A reflection on Rituals for Change – two years on (reworked from a text written for Sick of the Fringe Festival at the Wellcome Trust, Feb 2017)

The radical act is to exist

the radical act is to be seen

to allow others to see these radical bodies

to allow ourselves to heal is the radical act

Returning to perform Rituals for Change has been interesting as it is a performance (a series of rituals) that are fundamentally and explicitly about change.

So much has changed in the past two years, but the thing that has really struck me as different, perhaps problematically so, is my attitude towards the complicated bio-technologies that are administered to my body – my hormone regime, my HRT and my relationship to it.

There are expected timelines for a human body. For example, an able-bodied human body in Western Europe that receives no medical intervention. Any sickness or difference can cause a diversion from these expected norms.

I am in my 30’s – I should not expect to be experiencing menopause or puberty and yet I experience both.

In Rituals for Change I say “now now now”, the whole show is an illustration of the impossibility of marking a moment in time and yet is that what the show has become?  a time capsule, a frozen moment – a suspension.

Because it is impossible for us to remain in suspension….

stay like this, stay like this, stay like this… Now, change.

Two years ago I was hopeful, nervous, apologetic of claiming the word woman, of daring to share stories of abuse.

Now I know I am a woman, that I am abused and I am angry.

And I am powerful.

But what has changed?

I cover myself in china clay

Ink pours from my breasts

I dig deep into the earth

I pour the salt to protect me.

The salt does protect.

The earth feels cool and good.

The ink doesn’t always cry how I would like it to. But my body can now cry…

The road has been bumpy.

In the original text, I say:

I hold in my hands a pill. A small blue pill. A small blue pill made of chemicals and sugar and clay.

I did not know how sick I would become. That this small blue pill would cause a year of pain, a year of investigation, a year of being unable to be touched.

A small blue pill became

a silver sachet of gel

a silver sachet of gel made of chemicals and petrol and water

A silver sachet of gel that made my oestrogen levels rise and fall with such alarm that the doctors did not know what to do. So now I wear a patch…

a small clear patch made of plastic and chemicals and glue

I place this patch upon my skin and chemicals enter my body – they combine with my hopes and there… they change.

But what comes next? Along with the expected timeline of my body, the timeline of my transition has altered – has entered a queer time scenario. I cannot predict what the future will hold – cannot say where I will be in another two years… but the call for change in this moment is still significant.

stay like this, stay like this, stay like this… Now, change.

revolution now.

change now

There is still much that is relevant in Rituals for Change. Is there truth still in the action?

The show consists of constructed rituals that feel more important every time I enact them. I perform them as if the ritual somehow is part of my gender transition and will save and protect me from the difficulties – the medical shit. The shit in the street.

A ritual becomes a ritual when it is repeated – an action that can be repeated which holds a significance or intention.

After 2 years these constructed rituals – originally representing a hope, skin, my beard, a look – have taken on their own energy. It is hard perhaps to imagine they ever needed to be brought into being…

So each performance of this show reinforces the rituals, they grow in power and the audience’s presence is important to that.

We who are changing

We who invite trouble

We who watch

We who listen

We who are here today

But when was that? When is that “today”? I borrowed the form of this speech from a poem written in the 1920s by Alexander Rodchenko, a constructivist poet.  Are we the same “We” they were? When I borrow it for the next performance who will “We” be?

We will find out.

This piece requires performance in order to exist and I am excited about the forthcoming performances – as part of the Gender Roadshow in Leeds and at Battersea Arts Centre in London. In that way it becomes something more than a suspended snapshot of my transition from two years ago. Like all of us – creatures bound in time – we can only exist in the present moment… together.