10 July 2012

I stumbled onto the following at : http://trushare.com/88sep02/SE02KIRK.htm

... a  character mentioned at the end of the second letter to Timothy as one who resisted Paul’s preaching – Alexander the Coppersmith – later converted to Christianity, changed sex, and left Ephesus for a new life in Rome. There he altered his name to Phoebe and ultimately became a leading deacon.  The clue which led Baumsterk to this daring conclusion was, he says, the realization of the true significance of the name ‘Phoebe’. ‘Literally, in Greek it means shining one’, the Professor told a crowded press conference, ‘an allusion to Alexander’s former profession.’ But it was also a name for Diana, as goddess of the moon, and so carried a reference to Alexander/Phoebe’s native city. Phoebe, moreover, was the daughter of Uranus who, in mythology, was castrated by his son, Kronos, so alluding to the surgery at the hands of the evangelist and doctor, Luke, who performed the operation at Paul’s request on Alexander’s arrival in Rome.

Make of it what you will, but bare in mind it is written by Rachel Gladraggs, 
"Our Ballroom Dancing Correspondent".

10 April 2012

A partial list of trans women (and one man) playing trans in the movies up to 2011

With much justification we complain that trans characters in the movies are usually played by cis actors.  Two recent films that (fortunately) failed to be made, films about Lili Elba and James Barry were both intended to have a cis woman actor playing the trans characters even though Elbe was a woman, and Barry a man. 

There are groups that have this worse than we do.   Apart from Christopher Reeve after his accident, how many disabled characters are played by disabled actors?

This is a short list where trans actors of different types have played trans characters.  I have not included professional gender impersonators here.   A much longer list from Vesta Tilly to Julian Eltinge to RuPaul could be created, but that is not what this list is about.  Nor, with one or two exceptions, does this list include documentaries, nor trans actors in cis roles.

It is no accident that is list is more World Cinema than Hollywood.

Kazuo Hasegaw in Yukinojo Henge (Actor’s Revenge), 1935
Ed Wood in Glen or Glenda, 1952.
Kazuo Hasegaw in Yukinojo Henge (Actor’s Revenge), 1963.
Rachel Harlow, Crystal LaBeija, Sabrina in The Queen, 1968.
Carlotta in The Naked Bunyip, 1970.
Bibiana Fernandez in Cambio de Sexo, 1977.
Jayne County in Jubilee, 1977.
Eva Robin’s in El Transexual, 1977
Angie Stardust in Die Alptraumfrau, 1981.
Angie Stardust, Jayne County, Tara O’Hara in Stadt der Verlorenen Seelen, 1983.
Georgina Beyer in Jewel’s Darl, 1985.
Shelley Mars in Die Jungfrauen-maschine, 1988
Eva Robin’s, Romy Haag in Mascara, 1989.
Alessandra di Sanzo in Mery per sempre, 1989.
Alexis Arquette in Last Exit to Brooklyn, 1989.
International Chrysis in Q & A, 1990.
Doris Fish in Vegas in Space, 1991.
Adele Anderson in Company Business, 1991.
Estelle Asmodelle in Secret Fantasies, 1992.
Ichgola Androgyn, Tima die Goettliche, Ovo Maltine in Ich Bin Meine Eigene Frau, 1992.
Eva Robin’s in Bella al Bar, 1995.
Lady Chablis in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, 1997.
Tima die Goettliche in Der Einstein des Sex, 1999
Antonia San Juan in Todo sobre mi madre, 1999.
Ingrid de Souza in Princesa, 2001.
Lauren Foster in Circuit, 2001.
Kokkorn Benjathikoon in Satree lek (Iron ladies), 2001.
Kokkorn Benjathikoon in Satree lek 2 (Iron ladies 2), 2001.
Florencia de la Vega in Los Roldan, 2004.
Stephanie Michelini in Wild Side, 2004
Alexis Arquette in Lords of Dogtown, 2005.
Bobby Darling in Navarasa, 2005
Raquela Rios in The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela, 2008.
Lee Na-young in Lady Daddy, 2010.
Yasmin Lee in The Hangover II, 2011.
Harmony Santana in Gun Hill Road, 2011.

