0

Doctor Who Novella – Translated and Illustrated

Totally unexpectedly, I was contacted by a Doctor Who fan in Ukraine – Kollega at Archive of Our Own (http://archiveofourown.org/users/Kollega/pseuds/Kollega) – who expressed an interest in translating my fanfic novella Fearfully Made into Russian for some sort of competition / challenge (“Big Who Bang 2017”). That was flattering in and of itself, and even more so when she told me that an artist friend of hers – Kiri Stansfield (http://kiri-stansfield.deviantart.com/) – would be interested in doing some artwork for it. Fascinated at the thought of seeing my characters in graphic form, I immediately agreed, and the beautiful results have come through …

1 phobia

From Chapter 1 – Two strangers meet to discuss politics and prejudice …

2 end of tunnel

From Chapter 3 – The protagonist, less genre-savvy than she ought to be, enters a tunnel in the Doctor Who universe. Big mistake …

STORY (English version)

STORY (Russian version)

This has certainly inspired me to keep on writing, and at least to expand my fanfic series into a full-blown trilogy. There is nothing quite like seeing how your characters appeared to other people to know that you are succeeding on some level …

29

A Year of Existence

It was on the 8th of January 2015 that I began this blog, following the advice of my friend Jason, with no very clear idea but plenty of trepidation as to what might come out of it. Now seems as good a time as any to take stock of what I have learned and gained…

1. THE BLOG ITSELF

The Good – After a quiet start, interest and sympathy started to flow in, and rarely let up pace, from trans bloggers, from those in relationships with trans people, from non-binary activists, to supportive people in general. Particularly honourable mentions go to…

Ambivalence Girl

Anna Secret-Poet

Ariadne

Charissa Grace

Curiouser and Curiouser

Daniella Argento

Fairy Jerbear

Georgia Kevin

A Kinder Way

Kira Moore

Kit

La Quemada

Plain T

Tish Wolfsong

…among many other generous and uplifting voices who have encouraged me to keep this extended muse / rant as a going concern. My profuse thanks and love to you all. xxx

The Bad – Thankfully, little negativity has drifted this way, at least proportionally. Some critical feedback was drawn from Radical Feminists (a bit more on that later), and some downright hostile feedback from an older transperson who thought (and still thinks) me a charlatan, but not to name any names. The positives have vastly outweighed the negatives, and overall, the blog was a sound move that has helped me to keep a sense of purpose and progress, as I had dared hope that it might.

2. MEDICAL TRANSITION / THE NHS

The Good – Initially, this went unexpectedly well. It was with great fear that I came out to a new GP in January, and they proved incredibly sympathetic, totally helpful, validating of my new identity, and not at all judgemental. Although they did warn me I would need patience…

In February, I saw a local psychiatrist with a view of obtaining a gender clinic referral. This too went not only smoothly but pleasantly, with no hostile questioning, no attempts to sow doubt, and complete consideration shown to my (by then) firmly established transgender identity. The referral was quickly processed, and I was (fairly) promptly informed that I was on the waiting list for the gender clinic.

The Bad – Progress for the past few months, alas, has been non-existent. This was expected. Worse, however, since the referral my permanent GP  (sadly, not the one I initially saw) has declined to help me at all. I have, like the majority of transwomen-in-waiting, ended up self-medicating with internet-bought hormones and androgen blockers. This is not supposed to happen, but the interim NHS guidelines for Gender Dysphoria, like the Pirates’ Code, are all too rarely followed, and I may be doing this for months (or years, even) to come.

legopiratequeen

Disturbingly, I am in spite of this doing better than my husband Cal, who applied around the same time as me and still has yet to hear news of his referral. Also, we have by now encountered insensitivity from some GPs, and according to information Cal obtained from the gender clinic (which ran an informal workshop), many of the profession still do not see gender dysphoria as a genuine medical issue. Thankfully, the medical status of GD is still official NHS policy, but until we actually have our diagnoses we will continue, I fear, to fret over the outcome, and the possibility of policy changes that could leave us with no option at all.

