Part two of my conversation with Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. Part one is here.
Klint Finley: Can we talk about Pandrogeny?
You already touched on male aggression earlier, but just for any of our readers that — I’m already pretty familiar with the project — but for anyone who isn’t maybe you could talk a little bit about the original intentions.
It’s funny as time goes by and you get older it gets harder and harder to answer things because you see all these links and all these parallel pieces of information, and parallel things that have happened in the past that have led to these points. And you can also start to see potentially where they may be going. So it gets harder and harder to answer things lately. But, in a way, it all goes on from what we were just saying with TOPI: we were really focusing on behavior and breaking that.
And then we came into the USA in exile and we met Lady Jaye in New York. And the very first day we were together she dressed me in her clothes, put make-up on me, decorated my dreadlocks with Tibetan trinkets — which she didn’t even know I knew anything about. And it was just very crucial for us to immediately go into mirroring each other. And the initial impetus came from insanely powerful love.
We usually explain by saying: people will say, “I wish I could just eat you up.” Well, we really wanted to eat each other up. We were really frustrated that we were in two bodies. We wanted to literally be able to just get hold of each other, crush ourselves together and then be just one consciousness in one body or just one entity in any form.
And after a while, to emphasize that, we started to do mirroring. Luckily my feet were the same size as Jaye’s, although she was taller. So we started to wear each other’s clothes and shoes and then we started to dress in the same outfits and get the same haircuts and same color of hair. Whilst it was originally triggered by this just instinctive urge to blend and merge, inevitably we both started thinking about why. Why is this is happening? Why do we feel this is so important? What’s going on? Because of that thing we were saying about constantly asking questions and checking. Okay, we’re doing this but why are we doing this? Is it just decorative or is there something more going on? And so we started to talk to each other and learn about each other’s lives and she said she always felt uncomfortable being in a body. She used to call her body a cheap suitcase. And to her the self is the mind, not the body. The body is just the cheap suitcase that carries around the mind and gives you mobility.
And so as we thought about it, we thought, well, what is it that’s making us dissatisfied? And what is it that’s going on in the world around us, in the environment, that makes us feel that this is the right response for us? We were looking at the Village Voice sex adverts over a period of time and we noticed that when we first moved to New York they were nearly all biological women offering sexual services to heterosexual men. But over a few years we noticed that they shifted until it was nearly all shemales and transsexuals offering sexual services to heterosexual men. And we also noticed on the television that transsexuals and drag queens were becoming more and more common and getting a more sympathetic characterization. And that cosmetic surgery, which had been the biggest secret of the elite, was becoming something to boast about by the elite. We thought: there’s something going on here. People are starting to gravitate towards this more hermaphroditic self. Straight men wanting to be with women with cocks — what’s that about? What’s going on?
So we looked at that and we again looked at gender and identity and we thought: where does all this come from? There’s two threads, there’s DNA and then there’s conditioning, if you like. From the moment you’re in the womb, before you’re even out, people are giving you a boy’s name or a girl’s name, if they know. And they talk about you and what you’re going to be like, what they’re going to do when you’re born or what they want you to be like as a child. They’re already trying to condition you and program you before you even appear. And then it gets stronger and stronger from more and more directions the older you get.
So we just decided that we wanted to go deeper into all of this. And we also looked back at this behavior thing and we thought, well, if we’re at this larval stage and our behavior is still so prehistoric, what’s the big issue? Then, as you say, it’s the male aggression syndrome. Something is different, something is from elsewhere, something is from another culture, something looks different — and the response is to attack it, to intimidate it. This happens with school, between religions and it happens in all different ways. But the basic thing is: different, attack. And that came from preserving the clan and so you get clan warfare, you get groups trying to protect their food resource or their water resources or their cave. And at some point that made some kind of sense. But that’s still going on, on the grandest scale. And we’re using smart bombs and all these other technologies, but it’s basically still the same thing.
The “powers that be” utilize this “it’s different be afraid, attack it” to their own ends to maintain control, to maintain the pyramid of power and to intimidate the population. So that made us think this is really important. Is there a way to change this? We thought “wouldn’t it be great if men had to breastfeed?” Maybe that would make them a lot more compassionate and gentle being involved physically with propagating children. And so we just started to dialogue on gender and identity and we came to the conclusion that DNA is yet another recording device and within it is a program about male and female.
