Jamie Windust has written ‘In Their Shoes’ their own personal story about ‘navigating non-binary life’. It’s a wonderful book and the prose bears more than a resemblance to the magical story spun by the legendary DJ, Alan Partridge, when he breathed to life his own moving spiritual journal, In the Footsteps of My FatherTM.
Someone Else’s Shoes
‘I literally tried being in someone else’s shoes once and it wasn’t the most comfortable experience’ is the blisteringly strong opening.
We learn flat shoes are no good for them. They prefer to be up off the ground, unsteady – allowing a connection with all the confusion in the world. We can imagine when Jamie steps out of bath in the mornings a panic attack sets in as they scrabble for dear life to get into their high heel fluffy slippers. Non-binary life isn’t easy and from the first paragraph you develop a very deep empathy for them. Such is the power of the writing.
Jamie correctly asserts that trans and non-binary people are the most oppressed in the whole entire world, but especially non-binaries as they fall outside of the binary and no one really thinks of them. With an incredibly original observation about social media echo chambers, Jamie points out that the community loses out because privileged ‘white cis men’ control the whole and entire world.
Jamie wants to scream and tell the whole world about the high risk of suicide for trans people but they can’t, as they are ‘twenty two and tired’, and can only find the energy to swig wine, puff on a fag and then post about it on Instagram. And write a book.
Jamie explains that non-binary identities have been ‘erased from legislation, governmental forms and data-finding resources’. They had fought alongside Christie Elan-Cane (that bird who looks a bit like that Star Trek Alien) to have X added to UK passports.
Now the fight is to include non-binary as an option on the next census. The battles never end.
Political declaration over, Jamie tells us that this is a book about their personal trials and tribulations – ‘the men that I have shagged, my clothes that I have worn’. Trembling with excitement we begin the next chapter.
The Key in the Lock
The next chapter begins with a ‘literally’ and shoe theme again, namely ‘a pair of red suede boots with literally a slither of a heel’ – Jamie hasn’t just thrown this together you know!
Debating whether to buy them was like ‘watching the most explicit porn you can imagine’ and poor little Jamie quivered under their duvet with this most frightful dilemma. Can you guess what happens next? They bought them. Even though they were suede and would get ruined in the rain.
You realise how young Jamie is (and how old we are) when they drop phrases like they might be a ‘reincarnation of Princess Diana’ and that they are ‘transfixed by the ‘80s’ and that they actually used to go to an 80s vintage shop to buy their clothes. The shop was where they put together their first outfit which is a ‘far cry from the utterly earth-shattering beautiful looks’ they pull now.
Wearing funny clothes made people notice Jamie for the first time and they began to feel more popular and more confident to chat with the boys they fancied at school. People made dreadful mocking comments and it’s all very sad because Jamie hadn’t expected people to explode into laughter (clue: they had really).
Then with some psycho babble which would bring tears of shame even to the eyes of fashion bitches Trinny and Susannah – Jamie delivers their fashion manifesto. This includes phrases like ‘gender euphoria’, ‘being selfish is […] absolutely valid’ and wearing ‘nine inch heels to a meeting about taxes’. Being able to wear the clothes you want means you need a ‘strong network of queer people and allies’.
Jamie has a first class degree in Fashion Management and Marketing from the University for the Creative Arts Epsom so they were naturally destined to become what they are today. During their degree Jamie learnt all about the ‘Trans Tipping Point’. Fashion houses, they say, merged their menswear and womenswear collections as a business decision which saved money as they can now showcase both collections at the same time, meaning fewer pieces in collections and fewer shows. (Always follow the money.)
Jamie’s family all love beige and wearing flat shoes. Their family are like an orchard but Jamie is like the hydrangea bush which adds a ‘generous splash of colour and hilarity to the picture’. (They certainly do Jamie, my goodness.)
Jamie’s reflections include having parents in their twenties is ‘weird’ (a little sigh of joy escaped when we saw ‘25 mins left in chapter’).
Because they can’t really spill the dirt on their beige supportive family, statistics from the Government’s 2017 National LGBT Survey were used instead to illustrate the misery of LGBT lives. Then Butterfly, the ITV drama which Mermaids advised on, allowed an opportunity for them to provide commentary about how kids should be able to start on GnRH agonists to stop puberty.
