Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Interview with Victoria Cordoba Lima


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Victoria Cordoba Lima, a film director, producer, and performer from Argentina. Hello Victoria!
Victoria: Hello Monika, how are you doing?
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Victoria: I’ d like to say that I am someone in constant urge for transforming myself and not just physically when I say ‘transforming’. I mean growing up, learning, discovering. I started to express my gender identity in Argentina, Buenos Aires during the 1970’s.
I have been fascinated with trans women since an early age. At that time perhaps I didn’t know that I was one of them but along the years I realized that those spectacular women I used to see were a part of who I am.
I had a successful career as a drag queen artist: model, TV presenter, nightlife personality, DJ in Buenos Aires. At some point I got bored and I decided that it was the right time to spread my wings and fly away from South America. 
Monika: All your films: “Angie Jack” – about an Argentinian artist based in London who suffers bipolar disorder, “Maria Rosamojo” - about an incredible singer and songwriter based in London, and “Darling” – about Charly Darling, a friend and an incredible artist who died recently, portray the lives of inspirational women. Is your focus on female stories intentional?
Victoria: My focus on documentary films is to capture people’s stories and it happened that I am happier with female stories: Cisgender and Transgender individuals, but not only limited to those.
The world is full of incredible people with stories to tell. Stories that need to be told, because they often face discrimination: for being gay, for being women, for being black. This world favors whiteness, and I think that this privileged position should change for good. This patriarchy we are living in has to have an ending. I strongly believe in equality and the power of the estrogen.


