Sebastian Causton has been performing poetry for just over a year. It’s a cathartic practice and brought him into a world of like-minded creatives, always truthful and raw with their art. Helping him through his transition, Seb’s poem, Alias, is about his relationship with his parents and their reaction to his coming out firstly as queer, and then as transgender. It was first performed at the Royal Albert Hall – not a mean feat for a beginner. It was also the debut of using his new name, which was a huge moment in Sebastian’s life. Poetry is a release and way of expressing himself, so we wanted to find out more about the creative process.
How long have you lived in Brighton?
I moved to Brighton in August 2016 as I wanted to explore a new place. I have always wanted to live by the sea, and I had also heard that Brighton was a wonderfully queer-friendly place. I hoped it would give me the encouragement and support to work through all the gender funks I was feeling. Brighton has truly delivered. I have found an amazing group of friends and now feel more myself than I ever have before.
How long have you been performing?
I did my first open mic night at The Globe pub in Brighton around spring time last year. In August whilst on holiday at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with my brother, I signed up for what we thought was an open mic night, but which actually turned out to be a poetry slam. I ended up winning the slam, and as a result, won a place in the National Hammer and Tongue poetry slam in the Royal Albert Hall. I only told a few friends as I genuinely thought it must be a joke, but it wasn’t and in January I attended the final and made it to round 4 out of 5. So it has only been a year, but an insane one, considering in 2017 it was my new year’s resolution to perform poetry, instead of whispering it to my friends whilst demanding that they didn’t look at me.
Where do your motivation and inspiration come from?
Someone in my life challenged me to write a haiku daily, and it became like a diary, influenced by that day meaning that the poems varied from eating crisps, to really struggling with the gender funks. It showed me that I love writing about life, the ups and downs, the funny stuff, the painful stuff, both in relation to my trans and queer identity, but also the other things too, like being an awkward human, romance, embarrassing incidents.
When I was at the Hammer and Tongue final, I witnessed the magic of the poetry community for the first time. To see people up there sharing, intimate, hilarious, powerful parts of themselves was extremely inspiring, to the point that I even wrote a poem on the way home!
Has writing and performing poetry helped with transitioning?
Everyone is different, but for me questioning and exploring my gender identity has been an extremely confusing time. There were so many emotions and feelings battling with each other, that writing about them became a way of being honest and understanding how I felt. When people in my life asked about gender and how I was, I was in such a tangle of feelings I didn’t know what to say, so I began to show them my poems. I have received so much love and support from both the queer and poetry communities regarding my poems, which has allowed me to slowly grow in confidence on stage, but also within myself. Beyond the poetry scene, my poems have done so much for me personally, including strengthening my relationship with my family.
Do you have any favourite poets and poems who you admire?
I have to admit that I only started exploring poetry properly last year, I had always scribbled it down but not read or watched that much, so I am still finding out who my favourites are. But a few that stick out for me are Phases by Kevin Kantor and Sienna Burnet, which is about queer kids being told their love is ‘just a phase’ and 13 Commandments by Kate Tempest which is a list of advice for navigating life.
Where can we find out more?
If you would like to hear about future projects you can keep updated via my Facebook: SCaustonPoetry and Twitter: @SCaustonpoetry.
I’m going to see my parents,
and a balance is hard to find between which bits of myself I take with me,
and which parts I leave behind.
They have issues with my queerness,
but for the first time they are trying to try,
and this has got me thinking that maybe so should I.
I guess I could wear a hat, to shield them from my shaved head.
I guess I could swap my boxers for lady pants instead.
I guess for just one weekend I could manage not to bind,
and instead of being an angry queer, I could pretend that, I don’t mind.
I guess to make my Dad smile I could wear a dress,
and act like everything is fine, and I am not a mess.
I guess I could put mascara around my eyes,
another mask to hide behind, just adding to the lies.
I’ll let them call me daughter,
and I’ll let them call me she,
even though every word is like a bullet to me.
I could pretend that I am ok, be gracious, and smile.
Avoid topics like work have suggested I get signed off for a while.
I can’t talk about my friends, because most of them are queer,
or if they’re not, they understand a queer life is happening right here.
I can’t talk about my job, because I work in sexual health,
and they see sex as something that revolves around a queer self.
I can’t talk about where I live because Brighton is ‘too gay’,
and living here has affected me in a ‘detrimental way’.
I can’t talk about romance, but I’ve had six years of that,
I keep the flutterings of my heart silent. I’ve got it down pat.
I can’t say what I’m scared of, because it would frighten the fuck out of them too.
I can’t say I’m worried I’m drifting from you.
If I leave all this behind, then what have I got left?
I’d be empty, nothing, bereft.
So I know you are trying, and I want to too,
but if I don’t bring all of this, I can’t give myself to you.