Thirty years ago in 1993. I embarked on a new body of work that explored our rights in America to freedom of expression. My subjects were from all walks of life, from various races, religious backgrounds and sexual persuasions. This melting pot that stubbornly defines America formed the palette of a series of black and white photographs that defined an era. What was that era? It was the time in which sexual freedom and multiculturalism was on the rise.
Unfortunately, in these times there are certain bigoted elements of our society that continue to attempt to roll back the hands of time. Sadly, Facisim in America is on the rise. Obsessions as a body of work reminds us of what we once were and still are, a free and open society in which each individual American is free to choose and be who they are.
And what’s all this about being a sub? I could be a switch. Depends on how much tequila I’ve had before 10am.
Alice even tried to change my name. She thought it would be funny if I was called Celia, an anagram of Alice. Talk about an ego! You have got to be fucking kidding me. When did a “Celia” ever do anything to offend anybody? Lyra is much better.
My name comes from Orpheus’s legendary “lyre”.
And, of course, lyre sounds like liar. Works for me.
I burst into existence pretty much in parallel with Alice. As Alice alluded to, you cannot have day without night, light without darkness. I don’t flat line (well not for a long time I hope). I am the sine curve. The parabola – two standard deviations from the mean if you get the gist.
After Alice had done her sweet little photo shoot with Tony, and after we got rid of Patrick, off came those nice clothes, and then it was my turn. Alice, wrapped up in a shawl – how lovely. How feminine, like they said. But it doesn’t get your juices flowing, not like a black plastic maid’s outfit with a little bit of lace; like a bit of constraint, if you know what I mean? Alice – that sub – and chastity? I mean, honey, really? Pass me the fucking superglue.
You know it’s October 1, right? Locktober. When people challenge themselves to be locked up in chastity for a full 31 days – or whatever you can manage. Just try it boys. Give me a call on day 28, so I can laugh down the phone at you. And, you also know October 1 is Tony’s birthday, the same day, right? The day we publish.
Now there is a true visionary.
Of course, it’s a simple question. Am I, Lyra, actually real? Or are these just made-up words to create a story? Is this Fight Club all over again? Yes? No?
You’ll have to draw your own conclusions. But here’s the thing. There’s Patrick prancing around in NYC Central Station in his tie and sunglasses and cravat, doing his nails, and mostly, people are pretty cool with that. And he seems comfortable with it. Well done him.
And then there is Alice, and she’s looking a little pensive and nervous at the start, but slowly finds herself in those pictures. Tony teases out that more confident sense-of-self for Alice as the shoot goes on (cameras never lie when an expert is wielding them), and I have to admit it, however begrudgingly, she looks really good in that wrap-around dress. It’s just a single piece of cloth for fucks sake, held in place where the camera cannot see with grips and pegs, damn it.
The reason for Alice looking “really good” in nothing to do with Alice of course (though I would say that, wouldn’t I). It is due to the style brought to the shoot by KVaughn, who arrived with a suitcase full of the most beautiful materials as well as his signature scarves and in addition, lots of extras including rings, necklaces, and killer sunglasses. You can see some more of him in the BTS material – this section is reserved for me, so he’s not having a look in here! Anyway, we’d all like to thank him.
Where was I? Oh yes …
But she looks good. Even I fancy her. I mean I wouldn’t mind strapping on a … (Lyra, careful – Patrick and Alice).
Yeah, well, whatever. We all have a Lyra, don’t we? I can see her, hiding behind Patrick’s glasses as he looks to the sky, that twinkle in Alice’s eye as she lets that gold dress ride up a little too far. (That was me doing that actually – not Alice.)
Alice knows she wants to, but she lacks courage. I don’t. I imagine myself in a net, thrashing and spitting, angry that my own sense-of-self (as “inappropriate” as it might be), is being suppressed. And so, the pictures that they (yes – those two – Patrick and Alice) are letting Tony and I publish, are just the tip of the red-hot iceberg, dear readers. You have no idea, though I hope you can imagine.
You see, we have a problem. Anything on the Internet can be ripped out, de-contextualized, presented as something that it was never intended to be. And whilst the current cancel culture has its absolute place for people who are being hurtful, in the world of transport (from where I am led to believe, Patrick part-funds my outfits) as well as cancellations, there are reinstatements. And indeed, alterations. But Patrick (and to an extent Alice – though she just goes with the flow – ha, there I go again!) fear being ostracized. And perhaps they should. Or perhaps they/he should grow a pair, and then not put on that cage.
