Transvestism and the portrayal of women

In the vicinity of this blog’s first birthday I’ve had several discussions with familiar people who – despite the urge – haven’t had the nerve to approach me earlier. Thank you, wonderful people, for overcoming your confusion and approaching me. This was one of my main goals when I came out publicly. I write openly, so that you could approach me about these subjects with a minimum threshold if you so desire. Again open and honest discussions have brought us closer and helped us understand one another.

A specific topic of interest has been my latest project Wanda O Rly which began in March 2019. As Wanda, I combine drag art with science and environmental communication. See the following links to take a closer look.

So, my activities drift more and more towards performing arts. Perhaps that’s why a certain theme has repeatedly come up in the discussions of late.

When you dress up as woman, is the result what you consider an “ideal woman”?

Your character Wanda seems to rely on very stereotypical sexiness and is a sort of bimbo. Feels like this contradicts with your feminist attitudes.

Frankly, many of your pictures are slutty. Is this your idea of a beautiful woman?

The topic I’m talking about is of course the link between my transvestism and the way I portray women in general. This is an important topic which I haven’t clarified enough so far.

Whenever I seek attention for my blog, my art and activities I always send out messages, create mental images and mold thoughts and attitudes. I wish to act responsibly when doing so. I can not foresee how people will take each of my actions but I do wish to speak out about my thoughts to avoid tragic misunderstandings and any related damage.

For me transvestism is sexual

By definition a transvestite is a person who from time to time feels the need to express the opposite (binary) gender, that was given to them at birth. The definition does not describe what may be the cause behind this need but for my part, I know what it is about.

For me transvestism is one way to express my sexuality which is fetishist in its essence. This means that various clothes, objects, body language and ways of carrying oneself play a bigger role in turning me on than the gender or sex of a person.

The femininity that enthralls and excites me is a cultural construct, that has little to do with biology in the end. This becomes obvious for example when I’m completely charmed by a fellow drag artist who is a male by both sex and gender. My excitement has more to do with his presence, clothes, movement and gestures. When these elements are in their place, gender and sex become insignificant.

Having grown up in a aggressively homo- and trans-phobic environment, this realization was a challenging phase for me back in the day but it allowed me to break free from the boundaries of hetero-normative thinking. It was a big and essential step on my path of truth-seeking self-search.

However, sexuality is a different thing than sex and there’s a lot more into it than who you prefer to play around with. Among other things, it includes the way a people feel good about themselves, the way the look at themselves, the way they touch themselves, the things they find attractive about themselves and what they seek to highlight in their appearance.

For fetishists the way to relate to their fetishes and find comfort with them is a significant part of sexuality. For the most part of my life, I’ve experienced my fetishes as external objects of lust. For example, I wanted to adore, touch and lick beautiful boots worn by another. I wanted to be stroked with long beautiful nails in the hands of another person. I wanted to kiss the glowing red lips of someone else.

A new realm opened before my eyes when I allowed myself to start experiencing these things from the perspective of an active agent, not simply an external observer. Perfectly fitting high heeled boots on my own feet, making my hips swing with each step. Long beautiful nails on my own hands, adding drama to my every gesture. My own lips, shiny and red, like molten plastic. I was now allowed to experience all these overwhelming feelings and meanings I had always imagined these things to cause to their wearer. It turned out these experiences were even more intensive and comprehensive that I had dared to imagine.

So, I recognize that by large my fetishes have to do with things we have learned to accept as feminine in our culture. Through my self-search and thought exercises I have concluded that my turn-ons are constituted almost mainly by these fetishes and have less to do with sex and gender. Thus, I have accepted that among other things, I’m sexually oriented to a cultural construct of femininity and especially to some specific elements that form this construct. I get sensations of satisfaction when I get to experience this construct both as an object of lust and as a creation of my own by transformation.

