Opinion: The Fight For Us

Celeste Lecesne and Seven Graham discuss how the arts fight back against LGBTQIA+ discrimination and heal the damage it causes

feature (edinburgh) | Read in About 5 minutes
33827 large
Photo by Paula Allen
Published 02 Aug 2023

Seven Graham's queer comedy brunch Alphabet Soup is a comic jamboree of LGBTQIA+ diversity. While writer and co-founder of The Trevor Project, Celeste Lecesne's show Poof! is a celebration of fairies, both real and metaphorical. With an increase in hostility towards LGBTQIA+ events in the US, and it becoming more common in the UK, Lecesne and Graham discuss the importance of such work at the Fringe.

Celeste Lecesne

I’m thrilled to be bringing POOF! to Fringe this year. When I was writing the show, I was reminded of one of my gay heroes, Harvey Milk, who famously said, “Give ‘em hope.” I wanted to find a way of whipping up hope in the midst of all the bad news we’re faced with on a daily basis. And I'm not talking about the kind of hope that promises a happy ending.

Hope is not the same as optimism. The kind of hope I've been conjuring is more of a radical response to a situation. And who better to deliver this message than a real live full-fledged fairy?

As I say in the play, “If fairies have proved anything at all in the past few hundred years, it’s that the world can change.” The same is true of the LGBTQ+ community. We have proved that the world can change. Though we still have some way to go, we now know that a more fabulous world is possible, one where everyone is free to be themselves. Even fairies.

This year lawmakers in the US have been working overtime to restrict the rights of LGBTQ+ people. They are banning our books, denying us health care, criminalising our forms of entertainment and preventing us from saying gay. We are halfway through the year and already more than 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced – many targeting transgender and non-binary young people. As the founder of The Trevor Project, the largest suicide prevention lifeline for LGBTQ+ youth in America, I know the effect these news stories have on young minds. This is not a time to keep our heads down and remain silent.We need queer stories because history proves that the most effective strategy in the fight for gay rights has always been our ability to tell our stories.

By coming forward to speak our truth, share our talents and live out loud, we’ve shown our friends and families what it's like to be authentically one's self. We’re done hiding who we are, done playing small to fit the fashion, done keeping magic under wraps. Bring on the fairies! We’re queer. We’re here. And we’re fabulous. To quote another one of my queer heroes, Toni Cade Bambara: “The role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible.” I hope you’ll join me!

Seven Graham, photo by Tandem 

Seven Graham

Alphabet Soup is an LGBTQIA+ comedy and variety show created by myself (a Brit living in LA since 2015), and Alyssa Poteet, an up-and-coming comic and kick-ass producer.

Alyssa and I believe in the power of comedy to help humans process difficult things; to release emotions we are suppressing. The rainbow umbrella of community and solidarity has never been more important. It's about standing together and not letting the right divide and rule. First they came for trans people, then they took away our protection from homophobia at work. We know where this path of hate and fear leads to.

There’s an old maxim that trauma + time = comedy. Most LGBTQIA+ people have experienced trauma and shame growing up; albeit in a society that was changing for the better in the past 25 years. We are now seeing many of those gains challenged and basic legal protections ripped from us.

As an intersex and trans person in their 50s, I am well aware of the fact that it's something of a miracle that I’m still alive. I survived two suicide attempts aged 14 and a 20-year addiction to alcohol and many other drugs, since I was 12. I’m in my 22nd year of sobriety now.

Like most intersex people – who are completely erased from our culture (even though we are actually as common as red hair and green eyes) – I grew up without any role models and experienced a lot of medical interventions and trauma. I became a comic by accident – in 2015, I did a comedy course as my annual recovery challenge to overcome fear. I fell in love with it. Through the dark days of my transition to becoming myself – Seven Graham, 7G on stage – with he/they pronouns and a transmasculine and non-binary gender – it was watching comedy specials that gave me hope of a better life of being my authentic self on stage.

Alphabet Soup is our labour of love to create a happy place full of laughter and healing for our whole community, friends, lovers, and allies.