This Saturday I had a photoshoot with the absolutely incredible Dr J – go here for more information and glorious pictures – so here are my new headshots, both alternative and classical. I couldn’t recommend Dr J enough – fun, relaxed, beautiful results. You should totally book them now.
Late but not forgotten – please consider this post an enormous thank you (shall we capitalise? oh, go on then) – THANK YOU!
We raised €385 for Transgender Equality Network Ireland, wore some incredible costumes (“50 Shades of Grey” won my heart) and danced our arses off to the Time Warp.
HUGE thanks to all the artists – Hel Gurney, Kat Gupta, Sandra Alland, Jacq Applebee and Squid and the Krakens – they supplied a whole smörgåsbord of emotions and all of them were delicious.
Please go and read a lovely review we had here – and, for those of you who are thinking of coming to the next edition in February, I wanted to share an anonymous review that might possibly have made me misty-eyed. Thank you guys – you’re the best.
This is the most beautiful thing going on in London. It’s about community and love and art and passion, it’s about trans and/or genderqueer people making art that fortifies you against death culture (by which I mean a culture that wants a lot of us dead) whether by making you laugh or cry – either way you are reminded that trans people matter profoundly, that life matters profoundly, and that art matters profoundly. One of the gifts of Transpose is inspiration – seeing people up close making their art (their music, their song, their poems and stories and movies and pictures) makes it more possible to go home and make your own. One other gift of Transpose – possibly the most life-saving one it has to give – is community. Many people who come to Transpose get to know each other. If you come by yourself, and feel able to introduce yourself to anyone, please please do so – there will be other people there who want to meet you!
November 9th, 7pm
48 Great Marlborough Street, W1F 7BB
£12 (concert and reception) – please call 0207 534 0710 to reserve
In less than a week I’ll be performing some of my all-time favourite classical music with the extremely talented Elspeth Wilkes (see bio below – she’s amazing) on piano – won’t you join us?
A chilly Autumnal night seems the perfect time for some lush German (and Polish) Romanticism, a glass of wine, and one or more Black Forest brownies. We’re pairing our favourite songs by Schubert and Brahms with solo works by Chopin and Brahms – and finishing the evening with the work of the Second Viennese school which is closest to my heart, Schoenberg’s Book of the Hanging Gardens.
Those of you who haven’t heard or studied this work before – it’s hard to express in a few words just how special this piece is. A good place to start would be with Schoenberg’s visual art, rather than his music. The hallucinatory colours, disintegration of order and piercing emotional scrutiny are common to both – as a synesthesiac, performing The Hanging Gardens feels dizzying – like falling through the back of your own head into a swirl of different kinds of darkness. It’s strange, and somewhat creepy, and utterly beautiful – like the best kind of nightmare. You don’t have to be an expert on atonal composition to love it – you just have to like the really of having your mind blown by something bizarre and wonderful and new.
The concert will be a little over an hour long – please stay to talk about music/art/baking etc. – can’t wait to see you there.
So, over the past few weeks, I’ve been working with Raphael Fox and Lewis Hancox on an episode in their My Genderation series – well, it’s done. Out into the world. Watchable below. I’m a little nervous, but mostly really grateful to have been asked to be a part of such a great project.
I managed to make a truly Freudian slip on my age/my brother’s age when he died – which is inevitable, and kind of funny – but I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I think there’s a real power in this series – not just because each episode is exquisitely filmed and produced – but because it shows what you can achieve when trans people take back the gaze cast upon them. Just – go watch the whole lot. And please share.
I’ve said before that I don’t usually write in the first flush of anger – I prefer to let it simmer down and reduce into something luscious and thick and punchy. But right now I am very, very angry – and it’s not new, but it’s been stoked up fresh today, and there’s nothing for it but to write it down.
