Exploring Gender and Queerness

As for drag, although I have been supporting shows for years in various ways, I am very new as a Drag King myself. A reminder that my first public performance was August 2013 at the Amateur Drag Race in Harrisburg, PA. I did one at a private party at my house about 2 months prior for a group of women.  Most performers have been at this for a year or more, I remind myself that this is all very new to me.

The reason I chose to participate in this competition was for one simple reason, I personally suffer from depression and suicidal tendencies. I have a life-time of stories of being bullied from being kicked almost to death on a city street at 8 years old to being bullied at work. I insist that not only can we be healed from depression and suicidal tendencies but we can also stop bullying. I don’t like to say “never” but it will be awfully hard to change my mind about these subjects as far as them being permanent and an acceptable part of human nature. Human’s can be kind to each other and the abuse CAN stop among us. I am not the only one that thinks so and many expressions of this idea have emerged. The Foundation for Hope is an example of that idea. Hence the drive to compete, even though I am so new at this whole Drag King thing. Also I don’t really enjoy competition as much as I love cooperation. I know many lesbians like this, its not unusual in the lesbian culture.

Anyway the first part of the competition was the personal interview. The packet welcomed us to arrive as chose to present “professional” to the judges. For me, professional means WOMYN, and when I say WOMYN I mean that woman that makes everyone part on a city street. A powerful professional strong WOMYN with a mission. That’s exactly how I presented myself. Gender means nothing to me. Plus the whole fun and art of drag is the gender bending part, well and the outrageous part. I love genderbending because its comfortable for me and makes more sense than sticking in a gender box. I DO NOT CHOOSE a gender. Plus, powerful women are sexy.  The interview itself was easy for me… especially if your asking me questions about my passion. I have no issues being on a soap box, my issue is stepping down. I feel so strongly and passionately about things I am constantly trying to tame my emotional reaction to things. But this interview was the TIME & PLACE for all that passion to pour forward. It did and I won this category.

The next part was creative costume, The Hobbit. I chose to do a Hobbit type of costume in honor of a young man that I was a youth leader for. Creative, intelligent, and he looked like a hobbit. Not on purpose just by his build, body hair, hair, and he hated shoes. During his youth he was bullied, ignored and underestimated. Since I had similar experiences in my youth I befriended him and we together we had a kinship that carries into his young adult years today. He truly embraces his Hobbit today, he has a job as a Hobbit innkeeper. So actually I did him, not the Hobbit, but most people wouldn’t know the difference. Plus all the things that make me weird in my everyday life are a lot like the Hobbit. My eating habits, my fear but love for travel, my bravery, love for trees and hills, and my desire for a hobbit house has a deep place in my heart. Plus I love to host my friends at my home. I have a lot of Hobbit traits I could just sit here and list for you. But truly I love my Hobbit costume even if my legs are sticky for a week afterwards.

 

Then the next portion was formal, my least favorite. I have never been good at politics or anything proper, I always am annoyed at the fakeness. If just feels fake to me, hence why I added my own style. I added a top hat and my father’s hand carved antique cane. Frankly I thought it was pretty good but a few mistakes were made, likely cause our hearts just isn’t into it. But next time we will be more careful. My comberbond was messed up and I am not totally sure about how to walk as a modeling proper male. I will get it next time, it was a lesson for us.

Next was the talent of course. I did a song called “Embers” by Owl City – which actually has more meaning than just the message in the song itself. Embers is about me spinning fire this summer. I learned to spin fire and this winter I have accumulated everything I need to take a spiritual journey with fire. It sits beneath my computer now awaiting my first beltaine fire. I spun my flags which are simply a less “dangerous” form of poi than fire and frankly I think it was pretty dam cool. Along with an amazing wig from my Drag granma Whitley Nycole DeAire. It was amazing but I made a few mistakes likely because I just love spinning poi so much and looked up a lot, which likely lead the judges to think I didn’t know the words. I know the words to that song so well I don’t have to think about it, they flew out of me like the flags spun around me. But I was caught in what my soul needed at that point. After 10 hours of a room full of competitors I needed me time and those flags do that for me. They gave me exactly what I needed, an outlet. Except it wasn’t the “time or place” for it.