3. FEMINISM

The Good – I had a suspicion right from the beginning, even before I had any experience in the murky world of online transpolitics, that feminists might look askance at transpeople, though I had no idea back then of the whole Liberal / Radical divide. For someone who began the year with little academic knowledge of Feminism, I have learned a lot in the course of understanding this debate, but apologies if I err in the following…

At a very basic level, and as I understand it, Liberal Feminism (such as espoused very early in Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 1792) holds the view that sexism in society arises from custom, tradition, and ignorance rather than by preconceived malice, and can thus be effectively fought through the reform of existing structures. Radical Feminism (such as pioneered by Second-Wave feminists like Andrea Dworkin in Woman Hating, 1974) by contrast holds that gender and patriarchy are deliberate tools of oppression, constructed with the full, misogynistic intention of keeping women as second-class citizens and an exploitable resource, and can thus only be effectively fought by the complete overhaul of the existing, corrupt social order.

Given that Radical Feminism posits an intentional campaign of hatred and control with the oppressor / oppressed rigidly delineated by biology (specifically, males conspiring to control and exploit females as unpaid labour, sexual slavery, and breeding stock), it naturally has very little scope to accommodate not only transwomen but any queer gender identities, finding them irrelevant at best, or at worst a malicious attempt by men to impinge on what rights and spaces women have obtained. This notwithstanding, there is no monolithic Radfem community or party line, and I have met those who tentatively accept transwomen as women, albeit with the (perfectly logical) caveat that they are not biologically female, even post-transition, and should be respectful that Radfem issues will often be specific to natal women. There are some transwomen even active and generally welcome within this community, although they qualify themselves as “allies” rather than as feminists per se.

Regarding the two schools of Feminism, I am still very much a learner. I have been fortunate enough to make friends in both quarters. However…

The Bad – I have, alas, read some strikingly inept journalism from trans Libfems including inappropriate comparisons between deficient trans rights and deliberate human rights atrocities, ironic attempts to shame confused allies for not being quite sensitive enough (in the journalist’s view), and accusations of really quite moderate, even reconciliationist feminists as “TERFs” (such as Helen Lewis and Penny White). This makes me hugely sceptical of the value of lending my weight, such as it is, to trans Liberal Feminism (or Liberal Transfeminism).

However, whilst there is no particular value in harping on with the “TERF” line (it is construed as an insult, and for me to disrespect anyone else’s chosen or rejected identification seems too ironic), I would strongly advise any transwoman to be very wary of most Radfem circles, even if invited to comment. If you do, expect hostility sooner or later, and do not expect to sway any perceptions or allay any scepticism, even if your intention is allyship. For everyone who appreciates such gestures of support, there will be others who construe them as patronising or hypocritical. I have had to watch two dear friends in the course of this year being slandered and grotesquely insulted in Radfem social media circles, one of whom was broadly sympathetic (at first) and one of whom was actually a long-standing ally (but has since disavowed that role). The hatred is there, make no mistake. As one of the commenters on the previously linked article by Penny White (who, incidentally, has always been very kind to me on Twitter) felt the need to put it…

“You should be listening to what WOMEN say, and not cowardly men who would rather claim womanhood and redefine the language we use for ourselves rather than break away from the patriarchal system they benefit from and embrace their gender non-conformity AS MEN. Trans “women” are not women, they are not female, they are not her or she, they are gender non-conforming men, and if they were brave enough to face that fact, they might actually be strong allies. Instead they’re men who reinforce harmful gender stereotypes, that help maintain the patriarchal oppression of women.”

Not for me to state my own courage, or lack of… but suffice it to say that this view is representative enough. Engage with these politics at your peril.

4. FAMILY

The Good – Our respective families, with understandable concern, have been quick to offer their support, and given that many transpeople face rejection, this is something to be hugely grateful for. Also, I feel easier in my conscience now, as the weight of my dishonesty all of these years is finally lifted, and has not been held against me. Cal’s family have also accepted me as their daughter-in-law, which is a tremendous relief. Any fears we might have had of being isolated as a couple, with only ourselves to rely upon, have been beautifully dispelled.

