Grayson Perry discusses the 'psycho-sexual process' of being a transvestite

"Just because you don’t have a dress on doesn’t stop you being a tranny," says Perry

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The Independent Online

Grayson Perry says there is far more to being a transvestite than cross-dressing.

"The dress is only one element of the psycho-sexual process," he said. "Just because you don’t have a dress on doesn’t stop you being a tranny, in the same way as, if you’re not in bed with a man, it doesn’t stop you being gay."

The artist first borrowed a dress from his sister when he was 10-years-old, but never told her why. It was when his stepsister read his diary that Perry was forced to tell his family, who didn’t react well and he "put a cap on it until he went to university".

"People say if you’re trying to access some kind of feminine, emotional experience, dressing up is a rather crude way of going about it," he told The Guardian. "And I always go, yeah, but you don’t decide to be a transvestite when you’re a sophisticated adult – you’re a child. Our sexuality is formed in the Petri dish of our childhood."

The artist says that his alter-ego Claire – whose style is inspired by Little Bo Beep, "the crack cocaine of femininity" – gives him a certain level of anonymity.

"Curiously, though, Claire has become my way of controlling my increasing celebrity," he told The Sunday Times. "When dressed up, I am super recognisable; in civvies I can go about relatively unrecognised. I call this the Terry Pratchett effect, after the fact that the author only has to remove his big black hat to blend into the background."

Perry admits that he is reaching an age, 54, when it is more challenging to be a beautiful transvestite.

Video: Perry discusses how art can change a person's life

"Trannies go through this horrible cycle," he said. "When they’re really young and just post-pubescent, they can look gorgeous as a woman – you’re fairly androgynous, you’re thin, you just look good. When I look back at the first photographs, I realise what a wasted opportunity it was. I didn’t have the budget, experience or confidence to pull it off.

"Now I’ve got the budget, experience and confidence, but I’ve not got the features," he continued. "You go through this cycle where you get older and older, and you get to around 35 to 40 when you’re looking your most manly. Then there’s a little payoff at the end, where, as you get really old, you become androgynous again."