02 December 2011

All Good Things

Directed by Andrew Jarecki
Script by Marcus Hinchey & Marc Smerling.
101 minutes 2010
Ryan Gosling plays David Marks (= Robert Durst)
Kirsten Dunst plays Katie Marks (= Kathie Durst)
Frank Langella plays Sanford Marks (= Seymour Durst)
Philip Baker Hall plays Malvern Bump (= Morris Black)
Lily Rabe plays Deborah Lehrman (= Susan Berman)
Country of finance: US
Nationality of director: US
Location of story: New York, Galveston, Los Angeles, Bethlehem, Pa.
Filming location: Connecticut, New York City

See my Who’s Who entry for Robert Durst.   The film adheres particularly closely to the facts, particularly by the standards of Hollywood.   The major changes are the names of the characters, and a willingness to speculate just what happened to Kathie Durst and Susan Berman.

The film also adds a few lines of dialogue re why David Marks disguises as a woman.  He tells the court that he wanted to get as far as possible away from being David Marks.   Also Malvern Bump asks him if he actually likes girlie things, to which David says ‘no’.

All Good Things  was the name of the health food store that Robert and Kathie ran in Vermont..

The names of all the characters were changed.

The film was made  in 2008, but than sat on the shelf, and was quietly released to DVD early in 2011 after a minimal theatrical release.

Reaction of the Durst family and organization
Robert  Durst visited the sets as the film was being made and watched from a distance. Apparently he likes the film, but doesn’t admit to any murders.

The Durst Organization considered suing, but “this movie will be seen by so few people that litigation would be superfluous”.

09 June 2011

An Alison Bechdel cartoon

Leslie Feinberg Transgender Warriors, page 114

Click here for more on Leslie Feinberg.

22 May 2011

Eaux D’Artifice

Directed by Kenneth Anger
13 minutes 1953
Carmillo/a Salvatorelli as the Water Witch
Country of finance: Italy/US
Nationality of director: US
Filming location: Garden of Villa D’Este, Tivoli

A person in eighteenth-century clothing and sun glasses runs around the fountains of the Villa D’Este, to a soundtrack by Antonio Vivaldi.

Kenneth Anger’s first film in 1947 was called Fireworks, which in French is Feux D’Artifice.   This film is about water so: Eaux D’Artifice.

Anger in his early notes for the Cinema 16 catalogue described the film as “the evocation of a Firbank heroine” and her flight as “the pursuit of the night moth”.  This refers to the end of Ronald Firbank’s Valmouth where the heroine goes into a garden in pursuit of a butterfly, dressed in her wedding gown and carrying her bouquet.

All we know about the actor, Carmilla Salvatorelli, is that s/he was a short person, a circus performer, introduced to Anger by Frederico Fellini Anger wanted a short actor to make the fountains seem larger.  The actor is otherwise unknown.  When I first read about this film in the 1990s the general assumption was the actor was Carmillo Salvatorelli, that is that this is a cross-acting part.  Now IMDB has changed the credit to say Carmilla Salvatorelli, and likewise the booklet that comes with the Magic Lantern Cycle DVD box.  However in his revised notes for the Cinema 16 catalogue, Anger wrote Carmillo Salvatorelli.  

The change of mind of over Carmillo/a Salvatorelli ‘s gender is no longer mentioned.  However it is the fact that she has generally been considered to be male, that has resulted in this being considered a classic of queer cinema.

10 May 2011

Drag moments in Miller’s Crossing

Directed by Joel & Ethen Coen
Script by Joel & Ethen Coen.
115 minutes1990
Gabriel Byrne plays Tom Reagan
Marcia Gay Harden plays Verna
John Turturro plays Bernie
Albert Finnie plays Leo
Country of finance: US
Nationality of director: US
Location of story: an unnamed city
Filming location: New Orleans

The much acclaimed Coen Brothers gangster movie loosely based on Red Harvest and Glass Key by Dashiell Hammet and Jojimbo by Akira Kurosawa.

