On an average day, I feel anxious walking around my city. The male gaze is everywhere. The disapproving, judgemental stares from men who film me. It’s a monthly occurrence. If you follow the news, which I know I shouldn’t do, then you know that LGBTQ+ hate crimes have been rising for years. So, how was it when the world’s biggest event came to town? How was Eurovision week from a trans non-binary perspective?
Easily one of the best times of my life. Imagine being in a room with 6,000 people, all loving the idea of letting people be free to be who they want to be. Imagine going outside after that and having countless people validate your life experience. No judgemental male gaze, but instead tens of people asking to take my photo because I looked incredible. Numerous people asking to pose with me for a photo. People stared at me, not confused at a “man” in a skirt, but with delight at someone being confident in their identity. I wore my sparkly T-shirt dress for 3 days. The moment I left the car park in it, someone said, “You look amazing!”
That was my Eurovision week.
It was a view of a world where people celebrated instead of feared difference. I was happy, confident and completely blown away by how accepting the world was of me. I felt confident and happy, free from anxiety and able to do my job. This is how the world should be. Imagine being affirmed by society rather than an iOS affirmation widget.
A woman from Ukraine TV thanked me for wearing Ukrainian coloured tights. So many Ukrainians did. I didn’t realise how much of an impact they would have, so I wore them as often as I could. I wanted to do my best to take that feeling of acceptance, joy, and love and put it back out there for others to take in. If a more confident and happy me could make others feel safe and respected, then that’s the person I need to be. Always.
I was interviewed by Amsterdam TV, Estonian TV and the BBC, twice. Me? In a dress? Absolutely. There I was, happy and confident enough to be on television spreading queer joy. Another day, I was backstage waiting for the next act to come on, and Fluer East complimented my beard. She was playing to thousands of people but took a moment to be nice to me.
The highlight of the week, no not getting a photo of Jedward or even the Venga Boys (both were great btw), was seeing SuRie perform at the Museum of Liverpool. She was the UK’s 2018 entrant. Her set ended the NML Eurovision Xtra night, and she closed with “This is me” from the film “The Greatest Showman.”
Wow. It was as if someone converted my experience of Eurovision into song. I heard my week sung back to me. I was doing what I love, being a photographer, at an event that was beyond life affirming and having my life as a non-binary person fully affirmed.
That wasn’t the most incredible part. After I had to thank her for her music as it meant a lot to me. Her response was, “You look amazing. I couldn’t take my eyes off you all night. Can I give you a hug?” Me? Hug me? But she was the talented person in the room worthy of everyone’s celebration. I was just making photos. Really, hug me?
Can you imagine spending nearly 45 years feeling like you’ve failed at your life? The weight of every mistake crushing you daily because that’s just how your autistic brain works. Only, one day, to find yourself commissioned to photograph a part of one of the biggest events in the world while someone sings these lyrics to a room full of people who had spent the night complimenting your outfit. Only to then get a hug after from the singer! Not because I was doing a good job as a photographer or raising millions for charity, simply because I was someone happy with their existence.
I was never intended to exist. My being here was the result of a moment between two people who put up me for adoption. They never set out to bring me into this world, and as soon as I was here I was passed on to another family. Fast-forward 45 years and a total stranger wants to hug me because me being here made them happy.
“I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me”
My self discovery during lockdown, not a mistake. A step in the right direction to being confident and happy. Eurovision has proven that. Discovering that I’m non-binary and embracing queer joy led me to these wondrous moments. I’ve done nothing wrong in my life. Quite the opposite. All this time, all those anxious moments, it’s all brought me here.
There’s a chance that the future is one of queer joy for me and others. To my LGBTQIA+ friends, there are parts of the world that seem horrible right now, but it is absolutely 100% possible to have a world that accepts us. Queer joy is a protest. Keep protesting!