This week’s photos are of New Brighton lighthouse over the past few years.
Courage and connection
This week I met with the doctor to discuss my depression. He asked me to describe it. “My brain hates me and wants to die.” He recommended I speak to someone for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Amazingly I have an appointment with someone next week. A phone call but still it’s more than I expected. I thought it would be a few months till I could speak to someone. If you’re struggling I recommend, strongly recommend, speaking with your local GP.
2022 and the year of courage and connection. That is my yearly theme this year. I hope to be more courageous than last year which is going to be interesting since I swam naked in Welsh lakes and came out as non-binary. Life modelling? Well I can’t draw and I can’t pose so maybe not. I also hope to be more connected or have better connections. These themes are open for a reason. By 2023 I could claim success by upgrading my wifi. That isn’t really what I envision though. I’d like to be more connected to others. Whether that is more involved in the LGBTQ+ community, or the neurodivergent community or my local community I can’t say. Saying would create points of failure and failure can lead to depression. It is ok to fail but knowingly setting yourself up for failure is just silly. “By 2023 I want to be better connected to 15 people within 3 miles walk of me.” Nope. Bad idea for a theme. I want to be open to connection, whatever that may be.
I’m putting both of these concepts into production with saying “Mornin” to people on my morning walks. I am not naturally good at social interaction. It’s an autism thing. I’m bad at small talk unless you want to talk about one of my current special interests and then you aren’t leaving. As a photographer I do like to do street portraits of interesting people I see. My camera helps me connect with people. It gives purpose to the meeting rather than small talk or pleasantries. To casually smile at someone and say “Mornin” feels I’m asking a stranger to sniff my arm pit and rate it out of 10. You just don’t do that or even say “Mornin” to people in the UK. It’s eyes on the horizon and keep walking unless of course you have a dog in which case you go all in asking “Who’s a good boy?” complete with the biggest of strokes.
In an attempt to be better connected to my local community I am saying “Mornin” to people I pass on the prom. I’m also trying this thing called “smiling”. You do a movement with your mouth and people fear you less. That’s the theory. I generally don’t practice it because my attempts have been known to make squirrels cry. You don’t want to see that. Ever. I’m trying to push past that anxiety and make eye contact, smile and say “Mornin” to people but maybe not for the reason you might be thinking. I’m not doing it to be nice. Being nice is a by-product. I’m doing this as a form of self defence.
How I present myself as a non-binary person is wearing what society would call “women’s” clothes. Skirts and tights. A purple skirt with blue tights, green shoes, purple lipstick, a blue beard, eye liner and eye shadow. I stand out. I draw attention. I never used to be this person. I used to wear black clothes. I used to be invisible. People would say that a good photographer blends in and is able to not intrude on a moment. That is who I tried to be but it is not who I am now. I am a 6 foot 5, 16 stone and look like a very dashing rainbow threw up on me. How am I ok with drawing attention? Well, I’m not to be perfectly honest.
When I go for a walk so many people look at me. A lot of people look at me. I stood outside a shop the other day putting my mask on and at least 3 people were staring out the window at me. I walked to the doctors and at least 6 men checked me out as I walked past them. I’m trying to be comfortable in my own skin. Nothing more. I’ve never seen anyone like me walk around here so I can understand that it would be shocking to see a “man” in “woman’s” clothes. I tell myself that these people are seeing change in the world. I quote the final speech from the Matrix to myself in my head.
I know you’re out there. I can feel you now. I know that you’re afraid… you’re afraid of us. You’re afraid of change. I don’t know the future. I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it’s going to begin. I’m going to hang up this phone, and then I’m going to show these people what you don’t want them to see. I’m going to show them a world without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you.
It’s a message to the patriarchy, to transphobes and to those who fear what is different. I remind myself of this speech so I can feel that what I am doing is important. I’m trying to normalise people like me so we can walk around without being stared at. It’s just cloth. Someone once decided one thing was for a man and another for a woman. Later someone decided it wasn’t. A bit later someone else decided it was. It’s all made up but for some people makes them afraid. So I’m showing them a world where anything is possible and I protect myself while doing this by smiling and saying “Mornin”.
A simple smile to suggest I mean no harm. Internally I’m screaming and externally I’m hopefully coming across as a relaxed happy person enjoying a walk that just so happens to be internally screaming. “Ahhhhhhhhhhh!” By doing this I hope I don’t come across as a “weirdo” or something. I hope to show people that there is nothing to fear. Maybe I’m also trying to tell myself that everything is going to be ok? Once I make eye contact with someone I can see the fear in their eyes. Or maybe I’m judging everyone and all I’m seeing is my own fear reflected back? 🤷 Either way, if in that moment I can diffuse their fear and my fear with a simple smile and hello then I can handle the next encounter. There’s always another encounter.
I do this because on a busy day I’m mentally exhausted from walking down the promenade. By the time I’ve got to where I wanted to get to and have to turn back I don’t have the energy to handle everyone staring at me. I don’t have the energy to smile or say “Mornin”. This is when anxiety takes over and everyone becomes a threat. If I don’t address it depression is waiting for me at home.
Hopefully by practicing this it becomes muscle memory. One day I could exude confidence without even thinking about it. I could be externally happy and internally not screaming. Imagine that! 2022. Year of courage and connection. I have no idea where I’m getting this courage from but I’m glad I am. Maybe I’ll be really courageous and replant the hanging baskets. Gasp!
- Creating Community: Photography, Co-Authorship and Visual Storytelling
- “I hope to break down some of those barriers”: Devyn Galindo on their inclusive and powerful photography practice
- Lydia Garnett tells stories about characters of all kinds, “especially fearless, fuck you types”
- Testosterone and the trans gaze: Laurence Philomène on photographing non-binary joy
- To Survive on This Shore spotlights transgender and gender nonconforming older adults through portraiture and interviews
- Photographer Leo Xander Foo on transforming moments of dysphoria in to artistic euphoria
- Photographer Anne-Sophie Guillet’s stunning portraits challenge gender binaries
- Photographer Bex Day is “interested in the human condition”
- Richard Burbridge and Lacey behind River Island’s campaign against social labels
- “We’re not supporting the gender binary”: Jessica Gysel on Girls Like Us
- Latest coronavirus advice from the National Autistic Society (UK)
Toxic positivity affirmations are bad. Have a rubbish one instead.
I am proof enough of who I am because I spend 8 hours a day in a proofing drawer which proves I am enough.