Category Archives: Transvestism

60th Discussion: Mehmet Murat Somer’s THE KISS MURDER

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Moderators: Raj & Timmy
Attendees: Dominic, Sharad, Jiaqi, Aaron, & Alexius

We had such a fun time reading Somer’s The Gigolo Murder, we decided to read a second novel of his.  We started with some complaints, recurring among our members: stereotypical, vain, self-centred protagonist (Dominic & Aaron); underwhelming ending (Sharad, Raj, & Timmy); convoluted (Timmy); homophobic and sexist (Aaron); and predictable (Alexius).

THEMES

1. Homophobia: Sharad brought up that the novel depicts straight men as “real” men, and gay men as not “real” men. Gay men are being made fun of. Aaron was unhappy that protagonist tries to force Hasan into a gay stereotype. Sharad noted the use of the word, “fag.”

2. Women: Dominic mentioned that women in the novel are either subservient or laughed at if they are strong and powerful.

3. Men: treated either as sex object or useless (Aaron). Raj noted men are potentially bisexual, ie, she  attracts all men but nobody can satisfy her.

4. Difference between transgender and transvestite: Doesn’t seem to differentiate them in the novel.

5. Middle class. Sharad hypothesized that protagonist’s dislike for middle class is because middle class rejects her, so she rejects them as a form of defense mechanism.

6. Family. Raj noted that Buse is accepted by her blind mother. Dominic also noted the queer family between Sureyya Eronat and blind mother.

7. Religion. Timmy argued that protagonist is a left-wing Muslim: she doesn’t want to pray so she dresses up as a woman to attend the funeral. Raj saw the act as a form rebellion.

8. Queer Sex. Sex in front of the blind mother? Dominic also brought up the pederastic relationship between Suleyman and Sureyya Eronat.

9. Asexuality of Sureyya Eronat.

10. Fat shaming. 

11. Disability. Seems like the only positive portrayal of differences from the norm is the blind mother. Raj admired her for her guts to cry and that she accepts Buse. Alexius likened her to X-Men, she disappears when people want to kill her. Her blindness is her immunity.

somer - thekissmurdertomerhanukadesignCHARACTERS

1. Both Timmy and Raj pointed out nameless narrator is narcissistic, and bashes everyone except herself. Raj also noted she has no attachment to people and she has little backstory. Aaron felt that she possesses a “Before you judge me, I judge you first” mentality: in other words, she has a victim’s mentality. Dominic claimed that her insecurity is demonstrated when she is perpetually concerned with her masculinity. On the other hand, Sharad read her as being comfortable in both her masculine and feminine identities, like, Timmy quipped, “Hannah Montana.”

While Aaron disliked the narrator, Timmy loved her because she represents 90% of the bitchy gay population. Ouch, jaded much? Sharad also found her sympathetic because of her defense mechanism.

2. Dominic’s favorite character is the cleaner because she can put the nameless narrator down without comeuppance.

3. Aaron found the trinity of men, policeman, Huseyin, and Suleyman hot. He said that Huseyin is determined, and he perserves; he knows what he wants ,and he goes out to get it, and he gets it in the end. But everyone else, including Sharad, protested saying Huseyin is a pesky little puppy.  Alexius also objected to the policeman because he can’t give no satisfaction. 10 minutes?! But Timmy said, most men last about that anyway.

4. Raj hated Buse because the novel started because of her; Timmy, Sofya because she places herself above others; Dominic, the female journalist, because she bites off more than she can chew.

In the end, we thought this novel was MRT friendly (Raj), short (Alexius), enjoyable (Timmy), and a better read than Beauty Queens (Jiaqi). Both Sharad and Dominic could identify the protagonist with friends in their lives. Aaron said he could find nothing positive about the novel, and Raj riposted, “At least there is a word ‘positive’ in that sentence.”

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Filed under Class, Disability, Family, Mehmet Murat Somer, Queer, Religion, Transgender, Transsexualism, Transvestism, Turkey

39th Discussion: Virginia Woolf’s Orlando

Notes written by the multi-talented Timmy. He can moderate discussions, he can write and he can kiss his boyfriend all over town. Hooray!

      

Foods served this week were fried chicken, chips, blue cheese dip, and an “indescribable” cake which turned out to be zucchini. “The selection of foods for this month is meant to be as confusing as the book,” explained Raj-ella Lawson.

Aaron moderated the discussion, which was joined by Raj, Alexius, Joshua, Alex, Glenn, Ernest and Timmy.

First Impressions

Alexius was up first, and said that the book was too descriptive, chunky, draggy and “not MRT friendly.” Joshua, however, thought the book was well-written, despite the plot being non-coherent. Raj was appreciative of Virginia’s writing style, though he did mention that this was a book that he would not like. Alex could not remember much about it, while Aaron had no opinion of the book except that it was “avant-garde.”

Themes

Plot

Joshua found the story itself as illogical; Alex described it as irrational and hysterical. As the book was written during the Second World War, Alexius jest that perhaps Virginia could not keep track of her writing. Aaron explained it could be so due to the limitations of a biography. Both Raj and Timmy joked that the author may have just randomly input things just so that it is compiled as the book.

