"Singing in the Rain" - key note speech held by Vladimir Luxuria on the opening of the 3rd European Transgender Council, Malmö, Oct 1st 2010
Thank you for being here, I´m particularly grateful and excited to be guest in the 3rd European Transgender Council in Malmö, Sweden, the first country in Europe to approve a law on sex self-determination on April 21st 1972, although this law needs to be corrected, especially about marriage denial, like many other laws all around Europe. My name is Vladimir Luxuria, one person, many titles: transgender rights’ activist, former member of the Italian Parliament, writer, theatre actress and radio speaker. In Italy some simply define me as a “famous transgender”, I prefer to consider myself a person in continuous becoming, I’m a person in evolution, in development, I’m daily trying to reach the right balance between my various aspects: the serious and the crazy ones, the calm and the hot-tempered ones, my shyness and my impudence, male and female in conjunction and not in opposition, above all I’m someone trying to become a better person and very well aware that my sexual and gender transition help me to such a goal: I’m able to relate myself with no veil of hipocracy in my eyes, showing my real nature, my soul, I’m someone demanding to be considered not for what is hidden between my legs (genitalia) but for I have between my ears (brain) and my arms (heart).
I can assure anyone that transition does not mean transgression, we do not transgress the perception of ourselves and nobody knows me better than what I do, we are the best judge of ourselves. I’m deeply convinced that the concept of “diversity” can’t be related only to define our condition, this would be reducing, this would offend the real richness of mankind: individuality, our gift to be unique, unrepeatable.
However I found a diversity between “us” and “The others” (the others are those who identify themselves with their biological sex); we’ve been often asked: “were you born as a transgender or did you become like that?” We seldom ask them the same question. This not only a middle-man question, this is a theme studied in science, sociology, sexuology, psychology, anthropology; this theory is called “INNATIVISM”: we have a genetical and endocrinological nature, it’s all a matter of hormons’s lack of balance, the brain sexualization has been affected by a wrong and distorted “imprinting”. According to these doctors with magnifying glasses and white beards, we were already transgender in our mother’s womb. I can easily imagine these eminent doctors trying hardly to understand the transgender’s fetus sex in the echography, you all well know that a transgender keeps crossing her legs all the time! Let’s imagine how a transgender was born: before coming out of the womb she uses the umbilical cord as a wonderful turban hat, she puts some amniotic fluid on her lips as a gloss and finally turns up with the music of “Mamma mia” by Abba (sorry for the extreme Swedish right party but Abba cannot be used as their hymn, too queer for that! ) I may sound comic but all these studies are often ridiculous! I only know that if Pope Ratzinger could know in advance if who is going to come to life will be trans he would probably change his mind about abortion! The only truth is that there is actually a sex change in the fetus’ development , from female to male (clitoris transforming into penis): sorry for the Bible but women came first, Eve was before Adam in our creation.
There are opposite theories about us, they’re called “CONSTRUCTIVIST”: we were not born trans, we became. It´s all determined after birth, the childhood years, the usual overwhelming mother and the usual too absent father. While the vast majority of people were born and behaved as male or female, there is a disobedient minority that feel different and while growing up they change, I would say they improve (in relation with ourselves!)
As you can see we’ve been studied, defined, told by others: the word “Transexual” has been been used by doctor Cauldwell in 1949 and by doctor Harry Benjamin in 1953 during a Conference at the Academy of Medicine in New York. To be honest we’ve also been beaten in the past and in the present in different parts of the world, burned, abused, offended, imprisoned, closed in mental hospitals, electroshocked, killed by the others, those who wanted to interfere with our destiny.
From the American “transgender studies” on, our community has decided to define itself, to tell our stories with our voices, to set free from the burden of science and from all those who treated us like laboratory animals. This is the reason why our movement demands to abolish the psychiatrization of our identities and the confinement in the so called GID (Gender Identity Disorder), we are not crazy, everyone has the right to adapt him/herself to what we feel we are and not to be forced to conform to a false binary order, an unreal and choking normalization. We also demand to abolish GID definition in ICD-10 (International Classification of Diseases in the World Health Organization) and in the DSM-IV-R (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in the American Psychiatrist Association).
We want to determine ourselves what to do of our bodies, if we want “esthetic revolution” and to what extent or if we want to change gender without medical treatment as a pre-requisite. Psychology should be required and never compulsory so as to assume hormons and in general to be in charge of the National Health Assistance.
I believe there has been a big misunderstanding: we do not suffer from “gender disphoria”, we are realized, fulfilled. It’s those who repressed their transexuality who do suffer from gender disphoria, all those who didn´t have the nerve or that could not in any way live according to their preferred gender. These people lead a miserable life, making not only themselves but all those around them unhappy. All the victims of the past history did suffer from it. A name for all: Hand Christian Andersen.
