IN conversation with Jamie Windust

About the event

We are thrilled to host a virtual launch of Jamie Windust’s debut book, In Their Shoes. Join us for an evening of conversation!

About this Event

A vibrant and illuminating read from a truly exciting mind – A love-letter to our non-binary siblings.’ – Paula Akpan

There is no one way to be non-binary, and that’s truthfully one of the best things about it. It’s an identity that is yours to shape. 

We’re thrilled to celebrate and explore non-binary identity with Jamie Windust, author of In Their Shoes! Jamie will unpack the book, exploring everything from fashion, dating, relationships and family, through to mental health, work and future key debates.

In Their Shoes offers a roadmap to navigate the world and one’s evolving identity in every type of situation; a funny, frank call to arms for non-binary self-acceptance, self-appreciation and self-celebration.

Jamie will be live in conversation with Jess Brough and we’ll have ample opportunity for audience questions too!

It always makes me so happy to see queer people tell their stories unapologetically, because it breaks the stigma that being queer is something to be ashamed of. Jamie’s book is thought-provoking, funny, poignant and endlessly queer, and I’m here for it. — Ugla Stefania Kristjoenudottir Jonsdottir (Owl), co-director of My Genderation

Our Speaker:

Jamie Windust is an award-winning non-binary writer, public speaker and model from London. They have written for The Independent, Gay Times, British GQ, Cosmopolitan and INTO More. In Their Shoes is their first book.

Our Host

Jess Brough is a writer, a psycholinguistics PhD student at the University of Edinburgh and the founder of Fringe of Colour – an Edinburgh-based multi-award-winning arts initiative for Black people and People of Colour. Its first online arts festival Fringe of Colour Films took place throughout August 2020 at fringeofcolour.co.uk. Jess has written for gal-dem and The Skinny, and has been published with an essay in The Bi-Bible: New Testimonials and a short story in Scottish literary magazine Extra Teeth and The Best of British Fantasy 2019 anthology.

Blurb from Eventbrite

The event

The event was hosted by Lighthouse, a queer radical bookshop based in Edinburgh. Jamie Windust was online to talk about his debut book In Their Shoes, you can read my review of it here.

The host described it a ‘beautiful collection of anecdotes from their life growing up’ and introduced Windust. Windust said that he hoped the audience were in their pyjamas or on the toilet. So just let’s get right to the nub of the problem now – Windust’s adult explicit sense of humour. Later in the interview Windust admitted that his book was aimed at 12 and 13 year olds and I suspect that most of the people who had logged onto the call were teenagers.

One of the most concerning things about In Their Shoes is its occasional lapses into extreme pornographic language and adult issues. The worst example is when he likens his parents request for him to not attend a wedding to the time he was caught for searching pornography aged 10 (one wonders whether this is an invention and whether he is trying to normalise it).

I was catapulted back to being ten and having them discover my dickpig-esque searches on Google and being told off for watching ‘young twink gets double penetrated face fuck caught outside’. 

Hydrangea Bush chapter, location 466 in Kindle edition

Referring to himself in third person, Windust told us that he was in Wimbledon, South London. Brough told us that she had decided to spend her winter in Barcelona because she didn’t want to spend lockdown in the UK in cold and dark weather. (Please remember any privilege these people have is cancelled out by their queerness.)

Brough desperate to try to draw some parallels between their lives – ‘neither one of us enjoys a kissing heel, but what I need to know is how you live your life in such high heels,’ she said. She asked him to describe his present look. Windust explained that his look was inspired by ‘disgusting wallpaper’ which he found ugly. Brough shared that she had chosen her shirt to try and match herself up with the Windust style. Together they looked like a pair of mismatched 70s curtains.

Windust did a dry and wooden reading from his book. ‘Oh you read that so beautifully and you are this well rounded public speaker, you’re a model and you’re also a really beautiful writer,’ simpered Brough and wanted to know why he had written a book about being non-binary.

Inspiration for the book

Windust said that he had been expressing his thoughts on Instagram since around the age of 16 (he is now 23) but he began to find this ‘disgusting’ and ‘repulsive’ (he didn’t expand on this, I just think he wanted to say the words). He started writing on social media and worked his way up to doing articles. Simply inspirational.

Windust told us that his publisher, Jessica Kingsley Publishers (JKP), deals with LGBT+ specific literature. Windust wanted to write a book as if he were speaking to the reader (a novel approach for a writer which I will try to emulate in this blog) and that it took about a year to write. ‘And this is what has come out,’ Windust drily explained. So we didn’t learn what the inspiration was but I expect a pay check was the only thing which mattered.

Just have a look at the number of books JKP have published for children and teenagers. Autism is also a very noticeable theme and JKP are holding an autism conference in March 2021, of which one-third of the people in their gallery of speakers appear to be trans-identified adults. Of course the section in the conference programme which deals with gender and autism will be led by three trans-identified women – Yenn Purkis, Wenn Lawson and the even more preposterously named Maxfield Sparrow. Three safe pairs of hands, I’m sure.

Themes for the book

Windust chose broad themes because everyone’s gender experience is very different and some themes, like work and family, were universal. He didn’t want to write a book which was ‘this is what you should do’ (the book is stuffed full of moronic advice, including actual bulleted lists of ‘things I would do’).

