What's on this week

What's On?

Jessica-Jones

What's On?

They're still showing the Oscar-nominated best films at the Cameo and the Filmhouse. I liked all of them, but not enough to watch any of them again. Meanwhile, Lara Croft's latest iteration is on at the multiplexes. It's received poor reviews, but it's got Alicia Vikander, and a mysterious jungle. I love Alicia Vikander in spite of The Danish Girl (2015); if only they'd filmed The Danish Girl in a mysterious jungle. Or as sci-fi, or fantasy or noir. As anything other than what it was.

With thoughts of The Danish Girl, and in the absence of a movie that truly appeals to me this weekend, let's run with the idea of the kind of trans movie I'd like to see. I want to see trans characters in plot-driven movies. I liked A Fantastic Woman very much, was moved by it, but I'm ready for a trans movie where it's not all about being trans (i.e. not a trans movie). How about a trans superhero – as long as it doesn't involve monarchy, constant fist fights, or a CGI villain. I still think Nolan's Batman trilogy missed a trick by not having Robin as a transgender character. What other superhero would work well as trans?

With reference to Robin, though, I'm already guilty of imagining trans as purely a trans woman: someone like me, only better. In fact, given the macho nature of superheroes, a transgender man might fit better in the superhero genre. Of course, not all trans men want to be warriors; but in being a warrior, a trans man at least is conforming to a type of behaviour you'd associate with men rather than women.

Am I guilty of stereotyping trans men and women? Am I guilty of stereotyping men and women full stop? But as a transgender woman, I'd want to distance myself from acts of physical violence and the kind of fuel or equipment I associate with physical power. I don't want my upper-body to be muscular; I don't want a powerful back or massive biceps or a body-builder's pectoral muscles (male or female, pectoral muscles seem to be a must in body-building). I don't want aggression to course through my veins; I don't want to be sucked into a world where I'm expected to be brutal, or have the physical power to hurt others.

Okay, Gina: stop with the binary stereotyping. This isn't to say that female characters can't or shouldn't be violent – Jessica Jones is a good example of a brilliantly drawn female character who physically beats people up. Then of course there's Wonder Woman, and Black Widow, to name but two, who do hand-to-hand combat.

But as a trans female, it's different, not least given the culture wars being fought out on social and mainstream media against trans people. If a trans woman uses physical violence, it's seen as betraying a masculine past (and under the surface, what they still are, as some would have it). And trans/drag-queen movies that show the trans woman/drag queen able to beat up a man, like in To Wong Foo, I never found it cute, or reflective of me.

These are troubling dynamics to consider, in terms of conformity and the gender binary. But trans, for me, still comes with the pressure of both conformity, and not conforming to a previous identity, at least in the first years of your transition. No matter how super I'm feeling, as a transwoman, I have my kryptonites, where I want to crawl into a dark place, defeated. Perhaps the toughest thing for a trans Superman wouldn't be kryptonite, but going home to visit parents who refuse to acknowledge their new name and pronouns. All it takes for me is a phone call, and the need to use my voice, and I lose my power.

Let's wrap this up. I think of Jessica Jones and this is probably the closest superhero I identify with. She's not that super, of course, and that's part of her charm. Another super role model is Nomi Marks, the trans female character from Sense8. A self-confessed clutz who's brilliant with computers. Like me, only brilliant with computers.

I don't know when we'll get a trans superhero, and maybe we don't need one right now. But if Hollywood ever want a trans superwoman who can write long, meandering blogs to a supernatural degree, they know where to find me.
What's On (at the 2018 Edinburgh Festival)
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Sunday, 08 December 2019

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