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Being Trans is About More Than Just High School Students Making Movies

October 23, 2017

Editor's note: This piece was originally posted in Chinese (see below) on Wechat on July 27th, 2017. It was written in response to "Escape", a movie about being trans that was produced by a group of high school students in Beijing. It was later shared online and viewed over 100,000 times.

 

***

 

Greetings to the producers of "Escape",

 

I am Kelly, the Trans Project Director at the Beijing LGBT centre. Last week I joined your premiere of “Escape”, and listened to your producers sharing details about the filming process and from behind the scenes.

 

The next day, an article entitled "Students From The High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China Made a Movie about "Sexual Minorities", a Topic Avoided By Almost Every Parent. How Should We Start Talking About This?" was widely circulated among my friends on Wechat. The topic "High School Students Made a Trans Movie" went viral and ranked highly on Weibo’s most searched topics.

 

As a viewer from that day, and a trans woman, there are some things I would like to say to you. If you really want to speak up for trans people, as you claim to be the aim of Escape, then I hope you can listen to the voices from the community.

 

 

First of all, congratulations on making a film that attracted widespread attention. It is very difficult for high school students to achieve this goal with the limited resources to which they have access. Secondly, I would like to thank you for your awareness of trans issues. It is especially commendable for you to have such a scope when queer people in China are facing increasing censorship. However, after viewing the whole film and talking to the producers, I have made the conclusion that you do not actually understand trans people.

 

According to the questions I raised the day of the premiere and the talk I had with H.C, director of Guangzhou's Trans Center, there were no trans people in your filming crew. You did not engage with the experiences of trans people before or during the shooting of the film in any longterm or meaningful way either, and were only referencing and copying how trans people were portrayed elsewhere in some other films and documentaries - all a bit different from what the media reported about your film. This deviation from reality may not have impacted the film itself too much, but it does hinder this opportunity for you to further understand trans people in real life.

 

When talking about the creation of the film, the main producer mentioned that “the male lead in the film (the role played by Yuge) is firstly a man,” me and my friends from the trans community were shocked, as the person in the film identifies as a woman. Using the words such as “male lead” and phrases like “firstly a man” is very inappropriate and disrespectful towards a trans woman.

 

Also, you should be more careful when answering questions regarding trans people, you should have the courage to say phrases like “I don’t know”, “I cannot answer this question”, or “it is inappropriate to discuss this here”, instead of rushing to definitions and conclusions. This is not only because each individual across trans communities identifies and expresses themselves differently, but also because being trans itself is a complex matter, and many questions relating to this don’t yet have confirmed answers.

 

Folks like us who work with queer issues, and even those like myself who are trans women, still cannot claim to be able to represent every individual in the trans community. We have to be very careful when talking and doing things publicly in order to eliminate the possibility of hurting others in our communities. As a non-trans, or non-queer people in general, you should be even more aware of this and be humble towards every trans individual.

 

There is another thing that made me feel unhappy. When I asked you why you made a film like this, you said that you only wanted to make a film about queer people, and then added that at first you wanted to make a film those with reading disabilities, but you didn’t know how to do it, so you opted for a trans film instead. Then I asked whether anyone in your team was trans, and you said no. I asked whether anyone among the producers is LGBT, and you answered by saying that you could not tell me due to privacy issues. In an queer-friendly and private environment like the Beijing LGBT Center, there is an attitude that members of a production team of a film centered around queer issues cannot even share their gender identity or sexual orientation with the community? I felt a chill ran down my spine: you can make a film about trans people and you can look at trans people all you want, but we can not see you.

 

Regardless of whether or not you have queer people among your crew, is this inequality of information and communication a subtle form of discrimination? Also, you took pictures of the audience at the premiere without the knowledge of our LGBT Centre's staff. The next day it appeared on media reports everywhere, without any consideration of privacy issues. We only realised this after receiving complaints from volunteers who took part in the event. We then asked you to take those pictures down from the reports, but your response to that was mediocre at best. You only wrote a letter (see below) expressing your apologies after a request from our Operations Director A’Ming. Shouldn’t you be thinking about this double standard of privacy?