I am so sick and tired of trans bodies being seen through the lens of cissexism, in all its forms, that I could break something – many things. Two news items today that managed to tick every box in the othering, the judging, of trans bodies and the individuals who inhabit them. First, a seemingly well-intentioned but still infuriating piece in The Advocate – My Attraction to Trans People is not a Fetish - a claim I would have taken more seriously if the author hadn’t used such fetishistic terms for trans people, nor recycled so many of the usual tropes about trans bodies. The second – a heartbreaking story about a Belgian trans man who applied for and received euthanasia – titillatingly retold by news agency after news agency. Here’s a typical example - ‘failed’ surgery (‘botched’ has frequently been used) – and nothing to contradict the tragic claim from an abused and depressed man that he was ‘a monster’.
Ask yourself – the last time you read about trans bodies in a piece written by a cis person, did it contain any of these assertions/hints as to these beliefs? Or have you encountered them in everyday life – because god knows it happens to me all the time:
- That trans bodies are ‘mutilated’ cis bodies – even when it’s couched in the politest of terms. Both as a threat/plea against physical transition (“but you’re so lovely as you are/it would be such a waste”) and as an attack against those who’ve been through all kinds of medical transition. I’m not going to write out the things frequently said about trans genitals – they’re just too hateful to be on this blog.
- That trans bodies are ‘failed’ cis bodies – ‘well done old boy, but not quite cricket’. Poor old things. Not quite up to scratch. Done their best. Best you can hope for. What a shame.
- That trans bodies are so different…so sexy…so exotic. Yes. All trans bodies. Because we’re all alike, and we all have a mixture of differently societally gendered bodily attributes (but only in a way attractive to cis people! otherwise fail!) which make us special and exciting. Even if you ‘can’t tell by looking’ we give off a magical aura that no cis person has.
- That trans bodies are so different…and terrifying…and help, dystopian nightmare! Franken-something and something-bot. Freaks! All of us! Run away!
Not all cis people do this, not by a long shot. And it’s not that I don’t want a person attracted to me to also be attracted to my body – for better or worse it’s the one I’m stuck with – I’d done my best with it and I want to be desired and found beautiful as much as the next person.
But my body is not a metaphor or entry into a crypto-category of fetish object. No other person has the right to write over it, or depersonalize it – try to dissect it or approach it in a way that negates the intellect that drives it. It’s not a prop, or a bogeyman, or a sex toy – I will not have read back to me what a cis person does or does not find acceptable about the physical embodiment of my self, regardless of the actual self in question.
There are cis people who steal our bodies away from ourselves – through gatekeeping, through cultural pressure, through ‘humour’ and abuse and pity and scorn. We need to take them back.
October 26th 2013
Gallery Bar, ULU, Malet Street, WC1E 7HY
7pm to 11pm
£5 on the door
Hallowe’en is my absolute favourite holiday ever, so I’m a little bit overexcited about the fact that I get to combine it with the latest Transpose. Costumes of all kinds encouraged but not mandatory – I’ll be baking for the entire audience, but please feel free to bring candy/snacks, because Hallowe’en isn’t Hallowe’en without an overwhelming sugar high.
An amazing roster of trans and trans-allied artists: words from Hel Gurney, Jacq Applebee, Kat Gupta, Matt Reuben and Sandra Alland – films by Sandra Alland (featuring Nathan Gale) and Sophie Norman – music from myself and mystery band THEY CAME FROM THE SEA (who sound uncannily like Squid and The Krakens). We’ll be holding an auction (if you have anything you’d like to donate please drop me an email at email@example.com) – and if we raise enough in loose change there might be a dramatic reading of some terrible ‘erotica’ for an hilarious/spooky experience.
This time we’ll be raising funds for TENI (Transgender Equality Network Ireland) – the next few months are crucial in the fight for trans equality in Ireland, and it would be wonderful to give them any support we can.
The venue is wheelchair accessible with a properly adapted toilet. Quite a lot of people will be going on to White Mischief or Shenanigans, so travelling buddies will abound.
I’ll be coming as The Gender Binary – this is your one and only chance to see me in fishnets and a lacy bra. I hope you’re as excited as I am.
I’ve been sitting on this post for a while (and too busy with music and writing to make much time for blogging – my bad) – I haven’t really known how to write it, or if I should – and then I just plain didn’t want to.
