Archive for transgender

Serbis review-Slate Honey

Posted in film, Mr Slate Honey, People of Color, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Review by the venerable Slate Honey

Brillante Mendoza takes a porno theater ironically named the Family in the Filipino city of Angeles as the bleak setting for a drama about family dysfunction and sexual dystopia in his film “Serbis.” The Pinedas have a pile of problems to deal with: Mama (grandmother Pineda) has taken her husband to court for abandoning the Pinedas for a new wife and family, a boy taken in by the Pinedas has impregnated his distraught girlfriend, the theatre is physically falling apart and no longer is making a good living, the father is generally despondent and useless, another boy taken in by the family to work as the projectionist is adolescent bait for the mom, and a teenage sister (the first to appear in the film, naked and flirting with her own image in a mirror) seems a nuisance to her mother just for being around.

The frenetic camera work and terribly recorded, barely audible soundtrack are major distractions from the overload of dramatic set-ups in this gritty film. Following the characters who run around frantically from fairly mundane situation to situation, the camera movement often feels nauseating and the suspenseful pace feels forced. Add to that cuts that seem to linger without good reason and a hodgepodge structure. The film’s possible saving grace lies in the performances which are rendered with seriousness and the believability of the dreary setting. The choice of using the truly dilapidated porno theatre offers the possibility of interesting socio-cultural commentary.

Unfortunately, “Serbis” does not take the bait in my opinion, instead relying on thickly-lain shock value, forced suspense and aesthetic realism to carry the film. After the film abruptly ended with a post-production trick (the film disintegrates on screen as if burning before our eyes), I was left with huge questions about Mendoza’s intentions an skepticism about his strong messages about sexuality, queerness and dysfunction.

Mendoza juxtaposes and relates the Pineda family and the queer theatre attendees in different webs of desire. Grandmother Mama and her daughter play-flirt with regulars to keep them coming back. The teenage daughter happily trails a sex worker on the grand staircase, learning hip-swinging moves and ultimately getting slapped on the face by her mother for it. The projectionist unemotionally accepts blowjobs from a sex worker. Mendoza makes a collage of the characters sidling queers and sex workers (the supposed degenerates of society) with the family members seemingly trapped in their poverty and unhappiness. The intimacy between these parallel worlds and the intermingling of the worlds becomes a place of tension.

I wonder what Mendoza’s intentions are in his portrait of the queers, queens and trannies of the Phillipines. Who are they beyond symbolism for hetero dysfunction? Sexuality and queer expression is distinctly different in many parts of Southeast Asia where the transgender sex worker community is in some ways more visible (though undoubtedly equally as oppressed and unsupported in society as in the West). To portray this community, to follow the girls (and also the queens) in their comfort zone, demands, in my opinion, a complex rendering of characters. “Serbis” is so focused on the hetero family losing its mind and means in this broken down theatre, it only offers glimpses of a free-spirited world of queers who come to the theatre to hang out and make their own living. Part of me wonders if I am too skeptical and if Mendoza intends a portrait of hetero dysfunction so caught up in itself and resigned to a dark fate that it dismisses and loses sight of the light-heartedness and contentment of the queer world around it.

The last scene of the film gave me reason to land on a more skeptical view. In it, a boy and a john sit on the verandah of the Family theatre chatting. Suddenly, a hole appears at the center of the image and the film burns and melts away as the soundtrack becomes warped. Mendoza’s last trick seems to imply that queerness is the root of the Pinedas’ sinful disintegration. “Serbis” is playing at the Angelika until February 12th.

The writers from Tongues Afire are about to set Brooklyn a-glow

Posted in Guide to What's Good, Mr Slate Honey, People of Color, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

By Mr Slate Honey

This year’s members of the creative writing workshop for queer women, trans and gender-non conforming people of color will be presenting new works in two readings.  Common Grounds, the cozy Bed-Stuy cafe at 376 Tompkins Ave, will be hosting the first on Saturday December 6th at 7pm.  Later in the week, The Audre Lorde Project, sponsor to the group, will be hosting the second reading on Thursday December 11th at 85 South Oxford Street at 6:30 pm.  Both events are free and open to the public.

