Originally published on The Times Magazine website
He stresses he is a transvestite, not transgender: he dresses up for sexual thrills. Transvestitism is bound up in his taste for fetish sex, PVC clobber and sadomasochism, which featured often in his early work. “The trans spectrum is a whole different thing. I wouldn’t particularly want to live full-time as a woman. It’d be such a fag for starters, the amount of preparation every day!” (It takes him 90 minutes to apply the wig, make-up and padding.) I say I don’t find being a woman nearly so onerous. I’m being facetious, but like many feminists, I’m weary of womanhood being defined as an elaborate façade: fancy nails, false eyelashes, lingerie, sparkly clothes, heels.
“Transvestites – I speak for my own community – are heavily invested in sexism,” he says. “You go to a transvestite gathering, you won’t see anybody in trousers. It’s a joke, you know: if one of the other transvestites regularly wears trousers, they go, ‘They’re going to have a sex change any minute.’ Because only real women wear trousers all the time.”
Yet no one is equal in their sexual fantasies. “At some level, everybody is either being bent over the desk or is bending someone else over a desk. They’re not saying, ‘Shall we get cat litter on the way home?’ while wearing matching fleeces. Although in reality that’s exactly what me and my wife are doing. We live functional lives with people we love and our sex life, all the exotic stuff, happens off stage. And it’s best kept that way.” His first date with his wife was at a fetish club, but now they’re more likely to be at home watching Gogglebox: “It’s so funny. And it can be very moving.”
But we live at a moment when sexual identity appears to be in flux. Perry thinks the transgender lobby “is a very vocal group. They punch above their weight. I do wonder why they are so angry.” Maybe because trans women almost always began as heterosexual men? Perry laughs. “Yes, so they have that entitlement. Yes, it could be.”