Roz Kaveney (rozk) wrote,
Roz Kaveney


Though there are a couple of public service announcements to the effect 1. that I am waiting for possible good news about which I will tell people when it happens and 2. that I have delivered my review of Chris and Don and An Englishman in New York to the TLS and will accordingly put it up here when it is published, rather than with the rest of my reviews of films at the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

Oh, and the trouble with having a Transgender Visibility Day that no-one told eg me about is that most of the coverage seemed to consist of various gay men and lesbians thinking that they are being amazing and pro-diversity by sort of giving us permission to exist while saying that they don't get it.

Here's the thing, sweeties; you don't have to. We're here; many of us are queer; get used to it.

I was talking in the Green Room today, after watching a showing of the in many respects utterly excellent Before Stonewall to its director, Greta Schiller, who said among many otherwise sensible things in the panel discussion after the film that she had never understood why people felt the need to change their bodies. So what I said, because she clearly genuinely wanted to understand rather than engaging in some sort of cheap put-down, was that for me it had ended up being about the sensuality of having a body in which I progressively felt more at home as it became more female. It was never about the social role - I've never been especially bothered about traditional femininity - and not about how I looked in frocks - I've hardly worn a skirt in twenty years. It wasn't even about my life as a lesbian - because I really wasn't expecting that to happen when I transitioned,though I already knew that most of the men I fancied were kind of crapmeisters. In a sense I couldn't justify it to myself, intellectually, which is not the same as my having thought it a bad idea - it was simply who I was, becoming me was coming home. And yes, it helped that some of it was free...

This came up because I'd asked about the fact that the film was so absolutely lacking in any sense of the bi and trans identities that were a feature, not perhaps of the earnest politics of the fifties and sixties, but certainly of the early days of GLF.

(Alan Wakeman commented that he didn't understand why I wasn't on the panel, having been around and active in the movement in 1971, and I chortled and said, I have no idea. That was disingenuous of me because the fact is that somehow younger people have never known, and a lot of older people have chosen to forget, that there was a trans presence at GLF meetings between about 1971 and 1974 before the assimilationists, the hard-core gay liberationists and the separatist women got together to throw us out before parting company forever. Also, a lot of people forget that I personally was there, partly because I was a skinny little thing back then, and partly because people forget that I am about to get my Freedom Pass. The problem with living right and washing your face in cold water every night is that people forget you are older than God, or at least almost as old as the Movement. Oh well.)

So anyway, Before Stonewall is a mighty classic - it has Anne Bannon talking about writing her classic lesbian porn and a wonderful woman called Phelps who, asked by Eisenhower to purge lesbians from her detachment, explained to him 1. that she would have to start with herself and 2. that there wouldn't be a detachment. It had Harry Hay talking about starting Mattachine and Alan Ginsberg being Ginsbergish and some amazing clips from early movies; if you haven't seen it, it is one of the things you need to see.

But it was made in the 80s and has the prejudices of its time.

I was a bit exhausted, and spaced from hunger, so I drifted a little during Monica Treut's excellent German-Taiwanese co-production Ghosted. It's a passionate lyrical film about grief and loss and mysterious journalists who are not what they seem; like most of the great ghost stories, it pulls the rug out from under you in unexpected places. It's also interesting because it plays with a dialogue between the European and Asian ghost story traditions - not my favourite film so far, because it is too damn lyrical for me entirely to like it, but a film of permanent value that I shall try and watch again and say more about.

And then I saw some shorts - Coming in from the Cold does two South-East Asian women in San Francisco hooking up, and is pretty to look at but not much more. 510 Metres above sea level does the air-terminal anxiety dream most of us know so well and mixes it with a possibly ghostly hookup of a vaguely surrealist nature - a little pretentious and predictable, but nice to look at. Ramona's New Dresser was a jolly little anecdote about the embarrassing lengths people go to to avoid embarrassment. My Easter in Heels was angsty to no particular effect. Happy Birthday was ribaldly mocking of butch and femme, though I refuse to believe in some of the dumbness attributed to its characters.

And Easy Tiger a vaguely noirish comedy of flirtation set in an all-night copy shop was the sort of minor classic for which one sits through programmes of shorts. It was witty and sexy and beautifully shot and full of strange quirky little moments. That's the one to grab...

More films tomorrow, and my first ever encounter with the Charing Cross Gender Unit - time for an endocrinological MOT...More of this as well.
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