By Finn Siggs
Content note: sexual harassment, mention of drowning
In January 2022, I was working aboard the Rosef, a little boat with two masts and lovely wood finishes. The owner moored it at the jetty at AQUA, Boorloo, and told us to go nuts – “but if you fall off the rigging, I’m not covering your insurance.”
“Got it,” me and my captain Roger ‘Boots’ replied, already swinging from the glock.
All was going swimmingly, pun intended. Our audience was huge, our costumes were historically accurate, we could hold our terrible pirate accents well, the sun was shining… but there was one problem. The sun was shining a little too much.
ABC News, Saturday 22nd January 2022: ‘Perth smashes heat record, recording fifth consecutive day over 40C’. Now guess which five days we were performing. In historically accurate costumes. Four shows a day. Without even a sail for shade.
Well, in the earlier hours of the morning, our audiences were plenty: by lunch, they were scarpering. I started breaking up electrolyte tablets and putting them into our hot tap water. The bottoms of our shoes melted and fell off from the blistering heat of the jetty. Our long sleeves protected us from burns, but overheated us. Boots and I lay on the deck and joked about hallucinating.
“Boots… Have you ever thought of the fact that I outrank you? Because I’ve done more sailing than you?”
“Hahaha. I should be Captain.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Have you sailed, then?”
“Only catamarans. What have you sailed?”
“Some small stuff at the Nedlands Sailing Club. I’ve been on the gib a few times. It’s great fun… but the jellyfish. The jellyfish scare me. Always have.”
“Want to hear a story?
Boots closed his eyes. “No.”
After the last show of the day, Boots and I thought we might go and fix our shoes. We couldn’t find things in plain sight for five minutes. We tragically sung ‘Leave Her Johnny’ to the Rosef. We forgot to put our seatbelts on. We arrived at the pharmacy, where Boots began to strap his boots back together with strapping tape while we argued about eczema cream… still dressed as pirates.
When we got home, my parents treated me for heatstroke.
In February 2022, I was walking to an Extinction Rebellion meeting when six guys starting yelling about my ‘pussy’. I hated the way I laughed nervously and kept walking. I was dressed as a pirate again, as Boots and I were planning a street theatre protest outside Woodside. After the climate crisis had been so well-demonstrated by our summer from hell, we found it doubly important to speak out.
I’m a pirate, I thought, as tears rolled down my face. I could have taken them any day. These fists aren’t too bad, and I was third in the state for fencing. They wouldn’t have stood a chance…
I hate being a woman.
I wanted to crawl out of my body.
I think I’ll just be a man for a bit.
When I was a child, sometimes I would wake up with the wrong body. There were things missing from it. I thought it happened to everyone. At this moment, I realised that, just maybe, not everyone knew what it was like to be a boy and a girl.
In March 2022, I came out as genderfluid.
“Why didn’t you say something?” Mum asked.
“I thought I was remembering my body from my past life,” I replied.
“What was your past life?” Mum asked.
“I was a sailor. A boy. I drowned.”
Some people tried to respect my pronouns. Some did not. Now I finally realised I was a boy and a girl, I could be misgendered, and it hurt. Or maybe the fear of my femininity being weaponised against me again made me hiss when they called me a girl.
I told mum I was genderfluid. I told her XR protests illegally. I did not tell her that the only illegal thing I have done is steal a kid’s money at kindergarten because my ‘best friend’ told me to.
After that, I thought of myself as a thief. Pirate. Too busy thinking of myself as a criminal to identify as anything else.
In April 2022, I found some of my old writings. I found a drawing from Year 4 of a grubby girl with a bandana: me as a pirate. Ms Webster taught us pirate history without romanticisation… Death, rats, weevils, the lot. I wonder why I became enchanted with a topic she rightly portrayed as grim.
I also found my dream diary. Here are some excerpts:
- ‘I was a mermaid in captivity. I swam down to the bottom of the pool and I saw a door…’
- ‘I could breathe underwater, but I wasn’t a mermaid. On a rock I saw something. It was a peach…’
- ‘My parents gave me medicine. I was going to turn into a werewolf…’
In dreams, water represents emotions. Sailing the sea, in both dreams and life, means searching for your place. What if I can breathe underwater… but I’m not a mermaid? Recurring dreams of being a monster. Of being the other. Something that doesn’t belong in a single category: both man and wolf, fish and woman.
At the end of 2022, I handed in my Honours project. It was on experimental writing – and so much of what I studied was set on the ocean. To sail is experimental, queer. The ocean in its boundless form is genderfluid. I am welcome as a girl-boy-sailor, a man and something more. I want to be that ocean for queer people: a space where their identity exists freely like the waves that carry us. As sure as a crew-mate I can lie on the deck and chew the rag with. Where it is ok to be formless, a radical existence… a pirate. Free from those who refuse to see us. And now, in 2023 and beyond, I look forward to continuing sailing this sea.