Thank you to all the participants of the first “Gender Talk” and to Heather Love for leading a very moving discussion. My hope is that the conversations will continue to move us within our daily lives as well as spread into others’.
Heather introduces the discussion:
“One of the things that seems interesting to me about the project is that it is through photography. So people are already talking about the difference between gender as something that people can see and something that is internal, what is on the inside – what people don’t see. I thought we could start by talking about what is gender? Is it that stuff that people see or is it something on the inside, or maybe that whole problem of the part on the inside and the part on the outside?”
Does the inside match what people see on the outside?
For some of us our hair helped signify gender, others said gesture was much more significant. Which in turn lead us into the dilemma of public display of emotion.
HAIR #1 hair01_1.mp3 Continue reading
Laureen says I am the most elusive of the people she’s photographed. I guess because my relationship to gender, my body, and sex is still unraveling, even at this reasonably late point. Like so many things in my life, I often don’t know where to stand or get a frame of reference.
It was interesting to me the shift I felt from the first photo session to the second. In the first, I was largely just “a guy in a dress” even though I did my best to twist myself into interesting, if not attenuated shapes that would make my body look more traditionally feminine. I think I was out to prove it was OK for me to be here doing this. I did the shoot mainly as an experience experiment. Continue reading
I have been playing around with the image of the sheela-na-gig in my mind and decided to explore that image in some of these photos. It is an image that combines power and vulnerability, and because of my own ambivalence about being a woman, which has been equivalent with being violated for much of my life, this exposed power allows me to embrace a femininity that I would never have allowed in the past.
I have been thinking of the exposed, exaggerated vulva of the sheela-na-gig as a symbol of controlling and embracing the strength of the feminine. In the past, my relationship with my own sexual/gendered self was filled with disgust. I viewed my own body, my sexuality, as a scar, evidence of all the past abuses I had suffered and all the ways that I allowed myself to be violated. Now I am beginning to embrace my sexual body for its power. I am learning to see myself as feminine when in the past, I resisted femininity, feeling exposed and weak. These photos speak to my newly-forming visions of the feminine as powerful.
Wow – coming out….I “came out” back in 1999 when I was 36 years old. I remember thinking: “I have never felt so feminine in my life!” After years of struggling to wear lingerie to please a man, I was thrilled to adorn my body with the very same piece of clothing for the pleasure of a woman. That was the beginning, until the butch/fem thing crept into my dating life and once again, I did not want to seem fem for the sake of the existence of masculinity. I am spiteful… Included in my journey is getting sober, going to therapy both physical and talk. In the past 8 years I have gone through an incredible roller coaster ride.
First feminine, then androgynous Continue reading
It is 1978: From afar – I catch myself watching CJ at the “back door” smoking cigarettes like the rest of us, but never talking to anyone. CJ is a few years older than me. CJ and I never speak and we do not seem to have the same friends. It isn’t until one day when Mr. D. our principal calls “Cindy” to his office. CJ is a girl, at least according to my high school principal. Soon after my new found awareness, Denise comes to me saying “You are the only one I can trust, but I must talk to someone. I have been fooled and I am so embarrassed.” I barely know Denise, we are in a few classes together, but rarely speak. Maybe we smoke the same brand of cigarettes and bum off each other from time to time. I never know why people trust me with their secrets. Anyway, Denise had had a date with CJ and was revolted to find a wad of tissue in CJ’s crotch in exchange for the penis she was expecting to find. I reassure Denise, that it was OK and CJ was most likely not trying to fool her, but was certainly taking on an identity that felt more secure. Today – I can not remember how it all turned out, but I never again saw CJ smoking at the back door. I think CJ dropped out of high school.
A few years later, I found myself in a class titled “Anthropology of the Family”. I thought – this is it! We talked and read about individual roles in the family, nature vs.nurture, and gender – including babies born with ambiguous genitals. How we are raised vs. what our body chemistry is. Unfortunately due to my own fears of ambiguous gender roles in myself, and fear of getting too close to the subject matter at hand, I dropped out. I also thought my parents would see the class as irrelevant – so when I changed majors from psychology to art, I kept Biology to keep my science oriented family happy. Now here I am again – only this time my family will just have to make do! 🙂
The Gender Portraiture Project is one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life!