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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Assorted ghosts

In the window, prints and a copper hunting horn.
On top of the shelves. One buteo buteo (common buzzard) wings outstretched. A pair of brass oil lamps with glass shades and funnels and a pair of decorated edwardian chamber pots. Another buteo buteo perched over the entrance to the back room. A mason's ironware vase, another vase with flower decorations by my milliner grandmother, a set of encyclopedia britannica and a pink and black deco clock.
In the book / display cabinet opposite.An early art deco clock with dancing figures and an art nouveau bronze vase and a pottery pumpkin. A brass krishna,an art nouveau print, two victorian serving plates, a small studio teapot, a 19thC bicycle light, some repro scrimshaw, a staffordshire flatback and a strawberry shaped candle, for some reason or other. And a 19thC print, an 18thC chinese plate and other assorted pottery, a flat iron,a stoppered glass bottle, a brownie camera and a brick sized hunk of polished labradorite. And a bubblegum dispenser, an irridescent glass bowl,small deco teapot and cup,a printers block with the imprint of IT magazine, a jar of spectacles, a top hat with chess pieces inside, a photo book of the shop, various prints and a large b/w photo of the old me with a twenty year old blonde girl slung over his shoulder.
In the cabinet by the door a large plastic wonderfully kitsch figure of lakshmi with light and a fountain built in, and a printers metal photo of Beckett.
On the wall by the stairs behind my desk a number of pages from an already broken 19thC book on the history of illustrated manuscripts framed in plain glass.
Centre a large copper light fitting,early edwardian with torchere and lots of glass beading.
And then there are the books, the shelves, and the furniture I helped design, all in blues and reds and circus regency style.
Thats the front room of the shop,a haunt of my narrative memory.
So every day I can choose to see these bright ghosts it conjures around me.Finding the labradorite at the pavilion at hanovers world fair, getting the bicycle lamp from a little antique shop near Theresienstadt concentration camp on the way to Prague, being given the krishna by my second wife, buying the flatback from a small country auction,the blonde girl and I lovers of a sort and central figures in a photo book project, and so many others.On the other hand most come with memories of that different time when I was a rather different animal. That doesn't greatly trouble me now, but it's at a remove. When I remember now, memory has far more sensory details going back all my life, not just the last 4 years. Most of the objects now come with their own more detailed scenarios of purchase or reminders of other lives to this. But with those times before 4 years, it's kind of distanced, phantasmagoric, because I no longer have that much connection with the guy I was. Like looking through someone elses magic lantern eyes.*
By now there's a similar effect about the first year or so too, back in the early stages of transition. Looking back, from my lofty 16 year old self, on that awesome 10 year old I was that my hopes and desires are still founded on.
With the books there are so many reappraisals, so many reaquaintances to make. I am in so many relationships with them but it's complicated, to coin a phrase.
Travelled back to London recently and there, and here in Berlin too, meeting a few old friends from the dim and distant. By now I suppose all the women friends bar a couple from before have more or less made up their minds about what kind of animal I am. All treat me a female. All may have some reservations, slight or, in a couple of cases, amounting to outright denial, but most come as far as they're able, and that's most of the way and good enough for me. Though for that couple, being their ghost is still a little un nerving .There's always that wave of open acceptance to cherish from most though and really can't imagine any conversational subjects I don't share with them. And with newer ones they tend to have me fixed as a woman before they might find me to be trans so things are far far simpler.
Men are rather different. Older friends sometimes seem towant to catch a glimpse of that ghost of an older self peering out. Which is normal, but trying at times. And there's the awkwardness always of knowing what is expected of you as an old friend and absolutely not delivering on it and instead trying to substitute different output. Newer guy friends are in many ways more supportive. I do think men possibly are more appreciative of how complicated, how much work actually is involved in transition. It's guys who inevitably come up with the question 'and are you really happy now?' at the end of coming out stories,with well meant sympathy. Guys here happily do volunteer for stuff more, and actually have had more guys telling me how outraged they were at Julie Burchill than women, though several of both. Sweet but never was one for guys.
And I suppose there is additionally something spectral about those ways of looking at people. My life doesn't have very much of a trans component, don't think about passing anymore or learning the very basics of womanhood. Apart from surgery and tidying up some hair and final paperwork don't intend any further acts of transition, though obviously it's a lifetime process internally.
Still don't know about how I really want to meet the male gaze. Do mildly cheat it I suppose by apparently doing a librarian look, where a ghost of masculinity is part of the stereotype. But then I suppose I am a librarian much of the time anyway.
And there's the ghost at the party role that I'm vacating. Most of my life is spent in the shop as my living room and a small flat in the house above, and haven't had a lot to do with the queer or trans worlds, except for people passing through the place. Which is now changing. In less than three weeks the first womens queer / trans sunday starts. I'll be doing my usual friday cooking thing and serving at 2 and there'll be a vegan meal at 7 and I'm going to be highly invested in the results. We've got about 50 people interested and sending out messages to Ladyfest and queer berlin sites this week. The hope is a mix of social and serious, and of the different groups. Basically cis men and straight women are by invitation only, but hopefully not unwelcome for that. Otherwise lbtiqqaa/quiltba .
Like all groups here it'll be english language so there'll likely be predominantly american.  The trans crowd I'm not sure on. I've heard that a few times an independent e/l group of trans women has been mooted so hopefully some will come and try the place out. The queer feminist vegan sex shop around the corner has a lot of english speaking people passing through and we could maybe cooperate on some things. Most of my queer friends say it could be a real addition to the scene. There are many lesbian and queer hangouts and much english speaking but mainly bars and party places, unlike the gay scene where it's large enough to have more conversational venues. And I'll happily put energy into a queer reading group here, I know a couple of people who'd go for some activist things, not sure if there's a zine interest maybe, could link with the queer film archive using the back room beamer,etc etc.All the possibilities and, in Tartakower's words, all the mistakes waiting to be made.
*Has anyone out there read R.A.Lafferty's story 'through other eyes' ? Huge recommend for transition analogy.

Do think that if you're trans there's that other ghost thing that you're more closely aquainted with than the normal cis person. The borders of the ghost in the machine, the

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