(Out magazine, March 2008)
How do you turn a penis into a vagina?
It’s not as difficult from a medical point of view as you might think. Yes, it involves some rather delicate major surgery and the risk of all kinds of ghastly complications. Nobody undertakes such a project lightly. But — and I know this will come as a disappointment to many — male and female genitalia are, anatomically speaking, sufficiently alike to make the procedure relatively straightforward. Essentially, the penis is turned inside out, inverted, and placed inside a cavity tunnelled out of the lower abdomen.
Michelle (formerly Mitch/Stud-U-Like) c.2009
Or as my good friend Michelle, a post-op MTF transsexual (pictured above), joked with typical tact: “I’m now shagging myself 24/7 — and don’t even need to buy myself dinner!”
Michelle is a very special lady. Not because she turned her penis into a vagina, but because back in the early 1990s she was a sexy male stripper on steroids called “Stud-U-Like” (see kinky Santa snap at the top of the page) whose tattooed muscles and XL penis were the toast of hen nights and gay bars up and down the U.K. But one day Mitch, who had always had gender identity issues, decided that despite the whoops and wolf whistles, the whole boy thing wasn’t working for him. Mitch became Michelle, stopped taking steroids, and started taking female hormones instead — becoming with the aid of hair extensions and dangerous crash-dieting even sexier than Mitch. After living as a woman for a while, she finally said goodbye to the last of Mitch, i.e. her nine-inch chopper, and had the Op. Breaking the heart of many a gay man.
“Operation Pussycat,” as she dubbed it, was fortunately a total success. “I now have a 7.5-inch punani!” Michelle declared proudly while recovering in the hospital the Day After. “And in about six months, Mark, with use it will stretch to the full nine inches I had when I was a man!”
“More like a month in your case, dear,” I quipped.
Michelle pursed her lips (the old pair).
Michelle’s trans-tastic voyage, from Stud-U-Like to Chick-U-Love, turned out to be eerily prophetic. She herself has adjusted well to her life as a woman with large breasts, but I’m not so sure about the rest of us.
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.
“Male and female created He them” — but now He’s watching His handiwork rush down to the cosmetic surgeon for a nip and tuck, liposuction, rhinoplasty, pec and buttock and calf implants, breast reduction, breast enlargement, penis extensions and girth widening, vaginal tightening, revirgination, six-pack etching, and labial and scrotum reduction. All in all, He must be feeling a little bit miffed.
It’s not enough, you see, to be male or female any more. You have to both embody and go beyond sex. You have to turn yourself inside out. We’re all becoming… Pamela Anderson. Which is nice, but we don’t all have the legs for it.
Transexy is not quite the same thing as androgyny — which, in addition to David Bowie being enigmatically fey in a spangly 1970s leotard to a glam-rock soundtrack, means a mixture of masculine and feminine characteristics. Androgyny can be actually quite affirming of sexual difference. Transexy, because it’s obsessed with transparency, transcends masculine and feminine and obliterates sexual difference — even and especially when it’s trying oh, so-hard not to look androgynous.
Let me give you a very hairy example. Newsweek recently reported the case of “George,” a 6-foot-3 man “with chiseled pecs and a bushy beard” who “seemed like a model of manliness.” Yet two years ago the 47-year-old decided he didn’t look quite macho enough. “So he had 3,000 hair follicles ripped from his scalp and transplanted into his face, chest, and belly.” He still wasn’t satisfied. So a year later he returned to get an additional 2,400 grafts done. “‘I could still have another surgery and not be completely covered,’ says George today. ‘I’m very pleased, but 2,400 grafts is not a very hairy chest.'”
A little bird tells me George is never going to be satisfied. After all, what is a very hairy chest? Once you start obsessing about such things, there’s no end to this.
And, boy, have we have started. Says Newsweek: “George’s quest for maximum hirsuteness isn’t as unusual as it may sound. He’s part of a growing group of ‘retrosexuals,’ men who shun metrosexuality…in favor of old-school masculinity.” The article also cites an increase in the number of men asking surgeons for “manlier” chins and noses as further evidence of the so-called “rise of retrosexuality.”
