Tag Archive for: trans

T-Girls: Gender Outlaws

The term T-girls celebrates a range of trans identities. Michael Langan talks to Darius Amini about his exhibition, Gender Outlaws, and how it celebrates the diversity of identity.


Photographs © Darius Amini   (Click images to enlarge)

Gender Outlaws, a new exhibition by Darius Amini hosted at The Camera Club in South London, is a series of photographs of T-Girls in Manchester. It represents and celebrates a variety of identities and gender play, but in a way that isn’t just about nights on the town and the club scene.

Before speaking to Darius I hadn’t heard the term T-girls before. Darius himself first encountered it when he started photographing the T-Girls in 2013. “It’s a general term that includes cross-dressers or transvestites, transgender people and transsexuals, all as sub-divisions within it,” he explains. “These specific labels many T-Girls find a bit limiting and a bit stereotypical.” In this way, T-Girls seems to function in the same way as the umbrella term ‘queer’.

One of the T-Girls, Lisa, affirms this. “It means I am somewhere on the gender spectrum between male and female,” she says. “T-girls are not men, nor are they women, they are both, and embody the best and worst aspects of what it means to be both.” For Lisa, such gender ambiguity “holds a mirror up to social and sexual interpretations of gender.” Samantha, another of the T-Girls, says the term simply describes someone who cross-dresses, while it “allows the exploration and development of another identity.” For her, at least, it’s not life changing – this is her life.


When Darius was looking for more people to get interested in his project he joined the website, TV-Chicks, a social network for T-Girls. “There’s a drop-down menu on there including all the various categories that people put themselves under, and the website embraces a whole range of identities and people.” TV-Chicks is mainly a directory of bars and clubs and places for T-Girls to meet, as well as a forum that enables their admirers to contact them.

There’s a focus in the exhibition’s images on what Darius terms “everyday people”. At the same time the show’s title, Gender Outlaws, implies a notion of subversion. “Whilst many of the T-Girls come from quite traditional family backgrounds,” Darius says, “and many of them identify as straight, they’re also aware of the fluidity of sexuality and identity.” Darius tells me that most of his subjects are more interested in the day-to-day living as a T-girl. “They’re not actively subversive, it’s just how they live.” This is, of course, subversive in its own way. As a result, whilst the T-Girls themselves aren’t necessarily political, the exhibition certainly is, in the broadest sense. “I think it would hard for it not to be,” says Darius, “given the times we live in. At the same time, these are just people with everyday needs. We need to recognize the diversity of the people all around us and in that way I think I am making a political statement, whether I like it or not.”


The title, Gender Outlaws, came from a piece of text Lisa wrote for him, which is included in the exhibition. In it, Lisa poses a number of questions to the viewer – some of them rhetorical, some of them challenging – before asserting the power of self-creation and the right to exist between genders. For Samantha, the phrase “gender explorer” describes more how she feels about herself, but Lisa takes a much more directly political approach. “I wish to question the social straight jacket of a society that perceives gender as a duality,” she says. “I have felt imprisoned all my life by the expectations placed on my birth gender and have always wanted to break free of these.  I do not want to conform and so I seek opportunities to express myself in ways that some people might find threatening – in that sense I am a gender outlaw.” Equality is also a important issue for Lisa: “an equal right for everybody to share society’s benefits and contribute to its achievements – to realise their own potential, expressing their personalities as they wish. It therefore goes without saying that I believe in female equality and trans equality too. Maybe T-girls embody those qualities that emerge from a sense of sensitivity towards what it means to be a woman in what is largely a man’s world. In that sense too, I am a gender outlaw.”

This all raises questions about recent discussion and outright argument in the media around the language that’s used to speak about transgender people. Darius would be the first to admit that his own outlook on this has changed. “Until recently I’d have used the word ‘Tranny’ without any sense of disrespect, like many others do, but the preferred term seems to be T-Girls. That’s something coming from that community and I think you have to take your lead from them.” He’s been upset by the quite vitriolic, bad-tempered discussions and particularly disturbed by intimidating comments coming from people who aren’t part of the T-Girl community, especially about people who are just trying to get on with their lives. “I’m a little bit more connected to the community because of the project, so I felt more sensitive about it.”

For Lisa, the tragic suicide of the teacher Lucy Meadows following her exposure and hounding by Richard Littlejohn in The Daily Mail, and the furore following Julie Burchill’s derisive language in The Guardian, are both indicative of the difficulties that T-Girls face in wider society. The 180,000 signatures gathered in just a few days calling for Littlejohn to be sacked restored Lisa’s faith in people, but she acknowledges that the Burchill situation was more complicated and she has a mixed reaction to it. “Julie’s difficult-to-forgive mistake was in using immoderate and vituperative language to castigate the trans lobby…  In doing so she managed to insult all trans people.” She goes on to say, “My feelings about all this as a T-girl is that we should not be too precious about our difference and that we certainly should not be making enemies of people whose natural instinct is to defend us. We are on the same side as our feminist sisters – or we should be.”


