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Invisible Sexuality: Lord Fanny and the Gender Question

By Steff Osborne

This probably appeared in the February '99 issue of ST, given the date I wrote it. It's not terribly well-written, but it still might be of interest to Invisibles fans.

Don't get me wrong, here. I like Lord Fanny. He's certainly one of the most interesting characters in comics. In Grant Morrison's Invisibles, Fanny gets all the good lines plus most of the cool costumes. But, well, he is not a she.

You're probably laughing about now. "Of course, Fanny isn't a she. She's a transsexual!"

And there, darling (as our hero/ine might say), is where you're wrong.

I'm pretty sure Morrison doesn't know any transsexuals. Otherwise Fanny wouldn't have the gender inconsistencies he displays. Grant may say Fanny is transsexual. Even Fanny describes himself as such, starting in Volume 1, issue #5. But if you read carefully, there's no way that Fanny is anything more than a drag queen.

I don't claim to be an expert on transsexuals, but I have lived with one and known many others. True transsexuals see themselves as being trapped in the body of the wrong gender. A male-to-female TS is, emotionally, a woman. A female-to-male, despite the breasts, really feels she is a man. Drag queens, on the other hand, see their fashion sense as a sexual tool. They know they're men in women's clothing, and therein lies the turn-on for them.

Fanny was supposedly raised as a woman. In fact, the "She-Man" story arc (Vol. 1, #13-15) goes into Fanny's background in depth. But if Fanny really felt he was a woman, why would he have an internal monologue like the following, taken from Invisibles #13?

I can deal with anything-- it's my armor-- beautiful armor-- she-male chain-mail-- like the Crusaders, darling--

Cross-dressed-- like Jesus-- dressed for the cross-- Jesus in drag-- hah -- God, I feel like Jesus in drag-- crossdressed dragged-up drugged-up witch bitch

This scene, in which Fanny moves from his male self to his female persona, thanks to cosmetics and clothes, shows the reader exactly what sort of gender-bender Lord Fanny is.

Grant Morrison uses a lot of magick (yeah, the kind with a 'k') in this comic. Sex magick is a normal thing to the Invisibles. Fanny's gender is the source of her power. Transforming himself into a woman is highly erotic for Fanny. It's a power ritual of sorts. The sexual energy generated during the transformation, and the constant reminders of the change (through discomfort from bras, having to remember to keep his knees together in shirt skirts, and so on) is the power that drives Fanny's occult abilities. As a woman, Fanny is sexually -- and therefore magickally -- charged and is always aware of this fact.

It makes perfect sense, from a chaos-magick viewpoint. It's actually a brilliant method of gaining and maintaining the energy needed for life as an Invisible. The "She-Man" storyline is thus aptly named -- a modern shaman, Fanny uses Revlon and Versace like the shamans of old used face paint and animal skins. The shaman is a magician of transformation, and Fanny follows in their footsteps with a '90's twist.

However, the eroticism and power are utterly at odds with who Fanny is supposed to be. He's a magus in drag, not the woman we're told he is. If Fanny was raised as a woman, he would see this transformation as a small, routine pleasure -- not as ritual. When a woman (biologically or mentally) gets dressed and does her makeup, she may find some joy in making herself pretty; but, more often than not, getting ready is just something she has to do in order to leave the house. There is pleasure in the special occasions, like dressing up for a date, but not the ritual ecstasy to be found in Lord Fanny when he performs the same act.

There are other inconsistencies, too. A TS feels just as comfortable in jeans as in a dress, because she knows that she is a really a woman. Morrison attempts this to a degree, as Fanny is still Fanny even without the wig, but the queenly hand gestures, the over-the-top clothes and mannerisms, betray this.

Fanny is a man. A gay man. In drag. There's no other way to explain him.

I like Lord Fanny. Really, I do. I just wish Grant could write him a little better.

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