I’m not a boy and I’m not a girl but Mae Martin helped me realise that’s okay
At around the age of 14, I started getting into comedy. I was watching shows like Live at the Apollo, and Mock the Week, scouring every bit of BBC iPlayer for a bit of stand up. Eventually I came across Live from the BBC, a show which had different comedians come in for each episode. One of those comedians was Mae Martin.
I cannot tell you how many times I have watched that set since the first time I saw it, seeing someone be open with their sexuality, and joking about it in ways that did not diminish it at all. Mae Martin just resonated with me in a way the comedians I had watched before had not. I was closeted, and still trying to figure things out, but seeing that set just helped me feel more at home in myself and with the world.
When I was 18, Mae announced Feel Good, their semi-autobiographical, rom com TV show. I was so excited, I watched all of the trailers, and waited in anticipation of the release. I’m pretty sure I watched it all in one day, and I loved every minute of it. It had such an honest portrayal of a lesbian relationship, of realising your sexuality, and of addiction. Its characters were amazing, and utterly complex, having you laugh with them, and in support of them in one minute, but having you question and dislike their actions the next.
This first season of the show is where the quote that begins this piece is from. I remember hearing Mae say those words and thinking, ‘oh wow’. Mae managed to perfectly sum up a weird feeling I’d had my whole life, that I didn’t quite realise I had until that moment. It made me first aware of how I felt about my gender, and myself.
Mae formally came out as non-binary on Instagram in 2021. She posted some pictures in a binder, explaining about why and when they tend to wear binders, and stating that her pronouns are she/they. By then I had come out to my friends as non-binary, and changed my pronouns to they/them, so seeing the person that first got me thinking about their gender come out too was so heart-warming. Seeing that positive representation from someone I had been watching for years not only helped me realise who I was, but also inspired me to be more open and positive.
The second season of Feel Good came out in June 2021, and I watched it all in one day too. Mae makes jokes in that season about the various types of people and/or things they felt like, rather than feeling like a woman. It was such a fun and original way of encapsulating the non-binary experience.
There’s a simple, but important, moment in the last episode in which George suggests to Mae that she should Google about being non-binary, and says: ‘You tell me the right words and I’ll use them.’ Considering stories about trans people are usually filled with pain, especially concerning their relationships, this was a very refreshing moment to watch.
Seeing someone accept their partner so simply for who they are helps show audiences that trans people can have wonderful and honest love, that trans people can grow in their relationships, and they will remain loved. All of that is so important.
I finally saw Mae perform for the first time later that year, on their tour for Sap, and it was everything I could have hoped for. I could not even tell you the excitement I felt when I spotted them from across the venue watching Jack Barry doing his opening act. The show was funny, honest, and relatable. It made both 19-year-old me, and 14-year-old me, so happy.
Now, I’ve started volunteering with Just Like Us, the LGBT+ young people’s charity, because I want to help other young people get to see the representation they need too. One of the first things I had to do as a volunteer was put together my story of growing up LGBTQ+, preparing to speak in schools and talk about the need for allyship.
I immediately knew which moments to include in my story, which included the times I had watched Mae growing up and the impact that having LGBTQ+ representation had on me, helping me to realise who I am. Being able to inspire other people with the things that inspired me is so rewarding, and something I am so lucky to do.
In short, thank you Mae Martin, for helping me realise that I’m not a boy. I’m not a girl. I am, in fact, a successful version of both.
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