In many respects I’ve had a fantastic summer but, for whatever reason (and god knows I’ve driven myself crazy trying to work out a reason) it’s involved a lot of misgendering. Not just the simple failure to use unisex/gender neutral pronouns (‘he’ doesn’t totally work for me but I can live with it), but lots of ‘she’ and ‘her’. Specifically within LGBT spaces. Specifically from other trans people – trans people who, unlike myself, are able to use ‘man’ or ‘woman’ to describe themselves. After they’ve already agreed to use correct pronouns. I do feel somewhat traitorous posting this, and I want to make it clear that this isn’t a passive-aggressive way of making people feel bad – but how is it going to get better, if we don’t talk about it?
Nearly every person who’s done it – sadly, as a performer, they usually misgender me to my audience – has been apologetic in private. But the line that nearly all of them qualify their apologies with – “It just came out on automatic. I mean, you just look so…” – I’m always surprised that they’re able to speak those words and not see the hypocrisy, the irony of it. When it would be appalling for me to turn to a trans woman and say “Oh, I just called you ‘he’ because you’re so much taller than me and I can see your stubble and body hair – it was just my automatic response to the body I know invalidates who you are to the majority of the world, and I let it invalidate you to me too, despite your request that I don’t do that – so that’s alright, right?”. Do they think that I don’t know what my smooth face and alto voice mean to most people? Do they think I go to trans spaces in order to be reminded of that?
There feels like an assumption that misgendering is far less serious when it’s done to someone who isn’t (or isn’t straightforwardly/exclusively) a woman or man – that it’s to be expected, that it won’t hurt so much. Yes, there are genderqueer people who aren’t bothered by pronouns/descriptors – but, for many of us, it hurts a great deal.
The first part of that assumption appears to come from an idea that ‘other’ trans people don’t experience dysphoria – or don’t experience it to the same extent – which is patently untrue, as is obvious to anyone who’s ever bothered to listen to us. There are people like myself, who as well as being genderqueer would readily accept that there are aspects of the traditional transsexual narrative which describe my feelings about my body to a T (no, I can’t help myself) – and others who have needs just as pressing as any ‘true transsexual’ in terms of medical transition – but in ways which haven’t received as much attention and validation. I’ve heard a fair number of trans men and women talk about misgendering as an unpleasant phase to be gone through as part of medically transitioning – something which adds to the sense of being betrayed by your own body, but something that (hopefully) will ease with hormones, surgeries and other therapies. I’ve never seen the additional acknowledgement that for people (like myself) who can’t access all of the medical treatments they would need to approach that place of peace, the sense of betrayal, of shock and pain, can be a never-ending prospect.
And even if someone doesn’t experience bodily dysphoria – what about the social dysphoria, the disrespect, the need to speak the truth about themselves that made them come out and clarify who they are in the first place? What is it about being genderqueer, or neutrois, or androgynous, or any variation/addition thereof, that makes it okay to disregard the authority of our interiority? Because the people doing it have bought into the false assumption that being something other than male or female is a new idea? Because they think we’re making it up, or being gender hipsters? I can’t help but think about a recent Lesbilicious article which illustrated this assumption perfectly – that we’re being unhelpful, assuming an identity to make a political point (as though a person’s political self is not an expression of who they are). Sometimes I feel like there are LGBT people, other trans people, who look at me and see a sulky teenager who’s chosen to call themselves by the longest, most pretentious name they could find because it embarrasses their parents and makes them feel ‘special’. Calling me a ‘person’ rather than a ‘woman’, using ‘they’ – if it’s done at all it’s done in the manner of adults placating a difficult child, and only when they’re in earshot – it’s not real, of course, but you don’t want to deal with a tantrum.
I realise that this will probably read as an angry post, and as though I don’t understand that mistakes happen – neither of which is true. But god knows I’m tired of attending/playing events where I should be able to let my guard down and knowing that I can’t afford to, because I can’t afford to be open to the (sometimes it feel inevitable) misgendering that takes place. I want people to up their game. Specifically, I want other trans people to up their game. I want community events to be for all of us – and I want to be understood as just as real, just as authentic, as anyone else.