Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, a queer pioneer who identified with third gender pronouns and became an avant-garde icon, has died at the age of 70.
Born Neil Andrew Megson in Victoria Park, Manchester UK, s/he grew up in Essex, where as a teenager she became interested in occultism, avant-garde art, and music. After dropping out of college at the University of Hull, s/he founded a music collective, COUM Transmissions, and changed h/er name to Genesis P-Orridge.
As the Dadaist-inspired group was disbanding in 1976, P-Orridge formed the band Throbbing Gristle, alongside Chris Carter, Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson, and Cosey Fanni Tutti.
According to Pitchfork:
“The band incorporated white noise, tape-based samples, and spoken-word poetry into their work, and were notorious for provocative imagery—such as Nazi concentration camps and pornography—used at their live shows. Their abrasive blend of rock, electronic, and punk ethos would go on to become the groundwork of industrial music.”
Throbbing Gristle would release nine full albums during a career that was experienced a two-decade gap after an break-up in 1981.
Despite being known for h/er music (s/he was known as “the Godparent of Industrial Music”), as well as for various art projects (such as Psychic TV) and h/er viewpoints on occultism, sex work, violence, and other taboo topics, P-Orridge’s most famous legacy is her status as a non-binary explorer who pushed the boundaries of gender and self.
According to the New York Times, P-Orridge first conceived the alter-ego by which s/he would become known in the psychedelic era of the 1960s, envisioning a re-creation of h/erself as in a new form which could become “a canvas for a wide range of experiments: artistic, pharmaceutical, surgical and spiritual.”
“I’d grown up thinking that the world was what I saw, and then I realized it wasn’t — it could be anything at all,” s/he told the paper in 2018.
With h/er second wife, Lady Jaye, P-Orridge underwent the “Pandrogeny Project,” receiving body modification surgery to resemble one another as a single “pandrogynous” being named Breyer P-Orridge. They adopted gender neutral programs and spoke individually as a single combined entity, outside the binary model of gender. Injuries from a 1995 fire led to a cash influx for Genesis, after which they continued to fuse their identities with further physical alterations.
“We’d go to our plastic surgeon and say, what else can we do now to look more alike?” Genesis said.
Lady Jaye died of stomach cancer in 2007. P-Orridge continued to identify as pandrogynous for the rest of h/er life.
P-Orridge’s cause of death was leukemia, according to a statement from manager Ryan Martin. S/he is survived by h/er daughters, Genesse and Caresse, and a granddaughter.