Transition/Narrative styles

Raj felt that Virginia portrayed women well, and commented that the switching of writing styles went well with the sexes (males = action oriented; females = word oriented). Aaron, however, disagreed and thought that the changes in narrative styles were more in correlation with the time period as opposed to gender. Joshua felt that the transitions were jarring. Alexius thought that the transition as a whole was absurd and speculated that the author may have “an agenda.”

“How has Orlando changed throughout the course of the book?”

“Clothes,” said Alexius candidly. He also mentioned sexual preference, which led Alex to ask: “Was he always straight?” Raj highlighted Orlando’s preference for girls who look like guys when he was still a male.

Aaron, Raj, Alexius and Joshua perceived Orlando as an androgynous character – feminine male, then masculine female. Alexius found Orlando’s transformation as a male to be more interesting compared to when he/she was a woman.

Chapter 3 (aka the dancing goddesses/sex change scene)

Raj joked that the dancing women were akin to the three (good) witches of Macbeth.

According to the passage, the three ladies were representations of modesty, chastity and purity. Timmy asked if these are qualities that women of those times should attain. Raj replied that the three values were the epitome of womanhood. Aaron, however, countered that they seemed to be imposed limitations so that women of those times could be culturally accepted. Joshua agreed with Aaron’s sentiments. Alex quipped that these are the qualities that none of us have. We all laughed because this is legit information.

Cross-dressing

Alex speculated if Virginia had lesbian tendencies. Aaron clarified the book was written for her girlfriend. Raj found it to be a dramatic twist to the story. Alexius questioned if Virginia and Orlando could be the same person, as both shared the same personalities and liked poetry. Someone then joked that the oak tree symbolised the male appendage.

Marriage and child

“What’s the point (of including them)?” Aaron exasperatedly asked. Raj equated it to a marriage of convenience. The two of them noted that the sailor came out of nowhere, as well as the child (“magical child,” as Aaron put it).

“A lot of things in this book happened for Orlando’s benefit,” Raj highlighted.

Longevity

Besides Orlando, Aaron highlighted that Nick Green and Mr Dupper lived very long lives in the book. “Why them? Especially Nick Green, in particular?” asked Aaron. Joshua said this was done to show how Orlando has changed. Raj added on that Orlando needed the men, as writing was perceived as a man’s job at that point in time.

Foreigners

Aaron asked of their treatment in the book. Raj felt that it was barbaric, while Joshua surmised that the English have a superiority complex.

The ending

“She bares her breasts to the moon.”

Timmy quipped that she can’t do it to the sun as she may get sunburn. Joshua described the gesture as a mark of sexuality. Aaron and Alex believed it to mean femininity. Alex then joked that Orlando was turning into Chang Er.

Final say

Aaron liked the book even more after the discussion. Joshua concurred, even though he still found it confusing. Raj didn’t hate the book as much, though he hoped to go through some parts of the book quickly to finish it. Alexius didn’t like the book. The rest of us reserved our judgments.

We grew bored discussing the book through the middle of the discussion, so we decided to end it quickly to catch up with one another instead, which is more fun as compared to talking about Virginia Woolf and Orlando.

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Filed under Bisexuality, Class, Classics, Family, Love, Post-Colonialism, Queer, Transgender, Transvestism, UK, Virginia Woolf

20th Discussion: Colette’s Cheri and Last of Cheri (19 May 2011)

Everyone was excited to kick-start this discussion. Timmy exclaimed this is the straightest book we’ve done. Raj loved the book as he believed it was very “French.” Nicole observed that the characters are very well flashed out, especially when Colette writes on women’s psyches. However, Nicole thought that the book has no direction while Timmy found that second part draggy, saved only by the character development of Edmee. Raj argued that the draggy-ness reflects the lift that Cheri leads.

1. Themes

a. War: Aaron noted the prominence of the theme in so many of the books we have done and questioned if a writer could only be considered as “serious” when s/he has written a war novel. He also noted this novel is about post-war trauma, relevant to soldiers today. Nicole suggested that the War is too big an event to ignore. Raj further said that the specificity of the war makes the novel realistic and that war affects the GLBTQ community very much (we thought of the Pink Triangle used to mark out gay people in Nazi concentration camps in WWII). Moreover, Raj claims that the war makes Cheri an outcast, like a gay person.

b. Relationship Between Women:

i. We were all fascinated by the complex relationship between Lea and Charlotte: rivalry, respect, jealousy, cunningness, trying to get the upper hand of each other – and perhaps a different kind of love?

ii. Nicole suspected that the relationship between Lea and the Princess is more than friends from the obsessive descriptions of the women’s bodies and clothing.

c. Race: Aaron suggested that Cheri is described as an African and Chinese because he’s as unformed as an animal. Raj said it may be due to his exoticness. Timmy said Cheri is as flexible as a Chinese acrobat and has big ding dong like an African.

d. Nostalgia: The Pal is a queer character and both Raj and Timmy suggested that she’s a drag queen. Timmy noted the obsession of the Pal with Lea, collecting Lea’s old photos. Nicole suggested that the Pal’s apartment, which Cheri visits often, acts as a space of escape from his mother and wife. Timmy pushed the point further to say the apartment represents to Cheri what life could have been for him and Lea. Raj said that the scene suggests a nostalgia for the past; Cheri even wants to die in the past.