Darius’ focus in the exhibition is on T-Girls who are more mature than those we regularly see in mainstream gay media outlets. This wasn’t something he initially strove for but he quickly realized that he didn’t want to produce a “club kids” kind of shoot, a la Nan Goldin or the Warhol Factory set. “These are people who are beautiful,” he says of his subjects, “but they are older, they are working harder to keep themselves looking good and to carve out their own identity. That creates an extra tension and a challenge. They want to be fabulous and glamorous and beautiful and to be taken seriously in their chosen identities, which adds to their fascination for me, maybe because I’m that little bit older as well. Someone described the T-girls I photographed as being ‘suburban’ and I was happy with that – I like their low-key style.”

There’s a tendency for people to cast an eye over T-Girls and, depending on how young, gorgeous and fabulous they look, this determines how accepted they are. For Darius this fact is very much part of his thinking when choosing his subjects because many of them don’t conform to certain stereotypes. “You only have to flick through the pages of any gay magazine,” he says, “to see the people they choose to photograph in clubs – they’re all of a certain age, with a certain look, which I can understand but which doesn’t really help anyone. I do loathe that weeding out of the unsuitable faces. I think we need to celebrate the diversity of who’s out there. In these increasingly right-wing times we need to broaden our outlook, not narrow it down.” With that in mind he sees this project running for some time, widening it to an international forum. He also plans to include more explicitly various and diverse ideologies around T-Girls’ identities and rights.


For Samantha, being photographed by Darius was fun and, crucially, “part of developing my other identity, pushing the boundaries.” Lisa’s curiosity in the project was aroused by Darius’ assertion that he wanted to portray both the vulnerability and bravery of people who had chosen to spend at least part of their lives in the social shadows that are created by society’s portrayal of sexuality and gender as a duality. She also respected Darius’ artistic instincts in creating what he feels are essentially documentary photographs. “I decided to bring in some of the T-girls interests, passions, hobbies into the images,” Darius tells me, “to give an idea of them as a person. I didn’t want to do so many photos in bars and clubs because that’s where people expect to see them, but that’s not only where they exist. They were really interested in that, though at least one of them lost their confidence when it came down to it. You can forget as a photographer that for the people on the other side of the lens it can be a really big deal.”

Darius addresses this issue by always having a meeting or two with any of his subjects before he photographs them, to get to know each other. It explains the sense of ease in his subjects and fits well with the photographs’ naturalistic style. He’s used Photoshop in the past but is clear that it wouldn’t be right for this project. “At the beginning, a few of the T-girls asked me to do a bit of airbrushing, but this isn’t a fashion shoot and that’s not what I wanted to do. I’ve been very upfront about that and have verbal agreements not to use a shot if the T-Girl really doesn’t like it, but no more than that. What you see is what you get.”

What Darius would really like people to take away from the exhibition is an increased awareness of the diversity within the T-Girl community, and to be surprised by that. Samantha’s hope is that “people will see that, though the T-Girls present their ‘alter ego’ seriously, this is also done with a huge sense of fun and humour.” Darius’ photographs manage to tread that line effectively and thoughtfully – confronting, challenging and celebrating in equal measure.

Gender Outlaws

The Camera Club, 16 Bowden Street, London, SE11 4DS

31st March – 25th April 2014

Chase covers Against Me! for LGBT History Month

Chase Garrett celebrates her trans hero for LGBT History Month in a cover of Black Me Out recorded exclusively for Polari Magazine.

Heroes: That word means something different to every individual you meet. Everybody wants someone to look up to, someone to call a role model; but for girls like me those are far and few between. At least, until Laura.

In 2012, when Against Me!’s lead singer started transitioning to become Laura Jane Grace, I was in awe; such strength and such courage exhibited by someone whose male presentation played such a pivotal role in her career. Yet there she stood, unphased by the expectations of a bitter and judging world. It was her fearlessness and her courage that challenged me to look in my own mirror and ask myself the tough questions.

Coming to terms with my gender dysphoria was not easy, but with Laura as my role model, I flourished. I made my transition in August of last year, and while I am still inspired by many other strong transwomen, such as Laverne Cox and Carmen Carerra, it was Laura who I related with the most. So when I was asked to pick a cover song, it was an effortless choice. As I walk through the world everyday, I hold my head up high. So what if I play rock ‘n’ roll and wear high heels? It may not be okay with everyone else, but it’s okay with me. If Laura taught me anything, that’s all that matters.

