Homo and transphobic hate crimes in Soho

Soho used to be a fun filled den of iniquity where gays, prostitutes and drunk legends convened to play side by sideThe law may have become more favorable for LGBTQI people in the UK but there has been a recent increase of homo and transphobic hates crimes in the area.

I used to think Old Compton Street in Soho was Disneyland and found it one of the most exciting places in the world, where anything seemed possible. It didn't matter what you wore or who you chose to sleep with, it was all part of the joyous cocktail of humanity.
In the late 90s, I was sat outside Old Compton Cafe one sunny mid-week afternoon (a 24 hour cafe that was utterly brilliant at any hour to eat, drink, smoke and hang out in various states. It's now Balans Cafe). Three noisy lads came stomping down the street, rowdy, swigging beer cans and started shouting aggressive homophobia once they worked out they were in Gay Town. A man nearby stood up and shouted “no boys, go away, you're on our patch now”. Another stood up supporting him, then another until all of us who were sat outside various establishments joined in. They soon awkwardly shuffled off towards Shaftesbury 
Avenue looking well and truly embarrassed to have been told off by a bunch of poofs. We all nodded and smiled at each other. Justice had been done.
It felt like a bold act of 
comradery that while the world might not tolerate queers just yet, Old Compton Street is sacred gay ground. Gay area, gay rules. Fast forward to summer 2014 and it's not the same place.
Within the past few months alone, there have been numerous homophobic attacks in Soho. Not merely verbal, many physical. Several queer friends have been attacked in an area that used to be our safe zone.

A friend who has done a huge service to London's queer community was told he wa
s a disease and needed to be cleansed before being beaten. Another was pulled around by their hair for intercepting a young queen being abused. Numerous other have been told they're disgusting freaks, called every name under the sun and threatened with violence for being so abhorrent. Simply for being different to the heteronormative norm. What the fuck is happening?

Where are the police and what are they doing about this? Every time an incident happens, people are actively encouraged to report the incident in the hope that there will be some kind of justice. However, the punch on the nose I received for intercepting a transphobic attack 
on New Years Day 2013 has remained in the vaults. We had the guys phone and it happened on Piccadilly, but were told they can't trace the phone and there is no CCTV evidence. One, it was a phone that you'd need a contract for. Secondly, no CCTV on Piccadilly? Really?
The police couldn't be bothered. Some queers get bashed, ah well, too much paper work to be arsed. Yeah, thanks for that.
Despite my own crap experience, we should still report attacks.
I've always been of the belief that the law will act if there are statistics. Well I'd like to think so.

It's not just physical attacks that are the problem. There are numerous hustlers and shady dealers who hang around certain spots in Soho who are openly hostile and verbally homo and transphobic. As are some of the rickshaw drivers who loiter for punters. Same goes for the door staff of various clubs.
I moaned about the lack of police presence in Soho recently on Facebook and was told that they are very helpful regarding gay owned and run businesses. Quite possibly when it comes to box ticking and doing their 'community bit' but where is the on-the-street action? Where the hell are they when these attacks are happening so regularly in such a small area? 
Why hasn't the press picked up on this? If this kind of abuse was regularly happening to any other minority group, there'd be an outcry. 

So what can we do? Rally a queer lynch mob? That sounds fabulous and as much as I'd personally like to spend time in a locked room with a baseball bat with these bigoted arseholes, if you fight fire with fire, you just get more fire.
Look, I'm nobody. Just someone angry with an opinion who thinks innocent people deserve to be and feel safe. 
We need proper action. Do you know somebody who knows someone who can actually do something? Contacts in the mainstream media? A pushy MP? Someone with power and influence?
If there is something in the national press about this, surely the police would have to act or have a visible presence on the streets?
Ultimately homo and transphobia needs to be eradicated but until that happens, we need the law and Westminster to get off their arses and support us.
We need to support each other too. Less apathy, more action.

x

Note. There are numerous homo and transphobic attacks happening regularly all over the UK and this needs to be addressed as a whole.
I've written about Soho as it's an isolated area where many incidents are happening.