The Bad – Sadly, the timing of our coming-out did prove embarrassing enough that we were required to attend a family wedding as our old selves, in order to avoid a scene. Hashtag awkward… Thankfully, it is understood that this will not be happening again, whatever the occasion.

5. ODDS AND ENDS…

The Good – Rediscovering modelling was a joy this year, and one that helped me to raise my public confidence. The main project has been a short film (which is finally in post-production) called “Imago,” and when it eventually became necessary for me to do a shoot in “boy mode,” I felt so awkward and unnatural that it was wholly unnecessary to act up my melancholy for the scene… I am very pleased with the results, at least, so we shan’t be needing to revisit that concept. I also had studio and location shoots to rebuild my portfolio (having junked all of my male-model shots), and have shamelessly ripped off the most iconic trans editorial shot of 2015 (and probably of ever). Take a wild guess whose…

_MG_2630

…although I wanted to Goth it up a whole lot more. The photographer (Alan) talked me out of that, his philosophy of plagiarism being to do it as faithfully as one can.

Coming out in work was unexpectedly easy. The Royal Mail policy has proven cast-iron to the extent that I have even been included on a women’s workplace development program. There has been no outspoken discrimination since (although I gather some unkind gossip).

Administrative changes proved easier than I dared to anticipate. I have now amended my NHS details, my bank details, changed my name by deed poll, changed my PhD certificate, and best of all obtained a new passport marked with an “F” in the gender box. I feel this part of transition is, to all practical intents and purposes, completed.

Also surprisingly, my church participation increased a lot this year with extremely positive outcomes, including my invitation to speak on being a trans Christian at Pride Cymru 2015 (at around the 13:50 mark for anyone wishing to hear my weird voice again…).

The Bad – Chavs making abusive comments on the street, white van men doing the same, misogynistic creeps messaging me on Facebook, elderly gentleman insisting on knowing my old name prior to lecturing me on why I am an ungodly rebel, the person who started the “dirty freak eleanor antony burns” Facebook group… oh, and electrolysis really hurts and I have many months of it to look forward to.

REGRETS

None.

Thank you for helping me through a tumultuous but overall wonderful year. xxx

7

Mutant Musings

JudiBmini

(Judi Bowker as Mina Harker in “Count Dracula,” BBC version, 1977)


A good friend of mine recently declared her intention to draw back from the depressingly polarised, prejudiced world of social media activism and instead express herself through her own dedicated writing. This seems an excellent idea to me, having myself spent far too much time and energy in activist circles, to no avail. The main difference being that my comrade will be devoting herself to serious writing on transgenderism and psychoanalysis, while I will be writing about vampires.

This is not my first try. I did bang out a short vampire novel in 2007, to pass the time during my year of ESL teaching in Beijing, but it was a pretty sketchy attempt. This time I am aiming for a longer work, and one that will be much lighter on romance elements and put more emphasis on the twisted parental aspects of vampirism. I am hopeful when complete that it will have a strong female protagonist (though not for me to be the judge), a convincingly depicted setting (Romania, circa both World Wars), and nevertheless a clear fairytale ethos. As C S Lewis, whom I shamelessly namedrop in chapter 12, expressed it…

“When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty, I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

(From On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature)

…which sentiment, to give it its due, also helps me to feel a lot better for being so inexorably drawn to a trope which has produced no end of prose and film of dubious artistic and moral quality.

