Art is Androgynous: I Merey

My school counselor once said something to me that I would never forget: “Art is Androgynous”.

Art is all around, is inclusive and not exclusive. Art is androgynous because it embraces both masculine and feminine (and all that in between). The institution of art has been dominated by male; the society it which the institution locates has been dominated by male, but art itself has always been about beauty and truth. And beauty and truth is beyond gender.

So what would be more appropriate than to introduce artists and their art of androgyny?

The Morning After (ink, acrylic, oil pastel, colored pencil and graphite on cardboard) by I Mere

 

I Merey is a Hungarian artist and graphic novelist from Portland Oregon, currently living in Munich.

His 2010 graphic novel a + e 4ever is named 2012 Stonewall Honor Book in Children’s and Young Adult Literature [2], and listed as one of the top ten choices on the 2012 Over the Rainbow book list for Adult Readers. [1]

I have come to know I Merey through Tumblr, and have been in love with his art ever since. His topic of choice is consistently of androgynous subjects, trans* and queer individuals.

He does a number of portraits of famous androgynous models, including Australian top model Andrej Pejic and Stav Strashko, Ukraine born androgynous model famous for his apparence in the 2013 Toyota Auris commercial.

Portrait of S. Strashko by I Merey

Andrej Pejic by I Merey

In I Merey’s art, one could see the influence of Japanese manga, art nouveau, and expressionism. Some of his favorite artists Alphonse Mucha, Audrey Kawasaki, James Jean, Rod Luff, and Takato Yamamoto are known for erotic, detailed, deluxe, and exotic style of art; often create a dream-like atmosphere and aura around the characters. Such characteristics could also been observed in many of I Merey’s drawings.

Vampire by Takato Yamamoto

Nest Drawing (2011) by Rod Luff

The Third Dream by I Merey

In one of our exchange of messages, I Merey quotes Oscar Wilde that “To define is to limit.” It appears to be a rather befitting caption for all of his art, from drawings, portraits to graphic novels. The beautiful creatures in I Merey’s art are always fluid, otherworldly and untouchable; they do not answer to the society’s gender rules and so-called norms. They refuse to change who they are to “settle in”.

When I asked I Merey for what mediums he used for his art, his response, in retrospect, was rather metaphorical. He said that he uses everything. Most of his drawings are composed of all kinds of mediums from ink, graphite, pastel, oil pastel, water color to acrylic, gel pen and colored pencil. “The only thing that is consistent is what I draw on (always paper–white, brown or cardboard).” He wrote in one of the messages we exchanged, “I don’t do that canvas thing.”

It is just like his art–a bit of everything. Male and female; masculine and feminine; angelic and devilish; innocent to erotic… The only thing that doesn’t change is the subject of his art–always the beautiful outcasts, walking the teletrope between genders, sexualities and identities, wandering in and out of the norm and absolutely lavishing.

Reference

[1]  “Over the Rainbow Books.” Over the Rainbow Books 2012 Over the Rainbow List74 LGBT Books for Adult Readers Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 June 2013. <http://www.glbtrt.ala.org/overtherainbow/archives/342&gt;.

[2] “Stonewall Book Awards List.” American Library Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 June 2013. <http://www.ala.org/glbtrt/award/honored&gt;.

Something worth celebrate: Coy Mathis

Today is a day worth celebrate because we have made another step forward on the scene of transgender equal rights movement.

Coy Mathis, a six year-old transgender first grader, has been told by her school that she cannot use the girl’s restroom because “as she grew older and developed, some students and parents would likely become uncomfortable”, and that “Coy’s birth certificate stated she was male” even when her recent medical and legal documents acknowledged her identity as a female*, according to today’s New York Times article.

After an investigation since Kathryn Mathis, Coy’s mother, filed a complaint with Colorado Civil Rights Division in February, the Division has ruled in favor of Coy Mathis. It has become the first case ruling in the U.S. that holds that “transgender students be allowed to use bathrooms that match who they are”, said Michael D. Silverman, the executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (where Coy’s story made the homepage of the organization’s website).

