|It's nice to finally meet you!|
Tuesday, 31 May 2022
Monday, 16 May 2022
I've been collecting a few items of news, which aren't really worthy of a blog post all by themselves, but I have decided to put them together here.
Obviously, as much of the rest of the world is, I am appalled by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The number of hits from Ukraine made me realise that there is a trans population in Ukraine which is trying to reach out across international boundaries. I took comfort from this--until I started reading. Until recently, being trans in Ukraine could result in you being institutionalised. Ukraine ranks 39th among the 49 countries in Europe for LGBT+ freedoms and rights. Gay marriage, for example, is still illegal.
Then I read stories like this one, which describe how transwomen attempting to flee Ukraine have been detained and turned back at borders. One transwoman, Zi Faámelu, describes in Rolling Stone magazine how she was repeatedly turned back at the border, because in Ukraine, military service is now mandatory for all males, and her passport still states she is male. Eventually she escaped by swimming across the Danube river into Romania. She is now living safely in Germany.
I can understand how the presence of war, plus a country just beginning to experience a little awareness and acceptance of rainbow people, is making life extremely difficult for trans and other rainbow people. But if Ukraine isn't friendly to trans people, Russia would undoubtedly be a lot worse. Russia ranks 46th on that list, and Vladimir Putin has described gender fluidity as "a crime against humanity".
One thing is for sure: the Ukrainians are showing that they are not willing to give up their freedoms and submit to the oppression and restrictions of Mother Russia. Hopefully once they send Mr Putin back to Moscow with a bloody nose, they can get on and grow in freedom and tolerance, as they have been over the last few years.
Ukraine has also won the Eurovision Song Contest for this year. As I've written before, the contest isn't so much a competition of musical talent as a sort of political popularity contest. This victory is definitely a message of support and encouragement from the rest of Europe to the people of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, to any Ukrainian people reading this blog, I salute your courage, and I hope that the war ends soon and you can rebuild your country.
As a doctor, I'd known that the World Professional Association for Transgender Health was a thing. However, because I was still being very stealth, I didn't really want to put my hand up, because I thought I might be traced, and that might be a "bad thing".Professional Association for Transgender Health Aotearoa, PATHA. I got in touch with them, and they were delightful. I've paid my membership fee, and Dr Vivienne Marcus is now a full member of PATHA.
I'm not sure what this will mean for my future. At the moment I'm just trying to cautiously reach out to the other members. It's that equivalent of slipping in at the back of the lecture theatre and hoping nobody notices you. But I'm confident of full acceptance from them.
What's not so clear is how I can contribute to the cause. I don't particularly look after trans people in my daily work. I don't think being a PATHA member is going to really change anything about how I do my job. What I am good at is writing and teaching, and I've explained that to the executive on my application. It remains to be seen what (if any) contribution I can make. I will certainly notify you of anything momentous I end up doing.
I can't remember where I first saw an animation of Lofi Girl, but it struck me immediately as being both pleasing and familiar.Wikipedia calls lo-fi hip-hop, accompanied by an endless animation of a young woman sitting writing in a diary. The music is intended to be relaxing, background music, which can be used to accompany study, relaxing or other activity; in essence, audible wallpaper.
I like lots of things about this. First, I like the animation, which is clearly inspired by the sort of Japanese anime typical of the wonderful Studio Ghibli, whose work I adore. In fact, Wikipedia says they originally used a short segment from the film Whisper of the Heart, before being legally required to take it down. Since then, they have commissioned an artist to recreate an anime-like character (whose official name is Jade) to feature.
|Vivienne as Lofi Girl|
What I love about this is that she sits exactly the way I do. I love to write in my journal; I use a gorgeous fountain pen, and delicious inks from Jacques Herbin in Paris. And while Lofi Girl is a leftie and I'm not, I do sit with my chin in my hand while I write. And from time to time I pause and look up into the middle distance. Journal writing is my happy place; both an intellectual and a sensual pleasure.
Surprisingly, the part about Lofi Girl which attracts me least is the music. There's nothing particularly wrong with it, but I find it quite samey after a few hours.