Transgender Dysphoria Blues • Against Me!

Against Me! Polari Magazine review

Transgender Dysphoria Blues

Against Me!
28:43 min • Total Treble Musics • January 21, 2014
Walter Beck reviews

The sixth album from Florida punk band Against Me! is the first since lead singer/guitarist Laura Jane Grace came out as trans*. The album focuses on issues of trans* identity, personal struggle, and ultimately liberty.

Opening with ‘Transgender Dysphoria Blues’, the album gets kicking with poppy drum riff from Atom Willard before the rest of the band joins in. The guitar riffs are pretty bright, obscuring the angry lyrics of Grace, as she invokes an almost scat-like singing, burning through,

You want them to notice,
The ragged ends of your summer dress.
You want them to see you,
Like they see any other girl.
They just see a faggot,
They hold their breath not to catch the sick.
Rough surf on the coast,
Wish I could have spent the,
Whole day alone with you.

‘True Trans Soul Rebel’ is definitely a battle cry, featuring a good, strong, swaying rhythm from drummer Willard, with Grace on the bass. During the chorus, the powerful guitars really come through, creating a wall of sound as Grace shouts passionately,

Who’s gonna take you home tonight?
Who’s gonna take you home?
Does god bless your transsexual heart?
True trans soul rebel –

The third track ‘Unconditional Love’, featuring Fat Mike from NOFX on bass, is a dark tinged love ballad shrouded in a swinging, dancing rhythm. Drummer Willard showcases an almost hot jazz beat here, which blends in perfectly with the swinging guitar work of Grace and James Bowman. This track should be a single from this album; its musical elements could get the entire crowd on their feet and it’s a perfect counterpoint to Grace’s lyrics: “Even if your love was unconditional/It still wouldn’t be enough to save me”.

‘Drinking with the Jocks’ is the first real punk burner on the album. It’s an angry, aggressive anthem that sounds like the bastard offspring of Pansy Division and Limp Wrist. The band keeps their poppy undertones, but brilliantly slashes at hyper-masculinity, sexism, and homophobia,

I’m drinking with the jocks,
I’m laughing at the faggots,
Just like one of the boys,
Swinging my dick in my hand.

All of my life, all of my life,
Just like I was one of them –

The first half of the album ends with ‘Osama Bin Laden as the Crucified Christ’, a dark, heavy, experimental-tinged growler. Grace’s vocals take on a sinister sound as the band ploughs through with a twisted wall of sound. The lyrics seem laden with metaphor as they speak of Mussolini’s death and a life of pity fucks and table scraps. I’m not sure exactly what it means, but it works.

The second half of the album gets going with ‘FuckMyLife666’. Despite the awkwardness of the title, the song itself ain’t bad. It’s a pretty good mid-rhythm poppy number, once again featuring Fat Mike on bass, who keeps the groove going as the rest of the band soldiers on.

The eighth track ‘Two Coffins’ is the ballad of the album; a somber, acoustic number about life, love, and ultimately death. The bluesy swing of the guitars and the buried, thumping drums compliment Grace’s vocals perfectly. This track is a nice respite from the high energy rock ‘n’ roll that dominates the rest of the record.

But the mellowness doesn’t last as the band builds up to a full steam on track nine ‘Paralytic States’. A number about Grace’s struggles to come out as trans* and embrace her true identity, the sound is dominated by a wall of bright guitars, and a rhythm that would get the crowd jumping up and down in cadence. Grace passionately intones,

Paralytic states of dependency,
All waking life’s just a living dream,
Agitated states of amazement,
Never quite the woman that she wanted to be –

The album comes to an end with ‘Black Me Out’, a thumping rocker with the snotty, sarcastic anger of the band’s punk roots in full swing. Grace pulls out all the stops in this closing number, seemingly cheerfully singing out,

Black me out.
I want to piss on the walls of your house.
I want to chop those brass rings off,
Your fat fucking fingers,
As if you were a king-maker.
As if, as if, as if.
Black me out –

This album is quite an accomplishment. It’s full of a lot of good, swinging rhythm, punk anger, as well as a good sarcastic middle finger. Grace and the boys may have just made history, becoming the first mainstream rock ‘n’ roll band to cut an album full of unrestrained trans* pride. If this album does as well as their previous one did, they may even get a spot in the Top Forty Charts and a gold record to hang their hats on. This album is definitely worth checking out, if you like fierce pride and rock ‘n’ roll, you won’t be disappointed.