 

 

Looking at the recently published articles praising the high school students for making a film about trans people as compassionate and visionary, I felt speechless. What do those internet traffic figures mean? Is it the topic of trans people that attracted 100,000 clicks, or is it because the producers of the film are students from a famous high school? Are they really speaking up for trans communities, or are they simply showing nominal support for trans people as a way of expanding the discursive power of mainstream society?

 

I have mixed feelings at this time. As someone who is trans and who also works for the community, I hope that trans issues will receive more public attention. On the other hand, such crude attention from mainstream “allies” makes me feel at a loss. On the other hand, while for the high school students who did this for the community, our demands may seem excessively harsh... but even if so, I still have to say my real thoughts out loud, because if I don’t, our voices will likely be drowned out by the big cheers.

 

I recall a paragraph from The Little Prince: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye. It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.” I hope that all of you who sincerely care for trans communities will be like the Little Prince and use your heart and time in nurturing the roses of love. My thanks to you all.

 

 

Letter of apology

 

Dear Director of the Beijing LGBT Center,

 

Because a member of our crew acted thoughtlessly during the premiere of our film Escape by taking pictures of audience interaction and later sharing the images with one enthusiastic person there without telling them not to release it to the press and to protect the privacy of those in attendance, they let one of those pictures be used by a certain newspaper without any right or permission from Beijing LGBT Centre or those in attendance. We are sincerely sorry and ashamed for the unnecessary trouble and impact we brought to the Beijing LGBT Center, and will sternly criticise and deal with those members of our crew who were involved to ensure that matters like this do not happen again.

 

Once again, our whole team promises to take responsibility for this matter, and offers our sincerest apologies to all those affected, to Beijing LGBT Centre, and to the general public. In order to minimise the impact and restore the reputation of those affected, we hope you can forgive us.

 

Crew of "Escape"

24th July, 2017

 

(Translated by Luoluo and Ausma Bernotaite)

Kelly Kiseki (Qiji) is a trans woman, and the Director of Beijing LGBT Center's Trans Programs. She is the coordinator of the project "2017 Situation of Trans People's Lives" supported by the United Nations, Peking University, and the Beijing LGBT Center. Image credit: Beijing LGBT Centre.

 

 

 

跨性别不只是高中生拍电影这么简单

 

《逃离》剧组主创,你们好:

 

我是北京同志中心跨性别项目主管Kelly。上周我参加了你们拍摄的跨性别电影《逃离》的放映会,聆听了主创关于拍摄过程与幕后细节的分享。

 

跨性别电影《逃离》

 

活动结束第二天,一篇名为《人大附中学生拍“性少数者”电影。一个被绝大多数家长回避的话题,该如何谈起?》的文章开始在朋友圈大量转发。有关“高中生拍摄跨性别电影”的话题也随即持续升温,而且上了微博热搜榜前列。作为当天台下的观众、一名跨性别女性,我有一些话想对你们说。如果如你们所说,你们拍摄《逃离》的目的就是为了为性少数群体发声,我希望你们能够重视来自社群的声音。

 

首先,祝贺你们拍摄了一部引起了广泛关注的电影,作为高中生在有限的资源下完成这样的拍摄,实属不易。其次要感谢你们对跨性别群体的关注,尤其在当下中国性少数生存环境被不断挤压的现实中能有这样的视野,难能可贵。不过看完整部影片,以及通过和主创们的交流后发现,我认为你们并未理解跨性别。

 

根据当天我的提问,以及事后我跟广州跨性别中心的负责人hc的沟通,你们的剧组中并没有跨性别者存在,在电影拍摄前以及过程中也没有过长期深入地接触跨性别者的经验,只是参考、模仿了一些电影和纪录片对于跨性别者的表现,与媒体报道有些出入。这种与现实的差距也许不会对电影的主体效果产生特别大的影响,但它却阻碍了你们对现实生活中的跨性别者进一步了解的机会。

 

当阐述一些情节的设计时,主创提到了“片中的男主角(指宇歌饰演的角色)首先是一个男人”时,我和社群的小伙伴实在有些惊呆了。因为片中宇歌饰演的角色,认同自己是一个女性身份,以“男主角”这样的称谓和“首先是一个男人”这样的说法对一个mtf的跨性别者而言,显然是很不合适,也很不尊重的。

