…in which I speak!

Just a minor note, rather than a full-blown blog post this time…

As Colin Firth once stammered, “I have a voice!” I did an interview for a podcast regarding my 2015 talk on Photoshop fakery, and you can hear me spout off at this link.

The interview lasts about 12 minutes. One question was kinda-sorta repeated (but not deleted), so I repeat myself a little. Anyway, this is the voice I use as both Twist and as me, which explains a lot of the funny looks I get….


Wild Wild Twist

By last spring, I’d decided I’d had a long enough break from cross-dressing and doing photo shoots. I wanted to do more. Each one is like a mini-adventure, and I’d generated enough ideas to do another calendar for my friends*.

They repair stiletto heels here too.

They repair stiletto heels here too.

The target for this one was a tiny little alleyway in Edinburgh known as ‘The Wild West‘. I figured I had enough clothes to get a sort-of, kind-of Calamity Jane look, and brought out my old outback hat from my time in Australia. A visit to the toyshop got me a cheap die-cast revolver (which was child-sized… hm…)

About to get west and wild...

About to get west and wild…

I like to do photoshoots early in the morning, especially in the summer months when the light is good (luckily, I live far enough north that the nights are quite short in the summertime). It also means nobody else is around to give me funny looks when I’m striking bizarre poses for photoshoppy purposes later on.

The ‘Wild West’ part of Edinburgh is in one of the just-posh-enough parts of the city, in a residential area at the back of a local library. It’s quiet enough at the best of times. Going there at about 6am would guarantee nobody would be watching.

(...this is actually a library fire exit!)

(…this is actually a library fire exit!)

It was built in the 1990s by a furniture salesman to create ….well, some sort of ambience, I guess. The years haven’t been kind to the place, and after a couple of decades, it’s run-down, faded, rotting and falling to bits. But with some clever camera angles, you need not see the nearby tenements, or telephone cables, or burglar and fire alarms…

I’d already scouted it out beforehand, and had some ideas about the sorts of shots and angles I wanted. It was possibly the most trouble-free (and audience-free) shoot we’ve ever done.

(You'd probably keep your door locked shut too...)

(You’d probably keep your door locked shut too…)

If anyone else wants to take photos or selfies (using a camera timer), I heartily recommend heading out early on a sunny morning, even just around your hometown. You’ll have the streets to yourself, you’ll have the golden glow of the sun, and you can get something approaching a glamorous set of outdoors photos (cross-dressed or not!).

Well, shoot!

Well, shoot!

*(It’s probably the last calendar I’ll do – I’ve no idea what other photo shoots I could do, and I’mĀ  not keen on repeating things… so I’m archiving the most -but not all- of the shoots I’ve done over the years, here on the blog.)

Gendered agenda addenda

During Edinburgh’s 2016 Science Festival I got to introduce a talk on world cultures which recognise more than two genders, by Professor William Naphy. It’s a topic I’ve briefly alluded to in a previous blog, but this seems like as good a time as any to go a bit more in-depth.

Update 13 April 2016: you can listen to the talk via the Edinburgh Skeptics podcast, starting 4m30s in. (Warning: if you do listen to the first few minutes you can hear me erm-ing, um-ing and ahh-ing through an intro to a poet and to the speaker…)

The talk was really excellent – densely packed with information, yet presented in a very clear and accessible way. I won’t regurgitate the talk verbatim, but the significant take-away messages were these:

  1. There are cultures around the world and throughout history which recognise three, four, or even five genders. From their point of view, they don’t ‘have’ three (or more) genders – there are three (or more) genders.
  2. ‘Genders’ and ‘gender roles’ seem to be inextricably linked – for example, in certain cultures if a woman wants to run a business, she will be seen as a ‘businessman’, and is not allowed to become pregnant (because ‘businessmen’ do not get pregnant). These are entirely separate from matters of sexuality.
  3. Just because a culture recognises more than two genders, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s open, tolerant and socially liberal – sometimes there can be very strict rules about what each gender is allowed to do, and the jobs they can take on.
  4. Following on from the last point, people in these cultures are likely to be disinclined to talk about genders; it would be as impolite as asking complete strangers about their sex lives.
  5. Generally speaking, across the world, there appears to be a bigger deal made about men adopting female gender roles than women adopting male roles.
  6. The influence of gender-binary cultures is adversely affecting the ones which recognise more than two – a culture which might celebrate a third gender could now start describing people in binary termsĀ  – ‘gay’ or ‘trans’, rather than whatever words they have to describe a concept which we don’t have the words (or even concept) to describe in English.
  7. The cultures with more than two genders could be said to have more than two labels or pigeonholes to stick people into. Sure, it’s better than limiting it to two, but it can still be an inflexible system.
  8. I suspect the model we’re moving towards in ‘Westernised’ cultures is one which doesn’t see people as one thing, or another, or yet another, but rather has us occupying different points on ranges: a range of sex; a range of gender identities; a range of sexualities.

2016-ScienceFestivalAfter the talk I spoke to some of the audience in the bar afterwards. As you might expect, it drew a lot of interest from people who are, or have been through, transitioning (m-to-f and f-to-m), or otherwise gender non-conforming in various ways. I don’t really get involved with communities or support groups (because reasons), but I really enjoyed hanging out with other people who’ve had to come to terms with being at odds with what society considers ‘normal’.

If anything, I came away thinking more strongly than ever that each of us has to act as an ambassador for everyone else. We probably need to learn as much as we can about sex, gender and sexuality, even if we don’t think it applies to us, because there’s always the chance that someone somewhere will latch on to us as their ‘token’ expert in these matters.

If we want to live in a more enlightened culture, that means sometimes fielding questions from other people which might be crude, or insensitive, or blithely ignorant and we’ll have to reply openly and honestly. To borrow a phrase from Jim Jeffries‘ stand-up routine about gun control:

…we have to play to the one per cent of society who are such fuckwits they ruin it for the rest of us. We have to move as slow as the slowest person to keep society moving…

Anyway… we all agreed that Professor Naphy’s talk was an eye-opener, and he did an excellent job of presenting other viewpoints we simply aren’t used to. It’s not often you can come out of a talk having to rethink certain bits of how you think the world works, but this was one of those times.