Justin Sayre
Photo by Ricardo Nelson

Shaping the gay agenda can be an exhausting job and few are up to the task. Yet eight  years ago, a leader emerged who proved that wit, determination, and fine talent is what it takes to forge a homosexual revolution. Justin Sayre has been spearheading the charge with his monthly gatherings called The Meeting of the International Order of Sodomites. It’s a cup of cabaret, a splash of story-telling, a dollop of diva worship, and a thimble of thought-provoking calls to action, all of which combine to create outrageously fun evenings.

Next year, the bi-coastal artist, whose work has been preserved on the appropriately titled recording The Gay Agenda , and on the ever popular podcast Sparkle & Circulate will bid farewell from his post. In addition to his work as Chairman of the Board,  Sayre occupies his time in Hollywood as a writer for the CBS sitcom 2 Broke Girls. He’s also held The Meeting several times on the West coast.

Photo courtesy of Fortune Creative.
Photo courtesy of Fortune Creative.

This Sunday Dec. 18th , two meetings will be held at his downtown home, Joe’s Pub. His 8th annual Holiday Spectacular will feature an array of talent, each show feauturing different artists.  Manhattan Digest recently spoke with him over the phone to discuss a variety of really gay stuff.

MD:Talk a little bit about the evolution of The Meeting of the International Order of Sodomites

JS: I pitched it at a Radical Faeries retreat in Vermont. At the time, Prop 8 had come out of California and I didn’t feel as though there was a forum to talk about gay ideas and politics. I thought that I could create one and create a sense of community from that. With the help of two friends, I booked two shows at the Duplex. They loved it and asked me if I’d want to turn it into a series. We were there for 2 1/2 years and then we went to 54 Below. Now we’re at Joe’s Pub and we’re selling out every month. It’s been such an amazing journey because I always imagined the show there. I’ve seen my favorite artists at that venue and for me, it’s like playing Shea Stadium. Being part of the lineage of talent means so much to me.

MD: The term “Gay Agenda” has often been used by right wing conservatives to vilify the gay community, but you use it as an ironic term. What exactly is our agenda and what should it be?   

JS: Right now, it’s to organize. I don’t mean to be dire but we’re in real trouble right now. The gay agenda is usually pointed at gay white men, but it has to include Muslims, immigrants, and women. In order to be really true to the community we have to address all of those issues.  As gay people. our rights are reflected in everyone so our job is to see that we have a “dog in every fight”. If they come for one group, they can come for all of us. We need to mobilize and see that we’re all connected.

MD: Do you feel as though the gay community is becoming stronger or do you think that social media and apps are somehow diminishing that sense of togetherness?

JS: It’s becoming easier to not be involved.  But with that, comes the price that you’re not involved. I know so many people who will discount the possibility of a real relationship just because they met someone on an app.  They are becoming more realistic about what friends on Facebook and friends in real life are. But in that way, I think that people are realizing that they have to use those tools as a means of involvement. We have to keep reminding people of how much how much they’re needed out there.

Photo by Kevin Yatarola
Photo by Kevin Yatarola

MD: Your shows always pay homage to divas and icons. What is it about these larger than life figures that is so appealing to the LGBTQ community?

JS: This sounds so hokey, but I think that a lot us grow up without reflections. When you’re straight, you have a path carved out for yourself. When you’re a gay kid, there is rarely a path. I think we cling to these images of people who live extraordinary lives or create something of ourselves because it fulfills a desire in us to do the same.

MD: What can we expect this weekend at the Holiday Spectacular?

JS: Since it’s the last one, we are pulling out all the stops! Nellie McKay, Erin Markey, Isaac Oliver, Angela DiCarlo, Natalie Joy Johnson, and a whole host of great guests will stop by. It’s gonna be a lot of fun. I’m writing two parodies: One based on The Night Before Christmas and another based on How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It will be a good  mix of things that are going on in New York.

MD: There just seems to be a dark overcast cloud in the air right now, given the results of the Presidential Election and I wonder if we even want to celebrate the holidays this year?

JS: Absolutely. That aspect will be in the show for sure. I’ve been thinking a lot about how we’re gonna gear up for the next four years. Ive also been reading and talking to people who have been involved in ACT UP, trying to learn about the longevity of movements. The quote I always return to is Emma Goldman who said “If you can’t dance in the revolution, I don’t want to be there.” I think what she means is that you have  to make room for joy, Otherwise, you’ll feel endless sorrow. If we allow this man (whose name shall not be mentioned) to take away our sense of wonder, celebration, and camp then we are doing a great disservice to ourselves.

MD: We’re going to be sad to lose you as Chairman of the Board in 2017, but what’s next for you after the final show?

JS: Well, we have shows until May, so I’ll still be there!  In the fall, I’m going to come back with my own show, possibly a Bathhouse Revue. I have two new plays and another book coming out and will continue television writing. The Meeting is ending but who I am and what I believe in is not. I’m always going to be concerned about women’s health and gay rights.  It’s just a new beginning.

MD: Will your podcast continue?

JS: Yes. Sparkle and Circulate will still continue—as will Night of 1000 Judys, the annual benefit for the Ali Forney Center.

MD: Finally, what is on your wish list to  Santa this year?

JS:  Oh God! Well, I’m very hard to buy for. I’m very specific. I buy myself a Christmas present…i know..i know…but I found this framed poster from a cabaret show that Holly Woodlawn did—that she signed.

MD: Wow! Where did you find that?

JS: I found it on e-bay. I have alerts for everything. I have a lot of classic gay memorabilia. I collect ash trays from most of the famous clubs in New York from the forties.  So that’s what I do. I’m a very lonely person (laughs)

MD: Oh come come now. Is your attire picked out for the holiday show?

JS: My friend Dusty Childers takes great pride and pains in making me look better so I’m sure he’ll insist that I change outfits.

MD: Well, we look forward to seeing you in whatever you wear this weekend at Joe’s Pub . Thanks for talking to us.

JS: Thank you. I appreciate it.

The Meeting of the International Order of Sodomites hosted by Justin Sayre will commence this Sunday, Dec. 18th @ 7 PM and 9:30 at  The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street (between East 4th and Astor Place) NYC. His monthly series will continue through May 2017. For tickets and more information, visit www.InternationalOrderofSodomites.com