Saturday, October 27, 2012
looking to be trans humourous
The first time I went to the theatre I was 11 or 12. It was the Bristol Hippodrome. We sat in the grand circle. It was Aladdin. Widow Twankey was played by Billy Dainty, and I loved him.
He impressed me so profoundly that, even after all these years, I still remember his name.
The song “There’s a hole in my bucket” was one of his routines. I adored it.
When I went home that night I must have gone through it over and over in my head, and by next day i was word perfect in it.
I can still remember all the words.
As I said: I adored it. It must have been my first lesson in form. It gave me such pleasure the way it so cleverly snaked back on itself.
And I loved Wishee and Washee and the beautiful Genie of the Lamp.
I was afraid of the evil Abenazar but I was so happy the way it turned out in the end and the way they all came happily down the staircase in their very best clothes.
But it was Dainty who made the deepest impression.
At one stage he dressed up as a ballerina; and then in another he did an amazing striptease.
As he kept emerging in more and more ridiculous undergarments, I don’t think I was laughing.
I admired him. I think I was in awe. There he was, on stage in front of everybody, representing something in myself that utterly terrified me and filled me with deep deep shame.
Something I felt very strongly I had to keep concealed; or else I would die.
But he didn’t die. Instead everyone liked him. Especially me.
In those days I was so starved of any representation of my deep and secret self that I was happy to accept anything.
I didn’t understand that the fear I felt of my feminine self was shared by everybody, or that She had an urgent need to express herself, somehow, and that a skillful and courageous performer like Dainty did so by disarming the fear.
And he did that by allowing himself to appear ridiculous.
Only later did I really feel the dark side of all this: when I became so painfully aware of feeling myself to be ridiculous and grotesque and profoundly humiliated by who I was.
There are hideous depths to this internalised oppression.
It is so deeply engrained, as I’ve discovered lately trying to make a short film of “transgender comedy” for Channel 4.
And it matters. It matters to try to change it.
We are so profoundly accustomed to the misogynist values that regard the idea of a “man in a dress” utterly ridiculous that it is hard to even conceive of a different kind of humour.
Of a humour that arises from our experiences as trans people, of our hard-won wisdoms, and the ridiculousness of the cultural systems that oppress us.
We’ve made our little film, we’ve done our best, and are now in the difficult and exposed position of waiting for the response.
Perhaps that’s why I’ve been so silent for a while.
I remember one of the earliest occasions I went out in public, in daylight, in my wig and my makeup and my heels. One of those limousines went slowly by, full of teenage girls who leaned out of the windows and laughed and called out “Laydee!”.
Thank you “Little Britain”. Thank you British comedy. Thank you for deepening my sense of fear and shame.
I so strongly want to use all my powers to resist you.
In spite of my long silence, people still pop up from time to time to say they are following my Twitter account.
And I ask myself, Why, when I haven’t posted for such a while?
And then I ask myself, Why haven’t you posted?
And the answer came:
It feels safer to be silent.
Time to break the silence then...
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