So, I’m censored. Isn’t life a bitch!
Lyra would love to show you everything (and I mean, everything!), but deep down, even she is nervous. Maybe. I’m Lyra and I am holding a grenade, my elegant, flirtatious fingers on the pin, playing with it, twisting it, teasing it, but for now, leaving it in place.
You just know I’d love to pull out that pin and toss the grenade, that sense of self-destruction bringing the most exquisite frisson. Oh, the edging. But there would be collateral damage, so much so, that it might actually take me out as well in the force of the societal explosion. And perhaps a little like Leland, Bob, and Laura in that amazing world of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, if I’m going, then I’m taking Patrick and Alice with me. I might live on my own, but they’d be done. And everything they built could crumble and collapse about them. Like at the end of The Dice Man.
Of course, if that Tony Ward character who really “got me”, came to Lyra and said, “I hate those cropped pictures, but I get that Internet misrepresentation bit, blah blah”, and then added “Tell you what, Lyra. How about a solo show – just you, not those other two hangers-on with all their baggage. I’ll protect your anonymity. Maybe we’ll do a book – or maybe an exhibit with massive pictures of you.”, then my mind would start whirling.
I’d think of Tony’s other work, of the world of burlesque, of edgy lifestyles, of sensuality, of eroticism, of sexuality. Of the conflict between biological sex and gender, of the blurring of identify.
If you take different colored lights and mix them, sometimes the result is an intense bright diamond-white, but do the same with paint and you end up with sludge brown. But mixtures, diversity, difference – they are wonderful things. They keep the world from being stale and boring. They should be celebrated. Not ridiculed.
“Ridicule is nothing to be scared of.”
But Lyra cannot exist on her own. She is part of Alice, in the same way that Alice is part of Patrick. I’m not sure Lyra and Patrick have very much in common, but they have a go-between.
Stephen King got “Lyra” in his writing. Nineteen years of digging. “I find I’m so excited I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain.”
So, for better or worse, for now, you’ll have to make do with a few doctored images, a sub-set (do you see what I did there?) of the type of censorship that the conspiracy theorists would have you believe is around us 24/7.
And yet, here it is. Or is it. Was there ever anything more daring? Tony knows. Lyra knows. Alice knows. And, I guess, Patrick knows.
It’s been a pleasure. Tony Ward and his whole crew have our admiration and love.
I hope I’ll be back in some form, but for now – “Lyra, out”.
About The Author:
Lyra is 56 (what, the same age as our other protagonists? No way!). If Alice is the light, then Lyra is the darkness. Patrick distances himself from Lyra, as she is nothing but trouble, and is often bang-out-of-order. She is the whole package – fuse, spark and explosive. She has no responsibility at all. Patrick and Alice are, to be fair, slightly concerned.
You will unwrap more about her when you read what she has to say about herself, though she is, of course, totally untrustworthy, so take it all with a pinch of salt.
Gender Affirming Care: A Case for Legalization Across All States in America
Gender affirming care refers to medical treatments and interventions that affirm and support an individual’s gender identity. It encompasses a range of procedures, including hormone therapy, surgeries, and mental health support, which can greatly alleviate gender dysphoria and promote the overall well-being of transgender individuals. In this essay, we will explore the concept of gender affirming care and argue why it should be legalized for individuals who require such care in every state across America.
Understanding Gender Affirming Care: Gender identity is a deeply personal and integral aspect of an individual’s sense of self. For transgender people, aligning their physical appearance with their gender identity is vital for their mental health and overall quality of life. Gender affirming care aims to bridge the gap between an individual’s gender identity and their physical body through various interventions.
Hormone therapy is one of the primary forms of gender affirming care. It involves the administration of hormones, such as estrogen or testosterone, to align an individual’s secondary sexual characteristics with their gender identity. This treatment can lead to significant improvements in mental health outcomes, reducing depression, anxiety, and suicidality among transgender individuals.
Surgical procedures, such as gender confirmation surgeries (commonly known as “top” and “bottom” surgeries), are also part of gender affirming care. These surgeries allow individuals to modify their bodies to better align with their gender identity. They can provide relief from gender dysphoria, increase self-esteem, and improve overall psychological well-being.
Legalization and Access to Care: While some states in America have recognized the importance of gender affirming care and have taken steps to ensure its availability, others still lack comprehensive laws and regulations regarding this matter. The lack of consistent access to gender affirming care can lead to severe consequences for transgender individuals, including increased mental health disparities, reduced quality of life, and even increased rates of self-harm and suicide.
