“I can’t stand all these female comedians these days. All they talk about is their penises.” Comedy allows us to speak truth to power. Not that “truth” is necessarily a language that power understands.
How does a working-class transgender comic artist rise above the screams of the right and put on a happy face as the UK government rolls back their human rights in real-time? These are the questions that run through my mind as I land on the slippery cobblestone streets of the Edinburgh Fringe.
It’s up to conservatives to demonize us. We stand out, we are not many and we are a colorful distraction. But it’s probably not as Machiavellian as it sounds. As with most things, the trans community’s recent tanking of public opinion polls is fear-based. In the same way we tend to exaggerate the size of nearby spiders in our minds. “What if they get into our mouths and lay their eggs?” Note: this also applies to spiders.
Laughter is a reflex designed to relieve the body of excessive fear. It’s the reason why trans comics do so well right off the bat – because you guys are so ready to pop, all we have to do is give it a little pause.
The quickest way to disprove Liz Truss’ paranoid fantasies about trans people is to watch one of us do stand-up comedy. Come and sit five feet from our surgically altered bodies as we become lyrical about the same shit you deal with every day. Feel your intestinal muscles ripple with spasmodic exhalation. Feel the cognitive dissonance flood your brain as your subconscious is forced to balance the impossible equation: How can a “mentally ill deviant” provoke such a warm human response in my personal belly space?
Fortunately, it’s still nice to express ourselves. Underneath all the corporate crap and reptilian ownership, the heart of the Edinburgh Fringe still beats with the “this is where you come to express yourself” feeling. And so, to Edinburgh, we come together. My advice? Go see a transgender comedian before they kill us.
“Why should you go see a transgender comedian?” A hack would give you a joke answer. As a pro… I’ll give you two jokes and a serious one to balance it out…
As a preoperative transsexual with a breast job, I have a disproportionate number of hilarious appendages. Most of us have experienced BOTH bathrooms in our lives. That’s double the bathroom humor for your money. And as much as the UK government would have you believe otherwise, trans people are incredibly relatable. Who hasn’t looked in the mirror and seen a stranger looking back? “That can’t be me, I’m not that old.” Or, “That can’t be me, I’m not a tie person.” Or, “It can’t be me, I’m so sad.”
If you’re on Fringe this year and want to see a transgender comedian, give it a listen. Like our comic book namesakes – The X-Men – we walk among you. We are everywhere; each of us is more unique than the last. There’s the hilarious Jen Ives (Peak Trans, 7pm, Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose), rising star, and Graham Linehan’s ongoing obsession.
There’s British trans comedian OG (and fellow muse), Andrew O’Neill (We Are Not In the Least Afraid of Ruins; We Carry a New World in Our Hearts, 5:30pm, Liquid Room Annex) whose gender journey has taken them since then. in a non-binary direction. And so, I suppose, it’s me – that transgender bird The voice with its outrageous city-wide posters and an hour of “musical stand-up” about babies, tits, fanatics and Batman. (Jordan Gray: Is it a bird? 10:25 pm, The Box, Assembly, George Square).
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I’m not a political person. Much like my genetically dislocated genitals, I definitely lean to the left, but ultimately I don’t take any of this too seriously. But I like to think that my 2022 Edinburgh Fringe poster counts as a small act of revolution. Suffice to say my naked body is splattered across the city this year – albeit pinching and walking tactically obscured by a microphone and a superhero cape. Far from any sort of public outrage, the poster is actually highly rated to win the coveted Comedy Awards “Poster Of The Year”.
But if you’re one of the “outraged” gentlemen who stand behind looking in disbelief, don’t pretend I’m the first transgender woman you’ve ever seen. Statistically speaking, your internet search history is different. According to the numbers, you are the main researchers in the field!
This is the combination of British sexual repression and transgender demonization. You’re just embarrassed to admit that you might enjoy spending an hour in a dark room with me. Maybe that’s why my tickets are selling like hotcakes?
Jordan Gray is a comedian, actor and screenwriter. Can you book tickets to his Edinburgh Fringe show, Jordan Gray: Is It A Bird? here