I’ve been mulling over writing this epistle to you for many weeks – and this is why!
My Grandmother was one of the wisest women that I ever knew and as I am your Grandmother I feel I want to have a real ‘heart to heart’ with you. I don’t want to interfere with your life but I think you are old x wise enough to hear what I feel.
When you were about 16-18 you were truly beautiful and many heads turned to look at you and admire you, and we were proud.
Did you want admiration or did you not care?
So now I would like to know why you are making yourself ugly? There is some deep reason for it and I would like you to be honest with me and tell me why you want to show yourself to our world in your new and strange way?
Your wonderful mother (and I may be biased) agonizes over you, she loves you so dearly and so wants you to be happy – we all do!!
You and Luke suffered with the divorce, hardly surprising, I suppose, but Lindy did a really amazing job bringing you up with no support whatsoever from Chris.
I certainly couldn’t have coped the way she did and I think one of the days you will realize how she coped with it all.
So enough of my old fashioned but worldly way – I love you dearly [Fury] and always will!
Lindy tells me that you’ve had some poetry published, what about showing me some? Poetry in my school days was one of my favourite subjects, I had a good memory in those days for learning, but I was never original. Pity – maybe I could have given you “a run for your money”!
It’s raining again – we’ve had weeks of it. So tomorrow if it’s still wet I’m going to sit me down and clean the silver and brass.
That’s another way I’ll miss my darling Keith – he always helped me do it, even if he did it only partially willing –
So, I look forward to your reply from your heart
Love as ever
I did laugh when I read your last letter. I appreciated the fact you agonised over how to broach the subject with me and asking me why I am how I am.
Truthfully, the answer is about twenty seven years of complex, complex experiences. That, not to mention, is twenty seven years from 1986 till now and I am fully aware of the great gulf of difference between how you and I have experienced the world.
Let me start with the basics.
There is a lot of power and privilege that comes with looking like people want you to look. You have proven that and noted it yourself. People pay attention to you when you play the part they expect. People, as you’ve shown, express pride in you.
I was, on some level, very content with appearing the way that everyone wanted me to. This didn’t, however, change the fact that I was deeply unhappy.
There is nothing so lonely as to know who you are and be afraid that people will not love you if they see it.
Perhaps you are thinking that looks are just looks and that who I am isn’t inherently defined by my looks, but that is a catch 22. Who I am is someone who wants to dress in a way that makes themself happy in the mornings (and through the day).
Internally happy, that is. Externally happy is a kind of happiness that requires propping up through other people through validation and approval – be that compliments, attention or social standing. Internally happy is the kind that doesn’t need propping up at all – it just sits in your belly like a warm rock. It’s self fuelling, self sustaining and the core of everything good.
Likewise if looks are just looks, why is it that everyone reacts so strongly to the vision of myself that makes me happiest? No, how one looks is never so simple.
That’s because looks are a kind of echo of where you sit in society. They indicate socially who you associate with, what you like doing and what your interests are. People who like baseball wear their team’s cap. People who are wearing a suit are a professional. People who have a ring on their ring finger are telling the world they are married.
Everything we wear is an indicator of something, however minute. They tell the outside world about us.
You said in your letter “When you were about 16-18 you were truly beautiful and many heads turned to look at you and admire you, and we were proud” then “I would like to know why you are making yourself ugly?”.
Reading between the lines, here, I’m going to bounce back something and see how it goes.
When I was 16-18, I looked like something you understood. I was familiar to you. You could place me. What you have noticed is my shift away from what you find familiar, safe and reassuring.
I can imagine this stirs up some pretty confusing and intimidating emotions. Perhaps you feel like I am drifting away from you; that despite setting everything up as best as you could, I am turning into someone you don’t understand. Perhaps, even, you feel like you’ve never truly known me.
What, after all, could possibly make me forsake my cushy existence of being, as you put it, “beautiful”?
As I mentioned before, the way I dress is a reflection of who I am. My hair cut, nose piercing & mens clothing tell people about me. One of the biggest things that has shaped the way I look is the fact that I am telling the world that I am queer.
This is probably where our generation gap is biggest because I’m only mildly aware of how difficult it would have been to be queer in your youth. As I understand it, being queer was considered a mental illness. The word queer, even, was an insult. Comparatively in my generation it is something people wear with pride.
In this age it’s a bit easier to be queer. There are laws that acknowledge and protect me; people aren’t (usually) confused or confronted by it; I’m not ostracised socially at all. I am, to put it simply, just really, really happy.
I know who I am and people love me, not even despite being queer, but because of it as it is a big part of who I am.
I mentioned before that it is very lonely knowing who you are and being afraid that people wont love you if they see that. I explained to mum when I first cut off all my hair that it’s not so much that I’m intentionally riling people up by dressing out of the normal, but rather how I look tends to filter out people.
If they don’t like who I am – what happiness could possibly come from having them in my life? I would either spend my time hiding aspects of myself so that they weren’t challenged by it (square one, hello misery) or eventually they would find out and we would have to cross that bridge precariously with a good chance of us not being close anyway. It is far less effort just to agree to disagree and have us pass like ships in the night.
I did chuckle when you mentioned the part about heads turning. I can assure you that heads still turn. They aren’t the heads that I think you would notice as they’re very rarely straight men. I can promise you, though, that the straight men who value more than looks are still very taken with me.
When it comes to admiration, too, I am not lacking in that. When people admire me now it is usually because I am on stage commanding their hearts and their minds. This, I think, is more important than looks. This, I think, is far and above the reason I want to feel proud of myself and have others feel proud of me – it is so much bigger and more important than how I look.
I can imagine that other people having this same conversation would have found your phrasing hurtful – but I don’t. I do, however, feel slightly hurt by the fact that you (and mum) struggle(d) to move past how I look.
My appearance is representative of who I am and while I am showing you who I am for the first time and you both are struggling. I can understand how the circumstances have dictated this, but it doesn’t stop me feeling sad about it sometimes.
This emergence of me as a human being, realising that I am not like other people; learning to accept myself; to not try and fake being someone for the sake of other people; to make choices that make me happy; has been one of the bravest things I have done in my life. This, more than anything else, I would hope that you could be proud of me for.
It’s a good thing. It’s a different kind of power and privilege to accept wholly who you are.
I love you so dearly Grannie! I know there is a good chance that this will always be very difficult for you (and mum) to wrap your heads around but I appreciate you trying to understand.
I do indeed write poetry! I am indeed being published! I have sent you a poem prior and I think you weren’t so taken with it because it didn’t rhyme (this made me laugh) so I have written one that rhymes. My friend Jessie Giles will be very pleased because she is always so keen for me to write rap. Truth be told, rhythm and rhyme are not my strong point and I am quite certain that despite loving the poetry of the medium, I will always resolutely fail. This is not to say that these skills aren’t worth practicing anyway.
I have enclosed also a couple of other poems that you might like and one that is more what I usually write like.
I at once am saddened but also a little heartened by you talking about missing Grandpa. If you like, write to me the ways in which you find yourself missing him and I will turn them into a poem for you.
Meanwhile, I would love to hear about your grandmother. What was she like? Where did she grow up? How did she live? What were the stories and pieces of wisdom she passed down? Tell me everything for those stories would be an utter treat for me.
Much love, as always,