Fifty Shades of Gender podcast graphic with Edalia Day

Episode 4

A conversation with Edalia Day


49 min. Recorded on 2 March 2019.

Edalia’s pronouns are they/them. They are transgender and identify as non-binary. Find out what that means to Edalia in this episode.

We also talk about acting, clothes, the tv show The Good Place, the gender binary, support groups, visibility and the term ‘passing’, gender options on forms, Hamlet, free speech, representation of trans people in the media and in comedy, and films like Silence of the Lambs and Ace Ventura.

“The term ‘passing’…basically says being transgender is disgusting, and if you can get to the point where no one can tell you are transgender, you’ll be acceptable.”

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TRANSCRIPT [click to expand]

Esther: Hello, welcome! What’s your name?

Edalia: Hello, my name is Edalia Day.

Esther: And how do you identify?

Edalia: I am non-binary.

Esther: Non-binary, cool! And what pronouns do you use?

Edalia: I like they/them; I have just started using them recently and they are quite cool. I am quite open, for ages I was like, “I don’t really care, people can use whatever”, but I found people don’t respond well to that.  Not terribly, [as in]: I am going to kill you! They are just like: oh, what I do I do? So now I am: they/them and, if they have trouble, they can use either he/she.

Esther: Do you feel quite precious about it now or are you quite like, it’s alright?

Edalia: I have always been blasé about it; I suppose I didn’t know about the they/them thing until a few years ago. I discovered it from people who were into the they/them thing and I was like: cool. Before that people were like he, or she, or whatever, and yeah I didn’t adopt it because, for me, it would be putting my sense of satisfaction and comfort and confidence in someone else managing to get their they/them thing, which loads of people aren’t going to get because it is a new thing. There is a lot of resistance, people are like: I can’t do it, I can’t cope, it is too difficult!!! So that is how I have always felt, but because of that, for ages I have been like: no it is fine don’t worry about it, whatever, whatever is fine. A lot of people are like: I don’t care, I am happy to do they, I just want…

Esther: I just want to know…

Edalia: And then I have been going okay: they, and they do it and I feel really good.

Esther: So what about your history, or your background in gender, how have you been discovering it and when did you come out and all that kind of stuff?

Edalia: So, for my whole life, really, I have known that I was transgender, I have got early memories of being 5 and finding dissonance between how I perceive myself and the thing I always think is just when you are in social situations, or you are in the classroom and stuff, and it is like: girls this side, boys this side and you go: great, I will go this side, and it is like: no, no, you go this side. And then it is like: oh I am a boy of course. A lot of my experiences of gender are, I suppose the way I describe it, it is like feeling like my body should be she but isn’t.

Esther: Right.

Edalia: It should be female, and it isn’t, and that is like all sorts of other things, it is very complex thing with social stuff, and physical stuff, but that is the kind of bare bones of it. And so, there are lots of moments in life, like physically or socially that growing up, it is like flicking a switch and the default is set to female and then you go: oh no, of course I am not female, look at my body what was I thinking, absolutely! So, yeah, that’s that and then generally growing up, I found, so I was really insecure about it for years, and there is so much terrible stuff on TV, and in the media, about trans-people, just lots of hate so growing up you are like: I can’t be like this, you get this idea in your head to be trans is to be a monster, like it is worse than being a murderer or something. And so you suppress it, and you are like: I don’t want to be that person, why do I have to be like that, it is a horrible thing. And so there I was for ages and then I sort of built up loads of ideas in my head about why I couldn’t come out, or, if I came out, my family would disown me, all my friends would reject me. Like, I am an actor, that’s my job, and how many trans-actors do you see?  In the last few years there is a few but apart from that, none. So, I love acting and for ages that was my reason to live, not in a suicidal way but just in a…

Esther: In a passionate way!

Edalia: I just love it!  So it was like, “well if I come out, I am going to have to give that up!” And it is like all these things, then I realised later on that they were actually, some of them I believed them, but actually the opposite, since I have come out I have actually found that my acting opportunities have increased because I am no longer pretending. {Esther: That’s so cool!} When you are pretending to be a straight, sis, male and you are not, you are always going to lose those jobs to the people who are. They are just going to waltz in and get it because they are confident, and they are who they are. And now it is the same, I don’t go for those roles, I don’t get them, there is no point in me going for them but I play loads of wild, exciting, eccentric characters who are really fun, and I walk into that room and they are like: wow! this person is different, and they are confident, and they know who they are, and that helps so much.

Esther: Wow! So, I just thought I would briefly touch on how you like to express your identity now, your gender identity, so how do you like to play with it, maybe in the way that you dress or the way you present?

Edalia: I do present in quite a feminine way but, also, I have generally got the frame of mind where I am like, well, I am who I am whatever I wear. I dated someone in the past who, I think she said: you don’t dress properly when you dress as a woman.

