Sistr Mid9ight Crafts An Anthem For The Feminine Male

By Alison Baitz

On its seductive debut single, SISTR MID9IGHT (from left, Rich Morel and Jason Barnes) celebrates androgyny.
On its seductive debut single, SISTR MID9IGHT (from left, Rich Morel and Jason Barnes) celebrates androgyny.

Jason Barnes likes to play with the boundaries between “male” and “female.” He wears mostly women’s clothing. He relishes androgyny. He’s what he might call a “femaphiliac” — a term he claims as his own.

“Femaphilia was basically a word that I created as a response to undertoned elements within the queer communities globally of femaphobia, and in the mainstream culture as well,” Barnes says. “Femaphobia,” he says, refers to a fear of “things that are feminine — especially feminine guys.”

“Femaphilia” counters that fear. It embraces “the love of the feminine,” he says, “to celebrate all the positive aspects that I’ve noticed so far on this journey.”

It’s also the name of Barnes’ new single. Alongside producer, DJ and singer/songwriter Rich Morel, Barnes recently began making music under the name SISTR MID9IGHT.

SISTR MID9IGHT happened by chance. Barnes says Morel spotted him performing in drag in 2014, and asked him if he sings. Why, yes, Barnes replied — he’d been singing almost since he was a toddler. So he and Morel began meeting regularly, laying down tracks in Morel’s home studio in Takoma Park, Maryland. The duo’s debut, “Femaphilia” officially arrived Monday.

Barnes says the subterranean and sensual track derives inspiration from ‘70s icons including Iggy Pop, Grace Jones and David Bowie. (The name “Sister Midnight” comes from a song co-written by Bowie and Carlos Alomar, recorded by Iggy Pop for The Idiot.) It’s all about “this hard, gritty, but also very seductive sound.” Barnes wrote the lyrics — inspired by an impromptu selfie session — and he says it reflects his life experience.

By day Barnes works as a manager at a local boutique, but he’s been performing in drag for the last five years. His stage name? Pussy Noir.

“Pussy Noir is this kind of black girl that went to Europe and came back to America and is really that epitome of French, smoking, cool, after-sex seduction,” says Barnes. “You know, [wearing] that gorgeous dress that’s just falling off the shoulder, revealing just a little bit of the nipple.”

Barnes explains that when he performs with SISTR MID9IGHT, there’s not a hard line between Jason Barnes — musician and person — and Pussy Noir. That said, Pussy Noir encapsulates his work to create visibility and sexual agency for the feminine male, who he says can be trivialized in mainstream media and culture.

“We’re there, we’re part of the gay world, we’re in the movies,” Barnes says. “A lot of times [it’s] comedy… [or] a buffer of something else, but not necessarily being a central character who actually is a sexual human being.”

Barnes says Pussy Noir and SISTR MID9IGHT are “branding this idea that I hope people understand and don’t fear it, and will look at it and say, ‘This is part of our world.’”

Barnes says the duo has more music on the way.

March 5, SISTR MID9IGHT makes its live debut at Comet Ping Pong in Northwest D.C.. While there’s no such thing as a typical SISTR MID9IGHT show yet, expect true showmanship from the duo.

“The costumes are coming out,” says Barnes. “I am expecting big furs and all red and body skimming, and a lot of sweat by the end of it, for sure.”

SISTR MID9IGHT performs March 5 at Comet Ping Pong.