XXY in Conversation with GPL Artists, Part 2: Juno Birch

XXY in Conversation with GPL Artists, Part 2: Juno Birch

As part of a series of conversations, Grrrl Power Liverpool’s Michelle Houlston caught up with artists from the launch of their exhibition and two-day event, ‘Women, Where Do You Find Yourself in the Arts?’. The exhibition, curated by Houlston and her colleagues Olivia Graham and Aoife Robinson, made a statement about making room for creative women. Houlston talks to contributing artist Juno Birch about creativity, transitioning and alienation.

Birch’s work reflects her transition from a boy to a twenty-two-year-old woman and what that means for her as a person and as an artist.

BATHROOM

Michelle Houlston: Your illustrations at Grrrl Power Liverpool’s exhibition explored the concept of gender and alienation. What does the alien symbolise?

Juno Birch: The alien featured in my illustrations is genderless. It’s crash landed on Earth and in order to fit in with human society, it’s forced to wear a female skin suit and appear to have a gender. Most living things on this planet have a sex or ‘gender’, but as a transgender woman, I often feel artificially gendered and alienated. But being an alien isn’t a bad thing.

MH: That is a really powerful thing to say – that being an alien is not a bad thing. It is accepting what makes you different. It is interesting that in the exhibition handout you are quoted as saying, ‘As a transgender woman, I often feel artificially gendered. I now take that with pride.’ How much has creativity helped with the struggle of transitioning?

JB: Between the ages of thirteen to eighteen, while I was transitioning my gender, I often asked myself, “Why me?”, “Why do I have to transition?” and, “Why was I born in the wrong body?” These questions often got tiresome and depressing and instead of dwelling on the fact that I hated being transgender, I drew out all the beautiful things about being trans. I learned through drawing that being transgender is a beautiful thing. I was often insecure about being ‘artificial’ and not being a natural woman. I felt that there was a growing pressure in mainstream culture to be natural and love your body the way it is, but this is a difficult thing to do when your genitals and masculine appearance prevent you from functioning sexually and mentally. I also like to illustrate the cartoonish/humorous side to my life, which has helped me a lot. For example, my drawing called ‘Oestrogen Breakfast’ is basically a playful joke on how I feel some mornings if I forget to take my hormones. These drawings also stem from my childhood. I often drew ultra-feminised women with big breasts, high heels and long hair. The femininity I lacked as a child, I drew out on paper. This gave me the ability to express myself through illustrations, which I am thankful for today.

ZIP ME UP

MH: I love that you bring in a playful aspect to your illustrations. It is a part of your personality you can definitely see in your work, and something that fitted so well with the entire exhibition – a fun element of Grrrl Power. Just to end, you are currently holding a fundraising campaign for your book ‘Oestrogen Breakfast Transgender Tales’ to be published. Could you explain a bit more, and let us know how people can contribute?

JB: I currently have a campaign for my book ‘Oestrogen Breakfast Transgender Tales’ to raise money and get the book published professionally. The book is filled with poems and illustrations that reflect my life growing up from a little boy into a twenty-two-year-old woman. The poems tell stories of the painful, beautiful and funny moments from my transition. I aim to raise £2000 by 2017. The money will also fund my poetry reading events, where I can share my poems and also exhibit my work. If you donate £20 or more, you will get a portrait of yourself (sent to you digitally). If you donate £35 or more, you will get the original portrait and a poster posted to you. If you donate £50 or more, you will get your portrait, two posters and a copy of a sample book. The sample book features some of the poetry and artwork that will be in the finished book. There is a lot more information on the Kickstarter website and also a video!

 

Written by Michelle Houlston,

New York Junior Editor

Visuals by Juno Birch

 

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