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Meet The Artist D

| Dec 29, 2008
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A hint of RuPaul, a touch of Brigitte Nielsen, a splash of Elvira … shake, then drink carefully – welcome to the chronicles of D Shellhammer.

The Artist D was blogging, before blogging was cool. D is an artist, a blogger, a writer with five books published, and is the host of a weekly Internet radio show. D paints, does photography and videography, and crosses the gender boundaries with amazing ease. And somehow, she found the time to answer a few questions for TGForum.

You present in both male and female, yet, you don’t really identify as transgendered, why not? Or do you, and I am missing something? Who are you?

This is a huge question. You’re asking me WHO I am! That’s enormous. I’ll try not to give you my autobiography here. I was born a woman “trapped” in a man’s body. I was about six years old before I realized I was trapped. Until then I had no problem with being a girl with a penis. This was not an issue for me. It was so not an issue that I hardly ever mentioned it. As I started elementary school I became a bit more flamboyant and that’s when people told me to stop it. Even then, I just went in my room and lived my life as a girl behind closed doors. It didn’t bother me at all.

As a young teenager I learned how things were “supposed to be with normal people” and decided I would eventually have to transition into a woman. As most of this country believes it’s either one way or the other, nobody is ever told they have a choice to be everything they feel they are. From there on out I grew up and discovered myself. My being became a part of my art. For quite some time who I really was existed completely in my art, photography and Internet ventures.

In my 20s I became accepted as a person through that art. Before that I never felt accepted as the man I wasn’t. I never was accepted as the woman that I knew I was. But suddenly I found an underground community of people who accepted me without an explanation of “what” I was. And it’s through that which I finally began to love myself as not a gender or a sexuality, but as who I was born. A woman with a penis whom is sexually ambiguous. Yet I don’t feel like a man or a woman anymore. I think I have ultimately settled on being exactly what I was when people finally started to truly accept me: A being with qualities.

I don’t associate with any of the labels because accepting one of them would be discrediting the other. In the end we are all an amalgamation of genders, sexualities and preferences. In the end it is all just a mixture of preferences. I am certain that for some people out there it’s very important that they specify because they feel one way or another. But when you feel as much of everything as I do, there’s no reason to choose or ever accept just one.

You’ve been blogging and whatnot for about 10 years, in an artist/mainstream community, how is your gender presentation received?

My gender presentation in the community is confusing to a lot of people. Like your first question, there’s a lot of, “Is she? Is he? What do you like? What are you trying to tell us?” I began dressing as a woman in a very Rocky Horror Picture Show kind of way. It was a “silly experiment” to see what people would say. They liked it. They thought I was gorgeous. Since I wasn’t really certain yet about being transgendered I started doing it as art. It has always been a part of The Artist D’s art. I formed it into the drag queen I named Krystal McQueen. She was a dark mistress of horror and I had high hopes of some day replacing Elvira. The shtick didn’t last long because performing under hot lights in pounds of unnecessary makeup was just not me. I was much more natural than that. I had a lot of other artistic outlets to satisfy.

I took it from drag queen to transgendered person. But then I morphed it into “just art,” which is when I lost a few hundred people because I became a transgendered traitor. The dust has settled now and I have no idea how my gender presentation is received. I get a lot of letters from people who are in or have been recently released from prison. They’re all big fans of the possibilities. Transgendered people often assume I’m strictly transgendered. Other folks see both genders and take it at face value. I haven’t had a truly confused person in a very long time. I imagine normal people think I’m just a drag queen who writes books. I try to be very upfront that I am both at the same time. I also try to make it clear that the wig and makeup became art and that’s where it is today. I am still what I was, but I am happy being me without the props. RuPaul was right, we’re born naked and the rest really is drag.

You’re about ten years younger than me, do you perceive a generation gap in the gender world? What do you see the “community” like in ten years?

I can’t be ten years younger!? You’re so flawless and gorgeous! I can’t believe it.

I think as soon as everyone gets over this “gay marriage thing” that the Transgendered issues will come bobbing to the top of the pond. Not only did The Advocate recently print that gay was the new black, it also stated it was the last civil rights movement. After I was done vomiting directly onto that issue I composed myself and wrote them a letter saying that “the next best civil rights movement” is always just waiting in the wings. They think angry gays in the street are scary, wait until they get a bunch of trans folk out there!

We’ll always have something and I think our next something is transgendered rights. I think the trans community is going to really come slowly to the forefront within the next ten years. Today children everywhere are either accepted for their sexuality or two steps away from finding an accepting outlet to be themselves in. I think this directly helps the transgendered youth immensely. One thing shall lead to another.

As for a generation gap, I think you and I are both in generations that will be the last of “Old Transgenderedism.” I expect that the trans kids of the future will disappoint us greatly and display it in a way that will scare the crap out of people. Talk about militant trannies! Just because that’s what kids do.

For one thing, they will have got a head start on it. How many teenagers are already on hormones and such? There will be no more old men in dresses, because our gender genes are getting so mixed that there will be no men or women. Period! Even those whom associate with one gender will have enough of the other in them to be anything they want. It’s why god invented metrosexuals. In a lot of ways this will be good and we’re going to be proud of how mixed up the gene pool gets as far as trans identity goes. They’ll still scare the crap out of us though.

Any plans for hormones or surgery?

No plans for any of the sort. I wouldn’t mind bigger lips, just to be outrageous. I love everything that I am and all the ways I can display it as is. I like what I got. This body is very flexible with genders, sexualities and circus acts!

The Artist D’s Internet radio show can be heard Thursday nights, 11pm Eastern, 8 Pacific.


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ronnierho

About the Author ()

Ronnie Rho has been writing for Transgender Forum since May of 1999. One of these days, she'll get it right. She's been described as the "world's most famous recluse," but only by people who don't know her very well. She is unmarried, and lives in Cincinnati.

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