Zoyander Street – Cis Penanceartwork • 31 Mar 2021 – 31 May 2021
The first work to launch in our Digital Realness Season is Cis Penance by Zoyander Street, an interactive digital game exploring stories of transgender and nonbinary people.
Play the game below.
Scroll right and click on individual characters to begin.
Cis Penance is named after an essay by trans writer Patience Newbury, “Maybe You Should Never Transition“, which argues that to deny trans people the right to transition when they decide to do so “serves positively no benefit to a trans person. It merely impresses a cis person’s own denial of a trans person onto that trans person, forcing the latter to serve a cissexist penance…” In this project, trans people talk about their experiences of time, many describing the cissexist penance they have paid to bureaucratic and cultural gatekeeping in the UK.
Zoyander Street has interviewed transgender and nonbinary individuals from around the UK, and highlighted material about temporality, to draw attention to the sisyphean bureaucratic processes imposed on transgender people in a country growing increasingly hostile to trans civil rights.
Zoyander is turning these interviews into interactive dialogues, so that the player acts as the interviewer by choosing between questions on screen. Whereas traditional documentary makes the viewer into an observer whose only job is to respond emotionally, in these interactive portraits, the audience is put into the position of being called to respond through their own actions; the best interactions are those where the player pauses, unsure which of the options on screen is the most compassionate way to proceed.