Ask A Queer: Karli Holdren

Today’s queer is Karli Holdren, who describes herself as “part human, part unicorn, and entirely “funshine.”’ Karli is a Washington native who attended Chapman University in Orange County, California and graduated in 2014 with a major in Creative Producing and minor in women’s studies. She loves dairy, glitter, musicals, baking, dancing, and petting good doggos. Currently, Karli lives in Los Angeles, but she is about to move Wellington, New Zealand. She is a woman of many talents: she is a pinup model, works in film production, and is professional vintage chorusgirl and showgirl for group in Orange County called the Atomic Cherry Bombs.

You can find Karli on Instagram under the handle @karliholdren, which is her personal account, and @gingervelour_acb, which is her vintage showgirl account.

If there is a word you don’t understand in this blog post, you can consult the main page of “Ask A Queer” for definitions. Now let’s get into it! The following responses from Karli were only edited for clarity. These words and this experience are all hers.

How do you identify? What are your pronouns?

I am a cisgender woman and I mostly use the term “queer,” but gay or lesbian also work. My pronouns are she/her.

What do you wish people understood about your identity?

I wish people understood the ever-evolving fluidity and complexity of identity. While most people nowadays recognize that sexuality is a spectrum, it’s so much more than that. There’s not only romantic preferences and sexual identity, but also the gray scale for asexuality, gender identity, etc. that all play into someone’s identity. Society has grown so much recently by creating labels for the depth of diversity behind sexuality. However, while these categories are a great tool for discovering oneself or educating and communicating with others, they tend to come with assumptions and limitations.

Personally, I identify as “queer” because I feel as though it addresses the fact I’m not straight, without putting a box around my identity. Yes, I am only interested in dating women, so in that sense I could - and sometimes do - use the term gay/lesbian instead. However, gender is a social construct, so more so it’s that I am interested in femme-presenting individuals, and have the capacity to be sexually attracted to people outside of the gender binary, in that sense I could use the labels “homoromantic, but pansexual.” And then there’s the added layer of being demisexual on top of all of that. I would use up 90% of my word count if I tried to introduce myself as “a homoromantic demisexual woman looking for femme-presenting individuals who also fit all these other qualities I’m looking for in a romantic partner.” So I use queer or lesbian instead.

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Honestly though, there are no terms in the english language as complex as people are, and we shouldn’t have to simplify ourselves to neatly fit into one thing or the other. Overall, just recognize that people have reasons for choosing the terms they use, but those labels do not define them and they may change over time. As our gay lord and savior RuPaul states, “We’re all born naked, the rest is drag.” So let people be who they want to be, and love who they want to love. It’s complex, but also as simple as that.

What can allocishet people do to support your community?

There’s always room for improvement, but a big thing is just be an ally. And recognize what being an ally means. Don’t only support your queer brothers and sisters, but respect our safe spaces, stand up to discrimination, and employ self-reflection. Change starts with the individual. So try to educate yourselves about various terms, and don’t be afraid to ask questions; asking questions shows you’re dedicated to growing and learning, and that knowledge evolves into empathy, and empathy and understanding are some of the greatest steps towards equality.

In addition, when the opportunity comes for legal advancement for the LGBTQ+ community, vote! Get to know some queer individuals so that we are a group of people, rather than this elusive label stereotype. Recognize what events are for members of the queer community, and which ones are open to allies as well. And for goodness sake, STOP QUEERBAITING IN THE MEDIA! Like, c’mon. Bend It Like Beckham? The Road to El Dorado? Thelma & Louise? Top Gun? Showgirls? And we all know Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett’s characters in Ocean’s 8 used to bang. Just admit it. Give the people what they want.

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What do you love about being queer?
Titties.

KIDDING! But honestly, there are an endless number of things to love. Probably one of the biggest things though is the community: it’s so open, supportive, and loving. It’s filled with some of the strongest and most passionate people I have ever met because, well, we’ve been through some shit, but we’ve emerged more resolute and sparklier than ever! We’re proud of who we are and what we’ve overcome. In addition, being in a queer space and meeting other queer people offers a sense of safety; you’re offered the opportunity to be 100% yourself, to be free. It’s so rare in society that we are given the chance to celebrate our differences and be met with such love and support and connection. Although everyone has their own story, there’s an instant bond that happens. It’s kind of magical, and definitely inspiring.