P.S.  It's all good and well preaching to the converted but this needs to be more than a gay media issue but a national one for any change.
Many people believe since queers can now marry, all the problems have just magically disappeared when out here on the ground, it seems to be getting worse.

My First Fringe

For many a year, I doubted myself good enough to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It seemed like some far away place where performers were made or broken. Without financial backing or a producer, I never thought it possible.
But I took the risk and turns out to have been one of the best things I've ever done. 

This being my first, I thought I'd ease myself in with an eleven show run of my biographical show 'Sorry I'm A Lady'. 

Edinburgh is stunning, like a chocolate box Danish fairy-tale and the people, absolutely lovely.  My venue, The Street were fantastic to work with. Owners Wendy and Louise are fabulous and always felt like they were on our side. Great food, good drinks deals, pop in if you're in the city.
The audiences were incredible. Besides one quiet night, I had a packed house most evenings. There was one night where a group came in clearly expecting sing-a-long campy drag and the occasional blip but I learned something from every show.

There are numerous tales of people losing vast amounts of money hiring a venue and selling tickets at the Fringe so chose to be part of the PBH Free Fringe where all performances get a free venue and do a bucket collection at the end of the show. As incentives, I auctioned a limited edition 'Holestar Coaster' every night and offered signed posters and CDs. My hope was to break even and I well surpassed that. Some audience members wanted selfies, others hugs, one girl said she loved the show but had no money but would I accept a bag of chocolates? Yes, yes I would.
The show is now exactly how I want it to be. After previously performing it for two, week long runs at Vogue Fabrics, The Cube in Bristol and Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, it's been snatched and tightened into a well oiled machine. (Massive thanks to Myra Dubois and Jonny Woo for helping shape shifting it). Hey, it even got a four star review in The Scotsman newspaper.
I love performing it. Yes it's a self indulgent biographical show but I like it. It's got highs, lows, cabaret, performance art, silliness, politics, campness, a lot of singing and a poo story. The basis of the show being if someone like me can go through a bizarre history of leaving school with no education, mental and physical health problems, being in British army, a brothel receptionist, artist, dominatrix, drag starlet and can learn to love themselves and live their dreams of showing off in-front of people, well anyone can. Performing at the Fringe has made me realise I am capable of this kind of thing and can carry a solo show. But writing, directing, promoting and performing the show myself is exhausting so I need to apply for funding, find a producer and take the show on tour, spread the love and concentrate on being fabulous.

During two weeks in Edinburgh, my only regret was not seeing enough shows. So much of the day revolved around painting my face, endless PR, getting into town (from the lovely Alan and Fiona's house) and prepping myself that going to see other work was tricky. Though I did manage to pop into Christeene, The Lipsinkers, Mz Kimberly, Dandy Darkly and Illicit Thrill, all of which were fabulous. Props also to Cabaret Roulette whose show was on at The Street before mine and managed to see some incredible performers.Besides my eleven shows, I managed to squeeze in additional performances at Dive, Church of High Kicks, Musical Bingo, a quick show at Menergy, Glasgow and a four hour DJ set. Tried a deep fried Mars bar (which was hideous, not the crispy, gooey mess I'd hoped for), flyered in the pouring rain, laughed about the predictable abundance of 'straight blokes in a t-shirt' doing observational comedy, drank Pussy Bombs and left the city knackered but sated.

I adored my first Fringe, it surpassed all expectations.
Humbled, grateful. I'll be back.
x


RuPaul, Tranny and the word police

Let's break this down...RuPaul's Drag Race had a segment every episode where Ru's voice would be heard as a precursor to an on-screen message as "Oooh girl, you got She-Mail". There was a Female or She-Male picture guessing game on a recent episode. Both have been axed and removed from the show.

The gay village area of the internet went loopy, accusing trans people having no sense of humour and demanding it's reinstatement.

What. The. Actual. Fuck?

Assuming that most of RuPaul's Drag Race viewers live in the west, does a few words being axed from a TV show really matter in the grand scheme of things? "Oooh but I'll miss it and it was such a huge part of the show". Seriously, shut the fuck up dear. You'll forget about it next week when you're wittering on about your latest app hook up or Britney's tits.

