More from Trisha van Cleef,
the Artist Concurrently Known as Paul Whitehead
This month we return for part two of my interview with Trisha van Cleef/Paul Whitehead, the professional artist famous for the surrealist album covers she/he designed for Genesis in the 1970s. (See for yourself at http://www.paulwhitehead.com.)
A: Trisha, do have a wife or kids? How do they feel about you being openly known as a crossdresser?
T: I was married for 20 years, no kids, and marriage was fascinating but eventually disappointing. My wife was into my dressing for a while, sexually that is. Get dressed, do some coke, smoke some herb, a few drinks and we could transgress sexual boundaries together without remorse. It was her that gave me my name; she decided that I was a Trisha. Everything was OK as long as it stayed in the bedroom.
When I expressed a wish to go out, she was astounded and very frightened of the possible repercussions. What will the neighbors say? What if someone we know sees you? What if you get stopped by the police? All negative. She did go to the old Queen Mary Show Lounge with me once, and she was appalled.
What we saw reinforced her fears and nearly convinced me that she was right about all the negative aspects of crossdressing. But I didn't buy into it 100%, though, something told me that there was another way. That is when my hero, Marcel Duchamp (see part 1 of this interview), came to my aid and put Trisha into the perspective of artistic expression.
A: How do you feel about women?
T: I love women, why else would I emulate them, study them, relish their company and wear their clothes? They are the nurturers, the only ones that can bring another life into the world - of course sometimes they drive me nuts. To quote Professor Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady - "Why can't a woman be more like a man". I find that if I ever have something that is really bothering me and I want to talk about it, work it out, I will always call a woman friend. I have one dear female friend that I go for a 3-hour bike ride with every Saturday, we talk about EVERYTHING! I don't think that I have a male friend that I have that level of intimacy with, for both of us it feels like having a free shrink.
A: Ahem! Let’s not forget what I do for a living and that I practice in male form . . . How do you feel about men or other MTF transpeople? Any experience there?
T: Being a man, naturally I relate to most men and the role they play in society, but as Trisha I find them mostly disgusting. The way they come onto you, the lines that they use to try and pick you up! Get a clue guys! Does that really work with real girls? And sexually? It's usually - Wham, bam, thank you, Ma'm, and the pants are back on two seconds after the ejaculation. There are exceptions of course - the GENTLE-men; they are the ones I like.
MTF TS's? Met a lot. Find most of them to be nuts - must be the hormones - and their journey is their life, all they ever talk about. I find that boring. In my experience most of them don't seem to like crossdressers, and I always get a feeling that we are wimps in their eyes because we don't go the whole way. I have three fully-transitioned friends who are very sweet and intelligent, and all they want to do is fit in - live their lives below the radar and they are very successful at that. I can relate to them, and we have very healthy and fruitful relationships.
A: Do you simply love how you live, or are you looking for someone or something?
T: Very happy right now, I am loving the journey - all I'm really looking for is enlightenment and self realization. On that subject, I have a very deep and meaningful spiritual life. I have a guru to whom I have entrusted with my spiritual development, I keep in touch with him by meditating regularly. There was a time when I believed that dressing was unspiritual. He put me straight on that one. He told me that the spirit is beyond gender. It is gender-neutral, and that we are a beautiful blend of both male and female. He was right. He also told me that if that's your proclivity, get into it, work it out. The more you do it, the less power it will have over you. The more you don't do it the more you will want to do it. I wish that I could pass that profound realization onto any crossdressers out there that are struggling. I would dearly love to take that weight off their shoulders and lead them into the world where dressing is fun, guilt-free and a beautiful way to express yourself and operate in the world.
A: You have a magnificent sense of style. Can you tell us about it? Any personal thoughts on passing?
T: I'm an artist, style is a very big part of our lives - when I was married I used to choose most of my wife's clothes for her, and I was almost always right on. I think that Trisha was living through her. I used to love to see her really beautifully dressed: she was stunning. Trisha's style is evolving all the time. As a man I am not a flamboyant dresser, and Trisha is the same. I tend to dress what I call "age-and-place appropriate" although Trisha is 10 years younger than Paul. I have passed the point of fetishizing women's clothes. I like to feel comfortable: no corsets, miniskirts, ridiculously high heels, or garish, bizarre colors that attract attention. I watch women a lot and see what they are wearing, what the fashion is - I like to fit in and not be the subject of attention when I walk into a restaurant. As far as passing, who are we kidding and who really cares anyway? Though, I find once again that it’s a question of energy. If I go out looking and feeling good within myself and expecting to pass, I usually do, except that under very close scrutiny, the waiter always reads you. I have had lots of women come up to me and ask me where I got my skirt or my shoes or whatever. It's only when I speak that they see right through me.
A: Might you transition? What have you done to help you decide? What in particular, if anything, holds you back?
T: I seriously considered getting breast implants for my 60th birthday but I thought about it, talked to a couple of female friends, and decided not to. I tried pharmaceutical hormones for a while but didn't like how they made me feel. The herbs like fenugreek are OK, and I find that regular small doses seem to take what I call the male edge off your body: softer skin, slightly less hair growth, and of course your titties become a lot more sensitive. I guess I'm looking for that spiritual blend I mentioned earlier. I am not an extreme person in any aspect of my life, except in my search for God, and the middle road - towards anything - has always attracted me.
A: To me, you’re a sort of TG national treasure.
T: National treasure? Mount Rushmore is a national treasure I'm an ongoing gender experiment right now. When I die, we'll see if I was a national treasure or not, but thanks for the compliment.
A: Is there anything you’d like to say to our readers as one of the precious few transgender artists they may ever hear from?
T: This is where I get very emotional and feel a huge responsibility. I wish with all my heart that someone will read this interview and see a glimmer of hope and find a positive take on his condition - his confused and tortured struggle with crossdressing or transitioning. If that happens, I have done my job. Take some strength from me. I've been there. Don't be afraid, no matter what your social or marital situation is, and believe me I've seem them all. You have to be YOURSELF. It's really all you can ever be. I believe that you have a responsibility to your creator to manifest that. It's why we are all here on this beautiful planet. Who is going to tell you who you are, except you? Who has the right to stop you evolving into whatever your mental picture of yourself is? I will repeat the same thing that my friends told me years ago when I was having doubts about coming out - THERE IS NO DOWN SIDE. Trust me, those that truly love you will love you, whatever. They are the people that you will cling to and trust for the rest of your life. The joke is that the only way to find them is by taking that step. Scary? Don't be afraid, you will be a better, more compassionate you with a very unique take on the world. Oh, and yes, I almost forgot to mention this, you will have LOTS to laugh about. I'll leave you with a quote from Marcel Duchamp: "There are no problems - only solutions."
A: Thank you, Trisha, for this rather remarkable interview.
Life's rich, complex, and full of possibilities. Be careful and enjoy!
Alice Novic, M.D.
To learn more about me than you'd ever dare to ask, please see my smart, sexy memoir, Alice in Genderland: A Crossdresser Comes of Age.
Also, if you wish to eMail Alice with Questions, Comments or Topics for Future Through the Looking Glass Articles, feel free to send her an eMail at Alice.firstname.lastname@example.org or to Post any Comments below.
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