21 November 2021

‘SOLO’ out now
EP cover – photo YANN WEBER @yannweber & style HEEJOO

interview ALICE PFEIFFER @alicepfeiffer
photo BONJOUR GARÇON @bonjourgarcon style EVA SILATSA @silatsaeva
mua LOLA CADET @pauvrelola hair LUCILE

Yanis: ‘My transition has no end in sight ‘

Known in the French pop scene when she was barely of age, Yanis is now back at the forefront of the media and music scene with a new opening on who she can finally be. Formerly known as Sliimy, 33-year-old Yanis was showered by the French media right out of high school. Today, she has left the dandy figures of her early days, and has made headlines for coming out as a non-binary transgender person. This is how she opens the dialogue on the misunderstanding and virulent transphobia in France, and pushes for self-acceptance outside the shackles and labels, to cherish the multiplicity that animates us all.

How do you explain that your visibility started so early?

Indeed, all this happened very quickly, I was very active during my youth, I had chosen the name of Sliimy – I had created a character for myself, because I needed to find myself in something, to liberate myself, to escape from all the prohibitions that I had suffered. I grew up in the suburbs of Saint Etienne, in an immigrant family, in a context where I was not open to certain cultures. So I graduated from high school, signed with Warner almost immediately and moved to Paris where I lived in a tiny apartment but soon got into the media.

You’ve been vocal about your identity and sexual preferences…

Yes, I was the first person in the music business in France to come out sexually in such a public way, on television. At the time, I defined myself as gay, I thought that was all there was to it – yet, even as a child, I was already asking myself questions about transidentity but to no avail. I remember going to talk to a doctor as a teenager and being told, when I was only 13, that there was something wrong with me and that I needed to talk to a shrink. Today, it’s been a year since I came out as a trans person to my loved ones. It’s been a long road and I haven’t been helped: for example, my record company, instead of embracing my queerness, told me ‘Be careful, you don’t want to be too effeminate’, I feel like I wasted time because of others and injunctions.

Today, have you distanced yourself from the idea of a character that you used to play with in the beginning, with your avatar?

Being a musician means, by definition, having an avatar, putting something on stage, but sometimes to a lesser extent. These days, I’m really sincere in what I say and what I show. I speak to people in a raw way: I released a track that talks about my father without any detours. In music, you can exorcise, transform, communicate something, I repainted the trauma a little, but above all I continue to talk to people, to share, because it is these dialogues that have allowed me to unblock many things, to realize and assume who I am.

What journey did you go through to assume who you are?

Often, the people who understand you the least are the ones who talk about you the most. Many people have, for example, bsessed over my perceived feminine voice – Libération dedicated the back cover to me for an article called, to my anger, ‘Sliimy, le chanteur pop à la voix de fille. ’ People associate my femininity with a form of fragility, which is not knowing me well. These people don’t know what I’ve been through, where I come from. I am a quiet force, but I am a fucking warrior. Today, I am aligned with who I have always been, and it is precisely this alignment that is central to who I am and how I evolve. My transition has no end, no end point, no finality, it is a process and not a fixed destination and it will continue until the end of my life, the evolution is and will be constant. Artists like Arca have inspired me, like when she reposts photos of herself 10 years ago, she shows that it’s possible, she tells how she deals with her looks and her views on her, and thanks to her you tell yourself that you’re not alone in your thing.
What would you like to communicate on a political level?

I am Arab, I have made two coming outs in the media, my presence is intrinsically political. Today, I am fighting against a lack of understanding of non-binarity: after my coming out as trans on Médiapart, I was asked a lot about how I could say I was both trans and non-binary. I want to fight against the systematic boxes in which we find ourselves and which make us forget the person and the individuality of each one within these labels. Around us, everywhere in the country, there is a part of education to be done and a lot of visibility to be brought around the multiplicity of paths; we are still confronted with an obligation to justify ourselves and expose what happens in our bodies, our experiences, our feelings. We still show very little of the people involved and of the plurality in the stories and identities, diversity is cruelly lacking in France.

‘ These people don’t know what I’ve been through, where I come from. I am a quiet force, but I am a fucking warrior. ’

Gay circles can also be grey areas that are not necessarily allied?

Yes, I realized years later that I had been very badly respected by gay men, once again my femininity was reproached, disturbed, so I tried to reject it, to fit into a mold, to follow the codes dictated as attractive, and in fact I accumulated remarks and violence. Since I have made my transition, I have been able to open up a dialogue about this experience.
Today, I discover an ultra-violent ambivalence, where people will reject trans people and at the same time fantasize about them in a crazy and unhealthy way, which generates enormous abuses.

What do you want to communicate to your fans?

I would like to encourage strength and solidarity, and to believe in more joyful potentials. As for me, I have cleared three tons of traumas, I fought against physical, verbal and symbolic violence, I thought I would never make it, I almost did some stupid things, and today I am where I am partly thanks to my music, and I am proud of it. I’d like to tell a lot of people who aren’t in Paris, who don’t have open families, that it is possible. I come from nothing, I turned to composition in my corner, it is possible to live fully oneself.
How did social networks help you?

For my part, I notice how much the word ‘trans’ has been smeared: we’re just starting to appropriate it, thanks to the internet, social networks and the first-person accounts that these structures allow. We don’t need to go through a media, we can just speak. If it wasn’t for all this, maybe I would have been stuck where I was to begin with, the lack of visibility can be fatal.
And what role does clothing play in self-expression?

Clothes are really a great tool, an extension of oneself, a moment of life, a potential for reinventing oneself. Through Sliimy and my stage outfits, I had created a character for myself; fashion allowed me to get out of my shell, to play with nuances and express who I am.