Life on the Stage: Transgender and Scenes of Public Performance
Transgender studies covers a broad field of inquiry, from the historical investigation of human gender diversity and “subcultural lives,” to law and the regulation of LGBT rights across the globe. The documentaries collected here explore transgender phenomena by documenting the lives of extraordinary performers who continually blur the line between life and art.
Providing us with incredibly rare interviews of the pioneers of gender reassignment surgery, I Am a Woman Now is a powerful and moving history of early transgender cultures and practices. Five women look back on half a century of life as trans, unraveling their unique biographies and the different scenes that brought them together, such as a Parisian nightclub where many of them acted as female impersonators. It is the stage where many trans lives flourish: The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye offers an intimate portrait of performance artist Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, a pivotal figure of the British underground music scene, and his long-time love and collaborator, Lady Jaye. Over the course of a decade, the couple underwent daring sexual transformations for their “Pandrogyne” project. A music-documentary, Turning with Antony & the Johnsons follows Antony and the Johnsons and Charles Atlas’ European tour. At its center of this work are a series of interviews with the trans women who perform in this extraordinary show. The work also details the extent in which queer theories are revitalized in the music and performance milieus, where scenes of self-presentation, collectivity and belonging are enacted and reformulated. While the tone of these works remain largely utopian, some questions remain: how has consumer capitalism appropriated diverse sexual expressions? What is at stake in the commodification of the transgender underworld?