"...(I see) a cascade of images of teenage girls, TV presenters and pop stars; advertisements blending into features. 'You know what I think?' I say. 'I think the overall message of these (pictures) is I'm getting ready. You know, I'm getting ready to go out. I'm getting ready for sex... I find it disturbing that there's so much childishness in these magazines... and so much sex at the same time... You are encouraged to pay so much attention to the detail of (your image) because, well, basically, because you want boys to think about fucking you. They don't say it explicitly (but what they're saying is), 'here's how to make boys your age want to fuck you.'" Scarlett Thomas, PopCo (on styling in teenage girls' magazines)
I found myself nodding as I read this. PopCo is an odd, gripping, ambitious and fascinating novel set in a country retreat owned by a global toy manufacturer, where their brightest "creatives" are being hothoused in an attempt to develop the next viral craze for teenage girls. Wrapped around an elusive structure involving ciphers and codebreaking in many different guises, it glides with a very enjoyable lightness over many of the things that we're anxious or angry about in the modern world. Well worth a read and its heart is totally in the right place.
The passage I quoted above describes the thoughts going through the protagonist, Alice's head as she studies a bunch of teenage girls' magazines provided for research about the target audience of her work.
But I'm not here to write about Scarlett Thomas' novel. Nooo! I'm here to write about me! Yes ME, ME, ME (again)! I found myself nodding as I read that passage because I find that the way I often depict myself, when I don the sacred identity shifting vestments of Miss K, matches exactly the way that the editors and stylists of teen mags depict their young models and celebrities - as profoundly sexually available beings.
I once described my method of dressing and presentation thus:
'Like many transgendered people I present myself as the gender I identify with, in a strongly and provocatively sexual manner. I began to realise that perhaps a lot of why I present myself as transgendered is to do with the generation of reaction in the onlooker.' 'Who Watches the Watchers?' (2002)
It takes no rocket scientist to imagine what type of reaction, either. What goes up must come down. So why do I constantly rush to make myself complicit in the act of my own sexual objectification?
(Note to audience here, this is all about me. I'm not tying to generalise about any other transgendered person, or the community as a whole, either, OK?)
This is going to get convoluted, so I hope you're all alert.
Girl Lost, again
It all hinges on that Lost Girl I wrote about years ago - the 'young woman I never was', who died when I decided not to transition, many, many years ago.
Now don't get me wrong. Despite the desperate tone of that previous piece, I have not an ounce of regret that I chose the path I am on now, but the fact remains that by taking this path, I kind of killed that other me. And she died a double death because circumstance dictated that she'd never really had any sort of girlhood at all, to speak of, before I committed that act of "meta-suicide". No childhood as a girl, no pubescence or development of an adult sexuality.
So there's a doubled, hidden childhood and adolescence somewhere in the psychosexual development of the transgender individual. We have no opportunity to grow normally as a sexual individual as we're sort of going through a messy binary puberty, and due to inconvenient truths like guilt, fear, parents, geography and school, the second gender's adolescence tends to get unceremonially truncated or suppressed.
No wonder a lot of us trannies dress and present ourselves like teenage girls well into our adulthood and middle age, then. Our hidden gender's sexual flowering can be a long, clumsy and attenuated process taking years and decades.
I think that's why my self-imaging's so sexually charged. Like the choices made by teen mag stylists and editors, I'm editorialising myself. I really do want to appear like someone that men would like to fuck. It is the ultimate validation of my other self image. It makes my alternate identity into something observable and real. Like a quantum event collapsing into documented reality.
So perhaps you could say that I'm somewhat akin to a probability wave that's collapsed. This is silly of course, but like the mythical cat invented by Erwin Schrödinger, I did once exist in two fluctuating, equally (non) real states.
My autoportraits, then, could be akin to travelling back in time to before the defining event to look at the possible adolescence of the other most probable me.
The effects of faster than light travel and the associated time dilation mean that the older I get in my real existence, the longer the Lost Girl's adolescence seems to persist. Like a drop of water falling into a pool, slowed down to an infinitesimal pace.
Oh and then I'm back to Dorian Gray again.
Actually all of this is a very long winded and addled way of trying to work out why I like to fetishise myself in my mind's eye. There is no complex psychology about it really. It makes me feel good.
The fetishes I employ over and over - lingerie, skinny jeans, heels, eyeliner and lipstick - mold me into a feminine ideal that fulfils me. And I find that I need others to find that me desirable in order for the experience to be more real and lasting.
Perhaps that makes it sound like drug addiction and I think this may be the truest metaphor of all. Yearning to become the object of the desires of others can be, like drug addiction, a messy and dangerous activity too, (especially with those others whose desires might not be exactly wholesome). In my younger years I would go seeking these experiences in clubs and bars, and end up in what I now realise were horribly perilous situations with strange men, in taxis, toilets and alleyways.
Those years are thankfully in the past now, but they remind me how powerful the urge could be to have my self image confirmed by a firm hand stroking my bottom, or an illicit kiss, or unmentionable acts in dark places. Luckily the Internet came along like some prescription methodone to bring my addiction under control. Now I can be perpetually getting ready for sex.
Which is a much safer place to be.
Speaking of pervs, I'd like to close this post by telling you about probably the ultimate transvestite fetishist. SInce I discovered his work through an exhibition in Brixton in the 90's I've continud to return to it. It's disturbing and compelling in its density, singlemindedness and darkness. His self-portraits are close in intent in some ways to my own self portraits, though a million miles away in style and execution.
While I consider myself postmodern, plastic and throwaway, Pierre Molinier was staunchly modernist, shamanistic and significant. But we both deal with the desires associated with the mutability of self.
Parts of the following piece were originaly written for draGnet 4.0 in 2005. I should say NSFW, but I can't be arsed. And now, a man with a dildo on his stilletto heel...
The artist stands, fucking himself in the arse with the huge, shiny black dildo attached to the back of the six inch stiletto heel he wears on his stockinged foot. A black peek-a-boo eye mask on his face is covered by a black lace veil. His hairless naked body is luminous in the studio-cum-boudoir in Bordeaux. He presses the stud on the cable release and his moment of ecstasy is preserved on film.
Pierre Molinier was born in 1900. He was the most extreme member of the Surrealist movement in early twentieth century art that counted such extremists as André Breton, Man Ray and Hans Bellmer (the closest of all to Molinier's preoccupations) among their numbers.
Molinier was a fetishist and a transvestite. He referred to himself as "lesbien", using the masculine declension of the word. His art was preoccupied with a need and desire for auto gratification. He unashamedly told Breton at the 1959 Surrealist International that he defined the purpose of his work as "for my own stimulation".
His symbolist paintings of the first half of the century gave way to photography and culminated in an extraordinary series called Cents Photographes Érotiques (1965-1976), where Molinier contorted himself, a select few models and many fetishistic props, into an increasingly convoluted series of images of desire and self-fulfilment, subjugation and punishment.
Molinier was an important figure in the fetishist tradition, but more importantly, was one of the most radical of the modernists; he of all the surrealists lived the life of the extreme that some only theorised about. His credo was to discover spiritual freedom through total satisfaction of the senses. His photographs were intended to shock and contaminate the viewer and incite them too into partaking in the sensual overload.
This modern shaman shot himself dead on March 3rd 1976. Perhaps he felt that he had finally completed the definition of himself and was ready for the final act of transformation. He certainly felt no sense of bourgeois regret, as his epitaph boasts:
"Here lies Pierre Molinier. This was a man without morality"
More information about Pierre Molinier
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