Coy (L) and her family. Credit: TLDEF Information

TLDEF’s Homepage Article on Coy’s Winning the Case

*It is mentioned in CCN’s report that “Coy’s passport and state-issued identification recognize her as female.” [x]

To see more reports:

Admin Note: Thanks to Lesley for linking me the article this morning. It was a wonderful thing to wake up to.

The Genderbread Person v2.0

The Genderbread Person was introduced me a while back in the comments by a school teacher (the comment was not published because it mentioned my name). It’s a rather accurate graphic model explaining the concept of gender, expression, sex, and sexuality.

It’s beautiful, fun and easy to understand. Quite like the Gender Book project that’s introduced in my earlier post (which was kind of the archetype for this entire blog if you may).

I like how the creator says in his video that the goal of his project is not only to create resources that help people to be aware of the issues, but also help people to teach other people about these issues.

As someone in the community, I like to think of it not as a responsibility but a privilege to educate others about these issues that would ultimately benefit everyone if resolved.

The Genderbread Person is a project under the site It’s Pronounced Metrosexual (http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/). They also have a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/MetroSam) and Twitter account (https://twitter.com/ActuallyMetro).

Admin note: What should I blog about next? Suggest in the comment! Or contact me at cerealwithwine@gmail.com.

More about Transgender (and more)

How old is it old enough to ‘decide’ whether or not one is transgender? Is gender identity something one could decide? Below are three documentaries of profound stories, about children who started transitioning at a young age.

Josie’s Story

“They’ve made the decision to kill themselves at the age of 12 and 13, that’s a pretty powerful decision. […] If doing nothing is doing harm, you have to do something.” -Dr. Olson

Boys Will Be Girls 20/20 part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4

“You don’t make a decision about your gender identity. It’s not something you decide.” -Dr. Olson

“I knew I was a boy when I was two years old. I think everybody knows what gender they are at a very early age.” -Jackie’s father

“Many people think after you have the [sex reassignment] surgery you are completely happy with your life. No! It’s just you feel complete, you feel at a beginning. Because that’s what other girls have when they are born.” -Kim

Jazz’s Story

“Just because I’m a little different, does not mean I should not have the right to play with my team [girl’s soccer].” -Jazz’s response to her school board rejecting her from playing in the girl’s soccer team

More about Gender (and more)

Extension to the last blog post Respect for ‘Others’.

Recommendations of movies, books and other resources about gender, gender identity and sexuality (chronicle order).

Movies

Books

Websites/Organizations

YouTube Videos/Channels

More to be added when they come to me.

Respect for ‘Others’–Beyond Gender Binary

Study shows that there was approximately 700,000 transgender individuals living in the United States in 2011. The actual number might be even larger, as some choose not to come out or rather stay out of the record. As one of the most liberal and diverse countries in the world; gay and lesbian people have started to gain more acceptance and equal support in the U.S., whereas people who identify as transgender or gender queer are still struggling for understanding, or even just recognition, from the public.

The Binary System& Gender Check-Boxes

I was trying to sign up to Pandora a few nights ago—not one of those hardcore radio heads who can’t get by a day without music, I have only started using the online radio station now (I might have done it earlier if I knew it was more like a psychic than a website; I don’t know how they do it but the thing can read minds.)

The registration process was a simple enough. With only one step, four entries and four check boxes and you are done.

Image

People love easy going websites like that.

I supposed it could have been done in less than 3 minutes. But what happened was that I ended up spending 25 minutes stuck on that page staring at the check boxes, contemplating.

Image

Yeah, why?

It struck me with the first question, why would an online radio station need to know my gender?

I clicked in the ‘Why?‘ link and it actually offered an answer. Following is the direct quote from Pandora’s webpage.

The free version of Pandora is supported by advertisements, and we want to be able to show the most relevant ads to our listeners.

For this reason, we require listeners to specify a gender with their registration information. Since this means that you’re more likely to see an ad that’s relevant to you, we hope it’s a good thing for our listeners as well as for our advertisers, and therefore also for Pandora as a whole.

I didn’t find that explanation satisfying, in fact I don’t find it a relevant answer at all for several reasons.

