*Gender Not Included is a one person non-binary cabaret performance exploring gender identity, self-discovery and acceptance. You can catch it as part of SPRINT Festival on Fri 20 Mar, 7.15pm. Click here for more details.
In this blog post, writer and performer Melody Sproates highlights the importance of music in defining who we are, and discusses the crucial issues of representation and visibility behind *Gender not included.
With your feet in the air and your head on the ground…
These lyrics have rattled through my head for many years, ever since I found them via my intense crush on Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters when I was 12/13 – from which I then obviously got into Nirvana – who were inspired by The Pixies – who I just had to listen to.
Music has always been apart of me (my name’s Melody ffs), but I didn’t quite realise just how important it had been to me when I was a teen growing up, until I started making my show *gender not included. I use lip sync and songs in my work, and whilst making GNI I looked back and reflected on all of the music I listened to when I was a teen, which was a really bizarre and cathartic process. I never realised how much comfort I took from bands like The Stone Roses or Oasis, or from TV shows like Spongebob and He-man. And how these sweet sounds and bright colours were all tools I was using as an outlet and an escape. When I use lip sync, it’s an escape from my body and voice. An escape from gender. I can go from being Liam Gallagher to Madonna and my body just feels like it doesn’t matter. I love being able to become something ‘other’ (whilst also having a really good dance about to some mega jams.)
…Where is my mind?
Making my show also helped me work through a lot of difficult and confusing feelings I’d been having (and still am) about my gender identity. During the weeks leading up to the first performance I worked with a beautifully talented creative team, who really took care of me during this deeply personal voyage which left me feeling quite vulnerable. But I think the thing that stood out and helped me the most was that this was one of the first times that people were using my pronouns they/them. Like, everyday. All the time. I was surrounded by people who respected my feelings and didn’t make a fuss for being different. It just felt normal. Felt right. This really helped with my confidence in the person I was trying to find whilst making the show, the person I’m still finding but feeling a bit better about. I think you can accept yourself for sure, but it REALLY helps if you are surrounded by people who support and help you see you. I love that the audiences who come to my shows have often had the same experiences as myself, and it just feels like a lovely gathering of peeps who just want to be seen too.
Your head will collapse…
Lately I have been thinking lots about the importance of visibility and representation of trans and non-binary people in the media, especially after I started to co-run a LGBTQIA+ arts group for young teens. These kids just want to see and be with people like them, so they don’t feel alone. I think that’s why I do what I do, too. I go to events and meet people with shared experiences or understandings, people like me, and just exist. Not in a ‘ooh look at me’ way, but in a ‘This is who I am inside my head thank you for acknowledging that in real life and oh do you like The Spook School too?’.
There are still a lot of walls to be broken, new foundations to be laid and what my lovely pal dandyscopic says, ‘rules to be unlearned’, but by beginning with an open mind, kind heart, using pronouns and just listening, can be life changing.
PS. People keep asking me to make a playlist of all of the jams I use in my work- instead, why don’t you make a mixtape of your life? What songs are important to you? What songs changed your life? How do they help? If you do make one, share them with me on the #gendernotincluded !