In my case, transvestism may be a bit misleading word, because I don’t think I’m transforming into a woman when I dress up and do my make up. Instead I think of myself more like a fetish fantasy: a character loaded with cultural meanings that embodies all that cultural fluff that has get stuck to the adhesive surface of my sexuality along the way.

Fully loaded

Of accountability

I’ve picked up the fetishistic images and ideals that have guided my sexual development from my environment, no doubt about that. The women around me, a certain Harley Davidson poster I saw, Spice Girls, Madonna, Mary-Jane Watson and Gwen Stacy from Spider-man have all had their influence on me.

In the About section of this blog and in my first text I write “The human sexuality is vulnerable and subject to external influences. It has no rational or moral filters.” and “A person’s sexuality penetrates their whole life. Therefore it is a great source of understanding oneself and society on a root level.” These thoughts have guided my sexual self-reflection. On the other hand they serve as a justification for the existence of all kinds of sexual desires, and on the other hand they give reason to ponder, to control feelings with reason and to take responsibility of one’s actions.

In my view the individual can not be held responsible for what their sexual desires become. Sexuality starts to develop at the moment of birth. We are open and subject to influences through out our lives and we are affected by huge amounts of different influences even before we have any cognitive abilities to process what we see and experience.

The strange and strong sensations caused by these influences may get recorded to the depths of our minds and bodies as obscure but strong memories. Even if later reasoning of these memories may ease the confusion a person feels about their needs and desires, the needs and desires may stay intact. Thus we can not control what we become sexually. We can only affect on how we choose to act about it.

How I’ve learned to view women and men

Our conceptions of gender roles and womanhood and manhood in general are biased by the entertainment industry that sexualizes women in every turn. To the level of numbness we are accustomed to representations where a woman is seen as the object of lust of a heterosexual man regardless of context. Music videos, movies, video games, comics and adverts have been full of this content through out my life. The contribution of this phenomenon is easily seen in e.g. the absurd appearance standards of women and in the objectifying tone in which men often talk about women amongst themselves.

When we want to watch media content, we are often forced to do it through the eyes of a horny heterosexual man. This representation style is known as male gaze and it has been strongly present also in many of the influences that I remember having contributed to the development of my boot fetish. I suspect that it is at least partially due to this representation style, that I’ve started to associate sexual significance to things that may not have any by nature.

I’ve always been sensitive to my environment and susceptible to influence. As a child I was easily captured by different types of fantasy worlds and I liked to emphasize, engage and plunge into play quite far into my teenage years. My mother recognized this feature in me and we had many discussions about whether I can tell what’s real on TV and what’s not. Especially about the super sexy female artists of music TV and about the porn-like stereotypes in which many music videos represented the interactions between men and women.

So, whereas some cultural ideals have become my fetishes and thus affected my sexual development, they have not dominated the way I view women and men in general. I believe this has been prevented mainly by three factors of which the first is the above mentioned upbringing.

The second factor has been my own sensitivity to my environment. It has made me susceptible also to other than sexual influences. As I looked around me as a child I saw all kinds of people of different ages, different sizes, different colors, with different abilities, different levels of wellbeing, from different backgrounds, all with their own reasons for joy and sadness, everyone carrying their own burdens. My view of people has largely been driven by these real life interactions and even though I’ve been strongly sexual since my early teens, I was always aware that – just like the music videos on MTV – my fetishist sexual desires were more about some kind of fantastic play, than about the everyday reality I shared with other people.

The third factor is the sexual self-reflection I’ve practiced ever since first becoming aware. Very early on I realized that my sexual desires differ from the mainstream and of what was considered normal. The need to understand and express myself has pushed me to ask myself critical questions, to question the acceptability of my desires and to reflect on the effects of my desire-driven attitudes on other people. The hard independent work has been fruitful in the sense, that today I understand the diverse and complex nature of human sexuality and I’m extremely aware of the ways my sexuality affects on my thinking. I recognize my personal preferences and I’m able to keep them from biasing my values and the way I view and portray women and men. Above all, I understand that all people have the need and the right to be seen and respected as themselves.

