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.
I don’t really want to be ‘tranny activist’ and have to get all political and fight-for-your-rights. Or perhaps more accurately I get resentful when I have to deal with stupidity or malice in others, so I tend to overcompensate while lashing out. Or run away crying and plan to rain nuclear death upon entire continents. Either or.
So, I’ve just woken up from a pleasant afternoon nap while reading Li Cunxin’sMao’s Last Dancer, and reminiscing on what a boon to the world the Chinese post-lunch snooze is. While reading my usual news feed overload of daily blogging I was like “Guangxi’s first tranny? nah there’d be thousands there… nah actually they’re all in Guangzhou”.
Then I got to, “I must say, medical science did a pretty good job on him, eh, her.” Oh really? You must say eh? Oh. And did you pause your typing stumps long enough to consider whether your witty remark had ever possibly perhaps been considered by anyone in the past millennium at all, or were you so caught up in the sheer brilliance of your razor-like mind doing the personal pronoun equivalent of inventing the wheel, you were like, omg! wtf! lol! and went on to hit the ‘post’ button feeling well-smug with yourself?
I’ll probably regret it as I always do when I get snarky, imagining future decreases in employability from my lack of social graces, but once again, educate yourself coz you sound like the “gonna make you squeal like a pig” dude in Deliverance when you post rubbish like that.
In the early 90’s poor farmers across rural China made a few extra kuai by selling their blood. The syringes and other equipment were not sterile, and were reused over and over. Today up to 60% of villagers in places like Wenlou in Henan provence are infected with HIV/AIDS. They have little money for healthcare and basic medication, and whole families are dead, dying or ill.
Director 陈为军 Chen Weijun spent much of 2001 in this village with the Ma family, filming their lives. The father, 马深义 Ma Shingyi and all but one of the three children (second daughter Ma Rong 马荣 8, youngest son Ma Zhancao 马占槽 4) are HIV+ and recently their mother 雷妹 Ma Leimei died, leaving much of the responsibility on the eldest daughter, 马妞 Ma Niu who is 12. His film, 《好死不如赖活着》 To Live Is Better Than To Die has won a number of awards, and screened around the world, including at the Sundance Film Festival in 2003.
Q: Why is the film titled “To Live Is Better Than To Die”?
Chen: This is a popular saying in China. It is a way for the Chinese to face up to disasters. This is particularly true among peasants, because they are such a special group. According to the currently fashionable idea, the peasants have not received full citizen rights. But they are the most resilient group in China and they require very little from the government and the society. As the mother in the film said, “It is enough to eat, drink and have something to wear.” In the film, the parents saw what the future was. They knew that they would be dead soon. Personally, their thinking about life and death was that they were better off dead, because they would no longer have those responsibilities. But from the film, it could be seen that they made a choice that the Chinese will make — they did not commit suicide to finish their miserable lives. Instead, they lived for their children. Even though their children got sick too, they lived in order to help their children live another day because it is better to live than die. This is why I chose that title.
During the filming, I made many friends who have AIDS. They all said that once one gets AIDS, there is no future in life. They can foresee their own deaths. Some patients told me that getting AIDS is like getting a delayed death penalty, except the delay is far too long. One keeps seeing the end, but one doesn’t seem to quite reach it.