My Shaved Head Makes Me Feel Like Me: Alex The Astronaut On Gender & Queerness

I'd secretly wanted to shave my head since I was about eight. But I ended up finally doing it at the beginning of 2020, for charity. Since then, the biggest thing I’ve learnt about having a shaved head is that we (myself included) have a long and rocky road to cross to get to a place where we know how we talk to people about gender.
My uneducated guess is we’re also at least 10 years behind in our conversations about sexuality. My song 'Not Worth Hiding' was my first experience with sharing something about myself in the hope that people would get better at talking about it. The song is a letter to my 16-year-old self about being yourself. It describes my experience of coming out to friends and the world, which culminated in me telling people that it’s 'not worth hiding' who you are because it might prevent you from achieving some form of happiness.
I did acknowledge, however, that your story might not be like mine, and that you should share these parts of yourself in your own time.
The song was played by Elton John on his Beats 1 radio station, it was put in a museum, I toured the world playing it and it became the “unofficial anthem” (other people’s words, not mine) of the 2017 Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey to determine whether same-sex marriage would be legalised in this country.
The story of my own sexuality is long, complex and personal, but I put the parts I was comfortable with in the song. I was very lucky that people were so kind. I know that the privilege I hold meant that people who held homophobic and other bigoted views still felt comfortable relating to me. It was a strange experience to go through as a 22-year-old who’d only come out a few years earlier. I was always moved by how many people felt comfortable sharing their experiences with me.

One of the lines in my new song 'Haircut' is, "Now the mirror looks back, and I feel like who I am supposed to". Another is "I’ll write I’m not a boy or a girl, I’m still filling that in".

Looking back now though, I feel sad. Many people in the LGBTQIA+ community have lost so much, had to endure so much ignorance and are still suffering today. Conservative people who changed their minds after hearing my story or after the plebiscite could have seen humanity in this community before. So many lives could have been different if everyone had decided to listen. 
I have had the pleasure of talking to some young trans people on my travels. That’s where this story meets up with the present day.
A few weeks ago I released a song called 'Haircut' about how cutting my hair helped me feel better about who I was. Really, the only trans people I’d ever spoken to explicitly about gender were the ones in merch lines talking to me about 'Not Worth Hiding'.
After I cut my hair, my friend recommended that I watch a show called Feel Good in which the main character, Mae, has short hair, and to simplify it, is having a kind of gender reassessment. This sent me on a spin and I wrote everything I wanted to say in my song. One of the lines is "Now the mirror looks back, and I feel like who I am supposed to". Another is "I’ll write I’m not a boy or a girl, I’m still filling that in".
I'm not at a definitive spot in my journey, but what I'm certain about is the discomfort many people have speaking about gender — and the opportunity there is for that to change.
LGBTIQA+ Health Australia reported that in 2022, 90.2% of 14 to 21 year old transgender and gender-diverse people in this country reported experience in high or very high levels of psychological distress. 41% of trans and non-binary people over 18 have reported thoughts of suicide or self harm in the past two. Half of all trans and gender-diverse people have experienced violence, as opposed to the national average of 13%.
I don’t think these statistics even begin to communicate the harrowing pain, exhaustion, and deep overwhelming grief of a life that could have been different that these statistics are unable to tell.
The most powerful people in this country, including politicians, have used trans children as political footballs despite knowing their vulnerability in our most recent election. In 2020, when I cut my hair, one Australian politician decided that I deserved a good harassing on Twitter. He called me an old man and reposted year-old photos of me. It was scary. 
The same people that talked about sexuality as if they didn’t know anyone who was gay have now changed. If you’re someone who talks about gender as if you don’t know anyone that’s trans or gender-diverse, it’s time to take a breath and acknowledge the power you have.
We can do better than saying 'I don’t know about gender' or 'That’s something I haven’t seen before'. Watch a movie. Read a book about trans people. Listen to a song. Reading this article isn’t enough. Find a way to not just learn, but have the privilege of being the person that won’t cause more damage.
Read some history and you'll see that this group has existed from the beginning of time — and it has been a coordinated effort to keep them unsafe, invisible and in pain. See the humanity in a group of people who’ve been shouting from the rooftops just to exist alongside everyone else. What an easy thing it is just to listen. 
Alex The Astronaut's album, How to Grow A Sunflower Underwater is out July 22.
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