What do you think of the term Gender Play to describe both male and female Femme Identity Exploration (also known as Autogynephilia)? Gender role-play is a pretty common meme, but that still has a ‘serious’ connotation to my ears. Let’s just talk about play. That is what we do when we dress up and that is what the Japanese CosPlay is doing. We dress up and adopt a new social imaginary. Then we go out into the world and manifest new selves.
This term really brings a lot of things together for me, and helps me understand what I have been documenting with all of my street fashion photography in San Francisco. I have been recording gender play in the different counter-cultures of San Francisco.
The term play refers back to the 1938 Homo Ludens from Johan Huizinga. Femme is gender play whether a man or a woman does it. The Curvy Girls and Femme Boys I photograph are breaking hidden taboos about who is or is not allowed to play. Burning Man is a giant Gender Playground and a laboratory for an infinite multiplicity of gender.
The Sister’s of Perpetual Indulgence, the Radical Faeries and the burningman.org can all be viewed as creating joyful spaces for gender play.
Another useful aspect of a play metaphor is that Play stops being play when there are too many rules. Both Lesbian Butch/Femme and BDSM roles become rigid prescriptions and take the joy out of the play. I grew up as a Feminist Boy and boycotted the traditional Boy Gender Play of Soldier, Cop and Warrior. But refusing Warrior Gender Play did not mean that I had access to Femme Gender Play, so in a sense I lost access to Social Play. I did not learn Gender Play until I started Femme and Androgynous Gender Play when I was 38 years old. Five years later I can honestly say that my Femme Gender Play has been immensely broadening. America’s obsession with identity has created a lot of strife, but it has also opened up new opportunities for social change represented by gender play.
Note: I use Gender to refer to a vast multiplicity of self-expression rather than a male/female dichotomy
Republishing Gender Play Archive
I have 2-3 thousand great gender play street photos that I am publishing as an iPad photo-zine. In May 2011 I published a print/ebook magazine called Curvy Girl Superheros. I have learned from that experience and am now focussing on the international market that the Apple AppStore provides. Expect the first installment of my Femme Gender Play PhotoZine in October 2011. It will be Free, with iAd advertising, and will be published in both English and the most interesting non-English marketplaces (Brazil, Japan, Korea, Germany, France, China, Russia and the Spanish-speaking marketplaces).