Amazingly, the Lofi Girl website allows you to customise the appearance of the Lofi Girl and create a still image. So this is what she would look like if she were Vivienne--complete with dog!
Saturday, 15 January 2022
Labelle: got a few truscums who wrote 10 pages long comments on how gatekeeping is essential to be truly trans, I got to delete their comments before anyone saw them, as a morning treat! I hope they didn't save their essays anywhere and they're lost forever.
|Road ahead closed|
|No doctor wants headlines like this.|
|No way, sucka!|
|It doesn't have to be a conflict.|
Friday, 24 December 2021
|Rudolph leading the other eight|
All of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names.
They wouldn't let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games.
When I was a child, I didn't have a shiny red nose, but there was definitely something palpably different about me. I didn't fit in with the boys, no matter how I tried, and therefore I was always an outsider, yearning to be accepted. I remember being lonely and perplexed, wishing I could like football, wishing I could like rough-and-tumble play, and wondering what it was that was so intangible, and yet at the same time so inescapable. Not only were the boys unwilling to play with an atypical boy, so were the girls.
For Rudolph, the story ends happily. One foggy Christmas Eve, Santa realises that Rudolph's shiny red nose is just the thing to light the way for the sleigh. Hurrah.
All of the reindeer loved him, and they shouted out with glee
"Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, you'll go down in history!"
As a child, I thought the other reindeer were a bunch of two-faced bastards. Santa decides Rudolph is cool, so suddenly they all change their tune? Partly I wanted Rudolph to tell the other reindeer to bugger off: partly I was pleased for Rudolph that he found the acceptance he had craved.
|Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!|
But there is, I think a deeper interpretation, which is that those people who seem to not fit in--the one that other people laugh at, and call names--not only have something valuable to contribute, but can actually lead, and become popular, and become famous. Can, in fact, "go down in history".
So if I have one Christmas wish for us all, it is this. I wish that we get recognised as being special, and wonderful, and that we are loved, not just by Santa but by everyone.
Wherever you are, I wish you a glorious, sparkly, magical Christmas.
Sunday, 19 December 2021
Since I started writing this blog, almost exactly ten years ago, so much has changed.
When I first started writing, I was unhappily married, with two small children, to a woman who despised everything to do with crossdressing. We had some counselling, but nothing changed. What really made a difference was coming out to a close friend. My ex-wife was determined that nobody should ever know--I mean, what would people think?
It turns out that people wouldn't mind very much at all, as I found out when I continued to come out to close friends and family members. Then there was the divorce, which was unbearably awful, and then a period of readjustment to my life as a divorced person.
|Bluestocking Blue: Ten Years On|
Since then, my life is completely transformed. We go out together when I'm dressed. Admittedly, with a bunch of kids who have swimming lessons and sports fixtures and music lessons and all that, there isn't an abundance of opportunity for us, but it's unfailingly amazing and never gets old. We were invited once to a friend's birthday party, and I turned up as Vivienne to meet a houseful of strangers--who were all lovely.
My fem clothes hang in the wardrobe, next to my drab male clothes (not hidden in the suitcase in the attic). My heels are next to my man shoes. My makeup is in the drawer. She borrows my nail polish remover; I borrow her foundation brush. She helps me pick out what to wear.
Once a month I go to a very nice beautician (recommended by Missy) who does my leg waxing. We gossip like she would with any client, and she's super lovely. And I've been getting makeup tips from a local makeup artist, who had never had a trans client before but again is super lovely.
I'd love to say that I can be Vivienne whenever I want, but this isn't true. Overall, though, I could not have envisaged the direction my life would take. Where will it lead? I do not know, of course, but I am reminded of a line from the theme song of Ally McBeal (remember that show?), which resonated with me at the time: One by one, the chains around me unwind.
