In advance of tomorrow’s first ever NBR Present: Naked Non-Binary Babes Reading event Dr Sharon Husbands asked the instigators/curators Felix Bear Lane and Kyle Lee-Crossett some questions.
Here are the fruits of this e-conversation!
Trans and genderqueer people often appear in popular culture as symbols of the future (for good or ill).
SHAZ: HOW DID YOU COME TO YOUR THEME: “FUTURES IN THE FLESH”?
KYLE: Trans and genderqueer people often appear in popular culture as symbols of the future (for good or ill). Of course, transgender and genderqueer or gender variant people have been around for a long time (as one of our texts, Leslie Feinberg’s Transgender Warriors, shows) but I think the feeling of being on the cusp of the future does ring true for a lot of us. It’s an exposing feeling.
This was brought home for me recently, when I was experiencing a minor medical complaint I thought might be related to my hormone use. Not only did I not have access to a specialist doctor (thanks to NHS waiting times) but I realised that even if I had, there’s been so little research on transgender health that they might not have answers. As someone who has mostly had a quite a comfortable transition, it was a reminder that my body is still on the edge, and mostly unknown. But then all human bodies are pretty mysterious ecosystems!
‘Futures in the Flesh’ was a way of taking that sometimes scary, exposed feeling of having a trans or genderqueer body (irrespective of physical transition) in society and putting it in the context of an NBR event–where the exposure is very literal, but it generates warmth and connection instead of shame and fear.
FELIX: As predictable as perhaps this is, my first hero/ine is Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, mostly because of the profound effect that reading this book had on me when I was about 19. Although Woolf and indeed the entire Bloomsbury Set are not without their problems, being upper class and white and super privileged, the way that Woolf so simply explained that Orlando just woke up one day and was another gender was magical to me at that time in my life. No-one made a big fuss about it, the change just happened, and then Orlando got on with the other stuff of life, and I often wish for a future where it was this easy to be accepted as trans.
My other big hero is S. Bear Bergman, who is the author of one of the texts we have chosen tonight. Bear is an amazing storyteller, activist, parent, and generally delightful person, and I was lucky enough to meet him a few years ago. He writes beautifully about being a queer, trans, Jewish, dad and the adventures of him and his husband raising their children in Toronto. He has a great advice column called ‘Ask Bear,’ and also a publishing company called Flamingo Rampant that makes queer kids books.
SHAZ: WHAT DREW YOU INTO THE TEXTS YOU’VE CHOSEN FOR THE READERS?
KYLE: I’m a huge science fiction fan, so that was always on this list of possible themes for our collaboration. What I didn’t fully realise was that although there are many science fiction and fantasy stories that deal with gender and sexuality, there’s not much by trans and genderqueer writers that’s readily available.
We picked one selection out of the 2017 collection Meanwhile, Elsewhere, which is a whopping 450 pages of science fiction and fantasy all-trans authors –although my favourite story, ‘No Comment’ was much too long to feature. Let me tell you about it anyway:
‘No Comment’ is the hilarious and poignant story of a radical, sarcastic Palestinean-American transwoman who receives the first successful womb transplant. It just so happens that the womb she receives is pregnant with the second coming of Jesus. It’s both a shocking and oddly feel-good meditation on struggling to own your own body. I loved it. I tried to have the other stories and essays we selected embody some of the warmth, delightful weirdness, or the surprise I felt reading that story.
FELIX: Kyle and I both love S. Bear Bergman, and so were both keen to include him in our readings. The anthology that the particular text we chose comes from is all about family, the ones we come from and the ones we make for ourselves. This idea that we can find community within our trans and queer circles is really important, especially for folks without connection to their blood relatives. It talks about Bear’s imaginings of growing old as a queer person which is a nice thing to think about I reckon, as it doesn’t get as much airtime, and it’s good for queer folks to imagine their own happy futures.
Choosing La JohnJoseph’s text is a little bit of nepotism I suppose because I’m their boyfriend, but I’d argue it’s so excellent that we would have chosen it regardless! It’s talking about an alternative universe in which AIDS was treated like any other epidemic, and got the support and resources that it should have done in our reality. It’s a poignant message because there is still so much stigma around HIV/AIDS even with things like PrEP coming in and people living long and happy lives being HIV positive.
Our event is at The Karaoke Hole, 21 June from 7pm. Tickets are £10 online (no fee) or on the door (cash only). Venue is card or cash.