Bailey, a darling of fashion and club kid crowds alike, is a powerful woman and outspoken transgender artist who creates some of the best queer club bangers from this side of the world. Her message of self-liberation — from patriarchy, from negativity, from shame — empowers LGBTQ+ people everywhere to heed their inner queens and take an axe to that closet, honey!
Now, Bailey is back with her latest trans empowerment anthem "Shenis" and a sexual-liberation themed music video. Shot on site at the Savage Ranch — an oasis where creatives can feel safe to express and create under the California sky — Bailey and her crew of queer trendsetters create visual magic through lighting, sensual movement, sumptuous costume, and suggestion. The video's sweeping aerial shots and chic desert vibes lend well to the song's sleek, hot-to-the-touch feel.
PAPER spoke with Bailey about "Shenis," her struggles as an artist, and how we can champion trans sexual experience. Check out exclusive behind-the-scenes photos from the set of "Shenis" by Alec Marchant, below.
Would you define shenis, please?
A shenis is your love rocket from down below. It's something that women have but men often don't. We're in a time still dominated by the patriarchy, so women are reclaiming their strength, and "Shenis" is a part of that.
A shenis is a tool of female empowerment?
What was the Inspiration for the song "Shenis"?
For me, the most empowering line is "never settle for second best." I've had some really shitty relationships being a trans woman. Every man I've been with has shamed me at some point for the sum of my parts. Perhaps not openly shaming me, but when we're alone he won't make love to all of me — to all of my pleasure zones. So this is me, reclaiming my strength, and saying, "No, I will not settle for second best." I will find someone who loves me for who I am, loves all of me, every part of me, and not just for the sum of my parts. I'm reclaiming love for myself.
"If you can find that inner flame, then you'll never be alone. You are all you need to fill yourself up."
You deserve love, as anyone does.
Please love all of me, not just some of me. The same way you would love anyone else.
And what do you have to say to those who would shame you now?
It's time to unlock that chastity belt, honey!
My favorite line is "find your inner flame and you'll never be alone." Can you tell us what you meant?
Growing up as a flaming queer in suburbia, I was told over and over that I was a freak, an outcast. I always felt like I was alone. I never had someone to look up to, or a peer to ask questions of, or even friends to talk to. I think for young queers everywhere who grow up in similar environments or situations, we have to find our strength elsewhere. We have to find what keeps us going, find where our magic lies. If you can find that inner flame, then you'll never be alone. You are all you need to fill yourself up.
I love the "Shenis" aesthetic. Your signature red is obviously on full display, but green plays a part as well here. Why is green resonating with you right now?
My red is an homage to my fabulous, redheaded grandmother who was a natural performer, so utilizing red is a part of reclaiming my family heritage. And green is the color of the heart chakra, so I embraced that a lot for this video's theme. Green is about me inviting in love, opening my heart, finding pride and strength.
June is Pride month, but not all of us in the LGBTQ+ community feel as empowered or as seen as others. Can you talk about what it's like to have trans pride during Pride?
We live in a culture of masculinity, where the adonis is put on a pedestal and worshipped. The feminine isn't praised in the same way at all. There are a lot of trans artists out there who get overlooked because of this. My song "Hollywood Hooker" was used in performances all around the world. They played it in Brazil, in Tel-Aviv, in London. But not one of those clubs or venues bothered to invite me to come perform my song, yet it's performed by drag queens all over the world now, all profiting from my song... which is fine, I don't mind. I love giving people empowerment to perform. But I'm a struggling artist, so it's hard to deal with. I don't get calls from those people. Maybe they don't even know I exist. I think things need to change. Like right now, drag queens are so, so popular, and that's where most of the money is going. Drag queens can command upwards of $5,000 for a performance in a night... but trans women, we're lucky if we even get a $200 paycheck at the end of the month. It's sad, but that's our culture right now.
And now that World Pride will be in New York this year, all these brands are stepping up to the plate to get in on our pink dollar.
These people obviously know our worth, it's why they want us to do these things with them. But they're never willing to pony up and put their money where their mouth is. People claim to be part of the queer liberation movement, but often they're not really helping anything. They're just profiting. It's the game we play and I do my best to keep moving, but we're really treading upstream here. Hopefully things are changing and we're moving in the right direction. I just hope my songs give other trans people the empowerment to go out there and achieve their dreams.
"I just hope my songs give other trans people the empowerment to go out there and achieve their dreams."
In "Shenis" you are sexually liberated. But many depictions of trans sexual experience in mainstream media show little to no real sexuality. If they do show some sexuality, the experience is often depicted as comical, invasive, or tongue in cheek. How can we fix that?
I think a lot of the time, mainstream media does not give agency to trans women to tell their own stories. A lot of people will look at us and say, "Oh, this is cool!" but those people are usually cis, heteros who are seeing what we are and then trying to define us for us. Instead of recognizing that we're already directors, producers, storytellers, they tend to take over. So don't just hire us to fill numbers! Hire us in positions of power so we can properly tell our own stories. Let us share how we want to be portrayed.
It's crazy how rarely non-cis hetero people are given that chance.
Seriously! Like, call me up! I'm right here honey, willing and ready. Get that checkbook out.
Can you talk a bit about these BTS shots?
Alec Marchant is a gorgeous trans photographer and artist who's done my backstage shots before. I wanted the whole experience of "Shenis" — song, video, BTS — to be trans on trans on trans. Some really amazing trans superstars were kind enough to appear in the video like Estro Jane, Vladonna Rose, Arisce Wanzer, Evangeline, Raven Valentine, Raquelle Star, Ezra Michael, and Bobby Joy. Oh, and of course my best friend Scotty Sussman.
Stream "Shenis" by Love Bailey, below, and follow her on Instagram (@loveisbailey).
Photography: Alec Marchant