Talking about me in yusra magazine the other day, and guess what turned up in my mailbox? The Special Edition came out in June last year and first attempt at sending a copy to me didn’t work out but second attempt did. Tight as fuck cover and it’s never not a thrill to see my writing in a language I cannot read. And to whoever chose the artwork for the facing page, thank you for honouring perfect boobs. When I said, “I mean, mostly I want boobs I feel their bounce of when I walk.” I meant exactly those. (And tentacles are also welcome but that’s for another life.)
Category Archives: Dance
Posts with subject matter about or referring to dance, like dance theatre, contemporary dance, ballet, improvisation, performances, live art, in Europe, Asia, Australia.
Yusra Magazine #9: Visions on Utopia
It was last year already, late-January, when Vass asked me to write something for yusra Magazine. I vommed a bunch of words about utopia, was well thrilled to get published in Greek, and immediately forgot to blorg the actual words. And cos I have not done anything on here this month, and for some reason (also immediately forgotten) I was re-reading it the other day, here we go. Me, slightly less than two years distant, would rewrite, reframe some of this. Doing needlework on tapestry is always specific.
For the last half of my life, no matter when it cuts out, I don’t want to be the most radical person in the room. I’m not even that radical. I want my unremarkable radicality to grow around the people I aspire to be more like. I want radicality I can feel in my junk. I want radicality that screams like a redlining 767. Car, not jet. Terrifying. Not idling in a garage blipping the engine thinking this is the journey.
I want the fuck like they rule mediocre dreary pain out of our lives. I want us to have space and time without their conditions and smallness and noise.
I want fucking joy.
I want the possibilities for a liveable flourishing life which split and separated so long ago and run in distant parallels along the flanks of hills I can see but can’t cross over to, I want these to run together again, and all those possibilities no longer requiring I give up something in return for a life. Part of a life.
I mean, mostly I want boobs I feel their bounce of when I walk.
Being very clear on what utopia requires now.
World War on Eternal Terror I and II.
I have lost count of all the wars. I recite their names like poison in Shahadah. I bear witness there is no War but War.
I go back through time, unravelling colonialism, back through those wars and wars a whole century of small empires on the tip of Asia’s north-west peninsulas churning their own lands and peoples like they plough the globe. Back past the Berlin Conference, the Race for Africa, the Great Game, the Companies and royalty and politicians drawing straight lines across us, compacting us into the land with their pencil lead and rulers. Back past Marx and give him the finger, back past Kant and his civilised philosophy of racism, fucking debating us, turn around to look forward from there as the Middle Passage streams by making a triangle of the Atlantic, see the Age of Enlightenment watering graves in all the lands I’ve lived on.
Back until it’s the Renaissance. Whose renaissance? Why? Was it perspective or Constantinople or Reconquista? Back until the patron saint of Holy Roman Emperors was a Black man in the armour of nobility named Saint Mauritius.
That’s a thousand years.
I should know this all better. I have this unfathomable itch which says, if I could just make sense of this, I’d know why. Why all of this leads us to now to our graves and how we can unstitch this tapestry woven with so many bodies they are pulled like silk into threads covering walls in those castles, vast like fields and plains.
There will be no utopia as long as stolen land and water remains occupied.
There will be no utopia as long as there are borders. As long as there is money. As long as reparations remain unmade.
This is what it looks like from the other side: a thousand years forward. What was done to one planet has been done to this solar system.
There will be no utopia.
Utopia will be used against us. Utopia will find a way to remove us because we diminish its perfection. Remove. Erase. More than kill. Prevent our existence in the first place. Genocide is a historical process moving backwards and forwards in time as it resurfaces the geography upon which it takes place.
See this happening now.
See the round hole of the mouths of people saying, “Oh. I didn’t know.”
I’m trying hard to imagine utopia. I’m trying to imagine good shit. I know all about bad shit. I wake and sleep and eat with it, see it in my eyes, know it back and forward through history and add to it each day. Choose my colours for the threads I knot into that tapestry which I read right to left and left to right, all coming together and focussing on that absent, unseeable, unspeakable centre. Follow the story, follow the warp and weft in any direction and it ends with us in a ditch in a grave.
Which us? Who us? All of us. When it is done with us being trans, it comes for us being Muslim. Done with that, for crossing borders, speaking language wrong, walking wrong, learning wrong, eyes wrong colour, skin wrong colour, bones wrong shape, history and ancestors wrong. Comes for us for our desire. Comes for us when we get angry get pissed get stroppy fucking front for being told we’re wrong.