In addition, we have great taste in music, the best memes (10/10 recommend checking out the Facebook group “Sounds gay, I’m in”), and we get the joyous sensation that is “wow, I’m gay,” that straight people will just never understand.

How do you stay connected to the LGBTQ+ community?
Well, most of my friends are LGBTQ+, so I’m almost always surrounded by queer people. We’re constantly sending each other recommendations for various queer content (books, movies, Youtube channels, etc.), and we started having these “Liquored Lesbians” movie nights where we’ll get together, make drinks and fun snacks, and just watch queer cinema. It’s wonderful.

I’m also lucky enough to live in Los Angeles where there are constantly queer events happening - whether they be simple meet-ups, queer dances, pride events, protests, clubs, drag shows, etc. so it’s pretty easy to get involved in whatever degree you feel comfortable.

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What does the LGBTQ+ community need to work on? How can they better support your identity?  

While this community is amazing in so many ways, it’s important to recognize the prejudices in our own community. We could definitely benefit from growing in our understanding and support of the trans community, as well as increasing visibility for LGBTQ+ POC. We have a tendency to get locked into this stereotypical image of “the gay community,” and while that simple visibility and recognition of our existence is a step in the right direction, it’s not an accurate representation of our diversity. For example, the Stonewall Uprising was ignited by transgender individuals, and yet the mainstream gay rights movement tends to almost ignore them. And I’m honestly not sure why, but there are a surprising number of transphobic comments made by famous queer people. We’re community that emerged from being “different,” rather than the norm perpetuated by society. We should be fighting for and celebrating those differences rather than patting ourselves on the back and saying, “Well, the white cisgender queer people are doing better, so we did our job!” We need to be analytical and critical of our own views. Reflect. Continue to grow and learn. And always lift each other up. As MLK said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Describe your coming out experience in 5 words or less.  
Self hate into self love.

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What are your favorite pieces of LGBTQ+ media?

OH HONEY! THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS!! If I had to pick three:

  1. Any of Andrea Gibson’s poetry, but especially “Pole Dancing to Gospel Hymns” and “Pansy.” Her work is absolutely beautiful, and addresses love, gender, politics, sexuality, illness, family, and forgiveness with such stunning imagery and honesty. It’s both a cry for political action and a celebration of love.

  2. Hannah Gadsby’s comedy special “Nanette” on Netflix - it’s redefining what comedy can be. It’s so gay, and so raw. Please, just go watch it right now.

  3. The movie Carol - gay 1950’s Cate Blanchett. What else do you need?

Who are your LGBTQ+ role models?
Miss Tosh: She is an inspiring, very openly lesbian burlesque performer, pinup model, and international “glambassador.” She got into the burlesque scene because as a kid there weren’t any modern queer women to luck up to, so she became her own “lesbian superhero of glamour.” She makes all her own costumes, props, music, and choreography. She even has her own clothing line that she designs and executes. Plus, she’s just the kindest, most welcoming human, and as someone who is a part of the burlesque community, it is always a joy and an honor working with her.

Sasha Velour (most widely known as the winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 9): She has such a unique and artistic voice (Bald. With a unibrow. What a queen!), designs all her outfits and merchandise, is a trained opera singer, was a Fulbright Scholar, has a monthly drag show that highlights the diversity and challenges gender norms, is a huge Marlene Dietrich fan, does not shy away from political activism, has her own zine, and is absolutely weird, gorgeous, and glamorous. And if none of that, nor her tiny rainbow hat, nor her rose petal wig reveal hook you, then maybe the quote “You can’t spell manslaughter without ‘laughter’” will.

Hayley Kiyoko: She has an ungodly level of swag, dance moves for DAYS, and somehow perfectly meshes femme and androgynous styles. #LesbianJesus

Who are your favorite LGBTQ+ celebrities?
Greta Garbo, Sarah Paulson, Kate McKinnon, Angela Robinson and Todrick Hall.

And finally, are you alright with me referring to you as “queer,” or does the term make you uncomfortable?
I feel like the term queer is very empowering to use as it has been reclaimed by the community. I totally love the term, so go for it! Queer this shit up!!