The first thing I ever saw of the Transfabulous festival was its poster. Not ‘IRL’, as I wasn’t living in London, but on the front of their website. It couldn’t have been better targeted at me: a gender-queered version of that ubiquitous image of Che Guevara, in blue eyeshadow and dark lipstick and a beret with the transgender symbol, sprung out from the red background, below the slogan: ‘Viva la trans revolution!’ The poster alone would deserve its place in an archive such as the Bishopsgate’s for its design, which was sleek, striking and funny. The events it promoted were well worthy of it: a brilliantly curated celebration of Britain’s trans and non-binary artists and performers, featuring guest appearances from North American legends such as Kate Bornstein and Ignacio Rivera, and a wealth of workshops and activities designed to bring the trans community together, and bring the best out of us.
The poster alone would deserve its place in an archive such as the Bishopsgate’s for its design
Sadly, I saw that poster a week too late for the 2007 edition, and hadn’t known about the regular fundraisers held in London, advertised on the flyers in the Bishopsgate archive, but I made sure I was at the third and final festival in 2008, travelling up from Brighton. Jason Elvis Barker and Serge Nicholson had founded Transfabulous in response to the Gender Recognition Act 2004, a landmark piece of legislation that allowed people to self-define as ‘male’ or ‘female’, but nothing between or beyond. Like many trans and non-binary artists and writers, they were inspired by Sandy Stone’s ‘post-transsexual’ imperative for people to explore space between genders in their creative work, and the first act I saw at Transfabulous had the same humorous radicalism as the poster. This was Barker’s Menstrual Cycle, in which he came onstage riding a bike and dressed as a giant uterus, talking about wanting to have children as a trans man and so stopping his testosterone intake, and the social and physical complexities that ensued. “I’m going to talk about what it’s like to use a men’s changing room when you don’t have a penis”, said Barker as soon as he stopped cycling, and immediately, I knew I was in a space where no discussion of our bodies and the struggles that came with them was off-limits.
No discussion of our bodies and the struggles that came with them was off-limits.