There are people being fucking executed, maimed, abused, black mailed and humiliated for being LGBTQ. Right now. In 2014. Get some bloody perspective. There are 82, yes 82 countries where it is illegal to be a faggot, rug muncher, poof, dyke, sausage jockey, bean flicker, arse bandit yes, even tranny. Are a few words missing from a TV show really that important?
Who really gives a fuck? Current gay rights and wrongs appear more and more superficial. Do we simply forget our queer siblings in Russia because the Olympics are over? Do we even give a shit about what has happened in India, Nigeria and Uganda? Out of sight, out of mind. It is now legal for gays to marry in the UK, hurrah. Channel 4 celebrated by putting on the most clichéd musical ever imagined but at least it managed to tack on a bit about our siblings overseas who do not have the same luxury of queer freedom.

Trans folk are not victims but we must remember they are part of our family and a unrepresented minority. There isn't a major, white collar charitable body representing trans people so they have had to police things themselves. (I stopped supporting Stonewall as they dropped Transgender people from their remit. A charity that names itself after the Stonewall Inn in New York, a place that kick started the queer revolution whose patrons were drag queens and trans people. Go figure). Do you think there are marching around in moral victory because a TV game show dropped something that offended them? No you silly buggers. They are too busy living their lives and living in a world (even a privileged western one) that is yet to accept them fully. 

However, as much as I loathe to admit agreeing, in part, with Julie Burchill (who is turning into a mad transphobic bully), there is a harsh policing of words from an academic minority. I'm not going to call them out here but some (and remember this a minority) have successfully managed to bamboozle people into a 'our way or the highway' dogma by enforcing strict rules on what people say or are, harassing those who don't agree or conform. Hell, I've even been threatened with violence for using the term tranny. 

I've recently though long and hard about tagging myself the 'Tranny with a Fanny', worried that it causes offence and not wanting to upset my trans siblings. I've been told as a cis gendered woman, I have privilege (as a working class woman with no security or money, chronic depression and Hyper Mobility Syndrome, I'm hardly privileged...but it's not a minority contest) but I don't consider myself what the academic echelons call a cis gendered woman.
I have female genitals yet have a high level of testosterone in my blood. I have have one, maybe two periods a year.  I have one ovary, that's poly-cystic and I'm going to have a hysterectomy soon. In my day to day life wearing no makeup, I'm frequently mistaken for male.
What am I? Human. What are you?  Human (unless you're an exceptionally smart beast then bravo to you).
Yes I'm in a lucky position that my over the top performative transition is temporary but do we really need to keep putting ourselves into more boxes? Yes it makes life easier for people to compartmentalise themselves but really? Can we not all just be human in various states of gender, race, size, ability and sexuality?

As for calling myself Tranny with a Fanny, I won't be bullied into dropping it. Yes it's a cheeky, immature play on words but it comes from a place of love and celebration, not hate and the implications of words are about context. Trans people and academics who use long words to describe things, I come in peace. I'm an ally and support you but I'm an outsider, a queer and don't like rules.

Take this quote from the fierce Jayne County who does a HUGE amount of good for transgender people.

"I RESENT "Transfascists " telling me I can't use the word 'Tranny' . There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with that word and who gave some uptight, self righteous , I wanna be normal , asshole Trans dictator the right to decide what words we can an cannot use!"

What about the fabulous Mzz Kimberley who had a show called 'Tranny Sings The Blues' and whose signature number is a cover of Peggy Lee's' I'm A Woman' as 'I'm a Tranny..... T.R.A.N.N.Y'. Should she be stopped by the language police? No. (Though check out this article by a trans bully about her performance)
Both transgender women have the prerogative to call themselves whatever they want to. As do I. 


I fully appreciate that people get sucked into queer theory and want to do the "right thing" but it's unfair to start demanding people who have been using words within queer communities (for a long, long time) what labels they can or can't use and who to be. If you wish to remain within the safe restrictive walls of hetro normative and gender binary conformity, well hurrah for you.
Queers need to retain some sense of punk rebelliousness otherwise we're doomed to suburbia in a semi detached with 2.4 kids and a hatchback. And a Labrador. Everyone should have the right to confirm but we also deserve the right of not wanting too. And no amount of word policing will change that.