What is it about vampires that keeps drawing me back to the genre? One pretty obvious answer would have to be the theme of change, and that the change is often depicted as a release from some debilitating state, be it fear of death, fear of age, powerlessness, repression, etc. Of course, nine times out of ten this release comes with an appalling catch in the small print. Vampires, by and large, are not welcome in society, which may also be a factor of my empathy / interest, although the reasons for this exclusion are of course pretty solid… Lestat and Louis may add a touch of decadent class to one’s party, but no-one would wish to be stuck with the task of cleaning up after them. Irredeemably evil depictions are not the be-all and end-all, however. Although the preeminent mythos established in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) and massively popularised since depicts vampires as demonically reanimated corpses, the trope of more sentient and sympathetic vampires is older. Theophile Gautier’s La Morte Amoureuse (1836) is particularly ambiguous, depicting its vampire anti-heroine Clarimonde as an emotionally complex being who is deeply hurt and embittered by the eventual betrayal of her lover – a young, morally conflicted priest; who survives his attempt on her (un)life; and who subsequently abandons him to the life of celibacy and regret he has chosen.

But this, of course, leads to another massive moral caveat: in general, the depiction of women in vampire fiction is less than inspiring, and has a nasty tendency to focus on misogynistic, medieval tropes of carnality and sub-humanity versus the reason and morality generally represented by male heroes of the Van Helsing mould. This is occasionally presented in a deconstructive or satirical way – the ironic coda of La Morte Amoureuse makes clear that the life of priestly repression the hero has chosen will not bring him peace – but the sexist dichotomy remains (and to make it even more unnecessarily blatant, Clarimonde is depicted as having been a courtesan in life). One of the most famous, squicky, and totally unsubtle examples would have to be the oft-depicted turning of Lucy Westenra in Dracula. Her mutation from cloying, girlish sweetness (which is seen as a positive state) to unbridled sensuality and sadism, and her bloody redemption-by-staking at the hands of her former fiancé, ironically depicted in the same year the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies was founded, has to be one of the most distasteful and untimely subplots in English literary history.

But Dracula almost redeems itself in the character of Mina Murray / Harker, who comes into her own in the latter half of the novel. Film versions have a bad tendency to underplay her agency in the story, and make her into a damsel in distress or even worse into a love interest for Count Dracula, neither of which is actually faithful to the book. A middle-class intellectual, Mina is an independent, employed woman, although sadly disdainful of the Suffrage Movement. Nevertheless, she emerges as one of the most pro-active and clued-up characters in the book, being the one who actually collates and makes sense of all of the diary entries and newspaper clippings that testify to Dracula’s evil intentions. In spite of thus being the main provider of intelligence, the male characters then decide to sideline her for her own safety while they set off to heroically kill the monster. This backfires hideously, as Dracula just takes the opportunity to drop in on Mina while they are all gone, mentally and physically abuse her, then infect her with his tainted blood to inflict a slow and humiliating mutation. This is the scene which has, in film, got into the unfortunate habit of being a big romantic moment…

This, however, backfires even more horribly on Dracula, as Mina has now become telepathically privy to his movements. Having now learned from their mistake and having fully included her in their hunters’ cabal, the heroes start doing much better, making use of Mina’s insight to track the Count’s movements, destroy all of his London-based sanctuaries, and follow him back to Europe. Mina’s mutation progresses to the point that she can no longer eat, sleep normally, or cross spiritual wards, but she holds onto her personality, and memorably chides Van Helsing for his ill-timed gallantry when he nearly steps out of a warding circle to drive some minion vampires away from her. As she sagely points out, there is not a whole lot more they can do to her.

Dracula comes a cropper soon afterwards, although not, alas, at her hand. The decapitation scene in the 1992 film version is its own invention, although it certainly did not pioneer the highly dubious romance between Mina and Dracula – Universal’s 1979 version was there way before it. She does get to wield a rifle and shoot one of Dracula’s goons in the BBC’s 1977 adaptation, which probably captures the spirit of the novel’s character more than any other: her morality, her intelligence, her courage, her being undervalued by the male characters, and the wretched injustice of her fate. Notably, it is the only version I know of that includes the scene where Van Helsing attempts to bless her with a host wafer – shortly after her contamination – and in spite of the fact that she has neither consented to her mutation nor succumbed to evil, the talisman burns and scars her. The sense that the whole of patriarchal existence, right up to its God, is out to get her for no good reason at all is starkly apparent. One can only conjecture if Stoker wrote more into this than he was necessarily aware of.

