Too Much

Jun. 4th, 2014 07:49 pm
redback_bites23: rainbow blanket (Default)
I’ve decided to write a list of things I’ve done or that have happened to me in the last 10 years. There’s a lot. I’m tired and worn out and at the end of my tether. I need to see why. Many of these can be broken down further. They are not in any kind of order.

Trigger warning. mental health and sexual assault

I came out as lesbian.
I left my husband.
I moved house 4 times.
I ran Stepping Out for women questioning their sexuality for 7 years.
I ran two drag king workshops.
I performed as a drag king for 7 years.
I started burlesque and have been doing that for four years.
I had many coffee dates with women, I had no idea what was going on.
I met my first girlfriend.
I am still with said girlfriend, 7 years later.
I watched my husband fall apart after I left him.
I watched my husband’s health deteriorate until he reached a point of being on a disability pension.
I watched my husband become homeless.
I came out as polyamorous.
I met other women and had my first ‘second’ girlfriend.
I had other interests in other women.
My first girlfriend had other girlfriends.
I was separated from my cat and reunited with my cat.
My cat died.
One of my closest friends suicided.
I met many people in the queer community.
I changed jobs four times.
I met another woman who I developed a relationship of meaning with.
I had a long distance relationship.
I travelled out of Australia for the first time as a grown up, and went to New Zealand numerous times.
I adopted two cats.
I had a number of friends, all in the same year suffer severely from mental health issues.
My dad had a minor surgical procedure that went wrong and could have died.
I wrote a thesis, and achieved a masters degree.
I bought a little yellow dog for my Girlfriend.
I was sexually assaulted, by another woman. I didn't get any help for a long time and I told few people.
My partner and I went through a decision making process around having a baby.
My partner and I tried to have a baby, but stopped after about 6 months.
I have been sick for about 3 ½ years.
I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety.
I have been suicidal and used to think about driving very fast into a hard object.
I have seen no less that about 15 different doctors in the last two years.
I have had three different ultrasounds on my reproductive system.
I have had an ultrasound on my bladder and kidneys.
I have had a CT scan on my sinuses.
I have been to an immunologist and had allergy tests.
I have had multiple blood tests.
I won two community Pride Awards.
I won an award from the AIDS Action Council for my engagement of women through doing Stepping Out.
I have realised I am gender fluid and currently identify as queer.
I had to step down from a job because I was too unwell to perform my duties.
I had one art exhibition which was a joint show.
I had a solo art exhibition.
I organised a drag king performance night ‘Get Your King On’.
I have been interviewed on ABC Radio three times by Genevieve Jacobs.
I ran Gap Group for three years.
I was on the board of the Youth Coalition of the ACT.

My identity is a work in progress.
redback_bites23: rainbow blanket (Default)
We all create our own realities to live in, how aware of this we are, as individuals is questionable. A few things have got me thinking about this over the last little while. The big prompter came from my friend, Flossie, who made a comment about the world she had constructed to live in.

We’re all shaped by our personal experiences from the time we are born. Our personalities and personal resilience can help determine the paths we choose to walk. Some people have more things that can chip away at their resilience than others.

Resilience is something that I have watched and had an interest in, in others for a long time. I have worked with many groups of people whose lives have been filled with challenges, the majority of people can barely imagine. Massive challenges that can impact on the person’s health and well-being. All people are different, some people have a strong resilience and are able to move forth and live happy, full, healthy lives. Others not so much so.

Any person has multiple narratives going on in their lives, but which moments they choose to grab onto for themselves will determine how they see the world, how they move in the world and how others see them. What points they grab onto effects their resilience and their overall story.

A few years ago, I had a moment in time, which I remember very clearly. I was driving along, on a work day, going from one meeting to another. I remember thinking, ‘Everything is fucked, what is the point, there is no hope for the future’. I had been working for a long time in various jobs that involved advocating for and teaching Canberra’s most vulnerable people. I know now, that that was a key point in time, in the decline of my mental health. I had heard too many awful stories about other people; I had supported various other people close to me with their serious mental health issues; I had struggled financially over the years, and had enormous stress that came with that; I had ‘come out’ as being a lesbian…..and many other things. At that time I worked in a job where I had to have a big picture understanding of; our health care system, including hospitals, mental health, aged care; what was happening for people with disabilities; what was happening inside our prisons and what was happening for people with drug and alcohol issues. Everything seemed in decline and hopeless, money was being taken away from various services, which meant life was going to become more and more of a struggle for a lot of people.
Everything just suddenly became too much. I was already shutting some things out. I ended up leaving that job, for several reasons, but maybe also partly because I didn’t want to carry all that information. For a few years now I have not watched the news, read any kind of news articles or watched television. My resilience had completely worn away and I ended up sick.