Then they start talking about something which sounds a lot less contrived. The fact everyone at school guessed they were gay. One thing no else could presume though was that they were non-binary so they got their moment to request special attention (‘allyship, understanding and a conversation’). This was first done online with the ‘community’. Then they shared it online so that their mother would see it. Mother didn’t really react – what a beige response!
Nowadays pronouns are a sore point, though the family is trying. Now when they (the family) accidentally slip up and say ‘he,’ they (Jamie) blank them. They get all the affirmation they need from their ‘queer family’.
Jamie’s mother is called Claudia ‘like off of Winkleman’, who remarried, lumbering them with step-siblings who they aren’t really close to. The compare their family to a ‘vegetable kebab skewer’ and they are the ‘chunk of pineapple’ at the end (ooh them with their 80s references – go Jamie, go). They go on to make several statements that I suspect their siblings would not be happy with in print, but this is In Their Shoes, not In Their Shoes.
This is all okay because Jamie and trans people in general are subject to the ‘silent discontent’ of others and micro-aggressions. A macro-aggression comes in the form of a family member inviting them to their wedding but asking them to dress down. When they are told this by their parents, they liken it to ‘being told off for watching “young twink gets double penetrated face fuck caught outside”’. Yep, you read that correctly. It sounds like a real and horrific porn video title (no we didn’t double check).
‘I stood my ground and told my parents that I wouldn’t be attending the wedding unless I was allowed to go as my authentic self’ says Jamie and pours scorn on the wedding’s theme of ‘live laugh love’ (though to be fair if that was the theme of the wedding, they should have begged Jamie to attend).
‘My parents eventually, after a long conversation that actually allowed us to talk about the realities of being a non-binary person in the twenty-first century, accepted my decision not to attend.’
Much to the relief of everyone.
There’s a sharp gear shift as Jamie tackles the thorny subject of finding future shags online. Their superiority to ‘cis’ people becomes apparent as the beauty of ‘trans relationships’ is described in full glory.
They describe an encounter with a man who wears boat shoes (see), who they then go on a date with, at a wine bar literally opposite their flat (convenient). Once Jamie saw their man sipping on ‘testosterone froth’ (AKA as a pint) they realise they couldn’t possibly have anything in common. Especially when said caveman had the audacity to tap their thigh with a wooden spoon. This is when they knew the man was a ‘chaser’ (someone who fetishises trans and non-binary people just so they can sleep with them). After walking the guy to the train station they depart. Anti-climactic stories are definitely their bag.
Jamie tells us their only relationship was just three months long with a ‘polyamorous person’ (if you’re over 40 this is not just like two timing, it’s a brave and stunning identity) who they met over the internet. At the end of their first meeting a slobbering snog was had at the train station in full public view. We might do a double take when we read a few pages later that holding hands for them is so important and that cis-hets don’t understand their privilege because ‘they’ve never been told they can’t’ hold hands. But then we realise that eating someone’s face off is so less noticeable than holding hands. Or looking like a clown.
They break off the relationship and the 22 year old ruminated: ‘Am I really going to end this relationship after 21 years of never having one?’
Jamie asks us repeatedly not to fetishize them. Again and again. They don’t want to be fetishized. No really! You’re not listening. They don’t like. No, they really mean it, don’t do it. TAKE THAT CAMERA OUTTA THEIR FACE YOU FARKING FACIST!
The Stapler and the Jelly
By chapter 5 the shoe meme that they so cleverly thought up has metaphorically popped its clogs (geddit). Jamie spews up more statistics what they read on Stonewall’s website about how ‘orrible things are for the LGBTQ+. Mental health services are ‘not crafted and created to allow non-binary people to feel safe and able to share their innermost thoughts’.
Jamie reveals that a stapler suspended in jelly is a visual depiction of their own mental health state. One of the things which affects them most is how people treat them in public spaces – they don’t like being the object of interest. That’s not why they do it.
‘I remember the first time I heard staring at people called violence, by the amazing Alok Vaid-Menon,’ says Jamie, giving us our first laugh out loud moment.