Right...I'm off to host Englands official screening RuPaul's Drag Race...
x

P.S. Sign up to www.allout.org Signing a petition might not save the world but my god it's start.

P.P.S. Read Kate Bornstein's take on the word

P.P.P.S. I've a mad weekend, holler if you're in London. Drag Race tonight, performing at Thursgays tomorrow, guest host for  Kitsch Cabaret Saturday and hosting karaoke for rich drunk people on Sunday. 


Back to school..Drag 101



Hello dears. How are we? It's been a while.
I'm currently hosting the Official English screening of Season 6 of RuPaul's Drag Race and last night, I decided to play a little game of Drag Family Fortunes. One of the questions was "Name a film by John Waters". Neither of the contestants knew ANY films by John Waters. Shocked? I should co-co.


Drag culture does not begin and end with Drag Race and Beyonce darlings. Every drag starlet should be schooled in the basics and know their herstory. You could study gender and be academic about it but this is a lesson in the basics of drag in media and popular culture (all references can be easily found on the internet).

This isn't a definitive guide but an introduction to western drag heritage.
Let's go to school...

This is a given. If you want to know the origins of "shade", "reading" and "realness" you need to watch this 80s documentary about the origins of the Black and Latino New York ball scene (and where Madonna pinched Voguing from).


John Waters
Waters brought the goddess Divine to the big screen. Enough said. Watch Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, Polyester, Desperate Living, Serial Mom, Hairspray...


Drag related films
Priscilla Queen of the Desert, The Cockettes, Stonewall, The Queen, Wigstock, Too Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar, Kinky Boots, Before Stonewall, Squeezebox, Tootsie, Party Monster, Shortbus, Some Like It Hot, The Birdcage, Bent, Flawless, Mirror Mirror, Pageant, The British Guide To Showing Off, Velvet Goldmine, Yentl, The Naked Civil Servant, Lust in the Dust...

Camp films
Grey Gardens, Valley Of The Dolls, Mommie Dearest, Sunset Boulevard, Whatever Happened To Baby Jane, Witches Of Eastwick, In Bed With Madonna, Showgirls, Heathers, Mean Girls, Drop Dead Gorgeous, Barbarella, Strictly Ballroom, Abigail's Party...

Musicals
There's a lot of ridiculous cheese in musicals but a hell of a lot of fabulousness and over exaggerated expressions to be learnt, whether in film or onstage.
Victor/Victoria (my ultimate inspiration, obviously), Cabaret, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Gypsy, Rocky Horror Picture Show, A Star is Born, West Side Story, Singing in the Rain, La Cage Aux Folles, Dreamgirls, Chicago, Sound of Music, Grease 1 and 2, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Hair, Little Shop of Horrors, Evita, Oliver!, A Chorus Line, Mary Poppins, Sweet Charity, Thoroughly Modern Millie, My Fair Lady, The Wizard of Oz...

Trans Stars
I'm horrified when I hear queens being transphobic. Stop it, it's vile. Transgendered people deserve more respect than any ignorant drag queen. Their gender isn't performative and face the world every day. Respect them.

Justin Vivian Bond, April Ashley, Our Lady J,  Buck Angel,  Genesis P-Orridge, Marsha P. Johnson, Amanda Lepore, Paris Lees, Chaz Bono, Laverne Cox...


Divas
Rihanna, Kylie and Britney are not divas. They are pop stars crafted for our entertainment. A real diva is someone who embodies something ethereal. They are bold, full of talent, confidence and embody genuine fierceness, not something appropriated for sales.

Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Bette Midler, Grace Jones, Barbra Streisand, Marlene Dietrich, Aretha Franklin, Maria Callas, Florence Foster Jenkins, Joan Collins, Diana Ross, Patti Labelle, Chaka Khan, Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, Mae West, Debbie Harry, Kate Bush, Stevie Nicks, Lena Horne, Nina Hagen, Madonna, Carmen Miranda, Bjork, Donna Summer, Josephine Baker, Bettie Page, Tempest Storm, Helena Bonham Carter, Tilda Swinton, Julianne Moore, Liza Minnelli, Miss Piggy, Shirley Bassey, Eartha Kitt, Dolly Parton, Edith Piaf, Janis Joplin, Courtney Love, Tina Turner, Cher, Elizabeth Taylor, Adele, even  Beyonce...