Exclusive: Chase reveals Magdalene Me on Polari

Chase reveals new album artwork, debut single and track listing for Magdalene Me on Polari Magazine.

Magdalene-Me, Chase

As music editor of Polari Magazine I am sent a lot of music, often from emerging LGBTQ artists wanting a platform to an audience that might understand them. Of course, as is often the case with home-grown music, some of it doesn’t quite make the grade, but I’m glad that Polari has such an open door policy with regards to submissions because it makes finding a really good artist incredibly gratifying. Too often it feels like marginally successful queer and trans artists are successful for just that – because they’re the only ones doing it. Far too few of these artists seem to be artists first, and LGBTQ second. Chase is one of the few.

I reviewed Chase before her transition, when her album Wine And Roses was released as Steve Garrett, and I was instantly struck by how good the material was. Going from androgynous to trans is not an easy step, but Chase has managed it flawlessly, and it is with great pleasure that Polari Magazine plays host to this exclusive – the reveal of the album art, first play of single  ‘Nowhere to Run’ and the track listing from her forthcoming album Magdalene Me:

1. Shroud
2. Axis
3. The Body
4. Nowhere to Run
5. Vertigo Child
6. Burn and Blow
7. Cyclops
8. Pressure
9. Sinking Sky
10.Private Hell

‘Nowhere to Run’ is an industrial tinged slow jam, full of angst and raw emotion, with Chase’s voice at points heart wrenching and guttural. If Lana del Rey had written ‘Video Games’ the morning after a drunken night with Frank Ocean and Trent Reznor, this would have been the result, a song full of soul distorted with neuroses. The gorgeous chorus will embed itself in your brain, and I also think it’s lo-fi lyric video is pretty damn awesome.

Chase’s debut album Magdelene Me is out December 17, on Oregon based indie label Akashic Records, and it’s going to be one of the biggest surprises of the year. (Trust me – in my best Columbia voice – I know because “I’ve heard it!”). Let’s just say, if you like ‘Nowhere To Run’ then you’re in for a treat.

Till then, enjoy the single ‘Nowhere To Run’ below, which you can buy from Bandcamp by following this link.

My Friend From Faro

My Friend From Faro
Dir: Nana Neul
Cert:15 • Ger: 90 min • Westdeutscher Rundfunk • May 16, 2011  [DVD]

My Friend From Faro, Film reviewMy Friend From Faro, Film review

Melanie (Anjorka Strechel), the boyish and adorable young protagonist of My Friend From Faro, works in a mundane catering job and daydreams about escaping to Portugal. When a handsome young man from Faro, Nuno (Manuel Cortez), begins working alongside her she finds herself wanting to emulate his style and mannerisms, despite his volatile demeanour. They soon forge a friendship based initially on Nuno’s need for cash and Mel’s need for a fake boyfriend to keep her family happy.

Things take a dramatic turn when Mel drives home one night from work in her prized red BMW and nearly runs over Jenny (Lucie Hollman) – a teenage girl out on the razz with her best friend, Bianca (Isolda Dychauk), hitchhiking for a ride to the local nightclub in their German town.

The girls mistakenly think Mel is from Portugal, and when they try to guess her name she realises that they think she is a man – Miguel. Jenny seems smitten with Miguel, who is charming, sensitive, and expects nothing more than Jenny’s company – a world away from Jenny’s current thuggish boyfriend and her homophobic brother. Mel/Miguel becomes Jenny’s boyfriend, fighting with her sense of self and knowing she risks losing Jenny if she comes clean. Mel isn’t also faces the struggle to come out to her family as well as exploring her gender and rocky friendship with Nuno.

While this might seem like a lot of issues to pack into one film, the strands weave together seamlessly to form an intricate multi-layered story. My Friend from Faro is a film about discovery, naming, family, and love. Although it draws comparison with Boys Don’t Cry, it isn’t anywhere near as harrowing – but do be prepared for some heart wrenching scenes, particularly as Mel comes to terms with her reality and faces the brutality of Jenny’s brother and his posse.

The cinematography is stylish and modern, and comparing easily to mainstream dramas with higher budgets. Deft touches of comedy complement and balance powerful raw scenes. Mel navigates her journey through gender-dysphoria and sexual identity with a maturity and level of control that is refreshing to see on-screen. Naming is key to the film, as well as what is left unnamed – we aren’t ever quite sure where Mel identifies on the gender spectrum and Jenny wonders what the relationship means for her own identity.

