By Mikkel Hyldebrandt
Photos Courtesy of Deviant Events
When Micah created the Deviant parties in 2019 – a circuit party mainly or queer people of color – he wanted to apply the knowledge he gained from his Sociology studies at Georgia State with his own experiences as both a sexual and racial minority. Now, because of the pandemic, it has developed into a broadcast on Instagram called DeviantTV. We caught up with Micah Marquez to talk about how it all began and where it is headed.
Tell us about the background for Deviant.
My professors at Georgia State always told me that the most practical application of my life’s experience would lead to business expertise. They were right! It seems befitting then that Deviant LLC was born. With Deviant, I came to the truest, most authentic parts of myself as a black queer man and created a space that I thought my demographic lacked: a circuit party. A space where racial minority men could be free of hyper-masculinity, religious ridicule, and standards of classist respectability politics. I’ve never been in a space curated for and by people of color that was proudly sex-positive, body-positive, and queer. Only in circuit parties have I felt an amazing sense of agency and freedom from societal pressures, and I wanted all our community to feel that. So Deviant was born in October 2019.
Deviant is not a sex party or a kink fest, but rather an opportunity to get uncomfortably authentic to one’s most fun and flamboyant self. You dress in the ways you’ve always been taught are “not right for boys.” You wear pink, leather, lace, mesh, or anything that folks once chastised you against. You actively reclaim the words: “That’s so gay” that were once used to ridicule you. You embrace queer identity, and in its fullness – finally, you are proud to be different.
The DeviantTV video podcast series is targeted to queer people of color (and to those who celebrate and support them), and it touches upon a variety of subjects within this group. Tell us about the development of the series and some of the topics you talk about.
We always said we were more than a party, and when COVID occurred, it pushed us into proving it. With our DeviantTV broadcast, we’ve taken the opportunity to discuss queer POC politics in depth. Queer POC in the Civil Rights Movement, Sex-Positivity, Body-Positivity, Sex-Workers Rights, BDSM, Decriminalization of Recreational Drugs, the Bisexual Erasure, Mental Health, Queer Dating, and Parenting Queer Kids have all been topics of discussion in this first season of DeviantTV.
You and your co-host Ash-A-Ley (@deviantFemme) don’t shy away from sharing your personal experiences. How has it been sharing the intimate details of your life in this way?
It has been quite an experience having to be vulnerable at times on DeviantTV. I’m naturally a private person, and secretly an introvert, so there are times when I’ve gotten emotional while sharing my personal stories. But I knew it was necessary, so I don’t regret anything. It’s time we start sharing, so no one has to feel alone in their hardships of coming out, being disowned, experimenting with drugs or participating in survival sex, or some form of sex-work.
That is the power of communication. When we put our life experiences, feelings, and philosophies into words, we stand a greater chance of relating to one another. My being vulnerable in this way is an attempt to uplift the most oppressed (be it silenced or ignored) in our communities.
Let’s turn to the Deviant events (all put on hold for now during the pandemic). They are a safe space for queer people of color where they can break free from the norms they’ve had to learn to survive a homophobic, racist, and transphobic society. Why do you think a space like that is so crucial in this moment?
You’ve got it! A safe space for queer people of color is so necessary. Constantly wearing phony personas at work, at home, and throughout our community can be exhausting. It’s imperative that we have an opportunity to exhale all the bullshit and just be. Deviant is a space for queer people of color to be themselves fully, and we welcome all allies. What we don’t welcome are those items you just named: racism, xenophobia, homophobia, femme-phobia, slut-shaming, fat-phobia, transphobia, and misogyny must stay outside of our doors. Shame and violence are the two ways to get easily expelled from our parties. It is a sacred space for folks to let go of social norms and pressures, and it only lasts a few hours.
What were some of the most challenging subjects you talked about on DeviantTV?
The episode on Protecting Queer Kids, I shared a personal testimony from when I was once disowned from home, and I got super emotional while sharing. It is a difficult time for me to reflect on in general and so it was certainly difficult for me to share. On set, I found myself getting choked up, holding back tears, and needing water to calm myself. That trauma response was evidence of real trauma, and that (being disowned) is an experience that so many in our community have gone thru. That’s why I push on. It’s never really about me. This broadcast is about US: healing, learning, growing, loving, living more healthful, safer, and happier. Deviant is for and about US.
The episode of advocacy to Decriminalize Recreational Drugs was a challenge also. I left feeling like I didn’t do well enough in connecting with my audience. I didn’t want to take on a tone that encouraged people to experiment, but instead advised people to be safe and do research before they ever make the choice to experiment. The medium between trying to beat out stigma and not being accused of encouraging controversial (and illegal) substances was difficult for me to reach.
Nonetheless, later on, I recalled the context that I wished I had included. That is The racist history of Reagan’s “War on Drugs” that tore apart communities of color. Many in our communities lost uncles, fathers, brothers, and friends to substances that were not home-grown, but rather brought into our communities and used by our beloved neighbors and family members for escapism. They lived in poverty-stricken neighborhoods and under the steady tyranny of racism. The War on Drugs welcomed police brutality to people who already lacked resources, aid, and hope. Our communities were not met with addiction or intervention facilities, but rather ripped apart by police, as we lost millions to brutality and incarceration. Those same narcotics, now troubling rural and suburban white communities, are seen as a health crisis, and the addicts are seen as victims instead of criminals. That is the way it should be now and should have always been for communities of color too.
… and some of the most fun?
The episode on Queer Dating was one that I didn’t have to do much research on, and I got the chance to show my personality finally. I’m a bit of a spoiled brat, but eh- What can I say? It’s me, and it was fun and funny just to be honest about my expectations in dating in that episode.
Where can we find DeviantTV – and when’s the next party?
DeviantTV can be found on Instagram: @micah_marquez, @deviantEvents, and @deviantFemme.
The next Deviant Event is coming right here to ATLANTA, on Friday, October 30! We’re hosting a Halloween-theme circuit party here in Atlanta, at 595 North Ave, in West Midtown. It’s perfect because masks are required as a safety precaution against Covid-19, and masks are normal attire for this holiday.
Go to Deviant-Events.com to keep yourself updated on the next event, follow @micah_marquez, @deviantEvents, and @deviantFemme for the latest DeviantTV broadcast.