TQW Magazin
Persson Perry Baumgartinger (…/…) on Seek Bromance by Samira Elogaz (he/him) in collaboration with Cade Moga (they/them)

Staged trans realness, or: Three lovers, the camera being one of them


Staged trans realness, or: Three lovers, the camera being one of them

In the almost four-hour long film/live performance Seek Bromance, the two trans protagonists Cade Moga and Samira Elagoz start a toxic relationship at the beginning of the Covid pandemic, during which they stage an exchange of views on trans, masculinities, testosterone, their former high-femme characters, breast implants, dildo stretching, digital attempts at passing, the relationship with fathers and much more in front of the camera. In the self-centred style of Instagram we see interviews, selfie mobile videos, dance sequences, the pushing of boundaries framed as borderline experiences, rather soliloquous dialogues à la Zoom, restrained squabbling on and short, loud arguing off camera, diachronic, split-screen video diaries… Staged intimacy with the aim of documenting (what is claimed to be?) a romantic relationship and transmasc experience.

The tempos and angles of vision change: from quick-cut car journeys with loud music on multi-lane US American roads, in which both of them are in front of the camera together; to excessive solo performances of either of the two in front of the camera with instructions from the other person behind the camera; to slow-cut zoom-like conversations with many pauses; to vlog-like clips of the two artists by themselves creating messages to the other person; to the presence of only one of the artists at the live performance. The camera appears to be the most important thing, the two of them keep vying for its attention – (the) staging (of the self) is at the heart of the performance. With this in mind, Moga’s statement at the beginning – “a relationship between three lovers, the camera being one of them” – seems very appropriate.

During the almost four hours of the film screening, Elagoz sits on stage, pausing the film every now and then to give us his interpretation of events.

Contact is established on Facebook between Finnish-Egyptian performer Elagoz and Brazilian artist Cade Moga before the first film shooting. Moga contacts Elagoz through his male avatar named Aris. Later, Elagoz asks Moga for a filmed meeting. Just as they are about to start the project, the pandemic-related travel restrictions take effect for holders of European passports as well – Elagoz and Moga decide to meet at Moga’s place in L.A. and spend what they expect to be a short time in lockdown together. At first, the shock of the pandemic, an unknown and exceptional situation, is written all over both their faces. Soon after, we see scenes of silence, boredom, short conversations, in-apartment video exercise units, the ordering of food… Affluent twosome loneliness within four walls, interrupted by car journeys on more or less empty multi-lane roads accompanied by loud music. In this exceptional situation Moga is interrogated about their transmasculinity, while Elagoz begins to experiment with testosterone – supervised by Moga, who has experience in this area. Documented in film, the transition begins, or at least the beginning of a hormonally induced transition – including the classic trans voice test and photo timelines with “this many months on testosterone” labels, which can be found all over the internet. When asked by Moga why he wants to try testosterone, Elagoz has no answer. Later, he says that he always wanted to be transmasculine. In the live performance he explains: “I’d never seen a trans man before who, like me, had a hyperfeminine past.” The struggle of leaving behind his bourgeois cis femininity seems to have begun and it is staged in a no-holds-barred manner: experimental self-medication, self-taught blood sampling in close-up, drinking the other person’s blood, also in close-up, processing the previous high-femme performance, tripping in the desert, various sexualised overtures, conversations about their roles in the relationship and in sex, etc. We see images of shocking transgressions reminiscent of horror trips or splatter movies. A staging that evokes an old myth of trans people as “crazy hormone monsters” – without the angry, self-determined appropriation of Susan Stryker’s “My Words to Victor Frankenstein above the Village of Chamounix” or the socio-political contextualisation of Paul B. Preciado’s Testo Junkie. Trans is depicted as a clear path from woman to man and from hyper femme to (trans)masc, especially on a visual level. Even when they talk about an open and non-linear process, testosterone is used to reinforce classical binary projections of cis masculinity and is presented as synonymous to transition. Another trans myth informed by medical bias: a transition should start by taking “opposite-sex” hormones instead of more commonplace steps such as clothing, changing one’s first name or pronouns, etc. The first few months with the syringe are presented “as a substance-inspired wonderland, a spectacle of the body that must be exploited even before one can grasp the scope of one’s own transition”, as Frederik Müller aptly put it in Missy Magazine (04/2022).

“Performing yourself is easier than being yourself”, Elagoz is quoted in the announcement for the event, and it seems as if this sentence applies to the entire performance. Self-staging is so central that becoming private seems impossible, even though or precisely because privacy and authenticity are meant to be conveyed throughout. In a further quote announcing the event, Elagoz emphasises that he wanted to tell a “real [trans] story”, thereby setting himself apart from other trans narratives. Interestingly, we learn very little about Elagoz of all people from the conversations, despite the fact that he ultimately becomes the main protagonist. He keeps a low profile both in the film and in the live performance. In a video message a few months after the break-up Moga speculates: “You wanted T because of me or because it was a good story.”

Even though Moga initially speaks of “a relationship between three lovers”, it remains unclear until the end if they are, in fact, lovers and whether the film was produced consensually. As the film progresses, Moga seems to feel increasingly uncomfortable, especially in the video message some time after the staged shooting of the film. In the live performance, Elagoz explains that Moga didn’t want to complete the film and left the editing to him. A somewhat stale aftertaste remains. Not least because Moga is addressed as “he” by Elagoz throughout the performance, even though a note in the end credits of the film asks for the respectful use of pronouns, and Moga’s pronouns are given as they/them.

The film ends with a video message from Moga to Elagoz, which Elagoz – in Berlin at the time – keeps interrupting to comment on it in the style of a video message, too. The performance ends with a bow and applause. Seek Bromance is a very personal, staged, apolitical “in-your-face” trans story. One of many, many ways to represent transitions – the one, true transition doesn’t exist.

Questions remain. Such as: why a socio-political contextualisation of the first testo experience is left out even in the follow-up. Or why a cultural contextualisation with transcestors, with trans presentations on YouTube and social media, with trans and queer art and cultural production, with films, literature, and also with queer and trans spaces is missing. And why such a non-transparent, self-centred staging that follows in the footsteps of rather classic trans narratives has garnered such positive, institutionalised feedback. What does this say about the image of trans and trans people in the cultural sector today?

And in reaction to these questions, the wish re-emerges yet again for the art and cultural sector to provide much more space to trans productions and art by trans people. Space for many, varied and diversified performances on the topic of trans and by trans artists. So that the representation of heterogeneous trans communities and approaches is not left to a single work or that this one work is not treated as such by the media.



Persson Perry Baumgartinger. Trans—Arts & Cultural Production. Researching, educating, consulting and curating. Applied linguistics, social history, arts and sciences, cultural production. Teaching, lectures, training courses and process consultancy on trans_inter*queer, language and communication, critical diversity, trans arts and cultural production in the specialist fields of contemporary art and cultural production, gender studies, social work, sociology at various universities, NGOs and art institutions such as Kunsthochschule Kassel (Johanna Schaffer), Academy of Fine Arts Vienna (Ashley Scheirl), Kunsthalle Wien, Schwules Museum* Berlin, Initiative Minderheiten,  Brunnenpassge, Wienwoche. Various activist and artistic research projects and events on trans, anti/discrimination and much more in the scope of kollektiv.institut.büro diskursiv and the critical encyclopedia project queeropedia.