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Queer icons share the powerful, life-changing lessons that made them trailblazers

Sponsored December 8, 2020
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Chelcee Grimes, Charlie Craggs, Jamie Windust, Liv Little, Char Ellesse

Chelcee Grimes, Charlie Craggs, Jamie Windust, Liv Little, Char Ellesse. (Getty/Instagram)

What does it mean to be a trailblazer? We asked some of our favourite queer women and non-binary people who’ve each left their mark on the world to find out.

There’s no one way to blaze a trail. You might be a writer and model educating the world on trans issues, a journalist creating a unique space for women and non-binary people of colour, or a pair of notorious female pirates leaving an indelible mark on history.

Audible Originals is celebrating trailblazers with its new audio drama Hell Cats, which tells the amazing true story of pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read, and their queer romance that’s coming back to light after centuries of erasure.

“It’s a love story between two girls who break all the rules, defy stereotypes and don’t want to be boxed up,” explained Chelcee Grimes, a proud bisexual woman who’s broken new ground in the worlds of music and football.

Grimes is one of five queer icons who’ve teamed up with PinkNews and Audible to find out more about what it truly means to be a hell cat. As they explain, it’s about breaking the rules, defying convention – and trusting your instincts.

Jamie Windust explained that being a trailblazer is about ‘breaking out of boxes’.

Non-binary writer and model Jamie Windust said that although Hell Cats – a story “full of gender discussions, drama, sex, pirates” – takes place in the 18th century, it is still relevant to trailblazers today.

“The heart of the story is that it’s all about people who break the rules, break stereotypes, defy convention to get what they want, to fight for what they believe in and to get there no matter what,” they said. “And I think that’s something that we can relate to in the 21st century.

“It doesn’t matter that this real story of two iconic and absolutely legendary real-life pirates happened many, many, many years ago. The themes and the relevance of it are still personal to us.

“So many of us break the rules, I’m breaking the rules right now. I’m wearing a vest over linen – I’ve broken the rules.”

Windust continued: “It’s also a story about defying convention with gender. Society like to put us in boxes and tell us what we can do and what we can’t do.

“What Mary and Ann did in this story was defy convention, break out of those boxes… It’s great to hear stories of LGBT+ people from way back when that are actually true.”

 

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A post shared by JAMIE WINDUST (@jamie_windust)

Liv Little, founder of gal-dem, has learned that ‘disobedience is the spice of life’.

Liv Little, founder of gal-dem, explained that to her, being a hell cat is all about “disobedience” and living life on your own terms.

Sharing a photo taken by her girlfriend, who she said “epitomises what it means to be a wild woman”, Little wrote: “She’s taught me that disobedience is the spice of life.

“I like to think our love is wild and filled in equal parts with warmth and adventure and that together we can remain non-compliant and continue to live life on terms that suit us.

“It’s easy to feel as though you have to live life according to other people’s timelines and expectations, but she’s taught me the power in saying f**k that.”

 

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A post shared by Liv Little (@livslittle)

Author and trans activist Charlie Craggs ‘broke free and broke the rules’.

Author and trans activist Charlie Craggs founded Nail Transphobia, a pop-up nail salon which creates a safe space to discuss trans issues, in 2013.

She said: “Seven years ago, I, a council estate trans girl, got tired of how I was being treated by the world and decided to do something about it.

“I started my campaign Nail Transphobia. I refuse to be limited by my gender identity or class, and I refuse to be a victim. I broke free and I broke the rules. I made allies and I made a difference.

“But most importantly, I made myself proud because I took my life in my hands. And that is what makes me a hell cat.”

 

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A post shared by Charlie Craggs (@charlie_craggs)

Char Ellesse thinks she’d probably ‘run in the same circles’ as Hell Cats’ Anne Bonny and Mary Read.

Char Ellesse, the “unapologetic queer Black woman of your dreams” and founder of the online platform Girls Will Be Boys, said she has finally reached a place where she is “confident in saying ‘I am a trailblazer’.”

Ellesse continued: “I don’t like being told what to do. I break the rules. I feel like I do that mostly in the way that I play with the rules that society has put in place for us, especially to do with gender… By definition, I would be a hell cat.”

Anne Bonny and Mary Read “play with their gender and identity, break free of the rules at the time, and take back control of themselves,” Ellesse said, “which is what I feel I’m actively trying to do day-to-day, personally and with my work”.

She said of the true story: “It’s interesting to see that we’ve really been out here doing the work and trying to take back control from day [one]. It’s interesting to see the parallels between being a woman fighting the good fight in the 18th century and now.

“As much as they are pirates, the heart of the story is about trailblazing women. I feel like we would probably run in the same circles if they were about now.”

 

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A post shared by char (she/her) (@ellessechar)

Hell Cats is available exclusively on Audible, and an exclusive limited run of Hell Cats merch is available through Audible’s Instagram.

Related topics: Anne Bonny, Audible, charlie craggs, hell cats, Jamie Windust, Mary Read, sponsored

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