Dina’s Diner July 3 2017

| Jul 3, 2017

AN UNDERLYING CAUSE OF VIOLENCE

Ava LeRay Barrin

The Daily Beast is an online magazine and the June 29, 2017 edition carried an article by contributor Samantha Allen that included this phrase in the headline: “The Youngest Trans Murder Victim of 2017 (So Far).”

The article detailed the known facts of the murder of Ava LeRay Barrin who was 17-years-old when she was fatally shot in Athens, Georgia. “Her murder is the latest in a crisis of violence that continues to predominantly affect black transgender women,” the article reported. An interesting angle to the reports of trans murders, the Beast reports, is that “local news outlets frequently misgender transgender homicide victims.”

A Houston, Texas based trans blogger, Monica Roberts, has been ferreting out reports of transgender murders by piecing together clues when she suspects that authorities or police have mis-identified a trans victim using the “wrong” pronouns or birth names. “There are certain things that I pick up on when I hear about these cases,” Roberts said. “Facebook chatter will sometimes clue me in when there’s a trans murder and then, if I have the location, I can start investigating local news sources to see if they’ve confirmed the incident.”

As the headline pointed out, Ava is the youngest trans victim so far. An 18 year old trans woman was murdered in February in Louisiana. The Beast article reported: “At 2017’s midway point, there have already been over half the number of reported murders as there were in 2016 — a number that fell somewhere between 22 and 27, according to varying estimates from LGBT rights groups. The vast majority of transgender victims in 2017 have been black transgender women.”

But there was another intriguing comment in the article that seemed to hit home. “The demonization of men who prefer and like to date trans women and along with the demonization of trans femininity also plays a part in this violence that’s aimed at us – and it needs to stop,” Roberts told The Daily Beast. One wonders how many of these acts of violence (of all types, not just murder) against trans women were prompted by some feeling of injured masculinity, especially the potential recriminations of other males, if discovered socializing with a trans woman. If we get past the social stigma against men even expressing a romantic interest in transwomen, this level of violence would likely be lessened.

“What saddens and infuriates us as an organization that seeks to represent and empower Black trans women is that Ava was just 17 years old and hadn’t even had a chance to follow her dreams yet,” the organization Black Transwomen, Inc. said in a statement. Her dreams may have run right up against someone’s insecurity and fear.

PICTURE THIS

Rivera and Lillis.

The New York Times Arts and Leisure section on June 11, 2017 had an article about photographer Lissa Rivera and her partner/muse BJ Lillis under the headline “An Artist and Her Beautiful Boy.”

The Times article began: “On a long subway ride three years ago, BJ Lillis decided to share something with his friend and co-worker, Lissa Rivera. Mr. Lillis, who describes himself as genderqueer, told her that he had spent most of his college years dressing, full-time, in women’s clothing.” Ms. Rivera is a photographer so she offered to take BJ’s photo dressed as he wished to present himself. She told The Times, “So much of identity is constructed from looking at pictures. Looking at photographs and looking at a film can really change who you are.”

The initial photo sessions turned into a more significant thing than either probably imagined. They told The Times, “When we took the first photo,” Mr. Lillis said, “I felt like I’d never had my photo taken before.” That impromptu portrait session stirred something between the two of them. Over the following months they became a couple. And when they returned to the project, they brought the energy of a new relationship to it.”

Her photographs of BJ Lillis in a variety of settings (they traveled around quite a bit) and numerous wardrobe changes became a photo exhibit shown in New York City that prompted The Times arts review.

Also from The Times article: “In the most luxuriant images, Mr. Lillis’s expression is often pensive, with a tinge of sadness. The melancholy, he said, comes from “thinking about the reality of gender and different roles that people have been stuck in.” But in surrendering his likeness to his partner, Mr. Lillis also found a path toward liberation. “I’m being myself in every one of these photos,” he said.”

Photographs and crossdressing are for some a rite of passage; for some almost as important a part of their transformation as whatever psychic motivation they may have. So it was interesting to see a transgender person admit that capturing one’s true nature on film is a liberating and even elevating experience. The photographer, Ms. Rivera, knew this on an intellectual and artistic level as a matter of fact.

The Times article closed with this quote, “Our relationship was in some ways created out of taking these photographs,” Mr. Lillis said, “and the photographs were created out of our relationship.”

LOW FASHION

Fashion died here.

I had occasion to spend an hour waiting for someone in the lobby of a large hospital recently. I read a book I brought with me, perused the internet on my phone, and watched people cross the wide expanse of the reception area before me. The chair was comfortable, my book was approaching its dramatic conclusion, and I like watching people, so it was an interesting and enjoyable hour of relaxation. I made some observations on the passing parade of visitors that left me feeling a little down, though.

The male visitors were almost universally wearing t-shirts with jeans or shorts. Oh, yes, and the ubiquitous baseball cap. There are two groups of men in the U.S., it sometimes seems: those who wear baseball caps at all times in all circumstances and those who only wear baseball caps sometimes. The former are squarely in the majority, at least in my neck of the woods. The women visitors, with the exception of a few, were likewise down-dressed in unappealing (very) casual clothing. Flip flops and their variants were out in force for the females and a few males. I am assuming these people were visiting relatives or friends in the hospital. At one time, it would be a sign of disrespect to come to a hospital to visit someone dressed like you had just been walking the dog or putting a new ballcock in your toilet tank.

As a crossdresser it made me consider the desire we have to dress like women and achieve some reasonable facsimile of femininity. I don’t think any crossdresser (distinct from a trans person with genuine feelings of gender dysphoria) would have any interest in recreating the looks of the vast majority of the women in that hospital lobby. Hell, we can wear t-shirts, jeans and flip flops anytime, if that’s your thing.

