Non-binary author Jamie Windust on celebrating queer joy amid the dumpster fire that is 2020

Jamie Windust on celebrating queer joy amid the dumpster fire that is 2020

It’s publication day for Jamie Windust’s debut book, In Their Shoes: Navigating Non-Binary Life – and it’s raining.

Jamie jokes that they’re looking at the rain and deciding whether or not to go outside, but either way they’ve got a big day ahead. First, Jamie will be signing copies of In Their Shoes at London’s legendary Gay’s The Word, then heading off “into the wild” to find copies in other bookshops, before having a celebratory dinner and going to a hotel for an evening of pampering.

So, how are they holding up? “It’s all very funny and scary and hilarious,” Jamie says. “Today feels a bit like a second birthday. I’m happy, very happy, I’ve got lots of love, it’s very nice. I’m just going to try and enjoy it.”

The slice of pampering they’ve got in store later is well-deserved. The non-binary model, writer, and cultural commentator has had a busy year: writing In Their Shoes, becoming contributing editor at Gay Times magazine, giving their first, emotional, TED Talk in January – urgently calling for cisgender people to do more to support the trans community, of course – and this week making their presenting debut with a brand-new YouTube series, also called In Their Shoes, on Jameela Jamil’s channel I Weigh.

The series will see Jamie interviewing a plethora of guests, including Tom Allen, Ade Adepitan MBE, Kenny Ethan Jones, Basma Khalifa, Courtney Act and Nyome Williams, on the steps they’ve taken to feel comfortable in their shoes.

Judging by the first instalment – Jamie’s interview with comedian Tom Allen – the series is set to be a joyful, irreverent journey through topics that are usually discussed in more sombre tones. Jamie and Allen talked about their experiences of gay shame growing up, and how each of them uses fashion to escape.

It’s Jamie’s first time presenting, and they also co-produced the series with I Weigh’s Sophia Jennings. “I was very nervous that first day!” they remember now. “A lot of the guests that we’ve had, and Tom, for example, are quite well-known people. I’ve not done something like this before, and I had picked all the guests and I really was motivated and wanted to speak to them. So I was very nervous!”

Jamie Windust wants to ‘break it down’ with In Their Shoes.

Jamie Windust says they wanted the series to feel like you were “listening to two people talking on the back of the bus”.

“Fortunately for me, those nerves did subside, and I was able to just be quite silly with everyone and be quite open,” they continue. “I think a lot of these people that we interviewed are often used to talking about very intense topics, or being very media trained. I just tried to break it down, and have a really lovely honest chat with them.”

The series draws on the themes from Jamie’s book and turns them into something visual. The second episode will feature Kenny Ethan Jones, the British model and Black trans man who made history by fronting a period-product campaign.

“I’m good friends with Kenny,” Jamie says, “so it was nice to already have that rapport. We really dig deep on things that he’s never spoken about publicly, like his relationship, how he actually finds activism – something that he doesn’t always want to do. I think throughout the series, it’s really nice to speak to lots of different people about what it’s like to be in their shoes. It’s fun.”

It’s very refreshing to see a trans person in the media thriving, when we’re more used to seeing stories of trans and non-binary people facing violence, discrimination and prejudice. Talking about and celebrating queer joy via In Their Shoes was a deliberate decision, Jamie says, and it has also brought together all their favourite parts of their work into one place.

“I get to wear hilarious clothes on camera, and I get to speak to lovely people. It’s like all of my loves in one,” they say.

The final episode will show Jamie being interviewed by Ben Hurst, the mental-health campaigner for men and boys. “That’s one of the most honest pieces of camerawork that I’ve ever done,” Jamie says. “And we had an amazing time filming that final episode. I’m just really happy that it’s fun. It’s cheeky. It’s the most me I’ve ever felt in a job.”

We hang up so Jamie can get ready to head out into the rain, which – let’s be real here – doesn’t stand a chance of dampening their big day.

In Their Shoes: Navigating Non-Binary Life is available online or in all good bookstores. Episodes of In Their Shoes with Jamie Windust will be released weekly on Jameela Jamil’s YouTube channel.