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Mr ‘Thing’: Pejic and his Prophet

‘All truly beautiful things are a mixture of masculine and feminine.’ So said the late Susan Sontag. And she would know.

I’ve only just read a recent profile of the transexy Serbian model Andrej Pejic in The New Yorker called, with only a soupçon of hyperbole, ‘The Prettiest Boy in the World’.

Pejic, who sometimes models women’s fashion, sometimes men’s (though guess which gets more attention), is the chap memorably described by US FHM in a widely-reported hissy fit as a ‘thing’ that prompts them to ‘pass the sick bucket’ — despite his popularity with their own readers. And more recently as a ‘creature’ and ‘a fake’ and symbol of ‘abject misogyny’ by outraged female columnists citing him as the ‘final proof’ that they were right all along, that high fashion is run by an evil gay paedo conspiracy against women that wants to do away with ladies altogether and replace them with ‘young boys’.

Though perhaps the outraged feminists of both left and right should welcome Pejic with garlands since he means that women can finally opt out of the fatal gay embrace of high fashion altogether and leave the gays and their Ganymedes to it….

Whatever Pejic does or doesn’t symbolise about the world of high fashion it seems to me that he and the scandale surrounding him definitely, dramatically personifies something that is going on in the wider culture that feminists, along with everyone else, are often far less keen to notice.

The way that in the last couple of decades the male body has become ‘objectified’ in mainstream media as much as the female variety. The way that ‘beauty’ and ‘prettiness’ is no longer the sole preserve of women. The way that glossy magazines with men’s airbrushed tits on the cover have become the most popular kind — with men. (Which lends a special irony to the banning of a mag that featured a topless Pejic on the cover by Barnes & Noble – they knew Pejic is male, and don’t ban topless males, only females, but were worried the image ‘might confuse their customers’.)

And the way that colours, clothes, accessories, products, practises and desires previously thought ‘feminine’ have been greedily taken up by men  — and often re-labelled ‘manly’ in a way that only succeeds in unwittingly satirising the very concept of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’, ‘man’ and ‘woman’.

The way, in other words, that gender is undressing itself. Or at least, teasing us with an elbow-length glove or two and an unhooked bra-strap.

In the NYT profile ‘It’, alias Pejic says he’s largely indifferent to gender. For him, it isn’t about being a ‘woman’ or a ‘man’ it’s about being true to his own tastes, to himself. Though he seems to have few illusions about how he is being used and possibly exploited by the fashion industry:

“It’s not like, ‘Okay, today I want to look like a man, or today I want to look like a woman,’?” he says. “I want to look like me. It just so happens that some of the things I like are feminine.”

“I know people want me to sort of defend myself, to sit here and be like, ‘I’m a boy, but I wear makeup sometimes.’ But, you know, to me, it doesn’t really matter. I don’t really have that sort of strong gender identity—I identify as what I am. The fact that people are using it for creative or marketing purposes, it’s just kind of like having a skill and using it to earn money.”

I identify as what I am.

How very dare he! No wonder people rush to call him ‘it’ and ‘thing’….

Pejic has been described, usually derisively, as a ‘gender bender’. Which is interesting because, while I’ve not seen it pointed out, there does seem to be some visual and and philosophical parallels with the ‘gender bender’ of my youth, the preternaturally pretty Brit popster Marilyn, alias Peter Robinson. Who was, for a few moments in the early 80s the most beautiful boy — or girl — in the world.

Marilyn, 1980s

A Bowie fan with an obsession with a dead blonde American actress, Marilyn became the king-queen of the Blitz Set, famously describing himself as “Tarzan and Jane rolled into one” — in addition to the 1960s Hollywood starlet (dread-locked) glamour, he sported impressive shoulders which would have made it rather difficult for him to model women’s fashion, or most men’s high fashion for that matter.