Certainly, context is a part of this. My time at the hospital was mid-afternoon on a very warm day. So women weren’t going to be dolled up in cocktail dresses and high heels, of course. Does that mean crossdressers just want to be women when it involves dress-up? I think for many of us, the answer is “yes.” It’s an escape from the mundane — not an attempt to recreate the mundane while wearing women’s clothing. It also made me realize how little I understand what a trans person really feels because the motivation is so far outside my mindset.

I would like to think that a small army of crossdressers (and for sure, drag queens) coming to visit friends in the hospital would raise the fashion bar even if they simply opted for simple sundresses, pastel-colored flats, and a few baubles, bangles and beads. It would be a return to respectful dressing for a place that could sorely use some style – not a sea of beat up t-shirts and ugly flip flops. I think I just made a case for something we all believe on some level: this world needs crossdressers.

MADE IN JAPAN

From the film.

The New York Times had a brief film review of a 1969 release from Japan titled, Funeral Parade of Roses that is having a revival in one of lower Manhattan’s art houses. Here is a synopsis from the review by critic James Hoberman: “The protagonist, Eddie (played by the androgynous entertainer Peter, is a sweet hustler with a dark past. Eddie parlays an affair with a local drug dealer into becoming the madam of the Club Genet, an actual gay bar in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo. Some scenes are speeded-up slapstick; others, like a lengthy sequence of Eddie and his hippie friends high on drugs and dancing in their underwear, are cinéma vérité.”

According to The Times review and another I saw online, a lot of the action takes place in the gay bar with the actors culled from Japan’s “gay boy” culture, as it was known then. From the website Indiewire: “To say that Eddie and his cohort are shunned by society would falsely imply that they long to be part of it, but the fact remains that their exploits put them firmly out of step with the squares of their day (and, indeed, ours as well).” You can view some clips of the film on YouTube.

If you’re old enough to remember 1969, or if you’ve read about it after the fact, the film seems to tap into that subversive strain of outsider-ism that contributed to the Stonewall Riots which also happened in 1969 on the other side of the world – at a gay bar with drag queens.

The Times review also pointed out some other interesting parallels from that same era. James Hoberman in The Times compares the androgynous beauty of Peter/Eddie as akin to Andy Warhol’s gender-bending discoveries, Holly Woodlawn and Candy Darling who also became underground film starlets in this same era. He mentions that Funeral Parade did not reach New York until 1973 (four years after its Japanese release) and arrived at the same time as John Waters’ Pink Flamingos starring uber-queen Divine. In the same season, Holly Woodlawn was appearing in something called Broken Goddess, there was a gay-themed vampire movie titled Dragula showing in Manhattan, and a six week revival of the crossdressing comedy Some Like it Hot was shown at midnight theater in the city.

We’re surely living now in a “golden age of gender awareness” but isn’t it amazing to think that forty-some years ago Manhattan was almost awash in films featuring androgyny, drag queens, and big name actors in women’s clothing?

A GUIDE TO SHAMING

Shameless?

On June 30, 2017, I saw an article on Yahoo.com’s front page with the headline, “Woman Angers Social Media for Asking Why Cheeky Bikini Bottoms are Trendy.” The woman in question tweeted this comment [tweet abbreviations included], “Really wondering why it’s the in thing to wear thong bathing suits. Like does ur bf just not care that ur entire a** is out? But it’s obnoxious and disrespectful around families/children. I have a 1 and a half year old, I don’t want him seeing that.” And cue the twitter-verse backlash against this outspoken young Mom, many of which were shown in the Yahoo article.

Some of the odder objections, I thought, were those that accused the tweeting Mom of “shaming” women who wear thong bikinis. Can you “shame” a young woman who has enough body confidence to wear a thong bikini in public? The answer is, “of course,” because nowadays you can “shame” anyone for anything. So as a service to my readers, I have assembled a brief guide to “Shaming.”

If someone tells you that what you’re wearing to the LGBT Pride parade is not age appropriate and makes you look like the Bride of Frankenstein, you’ve been middle-aged crossdresser-shamed and possibly even classic-horror-movie-shamed.

When the drag show audience is chuckling during your lip-synch version of If I Could Turn Back Time, you are being Cher-shamed.

If in the heat of passion, your paramour seems disappointed in your physical endowment compared to observations from his collection of tranny porn, you’ve been she-male-shamed.

If your neighbor ridicules you for drying your just-washed car with an old rag instead of a soft absorbent piece of leather, you’re being chamois-shamed.

Getting complaints that your toilet-paper is too rough? Yep, you are being Charmin-shamed.

In the movie The Big Lebowski, when character Walter Sobchak feels that his religious commitment is not being taken seriously, he was being Shomer-Shabbos-shamed.

If, like the bold young women criticized in the Mom-tweet at the beginning of this item, you decide to wear a thong bikini to the public beach, and you elicit howls of disapproval, you are being You-Gotta-Be-F***in’-Kidding-Me-shamed.

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Category: Fun & Entertainment, Opinion

About Dina Amberle: I started crossdressing and going out publicly in 1988. I joined the Renaissance group in the Philadelphia area that year and later became chapter leader for two years in the '90s. I always enjoyed writing and wrote for the Renaissance newsletter and magazine throughout my membership years. I've been writing for TGForum for several years now. I also contributed items to LadyLike magazine and other TG publications before the advent of the internet. My hobby-within-a-hobby is singing live as my alter-ego Dina Sinatra and I have had the opportunity to do that with several accommodating performers and in a number of venues over the years since the mid-1990s. In the Diner column items here, I try to relate crossdressing or transgender themes (and my own pet peeves and fetishes) to the larger world -- and vice versa.

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