When Tom Reagan bursts into the ladies’ room, notice, if you don’t blink, the large women in black and white: an obvious extra cameo by one of the other principles.

 Then there is  the woman who screams when Reagan falls upon her.  She is played by Helen Jolly who is unknown except for this film.  What do you think?

22 March 2011

1970s music part 2: Disco

I don’t have an essay for this as I did with Punk.   But here is the start of a list.

Amanda Lear  was a disco star in the 1970s.
Sylvester James is best known for the disco classic "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)", 1978.
Eva Robin's as Cassandra recorded the classic, Disco Panther, 1977.
Romy Haag's singles in the late 1970s.
Divine became a disco singer in the 1980s: “You think that you’re a man”
Brian Belovitch as Tish Gervais was a disco singer in the 1990s.
Al Pillay, after his faux sex change, became a disco singer in the 1990s.
Cristina Ortiz Rodriguez  sang ‘Veneno pa tu piel’ in 1996.

05 March 2011

“A Gang of Trannies”: Gender Discourse and Punk Culture– a review of the chapter by Viviane Namaste

image – Jayne County.

I have previously reviewed Viviane Namaste’s Invisible Lives.  In it I said nothing about her chapter on punk, it being a stand-alone chapter that does not change the overall argument of the book.

++ added later

What is punk?  Is it a genre, a community, an attitude, a brand?  All of these?  Who was active in it, especially trans persons?   Namaste has no interest in any of these questions.  On the first page she writes:
“This chapter examines how gender is organized at a micrological, textual level.  Focusing on historical and contemporary media representations of punk culture, I show how discourse about punk is thoroughly masculinist and describe the conditions in which this conception of punk culture emerged.  This gendered portrayal of punk thus authorizes a social world in which punk excludes transsexual and transgendered people. … I choose punk as an ‘object’ of analysis precisely because of the unlikely associations between MTF transsexual and punk identities.  Yet I remain uninterested in a type of historical inquiry that would establish the presence of MTF transsexuals in punk culture”. 
We notice at once that Namaste does not deign to notice trans men who were active in punk,  ++not even her friend Max Valerio.

Namaste starts with an article in Photo Police, a scandal newspaper, about Val d’Or, Quebec, that assumes that punks are violent, and then a local Montréal paper that is surprised that punks joined in to clean up a local park.  These articles are dated the early 1990s.  She takes this as typical of mainstream media attitudes to punk.

She cites Matias Viegener, writing in the 1990s, who seems to think that queer punk is something new at that time.  She quotes him:  “Although the original punk movement seemed to have little tolerance for gays and lesbians, its edginess proved ready-made for a new generations of queers”.   She then declares three perspectives in the academic studies of punk:  Punk as asexual; punk as gender fluid and punk as heterosexist, homophobic and misogynist.   She reminds us that Punk was preceded by Glam rock, and mentions David Bowie, Marc Bolan and the New York Dolls.  She rightly follows the Glam themes into Punk and quotes one song by the Buzzcocks.

She then goes into detail  about an incident in 1976 when Jayne County (when she was still Wayne) was heckled by ex-wrestler Dick Manitoba, singer in the band, The Dictators,  shouting homophobic taunts when County was performing at CBGBs in New York.  Manitoba then climbed on the stage holding a beer-mug, and  County hit him with the microphone stand.   County cut his hair short and wore a false beard, but was arrested some days later and spent one night in jail.   Other musicians and performers including the Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, The New York Dolls, Jackie Curtis, Holly Woodlawn, Divine put on a benefit to meet County’s legal costs.  Three times Manitoba failed to show in court and therefore the charges were dropped (County:108-110).

Namaste does not give the year, fails to mention that Jayne County was still Wayne at that point,  confuses CBGBs with Max’s Kansas City, does not give Manitoba’s name, does not mention that he failed to show.  She makes it a major point that the other musicians and performers put on the benefit for a transgender musician as if this were not normal, and from another perspective she fails to mention that Jackie Curtis, Holly Woodlawn, Divine were also transgender.  The anecdote does not carry the weight that she puts on it.