Marilyn denied wanting to change sex, or being a transvestite, he just knew what he liked — and used words that sound very similar to Pejic’s today:

“I’ve never taken much notice of gender. How you can take the same bit of cloth and cut it one way and it’s ‘for men’ and another way and it’s ‘for women’? If it looks nice I’m gonna wear it!”

A favourite target of the Brit tabloids, who seemed to get sexually aroused by the phrase ‘gender bender’, using it repeatedly, his pop career was a perfect, orgasmic explosion that was over before it began — after an infamously sultry appearance on Top of The Pops in 1984promoting his second single ‘Cry and be Free’. Giving good pouty face and flashing his muscular arms in a glittery top Madonna would have hesitated to wear, a nation gasped and the single sank without a trace.

The 1980s hastily decided it wasn’t ready for Marilyn or real gender bending, or indeed sex — Marilyn’s whole persona shouted SEX!!!! — and instead opted for the safe, Mumsy charm of his Blitz Club chum and kabuki pale imitator Boy George, who didn’t really bend gender so much as tickle its tummy a bit. And make it a nice cup of tea.

Nearly thirty years on, despite Pejic’s unpopularity with some feminists and the closet-cases who write for US FHM, 1980s Marilyn and his shameless, shining desire to be desired looks more like a glamorous prophet, preparing the way for the metrosexy 21st Century.

POSTSCRIPT 14/09/11

Justin Bieber likes to wear women’s jeans:

“I’ve worn women’s jeans before because they fit me. It’s not a trend; it’s just, whatever works, works.”…

Bieber was responding to a question about Kanye West’s decision to wear a women’s sweater. “It wasn’t (so he’d) look like a woman in a sweater; it was just a regular sweater that happened to be a woman’s.”

 

Shane Warne Comes Out Looking Pretty

Remember the Australian cricketer Shane Warne? Remember how blokey and beery and one of the carefree lads he was? A proper man’s man? Well, he’s only gone and been snared by a posh Pommy Sheila who’s turned him into a bloody pooftah!

Or at least this was the drift of today’s Telegraph article about him, snappily titled: ‘Shane Warne’s remarkable transformation at the hands of girlfriend Liz Hurley continues’:

During his years as a famous Aussie cricketer, Warne had declined to take much of an interest in his physique or appearance, except for the odd foray into blond hair dye and hair “renewal”. If he grew slightly overweight thanks to too much beer and too many meat pies, it didn’t seem to worry him.

But it seems those days are over.

Since he met and started dating Hurley, he has morphed into an altogether more sophisticated creature.

Gone is the bad dye job and spiky hair. Gone is the pot belly. Gone are the trainers and high-street tracksuits.

These days Warne seems to be styling himself, or being styled, on a cross between James Bond and a Ken doll.

Thanks to the attentions of Hurley he says that he has lost 22lb and feels better than he has in years. He appears to have had his eyebrows reshaped and has even admitted to using moisturising cream, defiantly proclaiming: “Yes, I’m still a man”.

Warne, nosing into middle-age at 41, is a latecomer to the metrosexual party, but he appears to be making up for lost time. For what it’s worth, I’m not sure his look is exactly working for me, but it seems to be working for him and that’s rather more important. After all, he ‘feels better than he has in years’.

But note how this is all ‘at the hands of’ Hurley. How he is ‘being styled on a cross between James Bond and a Ken Doll.’ Hurley in other words is playing dressy-uppy with her new boy toy. Who might proclaim he’s ‘still a man’, but we know he’s been tamed, and spayed and turned all girly by Hurley.

We’ve been here before. A similar sort of thing was said about David Beckham when he married Posh Spice (and not just by Sir Alex Ferguson). The wicked witch had ensnared the fresh-faced Manchester United footballer and then, with the help of her gay chums, had drugged him with hairspray and turned him into the sarong-wearing sissy that paraded in front of the world’s media.

A decade on, I think now most people accept that Becks is the way he is because Becks wants to be the way he is. He chose Posh as much as she chose him — probably because he wanted to be the biggest Spice Girl in the world. If so, he succeeded.

