Sunday, March 30, 2008

30th March
On Friday i acted in a film.
I exaggerate: it was corporate video commissioned (as far as I could tell) by the record keeping section of the NHS.
Each scene portrayed a different section of a marginalised group having difficulty with the forms they had to fill in.
Mine was the last scene: my character was called Louise. She was a middle aged transsexual woman who, for reasons never quite specified, had trouble with her form - I think she was registering with a new GP - and a nice male receptionist helped her fill it in.
It was a tiny scene, I didn't have that many lines, and I was nervous in case I couldn't remember them.
the last time I was in a film I played a grumpy traditionalist dad (not quite my kind of part) and I couldn't remember any of the lines at all.
On this ocasion there were so few to forget them would have been humiliating.
The filming was in Glasgow; I picked up the Metro in the train and read in my horoscope:
“You’re so confident today that others feel confident about you too. Whether or not you can actually do the job, this is a wonderful day for bluffing your way towards a better career. Go for it!”
.. which was reassuring in a weird kind of way.
We filmed in a deserted oncology unit in the western general hospital in Glasgow.
A spooky kind of place. And I didn't forget my lines.
And it was such a relief just to have to deliver them. And remember my spot. And not be responsible for anything.
In fact just to have to deliver lines, even if I didn't like them much, but just to have to make the most of them, was such a refreshing change.
Good to be paid also. That's never happened before.

It all went so well; and I enjoyed it; and it is the first time I have got paid for acting in a film...


Thursday, March 27, 2008

27th March 2008
I finally finished QUEEN ECHINACEA today.
It's a play with a really chequered history, and I've no idea if I'll ever see her performed...
Originally this was a commission from Boilerhouse to write a site specific piece about genetics.
It was to be performed in St Cuthbert's graveyard in the West End of Prince's St. and open during the Fringe of 2007.
It's a beautiful, amazing graveyard. As far as I can remember the idea was to split the audience up into groups of about 25 or so.
Everyone would meet together at the beginning, be split up, and then see 5 or 6 scenes, I can't remember exactly how many. They would see them in a different order, depending on which group they were in.
But together they would see the last scene, too: and be free to reassemble a very different experience in their memory.
Anyway, I was all excited about it.
But although the Scottish Arts Council gave me the money to write the script, they wouldn't give Boilerhouse the money to stage it.
Goodness knows why.
The last time this happened to me was with TREE OF LIFE and the Brunton.
I was incredibly angry at the time, and wrote letters to the press, and got very cross with the SAC... but this time, for some reason, I didn't really have the energy.
I just wanted to write a play. Me and Boilerhouse agreed that it would be a shame to waste a commission.
I thought I'd resurrect an old piece I wrote a while ago but never really finished or did anything with.
It was based on the life of a dear friend of mine, who lives on the top of the Royal Mile and works as a transsexual prostitute.
I wrote it when I was teaching a playwriting class. I structured the classes then by having each particpant agree to bring something they had written to each class.
And it works best if I bring something too.
So, bit by bit, I brought QUEEN ECHINACEA.
I thought I'd rewrite her and make the main character someone who'd worked as a geneticist before transitioning...
and then, after talking with the director, agreed to open it up a bit more and have three characters.
So Echinacea is engaged in a kind of dialogue with three aspects of her self: her old self, Potts, when she was living as a man (played by a young woman), her present self, Echinacea (played by a transgender woman) and her singing dream self, the Diva (played by a drag queen).
It has been so insanely hard to write.
The last few pages were like wading through glue; or running up an escalator going down; or those nightmares when you have to run but can barely walk.
And she had to be handed in before the end of the financial year.
And she has been.
And, after all that, I'm proud of her.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

22nd March 2008
I'm 58 today.
I suppose the best present I got, weoirdly, was a trip to Dublin yesterday.
It wasn't much of a present, in loads of ways. The flight there was delayed, so i didn't get to the centre of town till about 1.45, and then had a really ordinary lunch (food wise) because all the city's restaurants were closed (it being Good Friday) in an expensive bu really soulless kind of georgian style courtyard in a posh hotel.
And then got interviewed and had my photo taken.
Got back to the Rough Magic office at about 4.45; and then left to g to the airport about 5.30.
Flew home and got back about 9.30, after about 12 hours travelling...
So in fact, thinking about it, it was all pretty dull.
But what was exciting and rather wonderful about it was that it wasn't 'John' going, it was 'Jo'.
And I think for the first time being interviewed and photographed under my name.
And feeling fine about it all.
And that, actually, is something very special.


Monday, March 10, 2008

10th March.
A friend writes:
"Someone I know recently experienced a bereavement and was talking to me about it because of this work I'm doing. He said death made him feel like, what are we? Where do we go? and these questions had a particular twist for him because he's trans. I asked him about this when I was staying with him , he couldn't really answer the question, and although I can't either, I know what he means. A place we can't yet express perhaps. Do this connect with you, or not? I'd be curious to hear.".

I write back:

"As for your friend's question..
I remember soon after we heard my partner Susie had a brain tumour, and we knew she was going to die, I had the strongest sense that the female enrgy in me was wholly good. without qualification and that exploring and expressing that energy to the full would give me the strength to get though the terrible time that was to come. that my new identity would enable me to rebuild me my life after susie was gone. This was very clear and very intense: like a voice I was hearing from a strong guiding presence inside me.
This week has been difficult because last Monday Susie's mum suddenly came down with the most terrible sickness and diarrhoea. I should explain perhaps that Jean is an 84 year old widow, and a fundamentalist christian who has never worn trousers because it is against scripture and makes her feel uneasy.
I came out to her a few years ago when I was doing my show 'God's New Frock' and this has placed her in a dilemma. She loves me dearly, but cannot reconcile this with the fact I am trans. Because being trans makes me a bad person, apparently.
I cannot hide who I am - cannot hide my hair, cannot hide my breasts. Often wear make-up aroiund her. Am always called Jo when my friends are with us both.
But she continues to call me John and clearly will continue to not see me fully until she is ready to do so. (and I am ready to show her)
I respect this and try to remember not to wear a skirt, for instance, when she's around.
Susie was her only child; me and my two daughters are all she has left.
Myself and my eldest, Becca, looked after her at her house for 3 days until it became clear she had to go to hospital. She was frightened to go, but I persuaded her.
By the time Katie, my younger daughter had come up from Sheffield on friday it looked to all of us that she was very close to death.
But yesterday they finally identified the bug that has been tormenting her and could give her an antibiotic to kill it. So she was better by night, and today is better still.
I'm just back from seeing her; and tonight, dear love, she let me hold her poor misshapen feet. She said, "I've never had a foot massage before", as I gently stroked them. "It's lovely"
I was so moved by this.
It was one of the many, many moments when i was so grateful to be trans. Because I don't believe it would have happened otherwise.
And to answer your friend's question, yes, the presence of death calls everything to question. Of course that includes who we are.
And because I often think of us as somehow missing a foundation stone of stability deep within that other people possess, perhaps such questions are posed to us with more acuteness.
But that does not need be a bad thing. Indeed, it is often a blessing and a gift."


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