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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It's politics...again

This is an attempt to amalgamate the last 2 posts, due to lack of originality and not yet being ready to do a piece on fashion semiotics, amongst other things.
So my politics in the 60's and 70's were not entirely untypical of the epoch. Low level volunteer stuff for anti war projects,hanging around anarchist groups, getting thrown out of school for passing out stuff on racist exam marking,( the joys of an english public school education). But when the UK counter culture essentially split into straight left politics and the weird consciousness/ community crowd, I definitely went with the latter. For many years I've tried to put some money and energy into alternative community frameworks and ventures on the margins of conventionality.
So its somewhat strange to feel myself back in a sort of life where identity is a political statement, and what I am is so much a pawn in other's games.
When it comes to something like TOTWK, I really feel that I must have slept for most of the intervening period too. It is just so hard to understand much of the campaign against the film.
I truly don't either understand or particularly sympathise with debates on whether or not the word tranny is pejorative and I don't feel that attempts to get the film withdrawn from the festival, or finding educative moments for panel discussions are particularly worthwhile.
Because it's simply a piece about drag queens with 'trannies' as a fig leaf for it's lack of originality, an exploitative piece of sleaze which Tribeca should be deeply ashamed of promoting. The Mercado / Zapata references were just utterly disgusting, and the only piece of moderate decency shown by the director has been to let it's semi-literate 'star' spectacularly fail to excuse it, rather than burden the world with his own more culpable attempts at justification. I know that by most accounts it's a bad, trivial movie, but that simply compounds Tribeca's idiocy in selecting it. I know it's non-deliberate hate speech, and maybe one should applaud the fact that no halfway socio-politically aware student film maker would make the many evident mistakes that this self opinionated clown has done. And I know that there are a number of far more serious topics for activist energy. could have been a good point to organize around. It could have been a time to make the point as forcefully as possible that we're not all freaks*, or victims, or people who generally live up to the bigoted stereotypes retailed by such as Greer, Bindel or Luna.
It wasn't.
And because such moments come along rarely, maybe we should be questioning why the comparative failure. Overwhelmingly I see these as proceeding from a lack of a reasonably unified approach with clear objectives, of too much distraction in trying to get some amorphous T agreement on issues and, frankly, of too much holding back because the director is well known in gay / drag circles. It hasn't come from the zeal, intelligence and industry of trans activists, which has been exemplary, but there is an issue of planning. Just as Luna had a year to consider, after being called on his use of 'trannies' in the projected title, so there could have been a year of working out options for how to deal with the movie. (I'm leaving out GLAAD from consideration, because that's a whole other issue than getting our own activist shit together).
I understand that my approach to activism is somewhat antique, and maybe there's a rose-tinted 'back in the day ' thing , but I do fantasize about other possible actions like, for example, the seat slitting thing that happened with ' Cruising', or the more normal emptying of appropriately red liquid. Especially as it would be only too easy to draw support from de Niro's own statements about sacrosanctity of expression, ( my art is rage, to recoin a phrase). And instead of arguing the toss about whether anyone would promote a film titled 'ni**ers with knives', a small blackface demo handing out watermelon slices and stuff asking how would afro-americans feel about being portrayed in a comedy / revenge /lynching film by a white director using all the old racial stereotypes AT A TIME WHEN LYNCHINGS WERE STILL COMMONPLACE. You don't need to be a weatherman to know about the killings of the last weeks.
Now I realise that these sort of play power street theatre things don't work as well with a minority such as the trans community. But are reasonably sympathetic media voices so hard to find that these sorts of tactics are unworkable ?
Then there's something which I really do think needs discussion for the future, namely what price would we, the trans community, see as acceptable for distributing this community slandering rubbish. Getting any substantial modification in the film itself, or expecting a principled stand by Tribeca when they can garner cheap publicity around a controversy, were always non-starters, and getting some sort of panel discussion seems totally inadequate. And frankly if the real murder references hadn't been withdrawn,( after being an effective stalking horse ?),then no price at all would have been worth it.
I simply don't know the kind of things available. I've always loved the video at the end of this post, though, and, for myself, including a trans version of that as part of every showing of TOTWK would be something of a win. I'm sure there must be loads of other possibilities, but the time to examine them is now, rather than when another such massive fail occurs again.
*I realise that the above may be seen as confrontational and unwomanly. At times, though, I find myself with something in common with Kate Bornstein, though hopefully I'm considerably more media aware. I was always a freak. And , like her, I think freaks always know that . But that's in spite of being trans, not because of it.

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