Monika: Some critics say that the contemporary film industry does not provide many opportunities for women to show their talents and stories to a wider audience. Would you agree?
Victoria: That is true. Men, who favor other men, manage the film industry. If you take a look at how many men and women are directors, you will notice the difference. The film industry needs more female directors, producers, editors, writers, camera operators, etc. And the film industry needs more Trans women and Men as well. I'd like to see trans characters played by trans actors too.
Monika: Your graduation thesis was about transgender representation in Argentinean Films. Could you elaborate more on some particular movies?
Victoria: My thesis is called ‘Beyond the Binary: An analysis of Transgender Representation in Cinema from Argentina 1970-2010’. In this piece of writing I analysed three particular periods of my home country: Argentina.
Films in the 1970’s, when we had a brutal dictatorship era called ’the Dirty War’ with people’s disappearances; it was a very sad moment. One of the films I chose for this period is ‘La Raulito’ by Lautaro Murua, the story of a woman who disguises as a boy in order to survive on the streets of Buenos Aires.
La Betty's make-up.
In the 1980s, democracy started again and I analysed the films: ‘Tacos Altos’ and ‘ High Heels’ by Sergio Renan, with a trans character played by Willy Lemos, an Argentinian actor who often plays trans characters on TV and Cinema. This was a transition period from dictatorship into democracy and the representations of trans people were slightly progressing.
It was in the XXI century that a young generation of directors made films such as ‘Mia’ by Javier Van de Couter, in which the trans characters are treated with a different approach, having a lead role in the films. I am so glad that this is happening after decades of feeling that trans people were objects of mockery and laughs.
Monika: The Argentinian film industry can boast a substantial number of talented transgender actresses, just to mention: Florencia Trinidad, Cris Miró, Camila Sosa Villada, Maiamar Abrodos, Julia Amore…
Victoria: I met Florencia a few times, she is doing well on TV as well as in theater. Cris Miro was one of the first ones who became widely famous, and sadly she passed away a few years ago. Camila is the lead actress of the film ‘Mia’, which I mentioned before. 
Argentina has the most advanced law regarding transgender rights. This law allows you to change your name and gender without seeking psychiatric supervision or have to spend two years living in your decided role. It is up to you to decide and no one else. For this I am very thankful to President Cristina Kirchner’s government that passed the bill.
Monika: Is there anything like transgender art? What does it mean to be a transgender artist?
Victoria: I think that there is Art and then whoever makes Art is an Artist regardless if you are Transgender or Cisgender. But yes, as a Trans and an Artist, you have a platform for making activism if you decide to do so. For me, it works this way. 
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in the British and Argentinian societies?
Victoria: The British society and the Argentinian society are completely different. All of them have their good and bad things.
For transgender people in the UK, it is easy to change legal names but to get to the Gender Clinic is a tough process as it takes two years to get a first appointment and the service is not always great. The treatment is not always great either as well as many trans people need to buy their testosterone blockers.
In Argentina this things are getting better. The problem with Argentina and Latin America in general is the high percentage of transsexual women murdered. This is a terrible problem that governments need to tackle. Catholicism massively runs Latin American society, and you know, in such countries, people tend to be narrow-minded. That is my view. I am an Atheist.
Relaxing in Patagonia.
Monika: At what age did you transition into woman yourself? Was it a difficult process? 
Victoria: I think that in my mind I always felt different. They say you are born with one genitalia but sometimes your brain can be the opposite. I tend not to see this thing black or white. I feel Feminine, which is different to feel like a ‘woman’. I don’t even know what it means to feel like a ‘man’.
Judith Butler, a writer says that all gender is performative. I think that we choose how we want to express our gender and by doing this, it is a part of a performance.
I feel I am a transgender person myself but sometimes the term ‘Trans’ implies that you are going from one place to another. What happens is what you are, you have always been there. Since you were in your mother’s womb? Perhaps my vision of what it means to be Trans is a bit more progressive than most trans women or men think about it.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Victoria: I think that my first role models were these fantastic trans ladies I used to see on carnivals with scarce clothes, dancing and having fun. For me this was the ultimate anarchist gender expression. Someone, who destabilizes the status quo, by being themselves.
Monika: Are there are any transgender ladies that you admire and respect now?
Victoria: I like Justin Vivian Bond, a cabaret artist from New York, Bibiana Fernandez - the Spanish Almodovar girl; I adore Amanda Lear despite of the fact that she has never acknowledged her condition as a trans woman. My icons have always been: Boy George, Pete Burns, you know lots of hair and make-up. :)
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Victoria: I don’t think there was a coming out in my life, I have always been myself. I tried to take it naturally; of course I suffered bullying for being different. I am so happy that my mother started to call me Victoria last year. It was inevitable that after seeing me developing breasts with the hormone treatment, she started to change the way of addressing me. So bless her. 
Monika: The transgender cause is usually manifested together with the other LGBT communities. Being the last letter in this abbreviation, is the transgender community able to promote its own cause within the LGBT group?
Victoria: I always remember why we do celebrate Gay or GLBT Pride, and I recall this bar in New York called Stonewall. Do you know who was the first person to confront the police and throw the first stone at them? It was a transgender woman called Marsha P Johnson. So I think that we owe the Pride to a Transgender woman. So yes, I believe the T should be at the beginning. I think we are promoting our cause but it will be nice to have more straight and gay allies for this cause.
Buenos Aires Primadonna.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colours or trends?
Victoria: I used to like fashion when I was in my twenties. I don’t care about it anymore, to be honest. I always wear black, it s easy to match as you can see and less complications but yes I do have a sense of style, which I consider a bit Gothic, Rock and Roll type of girl. A mix between Siouxie Sioux with Yves Saint Laurent, classy with a bit of darkness.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Victoria: Love is magic and one beautiful thing we can experience. I used to love so much in the past. I am a Latina Trans woman so we love with such a passion. I loved many men until my disappointment stepped in. 
Now all this love is for my family, my friends and me. One day hopefully I will be able to meet the love of my life, which I have never met before. Hopefully. So everyone can apply. Tall, a bit geek and funny guys.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Victoria: I have lots of funny anecdotes and some not so funny but I am still young to write an autobiography. Perhaps it will be good idea to start writing it before my memory fades. I'd like to write a book about being oneself and finding happiness but it is not the right time yet.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Victoria: Yes, I am working on a short documentary film called ‘DARLING’ about Charly Darling, my best friend who died last year. I think this will be my homage to a great friend and artist. She was the most colourful and nice person you could see in Buenos Aires clubs. So this will be my tribute to her.
I also plan to go back to my country and hopefully work in the film industry. I spent there almost 4 months last year and I felt in love with Buenos Aires again. The other day a friend told me that Argentina needs people like me, so yes, he is the perpetrator of this coming back. He should find me a job. :)
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Victoria: To find advice, get on Internet; there are hundred of places where you can get information nowadays. Much better than twenty years ago. Internet can be very helpful sometimes. Or just email me: victoriacordobalima(at)gmail.com
Monika: Victoria, thank you for the interview!
Victoria: Thank you, Monika. It's been a great pleasure!

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All the photos: Courtesy of Victoria Cordoba Lima.
Done on 15 April 2015
© 2015 - Monika 

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