I suspect there will be quite a bit of the original Mina in my next protagonist, albeit without the disdain for her contemporary feminists. Nobody’s perfect.

15

Little Miss Morbid

Owing to the recent extreme quietness of news on the transition front, which tends to test the morale, I dug out an old vampire novel Wolves of Dacia (nothing to do with cars) that I wrote around 2008, hoping to keep myself busy for awhile with editing and maybe see if I could make something of it. That has somehow now turned into a near-total rewrite of the thing. On the plus side, I am feeling very motivated and excited about this new project, but on the negative side this means everything else is going to slide for probably months on end (me being the obsessive type), so I beg all of your pardons in advance for being a very unreliable blogger and reader for the foreseeable.

Having said that, this week turned up a couple of bits of trans news. Natasha Hinde of Huffington Post contacted me to canvass an opinion for an article she was writing, “Uterus Transplant Surgery Could Help Trans Women To Become Pregnant.” I gave what I thought at the time was a careful and balanced answer (partially quoted in the article), which I subsequently feared might have been a boring and non-committal one, and which I now discover to have been an offensively controversial one to judge from the drubbing it has received in radfem / gender-critical quarters. Politically, I do seem unable to please any of the people any of the time… I suspect it is long past time I took my husband’s oft-repeated advice and forced myself to stop even visiting trans-political type sites. Since my diplomatic skills are conspicuous by their absence, I don’t expect to achieve much on that battlefield other than flirting with depression, unless regular practice in morbid thinking makes me a better Gothic novelist in the future and thus saves on further rewrites.

Also, today I have just returned from my first day-long course on the Royal Mail women’s development program “Springboard” (on which, I think it might be as well to state, I was specifically invited by female RM executives in full knowledge of my trans status). I cannot say much on that as participants are sworn to confidentiality, but as tends to be the case in real life, the day passed completely positively and courteously, I was made to feel welcome, encouraged to participate, and not once judged or cross-questioned.

Sometimes, I do wonder what if any good the Internet actually is.

springboard

2

Day of Reblogs – Part 1 – “How It Is To Be Miss Tobi?”

In personal news… nothing much. Such, alas, is the way of transition on the NHS, and both Cal and I are just seeking to make the best use of the wait. I have resumed weekly sessions of electrolysis, and can scarcely remember a time that my face did not look red and swollen. Cal has given up smoking, since the GIC will not prescribe hormones to smokers, and is finding it a severe toll on his stress levels and sleep patterns, but seems to be doing well. At least the motivation is there. Still, we are likely months away from clinic appointments, so our priority is finding ways to live authentically within our present limitations, and without obsessing on the future.

In the interests of not obsessing, rather sadly, both of us have drifted away somewhat from the wider trans community. While I still make the effort to attend the occasional local trans meet-up, it is a foregone conclusion that the conversation will eventually (if not immediately) come round to such subjects as hormones, waiting lists, facial feminisation surgery, mental co-morbidities, the NHS, “I am Cait”, etc… which, to be honest, don’t much help me to unwind. For similar reasons, Cal has distanced himself from some of his online FtM groups, as the preponderance of alpha-male airs and exaggerated “bro talk” was doing nothing to raise his spirits.

“I understand dysphoria,” he explained, “but why take off one mask just to put on another? Is that all we are, then? A gender?”

Indeed, when one begins to fear that perhaps one’s only defining, outstanding characteristic in the eyes of others is one’s misaligned gender identity, one suspects that trans-critics and gender-abolitionists do have a point (if not a ready solution for dysphoria that actually works better than transition). Is it even possible, one occasionally wonders, to be trans and not to be some sad, ersatz caricature of stereotypical masculinity / femininity? Thankfully, it is…

The article (and linked video) that follows celebrates Miss Tobi: an artist, anarchist, and transwoman from Berlin, who identifies as neither male nor female, but simply as transgender. Her acceptance of this, her expressive non-conformity, and her lack of anxiety over and concern for labels makes an inspiring contrast to the mainstream…


(Original Post)

How It Is To Be Miss Tobi: I Don’t Feel Like A Woman, I Don’t Feel Like A Man, I Feel Transgender

TransgenderHave you met Miss Tobi?