Sometimes I feel naïve because I don’t know what’s going on in the world, but I can’t deal with it. It’s overwhelming. There is so much information flying around and the quality of that information is highly questionable. News items are often people’s opinions rather than anything valid or real, but it gets presented in a way that many people believe it. People are often not critical enough with the information they take in.

Now I am getting better and have more resilience I still live in a reality I have constructed for myself. As I said earlier, everyone does this, but now I know that if I let too much of certain things in, I will become unbalanced and unwell. In constructing my reality I don’ always ‘dream’ the way ‘we’ are often told to. I have wanted a house of my own for about 25 years, I am no closer to his now than I was back then. I have wanted to travel, and see more of the world, but I don’t know if this will happen now. I have mourned not having children, and dealt with that. I have not amounted to ‘being anyone of note’ with my art practise. A contributor to some of these things being I have been a low income earner for many years. My current situation sees me as not being able to work full time, having to take a step back to ‘easier’ less demanding (in some ways) work because of my health.

Unfortunately so many things revolve around money, I don’t look at what I can’t have. I don’t go in shops where I know I can’t afford things. I don’t look at travel to places I can’t visit. In short if I know something is beyond me financially I don’t go there, and never have.

My constructed world now consists of trying to successfully maintain two significant relationships. Getting great enjoyment out of the home I live in, with one of my partners and my three pets. Spending time with my parents and assisting them with life as they age. Having a job, for now, that I can feel useful in, without having any high flying aspirations. Making art in various forms and doing all my travelling and dreaming through those processes. Enjoyment in life needs to be found in the simple things. Eating good food, the rain outside, patting my pets, my partners’ laugh. This is my reality. To really live in the now, with these simple things. It's not to say I won't have other things, or dreams I have 'wanted'. Everything else is too big, and scary, and precarious.
redback_bites23: rainbow blanket (Default)
We’ve all heard of the various concepts focussing on needs hierarchy. Especially those of us who work with people. Some of us would know about the ‘spoon theory’, which basically focuses on the idea that each of us has spoons, or energy and we use spoons or energy up just living, to get through our daily lives. People who are unwell will use more spoons than a person who is well. We all know what it’s like when we are sick with a cold or flu and swear we are dying and just cooking dinner is hard. Well, people with ongoing illnesses or various kinds, often have this as an ongoing issue. It doesn’t end quickly, but might be something they manage for many years. It could also be said that people who are marginalised or part of any minority group, may also use up extra spoons.

Many of us will have also heard, or seen versions of the whole putting the rocks in the jar, then the pebbles then the sand. The jar is a metaphor for us, our being and the rocks are our priorities, the size of the rock determining how much time we spend on that priority. The idea being that you put the big rocks in the jar first, these are the people or things most important to you, then pebbles...less important and finally you can fill it all with sand, these are the ‘things’ of least importance to you. The exercise serves to work out who and what is most important in our lives and how we spend that time. The sand is things like housework, which is a necessity but not vital to us as people. We need to start by putting the big rocks first, in order to fit more in. If we put sand in first, there is no room for the big rocks. In other words, don’t fill out time doing things with no meaning or importance, because we run out of time for the important things.

These are just some of the ways and theories that have been used to help us work out priorities, because we often get so wrapped up in things and stuff that aren’t important we, human beings, often seem blown away when we are reminded of these ideas. Really they are pretty simple.

For someone low on spoons, it takes longer to fill the jar up, so to speak. We can only do so much, we can succeed in filling that jar and having that balance, but we need to do it more slowly than someone who has a whole cutlery draw. We need to be careful how we use our spoons in order to fill the jar; otherwise the jar itself becomes damaged.

I have thought about my spoons and my rocks and my hierarchy of needs. I am someone who, in the past had a whole cutlery draw, but now I am more limited, meaning I need to really prioritise how my spoons are used and which rock, pebble or piece of sand I will pick up with my spoon and put in the jar, because I can’t do it fast and not being able to do it fast can cause frustration, but hopefully by ‘getting it right’ it will ensure better health and wellbeing that is more maintainable.

