She's A Good Boy // Elise Heaven

Are you a girl or a boy?


Gender is a spectrum, and the acknowledgement of that is the bare minimum 2018 should expect. Not everyone wants to wear the same shirt or underwear, or to be called a man or a woman. The signs and signifiers of what makes a man or a woman are constructed through language and symbols, and so are as up for deconstruction as anything else. You can be one, or the other, both or neither, and if nothing else it’s simply polite to accept how others choose to define themselves. Absolutes are incorrect, and definitive claims made in the name of science inaccurate. What it means to be male or female changes across societies and cultures and across history. There is no medical gender binary, no chromosome test that accurately dictates the gender of every person in the world. XX and XY do not neatly correspond to men or women, and ‘man’ and ‘woman’ are just ideas.

Elise Heaven uses their own experience of this articulation of gender to create their show out of humour, anecdote, silly props and homemade costume. The ridiculousness of someone telling someone else how they feel is rightly lampooned, and any mystery around being non-binary subverted through mime and monologue. Like many other shows which engage with the experience of non-binary or trans performers, familiar difficulties are staged and explained – the expectation to wear gendered clothing for a wedding or a job, the awkwardness of parents when kids simply ask, and the unease sometimes felt in everyday interaction. Accompanied by ukulele songs and debates with themselves, Heaven engineers an easy interaction with a supportive audience. The debate around gender continues both within people and about them. Connection and education is the first step.

-       Lewis Church


links relevant to this diagnosis:

Elise Heaven - She's A Good Boy

Gender Beyond the Binary (Video) - Guardian

What Is Non Binary? - refinery29

9 Things People Get Wrong About Being Non-Binary - Teen Vogue

Gender Doesn't Come Down to Chromosomes - The Globe and Mail

Agender and Non-Binary - Our Queer Stories

What Is the City but the People? // Tom Patterson

The Manchester International Festival opened on Thursday 29th June with What Is the City but the People? 160 participants walked, biked, danced, jogged and ambled along a raised runway in Piccadilly Gardens. People who might not usually be together were given the same platform, each having the same experience and sharing the same applause, from a Big Issue seller to a dance group, a taxi driver to a university chancellor. Being outdoors by a transport hub meant that it was not only highly visible but easily accessible. And breaking a Manchester tradition it didn’t even rain.

Each participant was accompanied by a streamlined narrative, conveyed through photographs and text projected onto large screens, creating an effect like flash-fiction. The text summarised a choice moment from their lives, a struggle, event or experience that they had lived through. Many were survivors, and such personal and sometimes traumatic experiences gave an intensity to these micro-narratives. This in turn gave the impression that we were seeing the participants’ souls laid bare, that we could know them deeply in that short moment. There was choreography to the event, orchestrated to retain attention and fit into its narrative framework. Several participants had stories that converged, like the man who was joined by his blind date on the runway. These vignettes give an impression of a bigger story beyond the event, a choice that led here and a relationship continuing into the future.

But we were only observers. It was impossible to see everything, because it was all done in such quick succession. As one person walked along the runway, the next participant’s pictures and backstory flashed up, and too much time looking at the screens meant missing the person in front of you. Did they wave? Were they happy? Normally, we get to know people by talking and sharing experiences; it’s a two-way street. As the event drew to a close, audience members seemed to be turning to one another and asking themselves; “Who is this standing next to me, this stranger, and what is their story?”

We will never know everyone’s history and sometimes even our closest friends and family surprise us with a story we’ve never heard before or a viewpoint that we didn’t know they held. But every one of the thousands of people that stream past us every day has something meaningful that they could tell us, that would make us laugh or think. We live insular lives, always watching screens with our earphones plugged in and sometimes we need to unplug, to speak to the person at the bus stop or ask the shopkeeper how their day was. Even if we only pass through each other’s lives briefly we can still have a meaningful conversation. To break down the walls between people we need to ask each other questions and really listen to the answers. (TP)

-Tom Patterson


MIF - What Is the City but the People?

Always Talk to Strangers - The Atlantic

Adults and Digital Devices - Scientific American

Flash Fiction

Why You Should Talk to Strangers - TED