Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Trans Pride Brighton

    Last Saturday was Trans Pride Brighton, the UK's less out-there and more serious trans Pride event. The juxtaposition of Sparkle's Manchester Las Vegas with Brighton's provincial charm shows the two sides of UK LGBT culture.
    I was down there for my trade union, handing out stickers and workplace rights booklets. Somewhat medicated, I'm in the middle of an atypical facial pain episode. Met a bunch of old friends, Jane, Lucy, and Paula, had rather a good day in the sun. Appalling music but good paella, that's the way of prides, innit.
    On the way home with my two Swindon friends in the car, everything stopped working. In stationary traffic in Brighton, under the Banksy kissing policemen. It is as if the engine has seized, with a full complement of oil and no low oil pressure warning, and an intact cam belt. Something tells me this ain't going to be cheap.
    So we got to see a succession of flatbed recovery trucks on the way home. And Cobham Services on the M25 for a couple of hours, as the recovery company sent a vehicle with too few seats. All of human life passes through Cobham Services.
    My nice reliable modern just became an old car.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Life's a drag

    It's obviously the trans silly season, or something. News comes from Scotland, that Free Pride Glasgow are banning drag queens from their event. It seems that drag is deemed to be offensive to we transgender people. This follows on from a similar story a few months ago, the NUS LGBT conference voting to condemn drag and cross-dressing for the same reason.
    If that wasn't bad enough, a particularly nasty word has started creeping into the conversation. "Transface". It's meant as I understand it to evoke the word "Blackface". You know, minstrel shows, and they were bad, and we're suffering the same sort of outrageous parody, right?

    Wrong. As I have pointed out in the past, if you think it is appropriate to equate a transgender issue with one of African American history then you urgently need to learn a bit of that history, and then shut up. Start with Huckleberry Finn. You aren't helping transgender people with such comparisons, in any way, shape, or form.

    So let's take a look at drag. And let's compare and contrast a drag act with something that is genuinely offensive to transgender people.
    Drag is a very long-established part of gay culture. Long established as in the word appears in print in the 19th century, and probably in non print use long before that. Drag queens are famous for exaggerated portrayals of natal women, and for musical and comedy routines on that theme. Take a look at this video from UK TV for example: Paul O'Grady's outrageous alter ego Lilly Savage.

    The important point is that while we are not intended to be under any illusions that Savage is anything other than a gay man underneath the make-up and wig, we are also not intended to be under any illusion that as a character she is anything but a natal cis woman.
    Now, compare and contrast Lilly Savage with this portrayal from another UK TV show, Little Britain. Here we have another man wearing female clothing, but this time it's very specifically a portrayal of a transgender person.

    Straight away you can see the difference between a drag act and an offensive portrayal of a transgender person. Paul O'Grady as Lilly Savage is entertaining and non-threatening, David Walliams as Emily is deeply unpleasant.
    I've been to quite a few Prides over the years, and seen more than a few drag queens. Being significantly taller than most gay men I've seen with amusement their reaction to a trans woman who can look down on them. I've even got one or two gay friends who have been known to put on a wig and a spangly dress from time to time.
    In all that time I have never seen a drag queen come close to the performance you see in the Little Britain sketch above. Plenty of awful singing, but that's only offensive to musical purists.
    There have been times in the past when the worlds of drag and transgender have intersected. There have been times when drag queens have stood alongside us. To now go after drag in a misplaced attempt to protect us from offence is misguided in the extreme, not to mention highly offensive to the drag community.
    After all, it's hardly as if there aren't enough real instances of transphobia, is it?

Monday, 20 July 2015

Mae'n anodd

    So many things in life are difficult. Getting it right with your loved ones, turning an idea into a business, staying healthy, staying sane, staying trim, learning Morse, even as you might guess from the title, learning Welsh (The double-d is pronounced like the "th" in "heather", by the way).
    You can't succeed at everything you try. Sometimes the things you fail at are real belters, things that profoundly affect the course of your life, other times they're pretty minor, things that while disappointing aren't going to make much difference.
    So I've had a few wins over the last month or two, and this week it looks as if I'll have a fail. Not serious, at the product level rather than the enterprise level. Something I've put some effort into may well not come off. It brings to mind one of the things that differentiates Silicon Valley startup culture from UK startup culture, over there business failure is seen as valuable experience while all too often here it's seen as a stigma. This has certainly been valuable experience, and it's fortunate that it's come in a way without too much collateral damage.
    Yeah, it's difficult.