Thursday, 23 August 2012

All Hail Virgo Season!

The earlier nights, the slight chill in the morning dew (already? the west coast barely had a summer this year!), the ripening fruits and vegetables all must mean one thing ... it is now late summer ... Virgo season!

At 10:07 Pacific Daylight Savings Time on Wednesday, August 22, 2012, the Sun moved into the Virgo constellation; it will spend until autumn equinox there.

I usually feel a breath of fresh air around this time of the year and this year is no exception. I use this time to look at my progress so far in the year and think about how best to proceed with any untended commitments: whatever needs to be abandoned or rethought, I do so. Then, I focus on the attainable goals and move towards the last part of the year, which is usually packed with activities, work projects and social engagements. Again, this year will be no exception. With two large writing projects on the go, garden vegetables to harvest, a winter garden to plant (a benefit of living on the Pacific Northwest coast) and lots of household tasks (painting the washroom, getting rid of old belongings including male clothes), this fall be at least as busy as other s have been. Finally, there are transition-related goals: fully transitioning at work, getting my legal name change and the ongoing hair removal and voice training.

Me and my radio program both have birthdays coming up. More on that in another post!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

More Trans-Related Films Screening in Vancouver

A little later in the season than last year's Vancouver Queer Film Festival post, nonetheless here is a breakdown of the trans themed films screening between this Thursday, August 16 and Saturday, August 26:


Beginning with the Opening Gala film, Romeos, made in Germany, centers around Lukas a nineteen year-old transman who moves to the big city (Cologne, Germany in this case) in the hopes of starting anew. Lukas then struggles to maintain friendships and fit in with the cisgender gay male community. And, yes, there is a love interest to make things ... interesting.


A much anticipated documentary (I saw the trailer for this months ago) on the Warias ("men with the souls of women") of Indonesia. Released at the end of 2011, Wariazone is designed to take the audience on a powerful journey through the "wariazone" of the mostly Muslim country, featuring interviews and depicting the strength and steadfastness of a marginalized community.

Gender Like It Is

A series of short films from around the world dealing with transgender and genderqueer subjects and issues. Just over an hour in total length, the films are as follows:

- My Inner Turmoil 

- Ain't I a Woman

- Putting the "I" in Trans

- Transsexual Dominatrix

- The Multitude of Feverish

- Beauty and the Beast

- Face for Sale: Bitch, Bitch, Bitch


Of course, last year, all eyes were on the American indie production Gun Hill Road, which I was lucky enough to see.This year, if the sold out ticket status of this Argentinian feature is any indication, Mia is the must see ... if you have a ticket.

This film tells the story of a transwoman, via a deceased (by suicide) woman's discarded diary. As Ale, the one who discovers the writings, pieces together Mia's life, her own life comes together in unforeseen ways.


The lead character in this French documentary is an Ecuadorian transwoman living and working as a sex worker in Paris to support her family back home. Themes of family, acceptance and personal power are explored.

Funeral Parade of Roses

This year's retro film is a 1969 avant-garde piece from Japan centering around the gay and genderqueer subcultures of Tokyo. The earliest film to do so in any Asian country, Funeral Parade of Roses promises to be fascinating and a visual treat.

So, if you are in Vancouver starting tomorrow, and over the next ten days, be sure to check at least a few of these out. I know I will be.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

A New Dawn on Mad Men?

The last season of Mad Men, which ended this past June, broke new ground in many ways. One was to introduce a new, and more prominent, character in Don Draper's new secretary: and African American woman named Dawn Chambers played by the stunning actress Teyonah Parris.

She appeared briefly in most of season five's episodes, but her shining moment was in the scene with Peggy Olson (Elizabeth Moss) in the very tense and disturbing episode called "Mystery Date". The scene, which illustrated the often awkward dynamics between black Americans and liberal-minded white Americans, was very well executed and seemed like the start of some major storylines featuring Dawn. Unfortunately, there was not much focus on her for the duration of the season.

The writers of the series have begun to meet to create season six and the actors are having their contracts renewed; I think that this would be an excellent opportunity to work in an episode or two featuring Dawn as a major character, or even give her a season long story arc. I do not agree with the various opinions out there that her character is a token. How can any series that professes to be an accurate portrayal of America in the 1960s not deal with the Civil Rights movement and its impacts on the workplaces and social life? Gender issues are covered. And 1967, and beyond, where the new season is likely to pick up from was hardly early for any of the movements in the country, and the world, at the time.

And besides, Teyonah Parris needs more room to shine on the series. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

An Evening With Kate

Over the past number of years, I have to grown to love the month of August in Vancouver for a few reasons. As far as social and cultural events, the month starts off with Pride week (my posts about this year's are below). Later on in August, there is Out On Screen's Queer Film Festival which has promised and delivered on fantastic LGBTQ films from around here and around the world for years. In between and overlapping with both events is the Queer Arts Festival, a series of exhibits and performances, held at the Roundhouse Community Centre in Yaletown.

This year, the sole event I went to see, with a group of friends, was Wednesday evening's performance of monologues by transexual artist, activist and gender theorist Kate Bornstein. The last time I met Kate was eleven years ago at the 2001 North American Conference on Bisexuality and Gender Diversity. Unfortunately, I did not get the opportunity to see her perform, but I did buy one of her books (Gender Outlaw) and got her autograph which she signed "To a beautiful spirit!"