We looked at different mythological stories that we know. In the original paintings of the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve and God were hermaphrodites. And that when you start tracking back there’s the divine hermaphrodite. The perfect form is the hermaphrodite, the male and female unified as one. Even the last Pope said, “God must be male and female.” So if God as a symbol of a perfected being, of the ultimate consciousness, is male and female, is a hermaphrodite, then that is what we are supposed to evolve towards as beings. That, if you like, all of life and civilization of species is growing towards this exalted state of divinity, which is the hermaphrodite.
Which made us decide that we wanted to represent that, to symbolize both our rejection of the way that current society works, current power structures work. Certainly for me, we didn’t want to be associated with maleness as a stereotype. And Jaye didn’t want to be female as a stereotype either. We have a button badge on that jacket she gave me that says, “Not every ejaculation needs a name.” And she was really adamant about the tricks and the traps of biological materiality. And so we started to explore that more deeply and we thought DNA programs us to be what we become physically and biologically. So, to short circuit DNA — which we saw as control — obviously we can’t completely reprogram DNA yet, but to symbolize rejection of its tyranny, first of all, actually we got a vasectomy. I said: “That’s it, we’re not going to let it perpetuate itself. Whatever DNA is in me, that’s it. No more.”
But that wasn’t enough. That’s when we began to blend the sociopolitical aspect with personal loving aspects. So we were more determined to look more alike. We also wanted to reject the predicted DNA path of our bodies and so we started to use cosmetic surgery, tattooing, all the different toolkits of contemporary society to look more and more like each other so that we became this new being that we called Pandrogyne, the next evolutionary step for the species, personified as two bodies becoming one.
We decided that we really wanted to make a commitment to our rejection of the DNA program. And that’s when we decided to get the breast implants together, which was Valentine’s Day 2003. We already got her beauty marks tattooed on here. [Points to face] She got eyeliner tattooed to make her eyes look as big as mine. And so on Valentine’s Day we both got matching breast implants and woke up holding hands in the recovery room.
And my first words were “These are our angelic bodies.” That just came out. That made a lot of sense. And so we continued with that because we saw it yet again a form of cut-up, literally cutting up our bodies and also cutting up the biological program.
But we also had begun to see that the implications were far beyond gender or even just identity but they were about the dire need for the species to reconsider itself.
You’ve been a pioneer of a lot of things that have caught on. Industrial music, rave culture, extreme body modification. So have you seen Pandrogeny catch on? Have you met other people, other couples?
We have, interestingly. Obviously Pandrogeny, taken to a physical expression, is going to be to the minority for practical reasons — depending on what people’s job are, etc. It’s hard enough for traditional transsexuals to adjust into this society, but for people to be openly androgynous is going to be difficult.
So that we have- we’ve met several – interestingly, nearly always heterosexual couples — loving couples. Inevitably we’ve been adopted to some degree by the queer community, but not the conservative gay community.
Ironically, the only real resistance we had to the idea is from transsexuals who want to take the male into becoming female but they want to be accepted as, if you like, like as a straight female. They don’t want any confusion, they don’t want to be noticed or stand out, they want to be absorbed and just be ordinary, which, to us is anathema. We don’t want to be ordinary. We want to radicalize society and break its preconceptions and its stereotypes, come what may.
So what is good and what is really encouraging is that apart from these few little pockets of…confusion, really. Not so much antagonism as confusion as to what we’re saying and doing, because we don’t fit this new stereotype of becoming male. Because as we used to say, some people say they are a man trapped in a woman’s body, some people say that they’re a woman trapped in a man’s body. The Pandrogyne is just trapped in the body. That’s the quick way of explaining this.
So we’ve been giving talks and lectures at colleges, universities, GBLT event, seminars, all over the United States and Europe, Canada, Germany, Italy and every single one of them has been packed. At NYU and at Rutgers we broke the attendance records. For a lecture talking about Pandrogeny. And the word is beginning to be absorbed into the language. It’s getting used by journalists, finally, and other artists and the writers are using it as a fresh term. Because we wanted a word that wasn’t about transsexualism and so on.
The thing we wanted was a word that didn’t have baggage yet, that was gender neutral and would become whatever you make of it. So it gives us a completely fresh playing ground to build from. A completely fresh point for the discussion and there’s none of the GBLT politics, there’s none of the straight politics. There’s no real preconceptions as of yet, but inevitably, at some point it will always come to the package of information. When people hear it, whatever that version of it is, it will be what they think of when they hear it.
But the moment has given a big space for a reconsidered discussion and because when we got to the point of thinking “What would happen if we decide that we can actually reengineer DNA?” Which is beginning to happen with science. What are the implications of this? That’s not just something about becoming a species of hermaphrodite although, personally, we would love that. To actually get rid of male and female altogether and just have Pandrogynes, which would mean people have both genitals, etcetra.