Be sure not to miss these.  Excellent artists pass through this workshop and judging from friends who have been in it or who will be reading, I can assure you that it will not disappoint even the most fine-tuned ear. For more information about Tongues Afire and applying to the workshop, contact tonguesafire@gmail.com

Transgender History- Susan Stryker

Posted in Book, Guide to What's Good, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

I finished reading Transgender History by Susan Stryker during my long post-Thanksgiving public transport journey. It was overall a very informative and straightforward book. It was easy to read and understand, which is a feat for non-fiction, and a contrast to Striker’s recent CUNY lecture, which was considerably more cryptic. I really enjoyed the book, it felt immediate and relevant, engaging the reader with the past 100 years of struggle for transgender rights.

The movement towards visibility has been pretty fascinating. It seems that the first people to challenge the assumption that transpeople are not only mentally ill, but also extremely perverse, were people within the medical establishment, German and Austrian psychologists and doctors. Then it was wealthier white male bodied individuals, who campaigned for the rights to cross-dress, and separately, to be granted sex-change operations. The book moves from that telling, to the history of early FTM agitators for change, who also seem to have started within the upper class, or rather gained initial success there.

Direct action, and quasi-revolutionary groups later emerged in the second half of the 20th century, with Stonewall, and it’s predecessors, such as for example, the staged sit-in that occurred at Compton’s restaurant, inspired and enacted by civil rights activists, who were also queer, many of whom were trans,-rights activists. That intersection between transpeople and LGB folks was a theme that Stryker consistently explored in relation to recent trans history.

It seems that although there was a lot of overlap between struggles during the 60s, that unity was often fractured by both, feminist lesbians, who rejected trans people as impostors of a sort, and gay men who labelled trans individuals somehow not radical enough because they were willing to seek help from the medical establishment. As transgenderism remained a disease in the medical books, certain gay activists, judged the transpeople who sought sex change operations, while some lesbian feminists claimed that by enacting femininity in a stereotypical way, transwomen mocked their struggle towards an androgynously expressed equality, and that anyone not born a woman could never fully understand and experience Women’s Oppression.

With so much fragmentation prior to the late nineteen-nineties when queer emerged as a blanket, inclusive term for a whole wide variety of folks, it is kind of nice to see how much of the old divisiveness has died down. However, recently when transgender people were left out of the new anti-discrimination law, many of those old flames were rekindled. In explanation of this political division the distinctions between homosexuality and transgenderism are offered. As well as the wide ranging differences within the transgender umbrella. People often presume that transgender people are by definition homosexual, when historically and continuously that is often not the case. While for some the distinction between gender and sexuality is obvious, many members of the general public don’t quite get what the difference is. Stryker clarifies this within her large definitions section. For anyone who is still confused please refer to the text!

Susan Stryker lecture, La Zarza

Posted in Book, Guide to What's Good, Party, politics, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

Yesterday evening I attended a lecture that Susan Stryker gave at the the CUNY Grad center. It was a nice moment for different cool folks in the trans and queer community to gather, talk back and primarily to listen. I really respect the history gathering, voice planting work that Stryker does, she is a leading force in the movement for trans civil rights. This was evidenced during the introductions she received from Paisley Currah and Joanne Meyerowitz, two other academics who work in the field of trans studies. In terms of the lecture itself, I have to say she lost me at times. The part about Foucault and Hobbes, a lot of theoretical words that can’t yet be found in the dictionary, and several ‘this is not cultural appropriation’ disclaimers had me at the point of putting my pen down. The trouble was I really came to the lecture prepared to learn and left feeling befuddled and not quite there yet. The parts which I did find to be insightful, centered around the concept of a trans person sensing a need to transform outside appearance in order to fully realize an inner potential. I could really relate to this concept, even when applied to writing. When I am unable or unwilling to create something that really resonates for me, I walk around feeling un-realized, incomplete. This is a very spiritual concept, the idea of reaching self-realization. Thus the larger premise of the lecture, which was something like, “Ghost Dance: transperson as spiritual leader” sort of followed along the same avenue, implying that the trans person, innately experiencing transformation towards self-realization, is naturally qualified to be a spiritual leader. Interesting. Have I got it all wrong? Or was that the argument? Afterwards I spoke with Stryker, her partner, and a lot of other good folks about the beauty of dialogue, so comment away!

