FEATURE: The Coast Is Queer 3 – Jamie Windust

Brian Butler February 27, 2021

In this third look at this year’s  Brighton online queer literary festival, The Coast Is Queer, I sat in on Juno Dawson’s Trans Literary Salon , featuring  Jamie Windust – writer/ presenter/model  – author of In Their Shoes.

Jamie had always written , keeping a diary from a young age. “ These were things I’d  never spoken about . I was asked to write a guide for teenagers : I don’t think I was the person for that . I’m not an expert; I wanted to talk about my stories not how others should live their lives”, Jamie said.

About In Their Shoes Jamie said: “It’s not a memoir, or an autobiography. It’s about a passage of time from 13 – 21 that was very formative . I wrote for our community, a love-letter to my trans and non-binary siblings. There’s no room at the inn for non-binary people. Views are all black and white about trans men and women. We haven’t moved past the idea of being born in the wrong body.”

“The understanding of non-binary people is a million miles away in the media.” Jamie said that gender expression and gender identity are split in the book. “ Coming to terms with gender identity is different for everyone .”

Juno admits she didn’t meet many trans women when she first moved to Brighton ( She now lives in Worthing). “ It was through the internet I met other trans people “, she says.

Jamie confesses: “ I’m not a night-life person so I didn’t find my queerness there. I found it on social media rather than in a physical community”. When they were young they found a role model in actor/ comedian Julian Clary . Juno asked Jamie if they were  comfortable being a role model.

Jamie  replied: “If you are marginalised and get into the media, it’s easy to just fit into a slot and say yes to lots of basic sanitised things. I wouldn’t do those things ( tv appearances) now. I didn’t want to continually have to explain myself. I don’t regard myself as an activist. I politely reject the label – it’s too specific ; it’s doesn’t  allow me to breathe.”

“Trans people get blamed for the bigotry they experience – how they look/dress, their attitude – well what do you expect ? We are living  in desperately unkind years .”

Jamie recalled how at 15/16 they got a job in a local department store in Dorset. “ I was put on the menswear department, but every weekend I would go to the make-up counter . I would buy make-up and then wear it to work. I was told  to take it off by the manager. I genuinely didn’t care that I shocked people . It lit a fire in me not to change it ” They  were moved to the make-up counter !

“ The reaction to my presence was overwhelming – people being absolutely vile to me . You’re happy but people make you doubt .”

Jamie said that the only “ real trickle of romance “ was with a fellow non-binary person. Revealingly Jamie added that “ you’re either a sex object or unlovable . Dating is very difficult for trans people – lots just can’t do it “.

The streamed conversation contains another revelation – both Juno and Jamie have experienced the trauma of assault .

And  on a lighter note, they both agree that people’s curiosity about what it is to be trans or non-binary is easily answered : Google it.

Jamie’s book In Their Shoes  is published by Jessica Kingsley and widely available

Juno’s The Gender Games  is published by John Murray Press and also widely available.

Check Scene online and The Coast is Queer , Marlborough Productions and  New Writing South to see when their festival conversations  come online.