Since when did “old-school masculinity” persistently perceive itself as chronically lacking in maleness and obsess over its physical appearance, and since when did “old-school” men resort to repeated painful and costly cosmetic surgery of questionable effect to make themselves more attractive, more worthy of love — more “manly”?
It’s a measure of how totally transexy we’ve become that surgically fixated MTM Pammy-trannys are seen as “retrosexual” by Newsweek. Like last year’s mendacious “menaissance,” with all those prissy-missy lists of manly dos and don’ts, this is just Fight Club the Musical (which by the way is coming to tap-dance and gush and bray on Broadway soon – no, really).
But why not? This after all is a generation of men on hormones: hundreds of thousands are taking steroids, according to recent reports. Most of them not circuit party queens. Not only do baseball players apparently now need to take them to be baseball players, and high school football players to be high school football players, but also ordinary nonathletic, non-body-building men need to take them to be nonathletic non-body-building men. (Only 6% of steroid abusers in the United States play sports or consider themselves body builders.)
The vast majority of males taking “the juice” are not doing so to be stronger or faster or scarier, all traditionally masculine ambitions, but simply to look more attractive in the gym, on the dance floor, at the beach, or in their online profiles — to look, in other words, like male strippers: Stud-U-Like. Or what is much the same thing, Vin Diesel.
But steroids, like transexiness itself, can have a paradoxical effect. In addition to testicle shrinkage and erectile problems, in large doses they can turn into estrogen in the body, which causes “bitch tits” and female fat distribution: Stud-U-Like into Chick-U-Love. Perhaps this is why Sylvester Stallone looks more and more like his mother, Jackie. Given his recent steroid scandals, the tagline for his new Rambo movie, “Heroes never die…they just reload,” probably refers to syringes rather than ammunition.
The world of celebrities is of course transexy with knobs and knockers on. This is really the whole point of celebs — and the reason we’re so interested in them. They’re what we would be if we had the time and money and could be bothered. Celebrities are the personal fitness instructors of postsexual identity: inspirational and motivational and very shouty. Women such as Paris and Nicole are ads for transexiness — not because they look like skinny boys with smacked lips holding water balloons, which of course they do, but because they look like women who have had all sorts of costly, painful, and occasionally risky procedures — to look, in fact, like Woman. They are all, like sex in the digital age, copies of an original that doesn’t exist. The question we continually ask of celebs is, How can we be like you? How can we copy your copy of sex?
Attacks on fashion designers for their unreal and unhealthy ideals of feminine beauty somewhat miss the point that fashion is fashion. The fashion world, for all its dictatorial gestures, only reflects culture — or what is the same thing these days, what culture aspires to be.
Celebrity males are, of course, at least as transexy as the women. Tom Cruise, still the biggest Hollywood box-office draw despite jumping the chat-show sofa, is a pint-size all-American action hero who is the absolute epitome of artifice. After 22 years he’s still playing his Top Gun character, Maverick (and the Scientologists appear to have his portrait in their attic). The tagline on the posters for the Missy Impossible movies should read, “Can you spot the weave?” Weaved or not, Cruise’s zooming narcissism always outguns his leading ladies.
As Tom’s multimillion-dollar smile shows, male and female nowadays mean exactly the same thing: a ravenous, ruthless desire to be desired. And they both have the number of the same plastic surgeon. Sexual difference has been replaced by sexualized competition. As with Blu-ray and DVD HD, there’s not much to choose between the formats: One has more storage space, the other has a better interface. That’s pretty much it.
Put, say, a picture of Nicole Kidman next to ex-hubby Tom, and you’ll see what I mean. Can you really say that these two people are opposite sexes? Or even different sexes? Or put a picture of her next to Keith Urban and watch them blur into one. it’s no wonder these two ended up together. After all, they seem to be sharing the same stylist.