Namaste repeats a report that she had from Margaret O’Hartigan about the band Skafish as another example of trans punk (++although from what I have read they were more a gender-fuck band).

Namaste is quite right that The Sex Pistols became the iconic Punk group, and that in their wake other punk groups became conformist and the image was much more masculine.  The pogo and the slam dance and the mosh pit were off-putting for many potential punters.  Namaste gives this as an erasure of transgender people, in line with the general theme of her book.


There are so many questions, not to mention facts, that Namaste does not even consider.

All genres change as one or two artists are given media attention.   Likewise conformity afflicts those who come later to the chagrin of the pioneers.   It is not just the queer punks who complained about the conformist slam dunkers.  Johnny Rotten/Lydon expressed the same complaint.

We might also note The Rocky Horror (Picture) Show which was a celebration of non-conformity when it opened in 1973.  Many of the early fans were quite put off after the film version came out, and performances turned into rigid conformity.

Where did the queer punks go?  Many did not go anywhere.  They continued playing punk, but were ignored by the mainstream press.  As a trans woman, Namaste should be aware that the true images of minority groups are frequently not reflected in the mainstream press.  Other forms of Punk kept going.

Other queer punks went into New Romanticism in the early 1980s and the Goth movement after that.   Goth also went through a phase of masculinization.   Goodlad makes the interesting observation that “Hardcore masculine youth styles are economically preferable to androgynous styles such as goth in part because audiences segregated by gender and age – particularly audiences composed of young men – are especially valuable to the advertisers of youth-related products (p109)”.

Another angle not explored is punk as dandyism or homeovestity.  This angle is commented on in the film, The Filth and the Fury.  Malcolm McLaren ran a clothing boutique in the Kings Road before he became the Sex Pistols manager.  Very few theorists compare transvestity and homeovestity.

So are trans performers erased in Punk?  Whether yes or no, it is very easy to come up with a considerable list of trans punkers, reflecting all flavours of trans, and all flavours of punk.

Namaste is a Foucaultian.  She actually argues that she needs a Foucaultian approach to sort out out different views of punk by time and place.  Personally I would have expected any competent journalist to do exactly that.    Foucaultians are not interested in facts and statistics, and to repeat from the quote above: “Yet I remain uninterested in a type of historical inquiry that would establish the presence of MTF transsexuals in punk culture”.

Not being interested and not giving evidence of presence is surely a participation in erasure.

I do not share this lack of interest.  I think that it is a point worthy of note that so many trans women and also trans men have found punk to be a genre or attitude through which they can express themselves.

A final point.  Namaste, in her text, does not mention even one surgically completed trans punk, although as you will see below, there are several candidates.


The one-time impersonator club, 82 Club, evolved into a glam and punk bar in the early  1970s.

The New York Dolls played with androgyny, but did not go very far.
Jayne County was a punk before Punk Rock in the early 1970s.
Lou Reed had a trans lover, Rachel Humphreys and wrote a few songs about trans persons.


Stella Nova auditioned for the Sex Pistols in 1975, and then was in the Rich Kids with ex-Sex Pistol Glen Matlock.
Al Pillay started out as a gender-bender punk in Spit Like Paint, although after his faux sex change, he became a disco singer in the 1990s.
Gender-fuck Skafish were the first punk band from Chicago.
Sometimes cross-dresser Kevin Rowland played punk before forming Dexy's Midnight Runners in 1979.
Chelsea Godwin played punk rock at CBGBs.
Fanny McNamara and Pedro Almodovar performed as a drag-punk act in the late 1970s.
Anderson Toone played keyboard in the postpunk group, The Bloods.
Marie-France Garcia’s debut single was almost punk.
Ginger Coyote, editor of Punk Globe, singer with White Trash Debutantes.
Donna Lee Parsons wrote a punk fanzine and later was recording manager on Real Men Don’t Floss by The Young and the Useless, and Polly Wog Stew, by the Beastie Boys in the early 1980s.
Claudia Wonder was in the punk band, Jardins das Delícias.
Genesis P Orridge played punk and other genres while in Psychic TV in the early 1980s.
Dean Johnson was a drag-punk musician.
Benjamin Dickerson was a blues punk drag queen.
Chloe Dzubilo was in the punk band Transisters in the early 1980s.
Bambi Lake was a punkette.
Lazlo Pearlman fronted punk bands bands Skinny Wiresand Jezebel's Kiss.
Max Valerio has worked with punk bands.
Animal Prufrock actually played at the Michigan Women’s music festival.
++ bonze blayk  was in the Angry Samoans
Raphael Carter is a postcyberpunk novelist.
Lucretia Dearfour is a steampunk novelist.
The 1996 film, Different for Girls, features an affair between a trans woman and a punk.
The 1998 film Velvet Goldmine about glam rock with significant queer content,
Vaginal Davis is second generation punk.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch, 2002 – a punk musical about a trans person.
Lynn Breedlove, singer in punk band Tribe8, novelist, comedian.
Cross-dresser Brian Viglione drums in punk bands when not performing in the Dresden Dolls.

