project image
Elizabeth Steen

first performed on November 8, 2014
a public hammam in the Medina of Fes, Fes, Morocco
performed once in 2014


Atlanta, GA / Seattle, WA


The scrubbing took place in a local female hammam (public bathhouse) in the Medina of Fes. The English word queer was tagged with henna on my knuckles, arms, back, broadly across my chest, neck, feet and legs. After drying, my body was publicly scrubbed by an attendant—an elderly Moroccan woman—with a rough brush, traditional black soap and rinsed with buckets of hot water.

Blinded by steam, bodies became just breasts and buttocks, toes and teeth; where each naked body forfeited her identity by undressing and entering. The transformation of my marked queer body—as it was awkwardly flipped on the slippery tile floor—is an ephemeral and seemingly humorous spectacle. The vigorous scrubbing and consequent searing sensation irritated and further embedded the henna into my skin. Body parts tagged queer became red and triumphant upon the spectacle’s end. But I was no one. Finally, my skin retained residue through minimal scarring several weeks after the performance.

Queer is progressively used by (not for) individuals choosing to use the term in a broader category of self-identification. It is a re-owned contemporary label by a community who embraces its usage as unconventional and eccentric while also acknowledging its derogatory history. Queer can be utilized as an umbrella term, not just for LGBTQ but any refusing a binary. It is inclusive and—as I intend to use the term—fluid, global and resilient.

“No Queer Bodies—A Public Scrubbing” addresses the visibility of self-identity. I endeavor agency, uniqueness with acknowledgment of cross-cultural barriers and likenesses. Emphasis is also placed on symbolic space—as the hammam is both public and private. As a queer tourist, I pursue solidarity and attempt inclusion of global truths and equality.