 

 

I lost the pageant by 7 our of 1000 points. Seems like strange luck to me, odd even. But for me it is just a clear message from the universe. Embrace your Mr State Street – show the world your goofball – make the world laugh. Don’t keep him hidden. I love comedians because I love to laugh, laughter can help me get out of a depression. Sex is also part of Mr State Street, at least for me, and frankly sex positivity is another passion of mine. Sex positivity is important in our world because removing the shame from sex can empower humans to heal sex offenders of all kinds, therefore healing a lot of depression, suicidal tendencies, and bullying.  Sex positivity is powerful, it IS part of our human nature. “Sex is part of nature, I go along with nature.” Marilyn Monroe – and I am not the only one that thinks so. Buck Angel is my sex positive and gender hero!

 

 

State Street 2014

State St. Crowns

State St. Crowns

There were many reasons I chose to enter the State Street contest . First of all it was for a good cause, Black & White Party, which helps people with AIDS with living expenses. Second of all the rules were loose and sometimes I think rules are created in order to control people. I’m not always behind control. Also, it seems to be a place that drag queens and kings could express some of their deepest darkest ideas without being shunned or punished for them. As the community discovered I was running for state Street there was a question of what sort of reputation State Street might give someone. Of course I questioned this so-called “reputation”. I presented the idea that there is a time and a place for everything. If we don’t provide these outlets for people we will only hide them and feel shame for them.  If we feel shame for our dark ideas then we are only left with more shame and guilt for being who we are. Dark ideas are meant to come out and show that everyone has a dark side. Although you don’t have to act on that dark side all of the time and hurt others intentionally or unintentionally. You can still recognize it and have a healthy outlet for these dark places. I am so happy I entered the State Street contest.

Interestingly as my first pageant I was surprised to find that there was less songs to choose. Actually it was more  about costumes. Costumes and makeup are not exactly my strength which is why my wonderful creative partner, Arial, helps me with this. It also gives her a fantastic outlet for creativity. Together we create Izzy Ahee.

So the first costume was “trash your favorite celebrity”. I chose Elton John because he IS one of my favorite celebrities and frankly its rare to see him made fun of. Second, I thought well a gay community will recognize him immediately AND will enjoy the absurdity of it.  Also I had his costume readily available. I wanted to show Elton John doing a “Nelly bottom” walk of shame in his drinking days. I implied all sorts of things with a jock strap, magnum condoms, and a wine bottle strapped for insertion. I implied a bit of kink and a size queen. I also had a great pair of black dress pants that have a broken zipper and I wanted to put them to use, and this was perfect. The crowd pointed and whispered in each others ears that I was “Elton John” so I knew they got it right away.  Check out the video below, I am dead last in all of these.

The next category was “Walmart Realness”. At first I struggled with this because I don’t shop at Walmart and its not my flavor of comedy. But after looking through some of the photos about this topic I found something I not only had on hand but could have fun doing. A redneck, belly hanging out, cowboy hat, and screwed up teeth. In my real life I am having dental work and currently have a temporary tooth that can be removed from the front. The photos and video don’t do it justice, but it certainly added that little touch. It was interesting that a drag queen had recently stated how some people were making fun of her for her dental issues and I spoke up as support for her. Telling her I also was having dental work. The next day my creative partner asked me, “Would taking your tooth out for the redneck be too embarrassing?” and I immediately responded with a NO! Simply because I wanted to show that we can take our most embarrassing flaws and bring them to the floor for laughter. Why is it funny? Because its an absurd version of our flaws, laughing at our flaws is simply a good outlet. So I presented my two biggest flaws a large floppy belly and a missing front tooth. Then I added a mullet and my cowboy gear and was sure to have beer on my breath.

State Street 2014, Walmart Realness

State Street 2014, Walmart Realness

The next category of costume was “Night-In wear” What would “you wear for a night in with a client” said the description on the contestant packet. I thought about this one a lot and thought, well that depends on my mood and the client. Since I had brought the nelly bottom and the manly redneck already I choose to jump into another type of man. I chose the perverted playful type – still sexy but in a sort of cute Superman type of way. We also had to answer a question by the judges and sell shots to the crowd in these outfits, so I wanted something comfortable. I also decided to wear the most important part for “night-in” – I pitched a “tent” in my pants. It made the piece so “State Street” which for me was a great “dirty joke” type drag.

