I studied at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama, which my phone just tried to autocorrect to read ‘Central School of Speech and Dreams’ which it sort of isn’t but is trying to be. (FYI I refuse to add the Royal to it’s name, unless the title was granted by Europe’s only legitimate queen, Panti Bliss)
During my fantastic, strange and confusing time there as a far-too-young-and-inexperienced Performance Arts student, I met and lived with some truly extraordinary people. One of them, the beautiful design student, Ben Giddins, got married two weekends ago to the brilliant Queer Theorist and Bow-Tied Writer, Joe Parslow.
Aside from being an acclaimed drag queen and writer, respectively, and club owners / queer community leaders, together, these excellent minds are the inspiration of my first play, Aunty Ben.
I’m often asked what inspired me to write that play. I lived with Ben in my second year of college, and I remember the day I found out he was going to be an uncle. After that I got to observe, and still have the privilege of observing, how amazing Ben and Joe were and are as uncles, specifically, and as role models for young people, generally. They combine many traits that are FUNDAMENTAL to happy childhoods and empathic adulthoods. They are loving, giving, active and dedicated family members for the right-now, and they are exciting examples of what a person can become for-the-future, gender-bending beacons of hope and resilience.
It was Gracie, Ben’s niece, who first started calling him Aunty as well as Uncle, unprompted, because it seemed to make sense to her. Blessed with excellent parents and grandparents (and now a gorgeous little brother!) and two of the kindest, queerest uncles in the world means that Gracie has had the sort of childhood that most of us can only dream of – one of limitless love and limitless possibilities, so many examples of ways of being that co-exist in her immediate family instead of competing with each other. I imagine (I hope) that there is very little you could convince Gracie that she couldn’t become in the future because she knows whatever social rules exist are made to be disregarded, and that creativity, wit, charm and a huge dose of love bring huge rewards to a person and a family.
Anyway – here’s to Ben and Joe! To many more years of Camden Power Coupledom and Excellent Fashion, Laughs, Love, and – what I would wish anyone on their wedding day – loadsa riding and loadsa love.