Writing by Yi-Lynn // photograph by Luke Cafarella
I wonder, sometimes, if the straight world sees queer people like shadow puppets.
‘Oh, look! There’s a barking dog. Now it’s a swan!’
‘Now it’s a one-joke drag queen!’
‘And look, there’s a subtly implied sexless LGBT couple with no lines or chemistry in another blockbuster from the Disney-industrial complex!’
Self-congratulatory finger-snaps all round. Representation matters, love is love, etc.
What a treat it would be to step out from behind the backlit white sheet to reveal an adult man with acne scars and a disappointing career in IT, but a legendary reputation at the local sex clubs. A nonbinary kid who is amazing at makeup but terrible at making friends and even worse at editing videos for social media. A generally affable musician with a chip on her shoulder and a bitter streak a mile long.
That last one’s me: 10 tonnes of piss and vinegar in a 75kg bag. A lopsided smiley face slapped onto the front.
I am angry. Very. I’m filled with the kind of incandescent rage that could light a small town. While it’s correct to say that my rage is indisputably queer, it’s probably wrong to say it’s one shared by all queer people. Our experiences are wide and varied, coloured by individual status or systemic racism, class, health or illness, environment, all the standard disclaimers.
However, I reckon if you conducted a randomised double-blind placebo control study of queer people, anger would show up in the results, clear as day. But when I step outside private conversations with my friends and community, anger is nowhere to be found.
There are gayTMs and PG13 romantic comedies and dour grey period tragedies – shadow puppet theatres as far as the eye can see.
But where are the queer revenge fantasies?
Did you know that LGBTI people are nearly six times more likely to experience and be diagnosed with depression than the general population? Did you know that 35% of transgender people aged 18 and over reported that they had attempted suicide in their lifetime? That transgender young people aged between 14 and 25 are fifteen times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population?
So I am angry, yes.
I have felt at times like my rage is oversized for my body; that if I gave it any oxygen, I would be swallowed whole – a quite friendly woman consumed by some mammoth Eldritch monster, swarming cities and leaving heterosexuals weeping and vomiting in terror. A creature that could never be put back into its box.
But when I began writing my EP Foul Water, I began to pry the lid off the box, little by little. Each day, a new line, a new tentacle squiggling out.
I wrote about choking down humiliation and tearing down towns, about blowing up castles and setting hair on fire. In the studio, I made our drummer play fills back to back and over and over, each more chaotic than the last, til I was quite sure she would throttle me on the drive home.
I ruminated on my own circumstances, and the circumstances of the queer people who came before me, who gave me everything I have. Instead of trying to exorcise my anger, I learnt to cradle it in my palms, to stoke it carefully. In Cut it Loose, I wrote about pain as a precious tumour: ‘You’ll grow around it, or cut it out.’
I wrote and wrote and wrote. I found, with each song, that my anger was not a horrible creature that could consume me if I let it out. Instead, I realised it was part of me – a horrible creature, yes, but also wonderful and exhilarating and true.
We’re fused together, anger and I. Making some vengeful but chic human-monster hybrid, Ursula hanging out in a sea-cave with her gay eel friends. Something you could never fashion with your hands to cast on a wall; not puppet nor shadow.