As sloshed septuagenarian lounge singer Kiki Durane of the Tony-nominated performance duo Kiki & Herb, Justin Bond earned international acclaim for his impassioned, intensely ironic covers of popular songs. Since retiring those Kiki wrinkles in February 2008, the 46-year-old Shortbus star has shifted to songwriting on the solo EP Pink Slip, arranged and conducted by fellow "trans-fabulous" songstress Our Lady J. Getting dolled up for a concert and release party July 22 at New York's Highline Ballroom, the self-proclaimed "performance-activist" talks to Advocate.com about transgender tribulations — and how to stay as hip as Debbie Harry.
Advocate.com: You've been called just about everything in the media when it comes to descriptions of your sexuality, but I've gathered from reading your blog that you dislike such labels. If people are going to label you whether you like it or not, which label would you prefer?
Justin Bond: God, I think about that every day and I have the hardest time coming up with an answer. But I guess you can just call me a "trans-fabulous performance-activist."
Is the hyper-feminine self-portrait you created for the Pink Slip cover an idealized version of yourself?
That portrait was done based on a photo of me at the Drag March in New York maybe seven or eight years ago. It's not an idealized version of myself now, but it's a portrait of an idealized self I would've had as a teenager. It makes me think of that line from Grey Gardens: "You see me as a woman. I see myself as a little girl." [Laughs] When I was young I drew portraits of women all the time so that I could put makeup on them because I was forbidden to wear makeup. Once I was able to wear my own makeup, I stopped drawing for years and years. Now that I've taken it back up, I still think it's really more about the makeup than the drawing.
Is there an underlying theme running through Pink Slip?
I guess the four original songs come from my pagan queer world view, which is about placing value on nature and the nature of nature — our nature as people and how we relate to each other. It's interesting to me how we relate to ourselves within the context of a world that's so full of material things. We're witnessing the decline of capitalism and trying to figure out where to place our energy, our focus, and our passion. That's really heavy, I guess. [Laughs] Basically, the themes are nature, love, and connectedness.