Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Roz Kaveney, a prolific British novelist, poet, critic, transgender activist, editor of Reading the Vampire Slayer and author of Rhapsody of Blood: vol. 1: Rituals and vol. 2: Reflections, and the poetry collection Dialectic of the Flesh, Londoner, sentimentalist, radical, “somewhat disliked by various silly people”. Hello Roz!
When my health declined – I had some bad times with gall-bladder surgery – I resigned from Liberty to concentrate on my writing again which is why there is considerable hiatus between the Midnight Rose period of my work and the work I’ve done over the last decade.
Monika: The Feminists Against Censorship was formed in 1989 by a group of long-time feminist academics and campaigners who wished to fight censorship from a feminist perspective. How successful have you been with your agenda?
We demanded that discussion of censorship and pornography be evidence-based and criticized the tendency of our pro-censorship sisters to be naive about the provenance of studies – there was, in the 90s, a tendency to be uncritical of studies which seemed to demonstrate particular levels of harm but which were based on bad methodology, and were often scare tactics by the political Right. The conversation needed and needs to be had, but it needed to be a genuine dialogue between feminists.
Clearly the links between the politics of sexuality and, say, workplace rights are not immediate or obvious, yet one of the fundamental goals of feminist struggle has to be to increase the freedom of women to be themselves on their own terms – sexual exploration is both a part of that and a consequence of it. The mistake made by some seventies feminists was the idea that it was useful or desirable to regard lesbianism as intrinsic to being a good feminist.
Monika: You came out both as lesbian and trans. What was the hardest thing about it?
Some years later, after my transition and my surgery, I found myself considerably less drawn to men and they to me and fell in love with a woman. The eighties was not a good time to be both trans and lesbian; there was a lot of prejudice around in lesbian circles. Nonetheless, I found true love and also got laid quite a lot while waiting for it to come along…
Most of my trans role models aren’t especially famous – just men and women pursuing their dreams and being kind to those like them. That is what community is.
|The life of an activist.|
I ended up discovering that the discipline of very formal structures was a part of that, as was the acceptance that all poetry is to some extent a game, a dance of words, a brittle artifice through which we nonetheless find our way to truth.
Much post-modernism seeks to render the canon irrelevant or even destroy it; I would much rather subvert it and force it to honour its claims of inclusion and justice.
It would have been desirable for the Equal Marriage act to reinstate ‘lost marriages’ – ongoing pre-transition partnerships that had to end in divorce or annulment and then reinstate themselves as civil partnerships – and not to introduce the spousal veto on gender recognition certificates – we argued for the one and against the other and no one listened. Things have improved no end, but it is still two steps forward and one back – open transphobia is far less respectable than it used to be.
Monika: It is inspiring to see the growing number of transgender women on The IoS Pink List, an annual Independent on Sunday Pink List of Britain’s most influential LGBT people. Every year you are ranked higher and higher: 85th (in 2011) , 65th (in 2012) and 61st (in 2013)…