(S)he’s the main character of the very first How It Is To Be You video portrait and am I ever grateful for it!

I could not have found a sweeter and more Berlin person than her and am very proud of the work we did together.

The little film is filled with insights into her life and the way she chooses to live it.

Here’s a hint: she does so with a lot of balls!

In case you missed the video, here it is:

Want to know more? Read on:

Who is Miss Tobi?

(S)he’s a 44 year old male born transgender anarchist living in Berlin who makes amazing metal sculptures, plays in several performance art groups and is also a part-time physical therapist.

A free spirit as ever there was one, she’s been dressing up in her mother’s clothes since she was 4 years old, has lived in a bus for 4 years touring all through Europe before settling down in Berlin 18 years ago and has loyal friends all over the world.

She comes from a loving and open family in Köln (Cologne) Germany and has been in an open relationship with the tough looking yet incredibly sweet Michael for the past 15 years.

Even though she was born as male, she doesn’t always feel that way. But she doesn’t always feel female either (the link is to a little video that does a great job stating what transgender is and what issues they face). She feels like herself and is happy with just that. No extra hormones or operations needed.

Actually, she doesn’t care about the pronoun ‘he’ or ‘she’ either, she truly feels transgender and like a person beyond the binary gender system and simply wants to express herself the way she wants to on any given day.

She’s very aware that she’s a very exotic person and that many people find her a bit strange to look at. And she does indeed get stared at a lot in the streets and sometimes even called names or worse…

But…she’s made the decision to live outside, to look what she wants to look like and to NOT be in the closet. And for that reason (and because of the fact that she’s gotten used to it) she doesn’t give a shit about people looking at her :).

In fact, if her flamboyant appearance will help others come out of the closet and into the streets looking however they want to, than all the more reason to do it!

It does mean however that she tends to avoid public transport but uses her bike to go around Berlin. It just makes her life a little bit easier.

How Miss Tobi and I met

Transgender

I was looking for a ‘typical’ Berlin anarchist (which is indeed a bit cliche…) but the guy who was supposed to take me to a rough and rowdy anarchist’s bar to help me find one didn’t show up. As it was raining that evening, and as the bar didn’t sound like the kind of place a ‘normal looking’, barely German speaking woman should hang out alone at midnight (I’d imagined the bar was a bit like Fangtasia from True Blood but it turns out it’s just a rowdy yet regular dive bar…), and as anarchists aren’t really that well organised on the web (yeah…surprise surprise…), I ended up scouring for anarchists on OKCupid.

I mean, anarchists need love too, right?

As it happened, they do indeed! I’d widened my search range and after a bit of scrolling, Michael popped up in my feed (see the picture on the right).

The sensationalist filmmaker in me immediately saw the visual potential and when I clicked on and read through the profile I was immediately sold.

Because here’s a bit of the profile: “in relationships and sexuality I try to be open for new ways to live love and sexual desires. I’m polyamorous, live and lived in long term polyamorous relationships with a big sense of empathy and caring for each other.”

That had documentary gold written all over it!

So I sent Michael a message and a few days later we met in the garden of his surprisingly conservative building (mind you, it’s only the building, the neighbours and the garden that are conventional, his appartment is not!). He was very open to the whole idea but was struggling a bit with time so he proposed his partner Miss Tobi to me.

And Miss Tobi, well…as a performance artist and a little bit of a diva, she was of course instantly open to the idea and we planned the whole shoot in our very first meeting over cups of tea in her kitchen (where the fridge was covered in green fur and a little dragon sculpture was flying over our heads).

The shoot

Transgender

As this project was part of the documentary making course I had both my classmates, my teachers and the school’s equipment to back me up.

