Poetic identity

  • Posted on September 21, 2013 at 8:47 am

ANdie Davidson with Dino and Sue EvansYou know how you walk into a party and someone asks you: ‘And what do you do?’ The frequent answers are either your job title in current employment, or perhaps ‘home-maker’ for some mums or wives, but rarely what you feel you really are. Your status in relation to others is what pays you most, not what you find most rewarding.

Recently I’ve needed to supply short biographies, and it always stumps me slightly. I mean, how can I encapsulate my life in 70 words or less? Do I start with the job? Do I disclose my trans identity, because a lot of people will remember my old name and might not recognise me as the same? What is most relevant, and why would it be different from my reply at a party? And in any case, am I something different depending on context? What comes first, what matters most, what identifies me as I would like to be known?

I used to respond, with the risk of being boring, something like: ‘I’m a communications manager for a social research organisation’, and hope there might be some interest in what I really did, like designing websites, analysing the way information is held and communicated, recognising that the journalistic ear is not the public ear, is not the researcher’s ear. Or the love of making words look attractive on paper, and thinking of imaginative photography for a corporate Annual Review.

Now I start with: ‘Andie is a poet, musician, dancer and artist …’, in other words all the ‘amateur’ things that actually express me best. This is my nature, not my profession, not necessarily the things I do best, and not even claiming that I stand out from the crowd in any of them. Trans only comes in if it’s a bio for a gender-related publication that needs to place me. And interestingly, most of what I describe is very much later-life expression – what I have become in the last few years.

Last Sunday I walked into a radio studio (Radio Reverb, Brighton community radio) and spent an hour with the lovely Claire Parker. She’s a stand-up comedian as well as broadcaster, and behind all that, an I.T. professional. I’ve done radio and TV before, on quite different things, but this time I was introduced as Andie the poet. Fantastic! I used to think that writing poetry was a very little thing, a minor pursuit, something maybe a bit effeminate. There are many who just feel they don’t get it. Why write in flowers when you can do it in black and white? Why make me think as I read, and have to work out what you’re saying?

Maybe I am respectable as a poet now, because I’ve written, learned, won, published, performed and talked a lot about what I do, how and why. Maybe I just have the confidence of holding my own in a workshop with lots of other good and better poets. But I think that what I really mean, is that I know and understand myself better than ever before, and I describe myself, not as others expect, but as I truly feel. If you want to know what I do to earn money, well that’s different.

A few nights ago I went to London, to the Poetry Cafe, Betterton Street, where the Barnes Poetry Society Stanza (local group) were head to head with the Brighton Stanza I belong to (see picture). Six poets each for a couple of hours, performing in turn. Wonderful, if you like poetry, and very diverse indeed. But for me, poetry is performance, not reading. It is somewhere between song and narrative, and if there isn’t heart in it, something is missing. So I was a bit different. I learnt three out of five of my pieces, and most of another, so that I could throw my arms around and dance a bit. I even began from my seat, and if there had been more room, would have moved among the audience. I want to involve others in my dance of life, to engage them and interest them. I want to feel we’ve met, not sat politely and clapped a little.

Well, it worked, and it felt amazing. There was little me in a big city among strangers making friends through words. I think I gave a good performance, and it is something I really love doing. Above all, I feel when I’m doing these kind of things, that I am presenting my identity, not what I do. If you want to talk to me, know me, share a glimpse of life with me, I am not my job. I am Andie, the poet, writer, dancer, musician, creative person bursting with so much I want to share with you. Don’t start by asking what I do for a living, ask me what I live.

Last night, at Five Rhythms Dance, I shared a lovely time with another dancer. It was beautiful to watch each other, to move together, to feel the sympathy between us, whilst still expressing ourselves. We talked about it afterwards, and agreed that our whole creative lives were a mutually-informing experience, music, painting, writing, dancing – all working together to inspire and express.

Andie the poet, musician, dancer … I love it!

Oh, and I build databases too.

[Next week: another step forward with the gender identity clinic …]


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