Windust tried to convince us (in case there were any non-non-binaries in the audience) that the book could be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of gender identity. It was an accessible book and he wondered whether this was because he was ‘well spoken, white, able-bodied’, however if you did think that about him ‘perhaps go away and read another book’.

What does it mean to be non-binary

The short answer was that Windust could not provide an adequate definition as non-binary is a made-up category. The long answer was him explaining that he had thought a lot about it and that the best thing was when he didn’t have to think about gender and all the numerous ways in which he was being oppressed. This can only happen when you are fully surrounded by other trans and non-binary people. Windust hinted that he felt in the future he might not be non-binary, but – big thinker that he is – he is always questioning it. ‘I like the fact that I can see it as a higher power,’ said Windust.

The next four or so minutes were utterly excruciating as Windust explained how he became more confident with his own fashion sense. Brough enthusiastically agreed with Windust that she too doesn’t think about her gender much, especially when she was on her own. She is genderqueer and actually spends more time thinking about her sexuality (which she didn’t disclose so I’m going for queer AKA straight).

Transgender elders

Who was Windust’s role model? Windust said that trans people in the 80s had so much more of struggle than they did now (‘harrowing’) and that there had been no digital access back then. Windust liked to work with Opening Doors London a charity which helps older LGBTQ+ people.

Again desperate to mirror Windust, Brough said she had learnt so much from speaking to ‘older queer people’. An artist she admires is Campbell X ‘who has been out here for years and years making amazing work and just being a part of the community’ (Campbell X previously worked as Inge Blackman).

Brough also made a point of agreeing with his earlier suggestion that her gender identity might change at any point and for her ‘that feels really freeing, I don’t know about you’. Cue for Windust to talk about being excited for what one might become but that he would never limit his gender identity because it would limit his ‘happiness’ and ‘freedom’. ‘And your options,’ added Brough excitedly.

However I identify I’m always going to look like a dickhead.

Jamie Windust

Then a toe curling moment in which Brough made the same joke about herself.

The mundane

Sometimes Windust’s life is mundane and he doesn’t like Shepherd’s Pie. So fucking what?

Linguistics and more crawling

Brough bemoaned the fact that the Spanish language is gendered and that it could be disconcerting to be described according to the rules of Spanish’s grammar (si aburrida y estúpida). Windust suggested someone should try to find a way round this and Brough, who is a psycholinguistics PhD student, exclaimed ‘I reckon somebody has’ before revealing seconds later, that yes, somebody has. ‘If anyone knows more about this topic -, I mean in Spain what’s happening is the language is evolving and so we get different endings for words’. Yes sweetie, this is the dumb development that all linguistics students everywhere are already aware of.

The philosophical effect of being non-binary

Windust shared with us his massive philosophical breakthrough that being non-binary allowed him to think about the world in a less binary way and that he no longer had to categorise emotions either as positive and negative – which sounds more like a dissociative process than anything.

Question and answer

An enby in the audience wanted to know who Windust’s queer icons were. Windust said that some of his icons weren’t queer, but didn’t want to name them, and then went onto say that Janet Mock was an influence because he had pushed through ‘so many boundaries as a trans woman of colour’. Also Eddie Izzard.

Another wanted to know how Windust balanced his need for sanctuary versus his fame, whilst still being a role model for non-binary and trans youths, especially in light of all the media attacks. Share your vulnerability online but understand why you are sharing it publicly, was the answer. Windust wasn’t going to do things that he doesn’t like anymore and is starting on Book Number 2, so far in the book he has not mentioned that he is trans, because he did not want that to be the focus.

How did both Windust and Brough navigate negative comments about being non-binary? The questioner was afraid to come out because they were afraid of the backlash.

Windust: You know yourself best. You can set boundaries on your social media. Also engaging yourself in whatever you like doing and losing yourself in that.

Brough also answered. It was a long answer.

Think about who you’re blessing with this knowledge of you. Being non-binary is such a beautiful and special thing and the people who get to know that about you are really special and really lucky. […] The people who you don’t tell, well they just don’t get to know this wonderful special thing about you and that’s their loss.

I think in terms of negative comments, somebody who doesn’t understand what it means to be genderqueer, or non-binary, or queer in any sense, is probably really boring and probably has a really sad life, probably really stagnant, and don’t know if they’re going to grow. You know, I feel quite bad for people like that. I feel a sense of pride, that I know this thing about the world, I know that there are at least options in existing and seeing the world and that makes me feel really big-headed and special.

Jess Brough, Big Headed and Special Cult Member

A ‘boringly binary gay trans man’ wanted to embrace their ‘inner drag queen’ and wanted make-up tips. Do whatever you want, said Windust, and follow people online. Generous advice.

Summary

One gets the impression that Windust may have perceived that the zeitgeist is about to change, or is at least hedging his bets, with his talk about not being non-binary forever and excluding mention of his gender identity in his current book. Or perhaps he is bored of it now. As for Brough, her fawning was frankly embarrassing, but typical of the way ‘queer’ women seem to respond to men who pretend they aren’t men.


Thank you for reading! Sign up to my blog by going to the bottom of the page.

Please share on other forums if you liked it, as I only do Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s