TV
Comedy is brilliant for drag inspiration. Not Miranda and certainly not Mrs Brown's Boys.
Watch the Lucky Bitches sketch by French and Saunders to get going. Most of these aren't drag related but all have glorious performative elements of camp.

Victoria Wood, The Golden Girls, Kenny Everett, Absolutely Fabulous, Queer as Folk, Nighty Night, Girls On Top, Tales of the City, Are You Being Served? Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie, Ja'mie Private School Girl, Keeping Up Appearances, Birds Of A Feather, Fawlty Towers, The Good Life, Father Ted, 'Allo 'Allo, Hi-De-Hi, The League Of Gentlemen...

Music and Clubs
As I mention in my hit show 'Sorry I'm A Lady' (that is going to Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2014!!), Britain in the 80s was awash with gender benders. Have a look at the history of London clubs Blitz, Taboo, Kinky Gerlinky and Kashpoint.
For New York drag and club kid history, go and watch the videos by Nelson Sullivan.


Boy George, Steve Strange, Marilyn, Pete Burns, CHRISTEENE, Amanda Lear, Jayne County, Hard Ton, Jobriath, RuPaul, Sylvester, Divine, David Bowie, Prince, Liberace....

People
I tend to lean towards the alternative end of drag but it's important to be aware of other styles and innovating gender benders.

Queer
Leigh Bowery, David Hoyle, Klaus Nomi, Joey Arias, Vaginal Davis, The Bloo Lips, Lindsay Kemp,  Jackie Beat, Peaches Christ,  James St James...

Classic Drag/Female Impersonators
Danny La Rue, Regina Fong, Lily Savage, Dick Emery, Dame Edna Everage, Hinge and Bracket, Lady Bunny, Charles Pierce, Bugs Bunny...

Notes

Stonewall
Not just the name of an LGB charity who have excluded the trans community (cough) but a bar in New York. In 1969, on the day of Judy Garland's funeral, it was the drag queens and trans people of the Stonewall  Inn who had enough of police persecution and kicked off modern American gay liberation. More.

Polari
It was illegal to be gay in the UK until 1967 and many "theatrical" men adopted a private language known as polari to communicate in public places. Get the basics here so you can greet your chums with "How bona to vada your eek!" (How lovely to see your face).

British drag
Drag comes from Shakespeare. Women weren't allowed to act onstage so in the margins of the script, men were prompted to be D.R.A.G. (Dressed As A Girl). We also popularised men dressing as ladies in pantomime and ladies as boys in vaudeville.

Other cultures
Gender bending and transexualism isn't a western phenomenon. People have been cross dressing and transitioning since we climbed out of our caves. Many cultures recognise the third gender. In South Asia; Hijra, Thailand; Katoey, Native American Indian; Two-spirit or berdaches.
In India there's a fabulous type of drag called 
Kathakali and Japan, Kabuki. 

So there you go. Not an extensive list but a starter package. If there's something missing, don't pout, share it out.
She you down at Madame Jojos over the next eight weeks for RuPaul's Drag Race and if you want to perform in my open drag competition, all the details are over on the event page.
x


So that was 2013

It's the end of 2013, time to reflect and all. Here's a list of pop culture things that tickled my pickle and some of my doings.
It's been a pretty good one.


Things and people of the year

Dickhead
Vladimir Putin
(Go buy a 'Piss on Putin' shirt from Victory Brand)
Parody
Steve Kardynal  Wreaking Ball
Unintentional hilarious video
Geri Halliwell - Half of Me 
(Kayne's Bound 2 a close second)
Group number
Gay Bingo at Hackney Empire - Rasputin
Catwalk moment
Nigela Lawson
Woman  
Lucy Fizz
Pop song Little Mix –Move
Unimportant things I'd like to see disappear in 2014.
Onesies. "Ironic" Christmas jumpers. Payday loans. Beats by Dre headphones. EDM. Dalston gentrification. Anything that says "Keep Calm & Carry On". TOWIE. Katie Hopkins.