Then of course was the talent, which certainly brought out my dark side. One of my favorite things about drag, particularly State Street, is the lack of limitations. There is only the local laws to follow but otherwise you can shock the crowd all you want. I love to shock people, its my dirty little secret. I think its what drives me to be so out of the box, drag is a great outlet for my shocking habits. Also, a big part of my masculinity is my domination. I have had many experiences in BDSM. Even before I came out I prefered the more masculine style of domination over dominatrix. I use BDSM as an outlet for my “control issues”. We all have problems and the secret to overcoming them is finding a healthy outlet for them. I believe BDSM provides a healthy outlet for many people. This number was not only sexual in nature but it also crossed some interesting lines for the local crowd. I shocked them and loved every minute of it. I chose a song based on its lyrics and feel of the music. I did “The Bondage Song” by London After Midnight – a well known goth song. There was major issues with getting someone lined up to do this for me. Finally I ended up using a drag queen friend known as Hollywould, about 20 minutes before the talent began. Interestingly, that is a nickname I still use from long ago. I use it at my real job with the elderly, it helps them remember my name. So this Drag Queens name was my girl nickname from almost 10 years prior. Thank goodness I had another good friend in the audience to jump out and join in on the fun. The other 5-6 people that promised to participate were unavailable for various reasons. I do suspect that what I did in this talent made a lot of the locals very uncomfortable, even though I thought it was pretty tame.

Turns out that I won that night! I was honored to win the contest with my cardboard burger king crown and rhinestone Pimp cup. I was Mr State Street. I was so proud of my acceptance song for good reason, it is one of my favorite songs regardless of who sings it. The lyrics are an all time favorite and it was my nod to all the classic drag queens out there that have done “Sweet Dreams”. The song is just awesome in a lot of ways and I adore Marilyn Manson.

The best part about winning for me was simple. My absolute favorite queen, Belladonna, won with me. Belladonna and I have done several duets together and every single time we have a great time. Our chemistry is fantastic and its comfortable for us. She always brings darkness to the stage and her talent number was completely over the top. I wish I could have seen it live but I was behind stage getting dressed for my talent, that’s the trouble with working with your favorite performers. Fortunately, we won together and together we will “work the corners”. I am proud to win with my fellow queen and look forward to our year as Mr. & Ms. State Street…oh we have some great duets in the bag to bring out.

Ms. & Mr State Street

Belladonna & Izzy Ahee – State Street 2014

Here is a video of the winners being announced!

Queer History

Sometimes when I think about queer history I realize how old I am, what I have seen and witnessed unfold. As a young child I remember my mother’s best friend got a divorce. I was close friends with her son and we were very close while his parents divorced. I remember him telling me that his father was a fag. There were sometimes in the quiet places in the huge cluttered house he lived in that he would tell me about how it really felt for him. I remember sitting in a small room, just larger than a walk in closet that was waist deep in clothes packed on the floor. We used it like a big cushion and bounced around the room together. At some point we would run out of breath or bang heads together and find ourselves laying on the clothes laughing or crying. He told me he was scared and he didn’t understand why his parents couldn’t stay together. He explained to me that his father liked men now. His father dressed like a woman, now. Other times when his big brother was around he would say the same mean things his big brother would say about the situation. Things like “faggot” – “cock sucker” – “faery” and consistently refer to him dressing as a woman as something that meant he was lesser of a man. I remember riding in the car to pick up my friend from his fathers and some sort of drama happened with his father in a dress, a blond wig and high heels. I remember the image perfectly. That was about 1980. He died 5 years later of AIDS.

As I grew up I was exposed to many sides of gay, my mother talked clearly about gay men and cross dressers. We were friends with another family that the father of the family went to the boardwalk with us in drag. I remember it fondly and from then on noticed the drag queens in the Rehoboth Beach, DE area every single summer I lived there. I watched the area fold into a queer beach, never was I offended. I felt safe at Rehoboth, more safe then my winter home in Wilmington, DE. I had a youth group leader that was gay. I remember when my mother informed me because she thought I had a crush on him, actually he was more like a brother. In reality I had a crush on the woman that ran the group at his side, but no one ever knew that. I cried at her funeral years later.

