Coming Out Chats: Dorian Electra and Chester Lockhart in conversation
4 November 2021, 15:50 | Updated: 18 November 2021, 12:32
'Representation is a good thing. But when it's a substitution for real economic change, justice for queer people, that is where I think the big problem is'
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After gaining a following online, Dorian came to wider prominence in the pop world thanks to a guest feature on Charli XCX’s highly-influential mixtape, Pop 2, in 2017.
In 2019, Dorian released their debut album, the critically acclaimed Flamboyant, which dissected stereotypes about sex and gender across 11 addictive, forward-thinking pop tracks. Last year, Dorian expanded those themes for their next project, My Agenda, which featured an eclectic list of predominantly queer collaborators, from YMCA hitmakers Village People to Russian anarchist punk band and activists Pussy Riot. The deluxe addition of the record comes out tomorrow (Nov 5) with 12 new tracks and remixes.
As well as their musical output, Dorian incorporates drag and cosplay into their visual aesthetic. Describing their approach to their work, Dorian told Bandcamp: “The process of taking something traditional, celebrating it but also critiquing it, dismantling it and exploding it, it’s just how I view everything, whether it’s fashion or gender or politics. That is my mantra across all my work, I kind of can’t help it.”
Speaking with Dorian this week is their friend and collaborator, Chester Lockhart.
Chester is a multi-disciplined artist and creative director from California. As well as having multiple acting credits in TV and film, and working creative director for artists like Rina Sawayama, Chester has also released a string of hyper-pop inspired singles, including their latest release, ‘Our God Is An Awesome God’.
Earlier this year Chester created ‘Girl Boss TODAY’, a satirical livestream talkshow critiquing the ever-increasing shadow of rainbow capitalism, a term coined to describe the commercialisation and commodification of LGBTQ movements by companies which have murky records with LGBTQ rights.
Chester and Dorian both featured on Lady Gaga’s 2021 remix album, Dawn Of Chromatica, with Dorian remixing ‘Replay’ and Chester featuring alongside Mood Killer and Lil Texas on a remix of Gaga’s collaboration with Elton John, ‘Sine From Above’.
In this episode, Dorian and Chester discuss switching pronouns, the privilege to be able to express yourself freely as an artist, resisting labels and tokenisation, rainbow capitalism and why representation is not a substitute for real justice for queer people.
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Read an excerpt from Dorian and Chester's chat below
Chester Lockhart: You and I both have such similar opinions about rainbow capitalism and the concepts of, like you said, these defining kind of moments in mainstream culture; there was the feminism wave, and now there's this sort of rainbow wave. My personal opinion is, on the one hand, it is inherently a good thing that we finally, as queer and trans community, are able to be in a position to make money being who we are, instead of being persecuted and to have that visibility. But on the other hand, it's clearly such a cash grab for so many companies. For the month of June, they slap a rainbow logo on but the other 11 months of the year, the company is not upholding queer visibility, has no queer or trans people in their company, has no leadership, and is not donating to companies. In fact, they're donating to anti-LGBTQIA [organisations] and “charities” etc. What is your view of that? And how do we move forward as queer artists, because like you said, queer artists are the forefront of culture. How do we move forward in an authentic way but still be able to survive and pay our rent?
Dorian Electra: Totally. I think that it's a really huge question and anyone who hasn't checked out Chester's amazing… like just go on their Instagram and look at the rainbow capitalism examples that you were posting every day in June. It was just incredible. The craziest one was the ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] one, which I feel like, oh my God, you should explain quickly.
Chester: So basically, it just started out as like, I just really felt like posting memes. I mean, I just have a meme. I'm an avid memer in general, and I just kept finding all of these…half the posts are real, and half of them are just memes that people have made. But ICE, you know, the official government ICE Twitter and Instagram, posted a rainbow pride picture during June and said ‘We salute all of our LGBTQ employees’ etc. And I think that is the absolute pinnacle. First of all, everyone thought that was fake…
Dorian: Yeah, I was like, 'Oh, this is so outrageous'.
Chester: And it was not. The inauthenticity. You know, there was another picture I posted - I think it's real - it was an ad for beer. And it was this poster that said it was LGBTQ but it was, “Let's grab beers tonight, queens!” And, you know, all of the comments from the largely genderqueer people that follow me were like, ‘Just call me the F word at this point’. You know what I mean? Because if you're gonna pander that hard, that's not actually doing anything. That's regressive. That's not pushing the gay agenda forward. The thing was that I presented everything without my own comment. I just presented it. But people in the comments would be getting so heated and some people are like, ‘You are complaining so much, why are you complaining about us finally getting visibility?’ etc. There was this bank in Australia - I think ANZ Bank - and they had these “Gay- TMs”, which were these extremely extravagant, expensive, hand-rhinestone ATMs. I don't know if I showed that to you? This cost a lot of money. I posted it, again, without comment. A lot of Australians are like, ‘That is one of the biggest sponsors of Mardi Gras, etc. They're really an ally’, etc. And I'm like, even if that's true, at the end of the day, they're still a business, right? So, the critical thinking has to be there. We have to be discerning with our dollars. Maybe that is true that they're putting certain money in, but I think that comes back to them full fold. Are there queer people in positions of power in their company? You know what I mean?
Dorian: I think that's a really perfect example. Because I think we have to think a few steps ahead of what's currently happening. If you want to push culture forward, we have to be thinking, ‘Okay, where are we trying to head to next?’ And I think part of the thing that is really insidious about rainbow capitalism is it actually allows companies or government agencies, or things like that to put on this facade of progressive politics, but then be doing things like dropping bombs on people - literal bombs - or deporting them. Here in Los Angeles, there's a city council member who's responsible for removing all of the unhoused homeless people in Echo Park, who has their pronouns in their bio. I think that they're gay. And we have to look at, okay, these people are able to use queerness as a marketing tool. What is the cost here? I think the issue with a lot of corporations using pride as an opportunity to basically make themselves look more progressive is really that it masks a lot of what's going on underneath. The real things that we need to do to really help queer people in a substantial way, like securing basic economic necessities, those kinds of things, often run counter to corporate interest. It would mean things like corporations making more concessions to organised labour, or corporations paying larger shares of taxes and things like that for social services that help people. That is, I think, at the core of what the problem is with rainbow capitalism. Representation, in general, is a good thing. But when it's a substitution for real economic change, justice for queer people, that is where I think the big problem is. And the same goes for when government entities also try to put the rainbow flag on as a way to mask their lack of actual policies, and in things that are actually helping the community, just to look progressive without actually really having to do the work.
The conversation was edited and condensed for clarity.
On the podcast this week we’re joined by Mia from Pom Pom Squad and Phoenix from Softcult. In this episode, Mia and Phoenix talk about their experiences with homeschooling, who they first came out to, why hardcore scenes thrive in small towns, making connections with other queer people through music, falling in love with your best friend and being mistaken for the "straight best friend" in a gay club. Listen below: