Finley Dickins talks with Glasgow artist Lara N Lars ahead of their workshop on gender embodiment
Lara N Lars is a Glasgow-based artist whose project aims to inspire thought on gender and how we present our own genders. In their Gender Embodiment Workshop, participants will be invited to consider how gender is expressed through a series of voluntary activities, creating a space for exploration and reflection. Here, Finley Dickins catches up with Lara ahead of the workshop.
Glasgow Guardian: The description of your show makes it clear that those who haven't thought much about their gender identity or expression are welcome. I think this is great as too often we think that it is only trans and queer people who are curious or questioning about their gender. Was there a reason that you explicitly made the event open to all?
Lara N Lars: We all have to start somewhere. And you don’t need a degree in gender studies to explore your gender identity and expression. The patriarchy we live in doesn’t give us much room for deeper gender exploration. And as soon as you express something subversive or anti-binary you become a threat unless it’s just "edgy" enough to be marketable. The gender binary rules so much of our lives. We can’t even go to the bathroom without it being demanded of us to identify in accordance with it. So I think playing with, examining, and interrogating your gender expression can seem like a real risk. It’s a vulnerable place to go.
Most of us grow up with internalised sexism and homophobia. If you’d asked 15-year-old me what my gender and sexual orientation was I’d have yelled “I’m a woman and I’m definitely straight” before you’d even finished the question, just to be absolutely sure you didn’t suspect otherwise. Spaces where you can explore what gender means to you are frankly rare as unicorns and when you find them you find a bubble, but mate I love my bubble and I need it. The world is often a terrifying place when it considers you abnormal.
We need to dismantle the patriarchy. We really need to keep doing that. Discussing gender politics and personal expression is a vital part of that dismantling. It’s brave work, for sure.
GG: Can you tell us a bit about what will the workshop involve? What are you hoping that people get out of it?
LNL: We’ll chat about gender pronouns and the difference between gender and sexuality, which is a really important distinction. The aim of the space is not to discover your queerness (though that may be a side effect of this work, just a warning) but to explore how your gender expression moves through you, how you embody it, how you move through the world and how you relate to the bodies around you. As the facilitator, I’ll be offering some simple (and optional) individual and group exercises/games/stimuli that may help you on your journey. This work takes courage and won’t always be easy. That doesn’t mean the methods are always serious though, and we’ll keep it playful where appropriate. There’ll be plenty of personal reflection time also. Oh yeah, and cake, did I mention there’ll be cake?
GG: Can you tell us a bit about your background? What led you to create a workshop on gender embodiment?
LNL: I studied theatre and performance studies and have a fine art and music background. I’m a (white) immigrant and the politics of (queer) representation has been the main theme of my work in the past two years. I like to find ridiculous ways to understand this weird, weird life we have.
An old friend asked me to create this workshop to help her and others explore the way they embody gender as it’s something she hasn’t thought about in depth before. I’ve facilitated performance workshops and devised with people in the past but never done anything like this. While I don’t always have the energy to educate my cis friends and family (cis: when you identify as the gender assigned to you at birth), the more I thought about it the more I got really excited to try this in a group. I’ve been thinking about my gender and how I represent for most of my life and I’m still learning and evolving; we’re never done.
GG: The event says that there will be some info on resources (film, tv, books) on gender at the workshop. Can you think of any events/spaces/groups in Glasgow that offer guidance and support or just some extra info for people who are struggling or even just curious about their gender identity?
LNL: There are support groups like LGBT Youth Scotland and some great safe spaces for queers like the Wee Plate café and Glasgow Autonomous Space (a really great free space for radical/grassroots organizing, building solidarity across networks, nurturing anti-oppression and cooking up food and resistance). In terms of a workshop like this one, I haven’t heard of one but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Though that there aren’t immediately any that come to mind is not surprising: the patriarchy has a vested interest in keeping the gender binary intact.
GG: Will there be more events like this in the future?
LNL: Well, we’ll see how this one goes and what people feed back. But I reckon I’m up for more of this!
The workshop is free and will be collecting donations for the Ubuntu shelter for women and non-binary people. The workshop will be held in the Glasgow Autonomous Space on the Southside on 20 September, and all are welcome, whether or not you have any prior knowledge of gender expression. To book the event, or if you have any questions, contact [email protected].
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