A national LGBTQI+ storytelling project curated by Maeve Marsden
featuring a book, event series and an award-winning podcast

A national LGBTQI+ storytelling project curated by Maeve Marsden
featuring a book, event series and award-winning podcast

331 Handsome – I Hope To Remember Paradise

HANDSOME takes us through a series of moments, of community, connection and belonging.

HANDSOME is a self-described tomboy pop artist who’s music celebrates the power of expression, creativity and fluidity and creates a space for anyone who longs to feel free. She performed this story at Riverside Theatres for Sydney World Pride.


Maeve: Hi, I’m Maeve Marsden and you’re listening to Queerstories. This week, HANDSOME is a self-described tomboy pop artist who’s music celebrates the power of expression, creativity and fluidity and creates a space for anyone who longs to feel free. She performed this story at Riverside Theatres for Sydney World Pride.

HANDSOME: ‘I hope to remember Paradise’ Hi! I’m handsome. Creator and purveyor of fine beats. I make music, I make movies and I deeeeeeply love being queer. Happy World pride everybody! 

I was a loud kid, not obnoxious, but loud. I used to tell people I couldn’t help it, I was born loud. I was confident. But little did people know, I was confident in a performative way and like many of us, there were layers of insecurities beneath this, that ran deep. 

I remember when I was about 7 years old a school friend of mine showed me a trick. When you have an eyelash that falls out, you hold it on your index finger, you close your eyes and make a wish.

“Remember to never say the wish out loud,” April said sternly as she explained all the intricate details. 

A couple of years later, when I turned 10, I started my first serious relationship. I was obsessed. His name was Clancy. A skater boy, with big teeth and a thousand freckles. He was an incredible drawer. I would watch the way that he would shade yellow into orange into pink into red and found a way of making the world look like paradise and I would think… “Wow, how come I’ve got this incredible man by my side!” Keep in mind I was 10 and yet… when i wish on an eyelash, scrunching my face up super tight, closing my eyes… I wish I was a boy, so I could fall in love with Matilda Brown and she would love me back? 

Not surprisingly, this coincided with my discovery of masterbation. 

In highschool my school diaries were COVERED in photos of Angelina Jolie and Drew Barrymore because ‘they are so beautiful and I want to be just like them, mum’. My performative confidence made me a class clown. Interrupting all the clever answers, and being sent out of class so many times I would anticipate it, stepping out the door even before the teacher could say anything. There was even a group of girls in my year that formed a strong bond in year 11 around their shared hatred of me and my big mouth. They would scowl at me as I walked by them, honestly I thought it was hilarious… 

or I pretended I did. 

I heard a story about a family friend in my teens. A closeted man to his friends and family but we always knew. He contracted HIV during the epidemic and watched so many of his friends fade away. 

Terrified and desperate, he heard news of a new drug being concocted and tested in the States and without hesitation jumped on a plane. I remember, just like a wild adventure story, I was told he bought as many vials of this medicine as he could carry and strapped them to his body with tape. 

Over-and-over again he wrapped this tape like a python skin. In an attempt to hide the one thing that may save him, he headed to the airport and held his breath tightly as he walked through security. ‘It was the 80s, Caitlin’, I was told, ‘Of course he got it through’. 

He survived. 

He survived on the remaining vials for years, until there were medications introduced here. 

What a hero, I remember thinking.

We would throw parties at my friend Lauren’s house every weekend. Late nights shotting bourbon from bottle caps often with a one way trip to the toilet bowl. We would all smoke cigarettes until our mouths were ashy, but I remember the taste of Lauren’s mouth was never bad. Come to think of it, neither was Jessie’s, or Lara’s or Ruby’s or Emily’s or Amelia’s. See on the weekends the clown became the drunk casanova. I was always happy to oblige the boys’ requests to ‘make out with one of the girls’ because I was a good friend.

I remember walking into Heaps Gay for the very first time in 2015, and I knew I’d found something special. The Gladstone hotel smelt like stale beer, latex and hormones. I don’t remember meeting Heaps Gay producer Kat Dopper for the first time, but I remember her smile. And I was smiling back. 

My Saturn was not only returning, you see, but also heading off to a new world of MDMA for the very first time (I think a lot of people have experienced that delicious
Saturn return GURN). 

We were sardines in that little sweatbox, and everyone called each other ‘babe’ and smoked in the alleyway. I worked in a bar at the time, so I always arrived very late. 

I was sad to miss such a large part of the night each time, but there was something extra special about arriving so late. The whole building was heaving and my glasses fogged from the sweat in the air. I would politely push through the crowd towards the DJ booth where I knew all of my friends would be gathered – it was DJ Sveta and Jacqui Cunningham who knew all the buttons to push. 