Warne isn’t going to challenge Becks for his metro crown any time soon, but he has obviously decided to prettify himself considerably. So much so that to some retrosexual die-hards it must almost look like a sex change (‘Yes, I’m still a man.’).

But Warne seems to enjoy feeling pretty. Maybe Hurley appealed to him precisely because she knew all the right stylists. So he could become the beautiful metrosexual butterfly the roly-poly cricketer was trying to turn into all along.

Being a blokey bloke isn’t necessarily about being carefree. It can be about caring much too much what other blokey blokes might say. Perhaps this new glamorous, svelte Shane Warne is the ‘real’ one, rather than an inauthentic, Girly-Hurley-confected fake that The Telegraph et al suggest he is.

In the end, contrary to the way the media often likes to present it, metrosexuality isn’t so much about men submissively pleasing women as men pleasing themselves.

Which, it seems, is the scary part.

 

Long Live Lady Gaga and The McQueen

Until last year I thought pop was a completely spent force.  Oh, there were some nice bands around with nice tunes and some nice haircuts, but pop as a total art form was pooped.  Along with pop culture.  It was just another Facebook app.

And then along came the New York songwriter-turned-singer that the press loves to dub ‘bizarre’.  2009 was indubitably The Year of Gaga, and not just because she had a string of blockbuster international hits, but because they were the instantly unmistakable product of a ‘kooky’ young woman who is actually completely in control of her work and vision.  And her own aesthetic.  Hence perhaps the wishful-thinking sightings of a penis.  This chick doesn’t need a dick – she has a real one.

Last night at the Brits (where she performed acoustic versions of ‘Telephone’ and ‘Dance in the Dark’, styled by Miss Haversham saluting Marie Antoinette ) she won a rare three gongs.  She deserved much more.  And a much longer set.  (It was rumoured to have been cut down by anxious Brits producers because she kept changing her plans.)

Gaga has, almost single-handedly, resurrected mainstream, High Street pop music – or at least made it seem like it’s alive again.  She’s even made postmodernism seem almost… modern again.  That she does it with a look and startling pop promos that play so entertainingly with the deathly, garish iconography of fashion and contemporary celebrity culture is all the more remarkable.  Yes it’s a kind of galvanic motion – those promos often look like Helmut Newton zombie  flicks – but boy, this is shocking fun.  Besides, that’s the nature of the twitching/tweeting human subject in a mediated, hyper-consumerist age.

Sorry to go on, but Gaga manages to be truly pop, and yet is a true artist.  She churns out crowd-pleasing dance-floor tracks that stomp on the competition, but there’s also a winsome melancholy and vulnerability behind the… Poker Face.

Some hasten to mention the ‘M’ word to put Gaga in her place.  But aside from moments of hilarious brilliance such as ‘Like a Virgin’ and ‘Vogue’ I was never much of a Madonna fan, even before she found the Kabala and I’m-not-Gay Ritchie.  Maybe it’s early-onset dementia, but I feel differently about Gaga.  Rather than see her as a Madonna knock-off, I see her as a more fully-realised Madonna.  She’s the Madonna Madonna wanted us to take her for (and legions of gays did).

And it’s not as if Gaga doesn’t pay homage.  ‘Dance in the Dark’, which Gaga performed at the Brits, is probably my favourite track from The Fame.  It’s very 1980s HiNRG – with a talky bridge that is a touching tribute to Madge’s Vogue.  It’s actually gayer than Vogue, which is quite something.  You can almost smell the poppers.  And I don’t even like poppers.

Gaga, a dedicated follower of fashion, dedicated her Brits performance to her friend Alexander McQueen, who died last week.  I don’t like eulogies, but I did rate his work.  He was a genuinely free spirit, a gay bohemian of the kind that almost died out in the 1980s (and which Gaga is clearly inspired by).  That he seems to have taken his own life suggests that it wasn’t easy fighting history, or fashion houses.