I even "came out" on this blog and admitted I'm a doctor, having previously pretended to be something else. I've been exploring the situation of transgender doctors, and have now made contact with several, as well as other professionals (an artist, a statistician, a novelist).
|Which box should I be ticking?|
Once a year, however, my hospital sends around a staff survey. It asks for lots of details, such as what your hours of work are, what mode of transport you take to get to work, whether you feel safe leaving in the dark, and so on. I assume they are trying to make sure that the requirements of staff to get safely to work are met. They also ask about ethnicity, and I'm assuming that they're trying to make sure that the ethnic makeup of the staff is a reflection of the ethnic makeup of the community.
But they also ask about gender orientation.
When that question comes up anywhere else, in online applications, or other form-filling, I click on "non-binary" or "other" or whatever third option they give other than "male" and "female". But at work, I don't. I still click on "male".
I've found myself reflecting on why I do this, but basically, it's a form of cowardice. I know other people, more out than I, who have experienced real difficulties created by their gender identity. Yet, they persist, driven by courage, or determination, or the desire perhaps to blaze a trail for those who follow. Like water on stone, eventually the stone will be worn away. Why don't I click that third box, and prepare myself for whatever follows?
Because a close friend once warned me that our city is still quite conservative. You can only come out once. There could still potentially be adverse consequences of being open. She would know; it's happened to her.
And so, for the moment, I don't click the box. It turns out, that, even ten years on, I am still worried about what people would think.
While my input to this blog has dwindled a bit since I started writing (far too much!) on Quora, I'm delighted to find that I'm still ranked at number 55 on the Feedspot Top 60 Crossdressing Blogs and Websites, updated on 11th December 2021, so I suppose I'm still allowed to have my gold medal displayed on the home page.
Tuesday, 8 September 2020
|Victor Polster in Girl (2018)|
Elliott Mason: There are hundreds of working trans actors, of all stripes and appearances. If none of them are considered "bankable" it's because productions won't cast them to play cis, but won't let them play trans either.
|Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl (2015)|
Joanne C Wittstock: There was a time when women were not allowed on stage. Then a time when no suitable black actors were available and the roles went to whites. For decades there were apparently no Asians with theatrical skills. The frontier is slowly moving. To a large extent trans people are the visible minority of this moment.
Helena Almagest: The persistent practice of Hollywood to have cis men portray trans women and cis women trans men promotes the misconception that transgender is merely a disguise, and that trans women are merely men dressing up, and trans men, women dressing up. A misconception that gets us killed. (her emphasis).
A trans woman should be portrayed by a woman. It needn’t even be a trans woman (although suitable trans actresses are out there and desperately seeking jobs), it could also be a cis woman. Just not a man.
Likewise, a trans man should be portrayed by a man, trans or cis.
Tara Nitka: Hollywood has made me quite skeptical about the ability of cis people to write and portray trans characters, but that might only be true of Hollywood.
But ultimately, casting cis men and boys to play trans women and girls sends the message that we’re men pretending to be women. If you can’t cast a trans girl, at least cast a girl.
|Felicity Huffman in Transamerica|
Sara Clarke: When we cast a cis person to play a trans person, we’re at the mercy of that person (and their most likely cis director and writer) to tell us what trans people look and act like, how they feel about things, what choices they would make, etc. Considering how ignorant most cis people are of the trans experience, that’s not doing anybody any favors: either other cis people learning about trans issues through the lens of other cis people who may or may not know what they’re talking about, or other trans people who want to see authentic versions of their lives represented in the media.These are powerful points. The criticism is that the films don't depict trans people, or how they feel, but only what cisgender people think trans people are like, and how they feel. I definitely share this point of view: several times during The Danish Girl, I found myself thinking that elements of the plot didn't strike me as real.