Sure it was a mixture of missing me and MDMA. But the look on all their faces when I arrived. Smiles, shock, wonder, awe.. So much love in one look. 

I learnt how to dance at Heaps Gay. And that place changed my perception of the world entirely. Dancing taught me how to be HANDSOME (the artist), and I remember seeing that look of chemical high transferred to my audience’s face when I started performing. Singing and looking straight into people’s eyes, I could see there was a mixture of elation and longing as they glistened. I felt my performative confidence start to melt away and what was left felt more genuine than ever. 

I remember the first time someone told me my song ‘Save Some Love’ saved their life, I remember the last time someone told me that too. 

I remember walking in the World Pride March in New York City in 2019 and catching the eye of a woman, almost frantic for our attention. She was yelling and smiling full of joy but there were tears in her eyes. 

My gaze drifted to the sign she was shaking desperately – it read ‘GET YOUR MOM HUG HERE IF THEY DISAPPEARED’. When I hugged her, her body shook, and I could tell she needed it more than me.

I remember cooking ‘family dinner’ for my chosen family on a Sunday and the warmth in the room. My friend Brooklyn sent me a message afterwards that said ‘thank you so much for including me. I’ve decided to be a regular’. Signing off with 3 gold heart emoji’s, I knew I’d done something to make someone feel like they belonged.

I remember getting my very first hug from Jonny Seymour at Queerbourhood, at the Bearded Tit in Redfern. His embrace was tight and warm and long, as he said ‘Welcome’. That night I watched Nicola do a drag performance of Robyn’s ‘Missing You’ and feeling like I understood drag for the VERY first time. 

Tears streaming down my face, I actually felt like I couldn’t breathe. 

I remember when one of my girlfriend’s told me she loved me, and I wasn’t allowed to say it back. 

I remember trying to explain to my mum why queer people were often naked. “Why do they have to be nude?” She’d say with exposure exhaustion. 

If you lock someone in a box for too long, mum, and you tell them who they should be and not let them be themselves, well… you’re going to suffer the consequences. It’s about self expression mum, you see…? It’s about freedom”. 

Later that day, I remember trying out poses in the mirror, nude and free. Insecurities hanging on only by a thread, it was the first time I finally felt powerful enough to call my friend Kim Leutwyler and tell her I was ready to be painted by her. 

I will NEVER FORGET the moment that I realised I wanted to be called handsome, and not beautiful. And my understanding of the world and who I am, shifted forever. 

I’m getting married this year. I started my relationship with my finance Jess with many healthy boundaries. The importance of solo time, open communication and no farting in front of each other. It’s disrespectful, I would say… it’s just really not ok. 

I remember breaking that rule recently, in the most monumental way. It was a tough choice in experiencing one of the greatest orgasms of my life or watching it fall into the darkness, do you get a glimpse of paradise or do you keep your eyes closed and let it slip away… all to just walk into the bathroom anyway to release the same air in private. 

All in all, I was happy with my choice.

I think in one way or another these smidgens of time, these little mind explosions of memories are not unique, they are not extraordinary, but the do feel significant. 

All of them have one thing in common and that is they changed me. They each taught me not to compromise on who I am, or what I want. 

Do I stand in front of you with no more insecurities, insecure free. No sir. 

But am I standing in front of you airing out stories that are crass, upsetting, belittling and down right awkward. Yeah babe, I am. 

The insecurities suffered another blow tonight, and I thank you for coming along for the ride. 

It’s never too late to be reminded that… 

You don’t need to be a boy to be in love with a girl, just love her and you might find she loves you back. 

Smile at someone if you like them, it will warm your heart.

Cook for your family, if you can.
Hug someone who opens their arms to you, let them in.

Get naked. Learn to love your body. 

Test a chemical high.
Dance until you are exhausted.
Kiss your friends.
Call your ex boyfriend and tell him, ‘I’m gay babe! I’m sorry.’ SURVIVE because you are needed and you are wanted. 

And last but not least…

Cum as loud and as hard as as you want to ALWAYS, even if you need to fart, because everybody deserves to see paradise. 

Maeve: Thanks for listening! Don’t forget to check out Queerstories on Patreon where you can support the project for as little as $1 per month. Follow Queerstories on Facebook for news and event updates and follow me, Maeve Marsden on Twitter and Instagram.

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Queerstories is produced by Maeve Marsden and recorded by wonderful technicians at events around the country. Editors and support crew have included Beth McMullen, Bryce Halliday, Ali Graham and Nikki Stevens.