Interview by
Sophia Lamar
Photography by
Bruno Staub


Venezualan superstar Arca produces music that, like her highly public transition, offers glimpses of the most fabulous future. The thirty-two-year-old came up in the underground nightlife scenes in New York and London, and now lives in Barcelona where she continues to experiment with new sounds in her bedroom. She invites actress Sophia Lamar, doll icon of New York club kids since the 80s, into her most private space to discuss what else goes on there other than making music.

Sophia: I am very nervous, but I’m gonna do my best. The only thing that got me here were two shots. (laughs) Of espresso! Okay, here she is. Hey!!!
Arca: Hi, Sophia.
I’ve been waiting for this moment. All my life. You and Me. Are you walking around?
I’m pacing, nervously.
Sit your ass down.
I’m sitting!
Wonderful. How long have you been in Spain? What are you doing there?
I’ve been living here for three and a half years. I had a lot of life changes simultaneously. One of them was moving here. I left Venezuela when I was 17. I did seven years in New York, seven years in London. And I have to say, I like the idea of leaving places while I’m still in love with them. I wanted to start fresh in Barcelona. The ocean, the quality of life, the mountains. I have a little bit more space to breathe here.
What are you working on right now?
On a few projects. My paintings, which I struggle to find enough time to sink into. I’m scoring a film and working with recording artists, producing for them. And those are the big projects right now.
A lot of people know you as Arca, the performer, musician, but maybe not all the other projects you’re involved with. What is your favorite project so far?
My favorite creative experience? Well, there’s two sides, a duality. I don’t ever just want to work on my own. But I have to confess – I do love when I give myself time to just hole up in my room and make music without any goal. I’m still a bedroom producer.
A bedroom producer?
It’s like my bed and the mixing gear in the same room. It’s been like that since I was a teenager and I have a hard time letting go. I’m quite impulsive and enjoy being able to jump over to the gear and have it in my most intimate space. I also really enjoy collaboration, making music, especially when it’s someone who I genuinely like hanging out with. It’s very rare for the mood to strike, but I sometimes invite people to make music in my bedroom. It’s just cozy. And I love that just as much as being on my own and exploring inward. I really need and crave and cherish that communion with others. I need both. I can’t just be a hermit because I’ll wilt. I can’t always be extroverted because I get overstimulated. It’s tricky for me. I have both the craving to always be out of the house and to never leave. I’m always trying to find the balance.
Underground parties are the fountain of creation, where there are so many creative people. Now that you are further in your career as a musician, are you still going to underground parties?
Yes. There’s one here in Barcelona that’s very close to my heart. It’s called ‘Magia Roja’ or red magic. It’s so beautiful, you’d love it. It’s like hardcore industrial music, very dark, mysterious, ominous. And yet, the crowd is like the sweetest group of people, it’s very diverse, very casual. That’s the place where I dance my heart out. And really, that’s the only one. I’ve become a little bit more introverted. I agree with you, underground parties are the synthesis point. It’s like, that’s where new connections are forged between individuals and aesthetics.
It’s true – things collide – music and fashion. It’s a fountain of creativity. You transitioned very publicly, do you think it’s very rude when people ask transgender women, ‘Have you done the whole transition?’ There’s a lot of controversy around people asking this question. I don’t think it’s rude, because if someone publicly says, ‘I’m taking hormones,’ then when people ask a question about their transition, they get offended, I think it’s a little hypocritical. What do you think?
It’s invasive. Even though there might be like, ignorance behind that curiosity. At the end of the day, it depends on the energy and the tone, but it’s an invasive question. It’s like as intimate as you can get. There’s a lot of projection, you know? It’s an idea that you need to understand someone to respect them. But the reality is you may not understand someone, but you should still respect them. That’s the place that we need to get to. Trans people are, and I don’t want to say “heroic” because I don’t believe in idolizing, but to have the courage to be dignified and graceful through that bullet storm of projections, that is a miraculous feat of elegance.

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Arca's full name is Alejandra Ghersia Rodríguez. Please mind the accent.

