With an injured tail and wings made of knives

A review from the Edinburgh Festival:

This is a play of knives and fireballs. Marking the final show in Emma Frankland’s performance series None of Us is Yet a Robot, which explores the politics of gender identity and the process of transitioning, Hearty is a ferocious cry for the safety of trans women.

With an injured tail and wings made of knives, Frankland is our guide in the apocalypse. The trans artist hunts for safety in a burning world where trans bodies are policed, activism is commercialised and violence is fuelled by fear. She sharpens the knives protruding from her shoulder blades and builds herself a den to protect herself from the violence outside. This is about survival.

In other words Emma Franklin is a man who identifies as a woman. Wings made of knives sound somewhat different worn by a man as opposed to a woman. If a woman wore such a thing it would likely be seen as self-protective; when a man does it reads as aggressive. “This is about survival,” the reviewer tells us – but whose survival? Is Frankland really performing self-defense as opposed to aggression? It doesn’t sound like it.

There is a charged immediacy to this piece. As reported hate crimes against trans and non-binary people rocket, the world Frankland creates is only a sliver away from our own.

The headline on that link is not “hate crimes against trans and non-binary people rocket,” it’s
“Homophobic and transphobic hate crimes surge in England and Wales.” Quite different.

Also, what about hate crimes against women? Is Frankland concerned about that at all?

When she begs us individually: “Please don’t hurt me,” we realise how much potential threat each new face can hold when society tells you to be ashamed of your own identity.

But there are all those knives on the wings, plus Frankland has a male body. What Frankland is doing here – and what trans activism in general often does – is appropriating the physical vulnerability that goes with being female. That form of physical vulnerability doesn’t belong to Frankland. We wish it didn’t belong to us, but it does, and we’re stuck with it. Frankland is more likely to hurt us than the other way around. Look at those arms:


8 Responses to “With an injured tail and wings made of knives”