Keeping up with keeping up

One of the requirements of this post of research artist is trying to work our how to be a research artist and what that might mean. Is it my job to read all the academic texts and then turn them into whimsical but hard-hitting songs or poetry? Is it my job to check out all the articles and Buzzfeeds that crop-up on facebook and that people very kindly send me saying, “You’ve probably seen this, but I thought it might be of interest”? Is it then my job to respond to each of them, or distil them into pithy tweets? Is it my job to watch children’s performances and make pronouncements upon them or call individual artists out wherever I see misogyny, heteronormativity, homophobia, transphobia? Is it my job to search for good practice and then repeat it or give it a medal? Should I already have done enough research to just get on with it and make a blinking show?

It’s probably all of these things and more and part of the job is probably knowing I can’t fully address it all. But my scattergun approach is probably helpful in marking out the territory and mapping out a field of research that can go in and out of the general and the specific, the individual and the society, the local and the global. Before even thinking about making work (although it’s hard to turn that off) I’m trying to understand the landscape of the child’s experience and site any creative work as being just one aspect of that landscape. When a child comes to (or is brought to) a performance I want to know how the ideas in that work sit within the wider context of that child’s life and learning. And that approach comes from a sense that it might not be enough just to make work that explores these ideas around gender and sexuality – it might be necessary to affect change in other sectors of the child’s life.

One thing I know is my job is to share what I’m thinking and learning on this project and one agreed way of doing that is this blog. But often it feels like there’s so much thinking and development of the thoughts to be done, that there’s no time to get the ideas down before they’ve been mulled over. But I can see the need for keeping the discourse open and also for this blog to be a way of marking points on the journey.

So with that in mind, I’m going to write down a few questions/thoughts that are bubbling at the moment. And maybe I’ll come back to them in the next post:

  • Children are ready to understand about gender and sexuality
    • Children listen to and can understand the mantra – “Just Be Yourself” even though adults don’t necessarily know how to help them with how to do this
    • There’s a big problem when we teach “be yourself” but all the evidence shows that there’s only a very narrow section of the population that we will celebrate being themselves.
    • Also, children know that growing up is about finding out who you are, that this is a journey, and that it might change and shift over time, but there is still a ‘you’ at the heart of it. We as adults can embrace that and remember that and encourage that.
  • Do you need to see someone like yourself to know you can be yourself?
    • How does visibility work? On stage, in the street, in your school?
    • Is it enough to see a diverse range of people and have a general sense that very few people fit “The Norm”, or do you need to see someone like you to know you could be part of a community?
    • And if you need to see yourself, don’t we have a duty to both make sure we are supporting a diverse range of bodies on stage, and also to stand up and stand out in the world at large?
  • Adults find it hard to talk to children about bodies
    • What should we call body parts? Would a child actually get bullied for calling a penis a penis and a vulva a vulva? What’s wrong about using euphemistic terms such as twinkle and peewee?
    • Sometimes talking about the body and the difference between boys and girls comes up through explaining where babies come from. But then you’re talking about the anatomy in terms of reproduction, which is not how the child’s anatomy works at that moment…
    • Also, many people’s bodies are never used for reproduction
  • What does respect look like?
    • Do we know how to respect/love/empathise with/celebrate everyone?
    • Is it really possible?
    • The complexity of respecting someone you disagree with or have been brought up to mistrust (consciously or otherwise)
  • What does equality look like?
    • Do we really know what we’re aiming for?
    • Are we aware just how different things would need to be for real equality, justice and freedom to exist?
    • Can we actually handle it?
  • Who gets to be human?
    • If we deny someone’s right to be themselves and flourish, then we deny that they are human and then that allows us to deny them respect, rights and protection.

Just a few little thoughts to be getting on with then…Watch this space for all the answers!

BTW the Gendersaurus Rex has relocated to Brighton for the summer supported by Pink Fringe in a residency at the marvellous Marlborough Theatre. Big thanks to them for their support and for programming and producing brilliant queer work and events. You can still contact me on and tweet @gendersaurusrex