Orange is the New Black star Laverne Cox said at The Huffington Post: “The preoccupation with transition surgery objectifies trans people and then we don’t get to really deal with the real lived experiences. The reality of trans people’s lives is that so often we’re targets of violence.”
When Sarrasine, Honoré de Balzac’s anti-hero who falls in love with the castrato Zimbanella, discovers “she” is a “he,” he postally freaks in a 19th Century way. This hatred still exists, due to the dehumanizing of the other. But just as rights have evolved as gays come out of the closet, trans rights are undergoing a similar process. When a friend introduced me to a tran artist, I wanted to ask her questions that people like myself, ignorant yet curious, might have.
Andie DeRoux: Ever since I was young I knew was different. I identified with girls, in being around them.
Did you date women?
I did. I grew up in a very conservative family, so I had to bury myself to survive and so when I finally went to college I was able to explore. My sophomore year I met a friend, a woman, and she was interested in me, well, I got involved with a gentleman who was friends with my friend, we all got together, and it felt very natural. I never thought of myself as bisexual. I thought of myself as more try-sexual. Namely, I’ll try anything once, and if it feels good and I like it, then I’ll do it (laughs).
Trysexual. I’ve never heard that. So you consider yourself bisexual?
Yeah. And I never had been attracted to the idea of having more than one partner, but here I was seeing this girl, and she was seeing this other guy, and we would all three get together. It felt natural to fall asleep together, and wake up together, and that was awesome. That happened for about a year.
Was this the first time men were involved?
That was it.
How old were you?
Twenty, maybe. I only knew of one other transsexual, and didn’t connect. I never thought transitioning or living the way I am inside was possible. I met my soon to be wife, she’d dated boys and girls, was bisexual. It didn’t bother her that I cross-dressed.
How long did the marriage last?
Seven years until we started the divorce proceedings. I said, “It’s not working anymore.” And she said, “I know.” We both knew. So we decided take care of it. Namely, getting a divorce.
From this point what made you become who you are. Namely, trans…what? You’re not quite transsexual, are you?
I am transsexual. Pre-op.
Since 2002 I’d been taking herbal supplements. It’s bad for your liver. My spouse didn’t know. In 2008 I had this therapist, and I asked her, “How much therapy do I need?” You need a certain amount before a therapist or psychiatrist can write a letter to a primary care physician to receive hormone replacement therapy – HRT. It’s a legal requirement. You need to be living as the gender you are. I was living as a woman. When I went out with my wife, people thought we were lesbians, although she’s more heterosexual than lesbian.
And at this time you’re almost a hermaphrodite.
No. I’m a pre-transition transgender person. Often, when we traveled I would dress up as a woman, and that would put us in uncomfortable situations (laughs). My wife asked me in public once, “Can’t you turn it off?” And I said, “No. I can’t.” At this point my parents know nothing. Well, sometimes I wear nail polish and I have pink hair. And they don’t like that.
So about your parts.
(Laughs) You’re fascinated by that, aren’t you?
I am. Okay, so you’re going to have them all removed. Only partly?
The side effects of HRT mean your genitals shrink. Atrophy.
What percent? Ninety percent? Fifty percent?
I would say seventy-five percent.
So four inches would go to one. Eight inches to two.
Uh huh. That’s about right. I’m going to get rid of my testicles. The procedure’s called an orchiectomy. That’s going to be in the next few months.
Are you going to eventually get rid of your penis?
I call it my clit now, because it’s so small. And I’m a female. But no, I don’t think so. That surgery is too invasive.
Great question. I would say twenty-five or thirty percent of people that I run into, strangers, on a day-to-day basis, know. If I’m in a bar and someone starts talking to me, I’m not going to say, “Hey, I’m a transsexual.” If they ask, or if it looks like it might go further, then I’ll tell. It’s partially for safety, because people, especially men, well, it messes with their own sexuality.
It’s happened to me.
Namely? You thought you were with a woman and that wasn’t the case?
That’s deceptive. What happened?
When I found out, let’s just say I felt deflated.
(Laughs) That’s understandable. I’ve had sex with girls, see, who are transsexual. They’ve had vaginoplasty, and you would honestly never know. There’s a woman I know, transsexual post-op, and she dates men and doesn’t tell them. She was dating a chiropractor, suspicious, and he started feeling her hips and ribs.
And what? She had an extra rib?
No, that’s a myth, men and women both have twelve. But he could tell from the bone structure. He got upset, of course. Because he felt deceived, and they had been dating for a while. Being deceived is the part people get upset about. And that she was born with male genitalia. But more about being deceived.
How much of this emerges in your art?
A lot. When I got out of school I created hermaphroditic warrior women paintings, and after school I went more abstract. And I’m also into photography. There’s a huge overlap with photography, porn, and eroticism, within visual art.
It sounds like you’re very happy no longer to be in the past.
You refer to my past life, as a boy or a man, but that’s not how I look at myself. I never felt like I was male. I did wish, every night in bed, that I would wake up with a different body that matched me inside. I imagined dying and being re-born with a girl’s body. I am unique and have this perspective on life because of who I am, and what I’ve experienced. Now I realize it is a gift that I have lived as I have.