It’s slightly controversial with children on hormones, puberty blockers and things like that. It’s become like a fad. When you’re very young, you don’t really know what you want. 11 year olds are too confused. I think that people should wait until they are later in puberty, you know, when they are like 17, 18.
I agree. I started so late.
Me too, me too!
Yeah, I started really late. I was very confused. I only started taking hormones when I was 26.
I was around the same age, maybe a little bit later. That’s so cool. By that point, it’s like you also have to be so brave. I remember I had this phrase, I would talk about indirectly in my work way before beginning my transition, but it was as if I was like, dropping little hints to myself, imagine someone leaving notes. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s as if my lyrics only made sense to me years later. It’s as if something inside of me wanted to bloom and it wasn’t giving up.
How did you manage having such a public transition?
Yes, I’ve had a very, very, very, very, very public transition so far. It hasn’t made it easier. It really has made it extremely difficult. But I feel proud of myself that I didn’t let go of that urge to bloom. When you’re in the closet, of any kind, or let’s say you’re an egg before you’re hatched. That moment is so tender.
And you’re still not all the way there, right?
I really like Paul Preciado’s idea of the slow transition. That idea helped relieve a lot of pressure. Because it’s the idea that there is no end, no end result, no end goal. It’s a process, a never-ending process. Isn’t that just a metaphor for how to enjoy life? I remember when I came out to friend of mine, they were like, ‘Do you know what you want to look like?’ That was the first question. I really had no idea. My transition wasn’t about the outside. I was a mess at that point. I had no idea what was going to happen. I didn’t even know if I was going to survive. But I knew that I needed to start. I just was so ready.
You said you left notes in your lyrics.
I kept using this phrase, ‘Can she break glass?’ And I think, indirectly, I was talking about a glass ceiling or a glass box, the idea of feeling contained. I just kept saying it. ‘Can see break glass?’ I was singing it at shows. I would write it in paintings. And of course, it was a metaphor for when I would gather the bravery to share who I am, as opposed to keeping alive this idea of how others see me, of how I thought others saw me.

When we begin to see the world in non-binary ways, it's like there's more oxygen to breathe.

There’s a lot of pressure for transgender women about how they look. You know, one hair for a cis woman is a whisker and for a transgender woman it’s a beard. That’s why transgender women have a misogynist idea about womanhood, and then become sexual objects. People put on that pressure –
you have to be flawless, you have to be the perfect woman. How is it with your family now?

Better than it ever has been, if only because at least it’s authentic now. You know, I have this people pleasing vein. That was born from my family environment, like wanting to avoid conflict, wanting to glue the family together. My parents come from very traditional backgrounds. It’s taken a long time. I don’t even know if I should go there, but one of my parents still doesn’t fully accept me. They still misgender me, they’ll still call me by the name that isn’t my current one. And I struggle with that. I really do. It’s not new – the idea of coming from a home where you can’t properly be yourself.
You have to think about yourself.
It’s hard.
Do you think people in the music industry treat you differently because you’re a woman? What was your relationship like with the music industry before as a male, and now as a woman?
It’s funny. I would go into meetings with men in suits back when I had a song called Faggot. I walked in there with a kitten heel, giving weaponized femininity. It’s taken me years to feel more comfortable in my own skin, not feel like I’m in danger. But I have to say, I have to be more careful. If I’m in a group conversation, someone else will repeat my idea in a different way and it won’t always be a man, sometimes it’s cis women. I have to stand up for myself in pretty much every situation. It’s hard, but I also feel very grateful. I’m not complaining. Well, I am complaining. It has a lot to do with how much I’m passing in different situations. I’m continuing to explore the question of what my womanhood looks like, and how to convey it without it becoming a caricature.
How has that been going?
It’s been a slow process of not wanting to renounce any extreme. Tomboy mode is as important to me as being able to get dolled up. I don’t want to replace one script with another script. It’s an ongoing exploration and I’m constantly asking myself certain questions that never go away. The answers change over time. I feel reassured that as long as things are in motion then I can luxuriate in change. Sometimes it’s harrowing.
You look fantastic. You really do. I’ve seen the whole process and you’re looking wonderful. Oh, God! I feel like a grandma.
That means a lot coming from you, Sophia. I have to say, when I think of role models, okay, that’s a loaded word. When I think of examples of how to live fabulously, you are important to me. Those seven years that I spent in New York, I studied and I steeped in the Downtown scene, and the echoes and reverberations of the impact that you’ve had, are like, meaningful to me. Very meaningful.

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Here, Arca is having a moment at her local terraza in Barcelona, Spain.

