Friday, August 26, 2016

Rash Dash slipping past the gender police



We’re mostly unaware of the Gender Police.

It's under the level of consciousness that they do their insidious business of governing our identity, our expectations, and our lives.

I say “we” even though I’ve been aware of them for as long as I can remember.

Only they were too powerful and I was too frightened and ashamed.

I never imagined I could escape them, or cross the terrifying frontier between the genders, and so did all I could to put them out of my mind.

But everyone, I think, trans or not, needs to confront them at some stage or another. And this takes huge courage..

Huge courage in living, and huge artistic courage in imagination and performance to explore who these police are and cross the frontier they guard.

It's very hard. We quickly discover we don't have the words because the words we do have all belong to the gender binary, to the world of men and women and no one and nothing in between: a divide held onto all the more ferociously because more and more it becomes clear it does not correspond to the deep truths of human experience.

I remember how for years in the 50s and 60s there were no words for who I was.

I was something unspeakable.

And even now the words I have to use to describe myself don't really correspond to who I am.

To find then, I have to look to other cultures.

“Bissu” is probably the best. we are both men and women in one and our function is to bless.

But I can't put that on my passport, nor do I generally have the energy to explain that it's a term used by the Bugi people of South Sulawesi who believe there are five genders.

Life is a little too short.

So I use ‘trans-woman’: and fiercely defend my right to my woman's passport, to my female birth certificate, my woman's NHS number, and my woman's social security number.

And when you try to create a show about is all, it gets so much harder.

Because all the artistic forms we know come from the gender binary and trying to go beyond it is a step into the deep unknown.

It is so easy, as I know to my cost, to get lost in the process.

But what I loved about Rash Dash’s “Two Man Show” is that they have the courage to enter unknown gender regions and the skill to navigate them.

I don't want to describe the show because one of its many strengths is its continual inventiveness and it's wonderful capacity to surprise.

All I want to do is celebrate their artistry and their courage:

Because what they have created is something that truly breaks new ground.


Something filled with insight, understanding, and rage. And something also full of compassion and a truly beautiful angry tenderness.

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