Esther: What does that even mean?

Edalia: Because I dressed too like I am going on a night out or something and I was like: no. She was pointing to pictures and stuff and I was like: no, I was on a night out, that was when I was on a night out. Now I am also dressed like a woman, I am not wearing jeans now, but I was wearing jeans. She was like: no, no, now you are dressed as a guy, because you are wearing jeans. And I was like: you are wearing jeans, are you dressed as a guy? And she was like: no…

Esther: So meaning, for you, it is not like how you dress it is more about how you feel, it is not necessarily about a gender.

Edalia: Exactly. So I do dress differently but the way I think about it that’s just an expression of that as opposed to, it is different for different people and what people find works for them, it is all about what you find makes life make sense. So, some people are very much: I wear this clothing and it gives a sense of empowerment and stuff, I do actually have that as well. So, in a roundabout way, what I try to do is go for a kind of casual feminine thing, that is my general aim. And, for the past five years, I have just been trying to take baby steps, taking little things, because I am really insecure and anxious in life, so taking little things and adding them to my wardrobe and, bit-by-bit replacing all the male stuff with more female stuff. So feminine versions and feminine cuts of t-shirts and stuff bit-by-bit. Now I have kind of got to the point where everything is feminine, and it is quite cool! So I always feel like I get a feeling of empowerment when I dress how I want to.

Esther: Just the way you feel and expressing how you feel.

Edalia: That’s like in my room, or in a shop, when I am buying the item, but then I find in public I get really anxious about what people are thinking and I am like: oh god because you hear all these things in the media and this person got attacked and oh God! So, for that reason, I do the baby steps of doing the things and it is quite cool because initially you are like: oh my goodness, I am wearing nail varnish, people will be like: oh my God you are trans, what is wrong with you!? And then you realise actually loads of people wear nail varnish and…one of the things, I go off on a tangent as you probably noticed…

Esther: It is all good, go with it!

Edalia: This year I am having this wonderful thing where I just make decisions and I do it, because for years I have been: I can’t dye my hair or get highlights, because what will people think? If I go for a job and… I don’t know. So I have been watching The Good Place?

Esther: Yes, I love The Good Place, it is hilarious.

Edalia: And my partner was like: which one are you? And I was like: oh, I hadn’t thought that. And then I realised I am actually a cross between Jason and Chidi, but I am mostly Chidi, and it was only watching that show and thinking about that, I realised how much Chidi I am, I just can’t make up my mind about so many things.

Esther: Oh yes, overthink central, isn’t it? I have done that very well.

Edalia: That: oh what chair do I choose? I am going to sit on both of them in the middle. That sort of thing. I realise I do that so much, so I was like: well this year I am going to, it just happened to be the New Year, I am just going to do the things, and nothing is permanent but also life isn’t permanent. So I decided I would get highlights and just wear what I want, when I want and not be like: this defines me! It only defines you for the day and then whatever the next day…

Esther: Change it again!

Edalia: Yes and I was going to get my ears pierced, which I am totally going to do but I have been ill recently so I haven’t done that but it is like I am totally doing that, so I feel this total drive of, I am going to do all the things and it is quite exciting and cool.

Esther: Nice! It sounds like you are in a good place for that. So when did you actually come out?

Edalia: The thing with coming out, on the media and stuff and TV shows, but…

Esther: It is not a moment is it, it is gradual? I think some people come out to some people, reluctantly, and when that goes well, they tend to come out to other people. It is a process more than like: that day I came out.

Edalia: That’s it, you think it is going to be: I come out, but actually coming out is a constant process with every new person you meet. {Esther: Of course, yes!} So, when I first came out when I was 26, now I am 34, oh gosh that is eight years ago! Wow, I talk about it being a couple of years ago.

Esther: It feels that way, yes!

Edalia: So, I was, studying at Lecoq in Paris which is this physical theatre school and I just personal life stuff and then I just came out to one person. I was sort of like, life was just confusing and I was like: you have all these expectations about life and how things are going to go, and then it just flips on its head and I was like: well, I don’t care anymore, I am just going to come out to this person and see what happens. They were totally fine with it and I was like: what!?, that was not the response that I expected! And so, she really helped me just explore stuff basically and dress differently and all sorts of things.  And then, just loads of baby steps, I went to it is difficult, but I searched trans-clubs when I lived in London and went to them and a lot of them turned out to be sex clubs and I was like, oh, this wasn’t what I wanted. {Esther: not quite what I was looking for!} I didn’t realised that Trans-support groups existed so I didn’t google that, that would have been much better.

Esther: Sex clubs were not what you wanted at the time!