When my son was born I always swore I would never close doors about being gay and since both of his parents were bisexual, it seemed absurd. I raised  him as he was. I never hesitated to buy him an easy bake oven. I supported him when he played with my high heels and boas. When he came out with a dress and pranced himself around the house, I never once did anything but encourage his antics. As he aged I allowed him to watch Queer as Folk even though it was sexual because I thought “Well I would rather him see sex than killing people.” He was not aloud to play “Grand Theft Auto” until his manhood ceremony at age 13.  I reached out to a group of gay men known as the Radical Faeries and told them I wanted gay men in my son’s life. They fostered him like the uncles he needed. He made a lifetime of connections he will never lose. He was equally influenced by heterosexuals as he was by homosexuals or queers in general. Today he is straight…..I proved it you can’t catch gay!

Today as I truly live the queer life I always dreamed of I talk to other queers about their experiences. I love to listen to stories about their lives. Stories from gay men that share about stonewall, gay bars, and back rooms. I hear stories from older butches about their lives as Drag Kings, before there was a name for it. Stories about passing as a man so that you could be safe and visa/versa.

A story about a bar out in the middle of nowhere was fascinating. My primary partner, Arial, tells me about this place as being her first gay bar. She said how one side was all womyn and the other side was all men. But the most fascinating piece was that it was out in the middle of nowhere, in a barn. I heard this story 8 years ago, and have heard about it many times through the years. So when I was invited to perform at this exact venue there was no hesitation for either of us.

I performed at Altlands Ranch and truly enjoyed the places rich queer history. It was certainly a barn and very country – but still had a queer feel to it. I loved the stage and dance floor it was perfect for performing and the dance floor made it easy to interact with the crowd. The crowd was very masculine and I mean that exactly. There seemed to be a lot of very bear/tops like men – so this is where all the tops hang out. As is normal in Central PA there were more men than womyn. I enjoyed the guys and loved stirring up the crowd. The few ladies I met along with the Roller Derby team were all tons of fun! It was truly a night of fun, dancing, laughing, and great history. Thank you to Altlands for making safe space, before it was cool to make it! (Read Altlands History)

Historic Queer Bar

They created safe space, before it was cool to make safe space

Its Just a Drag Show?!

Why is drag so important to the lgbtq community as a whole? This is something I have written about before but as I dive deeper into the community I find myself thinking about this more and more.

Kate Bornstein addressed drag in her book “The Gender Outlaw” regarding drag as an expression of gender in itself and often a bit jester like. Jesters have often lead communities into change, in this case its about gender. Gender is a social construct that has ended up being used to oppress certain parts of our community as a whole, our world. Why are men displayed as tough and emotionless? Women are displayed as helpless and delicate. Regardless of your denial of gender as a social construct most of us can see where the issues are. A gay young male bodied person is growing up that happens to enjoy dressing up is regarded as  a sissy and even worse. A young lesbian female bodied person that enjoys a more masculine expression of themselves is often seen as undesirable by her other female bodied sisters and encouraged to wear more “make up” or “dresses” in order to be more desirable. A person feels like they just don’t understand gender or it bends around for them, maybe they feel like their gender doesn’t match their genitalia and in our world it confuses them. We are pushed into these boxes at a very young age. Think about when someone has a baby, often the first question is regarding their genitalia and assumed gender expression.

Drag Queens and Kings bend gender all over the place. Many of us in the drag community disregard gender roles of all sorts. We lack the vocabulary but its really always been there. On my journey I have encountered many veterans in the drag community and again you find the same theme. Gender is pushed, its bent…. on purpose. Most of us in drag are behind the idea that gender is fluid, not binary.

Drag opens doors for gender questioning folks, those folks out there that need to explore before they transition or don’t. I know there are many of us that wonder…. “should I take hormones” and drag gives us an opportunity to try on the uniform before we make a more permanent decision. In many cases transgender people emerge from within the community and the drag community welcomes them with open arms. I know in the past it was an issue but these days it seems there is a place for post transition drag queens and possibly Kings if we can awaken enough of them.

I was filled with a full heart when I realized I had found a community where GenderQueer was more understood than lesbian. Many queens find it refreshing to have a word for those among us that enjoy the bending of gender, that don’t like to stand on either side of the binary social construct. There is a community for us, come on out all you gender questioning people and lets tread the path to a gender fluid future. Let’s have some fun while we are at it!

