This is a clear example of where the moral panic over the sexualisation of children has gone several steps too far – thanks to clumsy laws written by politicians to appease the moral outrage of the ignorant. It seems that young Brisbane artist Tyza Stewart has had some of her art removed from the Sydney Contemporary art fair on advice from lawyers. Why? Because Tyza’s work often transplants the head of a girl onto the adult bodies of men, thus allegedly sexualising a child.

The only problem is that the head of the child is Tyza herself and she is making a comment on her ambiguous gender identity. You see Tyza was born female but doesn’t identify as female. At age 14 Tyza wrote this:

The thing to top my birthday wishlist is to be a guy and have a guy friend who would be as gay as I would be. This will never appear on lists that other people leave, obviously.

Tyza on right with his girlfriend

In other words, the images are clearly self-portraits and are expressions of her gender identification. And this is where the law is an ass. It makes no adjustment to this important context. Of course, there ought to be laws against cild exploitation material. As I have said elsewhere on this blog, certainly in reference to photography, such images are evidence of child abuse. But in this case no child has been abused. Indeed, we have the rather bizarre situation where Tyza is technically, as an adult, creating child abuse images of herself. She is therefore both perpetrator and victim.

What Tyza is attempting to explore is her own mixed gender identity and her identification as a young girl with masculinity.

It definitely references my own story and the context of where we are living right now.

And why shouldn’t Tyza be able to explore her own life in her art? This is where a clumsy law has curtailed her freedom of speech and artistic expression. The curious thing is that she would be able to describe this in words without transgressing the law. In this way visual artists face greater restrictions than writers. Apparently you can describe things in words that you cannot represent visually.

Clearly the law needs to be changed to avoid this absurdity.