Edalia: So I want to these places and they were basically where I could hang out and not be involved in that, it is I fine if people want to do that sort of thing, but I am not very in that sort of way. So I was like great, cool, then eventually I found a support group and I went but it was very binary and everyone who was there was 20-30 years older than me and like a different generation and I just felt I didn’t fit in there.

Esther: So until that time, you mentioned the word trans, initially, so did you feel like that you were maybe trans at first, but obviously now you would say you are non-binary? When did that sort of shift happen?

Edalia: I generally think of myself as trans and non-binary. And I use non-binary more as a term of how I express myself, rather than necessarily how I feel, because, just because it is about transitioning, the idea that you are trans so you are transitioning from whatever gender you are to the new one, so it is very binary thing and once you come out the other end you are this perfect creation who fits in and can get on with society. That might be possible, but also, I am like six-foot-four, I have got a naturally very base voice, so I can talk much higher [raising voice higher] I try and pitch it in a way that I feel comfortable, if I try to sound… I am sure I could reach my voice really high and sound in a way that might get me through life and not clocked as being trans which is generally the goal, people do, but it would feel like constricting myself into this other shape which would be too constricting for me.

Esther: I mean there is this term, passing, of its own right, I find it, it is kind of offensive really? It reaffirms the binary again, so why should you, why should you have to?

Edalia: It basically says you can’t, it says being transgender is disgusting and if you can get to the point where no one can tell you are transgender you will be acceptable. {Esther: Exactly, yes.} As much as I would prefer it, if I could just fit in in that way, and great, people were like: oh you are a girl, that’s great, whatever, with all the difficulties that comes with, of course, but great you don’t have to worry about that, but I don’t have that option really, and loads of people don’t. I also strongly believe that it is disgusting to be like: being transgender isn’t acceptable, so I very much fly the flag of trying to be visibly trans in a life-affirming, positive, way for me, but also in a sort of… There is so much bigotry in the world and so many, it feels like there is a lot of acceptance and that’s on the rise, but it’s also feels like bigotry is on the rise as well.

Esther: Yes, it works both ways doesn’t it.

Edalia: There is a lot of right-wing stuff happening all over the world and you sort of feel like: If I can make a difference and be visibly trans and not fit in but be a wonderful person, because I am very friendly and get on with people, people can go: oh I had these preconceptions but actually Edalia is just a normal person who happens to dress a bit differently. There are all sorts of people that I could be hating, and this isn’t it. So if I can do that, in whatever time it is before we get an apocalypse and global warming and then everyone is looting and killing everyone… er positive!

Esther: {laughing} Yes, let’s get the positive message out before we get to that far.

Edalia: Sorry I totally went off on a tangent.

Esther: That’s alright, I feel like I don’t know either, so like I say it is just a conversation, so it is all good. So just to sort of dig a bit deeper about the whole sort of difference between trans and non-binary, you were saying trans is often, it is not always, but often, from one binary to the other in a way, although I have seen trans-people that obviously that is not the case for. If I look at my partner, they are now going more with non-binary because they don’t feel like, they kind of went from male to female, it is kind of like they went from one “extreme” to the other, and then tried a bit of both and then found their way, or their spot in the middle, and it is not even though that is a set spot, that can change. So, from what I have seen, they have now adopted more of the term non-binary and they go more by that sort of label as it were. So, yes, do you have any more ideas about that?

Edalia: Yes totally, so I am kind of a similar bent, I suppose, as I said I identified as female sort of but then I am just expressing in a non-binary way and that sort of works. Also, sometimes, I think I don’t totally fit into that female thing so the non-binary space, is a nice one. But also the thing I like about non-binary, a lot of people are like: what does it mean, what does it mean exactly, I don’t understand?  And it is like the wonderfulness about it is that you have got man, you have got woman, you have got non-binary, and it is like a kind of a very vague space which loads of people, some people are sis and they will consider themselves non-binary because to them it is about gender expression, about being trans and it is this big, broad thing and it is not…there are definitions but it is a very open thing which kind of spans to androgyny and stuff.

Esther: It doesn’t have to be, it is unique to everyone.

Edalia: There are loads of, you know the 50 genders thing, there are loads of genders that are really specific, people being like: this is exactly where I fit within the spectrum and it is like: demi-girl or bi-gender or a-gender… there are so many of these specific things that people have come up. But the delicious thing about non-binary is that you can be: I am non-binary. I am happy to chat more for interview purposes, but for general purposes that, and then that is all people need to get to know. And if they need to know more details about transition, or what you are doing, or all these sorts of things they feel inclined to know, or they deserve to know, they would be like: no, you can become my friend enough that I happen to talk about that if you need to know those things, but apart from that you have got these two boxes, male and female, and then this third one, kind of somewhere in between or not, or whatever, so.