But…it was still the first time for all of us to do this so it took a little getting used to…hence the icky sound here and there and the important yet slightly awkwardly filmed interviews that made my editing life rather difficult…

Shooting at the physical therapist client came first, immediately followed by the art workshop.

Great stuff!

The exotic Miss Tobi in a Berlinian suburban home was a very pretty sight indeed. And the workshop… tiny, dingy, stuffed with metal thingies and lots of fireworks going on; it was perfect!

Fun fact: in the longer version of this video (that I can’t publish yet because I’ll be sending it in to festivals), there’s a point where Tobi’s father says that she’s like a ‘big fire’ and you see sparks come straight for the camera. At the time, I was putting more money in the parking meter so wasn’t there but (in the unedited version) right after the sparks came flying, you can hear the camera- and sound women scream and see the camera topple over. I shouldn’t have laughed as hard as I did, but I did anyway…

Then came the shoot at Michael’s place (which didn’t make the cut of this short version unfortunately) but is was quite the experience! See, Michael’s apartment is…well….a giant mess! With clothes, leather BDSM making parafernalia, stuffed animals and all sorts of other items lying all over the place it took a little breathing and planning for the filmcrew to actually set up and be relatively comfortable. But…we were professional and dealt with it like bosses!

The final shoot in Berlin was at the Folsom Street Festival. Or better described as a (mainly gay) fetish street festival. On my own, with my DSLR and in my yoga tights and comfy sweater I followed red latex clad Tobi around and next to the many many naked butts I shot elderly men being caned and whipped in front of a crowd, 2 men fully wrapped in ductape (including arms) and several grown men dressed up in latex dog costumes (including tails) play and bark like…you guessed it…dogs.

Extreme? Yes! But in the end it’s all just human expression of relatively basic needs…so why not do so out in the open instead of fussing about it?

And lastly, our day in Cologne! 5 Hours to and fro (so a total 10 hours in the train) to visit Miss Tobi’s best friend Paul (who’d come over from Holland) and her parents. Another shoot I did on my own and with DSLR and Zoom only and apart from some newbie technical hick-ups, it was lovely!

The warmth, the love, the park, the pumpkin soup; what a great family!

The lessons I learned from Miss Tobi

TransgenderApart from the rigorous documentary film making lessons I’ve learned whilst doing this shoot (thank you Met Film School Berlin btw), I’ve learned a whole lot from Miss Tobi as a person and the way she lives her life too.

The most prominent of which:

  1. Be who you want to be, live how you want to live and don’t give a shit about what other people think of you.
    I’ve done quite a good job in choosing the life I want to live but still…I’m nowhere near as cool as Miss Tobi is when it comes to not caring about other people’s opinions. And looking at her, seeing how happy and relaxed she is with herself, how many really sweet and caring friends she has…that seems like something worth striving for even more than I do now.
  2. Friendships are worth energy and the effort.
    Interestingly, I heard that Miss Tobi was such a good friend from her actual friends and father before she even spoke about it herself. She’s very loyal to her friends, keeps in close contact with them even when she’s busy and the proof of that is for example shown through the many people that showed up at the screening of this film in Berlin. A friend of mine who was also there used these words to describe it: “She is loved”.
  3. Not every opportunity needs to be pursued.
    Ah yes, a pitfall I know very well and Miss Tobi appears to be no stranger to this either. She loves new (ad)ventures and projects and has a tendency to say ‘yes’ to too many of them. This sometimes leads her to signs of burn-out or even depression as her father told me. It’s the risk of being an extraverted social butterfly that loves living life…sometimes it gets too much. But she’s learned to say no more often and realises that feeling unhappy is not worth it at all.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it he or she for Miss Tobi?
    It doesn’t matter! She prefers Miss Tobi over Tobi but in the end they’re all just labels to her. The most important thing is that the people she’s in contact with are open, empathic and respectful.
  • Has Miss Tobi had any surgery or hormones?
    No. Though some transgenders lean more to one or the other gender and are grateful these options exist, Miss Tobi feels like a different person. One that lies outside the traditional binary system. She’s very happy with the way she looks and has therefore not felt the need to alter her body in any way.
  • TransgenderDoes she ever NOT dress like a woman?
    Yes, when she goes to client’s homes to give them physical therapy treatments she doesn’t have the orange eyebrows and skirts. Instead she wears colourful trousers. When she dresses like that, she does sometimes feel like she’s performing but a trusting relationship with her, often more conventional, clients is more important.
  • What’s with the orange eyebrows?
    She just likes them and paints them on every single day.
  • What does it mean to be in an open relationship/polyamory?
    This is the Wikipedia definition of it: polyamory is the practice, desire, or acceptance of intimate relationships that are not exclusive with respect to other sexual or intimate relationships, with knowledge and consent of everyone involved.
    For Miss Tobi and Michael it means exactly that; they’re in a committed relationship with each other that is all sorts of respectful, empathic and loving but they have other relationships and lovers too. But the main condition though is that it is indeed open and honest and that the moment any feelings of doubt or jealousy arise, they’re instantly talked through.
  • Does Miss Tobi’s art have a deeper meaning or is it mainly ‘just’ pretty?
    Almost all the art Miss Tobi makes for herself or with befriended artists have a political meaning usually mainly geared to queer- and trans-rights and ensuring the city of Berlin remains as culturally diversified as it is (Miss Tobi is also an anarchist). In fact, she’s in Rio de Janeiro right now to do several projects in the slums!
  • Miss Tobi’s art is amazing, where can I find more information and contact her?
    Miss Tobi’s website has all the necessary details on her sculpture art and includes contact information: www.orangegecko.de. For more info on her performance art check: www.lickmehappy.zone.
7