2. Characters:

a. Cheri: Raj claimed that Cheri is not a man but a lesbian. Aaron wasn’t convinced because there are scenes that explicitly point out his manhood; Cheri is, Aaron thinks, effeminate but not definitely not emasculated. Aaron was also amused by the inversion of roles, that Lea, a prostitute, pays for Cheri’s decadent lifestyle. Timmy noted the gay scene between Cheri and Desmond and he also observed that Cheri never grows up as long as he is with Lea. Nicole suggested that Cheri is finding a purpose in life – but fails.

b. Edmee: Timmy’s brilliant analogy: “Edmee reminds me of Jeanette Aw’s in Little Nonya.” Aaron said that Edmee should be a very sympathetic character. She behaves with utmost propriety, defending her husband when she doesn’t love him – but, Aaron asked, why is she demonized in the book? Raj suggested that it may be because she couldn’t manipulate Cheri.

3. Scene Analysis: We questioned but couldn’t find out the reason of Cheri’s vacillation after he spends the night with Lea, betraying his wife. Raj claimed that they are using their heads and not their hearts. Nicole and Timmy both said that Lea handles the situation much better than Cheri.

4. Aaron concluded that although there aren’t any explicit lesbian scenes, the value of this book lies in its normalization of sexuality, such as intergenerational love, relationship between women, and prostitution. These relationships are usually treated with scorn but here, Colette normalizes them. If these relationships are normal, then naturally gay relationship is normal too.

Thanks to Raj and his champagne, figs, cheese and strawberries with freshly-whipped vanilla cream!

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Filed under Bisexuality, Classics, Colette, Coming of Age, Family, France, Lesbian, Love, Race, Transgender, Transvestism, War

10th Discussion: Mehmet Murat Somer’s The Gigolo Murder (17 June 2010)

1. The general mood for this discussion was sluggish probably because after a hard day’s work and dinner at Maxwell.

2. Yisa kicked off the discussion asking if transvestites would be offended reading the book. We talked about how the book doesn’t differentiate between transsexuals, transgenders and transvestites.

3. Appending to Yisa’s question, Aaron asked if this book is offensive to women (misogynist), as the murderer has to be a beautiful woman who is “over-reaching” for power and money. That is, why does a woman who wants power have to be punished? Aaron claimed that the wise, old Nimet, Faruk’s wife, acts an excuse for the author to say that “Hey! see, I have a good woman character too, so you can’t accuse me of misogyny.” But Nimet plays the virtuous, domestic, supportive wife, giving an example of how women should behave in an Islamic society. Isaac liked the book too much and disagreed with Aaron.

4. Aaron asked if the book sensationalizes Turkey. Yisa replied that this certainly isn’t a tourist guidebook. But Aaron insisted that there are all kinds of sex in the book, making the book sensational and in a part, the author contradicts himself as he said that the nameless narrator isn’t interested in boys yet s/he has an orgy with some schoolboys in uniform. This led to a discussion on paedophilia and how one character in the book argues that while girls can become wives and mothers at 13, why is it that when he has sex with a 14 y/o boy, people call him a pederast?

5. Disability: Pugnacious Aaron thought that it was nice to include a disabled character (Kemal), why does Kemal have to pay for sex? Why isn’t he capable of looking for ONS himself? Why doesn’t the nameless narrator sleep with him? Does the narrator despise him? Why must Kemal engage in SM, and like to be whipped, as if he were ashamed of his own disability?

6. FAT: Aaron asked why is the nameless narrator’s fat good friend, Ponpon, asexual? Timmy said that there is another character who is fat and has sex. Like-to-win Aaron said, But that character is curvy and curvy is not fat. Why is it that for all the subversive elements in the book, Aaron asked, the book is oddly conservative regarding women, fat people and the disabled? Yisa said he doesn’t care what the author is saying about fat people, women and disabled. Isaac was increasingly irritated at Aaron’s finicky political-rectitude.

7. Subversive because the narrator doesn’t have a “core” gender self, so the book is not essentializing.

8. Narrative Style: (a) Aaron asked how come the author didn’t allow the narrator to progress by allow the narrator to shed tears in the end? Isaac said maybe the author isn’t very good. (b) Yisa disliked the emo beginning of the book but Aaron said that it was stated in the book that no other books or movies have depressive people and that’s what the author wants to portray, although Aaron also thinks that the author doesn’t read enough because there are books with depressive people.

9. Gay Bashing: Yisa deciphered what the gay bashing incident is about.

10. Happy Ending: We all agreed that the book is really deeper than it seems but we had to get our alcohol early. When we were at DYMK, the uncle said that we were skiving, closing the library so early.

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Filed under Crime, Disability, Mehmet Murat Somer, Queer, Transgender, Transsexualism, Transvestism, Turkey