This weekend I performed at a local college, Elizabethtown College, for the LGBTQ Allies “Lifes a Drag Show”. I found myself among young supporting individuals and some gender questioning individuals. I was so happy to have the opportunity to even present another option, even as an example. I know when I was questioning there was very little at my fingertips, most of it was online. It would have been fantastic to have someone available to talk to about any of it. Gender is not something to be ashamed of, its merely an expression of yourself – however you choose to do it, or don’t choose for that matter. I was really honored to see so many supportive young people to support the cause but to also appreciate a often misunderstood and overlooked artform. So a shout out to all you young people at Elizabethtown College, Amazing Job!!! Keep it up!

This drag night is a regular event at the Lebanon, PA Days Inn. I always tell interested individuals that its worth every penny you pay to see it. Its the best entertainers in the surrounding area and with a lead like Whitley its sure to be a good time. I noticed that the producer has more to do with how great the show turns out than the performers. Maybe its because of the performers that a producer chooses or because excellence pulls in more of the same, but either way this show is one of the best shows I have ever seen. I mean other than a great Pride drag show – its really got all that you need. Its got Whitley who brings humor, raunch, and beauty to the stage. For those ladies that like to watch their insecure or playful husbands squirm, this is the queen that will do it! Then Jade DeVere brings a strange humor to the stage that often leaves people in a place of being thoroughly entertained. Robyn Innocence returned to the stage for a couple songs and she brought my favorite to the stage, “I touch myself” Backstage she said, “Well when I think Valentines Day I think the first person you should be lovin’ is yourself.” What a great point of view and I totally respect her for the fantastic message. Felicia O’Toole brings pure silliness and dirty humor that gets everyone belly laughing. Then we had Meni Starr Quake & Minaj A Twa bring more romance and love to the Valentines Show.

Of course my perspective of the show must be totally different than the audience. I don’t get to see most of the performances because I am backstage getting dressed. I did 3 songs, all 3 songs handpicked for this show and the other shows coming up this month. Of course being close to Valentine’s all 3 songs had to relate in some way to the holiday, which is not hard for me. I happen to like the holiday.

So I chose “Give Love” (Dance Mix version) by MC Yogi. MC Yogi has been one of my recent loves of new music. I like music that leaves me in a good mood. I love rap but there are few songs that I can stand the message. This song brought a message I can stand behind. Giving love to everyone around you will bring emotional healing to the human race. Many of us talk about how we get sick of hearing all these negative things but very few of us consistently spread positiveness. Compliment people, tell people you care, and spread basic politeness. Try to find love and compassion in your heart for everyone – and consider that all of us just want love, happiness, and peace. Think about it this way, in a dark place if one candle is lit it lightens the room. If others light their candle from that one, no flame is lost from the first one but simply the room is brightened more.  My performance of it was of a hippy dude, one of my favorite types of men. I find so called “hippy men” to be more in touch with their emotions and often more authentic. At my core I am peaceful, loving, and happy – but I wasn’t always this way. Today, I want to spread love everywhere I go! That’s exactly what I do in this number with my very long dreads, yoga dub step moves, and yogi outfit. We all want love – so lets start the trend of “Giving Love”  Here’s the song in case you haven’t heard of it.

Then I did a really naughty mix that was mostly meant to make the ladies smile. I love to get the ladies dancing with me and that’s exactly what happened. This artist has a way of making a beat that the ladies  just love to bounce to and they loved all the attention I had for them. It pushed a few buttons and got the ladies attention. I am experimenting with mixing my own songs so I mashed together Mickey Avalon “I’m Hottt” and “Tight Blue Jeans”  Turned out to be a lot of fun. The lyrics were interesting in that part of “Tight Blue Jeans” is in a different language and its not spanish…I think its jewish. Anyone know what he is saying?

My last song was Hunter Hayes “Somebody’s Heartbreak” This song is romantic and for certain directly from my heart. I brought all the feelings of having a crush on someone right to the stage because that is exactly what this song is about. For all of us out there that have had a crush that pays very little if any attention to us, here’s the song. I was surprised to see just how much of the audience truly loved and appreciated the song. Many of the ladies smiled like you just gave them a box of candy or a rose. It was a fun song to do and I look forward to this sweet song in the near future.

