"MOI, C'EST FEMME."
I have selected these eighteen images from my book, 'The Ultimate Angels'.
The photographs were taken over a two month period in 1981. During the previous three years, the Bois de Boulogne and the streets of Pigalle in Paris, two of the traditional areas of Parisian prostitution, had been infiltrated by transvestites and transsexuals.
Official figures at the time showed that one-tenth of the prostitutes working in greater Paris were transvestites or transsexuals. Their success was spectacular...through hormone treatments, silicone implants and injections and cosmetic surgery; they attained the attributes of 'superwomen' of the type that exists only in the fantasies of men. They also, they claimed, to have the advantage of knowing what will excite the sexual appetites of their own (former) sex. Long legs, full breasts and curvaceous buttocks scream to the world that they are 'women.' In reality, the transvestites and transsexual sex workers I met were often merely exchanging a masculine for a feminine stereotype; everything is exaggerated to the point of anatomical impossibility, a parody of the traditional 'pin-up'.
The financial cost is great and so is the physical and mental strain. Silicone is often injected into the tissue of lips, thighs, and buttocks by friends with no medical supervision and under conditions of questionable hygiene. Always painful and sometimes fatal; breasts are built up with implants of silicone filled bags. This is the price they are prepared to pay to achieve a facade of femininity, and so increase their earning potential from prostitution and help them to feel more feminine.
Many were Brazilian, inhabiting a ghetto of sordid studio apartments where they lived and worked in shifts. They had little contact with the outside world where they ran the risk of ridicule or unmasking. The usual obligatory pimps were noticeable by their absence.
I rarely tried to influence situations, but occasionally would take them away from their working environment to locations that more suited the 'glamour' that they were aspiring to.
Brigitte Ariel and Byron Newman 1981
The Ultimate Angels
Hutchinson; 1st edition (1983)