We are never right. There is no utopia on this tapestry in which we are not stitched out of existence.
I’ll try again. I’m trying to imagine utopia.
In a utopia, a real utopia, one where we all make it, I’d still want to hoon the fuck out of cars. I’m simple like that.
Okay but that’s kinda small, eh? Like, what else? Big moment here, be fucking epic or summing.
I need Lucifer to look me in my eyes and say, “So tell me, what is it you desire?” And besides being wrecked by you, Satan … shit bro, you’re asking a lot there.
Can I even imagine a utopia when I’m busy surviving? Do I even want an idea imagined by the patron saint of statesmen and politicians? I’m more patron saint of unmarried girls, spinsters, and knife sharpeners kinda chick.
I don’t want human rights. I am drowning choking on human rights. I want consequences for meanness and cruelty and hate. Not in the next life or on Yawm ad-Din. Now. Immediate. Terrible consequences. Consequences which topple cities and empires in earthquakes and floods. Ah, but those consequences rain down on us first.
I want my sisters and aunties and old ones and especially especially the young ones to have lives undiminished by that meanness and cruelty and hate. I want to see them whole. To know they will thrive long into the future. To not worry they live one eye always over their shoulder, just in case.
Back in time again. Long time back. We walked with Goddesses. We fucked for them. We warred for them. Made justice and beauty for them. Remember that.
Forget that. There is no going back. There is no utopia arriving to save us. There are no new ideas in Europe.
Indigenous Native Blak Māori Pasifika First Peoples have been fighting to survive since before Thomas More took ouτόπiā and eὐτοπία and wrote Utopia.
Their utopia first.
Car Wash + Hot Wings + Titties Thisaway
P-Valley Season 2 is damn! those bitches are messy damn! the lighting damn the camera work damn! the music damn! the poledancing the poledancing the poledancing damn! the hair makeup eyes shoes heels costumes hips butts tits skin flesh Black femininity gushing flooding drowning anyone too weak for its power (me. I am too weak) damn! Uncle Cliff she every time and damn if I did not need to sit down after all that every time Diamond’s tight fade and soft lips and eyes.
Sunset at Tempelhofer Feld under a tree along the perimeter road west of the north-east entrance. The blue sky was endlessly deep blue and the leaves a fractal hallucination for bare minutes as the sun went below the horizon.
Apparently I’m Gonna Start Running Again
Been thinking about it for a long while now. My biggest fear is I’ll get back into swimming, and start riding my bike without socks because triathlon.
I haven’t had running as a part of my training routine since Adelaide, and even that was mostly scuffing around the South Terrace parklands. But I think I enjoyed it? Anyway, not really dancing anymore and certainly not going to morning ballet class. The last time I went to one of those was mid-2018, and the last time I was in a dance studio was early-2019. So my bones are not getting the workout they need, and as much as I have superhero bones (and apparently I did not blog about my epic bone density), cycling is guaranteed to not do the job.
So, running? And off-road / trail / cross-country running ’cos my deep cyclocross love cannot abide anything else. All of which has to wait until this so far several weeks of chronic fatigue fucks the fuck off and I can do more than walking. The colour of these shoes though is way more mad hectic in real life.
Somewhere Between Krumme Laake and Dämeritzsee
Got my arse out the door and into Germanic nature today. First time in a long time. Balcony / kitchen riding on my trainer has been the default I’ve fallen into for the last few months. But I needed to actually ride and wear all that fancy gear I bought earlier in the year and do those fun things like get lost, are we there yet? and surprise! here’s a bridge where you need it.
Pink socks I wore for the first time and managed to smear my chainring all over. Lucky I was using dry lube (not the name of my sex tape) and it washed out. Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado kit. Riding outdoors with a cadence sensor makes me really wish I had a power meter (or maybe Crank Brothers would make power meter pedals?). One banana for 3 hours was cutting it fine. Two bidons was actually about right but both should have been electrolyte.
The riding though. Funny how being bolted in place on an indoor trainer makes you forget how to do things like ride on sand and roots. I’ve got weirdly strong from all the indoor trainer riding and weirdly weak in holding a good riding position. Cars are still scary, even though German drivers are generally pretty considerate — if you also make like a car and be very literal in describing what you’re about to do. Forests are the shit. East of Berlin is fucking beautiful. Lakes are also the shit. The houses out there make me yearn for living in an actual house surrounded by trees and stuff. Getting whistled at by the boyz in their whips on Sonnenallee is … cheers lads, good to know I’m home.