As I reflected on my experience in Lebanon I realized I wanted that audience to fall in love with me. I wanted those women to love me because I was exactly what they wanted at that moment. A guy with a big heart and good intentions. A man that wasn’t afraid to be assertive, playful, and raunchy. Then the same man could clean it up and bring romance and love to the stage. By the end of the night I danced with the crowd – I think they liked it! Izzy Ahee a ladies man (laughs at self) – but I never want to be anything more than a gentleman. I am lover not a fighter, baby! I got enough love for all of you!

2014 Keystone Conference

March 26th - 30th, 2014 in Harrisburg, PA

March 26th – 30th, 2014 in Harrisburg, PA

I am super excited about this recent opportunity to help spread awareness and further discuss “genderqueer” This conference is a very popular PA transgender conference that has been around for many years. The Keystone Conference  has attendees from all over the USA to attend workshops, entertainment, and activities related to gender diversity. The conference is from March 26th-30th in Harrisburg, PA.

I am excited to lead a workshop about being “Genderqueer” because I strongly believe that gender in itself is fluid. Some of us may choose to take hormones to present as one gender or the other. Some of us choose to cross dress occasionally as in Drag Kings & Queens or simply cross dress for fun. Some of us choose to present our gender more fluid and often we identify as “genderqueer”. Along with my fellow genderqueer citizens I believe we can pave a road for us and help connect the gender lines for cisgender people, simply by being ourselves. It takes being bold and we face many challenges. The workshop will discuss gender queer, its terms, some examples. We will also play some gender games and have time for open discussion regarding genderqueer and fluidity. There is another option out there for those that don’t want hormones.

I am super excited to meet Ian Harvie, a transman comedian. Even if I don’t meet him personally to get a chance to see his show live it is exciting for me. He is really funny and talks a lot about the hilariousness of gender, in itself. I really appreciate his comedy and look up to his uniqueness.

Overall I am totally looking forward to this opportunity!  I would love to hear from anyone else planning to attend. If you want to attend get your registration in ASAP.

First I want to say that I love and adore this venue, Harrisburg’s Midtown Arts Center. I have been to this place many times for many different things. I have been to Drag Shows, Vagina Monologues, and Drum Circles here. It’s always a great experience and the atmosphere feeds the creative soul. I love to arrive early so I can take a look around at the artwork and talk to the staff about recent shows, upcoming shows, and other fun stuff happening there. I have been in this place for smaller intimate shows to standing room only shows that I wished I had arrived earlier. A lot of people truly love this venue for its creative edge in music, performance art, and creative manifestations of all sorts. From my perspective though I kind of love the stage and how the place feels from a Drag Kings Perspective. You can be on stage or down on the floor, even if the video doesn’t show it….

This particular show was last minute due to some cancellations and an open opportunity. Jade DeVere, my drag mom, arranged for a “Quirky Drag Show” with 3 Queens and a King.

First of all, I am honored to work with all 3 of the queens because each one of them is fabulous for their own reasons. Jade takes you for a mesmerized ride every time she performs, regardless of the song. She has a way of pulling you in quickly and keeping you interested throughout the entire performance. Of course these performances are always better in person but you can see what happened in the videos. This is the one I got to see

Belladonna is interesting and adorable all at the same time and brings some interesting creativity to the stage. I had done a number at Halloween with Belladonna that was a ton of fun. She always brings a lot of creativity to anything she touches. I honor her ability to do songs in different languages…its easy for her, but not so much for me.

 

Diamond is beautifully tall and thin, which gives it that RuPaul feel and on top of that she is not afraid to do the crazy shit. Every time I work with Diamond I am glad I did, she is easy going, friendly, and her performances are fun. I prefer drag to be live and this one I caught live. It was so funny I know everyone was laughing for most of the duration of the song. One of those songs that you stop laughing so you can hear the next ridiculous line…and then start laughing again.

 

I, Izzy Ahee, hammed up a song I did at the Amateur Drag Race. We all did 3 numbers and I chose Soccer Practice, Masochism Tango, and AC/DC mix with Big Balls. I love each song for its own reasons but the Masochism Tango is one of my favorite to perform….but AC/DC got tons of positive feedback. Seems it was the favorite out of my three, which is interesting to me to see what songs people love.

You can see all 3 numbers from each performer at the amazing videographer’s Youtube channell that so graciously films all of our performances. If you are a local and are looking to catch a drag show at HMAC watch our facebook pages for updates about the next show.

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