So here it goes. 1 is the highest need.-

1. Cultivating, maintaining and being happy in my two close/intimate relationships/partnerships. (With T & J).

Time on my own

2. Family – my parents and brother.

Time on my own

3. My art – This includes all art, burlesque, visual art, writing.

Time on my own

4. Work/money – boring as it is, I need to work to pay the bills and live.

Time on my own

5. My friendship with N. She is a special friend of high importance to me.

Time on my own

6. Friends

7. Community or events – Attending any kind of events where there is a group of people. This includes performances, parties, LGBTI events etc.

Time on my own

8. Activism/social justice.

Obviously it’s a good idea to get all of these things, however, sometimes that’s hard. The things at the top of the list are things I need more of. There is also much overlap of ‘items’ as well, so sometimes ‘getting’ one thing can also be ‘getting’ other things.

I have put ‘time on my own’ between everything because being an introvert, I need it to recharge, without it I shrivel up and/or get very cranky and short with those around me.
My partners are the most amazing women I have ever known. They inspire me, they irritate me, they give me love, they support me, they make me angry, I love them both more than I can say. I want to do everything I can to maintain these relationships and to be happy within them. I want to do things for my partners to show my love and support of them, to nurture them and me and us and grow our relationships. I will do all I can for them. Ultimately, I give them freedom and choice to be with me, and I expect that in return from them.

My family, my parents and my brother, have always been important. I have very regular contact with my parents, they are the best people and role models I could ever have. I don’t see my brother often, but we have a special bond and really ‘get’ each other. I want to organise a wedding anniversary party for my parents this year, it will be 50 years.

My art is of vital importance to me. Without it I can’t breathe. I have always functioned best when I have a healthy amount of art making going on. It’s my main expression and passion. If I was to have any relationship, with anyone who didn’t like me doing my art that would end very quickly. So whilst my partners are important to me, in many ways they are not more important than my art. I have enough ideas in my art to keep me going for many lifetimes. I keep shifting and changing my ways of art expression, which is probably part of the reason why I have never ‘made it’ big in ways other artists have. Doing burlesque has been vital to my mental health and well being. It also fills my life with regular friends that I see. It also helps me take care of or get my fill of friends and community.

Unfortunately working is something most of us have to do. The trick is to find the balance in what works for you. At this point in time I want to only work part of the time, so there is enough time for me to take care of my other needs. However, with work, it’s important to me that I feel I am doing a good job, that I feel useful. No one ‘has’ to work full time, it’s about the balance of life and what works for you.

N is a special friend. I don’t see her as often as I like. But I am committed to our relationship and try to maintain it and make it grow. She gives me perspectives that others can’t or don’t. We have a special form of intimacy that we both like and enjoy.
I’ve had ups and downs with friends over the last few years. I have sorted out who some of my friends really are. I have been unwell and it’s the people who have stuck by me that I call good friends. Some of them are people I rarely see. It’s interesting, I have lived in Canberra my whole life and there is this sense that a person will always be around. People get ‘too busy’ to catch up and before you know it you haven’t seen them for years and you realise the friendship has basically disintegrated. I tried to reach out to some people who I liked, who were important to me a few years ago, only to find they were too busy. I needed them at this time. I consider them ‘gone’ now, even if they are still within geographical distance. Many people take friendships for granted but they shouldn’t be.

Friends are valuable. I consider my friends very valuable and I often get sad that I can’t spend more time with them. The people who are most important to me now are those who have shown empathy and understanding towards me in the last few years and who understand why I can’t always go to things and basically don’t give up on me. Hopefully, I also give back to them, I assume I do. I try to spread my spoons around with my friends, but as friends are further down the list, they get less spoons, this means I don’t see people I care about often, but it doesn’t mean I don’t care. Seeing friends should be about an exchange of spoons.

I was once very active in the LGBTI community. Not anymore. It sucked me dry I think and I have moved on to a place where I consider my sexuality and gender as part of me. However, it is important to be around community sometimes, this is because a certain amount of energy is exchanged and if done at the right time it can provide a whole bunch of spoons. It gives you the validation in who you are and provides spoons for resilience. There are conversations and ‘things’ that the rest of the community just don’t get. This is not the only community I am part of, or would like to be part of, but I don’t have the time, or spoons to be very actively in the centre of any of my chosen communities. Except for, perhaps the burlesque community. This is because that community in particular provides me with many of the other rocks, or needs on my list.