Chrystal Andros: My issue is what is called agency. With women it used to be (and still is in some aspects) that men define what is good for them. They cannot speak for themselves, so they have to have someone else speaking for them.Three of the films I have mentioned have received very positive reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, Priscilla has a 96% approval rating; Girl has achieved 84% and Transamerica has 76%. Meanwhile, The Danish Girl managed only 67% and Breakfast on Pluto achieved 57%. So the filmmakers are doing something right (if not exactly breaking box-office records with any of them). But of course, if these are films made by cisgender film-makers, pitched for a (predominantly) cisgender audience, I suppose that doesn't necessarily mean they please transgender people.In the same way in Hollywood, managers and focus groups define what is good for the audience and define their selection of actors.With trans-actors and trans-actresses they fit into a certain category - they are becoming more mainstream, but they are considered like women from 1950s who go out and become professionals - the freaks of today.
|Cillian Murphy in Breakfast on Pluto|
Mark Grinstein-Camacho: Actors play different characters all the time. It is their job. You can find actors who play straight people, gay people, billionaires, emperors of the galaxy, penniless street urchins, genius computer programmers, or zombies hungry for human flesh.Studying for those roles and preparing for them is a big part of an actor’s work. Maybe it means watching Hitler’s speeches, or spending a day at a boot camp, or attending a conference. Maybe it means learning to play the violin for a year. Maybe it means watching other movies. Maybe it means interviewing people who were there. Any good actor can do this.
Karissa Cook: One point that most people seem to miss with these questions is that an actor acts. That is what they do.Would it be a good thing for more transgender actors to get cast? Absolutely! Should we get bent out of shape about who is portraying trans characters? Not unless they are doing a poor job.Look folks. If you want only trans actors to have trans roles then you aren't really looking for actors, you are looking for representatives.Actors play a part. Their job is to make us believe that they really are the characters they portray. Stop worrying about who is playing the role, just pay attention to how well or poorly they did.
|Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing|
People have criticised the considerable liberties with historical events which the director took. But the director Morten Tyldrum has said that the film was really about using the medium of film to give the audience a flavour of what Turing was really like (rather than to just make a historical documentary). In this, I think he succeeds. The role of the tortured genius has been done dozens of times, but Cumberbatch manages to bring a nuanced performance which includes the awkwardness, the vulnerability and the arrogance of the character, without ever feeling forced or unnatural. Though we sympathise deeply with Cumberbatch's portrayal of Turing, he doesn't make the character necessarily likeable.
By casting a star like Cumberbatch in the role of Alan Turing, I believe people will watch the film who otherwise wouldn’t. And I believe that, unless they have hearts of stone, they will come away feeling sympathy for Turing and how he was treated, perhaps in a way they haven’t sympathised with gay people before. Other recent films which show gay men in a very positive light are Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody.
|Jeffrey Tambor in Transparent|
I hope that the day will come when trans actors are just actors. We are not there yet. Meanwhile, cisgender actors playing transgender parts is fine by me. What I want, right now, is awareness and exposure, and for people to view us with sympathy rather than scorn or discomfort. I think overall that we should be pleased that films with a transgender theme are being made and released. While they may not be perfect, I think that the casting of cisgender actors in transgender parts is doing more good than harm.
Monday, 31 August 2020
|One leg to rule them all...|
I very quickly dismissed the idea that I would go dressed as a woman. First, I'm not out to this woman. Second, I didn't know who else from work might be invited and show up. Third, the irony is not lost on me that Hallowe'en costumes are supposed to be a costume; as I've mentioned before, putting on a costume feels like pretending to be something I'm not, while getting dressed as a woman feels like becoming something I am (even if not every day). I definitely didn't want to do some sort of costume version of Vivienne; I couldn't imagine something less comfortable than turning up dressed as a pantomime dame. While if I dressed nicely, it could be a dead giveaway that this wasn't a once-in-a-year costume, but something I do much more frequently.
But there was a further catch, which is that the hostess herself is extremely good at both makeup and costume. I've seen some of her work before, in pictures, and it's dazzling. So I knew she was going to set the bar very high, which in turn meant I didn't feel I could just cut two holes in a sheet, put it over my head, and call myself a ghost. In the end, I got a decent fantasy swordsman costume, and some decent props, and I didn't disgrace myself. But that's not what this post is about.
|Lex Fleming from MadeYewLook|
Understandably there were a lot of photographs. The hostess took photos of all the guests; in groups, posed and unposed. And she was also in lots of photos, including photos of me. Standing beside her while those photos were taken made me feel uncomfortable, and I've been reflecting for some time on why this should be.
|Has anyone got a pen I could borrow?|