I won the Zwift women’s NYC sprint jersey the other day.
Bunch of words there. Zwift is the online virtual environment I train on my bike and smart trainer in; NYC is the Zwift world which has multiple routes to ride in Central Park; and the sprint jersey is a rolling leaderboard of fastest sprint, retained until someone rides faster or for a maximum length of one hour, when it’s passed on to whoever is next down the list.
So, first ride post-vaccine and feeling kinda low-level chronic fatigue-y and not wanting to abuse myself on a proper training ride and nonetheless going a little too hard on a free ride ’cos I have no modulation, I hit a downhill slope and want to make some speed. Which leads into the sprint. And I’m in the wrong gear and all of the above and because I’m an aggressively competitive cunt when it’s time to compete I want to at least put down a not shameful time. Wrong gear and feeling grotty and on a cyclocross bike but I can still spin 130+ rpm which means lots of Watts and I cross the finish line looking at my time going, “Yeah, coulda been worse,” and then “Why the fuck is my jersey green?”
It’s green ’cos the woman in second place was 1/10th of a second slower.
I’ve written before about how I avoid competing with other (cis) women because of (trans) reasons. The last years this has become much more of a mainstream spectacle with a variety of intersecting fuckeries including: Republicans trying to legislate trans girls out of sports and bathrooms; cis women athletes like Caster Semenya, Christine Mboma, Beatrice Masilingi all banned from the Olympics because regulations around women and testosterone levels, which ‘coincidentally’ seem to hit Black women; cis women like JK Rowling and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie using their massive social media following to target trans women; more legislation in the UK effectively barring access to puberty blockers for trans children. Those are the ones I can remember this morning, and because I’m talking about sport and competing here, I’m not including the almost daily murder of trans women who are disproportionately Black, Brown, Indigenous, migrants and reliably doing the only work open to us: sex work. And not the nice, sanitised, white cis women doing pole dancing classes or queer AFAB porn type of sex work either.
When I won that jersey — and let’s be clear, it’s a very minor win — I experienced the unique duality all us women — cis and trans — know, us who are made illegitimate by this legislation and the generations-long culture of cis feminism (the TERF kind, which is also white feminism and yes, you can be Black or anywhere else in the BIPoC acronym and be a white feminist) colluding with white christian conservative politics. The duality is the visceral joy of winning inseparable from the dead conviction it’s because we’re not really women. And knowing someone’s eventually going to make us winning or even turning up an issue.
I’ve been a dancer for pushing 25 years. The training and experience is inscribed all the way to my bones. It shapes how I think and feel and live, whether I’m dancing or not. I’ve been an athlete for all that time as well, both as a dancer and, at various times, rock climbing and cycling. I train around a dozen hours a week out of habit and love and to prevent myself from falling apart. Like Martyn Ashton said, “You might be physically fit but you won’t be unscathed.” I started cycling to find a way to maintain the physical intensity I need when my knees had been in constant pain for years. I’m not especially good at it, just like climbing or dance I could get to a reasonably high level of proficiency but I’d have never made it as a professional, or the upper levels which get called ‘elite’. I know my capabilities, physiological, mental, emotional, all that, and know so much of being a dancer or athlete is those last two.
But all that counts for shit when I’m a trans woman taking the green jersey off a cis woman.
When that happens, when I even show up like at the Rapha Women’s 100, the advantages I bring from those 25 years of fucking hard work are rendered null and replaced by the supposed genetic, chromosomal, hormonal, skeletal, muscular, physical, cultural, probably spiritual and astral advantages I have because I was assigned male at birth. It doesn’t matter there are cis women who are taller, bigger, stronger and way more hot than me (Hi! Liz Cambage!). It doesn’t matter how early I got on hormones — and it certainly doesn’t matter that having to prove my validity as a woman entails a violation of my privacy and self all the way into my pants and blood. And Caster Semenya knows all about that too.