But why even stop there? If we want to travel into space and colonize space, why don’t we find out how to hibernate? Primitive animals can do it, surely we can do it. And if we could do that, what about growing gills? Having fur or feathers? Why stop at just gender? Why not just say, “Anything we imagine we have the right to become.” And that’s when it started to become an issue.
And then we thought about the issues of the self and what we go through at the beginning, about the economy and the fact that the current totalitarian capitalism as exemplified by China right now is taking over. It’s still based on this flawed thinking that you can have growth forever, which you can’t. It goes against the laws of nature. So how do you deal with that? We have to rethink the way we see ourselves in relation to human species. If we imagine ourselves and perceive ourselves as one cell or one person, one being, but as one part of the human species and that the actual organism is the entire species… When you make all the decisions based on the well being of the species, you would naturally assign resources to where the whole species needed it most. You would heal the species with what was available.
So you would not build weapons, you’d get food to Africa. Or you would not waste money on one-time research, you would find cures for AIDS. You might not have five hundred different car designs every year, but you might decide to find out how to build underwater cities. And so, ultimately, it’s about learning to keep on allowing the vision to have no limits. To keep going: “What else after that?” “What does that imply?” And that’s the point that we’re up to. Why not grow horns, furs, gills?
We do think we have to colonize space, just as Gysin and Burroughs said. And that’s another reason we feel the human species biologically must evolve. Because space travel becomes easier if you can hibernate. If we’re going to be in weightlessness most of the time: have shorter legs.
What sorts of things do you think people can start doing right now to either push those limits or prepare for these sorts of changes?
Some of them are really simple. Whether or not this is fact, we don’t know, but we tended to think left is female and right is male. So people can look at themselves and, for example, if you think of male and female, not as genders, but as ratios of behavior — most of which comes from society’s imprint conditioning — then look at yourself with an unbiased eye and think: Am I too submissive? Am I too giving?
If so, should I be stronger? And in which way that is non-damaging to others? And then think of exercises to remind yourself, “I’m doing that again, therefore, I need to do the other thing.” So you can start to analyze the ratios of behavior and come up with little tricks, little disciplines and exercises to balance them out. That’s one of the reasons we like the Process — because the Four Gods we saw as personality traits. So if you were too Luciferian, then you would focus on Jehovahian behavior and so on. So a bit like that. And of course, some are very simple. Experiment with changing the way that you dress. And switch roles with your partner. Have you seen the film about The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye?
No, I haven’t had the chance to.
There’s a part in that where we’re dressed in fetish lingerie and high heels and a little skirt doing the washing up in the kitchen. Lady Jaye said doing the household chores is always much more fun when you’re dressed up sexy. And we talked about it in the film. And several people have come up to me since and said: “We’ve tried that thing of dressing in fetish clothes when cleaning up. It’s true. It’s more fun. I enjoy it now.”
Silly things. You can make it as deep as you want. You change your hair. Even if you don’t do it in the street, wear a makeup at home. Experiment. But don’t think it’s about gender. Maybe think: how do I usually present myself to the world? What would be the opposite? Say you’re scruffy and a goth. Get a suit and a tie and some shoes, see how your behavior and posture changes.
We don’t like to really say what to do. We prefer that people develop their own self-analysis and then explore. But explore with no limitations. Imagination should never, ever be limited.
And… try some rituals.
Looking back on your life, can you think of an example of a time that you changed your mind about something? That there was something that was significant to you that, you know, that you completely changed your opinion about?
Yes. When we began Throbbing Gristle we were, we being me, really angry about the inequities of society. Especially being from Britain, with the royal family and aristocracy and the really ingrained class system. Enraged by the inequity and the bigotry and the inherited privilege whether people have the skills or the qualities to exercise it.
So my approach to expressing the anger was very aggressive and enraged, furious. But over the years we’ve come to believe that there’s never a need for anger in order to demonstrate or propose change. That a friendly, seductive presentation is just as effective, if not more so. And also in a way it’s more insidious and subversive to smile and talk gently and still say something that contradicts everything somebody else has imagined to be the truth. It can be far more disturbing than screaming at them because we ought to learn how to deal with anger and screaming and defend ourselves from that. It’s really hard to accept confidence and know how to respond to it. It’s usually embarrassing. And so subtlety, instead of head-on collision, with the status quo.
But make no mistake, the status quo is always our enemy.