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Silence Exile and Crumpets
 
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Monday, April 7th, 2008

Time Event
12:56a
As people will have noticed, the last few days of the film festival have for all practical purposes been a min-trans film festival - I really don't care too much whether we get our name in the festival title as long as we get this much space, though probably it is only our name in the title that will guarantee it. There is one trans film that showed earlier - which I am going to have to try and catch - but it has been the last few days which meant that the FtM London crowd and the TransLondon crowd were generally around and throwing parties and being fabulous.

One interesting aspect of all this was talking to Fay, who always used to be one of the voices of moderation but whom middle age has turned into a bitter radical; I probably haven't talked to Fay as much as I did over the last few days since the 80s when we had adjacent appointments for electrolysis for some six months or so. Fay was quite involved in various early campaigning groups like the unfortunately named Self Help Action For Transexuals which is one of the reasons I dropped out of touch with her - other elements in the same group disapproved so much of me for being a dyke that they would not work with me when I was acting as conduit for briefings from the Department of Health. All of which turns out to have been entirely unfair because Fay knew nothing of this until I just told her.

(My former colleagues there were prepared to trust me as go-between and did not want to do off-the-record briefings about threats to trans services under the Tories with people that they did not actually know. When that avenue closed, I had to do some propagandizing all of my own which is a story for another time.)

So anyway, Fay has had a reasonable success in her career as conjuror but never as much as her talent deserves, because no-one in that part of showbiz has ever got past her being trans. There is a glass ceiling, and a pink ceiling, and a ceiling which one might as well call the sequin ceiling. Out trans people are not allowed to succeed too much - I never got to be Chair of Liberty and will probably never get to be quite as famous as I might like. I do somehow feel that some of this is the result of bigotry and some of it is just the human conditon.

Fay was echoing my comments about the young transfolk we know and the way their slightly easier transition has made for slightly less passion. It is significant that one of the most impressively passionate people in the thirty-something cohort is Calpernia who has undergone a level of tragedy in her life that I for one find hard to imagine. It was odd, though, listening to Fay and feeling that I was the laid-back unangry one because that is not how it has been...

One of the major themes in the discussion was the responsibility we have, or not, to the chunk of the trans community who have continued to make the choice to live in deep stealth. I tend to take the view that, if you don't contribute to the community, and have the unconditional support of that community both for as long as your choices work for you, and when they stop doing so, then what you don't get is to complain. And solidarity with stealth transfolk should not take the form of second-guessing what they might think about things and letting that construct significantly affect what one might otherwise want to do. This applies in particular when the issue might be what art we create or promote as out trans people - self-censorship is never a good idea and self-censorship because of concern about people who are self-silenced is an even worse one.

The other thing we have to avoid is self-censoring because of what people outside the community might say. I remember when those of us that are not straight were told to keep shut the frakk up lest the gatekeepers or gutter press freak out; I remember when some people in the community were keen enough to get marriage rights for themselves that they would not associate themselves with the demand for civil partnerships for the rest of us. It is a matter of real concern that eg the Dutch authorities are trying to impose sterilization as a pre-condition for gender recognition certificates, as are the Swedes. Let us be clear, though, this is a matter of simple bigotry and nothing to do with eg Tom Beattie and the other transmen who have quietly born children over the last decade or so - no-one in New Labour knew about this when a similar proposal was made back in Parliamentary Forum days and yet they proposed it anyway. (You may be sure that, when Steve Whittle and I drafted a response, we did not tell them what we already knew about and instead talked of the history of eugenic sterilization as a road down which they should not go - but that was simple pragmatism. And good card-playing.)

It was interesting listening to Calpernia say how odd she felt being in the heterosexual minority in trans company, interesting because she was being honest, and she was also talking about something real. And yet she was talking about something that is pretty much new - old folks like me and Kristienne were, in our day, the only transdykes we knew. Somehow in the last few years, things have changed.

I could go on talking about the issues raised in the panel until dawn, but I need to sleep - I would welcome some serious discussion here.

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