Andrew Guy: When did you first realise that you weren’t just a gender, what was happening during this experience?
Mara Aplin: I think at around age 16, when I first started coming to terms with my sexuality I found myself really drawn to androgynous people. This kind of forced me to assess my own gender expression: I think androgynous people are beautiful, but I don’t express myself as such. I began to question why I feel so comfortable with femininity, and began to experiment with expression etc. I shaved my head last year which made me realise that expressing my femininity is important to me, but I’ve come to realise that my own beauty and appeal does not depend on typical feminine expression. My sexuality also has allowed me to explore the irrelevance of gender, I try not to put any label on my sexuality because even bisexual seems limiting and like I owe a kind of consistency in my relationships that I just can’t guarantee. I have come to realise that, when it comes to choosing partners, gender is as relevant as hair or eye colour, I notice it but it’s not make or break, I can appreciate it (in whatever way it’s expressed) but it doesn’t really play a part in how I feel about people. Even in the LGBT+ Community, I think there’s a lot of stigma surrounding bi/pansexuality because we are still so stuck on gender, I’ve had queer women tell me they wouldn’t date me just because of my interest in men or male presenting people, like there’s some kind of stain on me because I’m not a “pure” lesbian. This strange sense of reverence that surrounds gender pervades all corners of society, which I find so strange and limiting.
What’s your favourite colour combination on yourself?
I just love wearing colour. Red, yellow and green are my favourites to wear but often not together. I often try to combine loads of colours if I can, but I like going for warm tones together and cool tones together. Red and orange or pink, orange and yellow are popular choices, but I never really know until I put it all together. I love bold patterns and colours in general, whatever I can get my hands on.
Describe a moment you took your power back while working in the industry?
I just don’t work with people who I don’t feel respect me and my work, particularly if that work is unpaid. I left a theatre company I was involved in because the director was asking us to workshop a script he’d written and would use our ideas and then claim them as his own when we did showings for feedback. He was also pretty sleazy and just didn’t know how to work with women, I had to stand up for myself and other women in the company a lot and it just got to a point where I couldn’t justify doing free work for someone who didn’t respect me in any way. I think maintaining your own power in this industry is not letting yourself be used. My work is valuable and it means something, so I deserve respect and credit where its due.
Does gender have a place in art?
I think it does because we’re so obsessed with it as a society. Gender plays a role in power, relationships and identity in present society, and art is meant to reflect society, but also to criticise it. I think art about gender makes us think about gender and whether it really means anything.
What is your definition of gender?
This one is hard. I think if you find comfort in a gender identity, that’s a great thing, but if you don’t that’s also fine. I think we’re so obsessed with putting names on everything, which can be so harmful because so many things cant be put in a box or behind a label. I think gender is just a scale of masculinity and femininity and how these are expressed, regardless of physical sex. I think we’re taught to assign femininity to female biological sex, and masculinity to male biological sex, but it doesn’t have to be that way. elements of both these traits are useful in understanding your own identity.
Mara Aplin: How has your own expression of gender benefited you? How has it hindered you?
Andre Guy: I’m sorry I can’t answer this question as gender has never been a forthright expression I have taken control of, it’s always in my experience just happened or been placed upon me.
Do you think gender plays some kind of positive role in society or should it be completely eradicated?
Gender plays a positive role in society I think if those playing the role they’ve been given (or chosen) are happy with what that role entails intrinsically. In short this rarely happens as people use the gender construct for all sorts of special “access exclusive area” games which excludes, oppresses, abuses and ultimately creates and reinforces human disconnection.
Eradicating it would be interesting to see, my greatest fear is that we’d turn into pleasant-ville sameness characters on a spinning rock in space, fear of the exposure of stepping into an expression that’s been soaked into our sense of self since the day we became human. People also like a box to fit into if they’re insecure in who else they know themselves to be (who am I if I’m not my gender?), so it has a place still, in short “man up everyone, be brave” so we can be done with this as a box on a form!
What are your thoughts on the use of labels in terms or gender, sexuality etc?
I think it serves individuals questioning their identity and how they feel the best feel accepted in society. Some like to be placed into their box. I personally try to exist each day with as little interactions with the terms as possible. Though saying that, I chose to medically transition for the social acceptance and the affirmation of being seen and treated as male by others. I’ve fallen victim to the social conditioning of others in society because my instincts tell me that’s what’s going to make you feel best. Any sway from that is futile to my existence, so actually maybe the terms are the most important thing in keeping me on this planet (biggest note of hypocrisy yet! 🙂 Thank you very much X.
Does gender have a place in art?
Whether I think it has a place or not, it’s palpable and used as part of the skeleton of a lot of work everywhere, find me a script or a piece of work without the use of pronouns and names where we don’t know who or what the genders are …
What is your definition of gender?
I don’t know any more, from travelling along a spectrum from one end to another (as the construct suggests and exists as), I forget its there and I no longer know how to live with in it as many do. Take me away into an oblivion where I can give you only feminine or masculine energy away from any form, as this bunch of molecules understands.
Mara Aplin and Andrew Guy are appearing in Genderification, by The Leftovers Collective.
Dates: 27 September, 2018
Venue: Surry Hills Library