Esther: Yes, so that’s a whole other discussion as well, like, the whole tick boxes on forms and all that kind of stuff because of the whole male/female; man/woman. As the binary used to be there are more and more options appearing and I was having a discussion in the group the other day on Facebook, about what is enough, and what is really not good enough? So, would you say that for you the options of male/female; man/woman and non-binary would be a good step? There are also ways others though, where does it end?

Edalia: Well, I would be content with that, I find that is good.

Esther: A step in the right direction anyway?

Edalia: Sometimes I write non-binary and recently I found options and it says: or put your own and I put NX. Then I have collected some theatre tickets and they have gone: NX are these yours? And I say: yes, they are my tickets, thanks.

Esther: I feel sometimes I am tempted to do that, because in a way for men there is one, Mr. For women there is Mrs/Miss and I think what does it matter? It is none of anyone’s business whether I am married or not, you know what I mean? It is so old fashioned, and I think that should change, I think there should be one for God’s sake, one for male, one for female and then I don’t know, where does it end again?

Edalia: The thing that I find, in a lot of situations gender isn’t important. So we have got all these preconceptions and ideas about gender and all this stuff, like it is on your form, it is on your driving licence, it is on your passport, but you don’t really need your gender on any of those documents. All you need is your name; well I don’t think you do.

Esther: I think people view it like as your eye-colour or your heart, just like a marker to recognise you, but then the whole gender thing is so Fluid.

Edalia: You can see that by looking at someone, you don’t need, you can tell, when you can’t tell you can ask, or whatever. It is not like it has to be on your legal documents. Of course in situations with sexually segregated spaces which are difficult and thorny issues in the trans-world, in those sort of situations, sure, but it is not like there are so many things where you tick a box whether you are male or female and it is like: well maybe this is only useful for market research, even then.

Esther: So tell me a little bIt more about your coming out sort of story, because we touched on it briefly, but please go on?

Edalia: So, I went to trans-support group and I found it very binary and people were very, they were nice but I just didn’t fit in and I suppose for my whole life I had been a constant outsider in lots of ways and I had gone: oh well, when I have found this group who is into this, finally I will find my people. When I do this thing, I will find my people, or when I find a trans group… And then those weren’t my people because they are just a group of people who happen to be the same gender basically, it is like if you were born female and you were going to join an all-female group and then I will find my people. It is like: no, it is just a gender-marker thing. So I was like [sigh] lost and frustrated and ended up just shrinking back into the closet for a while because I didn’t have anywhere to fit. And when I say that people are binary it is sort of, as long as they fit into the stereotypes, because it is like for an older generation of trans-people the only option for a lot of them was you fit the stereotypes and the cliches and you just stick 100%, as if your life depended on it, and often it does depend upon it, into that mould. And you shrink away into society and be quiet and meek and get on and you cherish the support you have been given and yes.

Esther: So the same situation again, just on the other side of the binary.

Edalia: Yes, you have found a position and it is okay and it is accepted and that is all that you can get, all you are likely to get, so just be happy with that. So that, in their defense for fitting into those things, that’s. So I was just: can’t I just be a woman and wear jeans and a t-shirt? It was like: no, you can’t, you don’t look convincing enough, you should try really hard and all of this sort of thing.

So I drifted away and then a couple of years later I was working on a play directed by Leo Skillbeck, who is this really cool director who has done some really cool theatre, switching genders and it is all really cool. So I was in this play, it was a children’s play but Leo was directing it and it was, I just chatted to them about stuff and they did all this queer theatre and I went to see their show in Edinburgh and was like: woah, this is like theatre for me, but I am in the closet! Then I sort of tiptoed around the idea and  went to a Halloween party together and I dressed as vampire Audrey Hepburn and people were really positive, because all Leo’s friends were really in that world and really supportive and some of them were my friends and I didn’t realise they were joint friends. And I sort of came out at that party, I guess, to people and I was like: well actually, this isn’t like drag this is me. And they were like: great! You should dress like that more often you look really good. And I was like: thanks! {Esther: yay!} And then I went out for another Halloween party as Ophelia from Brutal Legend that is a game by Double Find Productions who are a company that I am a really big fan of. And she is like this slightly undead…

Esther: Slightly undead? {laughing}

Edalia: Dead to start with and then afterwards she becomes undead… vampire-type person, all gothic, looking really cool. So I went out to this Halloween thing as her, but I got stood up and then ended up meeting loads of new people and it was really nice. But the company I was working for, they all saw me, I am going as this girl character? And they were like: Ooh yeah and then when they saw me when I was leaving the hotel, they were like oh! Because I was like full on cross-play and looked awesome and then that was a visual way of coming out to them. And then basically Leo introduced me to the whole world of queer cabaret in London and all sorts of great places where people can go and do stuff and not be really be in between. And I started doing queer cabaret myself, I made a burlesque song which totally wasn’t me real but I tried it and I sewed sequins onto this whole outfit and I did comedy cabaret and I started saying I was doing drag but it totally wasn’t drag, not being especially fabulous, just singing songs and stuff that were comic. People were like: oh, what is your name? I came up with the name Edalia, they were like: oh, Edalia, like “Edalia sleeps around a lot” or…? Can I swear on this?

