Later this month the gender bending cabaret legend Justin Vivian Bond will perform in San Francisco. If you're unfamiliar with Bond, Bond has always defied convention. Technically transgender, the singer rejects the conventions of either gender, preferring the prefix Mx instead of Mr. or Ms. And don't call Bond she -- use the letter V instead.
Bond's queer persona has enhanced the performer's career. An award winning cabaret headliner, Bond was nominated for a Tony Award in 2007 for "Kiki and Herb: Alive on Broadway" -- Bond portrayed Kiki, the aging, embittered chanteuse at a variety of venues for more than a decade.
But these days Bond is a solo act, playing to packed houses on both coasts and in Europe. And Bond's latest show, coming to the Hotel Nikko on June 21 and 22, "Love Is Crazy!," is described in a press release as "an evening to celebrate love and all it's complications."
Bond chatted with SF Weekly about the show and about a most unusual but fascinating life.
SF Weekly: Have you always identified as trans or did you once identify as gay?
Bond: I have identified as trans ever since I came out as trans while working with Kate Bornstein in her brilliant, groundbreaking play "Hidden: A Gender" which premiered at Theater Rhinoceros in San Francisco in 1989. Up until then I prayed to be a woman because I didn't realize there were other options. Since then I've been comfortable with inhabiting the trans space in between the polarized gender extremities of man/woman and I've fought very hard to hold a space for others who wish to live there with me. I've always identified as queer because gay seems to narrow a term for me personally. That's why I also like the controversial word "tranny," it gives me room to maneuver, or "traneuver" if you want to be playful about it.
SF Weekly: Why did you choose Vivian as a middle name?
Bond: Traditionally, St. Vivian was the patron Saint of those with hangovers, mental illness, and of torture victims. Now that I've been sainted by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Saint Vivian is also the Patron Saint of those suffering from Urban Ennui.
SF Weekly: Can you explain the Mx Prefix and the letter V?
Bond: Instead of using the honorific Mr., Miss or Ms, I have chosen Mx (pronounced Mix) as a way of representing a non-binary gender identity. I'm happy to report that Mx is being adopted by municipalities around the world as a way of making legal forms more inclusive.
V, symbolically, is two sides that meet in the middle, and I think that's a nice way of indicating a person is trans so it is my pronoun of choice.
SF Weekly: Who are your musical influences?
Bond: Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell and Melanie are my three greatest musical loves.
Hearing Marianne Faithful and Patti Smith for the first time gave my imagination an entryway into a world I didn't know existed. Melanie's voice to me is the sound of raw emotion and Judy Collins just has the prettiest voice I can think of.
SF Weekly: Are your performances at all influenced by classic Hollywood cinema?
Bond: I love glamor and I love drama, so yes.
SF Weekly: What can audiences expect at the new Feinstein's show?
Bond: It's a show about love, passion and desire. Those things, along with social justice, are the things I'm most obsessed with.'
SF Weekly: Anything else you'd like to add?
Bond: If I could, I'd love you all.
Justin Vivian Bond's "Love Is Crazy!" hits S.F. on June 21-22 at 7 p.m. at Feinstein's at the Hotel Nikko (222 Mason); tickets are $35-$50.