The first and only bit of text u see when u walk in to KISS MY GENDERS (which is tbh the worst name of any exhibition ever) is this:
‘The artists in Kiss My Genders approach gender not as a fixed set of categories, but rather as something to be challenged, reconsidered and in some cases rejected altogether. Many but not all identify as gender non-binary and make use of the gender-neutral pronoun, they’.
Cool ok much love to our non-binary trans siblings BUT bit awks considering binary trans ppl don’t exactly LUV the gender binary. I (noa) just happen to be a trans woman but it doesn’t mean i think that everyone should be a trans woman if they’re femming it up. thanks for insinuating that anyone who identifies as a ‘binary’ gender is somehow a *gender-reactionary* against all other forms of variant gender expression. OBVIOUSLY all WOMEN present the same and it’s a well-known fact that TERFs and trans woman get on like a house on fire. this is literally the start of the exhibition. this is what the cis will read when they walk in, or anyone else who comes. This is the groundwork we get given.
Having this as the opening for one of the first major shows about gender in a large institution at worst constitutes a form of gaslighting and at best is just really really really dangerously and willfully ignorant. Either it creates a false dichotomy of gender binary vs gender variant transness, a narrative which erases queer expressions within gendered terms and one which queer trans people have been fighting against for decades and which is relentlessly promoted by the right wing. or it leaves the (mainly cis?) audience confused by wilfully using oddly loaded language with no other explanations or attempts to explain anything because that’s literally all we get.
However much like life for trans ppl this exhibition does not get better.
actually on that note where are all the trans ppl? did no one give us a call? was Juliana Huxtable one of the ONLY trans woman in the show and also the image used for the poster? why are they conflating trans masc ppl and bull dykes? Why have they put images of trans women next to drag queens? It said everyone was non-binary but like, where? was everyone non-binary before 1975? who is vincent honoré, the curator? What’s the t, cis???
2 b honest we stayed twenty (20) minutes so we can’t really comment on the quality of the artwork because the whole shanda made us both feel deeply uncomfortable at a cellular level in ways we are still trying to process, but suffice to say the curation looked shit. it looked like a foundation show but tbh not as wholesome. It was about the two things that queer art is only allowed to be about: BODIES and SEX (honoré-ry mention for QUEER SUFFERING). where was the queer joy? Where was the stuff made for our gaze and not the cis? queers other than us have talked better and more eloquently about the need to divest from a culture driven by action-as-proof, by ‘u are X if u do Y’ (ur gay if u fuck men, ur a trans girl if u wear a dress etc), because that shit is dangerous and violent and full of fear. i (noa) fantasised a whole bunch about men before i got fucked by one. The guy’s dick did not make me a gay, just like taking my first hit of estrogen did not make me a trans woman. In both examples there was no substantive change in my selfhood, and it’s the cis ppl and ppl in power who define us by these power dynamics to control us. DIVEST FROM IT, BE NICE TO EACH OTHER. And also, in the context of the Hayward gallery, it makes beautiful and real trans and queer bodies look like a freak-show for the cis ppl to look at. It’s a real headfuck to look at these artworks, placed in ways to make queer bodies freaky-freaky, and then go oh wait lol that’s us haha. anyway maybe it’s actually worth wading thru it to look at the art if u can handle that. we don’t wanna pull down any of the artists who schlepped to make things. trust we would’ve loved to have been able to actually enjoy anything there.
ffs allow that now the cis will not even think we are good at art, if any of them even come because apparently it’s been empty AF. Considering the £9 entry fee its not such a big surprise, everyone knows queers don’t have any money (literally just give ur £9 to a trans person instead, much more useful than it going in vincent’s back pocket or to the only newly commissioned work by a cis gay boy). this whole show reads as an attempt to cash in on a trend with no regard for history, context or actually educating people on gender. The title and the starkness of the presentation feel like an attempt to provoke, but provoke what? Disgust? Alienation? Fetishitic facination? We have enough of that already thanks. The only attempt at giving context to the show were a pile of books in the corner of the gift shop with names like ‘What is gender?’, ‘is gender fluid? probably!’, ‘should I feel bad about being cis?’. ’Gender’s over so what are these trans people still whinging about?’ along with a few books we assume were left over from previous events, such as Jeanette Winterson’s Frankisstein, a novel about sex dolls by a lesbian, and The Landing Strip by Kader Attia, a cis man’s book of photos of trans women sex workers. Go figure.
This show made us embarrassed to be trans, except then we remembered it was made by cis people so who the fuck cares. It’s fair to say this show did NOT kiss ours or ANYONE’s gender and we contemplated asking for a refund despite attending for free because maz is a *visitor experience host* at the southbank. TLDR show was shit really weird probably still go cuz otherwise they’ll never do it again (and by they I mean the bigwigs at the Hayward who are likely NOT non binary lol).
P.s after the show i (maz) went to the singular gender neutral toilet in the Queen Elizabeth hall - an accessible toilet with a gender neutral sticker on - where I got stuck and had to kick the door down. my cis colleagues came to help me and then were like LOL the door is fine. I work in the southbank centre and I’m not out at work and now because of this show and other tokenistic pride month events managers have been handing out pronoun badges like they’re complimentary after dinner mints and tbh this is what the cis want: not to think about what gender actually does and what it means to go thru the process of not just realising but also socially actualising ur transness, but a nice oppression sticker to show ur woke. I’m thinking of coming out soon anyway so that they are less likely to fire me for being late all the time because I am a) sad b) trans but it’s not ideal. It’s taken me a really long time to even let myself THINK about this, and it’s quite depressing as someone who makes art to see mostly cis artists profit from the narratives of suffering around trans identities. I don’t make art about being trans but I think I might start because otherwise who knows if I’ll ever get funding again. However I really DON’T want to make a photoshoot about my body or a poem about my pain, which is apparently all I’m good for, so that the cis get moved and feel like they’ve done something worthwhile with their tears. Tbh PLEASE don’t kiss my genders as they are very *tender* at the moment thanks