I never met Lee, but we did have a flirty fax correspondence in the late 1990s when I was still in my thirties.  His opening gambit was ‘we met once in DTPM a couple of years ago’.  DTPM was a London gay techno club where all the muscle boys went and took off their shirts and downed masses of drugs, dancing the night away, so of course I should have met him at DTPM – and forgotten about it.  But I never did because I never went there.  Or anywhere, really.

In the course of our thermal-paper correspondence (which I think I still have somewhere, now fading away into blankness)  he asked me, in a handwritten scrawl on Givenchy headed notepaper, to marry him. I don’t know how serious he was, but I declined, pointing out I wasn’t really the marrying kind.  This was true, but it was even truer that he wasn’t really my type.  Which is a sad reflection on me, and perhaps on male homosexuality.  I suspect Lee was often told by gay men he wasn’t ‘their type’.

Either way, I could have done much, much worse.  And of course, I did.

Celebrity Big Brother UK Drags It Up For The Final Season

C4 have been running this rather clever new cross-dressing Renault Twingo Sport ad heavily during Celebrity Big Brother ad breaks.

Could this have anything to do with the fact that Alex Reid, Jordan’s transexy cage-fighting beefy boyfriend, is one of the house-mates this year? And rapidly stealing the show, despite being the tabloids’ whipping boy and the way he was loudly booed when he entered the House.

The Twingo ad is quite a departure for a car commercial, especially one for a sporty hot hatch aimed at young men.  Jeremy Clarkson must be pulling what’s left of his 1970s dad hair out.

Instead of displaying shame, shock, anger or embarrassment at being humiliated in front of his mates the hot-hatch metrosexual son sees his father’s cross dressing as an opportunity to be socially exploited: ‘Dad?  Can you get us in?’.  We live in modern times indeed.

So it’s been entertaining to watch dinosaurs in the Big Brother House like Vinnie Jones give Alex pseudo fatherly ‘advice’ — which boils down to: ‘Don’t ‘ave anyfin’ to do wiv any of that fackin’ queer stuff, my son.’  If you want to be a washed-up bit part actor-thug with sphincter cramp, that is.

I literally spilt my tea last week when Vinnie announced, after getting up sharpish and moving, backs-against-the-wall-stylee, right to the other side of the room when Alex volunteered he was ‘try-sexual’: ‘I wouldn’t be in a movie wiv you if they paid me five million quid!’

Well Vinnie sweetie, you are in a movie with Alex already — it’s called CBB and you did it, according to reports, for just 350,000.

Alex, bless him, looked crestfallen, but then almost all of them, including former Madam Heidi Fleiss, the one with prolapsed lips, were lining up to have a go at him for being ‘confused’. Translation: interesting.  Let’s hope they don’t succeed in straightening him out.

House rule-book memorising Vinnie is playing CBB dad, but a very bad one — with badly dyed hair.  He’s so jealous of Alex you can taste it.  He’s jealous of his youth, his hair, his looks, his tits, and jealous of his cross-dressing, or at least his lack of hang-ups about it. He’s also threatened by Alex’s real as opposed to ‘Guy Ritchie’ fighting ability.

Most entertainingly of all ‘Hard Man’ Vin is shaping up to be a major gossiping bitch — cross-dressing Alex by contrast mostly keeps his tongue in his head and hangs onto his sense of fun.  Vinnie knows Alex is his main threat, in every sense: that’s why he keeps needling him and nominating him. He’d make a great Blakey in any remake of On The Buses.

But the bad CBB dads don’t end there.  Mega-swish Stephen Baldwin, who puts me in mind of the crazy camp ‘Begone foul demons!!’ preacher on the make in There Will Be Blood, is completely obsessed with Alex, spending scads of time and energy trying to seduce him — into the ways of Je-sus!– with flattery, love-bombing, back massages, mentalist preaching, and lots and lots of inappropriate eye-contact during endless shaggy dog sermons.  Stephen, who clearly doesn’t know his parable from his allegory, thinks he’s ‘helping’ Alex and showing him and us the viewers at home the revealed truth of the Holy Book he likes to thump so much and his own superior, saved status, but is in fact just making a very convincing case for American evangelism being sublimated – or rather congealed – homoerotics.

