Seattle was beautiful when I returned home from Los Angeles.

I had been on a dance tour with one of my besties, my housemate, my art wife, Saira Barbaric. During this summer tour, we built a kind of friend language unlike any I have ever experienced, as well as deepening what we had already been doing: centering our interactions around direct communication, access intimacy, truth-telling, Disability Justice, and being our sweetest, baddest, queerest, Blackest selves all over the West Coast.

Barbie came out the day after I flew home. Upon reuniting with the streets of Columbia City, my favorite stomping grounds, I could smell something different yet wonderfully familiar in the air. This was my comeback summer. Everything I do these days feels like a song that’s all coming back to me now but was mine all along.

As I roamed the neighborhood, I noticed beautiful and vibrant women and femmes, as I always do, but now, more of them were noticing me. We were all looking at each other in the sunshine, us femmes, admiring one another’s dresses, skirts, jewelry, makeup, pizzazz, panache, and shining eyes without a hint of competition. That tight-lipped smile, so common in Seattle that even those of us who find it unnatural have adopted it, deepened and curled into a toothy grin. I can’t remember the last time I received such knowing and appreciative looks from femme strangers when I wasn’t at a gay party. It was heartening and inspiring. I wondered, could this be because of Barbie? I couldn’t wait to see the film and write about it for the Emerald.

I signed divorce papers recently and, in so doing, joined a beautiful echelon of fierce femmes with or without regrets known as divorcées. We are many. We are not always proud.

I do feel proud, though. Maybe it’s because I’m gay. I have truly partied, journaled, OD’d, sobered a bit, fallen in love with myself, my friends, history, and our possible future. And I’ve exorcised my demons more times than possible in order to feel proud. Pride is my favorite holiday, really. During Pride season (which used to be June, but now is really all summer long, not to mention that July is Disabled Pride month, and August is Black August), I often feel more freedom to be my whole self in public for all of these reasons.

Disabled folks like myself are less likely to be able to access entry-level jobs because of the emphasis on menial labor, less likely to be supported well enough to fully access higher education or government and financial services, and less likely to make enough money to survive. We’re also more likely to be perceived in ways or exhibit behaviors that others read as antisocial or defiant. This can lead Disabled people — particularly Black Disabled people, who are also more likely to be perceived as aggressive or threatening — to lose or be denied housing, access to resources, parenting rights, and their freedom. If I approach a nonBlack, nonDisabled stranger on the street to ask for directions or the time, I remember to smile broadly and speak quickly to assuage their fear that I’m going to ask for money, a fear they convey by clutching themselves and their valuables tighter.

On the day I went to see Barbie, I had a lovely three-hour phone call with my sister/sibling Tina, who is also a non-binary femme dyke being fabulous in Minneapolis. We are artists. We are autistic. We remember everything we whispered to each other. As kids over late-night movies. Older, sneaking cigarettes in the park.

Pink is my favorite color. As Elle Woods from Legally Blonde said, “It’s my signature color!” I recently saw a meme from Instagram’s @bitch.rising where they were showing the Zodiac signs as tweets, and the tweet epitomizing Leo read, “If I’m a lot, go find less.” My midheaven and south node are in Leo. As I entered the Barbie movie, 20 minutes early for the 4:30 p.m. showing at Ark Lodge Cinemas, I whipped my mane back and forth. I excitedly picked up my pre-paid ticket and bought some concessions before heading to the theater that was about to be, to my delight, oh, so, so pink.

Photo by NEVE
“Barbie” movie, 2023
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(Photo: NEVE)

” data-medium-file=”″ data-large-file=”″ decoding=”async” width=”474″ height=”711″ src=”″ alt=”Photo depicting NEVE in a pink shirt posing for the camera with text across the image that reads, “Rolling up to Barbie like the last femme of the apocalypse.”” class=”wp-image-108292″ srcset=” 683w, 200w, 100w, 768w, 800w” sizes=”(max-width: 474px) 100vw, 474px” data-recalc-dims=”1″>

(Photo: NEVE)

One of the trailers before Barbie was for Theater Camp. I am a musical theatre kid, so the Broadway cameos out the gate were enough to make me squawk. And I did. I responded to great jokes with “Stop.” As a chimeric drag queen of folkloric proportions, I talk back to films. I do this when I am alone and when I am with other people. If I’m aware of a specific request or access need from my fellow audience members not to do so, I can reel it in. However, in a packed theatre, everyone is presumably there to enjoy the film and the shared experience of watching a loud movie on a large screen. There are films where talking back doesn’t make sense, and in these, I am not compelled to do so unless I am in a private screening where this is welcomed.

