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When TV Trauma Feels Good

A love letter to Mae Martin by Amber Knox (they/them)

Image via Feel Good IMDb

Watching pieces of you unfold over two seasons made my heart ache, in all the ways that it possibly can. Your struggles, your trauma, your gender and sexuality, all mixing together in ways that felt so similar to mine.

What they don’t tell you about representation is that it’s not the headliner moments, the big performance, it’s the quiet moments where our feelings can mix with characters and their moments, sometimes not knowing where one starts and one ends.

Mae, in the first episode you say that, “I’m full of birds - greasy oily pelicans,” and I know that feeling, or something like it. As an adult I have always felt slicked with black oil on the inside, the trauma sticking. I feel small bits of myself, in the way you try to figure out where to put your hands when you sleep. When you disclose your trauma, covering your face with your hands, I can feel my hands, tight over my face, trying to hold everything in. A position I’ve assumed time and again. The way you press your face against a store window, cold glass on cheek. The pressing of skin.The cold. My body contorts and pushes up against the world to remind me that I’m here, just like that.

When you steal some painkillers and self-medicate your distress, I am with you, alone in that bed. When you describe what love for your person feels like f compared to others, you say, “I lie next to them and I feel so restless and then when I lie next to you, I feel still and quiet, like deep inside.” And I feel that feeling now, with my person, and it helps me breathe easier.

Love and distress living alongside one another.

When George says you’re the only girl she’s ever loved, I feel the painful twang. I, too, was always the exception, the girl my ex loved by accident until they found out that I wasn’t one. You look at the man she loved as a child and god, you wish you were that tall. I wish I was tall. I wish I had something that says to people, “I am not who you assume me to be”... That I’m not an exception, but that I’m chosen.

The moment when George tells you to cum inside her, while you fuck her with a strap-on dildo, and you stop because you can’t you literally can’t cum inside her. The deep pain of a partner needing what you can’t give them. I remember how crestfallen my ex was when they found out I’d never wear women’s lingerie for them again. I couldn’t, I literally couldn’t. They were so sad and confused, and I guess, so was I, but for different reasons. They stole my chest away from me with every glance that feminised it, until the end. Me pretending while knowing the worst, that you will never see me.

But you are here Mae, and nonbinary and saying it out loud and now your girlfriend knows and I am here with you declaring love for my current partner on stage in all my nonbinary finary.

Your old councillor reminds you that when you first came to rehab “you were a 15 year old girl” – highlighting your youth and vulnerability. I knew a type of world that made me a 15 year old girl with too much trauma, and that I couldn’t fill up my skin with being my own, whole, person. What I wouldn’t give to be a 15 year old person, back then, crunching the word ‘girl’ under my feet .

You love your abuser (let’s not act like that word means there was only one). I love mine. I wish it was more simple. When you hide under the bed or table or chairs, I am there with you. Lying next to you on the floor, where I would spend so much time, lying flat, hoping to remind my body that it was there and wouldn’t float away.

You say, “people love talking about trauma”, but there isn’t enough air in the world to talk about it. It fills rooms and histories and lives. But you know this, when you tell the Dr that your blood is full of snakes, and ask to be tested to see, once and for all, if you are filled with birds. You’re a comedian, and people laugh, but I feel these feelings you’re describing and they’re so fucking literal. When you face your abuser, you tell him that “All the love in my chest is tied up in snakes”, that bad blood, that oil. I have felt it too.

But we have made a sort of peace. We are amongst the lucky ones. And in complicated love chosen we can ask the question, “Didn't it also feel good? Like pushing on a bruise,” and this is what it feels like for me sometimes, self-loving through the trauma tonguing at an ulcer that won’t go away. This is what it felt like watching and getting to know you. I wouldn’t have it any other way, because if it was it wouldn’t be true. Unfolded, bruised and full is more than we ever thought we’d have, and there’s so much more to be had, still.


Amber Knox is a queer disabled trans writer in Cape Town, but their true home is Online. Memes, education and activism are their lifeblood. When not writing or scrolling you can find them playing video games, napping with their cat and listening to way too many podcasts.

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