F came out to me the other night. Curled up on my knee, under their favourite leopard print blankie, they told me they had noticed the male swans in Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake were hot,- was the correct way to describe them ‘silver foxes’ (generally their make up sent their hair grey for the performance)? “And what is the right term for me?” they asked. “Am I bi, or the kitchen one?”
F isn’t afraid of drawing in bold strokes clear across the middle of those blank pages. Not worried about my reaction, of their dad’s, or their siblings. Even the wider family who don’t really understand F’s neuro-queer headspace love them and have given them no reason to fear a negative reaction.
Can you imagine growing up knowing that the shape or your body and the parts it came with should not shape your life expectations, or those that you perceive for others? Imagine that your body and the way it reacts to people around it didn’t have any plan to which it had to conform?
F lives there, protected by the way their autism shapes their world view. Their world is built on concrete knowledge that they can tell me and their dad anything. Despite all the things life has thrown at them, they are innocent in the truest sense of the word. The idea of hiding their thoughts abut gender or sexuality, politics or religion is the unknown zone. Anyone who takes their dummy out and opens Christmas lunch small talk with “So has anyone here heard of Rasputin?” is not prepared to be kept in a box!
I have fewer blank pages left in my book, but I have increasingly beautiful and more complex pictures on the pages I’ve visited. It has taken me years and access to a psychologist to really get to grips with what I can, and almost more importantly, can’t do. To start in the middle of a blank page and develop an idea, knowing it might not be a masterpiece every time, but if I never start something, it can never be beautiful.
Preliminary sketches happened for most great works of art. Writers always draft and edit. Newton slept in a tree for many nights before developing his observations, which were re-illustrated with apples at a later time so lesser mortals could grasp them.
I am not daily frustrated by my own brain anymore. Not embarrassed or confused by the messages from my body and hormones. Able to sit non judgementally with my feelings whether about the uncertainty caused by lockdown and uncontrolled change generally, or when I see someone I find attractive. Not “I’ve had a bad day” but “Today I feel exhausted by the things that were out of my control and/or the things I didn’t anticipate.” Not “I’ve had a good day” but “Today x went well and that made me feel powerful.” Or loved. Or significant. Or needed.
Self recognition is important.
For someone who wears a lot of themselves on the outside, I don’t “come out” in many situations. I have thought long and hard about this. I tend to feel that If I am not going to judge people based their gender or sexuality then mine is not significant. If it is significant though, I don’t hold back, just as I don’t hide my autism diagnosis or keep back my life experiences. They are only relevant when they are relevant.
I am “out” at home as both non-binary and pansexual (the kitchen one!). We talk about these things very ordinarily- not so much the labels but what they mean as lived experience. Privilege in social status and presentation mean even when people know and disapprove, generally they are ridiculously polite about it.
It is my choice what I put on my blank pages, and (to an extent) with whom I share them. I haven’t come to non-binary as another border to draw around the page before I start to fill it. To me it is the sweeping away of borders- of gender as a key factor of presentation. Two of my three children are non binary and what that means to each of them is different to each other and different to me. I want to be very careful not to draw borders on their pages for them as to what that should mean.
We also discuss that our ideas of self can be fluid. When I met the lovely Mr Hunt, I described as bi, but that has refined to pan- during our marriage. But as a teenager, I would never have considered myself as anything other than straight, with a few aberrative crushes on girls. I didn’t have the language or the experience of what other identities might look like to give me any ideas of what I might want to doodle on my page. If I had, I hope I would still have ended up here, because this feels like the place I was supposed to be and the best person I can be.
F might be drawing swans now and something different later. Might, like me, doodle both or either in the margins of the pages until someone comes along who is the package of everything, sketching their genitals on as a later detail. They choose neutral pronouns now, but that can change whenever and to whatever they want. As a concrete learner, I will fuck them up regularly, but not because I don’t love F and respect their choice to draw whatever they want on their page.
We don’t always get to keep our pages private. This is not always so much a diary as a newspaper. And like we all have our own viewpoints on editorial standpoints, people will have a view on my life and F’s. There is a comments section that will be written in, but no-one makes us read it. We want to be loved and adored and that won’t always happen.
One day, F will be exposed to this. But not today.
This week, they looked at the pages and unconstrained by their body or society chose to draw swans.