Stereotypical Gender Expectations

By saying that specifying one’s gender is necessary for receiving relevant ads is basically gender-specifying the products. Is it really necessary? What ads are more relevant to one gender than another? Is a tampon ad irrelevant to a guy? Doesn’t he have a mother, a sister, a girlfriend or just a female friend? Is a bodybuilding ad necessarily irrelevant to a girl? Can’t she want a masculine body? Can’t she see it and recommend it to her male friends who might be interested in bodybuilding?

I understand that as a company, it might be more effective and economic if you can narrow and target your potential costumers, but is it really more profitable to exclusive your products to only one group of the people and another? That is one question I thought about.

Twitter and Amazon don’t care about your gender.

amazon

twitter

Cisnormativity and Heteronormativity

Image

(Visit Printerest for more graphics, posters about Trans* and gender.)

Cisnormativity is the assumption that one’s gender to match what that is assigned to their biological sex; such as heteronormatity is assuming heterosexuality and fulfilling one’s assigned gender roles to be the norm. But as the society nowadays became more and more open and understanding, it has become a knowledge that gender is more of a spectrum than a dichotomous system.

It is insensitive and ignorant to force people into the gender binary. While cisgender might be a common majority, it shouldn’t be the only normality; gender is diverse and incredible–there are transgender (male trans female, female trans male), gender queer (third gender, intergender, androgyny), and even neuter. (Watch the interview with Toby [5], the genderless neuter individual on YouTube.) Many people out there are fighting everyday to be who they are, despite what society and their birth certifications tell them to be.

facebook

Facebook’s registration process also requires the user to specify their gender as either male or female.

What is gender anyway?

It is very easy to fall into the common gender binary; since a child we are taught that gender is either this or that, that a person is either male or female. While in reality, human sexuality is a much more complicated thing; it is more of a spectrum rather than a simplified binary of this or that.

newspectrum

(click the image to enlarge. Image found here.)

A person could be born as male sex, but identify as female gender and have a feminine expression. She could also be born into male sex, identify as female gender and still have a more masculine gender expression; which shouldn’t make her any less of a woman. If she decided to undergo medical treatment to transition physically, then she would be considered a transsexual.

There are also individuals who are assigned one sex or another at birth but do not identify as either. They may express their gender identity through an androgynous expression, or their gender expression might vary from day to day. They may or may not take up medical treatment to transition their bodies. Those individuals who ‘challenge’ and ‘transgress’ the so-called ‘gender norms’ are considered transgender, or trans*. (The star implies that it is an umbrella term used to cover a broad number of groups.)

Trans*

Transgender refers to people whose presentation, behavior, and identity do not fit into the assigned gender roles. It is an umbrella term often confused with transsexual. Transsexual is the universal term that refers to individuals who undergo medical transitions, such as hormone therapy and/or surgery. (see GLAAD Media Reference Guide) Transsexual falls under the category of transgender, but transgender individuals are not all transsexuals.

There are various of ways to be transgender, no two individuals express their gender identically. But there is one thing in common, that all transgender individuals express their gender identity in ways outside of the binary system, and often feel discontent and repressed in the binary society.

Sometimes it is simple things like signing up for a social media and find yourself unable to fit into the gender category they provide; while sometimes the situation is far more intense and threatening.

Statistic of Transgender and Gender Queer

  • There are approximately 700,000 transgender individuals in the U.S., according to the Williams Institution‘s study in 2011. [2]
  • 40% transgender individuals in the U.S. have committed suicide. [3]
  • 19% of U.S. transgender have been denied of medical care because of their trans status. [3]
  • 90% of transgender workers reported workplace discrimination and harassment in the U.S. [1]

The environment is already as harsh as it is, it doesn’t take that much to make it a little easier for ‘the others’.

The Human Rights Issue

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights ensures that  everyone enjoys the equal rights to be safe and included in a society in which they are entitled to inherent dignity, justice, freedom and peace.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. (Article 2)

It says in Article 28

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

The problem with the binary system is that it excluded anyone who doesn’t fit into the system. The system only provides limited options and categories to ‘fit into’. It is problematic because it not only excluded the people who do not fit into the binary, it also implies that they do not fit, or belong to the ‘norm’.

