in a capitalist society and drag artist need to be supported financially by the community. There is no Canada council grant for ‘gender fuckery’ (yet)— so tip your performers! Remember that drag usually involves hours of prep: the application of makeup, creating elaborate costumes, and rehearsing —before the artist even reaches the stage.

However, there is a real clear favouritism of this ‘commercialized’ drag that has been popularized in mass media: polished performances by AMABs of a particular form of femininity. That is what those suburbanites ‘expected’ to see…how else do those expectations manifest? It would be very interesting to do an intersectional comparison of tips, bookings, and general reach of our cities’ performers. This analysis would also need to include the format of their drag…it also might vary by performance. Yet this returns to us, as the audience. Whose shows do you go to? Who are you following on social media? When you only 5$, who are you tipping? When you compliment a drag performance, what matrix are you using to evaluate?

Here I am at Drag Dimsum, where the effervescent Maiden China (she/they)
got my heart all aflutter.

All this leads to being conscious and curious about who might be gatekeeping your conception of drag. In Vancouver, there are very few cismen drag performers, we are so blessed with many non-binary talents! For instance, comedian, singer and drag artist Toddy (they/she/he) won a 2021 televised competition and the title ‘first child of drag’.  Or Mx. Bukuru (they/them), a founding member of ENBY6, who is so sexy, powerful and embodies Black Excellence. However, I strongly recommend actively seeking out performances by Kings. Drag Kings engage in an exploration of masculinity. Consider King Fisher, Skim & Jeff Garbage [a wonderous alter ego of Rose Butch].

I wonder… how is new talent being forged in Vancouver? Who gets mentored within the community? How can a drag artist do something that might ‘fail’ when they rely so much on tips [which in turn, relies on playing to audience expectations of ‘good’ drag]? What is our responsibility as the audience to challenge those expectations and support our artists?

Lastly, I wish we had a local regular [weekly] show again for artists [of all levels] to try new acts in a low stakes’ situation…ideally not in the west end or all the out by UBC (but do check out UBC Drag!)… but like close to a sky train east of Main St? in Mount Pleasant…? on the Drive? I miss the community building of a space where folks can eat together, sit together, and attend at a very low entry cost (under 10$). If you have a space where that sounds like it could be possible, let me know! I’m ready to sit on the floor, watch more weird queer art and CHEER [and tip!] my heart out!