Today Strøget is busy again after a calm Sunday. Or hanged over Sunday maybe. Copenhagen was celebrating the pride parade Saturday and the city was covered in rainbow colours. It is the first day in the week and the square is filled with people going to work and tourist visiting.When the box opens a woman is sitting in a swing and swings from one side to another smiling gently. A sound of the wind flows out of the box. She has beautiful orange feathers on her back she is wearing a tricot.. but wait a second. When looking a bit closer it might be a man.
“Is it a man or a woman?”
A group of Danish teenage boys and girls ask each other as they approach the box. This is the immediate question almost everyone in the audience ask themselves or the person next to them. A Danish family arrives: ”Oh, I must be a commercial for the parade, don’t’ you think so?”. Three elderly Danish ladies are looking with much interest and discussing whether it is a man or woman:
“Well, it must be a man.”
“Are you sure about that? He has breasts”
“Then half man from the waist and down and half woman from the waist and up.”
“Yeah, there has been a lot of that in the weekend”, referring to the pride.
They don’t seem shoked or provoked. They leave the square and continue their stroll. Other groups of primarily tourist seem more provoked by the topic of the day. You can see the confusion in the eyes of the audience, when they arrive. The smile a bit and others starts to laugh while their eyes search up and down to figure out if it is a man or a woman. Three Danish teenagers also feel a little uncomfortable too: “Oh it is a bit nasty and scary”. One of them goes to find out. The floor is made of mirrors, so that you can search every angle of the performer’s body. In his search for answers the performer looks him directly into his eyes and flirts with him. It makes him a bit embarrassed and he goes back to his friends. This situation is quite similar to the other days. The eye contact makes the audience uncomfortable. The living artwork is looking right back at audience and asking them what is on their minds that very moment. The shutters go down for a short while and when it opens again the sound is different. It sounds like we are at a football match. The performer crosses the legs and begins to roll a cigarette. The person suddenly looks more masculine.
For some people they find an answer to their questions written in the text on the side of the box. “I see, it is a transgender person”. It seems to be a sufficient answer for many of the Danish audience. A female tourist who has been looking at the installation for time also finds some kind of answer, when she reads the text. She smiles, does the thumbs up and says “You do you”. She is not the only one doing the thumbs up today. A few people take selfies with the box and the performer in the background, supposedly out of curiosity or identification. Also families with small kids are here today, like a grandfather with his grandchild. The little grandchild asks what it is about. The grandfather smiles and goes: ”Well… it is a bit difficult, but I will try to explain it to you”.
When the shutters go up for the last time today the performer is lying still at the floor. The feathers are covering the back and the face is almost hidden behind the long hair. The torso is still visible and it attracts new audience with curious eyes.
Ceci n’est pas la nature*
Western civilization reasons according to the division man/woman. As stated by Freud, the first thing we take note of in every new encounter is whether we are dealing with a man or a woman. When the recognition is not automatic, this leads to insecurity, annoyance or happy excitement.
In Denmark, transgenderism is still considered a diagnosis. The approval for a sex change operation involves a process of minimum two years. Since 2014, Danes have been able to change their gender legally by acquiring a new social security number. Female social security numbers are even. Male numbers are odd. There are no other possibilities.
It is not easy for transgender people to acquire jobs, unless they work in the entertainment industry.
* This is not nature
Ceci n’est pas la nature
Den vestlige civilisation ræsonnerer med udgangspunkt i opdelingen mand/ kvinde. Som Freud påpegede, er det første, vi lægger mærke til ved hvert nyt møde, hvorvidt vi har at gøre med en mand eller en kvinde. Når genkendelsen ikke foregår automatisk, fører det til usikkerhed, irritation eller glædelig spænding.
I Danmark er det at være transkønnet fortsat en diagnose. For at blive godkendt til en kønsskifteoperation skal man gennem en minimum toårig proces. Siden 2014 har det været muligt at ændre sit køn juridisk ved at søge om et nyt CPR-nummer. Kvinders CPR-numre ender på lige tal. Mænds ender på ulige. Der findes ingen alternativer.
Det er ikke let for transkønnede at få job, med mindre de arbejder i underholdningsindustrien.
* Dette er ikke naturen
READ MORE about the Metropolis Festival and the artist Dries Verhoeven’s concept of “Ceci n’est pas” in this background article or on Københavns Internationale Teaters webpage. Also check out the newspaper articles in Berlingske and Politiken