What happened next was the second time someone has shushed/glared at/barked at me with a physics-defying snap of their head, fueled by entitlement, while I was enjoying or preparing to enjoy a movie I believed was meant for me. Both of these incidents occurred at Ark Lodge during films calling out structural violence, the first during Get Out (Black) and the second at Barbie (Woman). Both times, I was silenced by older white folks with swift vitriol.

With Get Out, we were several minutes into the film, and I reacted audibly to the scene where they accidentally hit a deer with their car. Something great about filmmaker Jordan Peele’s horror is that his titles are shoutable throughout whatever movie you’re watching, and that reads to me like a love letter to Black people. Upon gasping and then saying, “Get out!” to Daniel Kaluuya on screen, I received a shush like a thrashing from a white lady Boomer wearing a buttercream sweater.

But in Barbie, we hadn’t even made it through the previews, a time when audience members are typically still entering the theater, settling into their seats, passing around snacks, chatting with their friends and family, before I was whipped toward and glared at by a Mitch McConnell look-alike. I wasn’t the only person who had made noises, but I was the only person who was audibly, directly reacting to the scenes on screen. He kept looking back at me and frowning (I was in the back row, which is where the wheelchair seating is), and so I said with a smile, “I’m going to keep reacting out loud, so please don’t worry about it, sir!”

Barbie was a movie I confidently attended by myself, certain that my genuine reactions to the comedy would be shared by many others, especially women and femmes, who, like me, went to the film to enjoy it with community.

I had started the public cinematic experience emboldened by summer wine and sisterly love, with the premise of the Barbie movie — that we are all Barbie — beating in my heart. Great news for a kid who, growing up, had Disney’s Pocahontas Barbie and the Black wheelchair-using Barbie, named Chelsea, explore one another’s bodies via water ballet duets in a neighbor’s hollyhock-bordered pool! Bad news for an adult who follows the critiques of Barbie’s muddled messaging coming directly from feminist communities I belong to and cherish: Black, Native, Fat, Trans/Queer, and Disabled thinkers.

One of the next trailers was for the film adaptation of Ahamefule J. Oluo’s musical performance memoir Now I’m Fine. I have been fortunate enough to have seen both the live show and film, and after the trailer, during a moment of silence and stillness on screen, I said something out loud like, “Aham is a crown emerald of Seattle! If you have a chance to see that film or check out his music, I highly recommend it!”

I don’t know if anyone chuckled or mmhmmed in response because I had a creepy sense that something was coming. My ears were ringing. The older gentleman with the surprisingly flexible neck turned around and glared at me again. As far as I was concerned, the theater mirrored the silence of the screen. I noticed I had finished my beverage already, and I felt like I needed some air, so I grabbed my purse, turned on my chair, and exited the theater.

As I returned to the lobby, I remembered that the clerk working at the ticket and concession stand was also Black. I thought that perhaps in addition to refreshment and a chance to breathe, I might find some empathy or camaraderie. After I reached the counter, smiled, and said hello, my smile quickly fell from my face, as the clerk asked, “Did you make an announcement in there?”

I immediately knew I had to go into defense mode without seeming defensive. I kept my voice under-modulated and fairly quiet. I gently raised my eyebrows and widened my almond-shaped eyes to convey vulnerability, openness, innocence, curiosity. I tried to recall what “announcement” I had made, then remembered my shout-out after the trailer for Now I’m Fine. I relayed this story, being sure to quote the clever line about “crown emerald.”

My would-be comrade’s expression didn’t change.

I learned they had received at least one, perhaps a couple, a few, or several complaints (the number kept changing) about my “announcements” and that I was being asked to leave. Although the conversation eventually dissolved into a heart-to-heart, in which I was crying and they offered me all of my money back, including for concessions, I was hurt, shocked, and disappointed.

At one point, I named that I thought that my disability and being Black had something to do with the discrimination I was experiencing. The clerk responded, “I try not to bring race into it.” I don’t remember whether I said, “Race is already in it. Always. We both know that.” The more I tried to reason, the firmer they stood. Finally, my facial muscles weren’t strong enough to hold in my tears. They spilled down my face. I managed to control my sobs so I was still comprehensible. I asked, “What else would you have me do? What did I actually do wrong?”

