Trans isn't Just for You

Take the case of Dennis Avner. Avner was known popularly as “Stalking Cat.” Per the website, he had undergone “extensive cosmetic surgery to adopt the likeness of his totem animal, the tiger, in accordance with Huron traditions. His body modifications included a split lip, labret-based whisker-holding implants, dental surgery, and silicone injections. He was also extensively tattooed.”

Avner didn’t alter his gender; just his species. Or, well, he transmigrated to become a spiritual tiger. Nonetheless, Dennis Avner, of Huron ancestry and once a U.S. Navy sonar technician, was no longer the man he was born. He changed himself physically to express what was deeply in him: a tiger.

Why would anyone dismiss Avner’s expression of deepest self as preposterous? Why would anyone label Avner as eccentric? Or, pejoratively, a “head case?” Why would his “tigerness” as manifested not just be accommodated, but embraced? Yes, Avner’s DNA was human. But who are we to say that Avner’s transformation wasn’t a response to a primitive stirring that science can’t yet explain? Who are we to judge, and why would we have excluded Avner in any manner (short of his acting on an instinct to predation)? 

Unfortunately, Avner’s tiger spirit has slipped earth’s surly bonds. He committed suicide. Wrote Avner’s friend, Shannon Larratt, of Avner:

"Dennis’s boundary-breaking life was never an easy one, and as he was fond of saying, he 'found fame, but never fortune.' A wonderful and complex person, he was at times as troubled as he was remarkable."                 

One wonders, was Avner’s suicide about more than not making a fortune, as was hinted at by Larratt? Was Avner a victim of harsh judgments and marginalization? Was he made to feel unauthentic in a society unwelcoming to his claims of tigerhood? Avner’s life and death may have held promise, though. As with the first transsexuals, who lived “boundary-breaking” lives, Avner, too, opened the door – be it a crack – to those amongst us who desire to express their genuine inner selves, be that inner-self man or beast.   

Next there’s Maria Jose Cristerna, better known nowadays as the “Vampire Mother.” This from a 2012 Business Insider report:

[I]t wasn't an obsession with vampires that inspired Maria Jose Cristerna's extreme makeover. The lawyer and mother describes her procedures as self-empowering, freeing her from her abusive past. Maria has now re-invented herself into her current 'warrior' form, thanks to hundreds of tattoos, titanium horns embedded in her skull and extensive piercings all over her body.

There are tigers, but no such things as vampires, you say? As much as we’re unprepared to accept trans-speciesism, there are felines, canines, and all sorts of fauna. Given advances in science, there could be a Dr. Moreau somewhere at work in the world now (hybridism gets us half the way there). We can see at least some logic to people’s claims that they are animals trapped in human bodies. Tigers and humans share the animal kingdom, after all. 

On the other hand, vampires are fiction. They occupy the realms of imagination and myth. They make for good spooky stories. Cristerna’s transformation to a vampire is outside the bounds of nature. What legitimate claim can she make to an authentic self trapped inside a mistake of birth? 

But why limit ourselves to defining our beings in accord with nature – or what occurs in the physical world? Why shouldn’t Cristerna define and transform herself into a vampire as a means of overcoming an “abusive past,” perhaps at the hands of a man, no less? Maybe the “warrior form” Cristerna has assumed through major surgical changes is an expression of her feminism (albeit, quite militant)? Aren’t our “isms” part of our beings? And if Cristerna has altered herself physically to make a statement that’s so much a part of her core, who are we to judge? 

In fact, shouldn’t we instead marvel: an ordinary woman has broken boundaries? Cristerna hasn’t just grease-painted and costumed herself up to pretend to be a vampire. She has undergone dramatic physical changes to make the imaginary real. She is a vampire. She should earn acknowledgement, respect, and acceptance, therefore.

Can any of us have at our cores inanimate selves, however? 

Meet Valeria Lukyanova, aka, the “real-life Barbie doll.” Lukyanova, through surgery and steely discipline, transformed herself into a living, breathing Barbie – as in the Mattel product. People magazine reported that Lukyanova is matter-of-fact that her transformation was less inner bidden than commercial. Yet her becoming Barbie raises an important question: “Are there those among us who earnestly feel an inborn need to be idealizations… who, woven into the fabric of their deepest selves, is Ken or Barbie (we needn’t assign roles based on gender at birth)?” 

The inanimate needn’t be human in resemblance. If Bert and Lacey have -- perhaps since old enough to recall -- longed to be Ferraris, and if medical science can do something to give them the appearance of a Ferrari, then why shouldn’t they do so? (One is stumped as to how to approximate a Ferrari’s performance in a human, though.) Who are we to say what the truth is for Bert and Lacey? Who are we to delegitimize and deny their choices based on their realities?

Fabulous, you say?  Far-fetched. Fringy thinking? A man can’t be a tiger. A woman can’t be a vampire or a Barbie doll. A man or woman can’t be a car. Nor can a man be woman, or a woman, a man.  

On second thought, check that. 

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