Joe Black and Arran Shurvington are friends of mine I think you lot should know a bit more about. Joe is a cabaret singer, Arran an artist, they live in a world far more glittery and stylish than any I could hope to live in. Our paths first crossed recently at the ~whisper it~ DV8 goth festival in York (my band was playing. I am not a goth) where they performed a fucking mental cabaret piece, and Joe headlined with his gay-offspring-of-Amanda-Palmer-and-Tom-Waits vaudeville music show.
I find their style, looks, presentation, make-up skills and general attitude completely inspiring. We come from very different directions, but there’s something about the way both of them fucking go for it that’s really cool. I would put them in a category I wrote about some time ago: part of a new generation of young gay guys who are re-writing the rules on gender presentation, and I think they are an example to straight transvestites like me (and like a lot of you, I gather) in how to completely fuck off gender binaries.
So I thought I’d interview them for you lot.
Andrew: You guys live in Portsmouth. It’s not the most open-minded town. How do you find it, presenting yourselves the way you do? What has been your experience of attention from other people?
Joe Black: It seems daily people get ruder and ruder, though I think that might just be from living here so long, that it seems that way.
It absolutely confuses me… as I don’t see why how someone looks is particularly relevant or important to someone else. At least not to the extent of confrontation or abusive/negative comments to be thrown around.
My absolute favourite thing is passing someone in the street who is also of a stranger nature… there’s this weird nod of solidarity…. a compliment or even just a smile. A kind of “you’re not alone” thing happens. So I suppose you just have to take the good with the bad!
It’s very rarely in-your-face confrontation (from my personal experience). More taunting or attempts at degrading you.
Though as I mentioned above the balance of dickhead to wonderful open minded/not a dickhead person is spectacular when it hits. You can walk perhaps 20 minutes in one direction and the type of reaction you get completely changes. In the Southsea area or student areas its absolutely fine. I suppose aggressive nutters tend to hang around shopping centres?
Mister Joe Black: cabaret star and complete dude.
Arran Shurvinton – Personally I try and keep a positive mind and attitude about travelling around the local area. Although there is negative attention, if I allowed it to effect me then I would end up not leaving the house. So I think during my life in Portsmouth I have detached myself from the attention I receive… and although I feel intimidated at times, any direct interactions of a negative nature I feel the best thing to do is ignore it.
I don’t value the opinions of people who feel it appropriate to verbally attack an individual for the way they look.
Andrew: How about travelling about the place?
Joe: Locally I tend to walk everywhere. I can’t stand buses… LOVE trains. though getting around the city is pointless by train! easier to walk.
you do find more confrontation moving between areas… as I said previously. its a strange feeling… going from an area that is perfectly comfortable…. to one where you feel intimidated or on edge.
Arran: I’m proud to feel free enough to look how I do… and I feel that if others are exposed to people who feel the same as I do, on a day to day basis. It may possibly give someone the confidence to do the same, rather than feel like they’re the only one or that they’re isolated.
The unreasonably good-looking Arran Shurvington
Andrew: What lies behind the way you each dress? To what degree is it sexuality/gender identity/fashion/dicking about/the Vaudeville lifestyle?
Joe: I love androgyny. For me personally, its one of the most beautiful things.
We all want to be what we consider is beautiful. There’s no statement or message in how I present myself. I’m doing it most importantly for me. Regardless of how many people called me a cunt… a fucking mess.. laugh in my face…. shout abuse… ask me what the fuck i think i’m doing.
It’s important to not be deterred… and I’m not. It’s not for anyone else. It’s for me.
Though it makes me angry… and it makes me sad, when people decide to act in such ways towards me. Ultimately I’m happy. the reason I will continue to be happy is because I look how I want to look… and I will always continue to do so. I’m not sure where it may take me… but I know as long as I continue to wear things that I am inspired by, things that I love and things that I think are beautiful, then I will be a happier and healthier person.
To sum that up: it’s happiness and freedom that make me do it. No; MAKE me do it is the wrong wording… Gives me the passion to do it. It helps me to feel like I am in control of myself and in control of my life.
Arran: This question has got me thinking about how community spirit has evolved. People are beginning to reject the herd mentality and become individuals, leading their own lives the way they see fit.
I see my own gender as fluid and although I completely identify myself as male, I do not allow preconceived ideas of gender to affect the way I present myself. Although I can understand people being shocked by the way I present myself to the world I don’t dress for shock value, I present myself the way see fit, I am greatly influenced by lots of different things, however, I appear as myself and only as myself, regardless of the way people enjoy categorising me. iIdo not dress the way I do because I’m gay, I do not dress the way I do because I get a sexual gratification. If I see an item of clothing in a shop, I don’t think ‘that will make me look like a woman‘, I see an item of clothing that I find beautiful.
At the end of the day, it’s about self expression.
Andrew: Who inspires and influences you?
Joe: Anyone who is willing to blur boundaries and cross boundaries of what is perceived as acceptable or appropriate. Anyone who will present themselves how they see fit… and anyone who is willing to show themselves to the world for what they are and what they want to be.
Arran: The paintings of Patrick Nagel
are a great inspiration to my image… but also historical influences play their part, such as ancient Egyptian and the 1920’s female fashion: which have some links between them! Also contemporary and futuristic fashion… such as Gareth Pugh.