Esther: Go for it.

Edalia: Or is it like: “Edalia sucks a lot of cocks” or something? For drag it is all like: oh you have got this really kinky name which is all saucy and sexual and all that sort of thing… and I was like: can I just have a name? They were like: er that’s not right. I just didn’t fit into that thing, but I started doing more and more, at all sorts of events not just queer events, and it was really cool. And then, just bit by bit, I have, since then, got more confident in normal life, coming out to people. I came out to my parents I think two years ago, it was really nerve-wracking and a friend at the time was helping me through the process. I was really terrified, so many people get rejected by their parents and lots of people get kicked out or disowned completely by parents and stuff. I was convinced this would happen, because I had paranoidly thought about everything they had said over the years and what about this thing and… And then I came out, I did it on the phone, and my mum was like: oh, well, that’s okay, you don’t even need to say that kind of stuff, just be who you are, it is fine. Then I was like: will my dad be okay? He is lovely, but when I became a vegetarian he was all really like: oh well, every meal needs to have meat in it and stuff which sort of feels like vegetarian is a feminine thing. So I thought: how will he react to the trans-ness, he is a vicar, but a lovely vicar, he is not a vicar if he listens to this, he is a Dean or a Deacon or some kind of thing and I always get it wrong, a minister of some sort, he does funerals and weddings and things in the church. He was like: oh sure it is fine, one or the other vicar people is a trans-woman, so it is okay. I was like: oh, okay, so that was really wonderful.

Esther: Well that’s good though, because like you say a lot of people don’t have that experience.  That’s really, really good.

Edalia: I am totally aware of my nice family privilege and that is totally a positive thing, I have got friends who had bad experiences and stuff so it fine.

Esther: Yes, great, cool! So, how do you bring your gender identity or your gender expression into your work? So you do poetry?

Edalia: I do loads of things, I am theatre-maker, a poet, an animator, I do projection-mapping, and musician, I do lots of stuff. So, basically I make shows, I work as an actor and then, since 2014, I have been making my own theatre, and I tour it round the country and most of my shows, I have a lot of spoken-word poetry in, and it is basically me on stage acting and doing poetry and I have loads of animated video projections that I project all around the space and I do songs and all kinds of stuff. I have got two shows at the moment, super-Hamlet 64, which is Hamlet in the style of a computer game, which isn’t especially gender-y but I do have a lot of cool things like Ophelia, who I have since chatted to fans of Ophelia from the Shakespeare play and they have taught me about her and loads of people relate to her. But initially when I started making the show I read her as this depressingly wet character who is just like, basically Hamlet is going a bit mad and she was in love with Hamlet and Hamlet was in love with her and then she was like: oh God my life is over, he is not into me anymore what do I do? And then her dad dies, and she basically drowns herself in a lake. I was like: this is too wet, the is has got to be powerful and awesome so I made her the hero of the game and Hamlet is a non-character who just chats throughout the whole thing and it turns out that she has been going on adventures and she is the one.

Esther: It sounds a lot better to me!

Edalia: Yes, so, the people I have chatted to have been: well, actually, Ophelia is the real person in the piece and Hamlet is just this wild ridiculous person, but she is going through serious things and her dad dies and stuff and a lot of people with compassion relate to her. So since then I have gone, okay but as my version stands it is pretty cool and I totally relate more to Ophelia and use Hamlet more as a vehicle for criticizing misogyny and the patriarchy and those kinds of things and white privilege and male privilege all those kinds of things. I have got a character selection screen, where it is like: oh, I realise that I was just playing life on easy mode and I always thought I was top dog but actually I just got given all this stuff because I was a rich, a Danish prince. So yes, I have got that one, and then I have got: Too Pretty to Punch, which is a show all about transphobia especially transphobia in the media, and that is more like a straight, spoken-word show, or a queer spoken word show and I am doing that at Edinburgh this year.

Esther: Yay, can I come?

Edalia: Yes of course come to that.

Edalia: That show talks all about, some trans-activist type people are really aggressive and that is wonderful and great and powerful. Me and Leo, another Leo, is really passionate and like, I am not putting up with this shit, we have got to change stuff. But I am more like: hey it is fine, not that transphobic is fine, it is not fine, but okay, I see where you are coming from, I understand your perspective I even if I disagree with it, I just want to help you out by saying that things which you have maybe read in the media which are actually untrue and this one was true, I explain things in a very calm way.

