Guest Blog: Plaster Cast Collective on the Trans Nightclub Experience

In this blog post, Ayden and Lizzie speak about their experiences as trans people in the queer club scene and the inspiration for the show Sound Cistem

Catch it on Thur 3 – Fri 4 Oct at 7:15 pm. Click here for tickets.

These are our bodies. How do we look. How do you look?

Night clubs are hugely significant to LGBTQ+ culture. Historically, they have been considered a safe haven where queer people can freely be who they are, together. This past means that the community often assigns it utopic status: a space of hope where all can express themselves without shame conflict We (Ayden and Lizzie) love going out. We love dressing up, we love dancing, we love the sense of connection and acceptance we get in radical queer spaces. But, as any marginalised person will tell you, they can be far from the protecting, idyllic, sanctuaries we desire them to be.

Yes, nightclubs can be beautiful and liberating, but they can also be violent and dangerous. Low- lighting, loud music and intoxication makes one increasingly vulnerable. Too often the confused and close environment is used as a free pass to verbally or physically abuse those deemed to be transgressing a narrow view of gender. Marry that with certain intersections such as race, disability and femininity, and night time can be even more hostile, even fatal. Nightclubs are a concentrated version of the trans experience, where our usual navigations through the assumptions and perceived threats of public space are heightened. This tension between the desire for authentic self-expression and the constraints of societal pressure inspired Sound Cistem. A semi-drunk conversation between us about our club experiences is what planted the seed. We recounted the worst things that had been said to us and our friends on nights out, by strangers, friends of friends, security guards… the list goes on. We expanded this discussion to include other trans people, and we started to pick out the common threads. Exploring this conflict between queerness and cisnormativity as it emerges in these environments feels vital to us in this current climate. As trans visibility increases, so does the pushback from conservative society. Under this collision, we dance. We move our bodies, frenetically and calmly, alongside our house and trance inspired soundtrack, composed by the incredible Sebastien Schmidt and Lucy Bassett. Creating a dance piece, despite neither of us being trained dancers, felt like the clear way forward. Dance is an incredible medium with which to talk about bodies and how they are gendered. Strictly gendered forms like ballet and ballroom, and more interpretative contemporary dance that tends to abstract these roles, gives us much to play with. In our research (which involved watching loads of music videos on YouTube) we began to notice the differences in choreographic styles in the pop videos of cis men and women: a difference in what is considered sexy or appealing. We discuss in the show how trans people mould their bodily movements and expression in public spaces for a myriad of reasons: safety, alignment with gender, or to express an element of queerness as a signal to others. By removing our (live) voices from the performance we reduce ourselves to purely our bodies, encouraging the audience to really look at us, and in turn, consider how they truly see us.

Sound Cistem puts our trans bodies front and centre. When we ask you to ‘look at our bodies’, we want you to think about not only what you see, but how you are seeing it. The more our bodies contort and change through the ever-varying movement, we hope to show how looking is never passive: it is an active practice informed by how you wish to perceive us.

What do you see?