Self-portrait: Yves Rees


Photo of Yves Rees by Catherine Black
Photo by Catherine Black
I don’t believe in astrology, of course.

I don’t believe in astrology, but I do know that I’m a Pisces, my mother is an Aquarius, and my father is a Scorpio. I know that I click with fellow water signs and find air signs tricky. Like a good queer millennial, I have the Co-Star astrology app on my phone.

Pisces are meant to be creative and otherworldly: the fish sign, floating through the currents of imagination. For the longest time, I couldn’t see myself in that description. I wasn’t one of the arty kids at school; I was the ruleabiding straight-A student. I excelled at maths, not music or drama. In adulthood, I became an academic, a proverbial brain on a stick. Analysis was my flow state; work my drug of choice. To all appearances, I couldn’t be further from the intuitive Piscean dreamer my horoscope described.

Several years ago, someone I was dating explained the importance of rising signs. Our sun sign might be our essential self, but our rising sign is how we present to the world. It’s our social mask. Turns out my rising sign is Virgo. Co-Star tells me this means I present as ‘precise, diligent, peace-seeking and organized’. I may seem ‘a bit too attached to work, details, and the pursuit of perfection’. Ouch. Not for the first time, Co-Star knew me better than I knew myself.

Crucially, however, our rising sign is supposed to get less important as we age. As the years accumulate, and we settle into our own skin, our rising sign retreats and our sun sign rises to the surface. Over the last few years, I’ve started to live differently. I’m still an academic, but I’ve also been writing personal essays. I came out as trans and published a memoir. I’m working on a novel. I spend more time thinking and dreaming and talking to my cats, and am less focused on following the rules and ticking boxes. ‘Be weird’, was my New Year’s resolution for 2020.

Is this my creative Piscean energy emerging as the uptight Virgo mask slips away? Let me assure you, I’d be the first to roll my eyes at this suggestion. I’m no hippy dippy anti-vaxxer; I’m a PhD who believes in science. But it’s also true that I’ve spent several hundred dollars to have a school of Piscean fish inked onto my forearm.

I don’t believe our horoscope defines us, of course. Or to be precise, I don’t believe in it any more or less than I believe in any of the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of this chaotic and tremendous thing called life. I wouldn’t put my faith in the stars, but they did give me a framework to understand a transition in my life, a period of flux in which a different self came to the fore.

Astrology might be bunk, but that’s arguably beside the point. Like any good story, it’s made life a little better. It gave me permission to embrace the wilder, fishier parts of myself. And what more can we ask of it, really?

Dr Yves Rees is an award-winning writer and historian living on unceded Wurundjeri land. Their book All About Yves: Notes from a Transition was published in 2021. Lecturer in History at La Trobe University and co-host of Archive Fever podcast, Rees was the recipient of the 2020 Calibre Essay Prize and was a 2021 Varuna Residential Fellow.

This story appears in Openbook summer 2021