This here is Andrej Pejic. If I were a builder, I'd be whistling. If I were a lesbian, I'd be carpet-munching. Unfortunately, I'm a University-educated, haplessly middle class 27 year old man-child and I'm therefore painfully short on crude metaphors that indicate sexual attraction and riddled with bullet hole-like Catholic guilt at that indomitable stirring in my groins. Because this here, ladies and gents, Andrej here, is one of the world's most successful androgynous supermodels. In the words of my confounded flatmate, "chick's got a dick?!"
Well not exactly, because Andrej -as I understand it- is a man. His gender identity is androgynous, meaning he catwalks down international runways modeling fashion clothing for both men and women. I don't mean to restrict his androgyny to one of commercial interest alone; I'll get to the lifestyle element in a bit. But I'd like to first take stock of what we have here: a beautiful specimen of the human race, his male genitalia, and my own corresponding set, responding to his virtual pheromones, picking them up, drawing them out like a satellite dish does ESPN.
My question is not one of faux-Catholic rectitude; it is one of consumer rights/ protection: do I, as a member of the perpetually sexually-inclined straight male community, have the right to be informed straight away that the image I'm ogling over is of a man in a dress? The answer, I'm afraid, is blowin' in the wind, much like Andrej's own testicles would do in the position above if they weren't impeccably tucked in to prevent the worst kind of wardrobe malfunction that could befall a female supermodel. (In a meta-tastic brainwave generally not associated with the fashion industry, he has recently been signed up to be the face of a company selling push-up bras.)
Now I don't know what Andrej's preference is, when it comes to sexual partners. I do know however that he is something of a survivor - born in 1991 in Bosnia, his mother fled with him to Serbia to escape the war. They immigrated to Australia when he was eight, and he is now a citizen. (The same welcoming land would later nick-name him 'gender-bender'.) He now spends his time shuttling between photoshoots in Europe and America. As a serial-immigrant and writer, I'm tempted to draw parallels between the problems faced by the diaspora in finding a cultural identity, and his own decision to not choose between genders and bravely embrace them both. This would of course be sinfully pseudo-intellectual and ignorant. I choose instead to point to the great scripture of our times: pop culture.
I'm currently reading Middlesex (2002) by Jeffrey Eugenides, the story of a man with a recessive gene in his fifth chromosome that led him to be born with a perfectly normal-looking vagina and was raised as a girl till the age of fourteen. A couple of days ago, fellow-blogger Robim Moran brought to my attention the story of Sasha who is being raised by his parents to be gender-neutral and is referred to simply as 'the infant'. In 2008, the world witnessed the phenomenon of Lady Gaga, a throwback (in terms of fashion, if not music) to the glory days of David Bowie and Annie Lennox. We were as smitten as the Bard himself with the cross-dressing Viole de Lesseps of Shakespeare in Love, and raised nary an eyebrow as Borat flaunted his mankini in all its fluorescent gender-transcendence. In little Britain, audiences invited cross-dressing comedians David Walliams and Eddie Izzard warmly into the mainstream, and the generally homophobic football terraces in Manchester took no issue to David Beckham's sarong as long as he kept bending those long balls in. Even conservative Singapore has an impressive array of gender-bending entertainers on tv and the live comedy/theatre circuit. And suddenly, its hep to be hairless, rudderless, gender-less.
In a way, this is natural modern day progression. Pampered by central heating and microwave ovens and 24/7 connectivity, we're all less and less capable of dealing with adulthood, with reality. That little window in the timelines of our lives -that innocent time before the onslaught of pubic hair and menstrual cramps, when it was enough to just be human- is beginning to appeal more and more. I don't wish to imply that androgyny is infantile, or intellectually inferior, or -God forbid- immoral. Social scientists in fact claim that it may be the logical approach to daily life - some parts of it are better dealt with from a woman's perspective, and some from a man's. I only insist that if I've just bought you a drink, I did so under the sincere impression that you are the somewhat salacious owner of definitive lady-parts. And I humbly request that if in my drunken stupor I have made a mistake on that count, I'd like to be informed about it before I put on my poker face.
Dude (Looks like a lady) - Aerosmith