Generally speaking I find attending events where there are lots of people, hard work. They use many spoons, especially if I don’t know anyone. But if the event is well chosen, and I haven’t been to one for a while, they give me great sustenance and a few pieces of cutlery.
Activism and social justice are just parts of my being. I can’t help myself. However, sometimes I am ‘too loud’ and get ‘too invested’ in something and it uses way too many spoons. I care too much, sometimes. I have had to kerb what I do here because it does tend to suck me dry. There was also a time when I did a lot, especially in the LGBTI community, which lead to people asking me to do a lot, to take on a lot of responsibility, which in many ways was flattering. The downside to this, or being seen like this, was when I withdrew from the community, for a few reasons, I found, or it felt like, people only wanted to be around me because I could do something for them. Not because they valued my friendship in any way.

This is however, another area that often laps into other parts of my life, and if it does I really enjoy it.

So that’s my spoons. I might add, I rely on the internet somewhat to stay connected to friends and community. I value all the positive interactions I have with people on there.
redback_bites23: rainbow blanket (Default)
For a period of 7 years I co facilitated a group called Stepping Out. It is a series of workshops for women questioning their sexuality (same sex attraction). It is a program which was developed by some local women in Canberra who felt that it was needed, it was then taken on by the AIDS Action Council as something they would continue to support and make happen.

The program is peer run and facilitated by women who have done the Stepping Out course. I had done the course myself and was approached by one of the facilitators and asked if I could facilitate because the women who were facilitating were moving on. She asked me because I had experience running groups and had training and experience in my professional life.

I was quite honoured to be asked. When I first took on facilitating it was with another newbie. Together we facilitated for a couple of years and there was just the two of us. Sometimes we would organise a group which would end up being two women but we ran it anyway because there was not much around that could assist women at that time. After a few years, a few more women became facilitators.

When we first started there were few resources around. Technology was limited and many people not savvy with use of technology anyway. Finding any information was difficult and meeting other same sex attracted women was very hard. There were certainly no forms of social media which we have now. We gave out lists of movies and books as part of the course, because they were hard to find otherwise and you ‘needed to know’ where to look.

When I started facilitating the course it was very lesbian orientated and tended to exclude other queer women. I rewrote the course and worked hard at changing this. In the time I was co facilitating we had the youngest participant, who was 15, and in the last group which I co facilitated we had the first trans women participate.

I have estimated that in the time I facilitated the group, I would have shared experiences with about 80 women. I heard many stories, hopes, fears and dreams in relation to sexuality and just generally life. I always felt very honoured to hear their stories and share mine. As our community is small I have also witnessed these women growing and exploring and becoming more ‘full’ in the years after Stepping Out, this is a great privilege.

The other day I was cleaning my house up and found some old remnants of Stepping Out. This included a whole lot of ‘positive compliments’. This was the very last activity we did together in the workshops. Each person wrote their name on an envelope and put it in the middle of the group. Then everyone would write something positive (anonymously) for every person in the group, and put it in the corresponding envelope. Then everyone would take their envelope away and read the contents.

Finding these envelopes was timely. They were like positive affirmations. I think I shall stick them all into a book and keep them. They include comments from my co facilitators and the comments made in the very first group I facilitated.

•Thank you for a wonderful ‘training’ course. I look forward to many more Stepping Outs with you.

•Dear Megan, You’ve been fantastic to work with, thank you for joining the facilitation team. You’re very good at facilitating and I’d love to have the opportunity to learn more from you. I hope to catch up with you before I leave a few times.

•Open and understanding, friendly person.

•Sincere and friendly.

•Thanks for agreeing to take on this group. It’s been lovely working with you and I’m sure you’ll do an awesome job (just like you did here).

•You are very comfortable with yourself and open with your experiences, you are able to carry discussion and are easy to talk to, you will be a great facilitator of this group.

•Thanks for another great (if small) course. I think we’re getting the hang of the facilitating together. You’re a great listener and really patient. Definitely an asset for these courses 

•Thank you for making this such a great workshop! It was encouraging to hear about your experiences and you are very kind and open. Good luck.

•It would have taken some strength and courage to start anew like you did. You are so comfortable within yourself now it is amazing. I hope that one day I find that strength.

•It was great facilitating with you again. Thanks for holding the group together when my brain turned to mush.

•Thanks so much for your openness and honesty and for talking a lot (because you made me feel less self conscious about talking a lot) you seem really grounded in who you are and I really related to a lot of your experiences, which I appreciated a lot. Thanks so much for sharing your courage and comfortability in who you are.

•I felt like you were really open and were careful to give us an honest assessment of coming out and lesbian life. Thank you! That was awesome.

•Megan you are extremely open and I love hearing your stories.

