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Cirque du SoGay regroups, rides on after tragic losses

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This Saturday brings the seventh annual Cirque du SoGay. The scavenger hunt by bicycle has become an endurance staple among local queers in the know.

As usual, there are two route options for participants: the Virgin, which is around 15 miles, and the Harder!Faster, which is about 25 to 30 miles.

For the first time, this year's theme, "Intersections," reaches beyond resources in the gay community. In the spirit of inviting more folks to the table, Cirque du SoGay ringleader EG Nelson shared the task of coordinating with a small group of artists and advocates, including James Flowers, Theresa Madaus, Sheila Nezhad, and Jameson Wiltermood.

While Cirque du SoGay is always a labor of love for Nelson, the event now requires a sizable amount of real labor. She welcomes the extra help.

“I did pretty much everything by myself last year, and it was pretty evident, I think," says Nelson. "I usually come dressed up in a cute little outfit and bring my A-game. On that Saturday, I just put on a Cirque du SoGay shirt and a cardigan, and was like, whatever.”

The idea for the "Intersections" theme originated from the dismissive response Nelson heard from other white folks after a “die-in,” a mock mass death to protest police brutality, was staged at Pride. It was suggested that Back Lives Matter, the activist group responsible for the protest, did not belong there. “I don't understand what this has to do with gay pride,” she heard people say. Her response? “What the fuck are you talking about? It has everything to do with queer existence, right? You can't separate your queerness from different identities that you have.”

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The planning committee for Cirque du SoGay unified around their shared desire to build friendships across cultural intersections.

“Statistically speaking, whatever-Kinsey-report-whatever-bullshit, 10 percent of the population has always been the generous estimate of people who identify as queer. Without the support of people who don't identify as queer, we as a community wouldn't have seen the same progress,” says Nelson.

However, the group faced major personal and organizational setbacks along the way this year. Jesús Estrada Pérez, who was going to be Nelson's main co-creator, passed away in early August. “That was a huge hit. Not just to my life, but also to this work,” says Nelson. It wasn't the only loss the committee and the greater gay community suffered. “We lost another community member close to Jameson in September, so it's been, like, a really hard couple of months for us to be working on this,” Nelson says.

While Saturday's ride is different from the vision they started with, it persists in promoting organizations that the committee believes in, like Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. NOC campaigns for economic justice, and currently seeks to pass laws requiring a $15 minimum wage, fair scheduling, and earned sick time. Their office on West Broadway was a casualty in a fire, caused by arson, this April. Yet NOC remains an inspiration, as they raise money not just for themselves, but also for their displaced neighbors.

Nelson also has admiration for groups like Slow Roll and Black Girls Do Bike. She hopes that they will collaborate in the future.

"There's a lot more work to be done in intentionally targeting communities of color and events led by communities of color. Ideally, I would like for us to know about each other and each be like, 'That's a resource I could tap into to promote something I'm working on.' From an organizational perspective they would be able to say, 'I heard that Cirque du SoGay is really great engagement event, and I want to be a part of that because I want people to know about what I'm doing.'"

IF YOU GO:

Cirque du SoGay VII

3:00 p.m. Saturday, October 3

Full Cycle

$5

Register here