'Pre-op'. 'Post-op'. 'No-op'. Not until recently did anybody question why trans people should be defined exclusively by whether or not they'd had genital surgery. Though gender variance has existed in most cultures throughout time, trans people today – particularly women – are still forced to situate themselves in relation to the idea of the medicalised 'sex change'. Have you had the op? Are you planning to? Are you taking testosterone? How far will you go?
"Under Blair and Brown, I’d usually felt angry and disappointed; now, I was desperate and defeated. Working at the PCT as it was dismembered and downsized, watching as arts funding, unemployment and disability benefits, mental health services and support networks for women and LGBT people were ruthlessly cut, I’d often told friends that one problem I had with the coalition was I could never decided which MP to despise the most. Arguing in favour of abolishing the Human Rights Act, Theresa May had spoken of ‘the illegal immigrant who cannot be deported because – and I am not making this up – he had a pet cat’, and she was always near the top of my Hate List." Juliet Jacques, Trans: A Memoir
In 2011, Juliet Jacques received an invitation to the launch of Diversity Role Models in the Houses of Parliament, a charity that aimed to tackle homo/bi/transphobic bullying in schools. In her memoir Trans, Jacques recalls: “I wish we’d had that at Oakwood, I thought – but could I go to an event fronted by the Conservative home secretary?” This scene captures the contradiction of pursuing trans rights from neoliberal states. In the end, Jacques pragmatically decides to attend, with the intention of avoiding the guest speaker – Theresa May MP.
Film writer Sophie Mayer will be in conversation with Juliet Jacques about her new book Trans: A Memoir, the cruxes of writing and identity, and LGBTQ film and art at the ICA on September 25th.
In this guest post, Mayer guides us through film that re-envisions queer and gender-nonconforming people into history, upturning the selective narrative of Roland Emmerich's new Stonewall film, released at the same time as Trans. Controversial for cis-washing and whitewashing LGBTQ history, Emmerich's film has been boycotted for relegating central Latinx and black transgender figures such as Sylvia Rivera or Marsha P. Johnson to background characters in the service of a white cis-male fictional protagonist.