Sunday, March 27, 2016

The other side of comedy ...

There is a scene I remember well from The Birdcage - where Republican politician Gene Hackman is forced to escape the paparazzi, and the only option is to pretend to be a drag queen.  Oh the indignity - at the time I thought it was pretty hilarious ...

It's not alone - Tootsie, Mrs Doubtfire, Old Mother Riley, Nuns On The Run, Some Like It Hot.  Men dressed up as women is big comedy.

Then I made friends with a transexual woman named Violet, and I realised it wasn't funny at all.

How do you know you are male, or are female?  Is it because it was recorded on your birth certificate?  If it because you look between your legs when you're in the shower, and see "the appropriate bit" that reminds you what gender you are?

Although everyone has their different stories, transexuals are people who look at their birth certificate, and the parts between their legs.  And it doesn't add up - they just don't feel that way.  In the time since I got to know Violet, she's not the only transexual friend I've ended up with.  But she certainly opened my eyes to the struggle that goes with trying to follow your true identity.

The common story I hear though is that trying to conform - to follow the appearance and dress code of that birth certificate - feels like living a lie.

Some transexuals are lucky - they put on the clothes and make-up, and no-one is any the wiser.  Sadly not everyone can look so much the role - any they will be the ones who when they walk down the road, people stare, and point, and snigger.

My friend Violet suffered from anxiety - which is not uncommon with transexuals.  The very act of leaving her flat was a terrifying ordeal.  How easily would you cope with having to fend with such unpleasant levels of attention?  It's the other side of the laughter, to understand the tragedy which goes from a desire to just be invisible, so you can hide from the jeers, the prejudice and the hatred.

I have one very good friend now who's going through their own journey in Wellington.  But over the years, I've noticed some others on my commute.  Wellington is quite a tolerant city to live in (I'm thankful to say), and yet even those who are lucky to be "well camouflaged" in their new identity have a tendency to be quiet, and will only whisper in public in case "they give the game away" from their deep voice.

This year there was a male student I'd see on my morning train - and one Monday they turned up to the station dressed for the first time to their chosen female gender.  It made me think of Violet, and I found it incredibly moving - it felt in many ways one of the bravest things I'd seen.

Maybe it's something we all ought to experience once a year - to randomly have to wear the clothes of the other sex, and just not be able to tell anyone the why.  I think though I have some excellent readers - and I like to think you all have open minds and big hearts.  Next time you see someone who you think might be a transexual male or female, just think about all this, and remember the incredible bravery it takes.

Today would have been Violet's 41st birthday - and this blog post is my birthday present to her.


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