I have never forgotten that moment, nor any of her books that I have read. I eventually bought a copy of her My Gender Workbook and, a few years ago when I was not in a good way, I bought her Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws. The voice of that last book felt like that of a tough, street wise aunt with a huge heart, the kind who would invite her teenage niece in from the rain for a nice warm, bowl of soup and an afternoon of chatting and watching TV. The stunted "inner teenage niece" in me felt safe enough to come out while I read through the book which I could not put down until I had finished it.

Just over a month ago, I heard Kate on CBC Radio's Day 6 and found out that she had written a new book, a memoir called A Queer and Pleasant Danger which I have now added to my wish list. Seeing her performances about her life, family and various struggles was very moving. Her presence was a gift that I was treasure for years to come.

Thanks for your visit, Kate! Hope to see you again, someday!

Monday, 6 August 2012

Happy BC Day!

This extra day off in the middle of summer always hits the spot, this year is no exception. A day to do some garden maintenance, work on writing projects, or just rest easy with my cat while listening to CBC Radio 1.

I am however, very interested in the history of British Columbia and love talking about local history with friends over tea. This is a great day to do that.

I also use today to acknowledge the hard work that went into, and continues to go into, making this province what it is. I also remember that huge portions of urbanized and developed BC, such as the Greater Vancouver area, are on unceded First Nations territory: territory that, at the very least, we should be treating with respect and in a sustainable matter. I am a huge supporter of urban agriculture and independent, organic farms and farmers' markets. To the southeast of the city, lies the Fraser Valley, one of the most arable areas of land in North America: the quality of life for future generations in this region lies not in strip malls, big box stores, condos and subdivisions, but in safe, healthy food and reinvigorating natural spaces as well as vibrant neighbourhoods and communities. BC history helps me regain some perspective on these.

Perhaps we need to ponder these things as the powers that be debate running an oil sands pipeline through this province and sailing hundreds of tankers along its coast.

Rainbow Woman

This past long weekend (in British Columbia) will go down in history, or at least my corner of it, as one of the most action packed and, ultimately, rewarding.

It started when I left work Friday afternoon to go home and get ready for the Trans and Genderqueer March. The march was a success and a few of us took the good vibes with us when going out for a bite to eat and drinks at a nearby pub.

Sunday, however, was the apex. Early to rise followed by walking in the Pride Parade through the West End in mid-30s temperatures. Again, a fantastic though scorching event. I walked with members of the Trans-Alliance Society, sometimes carrying the banner, sometimes the pink, blue and white transgender flag, but constantly putting feminizing voice to the test by a steady round of whooping and cheering.

When the parade ended, I left right away and walked over the Burrard Bridge, something I had not done for years, since I lived on the west side actually; I definitely felt my age afterwards. I headed out to UBC to do my radio program at CITR for three hours. Then, I headed home to get ready for a dance on the east side called Unicorn Born: Genderfest's East Van Queer Pride Dance Party. It was a late night dance party capping off a week of organized social events running parallel to the official pride events. Rum and cokes and fierce dancing followed as the DJs spun almost hallucinatory beats until two in the morning. By that point, I had left, in a zombie, crying for bedtime. I actually fell asleep in the shower, standing up.

Today, I got up early to fill in for a radio colleague from eleven until noon, doing an hour of vintage reggae tracks. After that, I was interviewed by the station's magazine, Discorder, on my show turning six next month, my favourite soul artists, my personal journey and my hopes for the show in the year's to come.

My hopes in radio, like elsewhere in my life, are to be role model: to live my life authentically and then, to pass the torch so that others may do the same.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Goodbye, Norma Jean ... Fifty Years On

"And I would have liked to have known you
But I was just a kid
Your candle burned out long before
Your legend ever did."
                                                                    - Elton John, "Candle in the Wind"

Fifty years ago exactly, right about now as I write this actually, between 9 pm and 1 am August 4-5, a much loved icon, a luminous stage presence, a gifted and still young actress, a wise beyond her years lonely, wounded woman, died of a drug overdose in her Spanish style home in the Los Angeles suburb of Brentwood.

I have long been a fan of Marilyn Monroe's films, since I was about twelve, actually. It was not just her image, but something about her poise: brave, dignified underneath all of the roles she was forced to play in front of the camera and despite severe childhood trauma and a series of damaged relationships throughout her adult life. It was her dignity that always fascinated and held me, even before I was old enough to understand why. But, it may have been like that for many young women, whether or not they appeared to be young women to the outside world, Marilyn seemed to reflect both the sorrow and joy back to us.

I was always drawn to her later years, specifically her last year (her work on the film "Something's Got To Give", her birthday wish to President Kennedy, her acting classes with Lee Strassberg, her last photo sessions), for her struggles with herself and her determination to start anew in life. And she seemed so close, so close to overcoming her demons.

Life is so delicate.

We miss you, Marilyn ... even after all of these years. Where would our popular culture have gone if you had lived?

May we illuminate each other the way you illuminated us, before our candles burn out, too.