"From Bruno to Gabrielle"
One day, the person I shared my life with was gone. It was a terrible shock. With this trauma, I discovered a deep void: the meaning I gave to things was gone, together with the loved one. The emptiness is like a thick fog. We fight because we are afraid of the unknown. We switch on a lighthouse to try and find our way, but the ray of light makes the fog even thicker. Fight against the emptiness and it becomes twice as present!
This is a wandering: emptiness in the head by the loss of meaning, we walk without knowing what to do or where to go. One day, however, one tames the ubiquitous empty. We discover that we are not alone: there is something called "oneself", a small voice that speaks to us and which is our "me." Until then, I neglected this voice, maybe because I was afraid of what she asked of me. Trauma, suffering and wandering had made it possible for my so far neglected desires and dreams to overcome my consciousness. When I turned 40, I finally decided to search for the real me.
I started wearing skirts designed for men, which I bought in gothic shops, wearing make-up during my days off. It was the beginning of an aesthetic quest. I wanted to project new worlds and photograph them. I took the first pictures of me wearing a skirt with a friend of mine, in an abandoned factory. Later on, I climbed on the roof of the building where I worked. I put on a long skirt and a colleague of mine took pictures of me against the Brussels sky. I created an ideological site on the skirt for men, exposing my first drawings and photographs. This is when I sold my first skirt for men. Even today, the site receives five hundred visits a day.
Do things come our way when we are finally ready to live them? One morning, I lost my job and I bought an apartment in Brussels in the afternoon of that very same day. I then attended sewing and model-sketching courses. I set up a studio in my new home and I started working on what I liked: creating clothes that would give life to my universe. I pricked my fingers blood a lot, but I got closer to whom I was. I finally listened to me.
In parallel to my sewing learning, I cut my hair in a plunging square. I definitely swapped my male pants for skirts which I designed myself or bought in a shop. I adopted the make-up as a form of expression. In every day’s life, people reflected back to me my female identity. My male name became difficult to bear. Every time someone called my name, I noticed surprised stares around me. So I adopted my grandmother’s first name, in respect of others, the life in society and for the symbolism associated with that name.
Eventually, the passage from Bruno to Gabrielle lasted ten years. At the end of the journey, I remain the same person. I did not want a profound break-up with the person I was. I took the time necessary for the process to be smooth and for not losing myself underway. I did not want to be violent to my body because of too many brutal and rapid changes. I listen to myself, without violence. Finally, I have always been aware that this process of blossoming fit with an aesthetic work on my image. Transforming myself without shocking. As a stylist, how could it have been otherwise?
This long inner journey also gave way to all my creativity without refrain.
Gabrielle Lys. Marsh 3, 2010
The bike ride.