My Friend From Faro could be a trans film, or a film about a soft butch finding her way in the world – that depends on the viewer’s interpretation, and it mirrors Mel’s own uncertainty as well as asking us to question the labels we use and hear. The way this is handled is thought-provoking and positive, and for that exploration alone – which could have left Mel demonised if were not so delicately written – this is a splendid addition to any LGBT film collection.

LGBT History Month Heroes – Day 15

To celebrate LGBT History Month, 2013, Polari is publishing a daily series of LGBT Heroes, selected by the magazine’s team of writers and special contributors.

LGBT History Month Hero Jayne County

Jayne County – Musician & Performer
by Rupert Smith

Wayne County was one of the key figures of the ’70s glam and punk rock scenes in New York City and London. Dragged up to the nines, brandishing dildos and toilet brushes, she sang songs that were both comic (‘If You Don’t Want to Fuck Me, Fuck Off’) and in-your-face honest (‘Man Enough to be a Woman’). At a time when rock musicians were either painfully, homophobically straight or ambiguously bisexual, Wayne County was openly, even aggressively, queer. As part of the Warhol/Max’s Kansas City circle, she took part in the Stonewall Riots. She formed a band in 1972 and became the freakiest of them all, too much even for David Bowie, who signed her to his management company MainMan then kept her career on ice. She broke out and became a fixture on the NYC rock scene, playing at Max’s and CBGB alongside the New York Dolls, Blondie, Television and Patti Smith. When punk erupted, she was ready. She crossed the Atlantic to play at London’s Roxy Club, got a record deal and released a string of singles and albums that perfectly captured her brand of foul-mouthed comedy and queer anger.

And all through this time, touring around Europe and America, Wayne was metamorphosing into Jayne, speaking to the press about being transsexual (yes, that was the word that was used at the time) and changing her appearance from an outrageous drag queen to a svelte, sexy woman. It was too much for the punks, who, once you scratched the surface, were a pretty straight bunch. Jayne’s career dipped, and she disappeared to Berlin to perform in plays and explore the ‘trannie underworld’. Since then she’s carried on recording and performing, and now lives quietly in her native Georgia, whither she returned to look after her ageing parents. She still breaks out once in a while – there’s a new single just out, and her autobiography Man Enough to be a Woman (which I helped her write) is about to appear as an e-book.

I’ve always felt that Jayne County hasn’t been given the credit that’s due to her. She’s regularly airbrushed out of histories of glam and punk. She’s even ignored as a transgender pioneer: last year, when Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! came out as trans, Jayne was barely mentioned in the ensuing coverage. She gets the respect of her peers – she’s just recorded a track with Sharon Needles, for instance – but the rock world and even the LGBT world seems all too willing to forget. But this is the woman who, in the bitterly homophobic ’70s, stood in front of straight audiences looking like Dolly Parton’s trashier daughter, singing songs about sex and difference, making people laugh and think and sometimes fight. She got into a lot of trouble. But woe betide the heckler who took it too far: Jayne was very handy with her fists/mic stand/beer crate.

I got to know Jayne in the ’80s, when she was living and working in London, and after many nights in clubs, listening to her wonderful stories of the Deep South, the Warhol ’60s and the glam/punk ’70s, I persuaded her to get it all down on paper. She’s one of the most honest people I ever interviewed, and certainly one of the cleverest and funniest. And boy, can she rock.

Click here for ‘Ready to Rock’ by Jayne County and the Electrick Queers.

International Transgender Day of Remembrance

November 20Transgender Day of Remembrance 
All day
International Events

Transgender day of remembrance

November 20 is the International Transgender Day of Remembrance. The murder of Rita Hester on November 28, 1998, led to the “Remembering Our Dead” web project, and a vigil in San Francisco the following year. From that time on the day has evolved into an important event in the international LGBT calendar.

To day raises awareness of the violence that is faced by transgender people worldwide.

In London, the day is being marked by an event that is first about remembering the dead and the second about celebrating the lives of trans people. The event is held in collaboration between Translondon, Birkbeck College SU, Camden LGBT Forum and the University of London Union.

To find out more about the events, click here to visit the International Transgender Day of Remembrance website.

For more resources, click here to visit the dedicated page on the Human Rights Campaign website.

For more information on the London Transgender Day of Remembrance event, click here.

Homotopia Festival 2012

The ninth Homotopia Festival runs from 30 October to 30 November 2012. Michael Langan talks to Artistic Director Gary Everett about this innovative queer arts programme.