Answers to questions

With this light initialization I shall now answer the questions I highlighted in the beginning of this text.

Q: Is your trans-character Wanda a representation of your ideal woman?

A: Not exactly. My ideal woman is any good hearted, critically thinking and responsibly acting person who feels down inside that she is a woman. Within these conditions, she may dress and be just as she likes.

Wanda is me. Wanda is the incarnation of my fetishes who visualizes that which I’ve grown to consider attractive. I’ve absorbed my influences from a many ways twisted culture and I have no reason to think that my preferences are some how ideal. People should not be valued or judged by their external features.

In addition, the idea that my personal preference should become some widely accepted standard is completely absurd and against my values.

Q: Doesn’t Wanda’s stereotypical sexiness contradict with your feminist attitudes?

A: No, it doesn’t. I undrstand the question so that the one asking may think that I’m actively trying to reinforce the idea that “This is what a Real Woman(™) should look like”, but as we see from my previous answer, this is a silly premise to interpret my activities.

In its core drag art is a rebellion against narrow gender roles and I, for one, suffered through out my youth of the lack of ways to express my self. Why on Earth would I try to force other people into similar narrow boxes?

Among other things, feminism for me is about nobody (e.g. men, the government, jobs, other women) telling women what being a woman is a about, how women should dress or act. The same idea spreads to other minorities and us men as well. So, if any woman, man or non-binary person wants to look like Wanda or like anything else for that matter, they should be free to follow that passion. It’s not our place to assume anything about their motives, thoughts and values based on their appearance.

Q: But what about the fact that Wanda is a product of this twisted male gaze culture? By performing yourself aren’t you exposing others to the very same influences that maintain this culture?

A: We born, live and die as a part of the continuum of our culture. We absorb influences, mold them to suit ourselves and leave behind a legacy. I’ve become subject to certain influences and adopted them. For the sake of my mental health it is important to me to be able to enjoy my sexuality and to express myself. In my opinion the question how I will do it is what matters.

The pictures of this blog and my public performance as Wanda may externally resemble the influences I’ve picked up myself. However, I present these things in a radically different light than in which I’ve adopted them. For example, I’m not trying to argue that Wanda’s presence would be somehow ideal or obnoxious for that matter. I’m simply saying that it’s one allowed option within countless of others.

If my activities stir strong emotions in you, one way or the other, then you have a personal point of view to the discussion I try to raise about the fetishistic nature of our culture, its double standards, about sex-education, about humans as sensitive and susceptible beings and about the social structures that don’t seem to keep up with any of this. Join the discussion and you can change other people, yourself and thus the World around you.

I’m sure that a sustainable cultural evolution is not achieved by covering up and keeping silent but instead studying and understanding our previous phases and by learning from our mistakes. Every person’s individual history of experiences is a recording of how culture affects the individual. I’m making my own public so that we could learn from it together.

Feminism looks also like this.

Q: Frankly, many of your pictures as slutty. Is this your idea of a beautiful woman?

A: My interpretation is that here the word “slut” is used in a shaming purpose. In this frame of reference it is typically considered slutty when a woman expresses her sexuality openly and allows her excitement to show. These expressions include e.g. shamelessly caressing and showing off one’s own body and the seductive looks given to the camera. These messages suggest that a person feels good about their sexuality and wants to study and express it freely.

Generally the use of the word “slut” in a shaming purpose is a way to control women and I refuse to validate its meaning. It is not shameful to express one’s sexuality or to have and sell sex. Every person – regardless of gender or other features – has the right to express and act along their own sexuality just as they want to as long as it’s safe, sane, consensual and doesn’t violate other people’s rights.

And to answer the question itself: yes. A sexually confident person who lets their desires and emotions show – a woman, man or non-binary – is absolutely one of the most beautiful things I know.

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