Later in the chapter more recollections of the ill-fated 3 month relationship abound. It turns out their poly lover was also non-binary but with a great dick, which was a plus. The cons list is that they [the boyfriend] were just at the beginning of their non-binary journey, living outside of London and wanting to have a lot of sex.
Jamie tells us they like visiting saunas. Then they tell us about a spa visit in which where their chakras get messed up because a female masseuse acts towards them in an ‘incredibly gendered way’ as she tells them about ‘the thickness of male skin’.
Self-care can be ‘eating more fruit and veg, or buying a cock ring’ – the decision is yours! (Incredibly helpful advice to all the teen girls who are the target for this book.)
We limp towards the end of the chapter with them reminding us they are here with us ‘every single step of the way’.
In which Jamie set up their own magazine – Fruitcake – which celebrates the ‘excellence and power that queer people hold’. An award was won. Which was amazing because queer people never win anything or ever get noticed. It involved them having to walk up a white runway in stilettos and a flouncy pink dress. The award was sponsored by ASOS, the online fashion company, which must be galling as they aren’t a cool fashion brand.
Jamie spews out more Stonewall factoids, 1 in 8 trans people have been physically attacked in the workplace, non-binary people hide themselves for fear of discrimination, and trans and non-binary people often don’t even feel safe enough to apply for jobs! (These are all facts lifted directly from the Stonewall workplace report.)
Then we learn that they had a part-time voluntary role at Stonewall, where they felt safe ‘with their beanbags and areas that are wall-to-wall cushions’.
Prior to their Stonewall role, they had an internship at a fashion company, where a colleague had said ‘GOD, you look better in that than a WOMAN’. This was upsetting to them because it ‘inherently implies that I am a man’ (except it doesn’t, unless you believe that non-binary isn’t a real thing).
They follow me down one of the UK busiest streets
throwing stones and calling me a ‘gay boy’.
Jamie tells us about a time he was physically assaulted in central London, which begins with admission of surprise that the attackers weren’t put off by the rain! Fancy that! Jamie was on the phone for an important job and ‘debated whether or not’ to tell the person he was speaking to that he was being stoned.
Ultimately he chose simultaneous stone ducking and phone wrangling – proof that it isn’t just women who can multi-task (NB: we are not inferring that Jamie is a man with this comment). Details of clothing (as always) are important and Jamie was wearing flat shoes (we thought they hated them), no makeup, bomber jacket, roll neck sweater and pink beanie for the occasion of his stoning.
Luckily for Jamie, two white knights in shining armour came to his rescue and he went into a coffee shop where within minutes the ‘event’ is out of ‘mind’. Coffee runs down his chin and he wipes it away but ‘just a slight, lukewarm stain remains’. Hence the title of this chapter. And you thought it was something else.
Roaming the streets without makeup is normally a ‘time saver’ as they don’t have to plan a special route, but this incident has proven that they aren’t safe anywhere or anyhow. So often when Jamie goes on the Underground there is general discussion about their person, which is hard to understand when they have such panache and style.
They reminisce about their first job in a department store where they suggested to their manager that they might be better placed on the makeup counter. (Jamie is a fantastic makeup artist, we’ll give them that.) Jamie says: ‘To say it went down like a lead balloon would be an understatement’ but we learn a moment later that the manager responded: ‘Maybe if we’re short-staffed at Christmas’.
A few months later Jamie finally got over to the makeup counter where they were able to give ‘Sandras and Sharons tips on how to create that perfect smoky eye’, which isn’t dismissive at all. When Jamie left the job they wrote ‘bye bitches’ in lipstick on the mirror in the customer toilets. Which must have been a strong message for the minimum wage domestic who had to clear it up.
Jamie tells us yet again (several pages) how hard it all is dealing with micro aggressions but just has to believe in theirself. Looking like Widow Twankey on steroids is never a reason to double-take someone like Jamie and Jamie can’t stand it when they do.
Travis Alabanza was one of the first people to publicly show me that being non-binary wasn’t full of constant hardship.
In Thempathy we experience a significant amount of toadying of the Chicken Burger One, but also rumination on the burden of being so fantastic. All of the non-binary people Jamie admires are penis owners. Strange.