I wrote a book, “Le favole non dette” (The untold fairy-tales) edited BOMPIANI (www.vladimirluxuria.it
) where I reinterpreted as transgender many stories from Pinocchio to the Mermaid.
The Danish writer fell in love with Edvard Collin: he wrote many letters declaring that he loved him the way a woman would do, his nature was feminine… His repressed transexuality in the XIX century could only be expressed by his literature: a Mermaid who felt an uncomplete woman, with a fin instead of a pair of legs.
I visited the Museum of Criminology in Rome and I was impressed by some pictures showing poor transgender people in chains in the Mental Hospital of Aversa, southern Italy around 1950-51, classified as victims of “TRANSVESTITE SYNDROM”. We are not mad, transphobic society needs to be cured!
The OMS is in strong contradiction: in 1948 they defined “Health” as a condition of complete physical social and mental wellness, not only the absence of illness. We feel healthy as far as nobody directly or undirectly forces us to deviate from our real nature, we demand our autonomy and a new quality of life ethic.
Now I want to talk about another crime committed in maternity hospitals: compulsory surgeries on intersex newborn, one baby out of 5000 in Italy (I’m pretty sure the same average in Europe). I saw pictures of these babies during a pedriatic conference in Sicily: babies with a little vagina between the testicles and other undistinguished functional genitalia: according to the law parents and doctors sit at a table and decide the sex to impose by surgery, often related to their wishes and projects. They then sew the vagina or practice vagina infibulations, they amputate a too developed clitoris. We demand the right for intersex people to decide their gender when they grow up, with the exception of life safeguard surgery (for example to let the baby urinate with no problems). We will then avoid intersex people to sue their parents for a wrong decision taken when they were born.
So far I talked about what makes us different to the others, now I’d like to focus on “Diversity” among our community, we are not duplicates, many factors make us wonderfully different:
1) AGE, we must be grateful to elder transgender who had to undergo more difficulties and often had to fight to smooth the way for younger generations. I personally wish to remember Marcella Di Folco of italian MIT who passed away a short time ago, she courageously fought to have a sex reassignment law in 1982.
2) SEXUAL ORIENTATION, a definition which has nothing to do with gender identity. We have transgender with a heterosexual S.O. and with homosexual S.O. (translesbism, Mirella Izzo in Italy wrote a lot about it, on the other hand there are gay FTM transgender) transgender who fall in love with other transgender… I do not need a definition, maybe “ultratrans” or “the square of transgenderism”?
3) POLITICS, there are trans involved and those who do not care. Georgina Bayer was the first transgender in the world as MP in New Zealand, I have ben the first in Europe. Jenny Bailey was mayor in Cambridge and at the moment there is a transgender mayor in Silverton, Oregon, USA Ru Rasmussen, who may have Scandinavian origin. There are those who do politics not strictly connected with our issues: Amanda Simpson in Obama administration is more into business and economy. The famous Turkish singer, Bulent Ersoy, during a famous tv program declared that she would never sacrifice the life of a son in the war against curds, she risked the prison for trespassing the article 318 of Turkish Criminal Code about those who discourage people from military service.
4) WORK, there are those who are sex-workers and those, when they are allowed to, who have a different job and don’t like to be confused with prostitution. We are experiencing what have felt the first working women, when they had to prove not only to be as good as their male colleagues but even better than them. We have to demand equal opportunities at work and at the same time we should not discriminate those who sexually use their body for a living. The virus of racism is everywhere, sex-workers who hate the foreign transgenders! Let us not be infected by racism!
5) MTF/FTM. FTM people are coming out and are becoming less invisible. I will tell the story of Faris in Afghanistan, an FTM who substituted his brother killed in the civil war, she wore his trousers and obtained a male work: weaving dry palm leaves to make brooms and chairs. The paradox is that Faris as a disguised FTM transgender was less discriminated than any other woman in his country!
6) RELIGION, very few religions respect us, the vast majority of them consider us as sinners. However we have transgender priests, or to be more precise, “gender transcendent”, I’m not talking about the Pope with Prada red shoes, long dress, fur hat swinging the censer like a fashionable hand-bag… I’m talking about “waria”, trans priests in Bugis society in Indonesia, in a sort of mixture between muslim religion and pre-islamic cults.
Going to the conclusions, I think all of us have had to cope with a hostile society, often with the family, at school, with police, gangs, colleagues… we´ve had our bad and rainy days…
In these days at the Malmö Stadsteatern there´s a musical, “Singing in the rain”, we have learned how to sing in the rain with a shining heart.
We have learned to live the life we feel.
I thank Julia, Maria, Richard, all the TGEU wonderful members to have invited me!
Malmo, October 1st 2010