Edinburgh Theatre

The year 2015-2016 was a big year for me, coming to Edinburgh after working in the Middle East for several years. One of the first things I did was visit the Festival Theatre, where I fell in love with modern dance (I hate dancing, so don’t switch off if you are also not a dancer). Although I intend to continue visiting the Festival, I will also be trying out other venues, for modern dance, drama, ballet and opera.

Edinburgh Book Festival: Precarious Freedoms panel


Precarious Freedoms: Queer Perspectives From Around The World (Edinburgh Book Festival)

Last night I attended a panel event at the Edinburgh Book Festival, its importance too great not to write about. Though much was discussed, the theme of trans visibility and invisibility wound its way around much that brought anger, but also hope to the forefront, along with some incredibly affirmative stories.

The panel's composition was diverse, including performance artist and poet Travis Alabanza, and the editor of She Called Me Woman, Chitra Nagarajan. Travis's was every inch the expression of their craft, they spoke directly and with passionate eloquence about issues of visibility and invisibility. All politics is local, goes the saying, and Travis gave a recent personal example of someone abusing them in the street, while a hundred passers-by did nothing. The issue, as Travis said, goes to the problematic heart of trans representation: the media venerates only certain types of trans, creating a binary of good trans (invisible, passing) and bad (non-binary, genderqueer). The visibility of transgender communities, in turn, enjoys a 'precarious freedom,' one with debilitating conditions imposed, if your self-expression doesn't conform to the binary-friendly, acceptable trans, the one who passes as unambiguously male or female. 'We're fighting for sameness, while leaving others behind,' concluded Travis. Chitra also addressed this narrative, reading excerpts from her book before discussing how trans and queer visibility prompted in 2014 a law in Nigeria imprisoning same-sex relations with 14-year sentences. Yet this high-watermark of hatred appears to be ebbing away; Chitra recounted how the President of Nigeria has recently expressed reservation about the law, and how he was responding to what seemed like social pressure. In the short term, trans visibility has attracted often terrible hostility, but maybe, in the longer term, it will lead to greater tolerance and understanding.

On the issue of public and political tensions, the panel's focus turned to the work of playwright Jo Clifford and its production, first in the UK with director Susan Worsfold and then in Brazil with director Natalia Mallo. Jo discussed her play Jesus, Queen of Heaven, and the protests it's provoked first in the UK, and now in South America. The setting up of the play and its run at several venues throughout Brazil would make a fantastic play (or film) in itself: Natalia displayed images of the police presence at various theatres, as conservative groups threatened to close it down with any means possible. At one recent performance, Stormtrooper-like police officers interrupted the production, attempting to drag away those participating and then the seating and props. Other images showed huge queues snaking to get in to watch and support the play, audiences forming human shields to ensure that conservatives couldn't disrupt it. The play keeps selling out, to the chagrin of conservative politicians who threaten to close it down.

What each of these narratives reveals is the diversity of trans expression. Chitra spoke of gender fluid identities in different parts of Nigeria before the advent of the transgender movement that emerged in the early 1990s. Natalia spoke of the travesti identity in Brazil, as its own distinct thing within trans communities, trans in arguably its most stigmatized form, connected to drugs, prostitution and poverty - an identity celebrated in the play by the travesti actor Renata Carvalho. What each of these narratives highlights is the ambiguity and variance of trans identities, outside of mainstream Western conceptions. This has implications for representation, in the media, academia, the arts, and in policy-making. As Travis said, we fight for one particular concept of trans, and the others are left behind. This is the panel's ultimate message for anyone claiming to represent trans identity: what we see in the mainstream is the tip of an inspiring iceberg.

Image taken by AR Crow - https://twitter.com/IAmACr0w 
Pussy Riot + The Estrons (Edinburgh Festival)
The Lady Boys of Bangkok (Edinburgh Festival)


No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Sunday, 17 January 2021

Captcha Image

What's On This Week

My Latest Posts

December 22, 2020

Lacanian Icarus: when Gina flew too close to the sun?

On the recent experience of nearly being no-platformed There are two identities in one when it comes to being part of a disempowered minority. The first is for yourself: all your failings, your insecurities, your doubts, and connected to this, your curiosity and quirks. Let's be Lacanian analysts for a moment: what we're talking about is the transg...
November 17, 2020

If I were to detransition, this is what I would write

Warning: this is a speculative piece of writing, not an official announcement, although I have recently begun to imagine an 'ideological' detransition (from trans woman to GNC male). Here, I'm trying to articulate and reflect on my thoughts and feelings, and imagining myself from a different perspective. In this post, I'm Gina v...
November 17, 2020

Trans Hell-thcare

The picture accompanying this post is important to me. I took it yesterday, 16 November 2020, unsure what I'd find. It's been nearly eleven months since I came off oestrogen for reasons I'll get into in a moment. Undoubtedly this has had an effect on me, bodily and therefore psychologically, but the accompanying selfie gives me a reassura...
October 17, 2020

What if gender-critical feminism came to power?

This scenario is inspired by a dialogue I had yesterday evening with a gender-critical feminist just before I went to bed. Here is what I dreamed: In the summer of 2021, the Conservative minister Liz Truss introduces legislation, making women-only spaces legally accessible only to those born female. This U.K. law includes a provision for funding al...
October 13, 2020

Responses to my blog post (1)

A frustrating aspect of my website is that when people write in, there's no trace of an email address so no way of getting back to people, and also no way of publishing their messages. However, I received such a nice response to my article just now that I'd like to include it here. It's from some who for the sake of confidentiality (in case it's ne...
October 11, 2020

On adopting a more gender-critical transgender activism

On adopting a more gender-critical transgender activism Note to the reader: This post is intended as a contribution to addressing the current tensions between transgender activism and gender-critical feminism. The way I see myself in relation to female i dentity, and the ideas I express here, are not a prescription for other trans women. The t...
May 11, 2020

The Book of Queer Prophets, curated by Ruth Hunt

in Books

  The Book of Queer Prophets: 24 Writers on Sexuality and Religion The historically fraught relationship between Abrahamic religions and LGBT+ identities provides the backdrop to The Book of Queer Prophets , a collection of twenty-four meditations by public figures who identify as both religious and LGBT+. The book's curator, the for...
May 09, 2020

Queer/Transgender short film: Mesmeralda

Joshua Matteo's short film, Mesmeralda , merging horror with esoterica, is now out on youtube . As with his previous work Metanoia , we see youthful trans actors racing through the empty streets of a moonlit New York, haunted by symbols and stalked by a masked figure of violent intentions. Mesmeralda , as described by Matteo, is the companion ...
March 08, 2020

Sterile like the moon: the joys of transgender healthcare

Sterile like the moon: the joys of transgender healthcare Summer, 2016: Gina's Big Bang, as transitioning begins A bureaucratic question in a sun-lit room. My medical practitioner asks me if I intend to have children. The question lingers, but the self-loathing is instant. No, I won't be having children. The practitioner nods. She moves on to the n...