“Being Alex”: A Pride Month Essay by Astronaut Alex
This month of pride, Atwood magazine invited artists to participate in a series of short essays in respect and celebration of the significance of the month. Today’s submission comes from Australian folk pop singer/songwriter Alex the Astronaut.
Astronaut Alex’s next 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 that Alex is a truly essential songwriter, capable of transforming the way we perceive ourselves and the world around us”. The album documents both the banal appearance (a haircut, a therapy session, a trip to the beach and the supermarket) and completely life-changing moments (her experience as a babysitter and subsequent PTSD, her recent autism spectrum diagnosis) imbuing his songs with equal parts awareness and sensitivity, imagination and idiosyncratic humor. In her essay, Alex shares little childhood anecdotes that ultimately reflect her makeup, while highlighting the importance of safety within the LGBTQIA+ community.
I grew up playing football and the recorder.
I was so bad at the recorder that I had to come back at lunchtime with the other non-recorder scholars to learn the hot rolls. I was a bit better at football and in my first U6 training session I threw the ball over the coach’s head and they said I ate too much weetbix (blocks of Australian cereals). 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 that I wanted to copy. My mom said I was only allowed to have a “bob”, so I went for it. It’s me who gives honey to lorikeets without front teeth around 8 years old before leaving in 2nd year.
I wear 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 that we collected worms with to feed them. Once we bought Oscar a girlfriend because we thought he was lonely and when we came back the next day he had eaten a poor mango sorbet. Tragic. I wore shorts when I was allowed to because they were better for picking up worms and I hated wearing dresses.
My friend Dylan and I have occasionally brought the chickens to class on our laps. We got caught when they had to defecate and/or started walking around while we learned our schedules. I did “dance” that lacked boys and always raised my hand to fill the boy roles. I put on so much gel before a 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 tried out for the Fulham football team. I wasn’t admitted so I played for Brentford instead, which meant my mum had to drive me a long way to play. I played Mario Kart with my friend Conor before practice and always wanted to be Toad and never wanted to be Princess Peach. I was getting nervous talking to a 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 may be thinking”Alex for God’s sake please cut to the chase. It’s supposed to be about Pride and there are more relevant issues right now than football, chickens or axolotl cannibalism.” You’re right, but what I mean is that I am a constellation of random, sometimes boring events that have come together to form one person. This partly means that today I can say that I am part of the LGBTQIA+ community. It’s an important part of my makeup and what my future, history and present looks like.
Sometimes this part means I have to have different conversations than someone else might have. 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 talking about who they are, they would likely tell a story like the one above and none of the facts they divulge would impact their employability, safety, health or well-being in the same way. way that my facts could.
Sometimes when I said I could be gender neutral and gay, I was thrown in a box.
It feels brutal, devastating, and not only scary, but paints the intricate tapestry of who I am with a single color. I want to talk about how my mom bought a girlfriend for an axolotl called Oscar that he ended up eating, and I stole the chickens in the classroom and pooped myself while I was learning my multiplication tables. Right now, security and human rights are the priorities for change, not even understood yet. Most non-LGBTQIA people haven’t learned enough to talk about it yet. But I’m greedy and I want more.
I don’t just want rights, I want the part of my stars who fit inside AND outside of my LGBTQIA+ zone to be seen and understood. I want all the boring, funny, silly, heartbreaking, exciting things that have happened and continue to happen 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” – Astronaut Alex
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📸 © Giulia McGauran