From Anna to Andy
Sydney actor Andrew Guy, formerly Anna, is documenting his journey through gender transition. But before the film is even finished, he’s already making waves both in the LGBT and mainstream communities. By Serkan Ozturk.
Anna Guy had always wanted to work in film. Inspired early on by the likes of 80s teen star Michael J Fox and the Hollywood blockbusters of Stephen Spielberg that often touched upon themes of young adolescents finding their true self – think ET, Back to the Future et al – she would spend a large part of her childhood dreaming about being the next hero to save the world.
With all their training and passion for other characters, it’s expected that actors will take upon a transformation when faced with a new role, but for Anna, if she were to have any success it would require a bigger transformation than simply a prosthetic nose or hours in the make-up chair. For almost three decades the acting bug remained within Anna – latent and waiting – while she pursued a successful life as a corporate high-flier travelling the world and rubbing shoulders with high-powered businessmen.
It was a good life but it wasn’t a happy one.
The acting boards were calling but Anna knew it was a plunge that she could only fully take if her body and spirit were in unison. Though her desire was strong, Anna had almost always felt that in the game of life she was like an actor who had found themselves struggling and performing in the wrong play.
There was only one solution – a transformation, from Anna to Andy.
Some philosophers, like Michel Focault, suggest that gender is as much, if not more, about role-playing and cultural performance as the genetics and bits one is born with. Simply put, our identity is a much more of a complex beast. For Andy, now in the middle of directing his first feature length documentary highlighting his and other transmen’s journeys, it’s a concept he is familiar with more than most.
“As a kid you don’t question too much because you see things and you relate to them,” he tells SX. “In my case, I related to other boys because that’s what I am. I was always really drawn to career aspirations that would be of a male-dominated field. Ridiculous things like wanting to be a jockey or big shot lawyer or a male actor.”
That gnawing feeling that his body never matched who he really was had been with Andy, who grew up on Sydney’s lower north shore, since he was four years old.
“I asked my mum as a kid if you want to become a boy, what can you do about that and she said that you could have an operation. I was literally then saying, ‘Oh good, can I do that soon?’ She said no but that was probably the first instance and then I kind of let it go and thought I would just have to live with.”
Now 32 and residing in Sydney’s east, Andy says he finally decided to make steps to transition when, following the death of his mum from cancer, he realised he could no longer carry on the corporate life while his dreams slowly passed him by.
“It was me saying I can’t do this life anymore. I needed to do something for me and more creative. Which then threw me into the acting, which then threw me into almost no other choice than to transition,” he explains.
“Acting has been a real gift for me I think because seeing boy actors as a child was the one thing I related to. That was my first reality check.”
Some of Andy’s recent acting work has seen him in performances that have shone a light on themes like self-healing, sexuality, gender, domestic violence and depression. But it’s the documentary, It’s Not About The Sex, that he is currently working on as director that perhaps has the greatest potential to provide a positive impact on the lives of others. The film began quite humbly with a couple of friends telling Andy that they would like to document the changes of his transition as a personal memoir to look back on in coming years.
“Once the actual process started and we all saw how dramatic the changes were,” he says. “We all were a little like, ‘Wow this needs to be a something – let’s see where it goes’.
“When I began to really get into the surgery side of things, I also really started to see how this is a very foreign and misunderstood phenomena in a lot of ways, and that it could do with being shared to breach the misunderstanding gaps.”
The documentary will see Andy interviewing medical professionals, psychologists, gender experts and other transmen to give a “flavour” of what it is to be a transman in today’s Australia. And with Andy confident that his fundraising campaign on crowd sourcing site Pozible will be successful, the film is also likely to include footage of his journey to San Francisco next year showing what remains for him one of the final missing pieces of his transformation.
While in the US, Andy will undergo a forearm phalloplasty which hopefully, by the end of the eight-hour surgery will leave him, with a working penis.
“I’m doing fairly radical surgery which I feel I need to do,” he says. “I don’t know why we don’t have phalloplasty in Australia and really wish we did. This type of surgery has been going on in the UK, US and Europe for 20 and 30 years now. A lot of people here feel that it’s new and experimental and of not high enough quality. The results people are getting though are pretty amazing.”
Andy’s film project, however, has attracted some criticism – mostly from other members of the local trans community. Despite coming under attack by some sections of the community for appearing on Network Ten to promote the documentary during last month’s Transgender Day of Remembrance, Andy says he will continue to pop up in mainstream avenues to discuss the issues and themes behind his film so that the wider public may get a better understanding.
“There was certainly some misconstrued information in the recent Channel Ten interview after they changed some of the information I gave them but I’m glad the issues received attention.
“Because good things out of that have seen politicians contact me and tell me they are willing to help with some of the issues facing transmen,” he says.
“As much as I’m criticised for this, I think the time for personal agendas is gone. Compared to the rest of the world, there’s not many other communities that in-fight to the level that we do.
“I feel there needs to be plenty of room for harmony.”
[Image] Andy Guy and, insets, his transition from Anna. Photos: Jason Nichol (main image); supplied.
To donate or for more information visit, www.pozible.com/andyg