 

另外,你们在回答一些有关跨性别的问题时应该慎重,敢于说“这个问题我不清楚”、“我不好回答”或者“这个问题不适合在这里讨论”等等,而不是急于解释或者下定义。不仅因为跨性别群体内部每个人的认同和表达是不同的;也因为跨性别本身是一个复杂的问题,很多东西目前尚未有明确的定论。

 

我们这些做性少数工作的人,即便我本人是一名跨性别女性,都不能说自己可以代表社群中每一个人,在说话做事情的时候都要小心翼翼,生怕伤害到一些社群的朋友。而你们作为非跨性别者,甚至非性少数者,就更要对此有清醒的认识和谦卑的态度。

 

还有另一件事让我感到很不愉快。在我问到你们为什么要拍这部电影时,你们先是说:“其实我们只是想拍一个关于少数人的电影,开始想拍阅读障碍者,但不知道该怎么拍,于是拍了跨性别者的电影。”后来我问你们当中有跨性别者吗,你们说没有;我问主创中有LGBT的人吗,你们说这是隐私不方便透露。在北同这样一个对性少数友好且私密的环境下,作为拍摄性少数题材的剧组人员不能真诚地向社群表露自己的性取向和性别认同的态度,我感到一丝寒意:你可以拍跨性别,你可以看跨性别,但我们看不见你。

 

如果你们中有LGBT的人存在,或者没有,这种不对等的视线与交流,是否包含一种隐性歧视在呢?另外,你们在中心工作人员不知情的情况下,拍摄了现场观众的照片,第二天媒体便拿到了这张照片,未考虑来访者隐私便对外发布。当接到参加活动的志愿者的投诉,我们才知道这个事情,要求撤回使用的照片。而你们的态度并不积极,在中心社区运营专员阿铭的要求下,才写了道歉信(详见文末)给我们。这种隐私的双重标准,是否应该反思呢?

 

看着这些天的报道,高中生拍跨性别电影、视野超前、人性关怀等等,我不禁有些哑然。那些浏览的数字代表着什么?是跨性别10w+,还是名牌学校高中生拍跨性别10w+……这是在为社群发声,还是在以帮助跨性别者为名义来扩张主流的话语权?

 

此刻我的心情非常复杂,一方面作为跨性别者和社群工作者,希望跨性别能够得到社会的关注;另一方面,这种来自主流的粗暴的关怀却让我感到无所适从;再一方面,面对高中生为社群做这样的事,我们的要求显得过于苛刻……但即使是这样,我也仍然要把自己真实的想法表达出来,因为如果我不说,我们的声音也许就会淹没在一片热烈的掌声里。

 

我想到了《小王子》里的一段话:“用心灵才能看清事物的本质,真正重要的东西是肉眼无法看到的。因为你把时间投注在你的玫瑰花上,所以她才会如此重要。”希望每一个真正关心跨性别群体的你们能像小王子一样,用心和时间浇灌爱的玫瑰。谢谢你们。

 

北京同志中心跨性别项目主管Kelly

 

 

 

致歉信

 

尊敬的北京同志中心负责人,

 

由于我们剧组成员办事欠考虑,在展映自己原创影片《逃离》时拍摄现场观众互动照片后,一时大意发给场上某热心观众,并未提醒其不要公之于众予媒体使用,保护当事者隐私,令一张照片在未署名版权和未经过北京同志中心及当事者同意的情况下被某报征用。我们十分抱歉与惭愧给北京同志中心带来不必要的麻烦和影响,并严肃批评及处理组内相关人员,力求此类事情不再发生。

 

在此,全剧组人员为此事承诺,将承担责任,并特此向当事者们、北京同志中心及广大群众深表歉意,以消除影响,恢复名誉。希望能够得到你们的宽恕和谅解。

 

《逃离》剧组全体人员

于2017.7.24

Kelly Kiseki本名:齐霁),跨性别女性,现任北京同志中心跨性别项目主管。联合国、北大、北京同志中心共同发起项目“2017中国跨性别生存现状调研”负责人。

 

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