The idea and practice of a binary system goes against the equal human society the Declaration is trying to ensure, and it needs to be changed.

There are more than 700,000 individuals in the United States of America that are being excluded; there are more than 700, 000 people in the U.S. alone that do not feel safe in the society that promises their protection and basic human rights; 700,000 and more people in America deserve an alternative system, because the existing system tells them they are not ‘normal’ for the things they cannot change.

It is not a transsexual issue, it is not a transgender issue, it is not even a queer issue; it is simply a human rights issue.

Because the society is built for humanity, and if this society cannot make its people feel safe in their own skins, the society needs to change.

Solution and Alternative

the other

Google and YouTube offer the option of Other Gender in their registration process; it is just a small button, could save someone out there from utter awkwardness and discomfort. The point really isn’t about how many buttons there are, however; it is rather about the recognition and acceptance of differences and minority, to have one’s eyes and mind open and to be sensitive.

Gender is too nuanced to be measured with tests, standardized, and put into boxes. To look beyond pink and blue is to see the world in full color. [6]

It is not easy to jump out of the mindset that has been repeatedly implanted and reinforced since we were just mere children, but just because we are used to something doesn’t mean it should be the only way. We are very easily blinded by the obvious and overlook other possibilities; the knowledge, our outlook, of the world is not by birth but through education. That is why it is so important to be open minded, to be unprejudiced; to be curious and excited to learning and understanding.

All we need is a little tolerance for differences, and a little respect to the ‘others’.

Differences are beautiful, diversity thrives a species; majority is not equivalent to normality, to accept and not exclude the differences and diversity lets us be more complete and whole as people.

(Visit thegenderbook.com for fun and informative ebook about gender diversity [4])

The flag to represent the gender-queer community, just like the rainbow flag to represent gay-pride.

How to Create Your Own Post for Social Change

It is not easy to make a change, and sometimes it seems scary; the world seems so big and you feel so small. It is very empowering to know that your words and actions have power and you are able to make a difference. With the convenience of social media, we now could voice our opinions and make them visible in a platform that is open and free.

Do you have an opinion on current human rights or social issues? A blog is a good way to start getting your voice out there. Below is a PDF file on how to create your own post for social change using blog format. Check it out, and hope it could be of help.

BLOG POST FOR SOCIAL CHANGE.pdf

TRADITIONAL MANDARIN VERSION.pdf

SIMPLIFIED MANDARIN VERSION.pdf

Work Cited

[1] Burns, Crosby, and Jeff Krehely. “Gay and Transgender People Face High Rates of Workplace Discrimination and Harassment.” Name. N.p., 2 June 2011. Web. 24 Feb. 2013. <http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/lgbt/news/2011/06/02/9872/gay-and-transgender-people-face-high-rates-of-workplace-discrimination-and-harassment/&gt;.

[2] Gates, Gary J. “How Many People Are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender?” Williams Institute. N.p., Apr. 2011. Web. 24 Feb. 2013. <http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/research/census-lgbt-demographics-studies/how-many-people-are-lesbian-gay-bisexual-and-transgender/&gt;.

[3] Geen, Jessica. “41 per Cent of US Trans People Have Attempted suicide.”PinkNews.co.uk. N.p., 22 Nov. 2010. Web. 24 Feb. 2013. <http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2010/11/22/41-per-cent-of-us-trans-people-have-attempted-suicide/&gt;.

[4] Hill, Mel Reiff, and Jay Mays. “The Gender Book.” The Gender Book. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2013. <http://www.thegenderbook.com/&gt;.

[5] Toby: Neuter, Genderless Person Pt1. N.d. YouTube. YouTube, 17 June 2012. Web. 24 Feb. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VeLOIxiG4c&gt;.

[6] “Van’s Final Web Portfolio.” Vans Final Web Portfolio. N.p., 30 Mar. 2009. Web. 24 Feb. 2013. <http://figtus.wordpress.com/2009/11/30/research-paper/&gt;