Great Portland Street, Glasgow and Queer Patchwork


Two drinks. It’s a particular point; a point at which I’m not perceptibly drunk (provided I wasn’t on a completely empty stomach), but at which, at those times when I’m feeling anything but anxiety, every element of my surroundings comes to invoke places and states from my past that led to my present mental state and notion of self.

Great Portland Street station has much of its original brickwork visible. It has a curved brick ceiling; on one end steel beams cut across that ceiling for reasons best known to the Victorian engineers that built it. Though they share such elements rather than look exactly alike, Great Portland Street was as I waited there the underground suburban railway stations of Glasgow. It was Glasgow, it was escape into a great city, it was relating to another human being as I hadn’t before, it was smoking weed on a bed with purple sheets and several dodgy springs, it was sex with a woman that felt way more queer than sex with a man, it was painting and dialect poetry, it was feeling a genuine emotional response to art, it was art and queerness and sex being inseparably parts of the experience of a place and time that’s overwhelming to recall now, but in which I can find a lot of what my experiences would look like a few years in the future.

I’ve been doing a lot of personal reflection while over a period of months putting together a personal zine and thinking about the past that led up to who I am now. And I’ve been thinking about how with queer people and with trans people, others tend to be concerned with finding a single defining moment of self-discovery. For me at least, it’s more a patchwork of innumerable little scraps picked up over the 24 years leading up to now. And occasionally in the fabric of the city I see patterns that remind me of some of those scraps.

I say patchwork because (aside from the fact it relates to a particular elephant that was clearly an analogy for queerness) it’s a non-linear form and the order in which it was created isn’t obvious. It’s going to be unclear without some serious spying when exactly the time I’m talking about here happened, and I’m happy to leave it that way. It was one of a set of experiences that I did my best to disregard because the implications of who I was were scary and I lacked a language to understand them. I returned for some time to attempting some kind of normality, to be disrupted again by another person I’d come to know. These experiences accumulated to make my present understanding of myself, but they sure as hell weren’t a linear progression towards good things.

I write this for no reason greater than personal reflection. But let me finish with this, the central point both of discussing queer experience and of intersectional feminism. Shit is complicated, the world is complicated, and our experiences are complicated. And that’s alright. It’s not necessary to satisfy the desire of others for easy answers on who we are at the expense of sacrificing the beautiful complexity of our personal, emotional, social and intellectual lives. Embrace the chaos, because these things were never really orderly.

Photograph by flickr user jaggers


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