This Pride Month, Atwood Magazine has invited artists to participate in a series of short essays in observance and celebration of the month’s significance. Today’s submission comes from Australian folk pop singer/songwriter Alex the Astronaut.
Alex the Astronaut’s forthcoming second album How to Grow A Sunflower Underwater has been described as “an intimate exploration of post-traumatic growth, and a body of work affirming Alex as a truly essential songwriter, capable of transforming the way we view ourselves and the world around us.” The album documents both the seemingly mundane (a haircut, a therapy session, a trip to the beach and the supermarket) and utterly life-changing moments (her experience as a caretaker and the PTSD that followed, her recent autism spectrum diagnosis) imbuing her songs with equal parts awareness and sensitivity, imagination and idiosyncratic humor. In her essay, Alex shares small childhood anecdotes that ultimately reflect her makeup, while emphasizing the importance of safety within the LGBTQIA+ community.
I grew up playing soccer and the recorder.
I was so bad at the recorder I had to come back at lunchtime with the other non-recorder-savants to learn hot cross buns. I was slightly better at soccer and in my first U6 training session I kicked the ball over the coach’s head and they said I’d eaten too many weetbix (Australian cereal blocks). I was very excited that he thought I was strong.
When I was 7 I made a friend, Sophie, who showed me Harry Potter and had short hair I wanted to copy. My mum said I was only allowed to have a “bob” so I settled on that. This is me feeding lorikeets honey with no front teeth at about 8 before heading off to year 2.
I’m wearing my school uniform. The chorus of our school song was “I’m a happy little highfielder. I go to highfields school.” We had chickens that we were allowed to play with at lunch and an axolotl called Oscar who we collected worms to feed. One time we bought Oscar a girlfriend because we thought he was lonely and when we came back the next day he’d eaten poor Mango Sorbet. Tragic. I changed into shorts when I was allowed because they were better for worm collecting and I hated wearing dresses.
My friend Dylan and I occasionally snuck the chickens into class on our laps. We got caught when they had to relieve themselves and/or started walking around while we were learning our times-tables. I did “dance” which had a boy shortage and always put my hand up to fill the boy roles. I put so much gel in before one performance because I was trying to look like Danny Zucko that my teacher had to wash my head in the sink.
When I was 10 I moved to England and I tried out for the soccer team Fulham. I didn’t get in so I played for Brentford instead which meant my mum had to drive me really far to play. I played Mario Kart with my friend Conor before training and I always wanted to be Toad and never wanted to be Princess Peach. I got nervous talking to one girl in my class and I think I knew why, so I overcompensated by having lots of boyfriends. I was a heartbreaker; sorry boys.
You might be thinking, “Alex for the love of God please get to the point. This is meant to be about Pride and there are more relevant issues right now than soccer, chickens, or axolotl cannibalism.” You’re correct, but my point is that I’m a constellation of random, sometimes boring events that have come together to make up one person. Some of that means that today I can say I’m in the LGBTQIA+ community. That’s an important part of my makeup, and what my future, my history, and my present looks like.
Sometimes that part means that I have to have different conversations than someone else might. I have two best friends, Curtis and Ice (nickname) who don’t fit into the LGBTQIA+ box. They don’t need to have the same conversations about their safety. When they talk about who they are, they would probably tell a story like the one above and none of the facts that they divulge would have any impact on their employability, safety, health, or their wellbeing in the same way my facts might.
Sometimes when I’ve said I may be gender neutral and gay I’ve been thrown in a box.
That feels brutal, devastating, and not only scary, but paints over the complex tapestry of who I am with one color. I want to talk about how my Mum bought a girlfriend for an axolotl called Oscar that he ended up eating, and that I stole the chickens in the classroom and got pooped on while I was learning my times tables. Right now safety and human rights are the priorities when it comes to change, not even understanding yet. Most non-LGBTQIA people still haven’t educated themselves enough to even talk about any of it. But I’m greedy and want more.
I don’t just want rights, I want the portion of my stars that fit inside AND outside my LGBTQIA+ area to be seen and understood. I want all of the boring, funny, silly, heartbreaking, exciting things that have happened and keep happening to me to fit evenly under the umbrella that makes me Alex. I just want to be Alex. – Alexandra Lynn, Alex the Astronaut
Stream: “Haircut” – Alex the Astronaut
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? © Giulia McGauran
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