Last week, pop performance artist, Alexander Geist released the video for a new track, "A Woman's Right to Choose". A mysterious medley of ambiguous apparitions and morose saxophone riffs, the video leads us on a journey into arch sarcasm, and on to a provocative exploration of gender identity. In it Geist wakes up and recounts a fever dream to a cold but glamorous psychotherapist who probes for details. As Geist talks her through what he saw in his dream he realizes that he is in fact still dreaming. The two loiter in a hallucinatory, domestic landscape, populated by showgirls, mothers, elder stateswomen, drag queens, a bunny, a baby and a pair of wrestling sex bombs. Directed by Imogen Heath of NowMomentNow (who previously worked with The Knife and Planningtorock) the video is a transfeminist manifesto.
Amongst the many visual references in the video (Bowie in Just a Gigolo, Fiona Apple's Criminal and Marcel Proust's musings on dreams) there is a charming and somewhat ironic nod to the Joan Crawford classic, The Women. This silver screen standard is famed for showing only females onscreen throughout, from background actors through to the main stars themselves, even the animals! Likewise in "A Woman's Right to Choose" each of each of the subjects Ms Heath's camera alights upon is a transfeminist personality.
That is not to say that they all identify as female or transgender. Many of these performers are biologically female bodied and female identified, several are male bodied with a "feminine" gender expression, some are transwomen, and some female with a "masculine" gender expression. Collectively they represent an attempt to give full expression to the limitless potential of (female) identity. Of course gender identity is boundless and infinitely complex and a project like this can never hope to present every modulation, nor would that be helpful, because this is not an exercise in anthropological cataloguing. The sentiment presented is simply, that it is a woman's right to decide for herself if she is a woman. Be that biological or trans, both or neither; all gender is valid.
Of course this extends to men too, whether you are a butch transman, an effeminate bio boy or a FTM drag queen, you have a right to that gender and the right to insist that people respect your self-determination. And what if you decide that neither of the prefabricated categories of male or female fit you or suit you? What if you oscillate between the two, feel you straddle both, or find that you have not yet found a fixed place on the spectrum and actually quite like it that way? Then yes, welcome to transfeminism! A woman has a right to choose. . .
The track (released on New Pangea records) and the video are dedicated to Chelsea Manning, who is now serving a thirty-plus year sentence in a men's military prison, without access to the therapies her MTF transition requires. You can read more about her case here