‘You can see how a little bit of power can corrupt a person’: John Joseph on their pop-star persona Alexander Geist
- Credit: Alexa Vachon
John Joseph dreamed up their stage persona – the flamboyant dandyish Germanic electro pop-star Alexander Geist - to see what it would feel like to be a man.
“In some ways he’s like a drag king and he does what I wish I could do, and he is who I wish I could be,” the theatrical artist, who identifies as neither “he” or “she”, told the Gazette.
“He’s not very thoughtful, and very selfish and very demanding - all those qualities associated with masculinity and that you can get away with if you are a man.”
Last year before his appearance at the Berlin Opera House, Alexander Geist didn’t like the costumes lined up for him.
“I was able to say, “No that doesn’t work”, and even though the artistic director said: ‘It’s two days until the show opens’, added John, who lives in Valette Street, Hackney Central. “I was like, ‘What am I going to do? Nothing. What are you going to do? Find me a new costume’.
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“I found out that if you act like that then people treat you in a certain way, and you get what you want - it’s a worrying lesson actually.”
Growing up as on a council estate in Liverpool with a single mum, six sisters and a brother, John didn’t identify with either gender.
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“It was a very matriarchal place and I never associated with maleness at all for a long time and I thought it meant I was gay,” they said.
“But as I got a grip on it I realised those feelings were more about my gender than my sexuality.”
Rather than “non-binary”, John prefers a term they coined - transdrogynous - to refer to what it is like to “straddle both sides of the gender dichotomy, feeling bound by the rules of neither”.
“Of course I think about it a lot - what it means and if this is for me part of a longer journey that will move into something like being a trans woman.
“The biggest thing is thinking about how not to sensor myself when I think, ‘I want to go here but is this going to cause friction in the streets or an uncomfortable bus ride for me?’
“I’ve had many bad reactions but nothing as bad as other people, I’ve never been major physically assaulted. Sometimes people give you a little shove.”
“I’m trying to be myself without having to fall back on codified ways of being in the world, and I don’t put up with people telling me what’s appropriate in terms of wearing what I want, how I behave, and my mannerisms and gestures.”
Alexander Geist is hosting a series of salons called Beyond at the Hackney Showroom in Amhurst Terrace. The next one on July 13 is themed on Personae.