  • Dick Hebdige.  Subculture: The Meaning of Style.  Methuen & Co, 1979: 108,121,123 .
  • Greil Marcus.  Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century.  Harvard University press, 1989:36, 75,80 .
  • Matias Viegener. “ ‘The Only Haircut that Makes Sense Anymore’: Queer Subculture and Gay Resistance”. In Martha Gever,  Pratibha Parmar, and John Greyson (eds). Queer Looks: Perspectives on Lesbian and Gay Film and Video. New York: Routledge, 1993.
  • Jayne County with Rupert Smith. Man Enough to be a Woman. London: Serpent's Tail, 1995:108-10.
  • Viviane K.Namaste. Invisible Lives: The Erasure of Transsexual and Transgendered People. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000: chp 4.
  • Julien Temple (dir).  The Filth and the Fury. With the Sex Pistols.  UK/US 108 mins 2000.
  • Charlotte Cooper.  “Remembering.  The Skinny, 07 Nov 2007.  www.theskinny.co.uk/article/40744-remembering.
  • Lauren M.E. Goodlad.  “Looking for Something Forever Gone: Gothic Masculinity, Androgyny, and Ethics at the Turn of the Millenium”.  Cultural Critique, Spring 2007: 104-126.
  • Lucretia Dearfour.  “Using the Transgender Umbrella to Describe the Steampunk Parasol”.  SteamPunk, Oct 26, 2010. www.steampunkmagazine.com/guest-post-using-the-transgender-umbrella-to-describe-the-steampunk-parasol/.

Dick Manitoba threatened to sue a Canadian musician for calling a project ‘Manitoba’.  So far he has not sued the Province of Manitoba.

Trans persons were not the only sex-gender minority in Glam-Punk.   The world’s best known convicted pedophile, Gary Glitter (Paul Gadd) was a Glam rocker.

31 January 2011

Doris Aversham .

Doris was a fictitious amorphous character who turned up at various Gay Liberation Front events in and around London in the early seventies.

Sometimes she was the prudish heterosexual, sometimes an auntie with gay relatives. She was an agony aunt for the GLF paper Come Together, and she wrote shocked letters to newspapers.

She was even once played by a woman, to open a gay jumble sale in Nottingham in 1975.
  • Kris Kirk & Ed Heath. Men in Frocks. London: Gay Men’s Press.  1984: 98.

09 January 2011


Directed by Michael Lander
Script by Michael Lander & Ryan O Roy.
Edited by Sally Menke.
90 minutes 2010 Lionsgate
Cillian Murphy plays John/Emma Skillpa
Susan Sarandon plays Fanny Crill
Ellen Page plays Maggie
Keith Carradine plays Mayor Ray Crill
Country of finance: US
Nationality of director: US
Location of story: Peacock, Nebraska
Filming location: Iowa