Alex is too nice a bloke to tell him to piss off.  Besides, he likes attention — and I suspect he knows that The Conversion of Alex just gets him more camera time.

I haven’t really watched CBB, or BB, since Pete Burns’ legendary appearance on it a few years back as a mischievous, sometimes downright malevolent, Eastern pagan goddess with a scouse accent.  Nor have many other people, which is why C4 isn’t renewing the franchise with Endemol.  But this final CBB is shaping up to be almost as good.

And I haven’t even mentioned Stephanie Beacham and Ivana Trump….

Transexy Alex Reid

Katie+and+Alex+in+Brighton

Yesterday’s Daily Star tells us, in a news item that seems to be full of invisible exclamation marks, that ‘The hunky cage-fighting lover of sexy Kate Price is a secret cross-dresser called Roxanne{!!!}.’

Muscleman Alex Reid, 34, has had the dual identity throughout his adult life.  As Roxanne he wears full make-up, women’s clothes, wigs and high heels and even alters his voice to make him sound like a woman{!!!}. He also snaps at anyone who calls him Alex while he is in his female character{!!!!!}.

Well, can you blame him?  If I went to all that trouble to model myself on a Sting single about a loose lady putting on the red light and people still called me boring old ‘Mark’, I’d be a bit sharp too.

His family are said to be relaxed about his double life and girlfriend Kate, alias Jordan, 31, is sticking by him. Yesterday she even admitted: “I find it really horny.”

Yes, it certainly has a sexy publicity angle to it….

She is so accepting of his Roxanne role that she bought him dozens of pairs of size 10 stilettos on a recent shopping trip{!!!}

Despite the relaxed attitudes of Price and family, there are quite a few dissappointed punters out there.  Many of them trannies.  It was Michelle, my male-to-female tranny friend and former male stripper called Stud-U-Like, forwarded me this story – in disgust.  Sometimes trannies have the greatest faith in masculinity, despite knowing its weaknesses very intimately.  But then, I suppose that’s what faith is.  And besides, it’s always a bitch when tranny-fuckers turn tranny.

I’m not much of a believer myself.  Not in these mediated, metrosexual days of male sluttery.  Besides, I don’t really mind strapping lads in basques who want to be high-heeled sluts.  I’m just not sure where I’m going to get the energy to deal with them all{!!!!}.

And regardless of whether or not ‘Roxanne’ really exists, for some time I’ve looked at those ubiquitous pictures of of Alex and Kate going shopping and thought: Your beefy new boyfriend is borrowing your bronzer and is even more aroused by large lenses than you.  In other words: it’s a perfect match.  For all that cage-fighting cabbage-eared muscleman shtick – which looked as hyper-real as Price’s boobs – he seemed even more like a MTM transexual than her previous partner Peter ‘Abs’ Andre (who of course is no longer a MTM, but a MTJW: male-to-jilted-wife).

Besides, it’s all so inevitable.  I wrote an essay for Out magazine last year, partly inspired by my friend Michelle’s transtastic journey from Stud-U-Like to Chick-U-Love, about how we’re all going transexy:

Looking around at our sexually transparent, stimulated-simulated, implanted-imploding, cam-fun-anyone? world, it’s difficult not to conclude that most of us are going tranny but without the, er, balls to actually change sex or even properly cross-dress. We’re all becoming male-to-male and female-to-female transsexuals: transexy.

Nice to know that at least one transexy male celeb has the balls to properly cross dress.  But I guess if you’re a cage fighter then people are more likely to remember to call you ‘Roxanne’.  And not laugh.  At least, not in front of you.

Or else this might happen.

Tip: Michelle