by Javier Solórzano Casarin
I consider myself a lucky person for many reasons but one of the most relevant reasons has to be, that my parents gave me a valuable education. Some of the foundations of that education were tolerance and respect for others. They taught me essential values like being able to share this life and this world with other human beings that surround us. Because for those who were different than me, they never attained a category of strangeness or inferiority.
The most relevant thing now that I reflect upon it, was that it never felt like a sermon or a lesson that I as a responsible child had to learn. That natural assimilation to other people around me happened because they formed an intrinsic part of my life, within my own social circle.
Friends of my parents had different sexual orientations. At my childhood home, when I looked around at social gatherings and long-running parties; homosexual and heterosexual couples did not represent an inherent contrast of right or wrong, bad or good; They were simply all diverse couples.
It is true that when I reached an age where I could assimilate and better understand all these things, my parents sat me and my brother to talk about it. But in essence what they were doing was confirming what we had already witnessed personally… the romantic relationship between two men or two women who were part of our family and fraternal community.
Undoubtedly, having grown up in an environment shaped by that openness and understanding, kept me out of those elements of society — which unfortunately still constitute a majority — that not only judge the sexual preferences of an individual but that they go as far as to attack them through verbal and physical violence.
I honestly don’t remember when it was the first time I heard the word “faggot”, one of my least favorite words in our vocabulary. What is very clear to me is that when I heard it, the intention was derogatory, characterized with the purpose of hurting someone else. In elementary, middle and high school it was a tradition that acts of public humiliation, where a male obtained the stigma of being a “fag”, or “queer”, had an audience who applauded the agressions masked as jokes, always at the expense of that single and vulnerable person.
What allowed this to continue and perpetuate itself was joint responsibility. The archetypes of the aggressors have not changed at all, they are those that gain popularity in the classroom and in the school through intimidation, and the public that celebrates their actions are all the others who would never dare to antagonize. The saddest thing is that it was not only a matter of being complicit because of the fear of expressing a contrary position, it was also because much of that “public” shared the notion that effeminate kids or those with a greater link to their femininity were indeed “fags”. For them, their nature was rare and unpleasant.
Apart from the body language that distinguished them, the one who “earned” that title was always the weird guy or girl, the introspective, the asocial; she or he was also the one who did not correspond to the pre-established ideas of being in the social archetype of youth. Imposed by the popular elite of the classroom, anyone who deviates from these doctrines was punished. If you were different you did not belong, you could not be part of those who set the rules of the game.
Sports and physical strength were probably the two fundamental parameters to prove if you were man enough or not, the confirmation of absolute manhood.
The kids who did not participate in sports activities also suffered scrutiny and collective rejection. For a long time I knew the two sides of the coin based on the different perspectives of sexuality. Yes, the subject is still a taboo, less and less but it still is a taboo; still discussing homosexuality back then was much more complex. While this topic was discussed and treated with openness in my home, in other public arenas like school, the streets, parties with friends, there was a very noticeable ambiguity. Sexual diversity was discussed or referenced with morbidity and mockery, or an obliged respect on the surface to keep up political correctness.
It is increasingly clear to me that people fear what we they don’t know. The one who is different has constantly caused suspicion, doubt and rejection. Like everything else that has to do with what one learns in life, everything that one is taught by parents, relatives or teachers; inside and outside the academic world.
Quoting one of the great voices that has promoted peace and tolerance — “No one is born hating another person because of the color of their skin, or their origin, or their religion. People have to learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate they can also be taught to love…” Nelson Mandela -.
I remember all those victims of homophobic violence. Unimaginable crimes, in most cases, homicides. Whether in small town or in large cities, it shows the growing contempt that exists against women and men who have accepted and made the decision to live with and enjoy their sexual preference.
As an example there is an excellent film that addresses this issue with a formidable narrative discourse. “Milk” (2008), directed by Gus Van Sant, focuses on the true story of Harvey Milk (played by an extraordinary Sean Penn), who was the first gay elected public official in the history of the United States. I remember a particular scene in which Milk and his colleague Dan White discuss something called “Proposition 8” which had the objective to force schools to expel all homosexual teachers and their supporters. When White tells Milk that he also has his own causes for which he is willing to fight, Milk asserts that the gay community is not fighting for a cause but for their lives.
The discrimination experienced by so many homosexuals and lesbians in modern society extends to their security, their quality of life and peace, necessary to exist. Another substantial problem is that many of the verbal attacks or disqualifications towards homosexuality and / or sexual diversity are in most cases concealed with humor and double standards. I have heard the justification on several occasions: “We have to view it with a little bit of humor.”