As much as possible, I’m explicitly ‘out’ on Zwift. There’s no LGBT checkbox, but I do wear the Pride kit, and following the convention of putting additional info in your name, I have ‘[trans femme af]’. This isn’t about Pride or ‘feeling proud’ or about being ‘out’. To those same bones I have no interest in the colonialism upon which these words and concepts created themselves. It’s about making sure there’s visibility and representation (also words which leave me tired). Once the big name trans athletes are accounted for, there’s a massive absence of trans athletes — and dancers. I don’t want to give space to cis people to pretend we don’t exist, aren’t in the room. I do feel an obligation to make sure other trans people — especially BIPoC trans women and femmes — know they’re not the only one in the room. And there’s a long, long conversation about AFAB queer hostility to femininity and athleticism which I don’t have the skin or patience or time for here, but that’s part of it. And the exhausting whiteness of dance and climbing and cycling is another part.
I was talking with Gala yesterday and I joked my motivating force is vengeance.
So here’s how it is: I won that green jersey ’cos I’m a multiethnic trans femme aunty with decades of hard physical experience under my lingerie, who’s highly competitive and capable, who won on an off-day on the wrong bike in the wrong gear and I wasn’t even trying. I’m that fucking good.
And y’know what else? It doesn’t matter. It’s not that big, it doesn’t mean anything. In the moment of competing and winning it’s a rush and we’d do it whether there’s organised, capitalism-based sport or not. After the moment, days, weeks, years later, for the vast majority of us who never made a career out of it and for quite a few who did, it simply doesn’t feature in our lives. It wouldn’t even merit 1200 words if it wasn’t for the reality of being trans or cis women pushing our way in where, on their terms, we aren’t welcome and don’t belong.
3 Years and Done
I got an email from my Steuerberater yesterday. He wanted to let me know that after much back-and-forth for the second time, the Finanzamt had accepted my 2019 surgery as an expense against my income. So, no horrific tax bill for me, and after three years, I’m done with all that. (Unless of course the transphobic gods of German bureaucracy decide to non-consensually buttfuck me in the future for some extremely obtuse exception of German bureaucracy.)
Three years. The whole ‘earn mad cash get surgery’ process took less than a year — less than a year on my fourth attempt since my teens at stacking that paper — but the consequences of that took the extra two. Dealing with specific Finanzamt consequences, I mean. Which should serve as an object lesson for cis people in demonstrating how for trans people everything moves on a much slower time and everything involves shoving against immovable legal, medical, social, political, financial institutions and processes.
I celebrated the best way I know, having Type 2 fun. Type 2’s the fun where you suffer at the time and ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” and only later it magically becomes ‘Fun!’ (Celebrating like this mainly because I don’t have a favourite sex worker on speed dial, otherwise I’d be sorted for a different, Type 1 fun.)
Massive, unending thanks and love to my cherished ones, Dasniya, Gala, Katrin, and Vass who turned up for me during all this ?. The trans femme goddesses and deities saw you and don’t forget.
Angel 4 Papi 4EVA
That kiss. That shot. That story.
I remember when you spoke your truth, ten years ago, back in 2011, and I remember when I heard about this show you were making, feels like longer ago than 2017. I read your books too, feeling myself and my history in the story of another, so close and so distant. And I cannot put into words the joy and sadness and love I felt and feel watching Pose, seeing you and all the beautiful trans women and trans femmes on screen, Mj Rodriguez, Dominique Jackson, Indya Moore, Angelica Ross, Hailie Sahar, Our Lady J, Black and Brown and Puerto Rican and Dominican and Latina, immigrant and children of immigrants, whose lives are as real as the story you fought to tell.
That wedding banquet. All the trans women and femmes at that table. That wedding. That fantasy that was never ours, the church, the dress, the vows, Janet, the vows! Papi! Lil Papi. I loved him from the first ’cos he was so full of love and pure and so fearless when it came to defending his family. And that kiss. You went all the way. When I saw your name at the start of the episode, yours alone, Writer and Director: Janet Mock, I knew. I knew it would be this. I knew it would be us.
So there’s almost an inevitability with it, a li…
Bit of an aside from last night when I was doing my regular midnight physical salvage session, and watching the film High Stakes on GCN+ (yup, I actually threw down cash for a year's subscription to watch a bunch of white dudes talk about bikes). Martyn Ashton, who is a very funny, very talented rider who uses a wheelchair after wrecking his back (for the second time), when he talks about physical and mental injuries as an athlete is someone I have a lot of time for.
He said something I've been trying to put into words for a very long time, which applies to dance — also a professional sports career — as much as it does to cycling or climbing, all three I've devoted a lot of my life to at various times. And from the beginning I have struggled with that inevitable double bind of physically fit but not unscathed.