2013 started off pretty shitty as I was
punched in the face for defending someone in a transphobic attack.
Police have since said there's no CCTV and they can't trace the phone. It happened near The Ritz, pretty damn sure there are cameras everywhere. The phone the asshole dropped was a Blackberry, highly likely it WAS registered. Despite bruises and being shaken up, we weren't bloodied or seriously injured, they simply can't be arsed.
This has left me pretty disillusioned with the police but despite being another statistic, we still need to report all homo and transphobic attacks, even if those who are supposed to protect us can't be bothered with the paperwork.

Went off on my bi annual adventure, spending two months in Thailand and Cambodia. Swimming in the pitch black in the Gulf of Thailand off Rabbit Island, covered in neon plankton like something out of Tron being one of those life enhancing moments. Did a show in Phnom Phen and bagged my first magazine cover for The Advocate in Cambodia. Had to fly half way around the globe to be a solo cover girl.
Gave a lecture about my “practice” at the Bishopsgate Institute, wrote some articles for
Beige magazine and hosted the only official UK screening of RuPaul's Drag Race. As well as screening the show, I wanted to give new girls a platform to show off (there being so few these days) and hope to do so again this season.
May saw my début full length solo show, Sorry I'm A Lady which successfully ran for a week. It taught be so much about myself as a performer and the freedom that comes from admitting you're vulnerable. Thanks to Jonny Woo for helping me shape it and Ben Walters for his constructive critique.

Hosted karaoke for drunk posh people in west London (something I see akin to when I was in the army. Once you establish you're the boss, they tend to fall into line), sang my Jungle Book megamix at the London Zoo (very surreal) and returned to turn it out at the NYC Downlow at Glastonbury which was a return to form.

Did a fair few charity gigs, my own night POP came to the end of it's run at Vogue Fabrics (reviving in February at the Black Cap) and DJed for Sink The Pink, Popstarz and LLGFF.
Within two weeks, I performed with alt drag hero, David Hoyle in Liverpool, performed in front of film hero, John Waters and sat behind music production hero, Giorgio Moroder, while he was being interviewed for TV.
Talking of TV, I've been asked to be filmed for three different things this year. Non of which I've said yes too. I'll do TV, should the right thing come along. Until then, I'll laugh at myself on my own terms thanks. Also bagged my second magazine cover for Out North West. Someone got a bit carried away with the photoshop mind.

Debuted my new character 'Fat Madonna' at the RVT (she's bored of hot Brazilians, yoga and trying to maintain a mainstream idea of youth. She's moved to the north of England to eat pies, go dogging and sing megamixes of her old hits in a misheard lyrics style).
Performed at the Hackney Empire as part of the ten year anniversary of Gay Bingo. The Rasputin/Russian finale was quite the spectacle and an incredible night. Do wish there were more occasions where the drag fraternity could get together to create something fabulous, but y'know, bitches be busy.

Spent most of December as part of The Imaginarium which despite it's problems, was filled with an incredible cast of freaks, eccentrics and lovely people. There's usually at least one person who gets on my tits in a similar production but all the performers were adorable and professional.



So now. It's New Years Eve and I'm sat at my parents having just played Trivial Pursuit. Like my birthday on the 28
th December, I hate NYE and prefer to stay away from the madness. It's like the Thursday before Easter weekend, when most rational and sane people turn into utter monsters.

Coming up for 2014, there's a second London run of Sorry I'm A Lady as a Love Edition in February (also taking it up to Edinburgh Fringe Festival and should I find a producer, on the road). POP! moves to The Black Cap in Camden, more teaching queer performance and alternative drag at a few universities (heavens!), co promoting new 90's house night, 'Handbag', more from Fat Madonna and a brand new singing/performance concept which I'll keep under my bonnet for the moment.

So that's it. Come to my show if you're in London February 10
th – 15th. It's quite good.

Hope you have a ruddy marvelous 2014 etc etc.

x