Sunday, 18 May 2008

Hartlepool




...A comment from Jo on a previous entry, regarding Muggles' responses to transfolk:


"He sort of reminded me of the 'tranny starers'. You know the ones I mean? When you're out and about, and you're attracting no attention at all, and then you find someone just staring at you. Just staring. They seem to have forgotten all the rules of normal human courtesy, forgotten that you are a human being even, as they peer at you like a museum exhibit for minute after minute."

Well, yes. In a way, I feel quite privileged to experience this; like when I first worked behind a bar, and discovered that some people could be quite nasty and selfish in their dealings with bar staff. It was a chance to see how people really are, when the mask is taken off. You learn to appreciate real niceness when you find it.

A privilege, too, in a way, to be treated as a woman; I have been an inside observer of unreconstructed and not-particularly-bright-or-nice men during my working life, and I know what they really think of women. Only they know enough not to let on, generally speaking. With me, on the other hand, they felt able to let rip, because I didn't qualify, in their eyes, as a *real* woman.

It was useful. And maybe it counts as payback for whatever male privilege I picked up along the way. (hmmm, let's not go there...). It took a long time to get over, though; but I have learned, or re-learned from a new perspective, that there are good people in the world.

Oh yes, Hartlepool. The town where, notoriously, they hanged a monkey because they thought it was a Frenchman. This was back in the days when people openly gawped (at the very least) at strangers. Things haven't really changed that much, but if you want to experience, say, a bit of unreconstructed 18th century savagery, change sex. S'easy.

As LP Hartley said somewhere or other, the past is a different country, yadda yadda, which is a perfect excuse to introduce this poem by


Imtiaz Dharker



They'll Say : 'She Must Be From Another Country'

When I can’t comprehend
why they’re burning books
or slashing paintings,
when they can’t bear to look
at god’s own nakedness,
when they ban the film
and gut the seats to stop the play
and I ask why
they just smile and say,
‘She must be
from another country.’

When I speak on the phone
and the vowel sounds are off
when the consonants are hard
and they should be soft,
they’ll catch on at once
they’ll pin it down
they’ll explain it right away
to their own satisfaction,
they’ll cluck their tongues
and say,
‘She must be
from another country.’

When my mouth goes up
instead of down,
when I wear a tablecloth
to go to town,
when they suspect I’m black
or hear I’m gay
they won’t be surprised,
they’ll purse their lips
and say,
‘She must be
from another country.’

When I eat up the olives
and spit out the pits
when I yawn at the opera
in the tragic bits
when I pee in the vineyard
as if it were Bombay,
flaunting my bare ass
covering my face
laughing through my hands
they’ll turn away,
shake their heads quite sadly,
‘She doesn’t know any better,’
they’ll say,
‘She must be
from another country.’

Maybe there is a country
where all of us live,
all of us freaks
who aren’t able to give
our loyalty to fat old fools,
the crooks and thugs
who wear the uniform
that gives them the right
to wave a flag,
puff out their chests,
put their feet on our necks,
and break their own rules.

But from where we are
it doesn’t look like a country,
it’s more like the cracks
that grow between borders
behind their backs.
That’s where I live.
And I’ll be happy to say,
‘I never learned your customs.
I don’t remember your language
or know your ways.
I must be
from another country.’