Transgender film-maker Jason Barker: ‘I found dressing as a uterus very liberating’

The man behind the pregnancy documentary A Deal With the Universe remembers how a comedy costume stopped him being ‘freaked out’ by his fertility treatment

This photo was taken in about 2005 – I had come off testosterone [Barker was born as a woman, but transitioned more than 20 years ago], and had been waiting for my periods to start again because my partner and I had begun fertility treatment.

I was doing a comedy show at the time, and I had a whole skit about the menstrual cycle. I had asked my friend Lucas McKenna to make this costume for the show; I planned to dress as a uterus and come on to the stage riding a bicycle. I’d drawn a diagram of how I wanted it to look and how I would like the balloons to be the ovaries – but the result was much better than I had imagined. I would wear it with black tights, although on one occasion I ruined it by forgetting to take off my sandals. I was really cross when I realised I was dressed as a uterus wearing sandals.

I found wearing this costume very liberating. When I first stopped taking testosterone, I was looking at friends and watching their beards grow, and I could see my own body changing again. I was a bit freaked out, but the uterus costume was about owning it. It could have been a source of shame, but there was a certain amount of power in saying: actually, this is a brilliant thing. It was funny – I would come on to the stage and say: “I have to explain: I’m very bad at being a transsexual.”

I realised that getting my period was wonderful and exciting. The process was very controlled, but there was still a big element of magic and luck. McKenna died a couple of years ago, so there’s an extra poignancy to this outfit now.

The costume has been sitting on top of my wardrobe gathering dust, but I recently dug it out because Hackney Museum is hoping to make it part of its permanent collection. I love it because it’s part of LGBT history, much of which has been forgotten. Now, of course, everyone documents everything, but 15 years ago that wasn’t the case. It represents a fleeting but important moment – and in 200 years someone may still be looking at it.

Jason Barker’s documentary A Deal With the Universe is released on 12 April


As told to Leah Harper

The GuardianTramp

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