Back on the bus: Psychic TV's Genesis P-Orridge and Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge.
(from left) Lady Jaye, Genesis P-Orridge, and William "Fucking" Reed welcome the lunar eclipse.
Under a blood red moon we sat on the sidewalk like children, clapping to encourage the completion of Monday's lunar eclipse. "Clap your hands to make it come, snap your fingers to make it go," advised Lady Jaye, Genesis P-Orridge's limber, elvish companion, and we all did the former. This, out by the Psychic TV bus, long after PTV's triumphant gig at The Rogue in Scottsdale. Once the shadow of the Earth engulfed the moon, cheers and yelps went up. For quite a while, it hung there like some extraterrestrial weather balloon. At some point, Genesis and Lady Jaye had us all join hands and play a parlor game. Those who broke the circle to avail themselves of firewater or what have you, were chided.
It was here one could witness, even more so than in her oft-topless perfomance Monday night, the maternal pull P-Orridge has on others. She is thoughtful, intelligent, wise, and playful, all at once. If you've been lucky in your upbringing, she might remind you of your own mother. And if you haven't, she might be the mother you wish you'd had. For several hours we sat talking with each other, pairing into twos and threes after the games ended. It seemed so odd that this rock icon from the days of Throbbing Gristle up till now would have such a gentle and yet powerful command over all of us. S/he who must be obeyed...
Present were that garrulous gadabout-town Gatsby, DJ/promoter William "Fucking" Reed, DJ Blonde Noize of Sadisco* fame, members of PTV, and others -- at least 20 souls in all. Earlier Blonde Noize had accompanied me onto the PTV tour bus and sat with me as I conversed with an obviously drained P-Orridge. She was dressed in an oversized T-shirt, sipping a on a glass of red wine. We spoke for a while off the record, then she allowed me to begin taping. What follows is the interview as it transpired. The stuff more relevant to the controversies leading up to the cancellation of gigs at Anderson's Ffith Estate and The Sets, is in the second half of the interview.
Why do you think people get so bent out of shape over transgender issues?
In prehistoric times, it was a genetic advantage that the male of the tribe would protect the replication through the females and the children and the food source and territory with violence. So they would attack anything that was threatening or predatory or unknown. And that was how we survived in those really brutal environments. It was our advantage at that time. But it’s 40,000 years later, and the environment we live in now is a multi-digital-technological environment. It’s a human-made environment. And our behavior hasn’t changed at all. It’s still male-dominated, prehistoric, chimpanzee aggression. Anything that’s different or other or seems threatening is an enemy and the answer is intimidation and violence. This is not civilized. It is not evolutionarily correct. So mutation is necessary. Serious mutation. That’s why I believe transgender people and hermaphrodites are the stormtroopers of evolution. Even if they don’t know it. The human species has to evolve and change radically or it will not survive. Behavior has to catch up with consciousness.
So we’re essentially still animals.
And Brion Gysin says we’re bad animals. It’s a severe problem. Look at the way this polarization goes on now between Muslim/Christian, Western/Eastern, white/black, good/bad, male/female. It’s all polarization, it’s all binary. Even computers are binary. And it’s disruptive, it doesn’t work. It’s not serving our purposes as a species. We’re really threatened by a very dark age.
Can you explain your symbol to me, the Psychic TV cross?
Funny you should talk about it because we were saying today how great it is to have a non verbal symbol. Well, William Burroughs and Brion Gysin, who were friends of mine, I worked with them and hung out with them until they died, they had this obsession with the number 23. So the Psychic cross is actually the proportions of 2 and 3…So it represents 23. 23 to me represents synchronicity, random chance, the unknown friendliness of the universe beyond logic. That if you start to work with ritual and shamanism and open up your heart and your mind to possibility, it seems from my experience that it literally befriends the universe, and things that you want to have happen become more and more likely. And things that you need as resources appear, beyond logic. So that’s what it represents. That aspect of life and existence.
I thought it might have this third-gender meaning.
It’s become that too, of course. That wasn’t the original design. But that’s great. It becomes relevant in that sense too with pandrogyny as well.
I see you have it on jewelry and clothes, even as tattoos.
These rings that we make. (Showing a gold one on her hand.) That’s the mother ring. All others have been made from this one. This is the original one. This is made from a mold of this, you see. All the people in the band have one on their pinky. It’s like being in the Hell’s Angels and getting your coat. I’ve always liked the Hell’s Angels and cults and things. You sort of commit yourself to something beyond logic.
Are you insulted when people call Psychic TV a cult?
We used to joke about it. Lady Jaye when we first met, would say, “I’m working for the cult.” No, we’re not afraid of it because we know we’re not really a cult. It’s an anti-cult. It’s a very smart, very ironic, intelligent way of receiving reality. God forbid that people started asking for advice, and being told what to do. Do you know how much time that would take? The idea of thousands of people asking me for advice would be appalling. No way.
Do you know the artist Z’ev, who’s a metal percussionist? He’s a really interesting guy. He’s one of the world’s experts on true Jewish kabala. And he analyzes my activities. He turns to me and says, you know, that day when you walked away from the Temple of Psychic Youth [Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth, or TOPY], after ten years, when there were 10,000 people looking up to you? That was the best thing you could have ever done. No one ever walks away from power. He says, that was so smart. I don’t want it, I really don’t. I don’t know what I’m doing half the time. I work on intuition and fun. Fun is best.
