BECOMING: AN ART PROJECT

BECOMING: THE PROJECT

About three months ago while causally reading the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders V (published in May last year) as research for a new project, I was struck by one disorder in particular: ‘gender dysphoria’. As a female who has visibly adhered fairly well to the ‘gender norms’ of her sex, why was I so distressed by this definition?

Shower_Arms_Face

Perhaps it was because the outline of the disorder is littered with phrases such as “it is important to note that gender nonconformity is not in itself a mental disorder”. Whether you identify as LGBT or not, this need for clarification seems absurd. As what is ‘gender conformity’ or ‘non-conformity’? And why in 2013 would it ever be considered a mental disorder?

Shower_HairDryer

What are we talking about here? Are we talking about clothing or hobbies or jobs or personality traits? Despite contesting it, I was sadly all too aware of what they meant by gender conformity. To what extend had I ‘conformed’?

Back_Towel

A seed was taking root. I began to question how I would be if I had been expected to fulfill the other set of gender norms. As a visual artist I came to the only conclusion I felt was appropriate to answering this question: ‘I would have to become a boy’. Of course, within this artistic context I could never really ‘become a boy’, but instead I was interested in the process of becoming.

Changing_Arms

By assuming male gender norms to what extend could I ‘become’? I mean this in no way to invalidate the experience of trans people, but instead to question the pervasive and prescriptive nature ‘gender norms’ have on people as a whole, and the relatively causal nature of this binary division between the sexes.

That was three months ago, and since then I have been taking time to reflect on the person I have been for the last 26 years, Abigail, while also preparing for the emergence of my ‘twin brother’ Andrew.

Mirror_EyeLiner

Andrew will be my new identity for the next three months. What he will be like exactly, I do not know yet. These entries will follow the daily life of Abigail/Andrew in Gent, Belgium, and offer reflections on the emotional and physical realties of their experiences in weekly updates.

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 BECOMING: A STATEMENT

In ‘Becoming’ I take myself as the subject in an auto-ethnographic visual investigation that expands from my own understanding of my gendered identity and sexuality.

I am becoming my brother’s brother and my sister’s brother, I am becoming my own twin, a brother to myself. I am becoming my mother’s son and my father’s son.

I am reimagining my sense of self around the premise of “what if 26 years ago they had said ‘it’s a boy’, how would I be living differently? How would I interact with the world? How would the world validate me?”

In the assumption of a male identity I am not only questioning how I would fulfil life as a boy, but also how the reality of living as a male influences how I feel in the here and now.

In ‘Becoming Boy’ I can never really become male: I am always in state of becoming.

What does it mean as a designated, biological female to ‘become a man’? To appropriate the identity of another gender whilst remaining physically of female delineation? What is it to be gendered? And to what capacity can I create my own gendered reality?

 

Words and visuals by A. Liparoto

 

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