Esther: You are more diplomatic.

Edalia: Yes more diplomatic… and then I have got loads of comedy songs and serious hard-hitting stuff as well, just to wrap it up in a beautiful package. But one of the large things is about the media and social media, tv, how every time there is a thing about trans-people on the news, they always invite a trans-person, and then they invite someone who knows nothing about trans-people or who just hates them, because ‘we have got to get both sides of the debate’. Do you do that in everything? When you have football commentary and you have someone who loves football and then someone who says well, you know, they are just a bunch of overpaid idiots aren’t they? {Esther: Just kicking a ball around} Fine if you are going to do that but do that for everything. But, actually I have realised they do that for climate change. They invite someone who knows about climate change and then someone who is from the oil industry who says: no, no, it is nonsense, I don’t know anything, but I have decided it is nonsense and will have as much air time as anyone else or it impinges on my freedom of speech. You know?

Esther: Totally! Oh well that will be great, I hope that goes well. So how do you feel it affects people, how gender issues and trans is portrayed in the media?

Edalia: At the moment I think it is brilliant that there is so much visibility of trans-people in the media and loads of positive role models and lots of trans-people who are actors and actresses around the world, Laverne Cox, and all sorts of brilliant people doing all sorts of incredible things and it is great that social media helps that. But growing up, which is something I chat about in my show, there was so much negativity, there was only negativity, so it gives you this impression that as a trans-kid, in the closet, you would go: well who I am is unacceptable, and you internalise those things. You are portrayed as a monster and you are only presented as like the evil character in what’s that Hannibal film?

Esther: Oh, Silence of the Lambs?

Edalia: Silence of the Lambs, this is the thing, it is the one representation of you is as the murderer, the horrible person, the monster. You appear on shows like Jerry Springer as a laughingstock; you are the mockery, the butt of the joke. And this is the thing with comedians, a lot of comedians are like: oh god I should be able to joke about what I want, people getting offended all the time, it is not fair! And throwing their toys out of the pram, especially like Ricky Gervais, recently he did a massive ten-minute thing against trans people on his last set on Netflix. He said: I am not talking about all trans people it is just one trans-person… but it really is! It is like growing up trans-people are only presented in the media as the butt of joke, so if there was representation of all sorts of things, if you saw normal trans-people on soaps and stuff, which there now are and that is lovely, if you saw that all sorts of representation it is great, and then: by the way a comedian decides to do a joke about us, then okay it is like cool, it doesn’t matter, because we have got well-rounded role models and we feel really confident about who we are. When the only way you see yourself presented is as a joke in the playground, a joke on TV, comedians tearing you apart and saying: this is a disgusting person to be. If that is the only thing it is just going to be terrible for you. One example that I wanted to talk about is Ace Ventura, which I loved as a child. He is so brilliant Jim Carey, with his comedy and his impressions and I loved his shows but then at the end, I think it is the first one…

Esther: Spoiler alert but yes…

Edalia: Yes, spoiler alert. The bad person turns out to be a transwoman, and it is this big discovery, and it is like: oh my God the guy we were hunting for was actually this woman all along. And in order to prove it there is this really “comic” scene where Ace Ventura, strips her down to her underwear ripping her clothes off in front of all these police officers and she is like: what are you doing? And he is like: Gosh you just look like a woman.

Esther: And she is standing cross-legged, right, at that stage?

Edalia: And then they flip her round and it it turns out that there is a bulge in the back of her knickers where she has tucked her penis. And, then all the guys are like: Oh my God and they are throwing up and then it is like: oh my God she convinced us she is a woman and Ace Ventura is: oh my God, I kissed her, I feel like I am soiled now, this is disgusting. And that is incredibly offensive.

Esther: It is really and interestingly, we were talking a little bit about this before, but I read an article where it was mentioned and it was spelled out, not even in that many words, and it was also a film that I have always found really funny and I do like Jim Carey, and I like Ace Ventura I and II and that just made me stop and thing: oh my God, that is really not okay. That is really actually bad, but it is only now that I have started to think about it in that way, I think in the past you kind of don’t know any better, not that it makes it an excuse, not that it makes it right but it is just something you have a laugh at it and that is it. I am now looking at it from my perspective as I am now, and I am thinking: that is really, really, really wrong.

Edalia: And a lot of people nowadays, it has been brought up in news topics and now, this is one of the troubles with how some people understand offence And you hear of people suddenly being offended they go: oh gosh, now people are suddenly offended about this stuff, they weren’t before. They were totally offended before, but the internet didn’t exist, so no-one had a voice, the only people who had the voice were the cis-straight-white-male people who dominated the media. So, there were loads of trans-people, I watched this as a kid and sure I loved the rest of the film, but I was like: what the fuck is that? That is really unacceptable. Even as a seven-year-old, I was disbelieving that that was what that was because I was like, that’s just… That is the thing, that tells kids that this is unacceptable, that this is disgusting: God, what a disgusting creature a trans-person is. And it is like, as I say in my show, do you think kids don’t see this? They see all the media, they see everything, they grow up with this stuff, it ends up infecting them, you know.   