It’s amazing that you persisted and finally had a show here in Scottsdale, despite all of the conflict and controversy. How did you pull it off?
That was our own stubbornness, I think. The promoters, who are very nice, William "Fucking" Reed, is it? I asked him about that, "Why do you wanna call yourself that?" But anyway. He did explain. It didn’t seem like a very good reason. But he said they offered to pay us and just let us go. But nobody in the band wanted to do that. We said, "What about getting port-o-potties?" We tried everything we could think of. We kept running ideas, "What can we do, what can we do? Isn’t there somewhere else?" And eventually we found this place.
So it wasn’t an issue for The Rogue?
It wasn’t an issue for The Sets, it was this threat they got. We don’t even really know who did that.
Are you at all disheartened by all of this b.s. you had to go through here in Phoenix?
I did gay lib street theater in 1968/69. No, I’ve been fighting it a long time. That’s my job. To challenge and change and fight. That’s what I do.
But it sounds like a real hassle, for someone of your stature.
It’s got nothing to do with that. No one cares about that. It’s a civil liberties issue. And my sisters and brothers who are transgender, I have to help support them, I have to. Even though I have a very different reason for how I am, which has to do with severe evolutionary mutation. It’s not about gender at all. But having said that, I’m still transgender, so I have to support those people too. It’s my job.
I definitely don’t want to see the United States deny its constitution, about a right to a lifestyle. I don’t want the United States to reinvigorate segregation. That would be anathema. So on that alone, I have to protest, and find a way to speak.
What do you think is the solution to the whole transgender bathroom issue?
Lady Jaye has said there would have to be legislation. Just how it would be phrased, it would take a little time to think about. Certainly people who are in the process of genuine transition, or who are truly transgender should have an absolute right to choose the bathroom that they use. And they should also respect the gender bathrooms. There should never be any sort of surreptitious feeling of voyeurism, any disrespect, which sometimes does occur. I’ve been in ladies bathrooms and seen people who definitely seemed to be cross-dressing for heterosexual/voyeuristic reasons. It’s very complicated. How exactly you police it, I’m not sure. We’ll have to think about it. You know? The idea of bringing Polaroids of genitals is a little bit strange, so I don’t know.
Then you have the problem that when people are in transition, it takes a great deal of effort to get your i.d. changed. I was very fortunate that I managed it, you know? But it’s not that easy, it could take years. And during those years, truly transgendered people are absolutely identifying with their preferred gender. And they should be allowed to use that bathroom. Because they’re in danger. Especially, male-to-female in danger if they go into a men’s toilet, they’re in danger of violence and ridicule, very definitely.
What about the idea of unisex toilets?
Well, it works in France. I’d have no problem with that. It may be that at some point there will have to be – in America anyway – more than two kinds of bathroom, unisex, male, female. It should be legislated, and it should give people a non-intimidated right to a bathroom. They shouldn’t have to feel embarrassed or demeaned in their use of the bathroom in any way, because that wouldn’t be progress.
What do you think of the participants in all this, now that it’s over, like club owner Tom Anderson?
We met him, he chose on his own independently to come up to The Sets and explain that he dropped out from the whole project in order to try and avoid confrontation, I do believe that was true. I think he was probably very naïve at the beginning in terms of how this exploded into conflagration. But I think he’s learned a great deal. And he was very charming, very logical, and not in any way emotional. He even gave me a kiss, I thought that was great. And it was a very warm kiss, it wasn’t like a peck. A very natural hug and a kiss. That was a big breakthrough, you know? I always try to work by being articulate and charming and gracious. I don’t think it’s productive to be angry.
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How about Michele de LaFreniere?
It’s so weird, because the story we received from the first two clubs, definitely painted Michele as a sort of anarchistic opportunist person with a strategy and agenda, almost a media agenda. Actually, it’s a bit like penis envy, but it’s media envy. And I think there’s probably a little element of that in there. Probably. I don’t know. How can we know, we’ve been here 24 hours. There were two people who called themselves Michele here tonight. And they both said they were Michele de LaFreniere, so it was a bit confusing for me. It was like, “Are you Michele, or are you Michele, and which one of you threatened which and why?” And there was absolute denial, so I can’t guess who’s telling which story or why. Everyone has their agenda, you know? I don’t have an agenda.
As I said on Fox [News] last night. I have no problem with anyone else’s lifestyle. So why would they have one with mine? I’m absolutely tolerant of every form of lifestyle. That’s a very reasonable position. So the bigotry and hypocrisy which seethes under the surface of the American culture has to be eradicated one way or another. Maybe Michele will help that. I suspect, this only a guess, I don’t know this, but I suspect this blew up because Michele and her friends have probably received unbelievable prejudice, victimization, ridicule, humiliation for what they are and how they are, maybe for years, and so perhaps this is just the first time that they can vent and try and fight back. And I understand that, absolutely.
It’s difficult, because I tend to agree with everyone. I can see everyone’s side. I think Tom Anderson may be at worst naïve, but he’s becoming wiser. And I think that’s good. It’s very healthy. He’s definitely thinking. He’s not bigoted. That I would say. I would have been able to tell. I’ve been around long enough to tell. I think people should just calm down, just think about the nicest way to deal with things. What’s productive, what’s kind. What’s fun, and do that. And that is the way to seduce the people in the population who are ignorant. By being articulate, thoughtful, kind. And funny. That’s my feeling.