Thursday, 31 July 2014

Andreja Pejic.

I've featured Andreja on here before – specifically in my second ‘In Vision’ post. But in that instance I used pictures of her feminine boy persona; and news came out this week that she's now transitioned. She describes her journey as follows:

I figured out who I was very early on—actually, at the age of 13, with the help of the Internet—so I knew that a transition, becoming a woman, was always something I needed to do. But it wasn’t possible at the time, and I put it off, and androgyny became a way of expressing my femininity without having to explain myself to people too much. Especially to my peers [who] couldn’t understand things like “trans” and gender identity. And then obviously the modeling thing came up, and I became this androgynous male model, and that was a big part of my growing up and my self-discovery. But I always kept in mind that, ultimately, my biggest dream was to be a girl.

Well, I'm happy for her, and pleased that she's come out as trans – but at the same time I'm a little bit sad. As Minnie Bruce Pratt wrote: “I love the contradiction between gender identification and biological sex. I love having the simultaneity, the both/and.” In Andreja's case, that apparent contradiction has now been resolved. The beautiful unmasculine boy (who it turns out she wasn't) is now a beautiful feminine woman. And her personal evocation of the possible, of what "male" can be and mean and look like, is no more.

Why this should matter to me at all is not so easy to convey. But in an (unrelated) article for Slate magazine, Vanessa Vitiello Urquhart wrote:

I think it's important to keep the boundaries of what can and can't potentially be male or female propped open as wide as possible. It's wonderful that people who feel uncomfortable with the gender they were assigned at birth are gaining strength and visibility. But, it's just as important that young people, girls and boys and genderqueers alike, can have as many examples as possible of men and women who don't conform to gender stereotypes. I like to think I'm doing my part for that by living as an aggressive, competitive, logical, and strong butch woman.

The hyperlink incorporates the words “a butch lesbian rejects a non binary identity”, but I don't view her piece that way. Rather than a rejection of non-binary identities per se, I read it as a rejection of binary correlations, an assertion of a personal non-normative binary – as well as a political act, an evocation of the possible, of what "female" can be and mean and look like.

Of course, non-binary and genderqueer can be political acts too. As I quoted queer butch Sinclair Sexsmith as saying: “It is a radical, political act to reject the two-party binary gender system, and I like radical acts. I get off on ’em.” And as I wrote on their own blog: “Yes, genderqueer is a political identity for me too.” But I went on with: “But then so is male, given that femme and feminine aren’t supposed to go with male.” It's the second part that's relevant here, and the reason why I'm going to miss "Andrej".

Ah well. Andreja has got on with her life and asserted who she needed to be – and that's infinitely more important than who I (or anybody else) might have liked her to be, which isn't important at all. And she's left us a recorded pictorial legacy of that beautiful unmasculine boy, even if it wasn't who she really was. So, thanks for that, Andreja.

And as she's posted herself: “I think we all evolve as we get older and that’s normal but I like to think that my recent transition hasn’t made me into a different individual. Same person, no difference at all just a different sex . I hope you can all understand that.

Absolutely :)


  1. Hey Jonathan,

    You seem to have understood my piece better than just about anyone- maybe better in some ways than I did myself, before I read this.


  2. I completely understand what you mean when you say you're a bit sad about Andreja's transition. As a male modelling women's wear, Andrej pushed the gender boundaries and made people rethink what it meant to be male or female. But, you're right: "Andreja has got on with her life and asserted who she needed to be – and that's infinitely more important than who I (or anybody else) might have liked her to be, which isn't important at all. And she's left us a recorded pictorial legacy of that beautiful unmasculine boy, even if it wasn't who she really was. So, thanks for that, Andreja."
    It's a big thanks to because Andreja continues to make people rethink gender issues/identity. She has now become a voice for people who might be in a situation similar to her own. She accomplished her life's dream and can express who she really is. That is what's important: her happiness and the fact that she can be a person everyone can look up to.

  3. I could not agree more that I find this a bit sad as well. Having role models who don't conform to the binary are good for those of us who don't desire transition is a good thing. There's a bit of a pang of less for me in her transition...

  4. Vanessa: That's probably the nicest comment I've ever had. Thank you :)

    Dairenna: Yes, Andreja is now a trans role model. And that's great of course.

    Joanna: I felt the same when Patrick Califia transitioned. And it's not as if I wish they hadn't, or that I feel disappointed in them, or anything. Why should the sex of someone I don't know at all matter to me in any way anyway? But it kind of does a bit. And it seems sort of similar to "butch flight" – except that's a whole 'nother dubious can of worms, and perhaps even more none of my business.

  5. I also feel a bit sad, feel a loss of a radical example. But also I feel that the trans urge within is saying 'female, female, female' to me; that constructs such as genderqueer, bigender, male femme, are, however politically commendable, rationalisations - they just don't have the pull of the inner trans urge. xx

  6. Hi Deborah :)

    Just to clarify: genderqueer, bigender, male femme, etc, are not of themselves political rationalizations, commendable or otherwise. So I'm guessing you're just talking about yourself there. In which case, did you ever read, or did I ever mention, this post: ‘Trans and femme’? And, in particular, this bit: “it is only after someone's femme has been allowed free expression that they can get past the "feminine" aspect, realize there is more to their gender issues, that they are essentially female”? Is that what you're feeling at all?

    J xx

    1. J,

      What I am suggesting is that we are people of male bodies and male experience, who feel an urge to be female. The urge may well not be attributable to essential femaleness, it may well be best not to act on it fully, and the resistance to the urge may come from a genuine place that should be honoured, yet the urge itself cries 'female', not 'genderqueer', 'bigender' or 'male femme'. It is the brain that interprets the urge as such. xx

    2. No, I disagree with that. What the individual urge might be is a personal matter, and how it's rationalized depends on what conceptual framework they're using. In some cases "female" might be a rationalization of something they can't understand in any other way. For instance, my own urge – I think – is towards a certain femininity (which the word "femme" denotes) and (for me) it's a false rationalization (based on the dominant cultural framework) which regards this urge as female. Indeed, that's what my blog is about. For other people "femaleness" may well be the urge. Or a switching between two genders (bigender). Or something else entirely. Ultimately, I think we can only talk about ourselves here.

  7. You might be right, J. I don't feel very strongly about it. xx