Esther: Yeah, you are totally right. And from my point of view I have never questioned my gender, so I come from a different perspective in that way, but I never gave it that much though to be honest, it was just something you laughed at.  And even saying that makes me feel that was really not cool, just because I now realise it is not cool, doesn’t make it okay then, because it really wasn’t. It was because I didn’t know any better and it was just what you see around you and it is, I think that ignorance. So I think the more people are not confronted with, but the more people meet Gender diverse people and talk to them as human beings and hear their story, that is one of the main reasons that I am doing this podcast, so, yeah.

Edalia: That’s great, but also a lot of people get, when you criticise someone they get defensive it is a natural reaction, but people often have a very black and white idea of themselves: am I good person; am I a bad person? You say: you shouldn’t have laughed at that and they say: no, it is fine, because I am a good person and I am justified. And it is like: we are all made of nuances and it is okay to think that something is funny and then later actually go: I have changed my mind about that.  And it is fine to also, because nothing is perfect, you have got so many people are really flawed and it is really frustrating, but we are all flawed, and it is perfectly fine to enjoy the first 50 minutes of Ace Venture and then go: well, I really don’t accept that part, there is a problematic part of it, but you can enjoy problematic material but just be aware of things and go: well I disagree with that or…

Esther: Yeah absolutely, I agree. Cool.

Edalia: I had another point… So, along with that, this idea of things being problematic, learning about the trans stuff, I have learned loads of things and my partner, Leo, is a different Leo to the one that started me on this journey, but a really wonderful person who is also non-binary. So Leo is disabled and has taught me so much about ableism, in a similar way and there are so many different ways you can be privileged in society or benefit from things or not realise that your behaviour is damaging. In the same way that trans-people were the butt of the jokes, disabled people were also the butt of the jokes and still are a lot. It just makes you confront it and some people are like: who can we joke about if you can’t joke about… Well joke about the genuinely horrible people, you know, like all the manipulative politicians, there are plenty of people to joke about who deserve it. There are so many things, I am doing a project at the moment, my new play that I am writing, it is called spectacular space bots. It is about an autistic robot who travels through space and basically wants to be a human, it works with the problematic idea that if you are different you have to act normal in order to be acceptable by society. So, a lot of autistic people mask their autistic behaviours, at a great stress to themselves, in order to look normal and be accepted and eventually throughout the story the robot realises that actually they are cool the way they are and actually screw the rest of the world sort of thing. It has got lots of disabled characters and people who are similar outsiders who join in the Wizard of Oz motley crew. So like in a lot of comedy or just in general life it is considered acceptable to, if you are someone who is autistic or a little bit different, to play tricks on them and make them the butt of the joke. There was someone who was really sensitive to sound and people in the office thought it would be hilarious to hang some symbols right next to their ear and they panicked and burst into tears and stuff. And they were like: oh god you are so funny, oh Derek he is so ridiculous. And is like: this is torture. {Esther: It is really not okay!} It is just monstrous behaviour, but they are like: oh they are a bit different we can do what we want. There is so much, and it is just monstrous. Of course you realise that is bad and then sometimes everyone can slip into… something becomes normalised and you don’t think about it until it gets pointed out.   

Esther: Until you wake up and think: hang on a minute is it really okay to laugh at…? And I think on some level we do feel it, we do sense that in ourselves. Like hang on a minute, you are not quite laughing as hard as the rest and then the next time you are like: actually this is really not okay.

Edalia: Yes. And also laughter is supposed to come from a mix of two emotions suddenly that is the science: you get two emotions really suddenly and it is surprising, and you laugh and that is how it happens. So, often, laughing is about our insecurities, so all these things we will laugh more because we are insecure about it and, but it doesn’t excuse it.

Esther: There are different kinds of humour as well, I think humour is a great way to deal with difficult emotions as well. And I am all for making jokes if it helps me with a personal situation. But that doesn’t necessarily make it okay to do that to other people, it is kind of up to them if they want to make fun of their situation, if it helps them cope, that is their decision, but it is not okay for me to make fun of their situation.

Edalia: It is like that punching down thing, in comedy it is generally accepted that you can punch up to people who are better off, but you can’t punch down to people who have got it worse.

Esther: Yes that makes sense, it sounds about right.

Edalia: So most people break those rules and they are like, maybe are getting laughs, they are getting cheap laughs.

Esther: Some people kind of do it really well, but it is because it is not aimed at people directly it is in a roundabout way, I don’t know some people are really clever with it.

