Dance, Drink and Be Non-Binary at Vancouver’s First Transgender Club Night

Coconutz and Bananas promises to turn the Odyssey into an oasis of inclusion—with DJs of course.

Although Anasteja Layne was born male, she has always seen herself as a woman. So did the modelling agency that scouted her in 2007 while she was shopping at Dressew for her grad project with Vancouver’s Blanche MacDonald Centre. Even in high school, she’d placed first in a female modelling competition, long before she began living as a female full-time in 2011, or taking hormones in 2012. Her androgynous presentation earned her a career in the fashion industry, primarily as a female fit model—a human mannequin designers would use to tailor their runway looks. Eventually she started walking the runways herself. But the blossoming career came to an abrupt end when Layne lost a huge contract after a modelling agency discovered she was in transition. Anasteja-Syrën Layne is organizing Vancouver’s first trans club night. “When you’re in a space that always feels designated for a cisgender body type, you feel like an outcast.”Returning to Vancouver in 2013, Layne found she may have been forced to leave her fashion career behind, but the transphobia she’d encountered followed her home. Despite the visible LGBTQ+ community and advocates in this city, Layne says an inclusive and safe space for trans folk remained elusive. Even among her progressive peers, Layne always recognized that she was capable of bringing discomfort into a room. “People don’t understand the dysphoria that happens in the mind when you’re transgendered,” she explains. “When you’re in a space that always feels designated for a cisgender body type, you feel like an outcast.” People, intentionally or not, have acted standoffish around Layne—making comments about her height and staring for too long. “They’re afraid of this underlying male presence,” she suspects. “It’s weird to feel like I’d bring discomfort to a space, but eye-opening to discover the effect I could have on people.”

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That realization fuelled a desire to create a space especially for trans people to occupy. Enter: Coconutz and Bananas, Vancouver’s first trans club night taking place at the Odyssey on August 18. Born out of Layne’s struggle to find her own community, the event aims to celebrate trans bodies in all shapes and forms. The program consists of go-go dancers, strippers, drag queens and kings, as well as two DJs, the majority of whom are transgender or non-binary. “The night’s going to be very high energy, fun and carefree because that’s what we need right now,” Layne says.The show is also opportunity for cisgender performers and audience members to learn how to be better allies to their trans peers, as misjudgement and othering still exists between groups within the queer community. “There’s a lot of conflict and I want to find harmony within our diversity,” Layne says, admitting that she too has made incorrect assumptions when it comes to gender identity. Having previously perceived gender expression as a binary thing—you either present male or female—Layne first recognized the grey areas of identity when she started performing with Man UP, a popular monthly drag showcase, nine years running, where people of all gender identities and sexual orientations can perform. Encouraged by her Man-UP family, most of whom entertain as drag kings, Layne started her own performance group called pearlSQUAD last year. Coconutz and Bananas grew out of an in-joke with the group she describes as a queer, femme, modern burlesque group of activists.With the inaugural night now booked, Layne’s ambitions are already reaching beyond a one-off event. Like Man-UP’s monthly show, she hopes that Coconutz and Bananas can be a regular meeting place for trans, non-binary and gender-bending folks to safely express themselves on a monthly or bimonthly basis. “I just want us to have pure liberation and the ability to freely talk about who we are and how we express ourselves to other people,” she says.Tickets to Coconutz and Bananas are $5 each, a price point Layne insisted on because “Transitioning is expensive, people often don’t have money set aside for socializing.” Proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to Egale—a transgender law centre that deals with cases throughout North America—and Saige Community Foodbank—a local safe space for transgender, gender non-conforming and queer individuals who need to access healthy food. She hopes that her event will gain enough success to support the creation of another local charity to support the trans community.

Coconutz and Bananas

Friday, August 18The Odyssey, 686 W Hastings StreetDoors open at 9 p.m.Tickets: $5 (can be purchased at the door)