Homotopia 2012 Traditional Family Values

Since its inception, the annual Homotopia festival in Liverpool has developed one of the most exciting and innovative queer arts and culture programmes in Europe. This year’s festival is comprised of 35 events, including new commissions and world premieres. Homotopia has also worked hard to create collaborative projects and artistic relationships with nationally important venues and organizations, such as the Liverpool Biennial, Walker Art Gallery and the Unity Theatre, ensuring that the festival has as wide an audience as possible. It takes over the whole city, rather than lighting up a ghetto.

Highlights of this year’s offering include the premiere of Epstein, a specially commissioned multi-media play about The Beatles manager; drag fabulist Dickie Beau’s exploration of stardom using rare audio footage of Marilyn Monroe, exhibitions showcasing the work of photographer Mark Morrisroe and Rachel Adams’ photos from Uganda Pride, and a special acoustic performance by Patrick Wolf.

I spoke to Homotopia’s dynamic Artistic Director, Gary Everett.

Mark Morrisroe Homotopia

This is Homotopia’s ninth year. What was your thinking behind setting up the festival?

The idea to develop Homotopia first came in November 2003 and we had the backing of the team behind Liverpool’s bid for European Capital Of Culture, 2008. The planning for the first festival took a year so we launched in 2004. It felt important to me to contribute something to Liverpool’s cultural landscape that had been missing. Raising the visibility of queer art was paramount for me, and given the city’s richly diverse and queer cultural heritage it felt like the right thing at the perfect time. Art, engagement and participation were, and remain, at the heart of Homotopia. Also, Liverpool was at a turning point in its history, a sense of true renaissance was in the air, and there had been no real focus for the LGBT community for a significant number of years.

And do you think you’ve achieved what you set out to do?

I’m immensely proud of the last nine years, very lucky to have a talented team around me, and eternally thankful that they believe in what we’re doing. The organisation is unique as we also are the only UK gay cultural festival that has a year round participation and social justice programme, reaching over 125,000 younger and inter-generational audiences. Homotopia has remained true to its original vision and we’ve never compromised – it’s become a gay cultural nirvana and I hope as many people as possible come and experience that.

Gale Force Painting Homotopia

For this year’s festival, you’ve chose the theme of ‘Traditional Family Values’ – what does this mean in the context of a queer arts festival?

The term ‘Traditional Family Values’ is often used by politicians and religious leaders to attack the rights of the gay community, both historically and today. We are living in uncertain times, religious extremism and dogma are becoming stronger forces in some parts and that is having a profoundly negative effect on society. Art has the potential for social change and Homotopia 2012 is a politically charged campaign – as an idea and a theme it was designed to subvert the notion of heteronomativity and attract attention to our mission. We commissioned Liverpool-born artist Trademark to convey this in his wonderful, dynamic and heroic painting of two queers celebrating love, strength and companionship. This is vital to promote a sense of unity and community in a festival like Homotopia. So many gay festivals around the UK feel bland, commodified and corporate and seem to have lost their way. I hope through our message of art and social justice we connect with queer and LGBT audiences as well as the wider community.

Bette Bourne and Paul Shaw, A Right Pair Homotopia

Homotopia has also commissioned brand new work – how did that come about and how do you decide what you want in the festival?

We have recently become a regularly funded organisation in Arts Council England’s national portfolio 2012-2015. This has brought with it a greater degree of certainty and of course we can plan and take bigger risks. As the festival takes about a year or so to plan I spend time visiting artists, seeing work in development, researching and developing relationships for new projects. I’m already well into planning the 2013 festival and making new projects happen for 2014. It’s a luxury we’ve never enjoyed before so of course we want to make good use of this time.

You’ve had some international success as well, including the major Tom of Finland retrospective. How did all that happen?

Its fair to say the Tom of Finland Retrospective has been one of the most rewarding and fantastic experiences for the organisation. I was privileged to be invited by the Turku 2011 Foundation to curate a year-long exhibition of his work, especially given that Turku was Touko Laaksonen’s [the real name of Tom of Finland] birthplace. The Foundation had seen the success in Liverpool back in 2008 when we curated the same exhibition. It attracted over 90,000 visitors in Turku and recently toured to Kulturhuset, Stockholm, where it attracted 31,000 visitors.

The Girl I Left Behind Me Homotopia

You recently secured a major award from the Heritage Lottery Fund to create an exhibition and archive around the life of Liverpool-born transgender pioneer April Ashley, which sounds amazing.

This will be one of the centrepiece projects for our 10th birthday in 2013: a groundbreaking project that will tell the story of the life of Miss April Ashley, utilising her unique collection of photographs, letters and personal documents supplemented with archive materials from Liverpool Records Office, Liverpool Museum and other sources. It will be at the Museum of Liverpool for a year and will explore the significant role April has played in making social and political history in Britain from 1935 – 2012.

