Life in a changing world
A personal report from Eva Fels
Austria is a fairly old-fashioned country where the existence of Transgenders is recognised only in larger cities. In the mountains and in the countryside an eyeliner and a bit of shaving will turn you to a perfect drag queen.
Even in the larger cities like Vienna, Graz, Linz and Salzburg there are only few TGs. However in these cities TGs organise regular meetings in pubs or clubs. It's a very dynamic scene. Since we began to use the Internet for communication, people who hid their feelings for years have by now got out on the streets by. Some groups are quite young and it really seems that at the moment there is a new Transgender-awakening.
Nevertheless, we are so few that our groups are open for transvestites as well as transsexuals. This sometimes leads to heavy discussions about our identities, but over all, we have learned, that we have to face similar problems.
I myself come from the Viennese group called TransX. Although there are some F2M Transsexuals, most of us are female. We meet at least twice in a month for discussions and try to offer an interesting program for our members. In the last years we made regular workshops on voice training, make-up or body language. Of course, we also make political lobbying and public-relation work, but this is done outside of the club meetings.
Before you come to Austria you should check in the Internet whether there is an event that might be interesting for you. Like TransX all groups are open and many of us speak English. Like other Austrians we are open hearted and it should be easy to find another TG-Person to spend an evening with.
If you want to meet us, it might be best to say hello in one of out Internet-Chats or join us at one of the many events:
The picture above shows me dancing on the TransX-truck. Behind me, you can see the legs of Heike, a transsexual performance artist, who spend the whole parade in transparent cage and was turned around her axis all the time.
The text on my back means "Transsexual Menace". Are we a menace to others? It seems so. Although there are few M2F-transgenders that were interested in visiting feminists women-only locations, two years ago this started a furious discussion within the radical feminist community, whether they should let us in. As some wanted to learn more about us, they invited us, which was the beginning of a new communication between TG and feminists. We both learned a lot from each other. I found out that feminism is the only theory, which seriously tries to answer the questions about gender. I learned from Luce Irigaray that the Question "What is a woman?" can and should not be answered, because it's a question that misuses gender identity to regulate and repress people. From Judy Butler I learned that gender could only be reasonable understood as a continuous performance in social space, an experience that every TG makes when she changes her gender-status. So you should not stress problems with your genitals, your life counts.
Feminists on the other side learned from us how many regulatory gender laws are still efficient for both genders. Living only one gender makes you blind to see how many expectations you have to satisfy to be respected in your gender. We discussed a lot. One result of these evenings was that some of us wrote down a common feminist-transgender manifesto, which later created the basis of the new political TransX program. We 'only' have three demands:
For Non-Austrians, especially for people familiar with British law, the last points might be ridiculous. Before Austria joined the EU our passports had no M/F discrimination. This made travelling for us much easier. However the new passports of the Schengen-zone screen your officially registrated sex. Of course, this is not necessary for safety or to identify individuals but only reflects the mentality to treat men and women differently, similar to official papers which formerly indicated religion to discriminate between Christians and Jews. We feel that M/F screening cannot be legitimated in an egalitarian society any more and we - people who change their gender more than once in a lifetime - know how repressive this categorisation is. We hope that once a European movement will fight to erase the M/F - field in our passports as a sign to stop gender - discrimination.
The last demand results from the fact that Austria M2Fs are forced to make a genital surgery before they can choose a female name. This is a really curios fact of Austrian law. We are not free to define and live our own gender but are still subject to a sexist-genital concept of gender.
Oh, sorry, I talk too much. We all know that shit happens and Transgenders usually don't live in a rose garden. I just wanted to write about this "Transgender menace" - shirt.
At the time we wrote our manifest the demonstration for the international woman's day took place. Some posters declared that no Transgender should be allowed to join this demonstration. Other women invited us. We knew that our appearance would result in a battle between the women. So we stood at home, but we printed these "Transgender Menace" - shirts and gave them to feminists, who wanted to demonstrate, that TG-women should not be treated separately. They did it and showed that womens lib can not be realized when the rights of TG-womens are ignored.
We are no menace for them any more. We became accepted as females, of course as a special type of women, as TG-women. And I have no problem being denoted as TG-woman as long as people see that I am a woman.
Out and About
in Austria's Cities with Eva
Check in at a hotel as man and leave it as woman, in Austria I cannot imagine that you might get any troubles. It is really not necessary to look for a special trans-friendly hotel. However offering persuasive female performances in the streets will not only make your life more relaxed, as you know, but also, at least in some districts, safer. It's not very risky to cross-dress in Austria, although some Austrians will immediately show you how curious your beauty is for them. Please take care before you come nearer to groups of drunken young men.
If you just came to Vienna to spend some exciting erotic evenings, you have to visit the LeSwing on a Tuesday. On that day which is for men and TG, you can get to know other transvestites as well as warmly interested men. The darker rooms on the backside offer small rooms with beds to make immediate sexual plays possible.
Vienna has an interesting fetish scene where Transgenders are warmly welcomed. The Sado-Maso pub SMart Cafe offers a very familiar atmosphere where you will easily get in contact with others. There are also some interesting larger Fetish events, like the famous parties in the Lo:sch, but it is highly recommended to look at the SMart, respectively it's homepage first to be sure that you don't drop in on an evening where only boring leather-gays are invited.
The gay-scene offers some pubs which I could also recommend for TGs, while others - even if they let drags in - are really not worth spending more than ten minutes of time in. But at least the pubs listed below will offer you a friendly welcome. The same is valid for the Frauencafe, a women's bar, where men are not allowed to enter. For a complete list of LGBT-pubs visit www.rainbow.or.at or pick up one of the free city-guides that you will find in all gay pubs.
If you prefer traditional atmosphere, classical dancing and beautiful costumes you have to visit one of Austrians Gay-Lesbian Ball-events. Most famous is the Life Ball, which takes place in the Hofburg. But it is almost impossible to get a ticket for that event. But don't miss the Rosenball and the Rainbow-Ball those also take place in historical buildings in a very tradition manner. Sometimes you might feel like in the 19th century, with the small exception that a Gay-Lesbian-Transgender audience surrounds you. In Graz you might visit the famous Tuntenball.
AUSTRIA - ADRESSES
Central TG web site: www.transgender.at
GRAZSelf-help Group / Transgender-Meeting
Each 2nd Sunday and 4th Wednesday of the month at 21:00 at the Traminer Weinstube at Jakominiplatz, closed to Klosterwiesgasse.
For more information and contacts visit http://graz.transgender.at/ or Michaela http://members.tripod.de/rouxii/michaela.html, email@example.com.
Self-help Group / Transgender-Meeting:
Self-help Group / Transgender-Meeting:
Transgender - meetings:
Published in |
The WayOut Tranny Guide To the Transgender World,
10th Anniversary Collectors Edition, p. 146-149, WayOut- Publishing Co Ldt, Enfield, UK, 2002