Quite frankly, I know that many of these opinions are an effort to digress from saying what they really think. As the surface of the mockery transcends, comments, voluntary and involuntary, they begin to reflect contempt for sexual diversity and their various manifestations. In other words, they worry a lot about appearing insensitive towards society but inside in their intimacy they cannot avoid vocalizing their dislike for those who are different than them.
My mother, a veteran and wonderful photographer began a series of portraits of transgenders, transvestites and transsexuals eight years ago. What has captivated me about this work, as I am sure it has done with many other people, is the immediacy, compassion, honesty and emotionally clarity with which it has managed to invite us to the privacy of these people. I manage to build a visual and conceptual bridge with those individuals, who due to their decisions, live on the fringes of society or hidden in the shadows. They inhabit the concave spheres of society, whether despised or ignored, do not have a whole, real, recognizable identity.
According to the preponderant judgments of a high percentage of people in society, transvestites, transgenders and transsexuals belong exclusively to a world of absolute debauchery, of a dominant void of human values, of an amoral lifestyle; absent from any wholesome family structure.
Susana Casarin has portrayed with her images the complexity, strength and authenticity of what is nowadays called as the third gender. She has opened a window that allows us to see the intimacy of those women who have carried the paradox of nature … exist inside a man’s body. It gives us the possibility to have a glimpse in those portraits composed of their homes, their friends, their relatives, their work environments and in the ocurrence of everyday life; to the cusp of their femininity. Her acclaimed series “Realities and Desires” has been an organic conduit for the life of the third gender. Breaking the preconceptions of those dangerously simplistic maxims, we are spectators of all facets of their personal lives. As lovers, couples, daughters, sisters, friends, confidants, professionals, companions, among many others. On rare occasions I have been able to see the relevance of a photographic series in this highly controversial and polarized subject. A significant component is the allusion to the nightlife, and “the pachanga” that of course draws their human expressions, the catharsis of their emotions, however the main focus is the ordinary daily life that resembles that of any other person.
As an independent filmmaker, on this long quest to develop my career and carry out personal projects, I have maintained the belief that artistic expression has the power to change things. As artists we have a responsibility to understand the communicative potential of our work. We cannot pretend that what we do, whether through music, literature, theater, photography, painting or cinema does not have a lasting ideological or emotional effect. It is necessary to face that it is very likely that doubts, reflections and questions are planted in the audiences of each one of those disciplines. If the method of artistic language can prove to be very successful, it is very important to consider that along with all other concerns of the creative mind, whether of a social interest or not, there is a great opportunity to invite the idea that we all have to learn to coexist.
The film, “Ti Muxe” is the result of all these meditations caused by Susana Casarin’s work. Inspired by this new stage of her work, our documentary short film portrays the intimacy of the “Muxes” del Istmo de Tehuantepec in the state of Oaxaca. When I had the privilege of being invited to direct this project, I thought about what the opportunity and the challenges were in reinterpreting Casarin’s photographs. To expand the original language of still images to provide them with moving images, narrative dissertation that encapsulates sound, music and camera movements. It is exciting for someone who is dedicated to film grammar, to be able to get involved in a project where the pillar is the images themselves.
A film is a living organism, as strange as that may seem, therefore it is always perfectible, still “Ti Muxe” managed to offer a look without excuses, without filters, without a veil in disguise. That is probably the great accomplishment of this short film. Beyond the preferences of a particular narrative manifestation, if the lives of our characters are perceived through the colors, textures and atmospheres that shape their microcosm, then something can truly manifest to people’s awareness and sensibilities.
With the camera lens I discovered and witnessed the latent femininity in Kristal and Paulina, beyond the physique, beyond the body that constitutes them, I saw the women inside. A smile, a profile, a gesture, a look … against all possibilities, of that paradox of nature, I saw these women in the ritual of putting on their makeup, doing their hair, in their rituals of day and night.
Many still deal with the difficulty of accepting these realities. Many do not conceive of the fact that we can consider a woman who has the body or voice of a man; after filming this movie I can say that if one is willing to get rid of all prejudices and of all fears, it is possible and true within human interactions, to realize that life is particular, unpredictable and that in spite of adversities it will always find its way. For me, a man who feels and knows himself as a woman, or a woman who feels and knows himself as a man, does not play part in an illusion, it is a certainty of his heart and his mind.
That to me is real.