Death of a Failed Man

Please excuse the awful literary pun, but I really need to make light of this one.

I have not posted any updates for awhile on the “Imago” 8mm film project that I am shooting with Jason Marsh, but it is still going ahead. At present, it is looking like it will evolve into more of a dreamlike meditation on transition and gender dysphoria than a straightforward documentary. Jason had the inspiration of using mirrors and glass surfaces to add to the evanescent, otherworldly feel we hoped to capture, having been lucky at our first shoot with the fog. This led me to thinking that we should have a scene in which male and female alter egos perform some sort of interplay in and out of mirrors and reflections, trading places until the one eventually fades into a mere phantom.

The only down side to this concept? I would have to perform half of the scene in “male mode”, so to speak. Reassuring myself that this was nothing more serious than donning a costume for a role – though part of the “costume” involved three days’ growth of my remaining facial hair roots – I bit the bullet, dug out my old “dandyish” clothes, quit shaving, and set a date. You can probably infer how elated I was from these stills…

death1 death2 death3 death4

Not helping matters, a troupe of Thai kathoeys – The “Ladyboys of Bangkok” – had set up a pavilion in Roald Dahl Plass where we were shooting one of the main reflection scenes on the mirrored fountain. They had posted  advertising hoardings showing their young, incredibly feminine-looking performers, which all things considered did make me feel as if the universe was rubbing my face in it… but on the plus side, Jason did tell me that my bitterness and angst carried very effectively through the camera, so hopefully I shall be grateful for it in the long run.

After the shoot, I caught sight of my reflection in the car window, at just the right angle and distance to see Eleanor instead of “Anthony”, and my sense of relief was intense. Silly as it seems, I had begun to fear losing her – losing myself – yet again, and being stuck in a persona that had lost all meaning and self-respect for me. Jason, bless him, told me that he had only seen Eleanor for the whole shoot, and as far as he was concerned I was just playing a role. I will very happily take him at his word… though I will also be donating these clothes to Oxfam at the earliest opportunity, and the hat as well. I remember buying it years ago, while trying to cultivate a cis-male image that I could be happy with, but as it turned out being a dandified goth in modern society is no easier than being a transwoman (and less authentic to me). After years of sustained mockery I finally retired it to its hook in 2014, spent a year trying to fade into the background, and ended up at last being forced to reconnect with my true self, making that hat responsible for more existential pain than any piece of millinery ever ought to be held accountable for (though it is still a nice hat, and deserves a better home).

Now I just have to hope that the 8mm all develops correctly, as there is no way I intend to revisit this scene if it can possibly be avoided…

5 thoughts on “Death of a Failed Man

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  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings on this episode. I think you’ll find, in the end, that the audience will see the contrast between the unhappy character you’re portraying here and the real you who’s beauty will be obvious. When you are your authentic self their is an internal radiance that augments your external beauty. That’s what the audience will see.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That internal radiance is what I see in every person who transitions for the right reasons, or finally decides to embody their authentic self, however cis-normatively “convincing” their presentation may be said to be. While I can understand some of the criticisms levelled at trans activism, my blood never fails to boil when I see someone, right or left wing, taking the line – “Who are you kidding? You just look like a man in drag,” as if sheer embarrassment was somehow going to snap me out of being trans. I know embarrassment well enough – the embarrassment of playing a role for thirty or so years – and the sneers of a few determined cynics are an easy price to pay to lose that.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. 🙂 It certainly wasn’t the most fun thing I have ever done in the name of art, though not quite the worst. That would be the twelve hour night shoot I had to endure for the dubious privilege of being a crowd extra in “Da Vinci’s Demons”, and I had to grow a whole lot more beard for that…

      Jason is a great photographer to work with, though. He really knows his vintage film, has a good instinct for natural lighting, is full of ideas, and is really conscientious and understanding as well. I would not have done this for most other photographers.

      Mind you, I never even thought I would get back into this caper at all. I cut ties with the modelling scene in 2012, having rarely been invited to attend a local shoot or event that did not primarily consist of middle-aged white male photographers in dingy nightclubs trying to talk naively hopeful young (and sometimes very young) women into posing in their underwear, while “talent scouts” from local lap-dancing clubs handed out their business cards. So charming…

      Liked by 1 person

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