Alex Danes is starting a revolution.
“I’m looking for recruits!” proclaims the creative entrepreneur through laughter, only half joking.
“You don’t have to do anything, you don’t have to sell anything to anybody, you just have to walk around and be yourself, that’s how you’re going to join my revolution. It’s the easiest revolution in the world.”
It’s a revolution, Alex hopes, that will help create a world where labels don’t have to matter, and everybody can express who they truly are with joy and authenticity, no matter what form it may come in.
Now, Alex is bringing their vision of a more diverse world to life through their custom accessory design business, Quackers, making unique products designed to encourage people to embrace their individuality.
I don’t want anybody to be like somebody else.
“I want to try and create things for you, because there isn’t another person like you. My little thing on my business card says ‘We’re different because you’re different’,” they say.
Alex is an infectiously unique human, and you only have to spend a few minutes with the non-binary, pansexual, 36-year-old creator to feel it.
A diagnosis that made sense
Alex is proudly sporting one of the pronoun badges sold through Quackers (a they/them badge in this case), and they make a point to embrace all the unique features of themself wherever possible, like their diagnosis of ADHD and autism.
“I got formally diagnosed last year, and the more I then read after that about autism and ADHD the more I thought ‘that’s just me’,” Alex says.
“The great thing about an ADHD brain is it’s a storytelling brain, because it constantly links things. That’s one of the strengths of ADHD that people don’t know about – they’re the vivacious storytellers in the room,” they say.
“People have started telling me recently that I’m a great storyteller and I think that’s because I’m finally, actually, not trying to edit. I’m not editing the story anymore.”
However, like so many, Alex’s journey to self-acceptance was a winding road.
I’ve always been non-binary. Very young I knew that intrinsically, but I didn’t have a label, and by the time I did have a label, the label seemed irrelevant
“I didn’t bother talking about it, I was closeted. I was afraid of what people might say. So by the time I worked out I was non-binary and pansexual, I thought there’s no need to tell anyone, because it only affects me and the person I’m with, and there’s just no point bringing it up,” Alex says.
But seeing their family members experience struggles with their gender identity too changed Alex’s perspective.
Alex’s daughter, Samantha, was assigned male at birth, but began showing signs of identifying as female at 18 months old, and at the age of five, when Samantha began to become detached and distressed at school, Alex decided to broach the topic of gender identity.
“I said, ‘Do you know that if you want to be girl, you can be a girl?’ and [Samantha] just started crying, and it all rolled on from there. We talked to her dad, we decided to use Samantha instead of Samuel. It was quite a stressful time but within 24 hours I had a different child. It’s like there’s never been a hesitation, ever.”
The chance to be who they want to be
Then, almost immediately after Samantha came out, Alex began to notice a change in their spouse’s behaviour.
“My husband, as they were at the time, started getting really distant. There had been little things that had been said over time like ‘sometimes I feel like I would have done better if I’d been born a girl’. But then they started acting really weird.”
So Alex decided to offer their soon-to-be wife an opportunity to be who she really wanted to be.
“I dragged my husband at the time into my wardrobe, and I pulled all the clothes out and threw them on the bed and said ‘alright, pick something’. Leah, as it turns out she was, went straight for this beautiful ballgown that I have. The minute she put it on, the facial expression was just unbelievable – she was so overjoyed it just couldn’t be denied.”
Leah says that, while it was inevitable that she would have come out one day, it was Alex’s acceptance and encouragement that made it possible for her to take that step when she did.
“Without [Alex’s] support I would likely not have come out as trans when I did. They made me feel safe, and that our relationship would not be jeopardized, and they were always by my side supporting me,” Leah says.
“It’s really important for LGBTQIA+ people to have strong allies.”
Seeing their wife’s experience helped Alex realise how great a difference feeling like you’re not alone can make in a person’s journey to accepting themselves, and it changed the course of Alex’s personal journey too.
My wife had spent 40 years under the wrong identity.
“I thought the reason people don’t come out is because of visibility – people aren’t going to feel comfortable coming out unless they see that other people are like that too, so I’m going to have to come out as a non-binary person for all the people out there who need to see non-binary people,” Alex says. And that’s just what they did.
Shining light on hidden things
Now Alex takes every opportunity, whether it’s in conversation, or through the accessories they make for Quackers, to make invisible diversity visible.
“That’s why I talk all the time about having ADHD, being autistic, having depression and anxiety, about being non-binary, about being pansexual, because they’re all hidden things in society unless we literally wear them on the outside,” Alex says.
Thanks to the freedom to manage their own time during lockdowns, what began for Alex as a crafting hobby has blossomed into an ever-expanding small business selling one-of-a-kind custom pieces, and now Quackers is a platform for Alex to put their new mission statement to work.
“The reason I make things the way I make them is because people are individuals, and the stuff we buy is very homogenous, and I want to fight the homogeny. I want people to come out as themselves in all aspects – not just gender, sexuality or neurodiversity, I want all levels of a person to come out,” they say.
And for those struggling to find their individuality, let alone express it with pride and passion, Alex has some advice.
“The best way to find yourself is just to try everything. If any part of you, even the tiniest part of you is interested in something, in that millisecond before fear kicks in, you’ve got to try it.”
Browse merchandise and find out more about Quackers by Alex Danes at https://www.quackers.com.au/