Jasper Peach

Completely naked on a stage (twice): learning to love your body and practice self-celebration

Hostility comes to me for a variety of reasons, reflecting the ways that society deems disabled, fat, and neurodivergent people unacceptable. There is more to me than diagnoses and measurements but these texture how I move through the world. I used to feel that I didn’t belong anywhere, but I followed this feeling and found myself naked on a stage.

In 2022, I did my first nude performance as part of Stripped Queer at Melbourne Fringe. Writer, performer and sex worker Frankie van Kan has run the event for several years and it travels to different festivals with a rotating cast of performers. The format is always the same: Frankie and three other Queer writers take to the stage, remove their robes, and read the words of other Queer authors as well as their own. The performance is bookended by Frankie establishing and celebrating the radical safety and joy of Queer spaces.

In the Ozempic era, where people with diabetes face shortages of critical medications because they double as anti-obesity drugs, representations of fat people happily living their lives are a rarity. I reached out to Frankie, offering my fat, non-binary ass to the cause. Ten minutes later, I’d booked a spot in the next performance. 

'There is more to me than diagnoses and measurements but these texture how I move through the world'

When something excites me, I need to explore and create until I feel satisfied (some might call this hyper fixation), so I was obliged to follow through on my ADHD-induced adventure. It seemed like a great idea at the time, and when the day came, I felt clear-headed but heavily dissociated. Trembling and grey-faced, I landed backstage with my friend and fellow performer, author and activist Nevo Zisin.

They invited me to consider how I wanted a person like me in the audience to feel once I’d disrobed on stage. I pictured myself in the crowd, and a penny dropped as I landed in my body. I was an artist offering my beating heart and creativity. The dogma of enforced invisibility didn’t make sense anymore. The show was sold out. The audience wanted to be there, and it was up to us to provide an experience.

Something happened to me as I stood at the microphone and recognised a sea of faces whose gaze was full of love. Clothed in the safety of an intentionally Queer space, I heard the applause and remembered that I was a body on a stage where everyone could see me.  

'I thought to myself: we all have bodies and yearn for an authentic and exquisite life'

There’s a sense of letting your guard down when you gather with people who share a common identity, where you don’t need to explain yourself or justify your being, and exhaustion transforms into ease and delight. I thought to myself: we all have bodies and yearn for an authentic and exquisite life.

I didn’t feel brave because people had taught me that I shouldn’t be seen; it felt correct to step into the electric light and know that I belonged. This thought landing in my brain was unlike any experience I’d had. I offered this demonstration of visibility to my community so that we could all step into the light of belonging in our own time and ways.

That first performance changed me. As I moved through the world, I no longer ducked my head or lowered my voice to stave off the rejection I assumed was coming. I could stride into any place, with anyone, confident in my knowledge that I deserved to exist. Later, without hesitation, I accepted Frankie’s invitation to perform again. Having cast off my self-hatred last time, I wondered what my inevitable new superpower would be, imagining that I’d soon be able to shoot lasers from my eyes.

In the end, it was gentler than that.

'It felt natural to shrug out of my hot pink trench again, to read more risqué material and be more playful.'

This time, there were more friends in the audience because, with my newfound confidence, I’d let them know that I wanted them to attend. I had no doubt they, too, would feel the contagious joy in the air and leave with a peaceful heart and sturdier sense of self.

It felt natural to shrug out of my hot pink trench again, to read more risqué material and be more playful. Gasps and finger clicks rumbled through the audience as my words resonated. Afterwards, I took myself out for a hot bowl of late-night pasta as all the molecules that made me gradually reintegrated into a person.

I slept for ten hours. When I woke, I was rested, soft, and strong. It felt like the missing piece of the puzzle had fallen into place. I knew down to my toes that I was as deserving as anyone else.

It has taken me 42 years and two radical performances to unravel my confusion. I know that my place is now in the light and that I can bring those I love along with me. I still celebrate my friends, but I now ensure I give myself that same gift. After all, we all have a body and they all deserve to find their stage, both mine and yours.

Jasper Peach (they/them) is a trans, non-binary and disabled writer, speaker and parent. They are passionate about equitable access and inclusion, focused around the dismantling of misplaced shame via storytelling. Their written work has been published in The Age, HireUp, The Big Issue, Archer, The Guardian, Verandah, Australian Poetry Journal, Meanjin, ABC and SBS online.

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