Just a quick note on La Zarza … This loungue space underneath a sort of swanky Nouvau Italian place, is a sweet spot, when the Grey-Goose promotions are flooding and you are somehow on the doorlist. It is still free if you get there early, but otherwise $100 bills may get thrown around. Last night there was a good pop-hip-hop dj and lots of guys in suits and girls in drag. No wait, that wasn’t drag, straight girls really dress like that!

Be Like Others, Q & A w/ Tanaz Eshagian

Posted in film, politics, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 14, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

In the lead up to Trans Rememberance Day, whether intentionally or coincidentally there are several trans stories in NYC events this week. As your faithful socialite, I dragged myself uptown to see Be Like Others at Lincoln Center. Eshagian, the Iranian-American filmmaker returns to her home country and films a group of Transwomen who are pre and post sex change operation. Most of the footage is shot in the clinic where there operations take place, with extensive focus put on the doctor who performs the procedure. He is part of a group of men in the government of The Islamic Republic of Iran who have either decided, agreed with or implemented the concept, put in place by Ayatollah Khomieni (the father of the Iranian Islamic Revolution), that sex-changes are permissible under Islam. Khomeini passed a Fatwa to this effect, officially declaring them legal. In a country where homosexuality is highly illegal and punishable by a stoning death penalty, it is surprising that being transsexual is so legal that people are given a new legal name and passport post-op. Take a look at the trailer, only available on her website and a brief interview with her below.

Much of what’s contained in this interview was seconded by the vibe I got off her last night. She didn’t really seem to want to take sides, so to speak. I wasn’t sure if this was just another case of the gay disclaimer, or if she was really a distant outsider, looking in at this story from the perspective of novelty. The film sheds light on an interesting subject that not many people know about. In that sense its investigative journalism, but in terms of its humanity at moments I wondered if Eshagian herself was transphobic, or if she was just somehow hiding behind a lens of impartiality. Questions for the interview, I guess. If you read this, talk back! Maybe she will be at transhistorian, Susan Styker’s lecture at the CUNY Grad center tonight at 6:30? See you there.

Introducing Mr. Slate Honey, Trans Entities Review

Posted in film, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

As promised I have held true to my mission to offer multi-voiced meditations on this fabulous city from Brooklyn Socialites. It’s about time we got more variant translations up in here, so with that, I give you: Mr. Slate Honey…

Mr Honey will blow up your spot, so don’t get too comfortable!

Trans Entities: The Nasty Love between Papi and Wil + A Review

Way back in September, Robyn and I went to a Queer Black Cinema screening of Trans Entities at the LGBT Center in Manhattan. A small audience sipped wine in a room dotted with red candles as QBC hosts talked about their safe sex and HIV/STI prevention campaign. Two fiery erotic spoken word performances paired with an association game among audience members initiated by the enthusiastic MC to set the mood. Finally, the lights were turned down and the room quieted as Trans Entities began.

Trans Entities is a daring “docu-porn” that does not hold back. Its two main characters, Papi and Wil, are poly-partners open to exploring everything and anything they desire… and can handle. For the two, opening their bedroom door also means talking frankly about all aspects of their relationship. Between fast-cut scenes of Papi, Wil and their third partner fucking, slapping, punching and teasing one another, documentary footage shows snippets of their daily lives and interviews where they discuss gender-identity, queerness, homophobia, desire and love. In one scene, the three discuss the experiences of one hearing-impaired partner and open up powerful dialogue on body politics. Lifting the expected barrier between porn characters’ on-screen lives and their personal lives, Trans Entities gets truly intimate in a fresh way.

In a Q&A after the screening, the film’s two main stars compared Trans Entities to previous porn films they had acted in. Diverging from a staged porn production, transgender director Morty Diamond filmed the actors in their own home and used a documentary approach to capture a true-to-life portrait of the couple’s sexual relationship. The actors also discussed negotiated BDSM, revealing that some of the most hardcore play caught on film was a new experience for them.

Trans Entities is a unique video that balances provocative play with refreshingly thought-provoking conversation. And in Trans Entities, real conversation does not take the fun out of sex. Instead, Papi and Wil take role-playing, hard-core love and erotica to the ultimate level of pleasure and comfort. Check out http://mortydiamond.com to find out more about Trans Entities.

-by Mr Slate Honey