April Ashley Transgender Homotopia

In detailing April’s life, the project will tell the wider story of social, political and legislative change affecting Trans, LGB and many other people in Britain over the past 70 years, and of the impact April’s story has had on family law and legal definitions of gender and identity. We are thrilled it’s happening in Liverpool. It will be a special time for all of us – especially April, who is fully supportive and involved in the project.

A collaborative event in Russia had to be cancelled recently. What happened there?

We were due to show an exhibition in collaboration with Queerfest St. Petersburg, called ‘Art As Social Change,’ chronicling the emergence of the gay rights movement in the UK and Europe. It was launched following the Tom of Finland exhibition but we pulled the programme after being advised by the British Consulate that we could be arrested and imprisoned as a result of presenting it in Russia. It’s especially sad as Turku is twinned with St. Petersburg. The city’s Governor has passed an anti-gay ‘propaganda’ law that effectively gags any public discussion of LGBT issues or events targeted at gay and trans people, including Pride. I’ve never encountered these obstacles before but it’s more insidious than that. It’s more severe in terms of the law’s enforcement. They will arrest people – they’ve already arrested Russian activists so what would stop them from doing that to someone from our country?

Next year’s your tenth anniversary – what do you have planned for Homotopia for then and for future years?

A lot of our birthday plans are under wraps, naturally. The April Ashley exhibition will open as a trailblazer in October 2013 and we will be announcing some of the bigger projects in Spring 2013. We are also producing another Alternative Miss Liverpool, which is going to a bi-annual fixture, and many other big surprises. We’ll be 10 years old and we really want to make some noise and let off a few fireworks! Watch this space…

To visit the Homotopia website and find out more about the 2012 events, click here.

LGBT Heroes – Day 1

The remarkable story of Sam and Evan was told in a Nine Lives Media documentary, From Girls to Men, screened on BBC Three in 2011. Sam and Evan identify themselves as gay male couple. The documentary was an extraordinary insight into the world of two extraordinary people starting out on the process of gender reassignment.

The story begins as 18 year-old Sam is about to relocate from the Home Counties to Rochdale to live with the man he has fallen in love with. And so unfolds the tale of how the two met and fell in love. They’re charming, eloquent and decidedly open about what it’s like to live as transgender. “What you are born with between your legs, that’s your sex,” explains Evan, “but gender is how you feel, what’s between your ears”.

The film takes a candid look at the conflicts the two go through on both a personal and a social level. In one segment the couple are walking from the house they share with Evan’s mother to the bus stop. Undeterred by the camera crew, the local youth circle on bikes, with hoodies up to mask identity. They subject Sam and Evan to catcalls of abuse and a lobby of eggs. The scene ends with Evan wrapped around Sam’s smaller frame whispering, “don’t cry”. It’s shocking and it’s distressing. Nevertheless, the support of family & friends counters the prejudice and in the end it’s a story of hope.

This exceptional and sensitive documentary was a moving insight into the lives of two young men. Within the community, and especially in its press, the ‘T’ from LBGT is all too often overlooked. Agreeing to take part in this documentary, which would at times lay bare their more personal and intimate moments, was nothing less than brave. And by doing so, Evan and Sam increased awareness, and the visibility, of transgendered people. They did that with a dignity and humour that was thoroughly endearing. That is what makes them heroes.

Gendered Intelligence’s Art Auction

Silent Art Auction
Central School of Speech & Drama
62-64 Eton Avenue, London, NW3 3HY

Gendered Intelligence is having a silent art auction of around 20 or so pieces donated by artists. It will range from sculptures to paintings to photography.

Four artists will perform 15 minute sets at the event including: Naechanè Valentino, Seth Corbin, Holly Hayes, and CN Lester.

All the proceeds will help continue to support to trans youth with meetings, physical activities, and arts based programmes to build confidence and provide encouragement.

The Artists

Angella~Dee Sherriffe

“I have taken over 10 years to complete my transition to become Angella-Dee. I have come out the other side as a Digital video producer and creative photographer. I am now clean and sober after many years of drug and alcohol dependence. I now think life is so precious that it must be lived to the full extreme wherever possible. Life is good. Hey!”


Åsa Johannesson

“I’m a fine art photographer. My work explores notions of self and otherness, with a focus on gendered identity. The subjects in my photographs often function as a form of doppelgängers: Traces of their identities become reflections of myself. The photograph, for me, is a space where identity is dismantled and also a sphere where identity is created. My work is informed by fantasies and fears surrounding questions of who we are, mentally and physically, and who we feel we are in the eyes of others. I graduate from the Royal College of Art in 2009. I now live and work in London.”


