“I realised when I hit my 40s that I had spent much of my life shying away from the ‘gay market'”
BY SAMANTHA GRIERSON, IMAGE BY EM STROUD
“‘So, what do you do?’ asks an attractive woman I’ve met for a dinner date. I look at her and take the plunge. ‘I am a clown’”. These are the opening lines of Em Stroud’s new book, Lessons From A Clown. For me, a lifelong lady lover, this bold opening is remarkable on two counts. If I think back 30 years ago to my younger self, the idea that someone would write a self-help book that is so open about being gay, without the queerness being in any way central to the plot, would have been mindblowing. Em owns who she is as a clown through her alter ego, “Orange”, taking the reader through her journey of discovery and sharing her wisdom on “clowning” and how to show up and be yourself.
I ask Em about the importance of queer visibility: as a lesbian herself, she replies “gay men are so much better at promoting themselves and getting in the public space. I realised when I hit my 40s that I had spent much of my life shying away from the ‘gay market’. It’s a part of me, but it’s not the totality of who I am. But, it is vital. A woman came up to me after the Planet Awards where I won the award for best LGBT performance and said ‘Seeing your show and then watching you win that award matters to me. It made it seem ok to be gay. Thank you’. So now I talk about all of me.”
So who is “Orange”? I ask of Em’s clown identity. “Orange is most definitely a they” she replies. “With their large orange jacket and trilby hat that I couldn’t possibly pull off, Orange has the ability to really see people for who they are. It’s the part of you that you don’t always show – open, honest, playful and kind.”
Em’s mantra is “Laugh, Think, Play”. She tells me that “there’s so much adult and dark stuff going on in the world. We need to stop taking ourselves so seriously and take some pressure off, laugh and play more. We need to have more fun”. Wise words. The book is filled with tips about self-acceptance and being seen, present and playful. If you are feeling disorganised this festive season, check out Em’s Rainbow Diary ideas which will help you to plan a much more colourful and balanced life.
DIVA magazine celebrates 27 years in print in 2021. If you like what we do, then get behind LGBTQI media and keep us going for another generation. Your support is invaluable.