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Sarmoung
Elsewhere Radio Orchestrar / Flickr December 2008
 
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November 5th, 2003
Wednesday, November 5th, 2003 10:23 am

A curious sort of dream. The only part of it I remember now is the hardcore dyke rap band that took to the stage. The crowd were hollering and whooping. Am I supposed to have heard of them? Their stage act was a fairly good rap parody, as there were about thirty people on stage, of which only two were doing anything other than standing around looking threatening or pissed off. The main artist made a strong point of submitting to this very fat butch type in a leather trenchcoat before hitting the stage, who I assumed was playing the role of 'manager'. The look of the group was a sort of West Wing drag, with people dressed as secret service types, advisors, senators. After getting very doe-eyed with the manager, the song started. The song seemed to be about trying to get down with her friends in the Whitehouse, but being spied on by a man. The performance turned into a rather cheap puppet display at this point. The voyeur was played by a Crispin Glover doll (so, that's what he's been up to, I thought) and the line was "fuck him and the offensive smell of his cring". At which point the masturbating Glover doll spurted out jism through the top of its head and brain matter started spilling out. Not much of a career relaunch for Glover, I thought, and what's this word 'cring' anyway? Well, it's a word in Indonesian and 'kring' is ring in Dutch. If Pat Califia wants the option on the band for a story, she's welcome to it. Oh, except that that's now he I discover, and he seems to be suffering badly from fibromyalgia. That's a shame.

I've never been at all convinced by the whole transsexual issue. I can understand drag, I like it, it's playful and potentially subversive in the right hands. But I'm very wary of transsexuality. In part, the question that it raises is whether gender is not just a simple mirage that can be altered through surgical enhancement and hormonal therapy. I've never believed this really. I don't doubt that people are extremely uncomfortable with and possibly ill-suited to the gender they find themselves in. There are always things we want, most of which we never get. Gender dysphoria is evidently a common enough phenomenon, although I'd be intrigued to know how much it is weighted towards men wanting to be women, although that may not be the case.

The thing that has often struck me about the issue is its relatively easy acceptance by the parts of the health care system. There was a doctor, I forget their name, who started accepting such patients in England back in the 60's. There was a fairly rigorous gender finishing schoool for them: voice retraining, physical movement, etc. It all had to be feminine. At this point, becoming a woman meant becoming a male stereotype of womanhood. You couldn't go on the program if you wanted to become a lesbian and you'd get thrown off if you couldn't manage this Stepford Wife act. Things may perhaps be be more liberal these days. I'm reminded of Eddie Izzard's comment about being two lesbians trapped in a man's body, although that's confusing the transvestite and transsexual issues. There's a difference between transforming gender and insulting it.

Any exposure to the world of mental health will lead to you realise that there are many people in the world who wish to be something other than they are. I've met three people (two women and one man) who wanted to be Madonna. Some may wish to be animals. Some inanimate objects. Some abstract concepts. And so on. These aspirations are not encouraged and neither does any procedure exist for such conversions. Yet transsexuality is accepted by large parts of the medical commmunity. I'm prepared to change my mind. but I certainly do not currently accept transsexuals as belonging to the new gender. This is the gender we have always been underneath, they may say, except you aren't, I always think. I may be wrong, but to me, there's something denigrating about the idea that gender is composed entirely of genitalia and hormones. Perhaps this fantasy is tolerated (and exploited) because of its high frequency. It's making people money.

Moreover, the process of transformation always strikes me as some vile crucifixion. Surgical procedure isn't confined to this area, it's spreading elsewhere. There's the extreme art types (such as Orlan) all the way to more everyday procedures. I've seen articles about minor operations being offered to children and teenagers as birthday presents or inducements for good exam results. Society is crucifying us for the imperfections of life. It's the acceptable face of self-harm. If I take a razor to my arm, I'll get referred to a psychiatrist. If I let someone else take a scalpel to me, I give them a cheque. The body may be a temple, but it's a temple that we feel we own ourselves and thus free to start playing with the colour scheme, building extensions, knocking through walls... This makes perfect sense to some. Our profound physical unhappiness should cause us to seek a world in which these things would cease to be so important. We're lazy. See that kid on the bus with that ugly misshapen face, how on earth can I love him? Or that thing, is it a woman? It's hard. We're lazing on sofas. Oh, just chop it off, make it easy on the rest of us. This world causes such profound sorrow and pain over the issue of our bodies.

In the haven of hi-tech that is Sarmoung Mansions (a laptop, an iPod, a phone, err, that's it), I've been exploring the possibilities of Bluetooth. It's not a technology I've been particularly convinced by previously. When they first started talking about it, they always seemed to be mentioning bluetooth enabled fridges. The fridge would be able to report on its status (kind of chilly) and its contents (some milk, a little cheese) and thus mesh with your computer network for a seamless contemporary lifestyle. Someone banging on your door, what the fuck, your fridge just ordered a fresh pint for the morning. Oh thanks. Maybe the fridge shops you for dope smoking - he seemed to be consuming an excessive quantity of sugar-based products late last night - as the police speed towards your door, the fridge lulls you into a state of false security by getting the hifi to play some old Dead favourites. None of this seemed technology to die for. I'm not keen either on filling the air with yet more background radiation either, even it is harmless. I'm sure it's killing leprechauns and other ethereal lifeforms.

Nevertheless, I've been using bluetooth to synchronise the contact information on the phone with the computer and iPod. This means that I don't have to worry about having lost all my numbers if the phone gets trashed. I don't have to upload photos via the web either. So-so. I did find an application that is quite charming, which turns the phone into a glorified remote control. Now I can control the computer via the phone. Admittedly, with a screen size of 12 inches, I don't watch DVDs from the other side of the room. But I can search iTunes on the phone, so, in the extreme scenario that I am so ill that I am unable to get out of bed and stagger the few feet it is to the desk, I could now choose what music I want to listen to by using the phone. But if I'm that ill, I doubt I'll be listening to music at all. The charm is just knowing that you can. Still not convinced that this is the pinnacle of 21st century culture. Something interesting could happen during that stagger to the desk after all. These bright lights that lead us away.

One of the interesting unforeseen uses for the technology is bluejacking, whereby you can send anonymous messages, or pictures if they accept them, onto other people's phones. Admittedly they need to be in a ten metre radius of you, so it has to be an airport, train station or somewhere relatively crowded. Jellie Ellie, who thought of the potential and set up this site, is an enterprising young woman and will probably end up running the world twenty years from now. I can see that this could be quite an aggressive form of stalking, fortunately, she confines herself to 'I like your stripy pink top'. I'm even more convinced to turn it off now when away from home.

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