Kay Dekker

11 August 2011 by Jennifer

Memories, metaphor and song, on the death of a friend.

I’m one of many people across the world who, in July 2011, felt my world rock a little bit at the unexpected death of Kay Dekker.

I’d known that Kay’s health wasn’t exactly tip top, ever since his back injury some years ago. But the idea of his death had never been in my mind, except in the general sense that anyone could die any time. I think it’s beginning to sink in now, but in the last few weeks, I’ve often remembered the news with a tiny jolt, “Kay is dead”. And then, just for a moment, I’d feel “No… that can’t be”.

By way of explanation for people who didn’t know Kay, and celebration for those who did, I recommend Doug’s lovely post “Kay Dekker: an insufficient tribute“.

Thinking back

I first met Kay in 3d in 1995, at BiCon. (That was the first year I went to BiCon.) But before that, I’d already seen him around online, on soc.bi which was then in its heyday.

Last time I remember hanging out with him in 3d was on the last day of BiCon 2001 – he, I and Nat were all out on the grass by the accommodation blocks, in “last day winding-down mellowness” mode. That BiCon had included lots of discussion of androgyny and genderqueer, and I remember we were talking about the gender identity question in the BiCon survey.

There’s a sense in which, by external measures, Kay wasn’t a big part of my life and I wasn’t a big part of his. In recent years, I only saw him online, and even that had dwindled as he wasn’t posting much any more.

But my thoughts and feelings when he died were 100% “a friend has died”. Not just “someone I slightly know has died”. And I know I’m one of many people who feel the same way, even if their connections with Kay were similarly small by external measures.

Mosaic metaphor

In the few days just after Kay’s death, I was thinking a lot about who he was for the UK out-bi community, in particular his gift for connecting with people and nurturing them. I was thinking: If the community were a mosaic of different colours, then Kay wasn’t just one tile (maybe kingfisher blue with a slightly golden-green glaze), he was some of the mortar as well.

In imagining the mosaic metaphor, I also had this vague mathematical concept of Kay’s ability to be adjacent to a number of other tiles which would require four or more dimensions to be possible! a sort of fold in space-time! (I think he’d have been amused by that.)

It really struck me how much connectedness he’d created all around him. I’ve never before been in a community where so many people around me were all tipped into grief at the same time. So as well as thinking a lot of Kay’s closest people, I was thinking of the many others across the UK & across the world who would miss him.


This song dates back some years now. I didn’t only just write it. But it was the thought of Kay’s friends (many of them also my friends) grieving right now that promoted it to “next up” in the song release plan.

Note: This is a sad song, hence possibly not entirely safe for work, depending on your workplace & how susceptible you are to tears.

(If no playback button appears, you can still play the song back from its Bandcamp page.)

Appreciation, criticism & new ideas all welcome...

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