Stay home, Stay queer with Melody Sproates

Stay home, stay queer is a new project curated by cabaret maker & binary breaker Melody Sproates. It’s a free downloadable activity pack offering helpful websites for LGBTQIA+ mental health, interactive elements, pride themed craft activities, isolation experiences & advice from Melody’s own personal queer icons – giving you tips on how you can still celebrate your identity in small and personal ways during this period of social distancing.

Here, Melody writes a little bit about why they made the pack, who it’s for, and what we can do to help

Hiya! I’m Melody (they/them) and I am a trans / non-binary performance artist. I make cabaret and lip sync work mostly about my experiences with gender identity. I recently took my solo show *gender not included on tour (Which I performed a snippet of at the Northern Pride launch party – fun times!!). In my work I focus on improving the representation of trans and non-binary people in the media, but more importantly, I love to make people smile.

During lockdown, I haven’t been smiling as much. Mostly due to not being able to see my family, having a lack of motivation, going to places that I feel seen or be able to see my pals who help me to be myself. I didn’t realise just how much of my trans identity relies on other people or places! Just little things like people using my pronouns, wearing affirming clothes, having my hair cut, being in queer-friendly spaces or going to theatre shows that I connect to. Alot of connection and validation feels a bit forgotten now, but not lost.

Designed by iAMi Creative

On a more difficult note, a lot of self isolating young (and older) LGBTQIA+ people are currently living in unaccepting homes, have had to hide their identity or sexuality, go back in the closet, unable to fully express themselves or are feeling distant from their identities in the current climate. Or things may be worse or sadder. I co-run an LGBTQIA+ group with my pal Izzy and I really miss being able to see all of the young people. There is something so important about just being allowed to exist and be yourself in a space/room/theatre, which isn’t always available for everyone.

“So in an attempt to help make myself and other peeps smile, I decided to put together a small project called Stay Home Stay Queer (Which my partner made up the name for!)”

Melody Sproates
Designed by iAMi Creative

To start, I put together a google doc full of links to websites or articles that I found helpful or what made me laugh (Eg – the ‘I smell like beef’ vine, if you don’t know it LOOK IT UP!). After that, I started to draw a mini zine. I loooooove zine-making and instead of just writing tips from my perspective, I wanted to get other people’s voices and experiences. I reached out to some of my own personal ‘queer icons’ who are mostly just my lovely friends who I look up to, or who have inspired or helped me to feel more confident in myself or my identity.

However as soon as I started receiving some of the writing for my icons, I realised that this felt like something much bigger and more important. With the help of local champion and all round wonderful person The Culture Vulture, we started chatting on how the zine could become more of an interactive ‘print at home’ activity pack.

I decided to commission (I have literally never commissioned anyone ever…) the beautiful artist & designer iAMi Creative! I’m such a massive fan of their work, and they have previously created a fabulous poster for my zine workshops. I knew they’d be the perfect human for the job, and they absolutely blew me away with the design for Stay home stay queer!

Design by Sam Atkinson aka Up Dog Art

As well as the bold and beautiful graphics, it was also really important to me to include some LGBTQIA+ positive and inclusive character art into the pack – so then I commissioned (What’s with all this commissioning?!) my awesome illustrator pal, updog art AKA Sam Atkinson. I’m a big fan of cartoons and I’d seen some of Sam’s work on instagram and just loved it. Updog did such an incredible job and we decided to make these LGBTQIA+ characters queer colouring in as apart of the pack.

My main goal for Stay home stay queer was to create something that I felt I needed during this time – a little queer pick me up & helping hand, a feeling of pride, connection with my community and a reason to be creative. Being creative is a really great way of helping improve well being, and this project has certainly helped me chase away the quarantine blues. I am so proud of how the pack turned out and have received lovely responses so far! (Biggest thank yous to Curious Arts for supporting the project.)

There is still LGBTQIA+ people struggling

Finally, something I’d like people in power, MPs, parents, advocates and influencers to take away from this is that Stay home stay queer shouldn’t have to exist. There are still LGBTQIA+ young people who are struggling, and unfortunately some of them still will be after all of this is over. We shouldn’t have to fight just to be ourselves. During lockdown there have been attacks on the rights of trans and non-binary youth, restrictions on other LGBTQIA+ rights, and numerous cases of homelessness due to unaccepting households (putting already vulnerable people at an even greater risk of the virus).

Please help to show the community some love and compassion – help educate others, advocate positivity and support LGBTQIA+ rights and charities (if you are able to.) No-one should be made to feel alone right now, and we are all still here and in this together.

Ways you can help

Read up on and sign this petition regarding Lizz Truss

Here are just a few charities which are doing important work RIGHT NOW!

Melody Sproates (they/them) is a writer, performer and facilitator based in Newcastle. They make challenging and sometimes daft work to help represent the underrepresented, break binaries and advocate positivity for the trans and non-binary community. They have worked on theatre shows such as *gender not included, Raising Shame and the upcoming ReTake ReMake.