Her Body Statement
I have always dreamt of sculpting my body; to align this vessel and this mind into one whole being. Though I began to socially transition in my late twenties, it wasn’t until December 2021 that I was finally able to manipulate my flesh into this new form. Crossing over from being transgender into transsexual. Releasing myself once again from others preconceived notions of who I am and who I should be.
Transsexual is a complex word. Contentious in trans, queer, and conservative communities for different reasons, transsexual is where I feel most at home. I claim this label because my body has transcended sexual characteristics, and because within the history of the word transsexual is my history. Of paramount importance to me are the brave women who appeared on talk shows like Jerry Springer in the late 1990s and early 2000s. These individuals allowed themselves to be seen as spectacle, in hope of being visible and normalizing our community. Equally important were the visible sex workers who used their bodies to claim space in a society that deemed them undesirable, while secretly chasing them. These are the trans women in whom I first learned to see myself, so I claim the label assigned to them. Like these women, I have chosen to bare all, to confront the scopophilic needs of the cis community as a means to own this body of transsexual experience.
Self-determination for marginalized people is always an act of rebellion. Many of the paintings here depict parts of my body that society is always demanding people like me reveal, while simultaneously insisting we never show. These self-portraits are sourced from a range of experiences, some emotional and psychological, others medical. Their execution centers materiality and process as much as documentation. They are a selfish act. A chance to explore and digest my transition. But they are also about challenging social norms and the understanding of trans bodies.
I marvel at my body’s ability to be sculpted, to heal, and to be reborn in a form I first dreamed it would have when I was 5. Back then I would pray to witches to fix me. Now I pay doctors.
There is no singular “correct” way to be trans. It is not mandatory that a trans person seek medical transition to be trans. I have, and I invite you on this journey with me.We follow in the footsteps of those in whom we first saw ourselves, with each generation a reflection on their specific elders. Though there have been other trans women like me who have revealed themselves through mass media and other forms of imagery, the trans body has been missing from most of Western art history. We do have examples of visible trans people in painting and the graphic arts, but it is only recently that those depictions have been made by the hands of trans artists themselves. As a painter, I am fighting to solidify my moment in art history. I want this flesh to be equally represented, so that she may step into the pantheon of depicted bodies and take her place.
These images may be difficult for some, and I recognize the right of the viewer to look away. You need not look. But if you do, you will share the wonder that I feel, simply being alive and living my truth.
Copyright Molly Vaughan