Never Say Never

Robert Allfree


Issue 4
November 1998

It seemed laughable that a person who has no real interest in films and cinema should find themselves on the staff for this years Transgender Film and Video Festival at the Lux Cinema. I tried to remember the last time I saw a film in a cinema and I had to go back to 1996, then back to 1990 - moderately disgraceful really.

So what was it that I could offer to the film Festival? I am still trying to answer that for myself. I was engaged in preparations for a month before the start, mainly cycling between film makers, producers, publication officers and the printers for the catalogue. I still have my British Film Institute visitors sticker on my wallet!

The mail out required approximately 2500 envelopes to be stuffed, sealed, stamped and prepared for posting. There were a couple of disconcerting moments when Festival leaflets sent out First Class to gender organisations still had not arrived three days later with the Festival fast approaching.

Having spoken to numerous people on the phone to find volunteers I finally met those who offered their time at the Festival. The support from the volunteers at the Lux and at the art exhibition in the Electricity Showrooms was great. The Festival would be hard pushed to happen at all without volunteers and I would like to thank all those who contributed.

As for the disasters, well there were a number of very close calls, one of which was the film "We Are Transgendered" which arrived on a video format in compatible with the Lux projection units. The panic was heightened by three factors. First, the film makers had travelled over from Japan especially to see their film. Secondly, there were six hours in which to locate a transfer machine and to get the film there to be transferred and then back to the Lux again. Thirdly my bike had been vandalised the evening before and was not useable.

Taxis suddenly took on a new appeal. Having sat in Friday lunchtime traffic for an hour and a half, I eventually arrived at the shop where the transfer was to happen. Meanwhile I had to return to the Lux for Festival needs, and to meant my bike so that it would be working enough to collect the film at five o'clock, an hour before it was due to be screened. It took a mere twenty minutes to return the video to the Lux in peak hour traffic making a mockery of the hour and a half initial journey at lunch time, in the taxi. The film was shown at 6 o'clock as scheduled, the audience blissfully unaware of the mild heart attack that had been experienced behind the scenes.

Of course there are other events that were unscheduled and amusing moments that occurred. One that springs to mind is at a Vietnamese restaurant, on the first night. Seven of us sat down and five meals arrived. Having sat patiently for quite a while, I asked where the other meals were. When asked what I had ordered, the waitress pointed at the plate next to me, now nearly empty, and informed me that Zach had eaten it. I doubt he'll ever be allowed to forget the time he happily tucked into my supper.

A surprising number of people arrived at the Lux and the Gala Ball who had no personal involvement or prior knowledge of the transgender world. Sitting on the door at the gala ball for most of the evening I saw an amazing transformation in quietly sceptical people arriving for a quick drink and those same people leaving later on, inspired by the atmosphere, having had a great time. As they left, they emptied our supply of gender information leaflets. Education occurs at the least expected times, and the gala ball certainly provided one such opportunity.

I have learnt a tremendous amount through becoming involved in the Festival. I have both surprised and shown myself that anything is possible, regardless of age (a personal hang up). In terms of hormone treatment I was four and a half months old at the Festival, but what the hell! Start as you mean to go on. What alternative do you have?

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