Chloe Black began her stand-up career in Adelaide over 18 years ago. She has performed at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Adelaide Fringe and the Edinburgh Fringe. She is a broadcaster on Edge Radio in Hobart as co-host of Film Central and “It’s Always Midnight Somewhere. Chloe performed at the first Hobart Queerstories in March 2019.
So hey everyone, look, I just wanted to start off by saying that the following story contains spoilers for the following films “Shrek”, and Pedro Almodovar’s “The Skin I Live In”. Oh, and the Sixth Sense, which was released 20 years ago this year. Um, if you have not seen it already I’m sorry I’ll just get this out of the way, “Bruce Willis is Luke Skywalkers father.”
Phew. It feels good to get these things off your chest, I think. So, that felt good.
I, of course, can’t speak for everybody here but for me personally there was a distinct moment in my life where I came out to myself. Ah, but I think it’s an experience many of us on team rainbow can relate to. Before you come out to everybody, you come out to yourself. You tell yourself you are not going to be in denial any more. You’re not going to feel shame, and you accept who you are.
But that moment can be its own revelation. Hindsight being 2020 means we can look back on our lives and with stark clarity, you can see dozens of moments which signpost the inevitable. What I like to think of it is, it is a lot like watching The Sixth Sense, um but for the second time. Ah, so. You know, you’re kind of watching it and you’re thinking, “oh of course!’
“Bruce Willis was Trans all along.”
So today I thought I’d share with you a laundry list of moments in my life where, like you know, my true feelings couldn’t be more apparent but, but very much like Bruce Willis I was in a strong state of denial. Um, and I honestly just thought I was just a weirdo!
So, these are in no chronological order, this is just a patchwork of moments in my life where I might have been able to look at it more objectively and gone, “you stupid girl, of course you were.” But, yes, here I go.
So, it is July 2001. I am doing a 5-minute spot at the comics lounge in North Melbourne. I only have 5 minutes of material to my name and no one in the audience knows this but I’m secretly wearing my girlfriend’s underwear. Nobody knows, that is, except my girlfriend. She dared me to do it. She said it would be our little secret. Um, what she doesn’t know is I always secretly wanted to anyway, just like when we tried pegging, um, I made her think it was her idea.
I should clarify that at this age, I was probably 28, I think around 28, 29. And I should clarify that I was a closeted Crossdresser for most of my life at that point. I’d been wearing women’s clothes in private for nearly all my adult life. It was a compulsion I was yet to completely understand, yet whenever I did it I’d feel confident, pretty, sexy, and more centred and whole than I can probably competently describe. I have no point of reference for this, it is just something I know that relaxes me and it makes me feel powerful. Like I said, I have no point of reference, until…
I end up watching Glen or Glenda with about 5 close male friends. We are all 5 bongs to the wind and someone suggests we should watch “this weird transvestite film by the guy who made Plan Nine From Outer space.”
This was many, many years ago. How many years ago? It’s on VHS.
That many years ago.
They all laugh at how hokey the film is. Just like any other of Ed Wood’s films, it is hackneyed and poorly acted. And Ed wood stars in the film as the titular Glen or Glenda. A transvestite whose wedding is fast approaching. Should they tell their fiance or keep their secret forever? I laugh along with everybody but deep down I know that I’m laughing at myself. I can see myself quite clearly reflected in the main character. Ed Wood’s love letter to the trans community speaks volumes to me. Perhaps a little dated, with a few misgivings in its portrayal of the trans experience, its heart is clearly in the right place. For 1953 it is an incredibly heartfelt plea for compassion and understanding towards the trans community.
I love the film and I still watch it at least once a year. Ed Wood plays a very key part in my coming out. We’ll get to that later.
Jump cut to a few years later, or many years later, I am watching the film Shrek. Princess Fiona is cursed to become an ogre at dusk every night, and at the end of the film Princess Fiona’s curse is lifted. Yet to her own dismay she is still and forever will be an ogre. She is upset at this prospect and bursts into tears
I am watching this in the audience of the theatre and I’m thinking, “you lucky fucking bitch, even though you will spend the rest of your life as an ogre, you still get to be a female ogre.”
For what I wouldn’t give to live under such a curse. If someone were to offer me the opportunity to live as a woman and the only price I had to pay was a chubby body and green skin? BAM, I would not even have to wait for the thinking music, I would be there in a heartbeat. And I think ”she has the audacity to complain about this? Shut up Fiona, some of us bitches don’t have it so good!”
Jump cut again: I am 28 years old. I am lying awake at night. I am wondering if I will ever be rich enough to fake my own death and move to Albania.
So that, of course, I can transition away from family and friends, without the shame it will bring upon them.
Jump cut again to my late 30s. I see a wall of missing persons posted in the window of a police station. And like clockwork, I think to myself again, “I wonder how many of these people have run away and disappeared to become women?
Jump cut to a few years again and I’m 39 and I’m watching Pedro Amoldavar’s ‘The skin I live in’. Antonio Banderas plays the world’s leading plastic surgeon whom after he believes his daughter is raped, kidnaps one of the alleged rapists, he’s innocent, I should point out, and forces them to undergo gender reassignment surgery. At the end of the film this character, called Vera, plans their escape, kills Banderas but before he dies they yell loudly at him. “Look what you’ve done, you’ve mutilated me! You’ve turned me into a fucking chick.” And all I can think is… “Shut up! You lucky fucking bitch! You have no idea how lucky you are”
And it is then that I realise I am the only audience member who feels this way. I am alone in wondering why this character is not overjoyed by their predicament. As the film plays out, I realise: oh, I’m not meant to feel this way.
This is like laughing during Schindler’s List or crying over the fate of Hans Gruber in Die Hard. Just like watching the Sixth Sense and wondering, “why isn’t Bruce Willis’s character over the moon that he’s been dead this whole time?”
If I jump cut ahead to another 4 years later and I am standing in my kitchen, I am 43 years old and I am only 4 minutes away from coming out. I’m hosting a movie night at my house. 10 of my closest friends are coming over to watch Ed Wood, the Tim Burton and Johnny Depp movie celebrating the life of the director of Plan 9 from Outer Space and Glen or Glenda.
I have my favourite red frock on, makeup, heels. Talking Heads is playing in the background and my first guest arrives. My friend pauses awkwardly and looks me up and down and says “Um, what’s with the dress?
And I say, “well you know the movie I’m showing tonight is about a famous transvestite, and… well I too… am trans!”
My friend pauses, really long pause and looks at me and says, “Righto… can I put these beers in the fridge?”
Um, thank you very much, thanks.
*Audience claps and cheers*