Love for the Freak

Today commenced on what is fairly described as a low-key note, as in sifting through my spam on Facebook I came across the following stream of messages received over the last few months from a stranger…


15 June 11:39

omg your a fucking freak Anthony burns..your poor poor wife *****…well she looks like a bloke anyway

14 July 14:04

FREAK…

22 July 17:46

r u for real..freak freak freak..omg

28 July 17:46

https://www.facebook.com/groups/675487022551799/

11 August 11:14

attention seeker

18 August 10:24

your an embarrassment

29 September 09:44

dirty stinking freak


However, the group to which she was “kind” enough to refer me – entitled “dirty freak eleanor antony burns” – is no longer visible, as when I told Cal about it, he immediately shared the information with his friends at AFP Patreon Patrons (Cal being a huge Amanda Palmer fan), who immediately responded by reporting the page en masse and posting a hundred-odd messages of support for us. For comparison, the hate group had two members… one of whom was its founder. Small fry, one might well say, but I feel it was worth playing the censor as the group had started targeting another trans friend of mine, it was using my pictures without permission, and all the love we have subsequently received from the AFP Patrons has completely restored my faith in humanity.

dirtyfreak

In other news, the film I have been shooting with Jason Marsh has finally been graced with a short trailer…

Editing on the existing reels continues, and hopefully we will have a first instalment soon. Knowing that my transition is likely to take a long time, perhaps even years, I suggested that we wrap the whole thing very soon, but Jason very adamantly said that he would like to continue to document the whole story, so “Imago” is likely to be a very long work in its final form. Hopefully quite a unique one, though, and certainly a fulfilling one for me. This freak is well supplied with supportive friends…

8

I LOVE MY BRICK!

Explanation of bizarre allusion below…

The occasion for this insanity? My last photoshoot with the amazing Alan Moss, for which the only completely new outfit I had to sport was a vintage 1980s Nicki Ferrari dress. Fortunately, a dirty great brick of an obsolete not-so-mobile phone I picked up at a car boot sale made for the perfect accessory…

_K3_1567 _K3_1597 _K3_1670 _K3_1737 _K3_1749 _K3_1781

On the subject of accessories, it would be remiss of me not to add that the compact, the lipstick, and the lipstick holder were all presents from my mother-in-law, and in other family news, my folks have offered to help with the costs of my permanent hair removal. Did I ever mention I have the coolest relatives?