This was our mutual melting point. My might-be friend visibly softened. They said they would refund everything I had purchased. They also proposed that if I could contain, control, or silence myself, I could reenter the theater and watch Barbie. I did not feel safe returning to the theater knowing the people who had complained about me were there, knowing that they must have described me as a wheelchair user in order for the clerk to have identified me as the troublemaker. Whether or not I could keep quiet, I would have felt too surveilled to enjoy the movie or remember it well enough to write an article about it.

My would-be comrade also offered me the possibility of a private screening of Barbie at Ark Lodge, just for me. I felt sad, desirous of connection, and with a tired, healing-yet-not-gone people-pleasing urge to repair the situation for everyone except me. I asked how I would set that up. They told me I could email the general information address and that they would see it. While this was a generous and tempting offer, as both a physically and mentally disabled person, I have experienced being segregated from others in order to access the same entertainment. The laws of Universal Design say that if Disabled folks have to access a space that segregates them from others or if the need to access the space is stigmatizing, it is not accessible.

Since I was asked to leave for being myself, being offered a private screening, though this could be interpreted as a luxury, was a segregating and stigmatizing consolation prize. I have decided a private screening at Ark Lodge won’t work for me, especially if I have to request it via email, risking that the person on the other end of my message might not know of or remember my experience and the theoretical promise of a private screening. On my dime? On Ark Lodge’s dime? This was never specified.

Photo by NEVE
“Barbie” movie, 2023
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(Photo: NEVE)

” data-medium-file=”″ data-large-file=”″ decoding=”async” width=”474″ height=”735″ src=”″ alt=”Photo depicting a selfie of NEVE wearing a pink shirt with text that reads, “Unfortunate update: I was asked to leave the theatre bc of multiple complaints. I didn’t make it past the previews. This Black crippled neurospicy lesbian witch will have to Barbie another day.”” class=”wp-image-108295″ srcset=” 660w, 194w, 97w, 768w, 774w” sizes=”(max-width: 474px) 100vw, 474px” data-recalc-dims=”1″>

(Photo: NEVE)

This summer, I was enamored by the explosion of femmeness, femininity, and pink that painted itself sensuously across my Instagram feed and the sidewalks of my city. I felt a part of the Barbie zeitgeist and felt it was a part of me. I was excited to see the movie. But this fruit has soured slightly. I don’t want to say that the color pink has been spoiled for me because nothing can do that. Yet, there is that certain shade of pink, New Jersey hollyhock pink, yet more plastic than petal. Pepto Bismol pink — that pink that’s more blue than purple or orange, like the kind of medicine Mary Poppins feeds you and your doll when you are sick — that doesn’t sit right with me in my soul anymore.

When Barbie and Oppenheimer are supposed to represent the donkeys and elephants of this country, respectively, I feel like a zebra far from home. To this day, I have not seen Barbie, and I don’t know when I will. Ark Lodge, I hope one day, I will feel safe coming back to you.

The South Seattle Emerald is committed to holding space for a variety of viewpoints within our community, with the understanding that differing perspectives do not negate mutual respect amongst community members.

The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed by the contributors on this website do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of the Emerald or official policies of the Emerald.

NEVE is a 2020 Pina Bausch Fellow! Their latest major choreographic work, “Flora hereafter: how flowers survive” premiered in AXIS Dance Company’s 2021 Home Season at Z Space in San Francisco, and has already toured to multiple continents. learn more at!

NEVE believes in God(exxes), Collective Access and Liberation, Transformative Justice, Land Back, Right of Return, Reparations, Anarchism (in relationships and governance), the Loch Ness Monster, the Multiverse, the concept that all living beings are people, and 

You. They are currently a contributing writer for the South Seattle Emerald, member of the dancer-led equity and liberation initiative working group, Creating New Futures (sponsored by The National Performance Network), a consultant to Heidi Latsky Dance on the annual event On Display Global, a politicized, worldwide, human sculpture court, and collaborate heavily with their confidante in arms, fellow Seattle multidisciplinary artist Saira Barbaric as themselves, and as MouthWater.

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NEVE (they/(s)he) is a multigender, multiracial, multiply Disabled, multidimensional, multidisciplinary terpsichorean artist of the stage, street, field, stream, and screen. They are an Indigenous African living in Duwamish and Coast Salish lands and traveling wherever they have access and an invitation. (S)He is a 2020 Pina Bausch Fellow and a 2022 Arc Artist Fellow. Visit them online at and beyond.

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