Edalia: I saw Jimmy Carr’s stand up recently on Netflix and he is really offensive, but that is his thing, he is really offensive. I got really riled by the Ricky Gervais thing but what Ricky said he was doing is kind of what Jimmy did, his stuff is really offensive because it talks about pedophilia and all sorts of things, it is just offensive content, but he doesn’t talk about specific people and he also makes jokes about him being offensive. He does it in a way that, I couldn’t listen to the whole thing, I thought this is weird layers of kink and sexuality and stuff, I was like: okay I am just going to switch off. {Esther: That will do!} But it was very funny, even though there were things where I thought that’s wrong, he did it in what I consider an acceptable way. I am sure other people listening would say: no, that is unacceptable but yeah it feels like he is not the same.

Esther: I really like Russell Howard, I like his stuff because he is kind of quite innocent, isn’t he? I don’t know how he does it, I just think he does it well, he is just a likeable character and he is not offensive. I don’t find him offensive.

Edalia: I think I have only seen him on Mock the Week, but I know he does loads of stuff and he is supposed to be great.

Esther: Good old comedy. So, I was thinking, to wrap it up, is there anything else you’d like to add or want to say, anything you want people to know?

Edalia: Basically I just feel like it is really wonderful that we are having this conversation and that I am on this podcast and that you are doing this podcast with all these gender people. It is just wonderful!  I feel in a really positive place about how the world is going, or this country at least, and how people are getting more open to gender-varied people and just basically realising that we are not a threat because a lot of people are terrified and: oh my god we can’t let those people near children. And it is like: we are nothing to worry about, we are just quiet normal people who sometimes are a little bit nerdy and are some of the least threatening people. I mean there will be people who are trans and and horrible people because there are people who are male and horrible people and people who are female and horrible people. {Esther: totally, yeah} There are going to be those people who exist, but on the whole, we are no more threatening than anyone else and it is really lovely that the world is seeing this. Also the thing I found touring my show is that, I am from Swindon, I just moved to Norwich, it doesn’t feel like a place you can be openly trans as much as Norwich does, which is lovely.

Esther: Norwich is very sort of friendly in that way.

Edalia: But I made this show and I made it in Swindon, and I did a short tour and I was really terrified, because I was sort of coming out to loads of people in the show. Even though I was out in London and would be visibly trans, then when I went to Swindon, I would closet myself a little bit. So I did this show and I was really worried, and I found that people were really actually positive and then I would be more confident in how I presented generally and people in the corner shop were fine and most people are fine. Doing that show opened my eyes to how supportive but also uncaring in a positive way, they just don’t mind, they get on with their own lives, it doesn’t matter. And it is so easy, because of the way trans and non-binary stuff is betrayed in the media it is easy to, you only hear those voices, you don’t hear the voices of those people who are fine and not talking about it. So it is easy to internalise those voices and think: I can’t cope. But you look around society and people are dressed like goths, people are dressed like all sorts of different things and I want to dress not especially different and I not doing anything harmful and people are generally accepting and it is just really wonderful and touch wood that just continues. {Esther: Absolutely} I think I am a good place and the more accepting people, and the more open people are about being accepting. It is like when you are in a safe place, and in a comfortable place, reaching a handout to people who aren’t and saying: hey come on and join in, because sometimes they don’t know that. That’s the thing, I am so off on a tangent, but it is like some people think: I am fine with it, I am fine with the gender thing, so it doesn’t matter. But there are loads of people that are so insecure because of the media or because they have had a bad family experience that they don’t know when they look at you whether you are a supportive person, or you are one of those really unsupportive people and it is too unsafe to come out and be open. So sometimes it is nice to be able to give a helping hand and go: hey, as a more open person now I dress more visibly and if I see someone who seems… I will strike a conversation and try and be open and make it a positive experience or something.

Esther: Absolutely, that’s good, more of that please. Thanks for being a guest on the podcast!

Edalia: Nice! thanks so much for having me!

About Edalia

Edalia Day (@edaliaday) is a transgender/non-binary spoken word artist, video designer and theatre maker based in Norwich. Trained at Lecoq and Alra, their spoken word is full of energy and theatrical flair and their theatre combines comedy, live music and interactive projection mapping.

Their recent tour, Too Pretty To Punch, a comedy spoken word show about gender, the media and not fitting any of the boxes, was interrupted by the Coronavirus outbreak, but it is available to stream online. They also have two books of poetry available based on their shows Too Pretty To Punch and Super Hamlet 64.

You can find out more about Edalia on their website and follow them on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

What we discussed & useful links

  • The Good Place, a Netflix series about the afterlife – with a twist.
  • Disclosure, a Netflix documentary by Laverne Cox about Hollywood’s impact on the trans community.

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