Poet Jackie Kay Opens Up About Accepting LGBTQ+ Identity To Celebrate New Tate Britain Exhibition

Scottish poet laureate Jackie Kay celebrates queer British art with emotive story about finding her identity for Tate Britain and Channel 4's Random Acts film collaboration.

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Every day, we pass strangers on the street; in work, on public transport, and in the supermarket, but rarely do we consider ourselves to be a stranger in our own lives.

However, for Scottish poet laureate Jackie Kay, the feeling of being an outsider to herself was a common thread throughout her childhood and formative years.

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Working with Channel 4's Random Acts and the Tate Britain for a six-part film project in response to the museum's new exhibition Queer British Art 1861-1967 – which explores LGBTQ+ lives through intimate portraits of six individuals – Kay opens up about the ideas behind her first novel, 'One Person, Two Names'.

Kay – who wrote the story at the age of 12 – reads aloud from her novel, describing how she'd constructed a character who needed to change her name from Lucy to Emma, alter her style of clothing, hair and appearance in order to fit it.

Directed by Lindsey Dryden, the 55-year-old writer describes how the character in the story is on the run from herself, which later forced her to question what identity meant to her as a black, Scottish woman growing up.

In the clip, Kay says: 'We often write because we have a secret self...another self that isn't being articulated. We often write to find a voice for that silent self.'

Describing her childhood growing up as a black child to white adoptive parents, Kay says: 'You often feel surprised when you looked in the mirror. Your felt surprised at your own face.

We often write to find a voice for that silent self.

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'It wasn't so much that other people treated you as a stranger, or called you names which they did sometimes, but it was more than you were a stranger to yourself,' she adds.

Exploring the concept of identity, imagination and multiple truths, the Third Scots Makar (poet laurette) admits: 'If I was to go back, I'd like to go and have a wee word with myself and say 'you can fall in love with who you want to. You can be exactly who you want to be, you can run towards yourself if you like, because it's going to be fine.'

No truer words have been spoken.

Watch the full clip below:

'Queer British Art 1861-1967' is on at Tate Britain until 1st October. For more information and tickets please visit the Tate.

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