Andrew J B Stevens

“I am a 52 year old trans man. Currently I am working towards BACP accreditation in counselling specialising in trans issues. Art is my personal and often private passion and my way of expressing my inner most feelings. My particular medium is pastels and oils around portraits and nature.”

Andrew will be submitting color drawings and oil paintings.


Katie Herzog

“Los Angeles based artist Katie Herzog combines art and disjunctive librarianship through a unique cross-disciplinary practice engaging knowledge, narrative, and information culture. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2001 and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of California, San Diego in 2005. She studied Library and Information Science at San Jose State University and has participated in numerous international artist residencies including Skowhegan, the Banff Centre, and Program Initiative for Art and Architecture Collaboration. She recently organized a “Queering Wikipedia Editathon” at the Tom of Finland Foundation Library in Echo Park in conjunction with Open Access week.”

Katie will be submitting a sculpture entitled “Literaturwurst (Tom of Finland XXL)”.

WebsiteSculpture Information

Simon Croft

“I’m a trans-man living and working in London. I transitioned in my early 30’s and began making art at roughly the same time, partly to explore and express my own transition and partly to pursue a more creative approach to life generally. My practice often plays on the paradoxes of trans-existence and reflects on my own experiences as a trans-man.

I believe creative works of all kinds play a vital role in broadening the visibility of trans people and in developing a visible trans / gender variant / queer community and culture which values trans-ness.”



“I’m a 22 year old trans man who enjoys beer, sandwiches and crosswords. I can make an origami velociraptor, get halfway through a Rubik’s cube and occasionally dabble in writing and art.”

lSophie Green

“Sophie’s work is influenced by bright colour, the natural world and finding pleasure in the mudane. Her artwork reflects her background in Graphic Design and her love of illustration. Living and working in Liverpool has been a great inspiration for Sophie’s work; ‘There’s never a dull moment living in this city!’

Sophie’s work can currently be viewed at various galleries and exhibitions across the UK. Previous commissions include Children’s Illustration, Character Design, Fashion Illustration and Presentation Visuals. Sophie has produced work for Liverpool’s Go Penguins and Chester’s Rhino Mania Projects. She has also designed and painted many Superlambanana sculptures for private commissions.”


Geoffrey Kayser

“jh 31 ans, vivant d’amour et de bière à Strasbourg , France…”


Kelly Nixon

“Hi, I’m Kelly. I live in Belper, Derbyshire. I love Art, Drawing, Fashion, Photography and all things creative. I am currently looking at ways to begin a new career freelancing which I hope will work alongside my own transition. I studied image and fashion styling at Limperts Academy of Design, and I am also fashion editor for Transliving magazine and design and contribute fashion editorial work for the magazine.”


Ralph Francis Fox

“Creative trans man living in Brighton UK, My Transsexual Summer contributor and screen-printing obsessive.”

Fox’s print is hand made on canvas and will be autographed by all of the participants of My Transsexual Summer.


Suzanne Parnell

“Hi, I’m Suzanne. I transitioned 4 years ago whilst working at The Post Office and completed my journey in Montreal two and a half years ago under the expert care of Dr Pierre Brassard – that is if you ever complete your journey! I took early retirement earlier this year and discovered that I could paint a bit after attending a local art course. Now I spend a lot of my time developing my watercolour skills and am growing in confidence. One day I would like to be confident enough to show my work publicly.”


Sara Davidmann

“Sara Davidmann is an artist/photographer. Sara’s photography is internationally exhibited and published. She is currently working with TransBareAll on a photography book project on trans relationships. She is also co-editing a book on ‘Photography, Art and The Transgender Body’ with Stephen Whittle.

Previous exhibitions include Paris Photo, Basel Art Fair, ‘Somatechnics’ Sydney, ‘Transfabulous’ London, MOMA Oxford. Publications include: Beyond Borders in Transgender Identities 2010; Border Trouble in SCAN: Journal of Media, Arts, Culture 2006; Crossing the Line 2003. Sara has received numerous awards for her work, most notably a Fulbright Hays scholarship, Association of Commonwealth Universities Fellowship, Promising Researcher Fellowship, Wellcome Trust Grant and four Arts and Humanities Research Council awards.”


Luis Pedro de Castro aka Strangelfreak

“Born in Portugal, Luis Pedro de Castro always had an interest in working against discrimination and helping others with his artworks. After living in Barcelona for 6 years, dedicated himself to portraying non heteronormative lifestyles, and sharing his vision with the world. Criative director at Strangelfreak in Lalaland, a photography and illustration blog that serves as a continuous diary on his surreal and humourous life.”