- In small-town England, suburban singing sensation Carley is belting out tunes to keep her neighbors happy during the pandemic.
A 74-year-old gender-fluid person in a small English town is keeping their neighbors happy by staging impromptu performances on their street.
Carley has been entertaining residents in the sleepy suburb of Ewell, Surrey, on the outskirts of London. And now gay writer, campaigner and presenter Tom York has made a short film about them.
The suburban singing sensation has been serenading her neighbors with weekly performances since the lockdown began. Many of them know Carley well, as they have been living in the area for about 35 years.
The Chinese born, former biker comes armed with an amp, microphone, backing track and the power to smash stereotypes. Meanwhile neighbors dance, cheer, and sing along.
The pensioner identifies as a ‘gender-fluid’ and says they are ‘not a drag queen’. They say that Carley is the female side of their personality while they also go by their male name, Charley.
Meanwhile they use male and female pronouns fairly interchangeably. At one point in their performance, they joke they are ‘the only tranny in the village’.
However, the neighbors don’t seem to care about Carley’s identity politics. They just love their performances.
With modern pronoun use out of the window, one neighbor tells York: ‘He’s fantastic. I’ve known him a long time. And still looking good.’
‘Overjoyed and actually quite emotional’
Carley follows a long line of gender non-conforming performers who have entertained Brits in tough times.
During World War II, a gay drag artist called Diamond Lil entertained people in the tough East End of London, despite homosexuality being illegal at the time.
York, who is living with his parents during the pandemic, told GSN that Carley made him see the area in a new light.
York says: ‘It is quite a lot of retired people and bungalows around here. My neighbors aren’t particularly famous for having liberal, accepting, forward-thinking views.
‘As a gay man, I don’t feel unsafe but I do have this sense that I am very different from the rest of my neighbors. When I’m here with my husband, we may not avoid holding hands but I may not think twice about it.
‘So I felt completely overjoyed and actually quite emotional. I was so interested to see the spirit of the community in this unusual time and see their response – the warmth they had.
‘I really think it does show we are living in a more socially accepting world. Where there are pockets of this acceptance, it really needs to be amplified for people to see it and be aware.’
You can watch his short film – Carley – here:
An earlier version of this article described Carley as a crossdresser and used female pronouns at their specific request. Since then, Carley has said gender-fluid is a better description for them. GSN was happy to update the article accordingly.