Allyship is also discussed in detail. How can we do it? This is very important for the readership we imagine. ‘We are now in a time of performative wokeness,’ lectures Jamie, informing us it is not enough just to share photos and the words of queer people but that allies must also ‘ensure the spaces that we exist within are accessible’ otherwise it is just ‘performative wokeness’.
Hatred towards trans people is now at an all time high, and ‘trans exclusionary radical feminism’ is described as a ‘pandemic’. The LGB Alliance’s ‘poisonous word are being validated … by magical authors and shit comedians’. (Didn’t realise we had a comedian – who is that?)
‘This potent debate that exists around transness is a movement that has blood on its hands’. Unfortunately they aren’t able to back up this statement, so they have to make do with claiming that the rich history of trans people has been deliberately suppressed.
Talking of shit comedians, in the second half of the chapter they attempt a joke. Bless. This involves them signalling to their two minders they didn’t want to be asked questions by the Great Unwashed after a speaking event. The signal was to rub their ear. Ten minutes later their ear was practically bleeding. Oh our sides!
Part 3 of the chapter involves Jamie verbally challenging three men on the tube who have hassled their sister. Jamie claims that someone ‘could literally be doing a shit in front of you on the Tube’ and no one would bat an eyelid. Er, not quite Jamie. Wearing clothes and makeup which make them look like a clown, maybe.
Jamie tells us that seeing men makes them feel ‘hypervigilant’ for their safety. Even if men are just walking past them. One day outside a coffee shop three men approach them who have a ‘potential hint of an accent’ of all things. The men ask ‘What the fuck is it?’ of Jamie’s demeanour and then one sticks his hand up their skirt and onto their thighs. So Jamie knees the man (in the face presumably) and kicks him in the stomach with a four inch boot for good measure, which sent the man flying in to the middle of the street. The guys walk away, just like that, and were ‘probably too drunk to even realize what had happened’. Just like with the Chicken Burger One, hundreds of people had witnessed this assault and did nothing.
Two days later a policeman visited Jamie at home to take down the details. The policeman must have wondered what exactly he was investigating, because although placing your hands on a stranger’s thigh is well out of order and they were well within their rights to kick them off, it seems to me that making a deliberate decision to then kick the man in the stomach is Actual Bodily Harm technically-speaking. Jamie tells us that the policeman said he searched CCTV footage from the street, the coffee shop and even passing buses and no images of the altercation existed.
Take the Weight off Your Feet
Jamie informs us that they have started therapy and is learning to love themself and that their therapist is sexy. Of course therapy costs a fucking fortune and most of the kids reading their shitty book will never be able to afford it. Nevertheless Jamie wants non-binary people to know that they love them and that they have cried many times writing this book (I agree, boredom is one of the most difficult emotions to deal with).
Now that we have walked in their shoes …
What can we say about their book? The thing which is most missing is an editor (or a good editor), which surely could have reduced the number of inconsistent anecdotes and trains of thought that Jamie shares with us.
Is the writing terrible? Yes. Bloody awful. The ‘factual’ parts of it have been lifted from Stonewall reports and so on, and the pseudo internal ramblings do not sound original and are regurgitated so many times, we feel like we are going mad. The insincere agony aunt advice at the end of each chapter utterly inane.
Jamie has a snide sexually explicit sense of humour, which he wasn’t allowed to fully express as the target age group is clearly teens, but with one eye on the money they have tried.
The porn references are so noticeably incongruent with the general agony-aunt tone and content of the book, it is impossible not to be taken aback by them. Again an editor would have done something about this, certainly the joke about the ‘twink’ porn title should not have been included if the teen market is the target (which we think it is).
Nevertheless the book has earned ridiculously glowing reviews, but only from fellow activists and not proper writers. We suspect that they share the same agent.
We think this book is aimed at young teen girls who identify as non-binary, who in reality have very little in common with Jamie. Jamie has probably experienced prejudice because they are a feminine gay man and because they dress outrageously. It is sad that Jamie has had to take on such a dreary persona to escape a stereotype. But here they are, promoting puberty blockers, vomiting Stonewall propaganda, but also reassuring teens that they are oppressed and hated and that they love them.
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