When I was young, I had two imaginary friends... sort of. I didn't believe they were real, of course.

I had become fixated with the idea of the devil and angel on your shoulder. I liked the idea because as far as I was concerned, 'evil' and 'good' were constructs, so it'd be more like having two advisors with wildly differing points of view.

So I imagined these two people, and I would have conversations in my head with them to work through life problems.

They were both characters from my favourite show at the time: Star Trek The Next Generation.

They were Data and Q.


Data is a perfectly rational machine, good at logic and maths but confused by human behaviour.


Q is an obnoxious omnipotent, all-powerful, mischievous and camp 'entity', usually appearing as a late-30-something man who would flirt, play, scheme, use florid prose and torment the people he most loved.

At the time, I imagined Q as the devil, and Data is the angel.

It made sense at the time. I was dealing with dysphoria and had no idea what it was, and the only way I could cope trying to act like all the other boys was to try and stick to problems I could solve. For years I refused to read fiction, focusing instead of science and technology.

A BASIC program I could solve. I couldn't solve why everything social from about age 9 onwards was terrifying, uncomfortable and impossible to navigate. I didn't understand why when my previously-close female friends would mock me for being a boy or tell me I couldn't participate in those things that were Girls-Only, I would cry. Or why I was so terrified of going to the boy's toilets and felt so uncomfortable in them that when I was in year 2 I once held in the need to pee for an entire day, until I ran home at 3 as fast as I could rather than go at school.

So whenever things got rough, I imagined a conversation with myself, Q and Data. Data, with no ability to express or understand emotions was an anchor, and through him I'd try to latch onto rational explanations for everything, and when I needed to explore the complex emotional parts of humanity I'd, ironically, imagine the strange, in-human God-creature Q both lovingly and mockingly laughing at humanity and trying to make them less scary for me.

It took a long while for me to stop doing that. I didn't consider it unhealthy (and still don't). There was no delusion. I used them as tools to unpack my thoughts by letting me express two extreme(ish) viewpoints.

Thing is, as I think back on it, the interesting part was that I saw Data as the angel. That it was easier to try and suppress emotions and be more like Data, than to just give in to my urge to be flamboyant and playful and Loki-like.

I latched onto Data as a survival technique.

I'm not sure when I stopped using them as tools to explore ideas. I suppose it slowed down more than stopped entirely - when I'm in a bad way, such as this morning in the shower, I imagined them once again. But it was then that I realised something.

Q was also, in retrospect, quite genderqueer. His body-language was more like a lascivious woman than a 'man'. He often appeared in outfits that were gaudy & even involved makeup, and joked that if he'd known it'd get such a different response, he'd have "appeared as a woman".

Q was, at least in terms of style and the freedom to express - and even the way he used insults or descriptors ("You obtuse piece of flotsam!", "The universe contains wonders both subtle and gross.") far closer to who I was (or wanted to be) than Data.

I knew this, of course, even if I didn't admit it.

When I played online games, I used the name 'Q'.