Thank you. I would say that, you cannot put all your chips on one number in roulette. And that’s what I’ve been doing in Downtown New York. I never care for one type of party or one type of people. I’ve been doing everything. And that’s why I move from one place to another, like you do. Go everywhere and don’t let anyone put you into one box.
Amen. We’re lone wolves, aren’t we?
That’s what I really admire about you. You’ve always been a very independent person.
I see that in you. It’s easy to get enmeshed in one crowd, but to retain that lone wolf energy, that’s how to know where you end and others begin.
For a lot of transgender people, when they first start taking hormones, they want to erase their past life. I think we should embrace our past. Because that’s who we are, our memories. This is the mistake that a lot of transgender people make because erasing the past is impossible.
I think you’re touching upon something that’s very important and something that transness makes visible and undeniable – the idea that we aren’t made up of one self. There ends up being this thing where we collapse into the same person in every situation. If that happen, we actually see the world with less color. When we begin to see the world in non-binary ways, it’s like there’s more oxygen to breathe.
People have preconceived ideas about people that are in the public eye. And then on top of that, people have preconceived idea about those who are transitioning, the way someone should look or act, the everyday judgments. I hate preconceived ideas.
Add to that fact that usually one is one’s own worst enemy. It’s like you have both the external pressure and the internal pressure. That’s why I say that there’s almost an epic component to having the courage to not filter and parse things out. Go and shine. Don’t mute yourself.
Are you dating anyone?
At the moment? No. I’m very much still overcoming the like, kind of Disney Princess fantasy of wanting a fairytale wedding. And dogs and a home and maybe not in the suburbs, but like, somewhere rural. That’s something that I don’t need, but I welcome. Although, I’m very much enjoying being single. I’ve had a couple of relationships that were like, two years, three years. I’m very loyal. If I’m dating someone, it’s so easy for me to make that relationship the center of my universe. It’s the first time in my adult life where I’m living alone. I don’t feel the need to be in a relationship – I have a cat.

I love it so much when someone rims me. It's one of the most relaxing caresses that exits.

Do you have sexual encounters?
I do. Actually, I just took PEP for the first time, ‘Post Exposure Prophylactic’. I’ve never taken it before. I’m usually so careful. I got carried away last night. I might be overreacting.
How was the sex?
Oh, my God. It was fantasy! Like, I can’t tell you it was like, I couldn’t even believe it. I’ve always had this fantasy of like being lifted up. I’m a big girl. But it happened for the first time last night – I was in the air, bitch. It was therapeutic. Usually, I don’t let myself go all the way.
Was he a Spaniard?
Brazilian. I don’t know, for me to like, let someone in like, all the way, it has to be very special because I’m very, very protective of my Chi, and all this stuff. It was a full moon the day before yesterday. I don’t know what the fuck was going on. But I let it rip. And I’m glad I did.
Do you think that you will go all the way and have the sexual reassignment surgery?
I don’t rule anything out. At some points, I’ve been tempted to believe that if I could just do everything quicker, I’d feel better faster. And then I started to think, ‘Okay, wait, let me actively resist this as much as I can.’ I want to see the changes. Even with my hormones, like I’ve played around with my dosage. I’ll see how it affects my libido, my erection, my nips. Like this nipple sensitivity. I see it as a practice of exploration as opposed to like trying to fix something.
How do the hormones affect your libido?
When I was on 100 milligrams I didn’t want to do anything. It was weird, like, why? My libido wasn’t available to me. Now I’m good. I’ve had moments where it’s like, I couldn’t access my libido. And then I had other moments where it’s like I had too much.
Isn’t that ironic when you’re more desirable, then you can’t be bothered?
(laughs) It makes sense.

