Wednesday, March 16, 2011




Sally Goldner, Sally's Story

With the Melbourne Queer Film Festival celebrating it's 21st anniversary this year, Paul Andrew explores its role on both the film festival circuit and in the wider community too.

In Laos and Thailand the term kaothey is used, for cultures living on the Indian sub continent the Hindi term is hijra, in the United States and Canada First Nation people use the word two –spirit, in Mexico, muxe. Polynesian cultures use terms like fa’asamoa or fa’afafini, indigenous communities in Australia embrace a slang word sistagirl, in the universal western idiom however, it’s transgender or trans.
It’s against this backdrop where some of the most fascinating films in this year’s Melbourne Queer Film Festival are set. Trans-gender activist Sally Goldner, is an eloquent speaker on politics and social change on the world stage and is herself, a compelling subject in one of this festival’s groundbreaking documentaries.
“Although I’ve been strongly involved in activism since 1998,” reveals Goldner, “it wasn’t abundantly clear until 2009, it [that activism] was my calling. I believe there was- to quote the title of Anthony Venn-Brown’s book; A Life of Unlearning- a lot of unlearning to do to clear away the barriers, to achieve a fuller connection between my soul and my daily activity. “

“In 2008, I worked with a person using the techniques known as the “cutting of the ties.” This involved clearing negative ties to family- with no harm done to them- no sticking pins in voodoo dolls. It helped break ties with values, especially security and financial safety belonging to my family- but not me. In 2009, being clear that some sort of “corporate career” was not the answer, I wasn’t sure what “was” me .  A conversation with a wise person in the polyamorous community - polyamory being multiple ethical relationships -was the clincher. He said what you do isn’t so much the key, so long as it’s in line with your values, [it was a ]light bulb moment. “
Last June Goldner was feted with the 2010 Activist of the Year award by the ALSO Foundation, Victoria’s peak body for recognizing human rights achievements for lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual and intersex communities. And since her light bulb moment Goldner has devoted more energy to activism, continuing the pioneering work provided by Transgender Victoria since it formed in 1999.
Her role as radio presenter for Out Of The Pan on Community Radio Station 3CR is one  platform for her work.  “Out of the Pan is one of my favourite parts of the week.”, she says.”  I just love radio – the spontaneity. From a community perspective, the show has saved at least one trans person from a horrible fate, which is very humbling.  The show offers a voice to parts of the queer and similar communities who sometimes get ignored – trans, bisexual, polyamorous, BDSM ,those working in the sex industry who may be shunned because they don’t fit the “easily assimilated into mainstream” school of thought that has dominated supposedly queer thinking for the last 30-40 years.”
Conversation turns to history, to trans milestones. Goldner cites the August 1966  Compton Diner Riot in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco as the most vivid transgender activism flashpoint, “this was three summers before Stonewall, the so-called beginning of same sex social justice.” Goldner is frustrated and angered that transgender events are swept aside by the self-appointed history-keepers,” not to mention 1984-[in] South Australia -thank you Premier Don Dunstan- the first Australian jurisdiction to offer some form anti-discrimination protection for trans folk and in 2000,  Victoria, comprehensive trans protection.
It was at a series of national forums including TransDestinations 2008 and Health in Difference 2010 where Goldner met Crystal, another documentary subject in this year’s festival. Sistagirls by filmmakers Donna McCrumm and Andy Canny is a revealing portrait of a sistagirl community on the Tiwi islands seen through the eyes of award-winning indigenous photographer Bindi Cole.  Goldner describes Crystal and  Outblack activist Ron Johnson who died recently as “stalwarts, the embodiment of community, working with indigenous people from ground up, dealing with everything, basic survival skills to health care to social skills to suicide prevention. “
Festival Director Lisa Daniel is pleased by the groundswell of well-produced trans films being made.“ The MQFF has been relieved over the past few years to see a much greater variety of trans films like these doing the festival rounds,” she says.” The quality has vastly improved with the quantity, and rather than exclusively educational films that existed a few years ago, we're seeing a wide cross section of genres and story lines being explored. Fantastic documentaries, as well as excellent narratives that just happen to feature trans characters. These films are in their infancy in film industry terms, the trans community has to continue to get behind trans screenings much like their gay brothers did years ago. Putting your bum on festival seats is a really important way of letting the film industry know that there's an audience for quality transgender material.”

This year the Melbourne Queer Film Festival comes of age, 21 years and still screening films, “not bad for three part time staff and lots of volunteers”, jests Daniel in a moment of mirth. “Queer film festivals are still a very important part of our community,” maintains Daniel.” There is a sense of concern in the film festival community about illegal downloading, pay per view websites, video on demand and so forth, but I firmly believe that audiences still want to see good quality film in a festival environment, together.”
“Films like Transamerica, Brokeback Mountain, MILK and The Kids Are Alright are still few and far between, and whilst television is a more adventurous medium, film lags behind in depicting queer lives on the screen, queer film festivals are as important as they have ever been.”

Crystal, Sistagirl
Melbourne Queer Film Festival
Opens today 17 March 2011


Dir: Mark Andersson, Australia, 2011, video, 25min

Genre: Documentary
Identity: Trans
Self-proclaimed bi-sexual transgender Jewish cowgirl, Sally Goldner tells her story of self-discovery, as she navigates the gender path on the way to her 45th birthday. A coming-of-age tale and personal portrait of inspiring Melbourne transgendered woman Sally Goldner: activist, drummer, singer/songwriter, stand-up comic and radio DJ.

Dir: Donna McCrum & Andy Canny, Australia, 2010, video, 55min
Genre: Documentary
Identity: Trans

Award-winning Indigenous photographer Bindi Cole travels from her Melbourne home to the far north of Australia to document the beautiful transgender ‘Sistagirls’ of the Tiwi Islands. Sistagirl is a journey that defies existing stereotypes of what it means to be an indigenous Australian today. It’s also the story of Cole’s next attempt to artistically question what constitutes an Aboriginal identity.
Presented by The {also} Foundation

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