Interview with Alix Iron. By Jez Pez
Is there a hierarchy of trans visual representation? A perspective from a charming and handsome trans-ish, genderqueer, intersex, fae-masculine sweetheart.
J: What does trans mean to you and your identity?
A: I can say that I identify as genderqueer, I identify as someone who was born Intersex and I am someone who identifies as trans and sometimes, tongue in cheek, yet serious, I sometimes identify as trans-ish. I guess that sometimes I feel as though I need to qualify that, because I am not on hormones and I don’t know if it’s OK to claim the identity of trans without being on T… Because I’m just not sure it holds the same weight… Although I do go by ‘he’ in my personal and professional life, I think that there is, as we mentioned, a disparity between hormone vs. non hormone users and within that context, I also find it a bit challenging to fully understand how my being born Intersex also comes into play within that trans identity. I still think about them separately, as being Intersex is how I was born biologically. Anyway, that is generally how I identify but I think it’s complex topic. I think my answer also illustrates the internal struggle/questions I have about what exactly “makes” a trans man.
J: Yeah I can understand that. It is pretty awful to feel like you need to qualify your identity, because there are so many people out there who don’t take hormones and who don’t have surgeries and still deserve their identity to be respected.
A: Yeah so, I am 41 years old and I came out in 1988 and I was friends and lovers with some of the first people who were on testosterone, purchasing it on the underground black market. And I’ve seen and known and have a history that existed as a queer person, prior to FTM identity. I don’t feel pressure to need to take hormones to claim trans in a way, but when we are talking and pontificating about the concepts of bodies, that certain aesthetics and certain surgeries and certain babes in the community who are idealized, certain porn and/or magazines that publish certain photos of guys who look certain ways, do prioritize, I believe, bodies that have been on hormones and have had surgery over those who haven’t. I am a bit nervous about making that statement but that is my opinion. So I think there is something to be said about how there seems to be less and less people portrayed in the queer media who are claim and embrace the third sex or the liminal stage as the anthropologist Malanowski defines it, which is the state of “betwixt and between”.
J: Yeah sure. So having been around to witness a bit of an explosion of trans culture, born from that what I call a “trans pop culture”, especially with YouTube videos, magazines and poster, do you think we are replicating some of the same stereotypes as mainstream culture? If so, do you perceive this as perhaps negating a diversity of bodies?
A: Well, I believe that the trend of hormones and surgery with folks in theirs 20’s has become the norm. I guess that with certain magazines, movies and folks in the community it does seem like the “ideal” and thus a majority of images portrayed seem to focus on people who have fully transitioned. I feel like a dying breed. I feel like the few people, myself included, who still claim butch, dyke or genderqueer and who even still have their breasts and who do not inject testosterone, I feel like we are all a rare and somewhat archaic marginal group of people.
J: I understand what you are saying. Can you tell me more about the workshops you run with James Darling?
A: We recently presented on a panel for the Butch Voices Conference and it was called Pansies, Mommy’s Boys & Sissies: Fae Representations of Masculinity within the Queer Community.
J: Fae masculinites – I like that! I feel like that maybe better represents parts of our community, people who may feel more camp and dandy.
A: Yes, I do too! But the conference was for folks in the Butch, Stud, Aggressive & Trans communities, and in the end, I think Jae & I kinda reached the conclusion that Pansies, Mommy’s Boys & Sissies don’t necessarily “fit in” those groups. At least, we don’t know or see many people in the Bay Area who equally embrace fae as well as masculine identities…..I did see more fluidity in Sydney though which I LOVED! A few nights ago for example, I was wearing pearls, eye shadow and vintage fur to a show, although granted, it was to a concert, but other dykes & trans guys didn’t really know how to react to me…
What I enjoy in dressing up is presenting a complex gendered identity. Personally, I like to see the most manliest man who also has a gentle grace about him. What bums me out is not seeing some of the complexities be so apparent within the trans community. I’m not saying they are not there, certainly the people I know are the shape shifters and are the in-betweeners. For me, I think the interesting points that I want to explore are really delving into the liminal state and the grey area of what it means to occupy a more complex space. For me, maybe that means being tough on the outside and a marshmallow on the inside. It means, being able to stand proud in the fact that I claim Sissy or Pansy as an identity, but still being able to be strong, fierce and butch too. Both/And NOT Either/Or.
It’s also about shifting the paradigm of words that would normally mean ‘weak’ in mass culture, whereas for me they are strong. It’s what we did with the term ‘queer’ in the 1990’s and dyke/fag in the 1980’s. It’s about reinvention. What saddens me about some pop culture trans representations, I’m not sure I’m totally seeing the complexity of identities represented in media and when I see the pendulum swing to reinforce a dominate paradigm, it makes me uneasy. It saddens me because of the invisibility factor of folks of different takes on trans gender and also the lack of images celebrating people who haven’t had surgery or are of bigger size. I’m really talking of the top of my fucking head here, so I hope I am making sense. I’m a bit nervous to express my opinions on this matter and I am still working out my thoughts on all of this – so hope I don’t offend anyone. Again, this is my humble opinion, coming from a US, Bay Area specific viewpoint.
J: I don’t think you are alone in thinking this way. I share similar thoughts, so maybe it’s good to get a conversation going. Maybe we could continue next time in Australia?
A: That sounds fine, sweet and dandy. I am hoping to come back during Mardi Gras in 2012 and may try to even facilitate a few panels/workshops about a few topics I touched on. Thanks for interviewing me Jez. Being a guy who isn’t on hormones and who hasn’t had top surgery, it is really validating to be interviewed for Dude Magazine, so thanks heaps!
ALIX IRON is running a panel and class on Service and Queer Mommy dynamics in Sydney this February 29th! This is an event which delves into dynamics between consenting adults. Just like the well known Daddy/Son play – of which I am an active BOY – and I’m so happy that someone is sticking their neck out to talk about Mommy/Daughter and Mommy/Son dynamics – it might be taboo – but that is what is hot! This is ADULT play…. grr.
Click on the flyer for more information!!