BUTT - Arca_5

You can have an orgasm just looking at yourself in the mirror and then you see somebody that you’re into physically and you’re like, ‘Meh, not today.’ And it’s because your libido is very low. You’re just more satisfied with yourself. And that’s what people don’t understand about being transgender, you become like an angel.
I know! The libido is not gone, it just modulates to another frequency. There are frequencies and music notes that are not audible to human hearing that maybe audible to cats. I think the libido, when you’re trans, at least trans feminine, because trans masculine guys get hornier.
Have you had sex with a trans masc guy?
No, but I’m very curious. If I met the right person. Have you?
No, no, no, no, no. I am very traditional sexually. I am a transgender woman, a straight heterosexual transgender woman.
I’m very similar.
I slept with a woman like seven years ago, and I liked it. But it was a beautiful gorgeous woman. Maybe I was projecting, you know, but I can’t. I’m very specific about my sexual fantasy.
What is your sexual fantasy? What’s one thing that you would love to try?
The person has to check every box. I like a skinny boy with long hair. People with glasses. I have a fetish.
You’re like a delicate sapiosexual.
I like the rocker and I like the intellectual too. I like the skater. My three types.
I love that.
Sexually, I’m really boring. I like to rim. Do you? I like to give it.
I love to receive. (laughs)
I like both, but I don’t do it to everyone. It’s not like I’m licking everyone’s asshole!
That goes without saying. You’re selective.
You have to be inspired to rim. Straight guys go crazy because girls don’t do that. So when you do that to a straight boy, they go crazy, they lose their mind.
There are a few things that I do to guys, but it’s not rimming. I like to act like a bird, where I stretch out my arms really wide like wings and I’ll hold them in a caretaking position. There’s a maternal side to it.
You become a predator bird?
I’m actually coyer. I like to be romanced, to be seduced and wooed. I’m more likely to pretend that I’m not looking at someone that I’m attracted to, like avoid looking at them, like not even out of the corner of my eye, but like through the antenna of my hair. I’ll feel for a frequency. But once I’m in an intimate space, I put a lot of energy and care into like the back of guys necks or like their lower body or holding them close, like protected. THAT is what I love. I love the idea of it being caring and nurturing and my favorite feedback loop is when I’m with someone and it’s like the harder they go, the softer I become. A place of extreme softness.

I have to say, I like the idea of leaving places while I'm still in love with them.

I always say that sex is theater. You always respond to the feedback that you receive in bed. You’re never the same person with everybody because people act according to the other actor on stage. When you’re with a person who is more aggressive then you become more passive. Are you completely passive in bed? Have you been a bottom your whole life?
When it comes to penetration, I much prefer to receive. It’s really hard for me to even imagine like, being inside someone. I can be dominant, I can be quite aggressive in terms of like, I’ll slap, I’ll choke, I’ll push. But then I don’t want that to be the last sentence. I like it to flip. What about you?
I was the ultimate bottom. To the point that I had a sex change. It’s what I like. People judge based on what they do in bed. It’s nobody’s business. But I had one penetration experience once. This guy brought a strap-on. And I did it and it was very magical. It felt like an extension of what I no longer have.
That’s beautiful.
It was very exciting. But at first I was like no, no, no, no, no. I grew up in Latin culture with straight boys having sex with gay boys. As long as they top, they don’t consider themselves gay. So I grew up in that culture, in which I was always the bottom. And I was like, I guess this is my calling.
I can relate to that. I’m a bottom, like, period. But only recently have I opened up where I’ll let people touch my female penis. That’s how I see it. There’s a feminine penis, like if you imagine a woman’s penis and a man’s penis, they look different, like, you’re not going to imagine the same size, the same configuration. So slowly, as I feel more comfortable, and as my transition advances, I let my sexual partners touch me, suck me off, which before it was like, ‘Don’t touch it. Don’t even talk about it. I don’t want blow jobs.’ It’s ironic that now after starting to transition, I feel more comfortable. And who knows? Maybe I’ll start rimming! That’s next on my bucket list. I love it so much when someone rims me. It’s one of the most relaxing caresses that exist.
It feels fantastic.
I’m ready. But isn’t it funny how we’ve grown? It’s crazy. Any queer person is pretty open minded, I’d say. You have to look inward and overcome the narratives and the archetypes. I know that’s so basic, like I’m so boring for not having gotten there yet, but I like that I have sex acts that I’ve saved up. I have something to look forward to. And as my sexuality morphs and changes and becomes fluid over time. I want to have more experiences. I want to try new things. I want to explore. So, this conversation is stimulating and inspiring in a way that I appreciate.
I’m so glad you’ve been safely stimulated while talking with me.
Absolutely. You’re so sexy, but you know that.
Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.
Likewise, Sophia. Thank you for blazing a trail and making it possible for dolls to come through. Have a beautiful day. Gracias la Reina!

Originally published in BUTT 31