St. John the Baptist church at Hart and Lewis in Bedford Stuyvesant is typically empty on Tuesdays save for some administrators, a priest and the receptionist.
But last Tuesday, unknown to any of the staff, there was a seven-foot transgender woman being photographed spread eagle on one of the church alters by a photographer named Latex Lucifer — or Lucy, for short.
The model, Ylang Ylang, is one of a few muses for Lucy (he legally changed his name to the mononym last year). Drawing inspiration from religion, gender and sadism-masochism, he uses gore to address the issue of misogyny within the LGBTQ community and hopes to dispel the myth that being feminine is undesirable.
“I don’t think the gay community is inclusive,” said Lucy. “There’s this chiseled, white and masculinized body that’s been sensationalized and it’s now become a norm for people to openly say on dating sites ‘no fatties, no femmes, no Asians and no blacks.' ”
In a sense, Lucy isn’t wrong. In the past few years, LGBTQ activists have tried to combat racism within gay dating apps, such as Grindr, where many profiles openly discriminate against people of certain body types and racial backgrounds. An entire website, DouchebagsofGrindr.com, is dedicated to screenshots of profiles telling black, Asian or more feminine men to move on.
“There’s no place for me in the gay community because of entrenched misogyny where being feminine is shameful,” said Ylang Ylang. “There’s room for me to express myself but everything in the gay community centers around being white and masculine.”
So Lucy has made a point to only use models who don’t fit the mold of what is normally considered attractive within the gay community by photographing sex workers or trans women, such as Ylang Ylang.
“I just love her personality,” Lucy said about Ylang Ylang, who then slung on a harness of chains around her tiny waist while slipping into a pair of 8-inch high heels. “I’m drawn to it. She’s exactly the kind of person I want to show off.”
Since leaving his job as a runway hairstylist last year, Lucy has seen modest success with his art. He’s now being featured in two magazines and is partnering up with a gay tech company for a photo spread coming out later this year.
“It’s all been a real growing experience for me as an artist, and it’s so much more fulfilling,” he said.
At the photo shoot in the church — an undercover operation that required distracting the receptionist and posing as art students taking photos of statues — Lucy rushed through a roll of film from his retro point-and-shoot camera while a few parishioners gawked as Ylang Ylang sprawled herself out below a statue of St. John.
As the two rushed out of the church, they waved goodbye to the receptionist -- who then wished them good luck on their art project.