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  • Writer's pictureHina Siddiqui

Queer Lives: Season 1 | Episode 1

Updated: Feb 20, 2022



The first time I met Ms Versus, in as much as anyone can meet anyone nowadays, was when I was looking for people to host sessions for PanACEa: Asexuality Asia Conference 2021. She is a singer, songwriter, musician, performer and music producer who was very helpfully recommended for the conference by the people at the ASEAN SOGIE Caucus because she had been part of their artist line-up for the Southeast Asian Queer Cultural Festival earlier that year. Like the good little organized human I can be at times, I researched Ms Versus and her songs before chatting her up on Zoom. What struck me almost immediately, is the relatability of her music. It was one of the few times, music felt like what everyone else experiences when listening to songs - something vaguely familiar, comfortable but embellished with pops of colour and costume. And the videos are a labour of creative love that find meaning in the everydayness of urban life.


Side-Note: For those of you who don’t know me, I have very much of an issue with music. My brain is wired to pick out details, postulate story, scan imagery for metaphor and CANNOT for the love of all that is holy tune out lyrics (which is why I almost exclusively listen to Japanese and French songs nowadays). And music’s blatant enforcing of binaries, hierarchies, heteronormativity and the overall allosexual and romantic themes drive me up the fumken wall!



Ms Versus (Vermon Santiago) is 23 years old. She is a Transgender Heterosexual Woman. And it was my tremendous delight to have this midnight conversation two weeks into the new year, with her at her home in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines and me in my study in Pune, India. We talked about a lot of things - why she chose the name Versus, the arts and education scene in the Philippines, her music (of course) and shooting music videos in the lockdown, thrift shopping and buying Barbies when upset, wars and history and of course Ben Barnes. Peeing and pooping comes up a lot. Which is no surprise given the unnecessarily gendered nature of toilets. You can hear the whole hour of us going at it right here or on Spotify.


And in case, you’re one of those quirky, quick people, here are some key highlights from this episode:


06:10 | Being an Alien

Ms Versus talks about being an alien in her own country because of the way she sounds and looks and then we get into what it means for her to be an artist and to be queer in a conservative country. A lot to relate to here.


23:43 | Making Music is Expensive

In this section, Ms Versus talks about making music and shooting videos all across the countryside IN THE MIDDLE OF A FUMKEN PANDEMIC! Listen in to get a taste of her process, struggles and victories. And after that, we talk about the kind of things Ms Versus likes to write and sing about and the inspirations behind her album - The Pearl Majesty.


42:30 | Little Joys in Life

We talked about the little joys in life and after some philosophy, Ms Versus talks about shopping and how she recently bought 17 Barbie dolls for her little sister and her to play with. Also, we talk thrift shopping, the perils of saving clothes from landfills and Marie Kondo. Here are some pictures of the barbies and clothes Ms Versus recently bought, as promised.


51:15 | Views on Art and the World

Art is everywhere. And there is power in the acceptance of ourselves as artists. Then Ms Versus gives us a lesson in history, war and peace.


56:46 | A proposal for Ben Barnes


Or if you prefer, you can watch the recording of our Zoom Call on YouTube here. Fair warning though, it is unedited and the time-stamps won’t match. But I am sure you’ll make it work!


And the last thing, because rituals are important, even if traditions are not, at the end of each episode we (and I could mean that in either the royal or the communal sense) request the guest speaker to give the listeners a prompt or provocation of some kind. These can be anything: a question, a line from a book or a piece of art, a suggested activity. And we hope that you, our audience will respond to these provocations in any medium of your choosing, even if it is a series of emojis pasted on as a comment on my social media.


Anywho, here is the provocation Ms Versus has left for Episode 1 of Queer Lives. You can listen to Ms Versus explain what she means by her question at the end of the episode at around 1:01:32. Send us your responses and idle musings on Instagram, Facebook or submit them right here (I’m sure you’ll figure it out, I have faith in you!)



And finally, if you are or know queer people who’d like to talk about their Queer Lives, with me, please do get in touch with me over social media or send me a message here.


That’s it for now. Hope to see you next time for more Queer Lives.

Follow Ms Versus


Follow Hina Siddiqui


Creative Credits:

Podcast Music:


Photography

Ms Versus, Mr. Jones Palteng and Mr. Mark Evangelista

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