Jun 4, 2010
so i got wisked away for the weekend to the opening night gala of portland's QDoc film festival... FOREVERS GONNA START TONIGHT (directed by mah special interest michelle lawler) starring san francisco's legendary VICKI MARLANE - who dazzeled in the flesh at 76 years old. there was also a mind-blowingly stellar short film called GET HAPPY about teenage liza minnelli wizard mark payne. QDoc is a lovely affair co-organized micheal weisman (director of THE COCKETTES), who was smartly dressed in 7 different striped silks - and we toasted into the drizzly night at a smorgasbord of cocktails and punk rock luminaries. QDoc is hosting us at a swank hotel and as usush whenever there's a kingsize bed and flat screen tv i've been gorging on network television... just flipped on the TV and weirdly enough there was a show about a transgender prison inmate: an msnbc episode called "LOCKED: RAW - gangster gay boys" that featured a young transwoman named holly berry. i'm actually so glad for this briandead interlude- cause in an instant it reminded me WHY i'm making damelo todo... getting so pissed off about the devastatingly sad mainstream representations of transgender prisoners.
when i tuned in a camera guy was following miss berry out of the her cell as she sashayed gracefully down the corrider, while a voiceover said something like "when i met holly she instisted that i call her 'she.' whereas in reality we know she is a man, as evidenced by the over-exaggerated way she walked, swaying her hips from side to side in a way that no real woman would walk..." holly is in prison because she stabbed to death her abusive boyfriend. she got 25 years for what basically sounds like self defense. an msnbc expert continues, (parsed- just took quick notes as i watched): "holly cries when whenever she thinks it's going to gain her an advantage. for example when we were arguing about whether or not i should call her 'he' or 'she' i had to remind her that in fact she had a penis, which is why she is in a mens prison. so then she starts crying and pulling this whole greta garbo routine..." althought it may be pointless to analyze network television for being exploitative, it reminds me how our culture is SO far from understanding transgender inmates as human.
one of the things i hope to do with damelo todo is show the interlocking effects that crime and poverty have on trans people, especially people of color. how being poor and trans inevitably puts you in positions where you have to break the law (because of widespread transphobia and job discrimination), and then how the criminal justice system generally makes things worse. and it seems obvious but also worth sayin that putting transwomen in mens prison in an inhumane cruelty.
another thing i'm struggling with is representation and violence of stereotype. this is griselda. she was a friend who used to come a lot on tuesdays, and was a very close friend of nicol's. when she first starting hanging out at silver platter, she didn't "dress" (vestidos). shortly after, she started coming and going as a woman. we did a short interview for the film, and she was very shy and didn't say much. i have a little clip of her in the 13-minute teaser, which is starting to play on the festival circuit. i noticed that people always laugh when they see her. she is saying "i don't have a job... because, because... i don't know why i don't have a job." at this point people always laugh. i kind of yell in my head "why is everyone laughing? why is that funny that she doesn't have a job??" i meant that part to be serious, a turning point where the film transitions into talking about sex work. then i realized through discussing it with others is that maybe people look at griselda and think "tranny hooker" and maybe that's why they don't take her seriously. that is one of the main challenges of this movie is to try to talk about the complexity of trans experience while at the same time showing the humanity. (and i don't mean get all enlightenment on yr ass when i say "human" - but literally i mean HUMAN because most people don't even see trans people that way). so i have to re-edit this part, and work extra hard to figure out how to show the gravity of her situation.
last year griselda was arrested for sex work, and deported back to guatemala. nicol has spoken to her on the phone so i know she is doing ok, but also that she really misses LA and hopes to come back. i guess i'm also glad that she didn't suffer too long in a detention center, as so many people do. when damelo todo is done (ever!!!) i'm going to dedicate it to her.