#TDOVSCOT18 – A MESSAGE FROM JO

Jo Clifford 'Eve', National Theatre of ScotlandI can’t think about the future. I can barely understand the past.

I remember the first time I came to Scotland. It was 1967, I’d just left school. I was working as a volunteer in a mental hospital in the Borders.

I felt so alone and so crazy in my feelings about myself I thought I could easily end up there as a patient too. I mean there i was, apparently male: with a male body and a male name and yet not feeling male.

Words like “transgender” simply did not exist back then and I had no understanding of how my feelings could exist or that anyone else could possibly feel the same.

I had no idea what to do with myself except try to suppress who i was and get on with life as best I could.

The thought that eventually I might be able to live openly as a woman and that that would actually not be that much of a problem to the people I encountered was simply beyond the scope of my wildest imaginations.

But there i am, and I wish I could predict an unproblematic and uninterrupted  advance into the uplands of general acceptance for us all over the world.

That may be what will happen, and in my more cheerful moments I can see this as  a real possibility.

But I also know from history that every step forwards is often accompanied by at least half a step backwards and that it is also perfectly possible that the nasty backlash we are living through just now might well gather strength and that we will find ourselves scapegoated and faced with the possibility of losing the rights we have so painfully gained.

So I keep struggling; and my work and my life are closely bound up with that struggle.

I started writing about trans issues in the early 90’s. I got nowhere. Everything i wrote was rejected, and nothing made any real impact until “The Gospel According To Jesus Queen of Heaven” in 2009, which provoked demonstrations outside the Tron Theatre in Glasgow, ferocious denunciations all over the world on the internet and in the tabloid press; and reproaches from trans activists because all I had apparently done was stir up hatred.

Yet I still tour the show and perform it wherever I can because it’s clear that the opposite is true. Here, and especially in South America, it’s proving itself as a powerful weapon of resistance against oppression.

Renata Carvalho, who performs the Portuguese version in Brazil in spite of repeated attempts to ban it, has just been hailed as the “Best Theatre Discovery of 2017” for her work in resisting censorship and fighting for trans rights and trans representative in the theatre, on TV and in the cinema.

Fabiana Fine, who performs the Spanish language version of the play, has just scored another personal triumph with sold out performances of the play in the de facto national theatre of Uruguay, the Teatro Solis, and there are plans now for a tour of the rest of Spanish speaking Latin America.

Meantime backing the UK I am part of a growing number of out trans performers whose talent is at last being recognised and who are making a difference both as artists and as role models.

I can’t predict how it will all turn out. But I know we are doing what we can: and things are changing.

JO CLIFFORD

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