No wonder Sharon Stone recently announced that she is sick of men who “act like women” and claimed she’d rather be romanced by a “masculine lady. It is difficult to have a relationship because I like men in that old-fashioned way,” she sighed. “I like masculinity, and in truth only women do that now.” So true, Sharon, so true. My TS mate Michelle, who is also an old-fashioned girl at heart, agrees with you completely. She’s really fed up with the first thing straight blokes ask after she tells them her little secret being: “Will you fuck me??” Having been through all that trouble to have your large penis turned into a vagina, it’s a tad annoying to have to go out and buy a selection of strap-ons.
I suspect Sharon’s been watching that show Entourage, in which a group of young men from blue-collar backgrounds behave like Sex and the City women, only more superficial. The Entourage generation of men lives to shop and to be looked at and aspires to be nothing more than trophy-man wives. “Hug it out, bitch,” is the motto of transexy men everywhere.
Speaking of trophy man-wives, take a look at today’s celebrity couples. Actually, don’t even look; just say their names: Demi and Ashton, Jen and Marc, Angelina and Brad, Maddy and Guy. None of these couples even sounds remotely man-and-wifey. They resemble — you can look now — anatomically incorrect kids’ toys. Where is sexual difference here? In the drag-king stubbly beards that the sack-and-crack-waxed toy-boys wear to emphasize their Timberlakian adorability? No wonder these celeb couples end up being called two-headed single names like Brangelina or TomKat: flesh of my undifferentiated flesh.
Even when a celebrity couple, like Maddy and Guy, act out a reassertion of traditional roles, it only serves as parody. When Madonna brags about her mockney gangster groupie husband bossing her about, it only serves to make it clear that Guy is the English nanny whose duties include having to pretend to dominate Madonna seven or eight times a week.
But none can compare, of course, with the ultimate transexy couple: Victoria Adams and David Beckham. Somehow, Posh and Becks’s extraordinary appearance becomes, daily, more heroically artificial – perhaps because they seem to embrace their transexiness completely, performing it shamelessly to the hilt in fashion shoots in which they simulate transexy sex (which is, by definition, simulated anyway).
If a recording of Posh and Becks having sex at home were to make its way onto the internet, as it has done with Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, or Paris Hilton and Rick Salomon, it probably wouldn’t test the server’s bandwidth much. Not because their naked angularity might be uncomfortable to watch, but because there’s nothing more to see.
Porn has become the celeb sensibility because porn literally makes sex transparent. By ceaselessly ‘showing’ sexual difference and turning it inside out, straight porn overexposes it, along with heterosexuality — and turns it transexy. Most female porn stars these days look like Pamela Anderson — did they copy her, or did she copy them? Or was it both? Meanwhile lesbianism and sodomy, i.e. non penile-vaginal sex, are pretty much de rigueur in ‘straight’ porn. On the rare occasions penile-vaginal sex actually occurs, it’s usually either in the form of a man lying flat on his back while a woman bounces up and down on him (fucking him or giving him a vaginal blow job) or a flotilla of science-fiction-sized penises on one vagina.
Which reminds me, the male models in straight porn are no longer the penises attached to fat hairy fucks of yore but increasingly resemble those in gay porn; they are getting younger and more attractive, and their bodies are shaved and more worked out, and the camera won’t shy from showing this off. Or so I’ve heard….
Meanwhile, something interesting – at last! – seems to be happening in the world of gay porn. Perhaps inspired by Michelle’s journey, an impressively hung young model called Stonie – who bizarrely also played Borat’s son in the Sacha Baron Cohen movie – is now taking female hormones. He’s already had breast implants and has changed his name to Brittany Coxxx (though for now she’s hanging onto her cockkk). And apart from the slightly hexagonal breast implants, she looks rather hot.
The curious thing, though, is that s/he also looks even more like a gay-porn star now than s/he did before.
As Borat, perhaps the last true retrosexual left, might say: “Transexy time!”
Copyright Mark Simpson 2008
Special thanks to Michelle and Donald K and also the late great Jean Baudrillard, who shuffled off his virtual coil last year.
This essay is collected in ‘Metrosexy: a 21st century self-love story’