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Mae Martin on new CBC doc and some of their favourite things


Plus a few of their favourite things

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Award-winning non-binary comedian Mae Martin, known for the Netflix comedy series Feel Good, has taken on a new gig as the host of an upcoming episode of CBC’s The Nature of Things titled Fluid: Life Beyond the Binary

Available to stream on CBC Gem, the episode explores the little-known science of gender and sexual fluidity in the natural world. It debunks dangerous pseudo-scientific myths while shedding light on findings about gender and sexual fluidity in humans and other species.

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Martin brings their signature humour to the classroom while speaking with trans historian Jules Gill-Peterson (read one of her many books on the subject) to explore gender studies of the 1960s and 70s, while looking into current gender controversies.

We spoke with Martin about why they wanted to host the episode, what fascinated them about science and gender, plus they revealed some of their favourite things on the subject.

Q&A with Mae Martin

Q: What excited you the most when you were offered the gig to host this CBC doc episode?
A: The Nature of Things is iconic! I was excited to be part of such a Canadian institution. When I spoke to the team, including Michelle Mama — the incredible director who I’ve known for a long time — I just felt so confident that this would be a really wonderful, rigorously researched and uplifting project.

Q: What did you particularly love about how this documentary dispels myths about gender identity?
A: I just love the tone of the documentary, which is so celebratory and light-hearted. I hope people who might normally think that this topic isn’t for them, or relevant to them, will let their guard down and see that it’s not scary, it’s super interesting.

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Q: As a self-described nerd for science, what was the most fascinating thing you wanted to learn about?
A: I’m always just so interested to think about how, throughout history, scientists’ values and beliefs are influenced by the wider culture they live in. Their personal views can influence the questions they choose to pose and how they investigate those questions, and the ripple effect of that can lead to our dominant paradigms. It’s exciting to engage with and unpick that in an effort to try to reach the most objective, unbiased, scientific truth about ourselves. To uncover some of the nuances and wonderful complex reality that’s been blotted out by blind spots or bias in the past.

Q: What kind of impact do you think this would have had if you had access to this doc and material growing up?
A: It’s kind of difficult to even imagine. As a child of the 90’s, I grew up in a very binary world (not that I don’t deeply love boy bands and girl bands). It took thirty-five years of feeling like a square peg in a round hole, and like there was something wrong with me, to finally pull the thread that led to me being able to live a happy and authentic life as a trans person. I think this doc would probably have helped me to feel comfortable sooner, and less alone.

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Mae Martin
Mae Martin on FLUID: LIFE BEYOND THE BINARY. Photo by CBC

Q: You ask this question in the doc so I’d like to turn this question to you: Is there anything you wish scientists would turn their gaze onto?
A: Hmm… well, if there’s no planet then there’s not much to investigate, so climate change is always at the top of my list. The eternally frustrating thing, though, is how as science bravely presents the truth to us, we have an uncanny ability to ignore it. Policy always seems to take decades to catch up. The World Health Organisation and the majority of the world’s leading scientists have agreed for some time, for instance, that gender is a social construct, but I bet that’ll be hotly debated for years to come unfortunately.

Q: Given the timeliness of the doc in today’s climate, what kind of conversations do you hope this brings about?
A: Any conversation that comes from a place of curiosity and empathy, and isn’t charged with weird politics would be great! I also think it would be nice if it helps people to understand that you don’t have to be trans to be interested in exploring gender as a concept, what it means to you, and what role it plays in our world.

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Q: You mentioned connecting with Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast. What are some films and/or characters you connected with that explore gender (and/or sexuality)?
A: Ha ha! I wouldn’t say that Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast actually explores gender, I just felt a kinship with that candle and thought it was funny. I remember watching Stand By Me as a kid and relating so hard to that gang of kids, particularly River Phoenix’s character. I still dress like him. Also, this is niche, but, “The Gump” in Return To Oz.

Q: What are some of your recommendations on the best books to help educate on the topic?
A: I really need to read more, but I loved He/She/They by Schuyler Bailar and Life Isn’t Binary by Alex Iantaffi and Meg-John Barker. I also wrote a book called Can Everyone Please Calm Down? which is a book about sexuality and gender for young people, and it’s going to be reprinted soon.

Q: Can you share some of your favourite brands you feel most comfortable in?
A: These days I’m into these jeans by a Japanese brand called Kato, and I love really simple soft cotton staples so I like Buck Mason, or this company LadyWhite Co or Sunray Sportswear. When I dress up I have some really nice Gucci suits that I wear over and over. Doc Martens and vintage Levis always make me feel good, too.

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