Legalizing gender affirming care across all states in America is essential to ensure equal access to healthcare for all individuals, regardless of their gender identity. Denying transgender people access to necessary medical treatments not only violates their right to autonomy and self-determination but also perpetuates discrimination and marginalization. It is crucial for state legislatures to recognize the medical consensus that supports gender affirming care and enact laws that protect the rights of transgender individuals.
Critics of legalizing gender affirming care often argue that it is a matter of personal choice and that individuals should bear the financial burden themselves. However, denying coverage for these medically necessary treatments places an undue burden on transgender individuals, who often face higher rates of unemployment, discrimination, and limited access to healthcare overall. Legalization would ensure that gender affirming care is accessible through insurance coverage, Medicaid, and other public health programs, reducing financial barriers and promoting equality.
Glamour became a velvet prison for me over time- it was too easy to do and not inspiring enough for me. Artistic photographers wouldn’t take me seriously, so I pushed myself to become as flexible as I possibly could. I learned to stand on my head, twist into a pretzel, and emote various characters for the purpose of fine art photography. Finally after curating my social media and portfolio to attract paying art photographers, I finally succeeded in becoming more diverse. At this era in my career, I self published a 238 page book called “Posing Ideas for Fine Art, Glamour and Facial Expressions” available on Amazon. I traveled to Singapore, Belize, Brazil, Turkey, Philippines, Italy, Romania, Colombia, New Zealand, Jamaica, and some other countries to create beautiful artistic nudes in nature.
But that wasn’t enough. A new era of inspiration for underwater modeling had found a place in my heart. By 2017, I pursued my Open Water Free diving certification in order to dive deep into ocean waters for artistic modeling. I traveled to Tahiti, Bahamas, El Nido, Mexico, and Australia for underwater modeling.
Ain’t no rest for the wicked, am I right? This rebellious sinner was overachieving too much to maintain momentum. In 2019, I had finished suffering a 7.5 year relationship with a grandiose narcissist who was old enough to be my father. The fried nerve endings involved in finally pushing this toxic person out of my life caused immense strain on my heart, mind, and body. The anxiety of living in fight or flight caused me to lose all appetite and most of my ability to sleep. I dropped to 95 pounds for a while. During this time, I transitioned into van living. The following year, the covid pandemic happened and all international travel had come to a halt. Major cities in America were mostly shut down. I took this opportunity to travel to secluded nature areas around the USA with my new boyfriend. I trained him to be my photographer so I could continue posting modeling images across my social media, to update my portfolio and to sell on my subscription sites.
Over the past few years, I have decided only to work for photographers who are kind hearted and creative. Anyone who has laid hands on me, pressured me, or made uncomfortable sexual comments to me while modeling for them are no longer permitted on my tour schedules. I no longer care about submitting to big name publications. I have been there and done that. I have started up two businesses for destination photography: The SouthWest Adventure (where I take photographers to secret stunning locations I have scouted in south Utah, two seasons per year), and I am the Co-Founder of Create With Sirens (a multi-day, multi-photographer underwater photography excursion with Astrid Kallsen and I, twice a year in Mexico and the Florida Springs). These trips are opportunities to create beautiful nude art in stunning nature locations above and below water: my two favorite modeling genres! I do still occasionally make a trip to a major city to book shoots with photographers in their towns, but I find those trips to be very tiring and fast paced.
The reason I wanted to tell you the progression of my 18 year modeling career so far is to share my example of how modeling as an art form and a career has no cookie cutter boundaries or requirements. Anyone can create their own adventure in it, as long as they have the drive to make it happen. I struggled through many phases of my life and continued to model through each of my life’s shifts. Technology is ever-changing, and I have made a point to adapt to new forms of technology over the course of my career: moving from Myspace and Craigslist to One Model Place and Model Mayhem, and with the fall of Model Mayhem, utilizing FB groups and Instagram to promote my modeling. Along with these methods, I also have a YouTube channel, a mailing list, a Tiktok, twitter, Vimeo, Reddit, Implied.VIP, and I will continue to utilize new forms of communication as technology changes over time.
If I could give one piece of advice to a newer model, I would say this, “Other models are your friends, not your competitors. Don’t let any photographer force you into doing something you are not comfortable with. It’s OK to say no. Be yourself, and do what you want. If someone makes you uncomfortable, tell other models and don’t work with them a second time.