*** This review may contain spoilers ***

John has a low-level job in a bank in small-town Nebraska.  Every morning Emma, whom no-one in town has met, makes his breakfast, does the washing and leaves him a note re shopping.  John keeps a tin box under the outside stairs so that Emma will not know about his savings account and his sports cards.  The room of the recently deceased Mrs Skillpa has been left untouched.  Only a few minutes into the film we find out that John and Emma share the same body.  One day a train caboose slips off the tracks and ends up in the Skillpa back yard as Emma is putting out the washing.  This results in others meeting Emma.  The local mayor wishes to use the derailment for political advantage.  Emma is pleased to let him,  John is antagonistic.  Maggie comes by to ask why there have been no cheques since Mrs Skillpa, John’s mother, died.  Emma drives her home and finds out that Maggie’s son was fathered by John – an attempt by Mrs Skillpa to make a man out of her son.  Fanny Krill attempts to recruit Emma for her work at the women’s shelter, which results in John missing time at work.  John attempts to run from Emma and the memory of his mother, and takes a room at the local motel.  However when he opens the overnight bag that he has brought, he finds the dress and wig that define Emma.  Emma decides to kill off John.  She picks up a man, takes him the the motel room, kills him, dresses him in John’s suit and sets the room on fire.

Who are they?

This is the first and so far only film by Michael Lander.

This is the first and so far only film written by Ryan O Roy.

Editor Sally Menke died in September 2010 while hiking.

Cillian Murphy is an Irish actor of growing note who has played cis male parts in 28 Days Later, Girl with a Pearl Earring, Cold Mountain, The Wind that Shakes the Barley, Batman and Inception.  He also played a trans woman, the lead character Kitten Braden, in Neil Jordan’s Breakfast on Pluto – in fact Cillian lobbied Neil for several years to make the film.

Susan Sarandon, of course, was Janet in the Rocky Horror Picture Show.  She has been acting since 1969, has been in loads and loads of movies, and if she were British would probably be a Dame.

Ellen Page is an up and coming young actress.

Keith Carradine is part of the Carradine acting dynasty, has also been in loads of movies, is especially noted for his roles in Robert Altman and Alan Rudolph films. 


In the same way that most films made in Toronto or Vancouver are claimed to be set south of the border,  Peacock is filmed in Iowa, but claims to be set in Nebraska.

The when of the film is left vague, but as no-one has a television, it must be set in the early 1950s.  Although the women’s shelter and the feminist orientation of Fanny Frill do seem to be a bit anachronistic re this assumption.

John has obvious beard stubble, while Emma does not.  Emma is not shown dealing with this. 

Nobody comments on how similar looking Emma is to John.

Whilst being a much better film than most of the rubbish that plays the multiplexes, Peacock was not released to either the festival or to the art-house circuit.  The film was delayed for over a year after completion and then went straight to DVD. 

Is John/Emma a transvestite?

A few minutes into the film we watch as Emma undresses to transform into John and we see that she wears male underwear.  This is unusual for a transvestite.

John and Emma are both ignorant of what the other does.  This is a symptom of multiple personality.  The shrinks equivocate about whether one can be both trans and multiple.  The DSM has said that to be transsexual, one must not have any (other) psychiatric condition.   Other shrinks talk about co-morbidity.  Both of these positions of course make the unreasonable assumption that being trans is in itself a psychiatric condition.


It is difficult to watch this reacting as if John is a real-world transvestite.  Some of the life options are real on this reading, but they do not stay so.

The ghost behind the screenplay is obviously Psycho’s Norman Bates.  Both John and Norman are dominated by their dead mothers. 

Another film that is echoed in Roman Polanski’s The Tenant, where the personality of the previous tenant of the room takes over Trelkovky’s body and life.

The film is not about choice, about deciding who you are and taking steps to be yourself.   It is about an other that takes you over, and even kills the original. 

There is another ghost behind the screenplay, one that Lander and Roy may not have heard of.  The recurring voice of the dead mother constitutes an introjection.  Remember how Sanda Davis explained how introjections can take you over, and that transsexuality can and should be treated and cured as an introjection. But apart from me and three other people, nobody has read Sanda Davis.  I think that Davis owes much more to Psycho than Peacock owes to Sanda Davis.

As I said about Norman Bates, John/Emma is not like any other transvestite that you may have met.