Nettime mailing list archives

<nettime> Laser Skin Reinscription
lotu5 on Sun, 21 Sep 2008 00:57:42 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Laser Skin Reinscription

with links:
(NOTE: my blog is still having an annoying problem loading pages, so if
it doesn’t work just hit reload and it should work)

I can see the flashes of light. They seem red through my closed eyelids.
When the laser flashes, I see a star, that is red-orange, but its
brighter when the laser is higher on my face, closer to my eyes. I tell
her this and she says “yeah, but with these glasses, it’s fine. Its not
like you’re going to go blind.”

This is my fourth laser skin treatment with the Long Pulse Alexandrite
Laser at 755nm. Yet I’m not here for a face transplant[1], like
others[2], just to change the way my skin grows hair. I’m here for a
treatment that will burn away the tiny areas of skin on my face where
hair follicles turn old cells into hair.

I ice the area about to be heated with the laser, the room is cold, the
laser itself shoots out even colder air, yet the blue gel of the ice
pack before and after the laser snaps onto the skin makes it much more

It seems like hair isn’t something we discuss much in important meetings
of the alterglobalization movement, shaping new worlds, but it affects
each of us so much. It is a question of traveling between worlds, one
world where women with facial hair don’t need to worry about it
affecting the way they’ll be talked to, and another where hair
determines the entire reading of a person, their sexuality, their worth,
their humanity. I have a lover who works with teenagers. She constantly
has to discuss her body hair with them. Their idea of what her hair
means has meant the threat of violence on more than one occasion.

I’ve never been a very hairy person, but once I began my transition, any
facial hair began to bother me. I felt that it added to people reading
me as male. Yet the more I shaved, the less it seemed to matter. The
little cuts and missed spots were all it took for people to stare. The
most important days to me, it felt, were always the days when I would
cut my face the worst.

So close to our skin, our hair can be sensual and soft, can be the rough
feeling of one’s partner in the most comfortable, intimate moments.
While we can create other worlds, worlds of creative alternatives to
patriarchy or worlds of synthetic digital bodies rendered with
precision, it seems that hair is so often left out of these worlds. In a
way, hair is the unnamed realness of our bodies that we don’t want to
see. It is the redness inside Irma’s throat that Freud sees and Lacan
refers to as the real, the point at which “all words cease” [3]. The
powerful erotic moment, just before sex, when anticipation is so strong,
is the moment when we undress and show our pubic hair, or lack of it, to
each other. For trans people, hair is part of the many bodily
transformations we make to be able to shapeshift, it is part of the
language of gender that we manipulate to transform, be percieved as
something else.

As she works her way down to my neck, I inhale the smell of something
burning or singed. I tell the laser technician about the tattoo that my
tattoo artist has on the front of her neck, right over her trachea. Her
story of getting that tattoo in Peru, after a long day of hiking, from
an incredibly heavy handed, not very empathetic artist, is harrowing.
Yet it is still less harrowing than the Tracheal Shave that some trans
people get to try to transform their voices, since hormones don’t change
MtF people’s voices. That’s one procedure I’ll definitely be passing up.
Even though this hurts not nearly as much as a tattoo, and it’s over in
about 15 minutes, tattoos come to mind, another painful skin
modification, every time I’m here.

I reflect back on her comment about the huge dark protective glasses
we’re both wearing, and for a moment I think of the scene in the third
person, two of us in this very cold room, the air from the laser rushing
around, the loud sound of the laser compressor, the super bright flashes
that we’re both protected from. As strange as that seems to me, I still
feel lucky to live in an age of laser skin surgeries. Electrolysis is a
procedure that uses electricity to burn the hair follicles and takes
easily a hundred hours. Laser simply uses light to heat up the hair,
sending the energy down the hair itself under the skin and killing the
precise layer of skin that produces the hair.

The economy [4] of these surgeries is something I’m not happy to be a
part of. The same laser technician at Laser Skin Reinscription will also
happily inject you with Botulinum Toxin Type A, known on the street as
Botox. Yet these economies are still small enough to be accessible to
some. These inbetween, informal procedures are not the multiple thousand
dollar procedures that live saving medicine calls for. Surely, there is
a great deal of privilege in being able to use these procedures, yet
they are also possibly a remedy for some of the discrimination,
marginalization and violence that people who want to step out of the
mythopoetic rules of sex, gender and desire face. The word “public”
comes, as my friend rdom likes to point out, from the latin “pubes”,
meaning the male population, tying together the pubic of pubic hair, the
politics of gender and the public interface of skin that must have a
razor slid across it every day, or a light amplified by stimulated
emission of radiation, a handful of times. While my choice to transform
has meant a few months of living much closer to emergency, many live
much closer [5] to that edge, permanently [6].

Days later, my face still has red areas, recovering from the precise
burn. I was told I should stay out of the sun and I thought, vampires
don’t have facial hair either. These procedures may be optional, but for
those around me in this city of cru cuts, flat tops and blonde beach
bunnies, the smoothness of my skin or the hair on my skin is enough to
inscribe the meaning of my whole body and every word that comes out of
my mouth. And beyond them, my own gaze back in the mirror is far more
satisfied with the smooth skin of a dragon, a shapeshifter, the choice
to be in permanent transition and transformation, than the prickly skin
of a human that I was supposed to learn to live with.

1. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4484728.stm
2. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119094/
3. Geneva lecture on the symptom (Russell Grigg, Trans.). Analysis, 1,
7-26. (Original work published 1975) ——. (1988). from
4. http://www.deadletters.biz/body.html
6. http://africa.reuters.com/world/news/usnLH547790.html


gpg:  0x5B77079C // encrypted email preferred
gaim/skype: djlotu5 // off the record messaging preferred

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime>  is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: http://mail.kein.org/mailman/listinfo/nettime-l
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime {AT} kein.org