•Megan, thanks for another great course! The courage and strength you’ve shown in your experiences amazes me. I look forward to another fun-filled Stepping out soon.

•You are really cool, I’m glad I came.

•Megan, I know we’ve been a shocker of a group – thanks for bearing with us, and sharing so much of your story. It really helps.

•You are approachable and knowledgeable and I really enjoyed having you as a facilitator.

•I thank that you’re a very thoughtful and intelligent person and a skilled facilitator. You did a great job and I enjoyed hearing about your experiences. Thank you for giving me this opportunity. I learnt a lot.

•Your openness and acceptance of everyone helped me to relax.

•You are really friendly and open about your life – creative and funny. I think you provide a wonderful environment for people to explore themselves and possibly their own values and judgements too. Hope to bump into you again.

•Thanks for being a great facilitator. The course was great and I really appreciate how open and honest you were about your experiences. Thanks.

•Outspoken, confident, Nice teeth, and great stomach noises.

•First I want to thank you for the time and effort you put into this course. I was a bit nervous to come but from word go have felt comfortable and have learnt lots about myself, where I’m at with coming out and about the lesbian community. A sincere thank you. I hope to see you around.

•So generous and sincere, you have so much to give and the skills to help so many people. I love watching you do your stuff, and I am always impressed anew each time I have the privilege to work with you.

•I like your confidence and your recycling skills.

•Your nice and ran this course very well. Thanks.

•You are a fun person, you know the subject you are teaching very well and easy to talk to.

•As always, you help me grow. Your ability to read ppl, support them and open their eyes to themselves is a true gift – thank you for using it sensitively and wisely over the last few years to help me get this far. I’m eager to explore now.

•Thanks for being a wonderful facilitator. You have taught me so much and I’ve really appreciated your efforts with getting Stepping Out up and running. I feel so much more confident with myself and no doubt we’ll bump into each other in the close Canberra Community.

•Thanks for leading the course. It’s been a fantastic experience. I have thoroughly enjoyed spending time talking with you and sharing our journeys. Your courage and sense of humour are forces to be reckoned with. I really look forward to spending more time getting to know you.

•You are a fab facilitator and how you let yourself be vulnerable re your coming out story really helped me to cope with my nerves. I hope we can stay friends into the future.

•Megan, you are so good at letting the group unfold and knowing when to steer it and when to let it go. And you have great insights into what people need.

•You’ve been awesome with the deliveries and the constant support and munchies.

•I learnt a lot from you Megan. Really glad to have the opportunity to facilitate with you and I’m grateful that you shared some of your insecurities with me, which helped me to accept mine.

•I liked your facilitating. You are knowledgeable and thank you for sharing your info, experience and time.

•You are the best facilitator ever! Did I get that right ‘lol’. Love your wisdom and attitude, it’s been very helpful.

•Thanks for creating such a positive and respectful place.

•You’re so good at what you do in this role. But more importantly you’re just good honest fun when the ball gets rolling. I think it is absolutely terrific that you take the time out to help us sistas out on this big old rollercoaster!!


Dec. 26th, 2013 10:46 am
redback_bites23: rainbow blanket (Default)
I am floating. Drifting along, in a river. Feet not touching the ground. Feeling patches of warm and cool water as I drift through. Not drowning, keeping afloat, but not having any real control over where I am going, and not really being sure if that is good or bad or just is.
The past twelve months has seen me completely dismantle myself, who I am, why I am here and how I am me. It had to be done, for the sake of my health and well being, otherwise I am sure I would have not been able to keep living. I felt like I was like a suitcase and I had been jamming bits and pieces of clothing into myself and it had gotten all wrinkly and I had no idea what was in there. I felt like I needed to get all the bits out and look at them. Do some sorting, throw some bits out and do some ironing and put what needs to be put back in, back in. Look at my hopes and dreams and the stuff I thought I was made of.

I am at a point where things are unpacked, they’re lying in heaps around an open suitcase and I am terrified. Twice recently friends recounted situations where they had obtained some sort of gadget and after the construction of the gadget they had found a couple of spare parts left over, which left them wondering as to what the parts are and what they are for, and if indeed the gadget will not work, or suddenly collapse without them. I was once a functional gadget, extra bits or not but somewhere along the line I turned into a dysfunctional, overflowing suitcase.

I am looking at all the clothing, all the bits that go in the suitcase and trying to work out what I need to keep and what I need to throw out. If something is really me, or if it’s outdated and needs to be thrown out. Wondering if some pieces are really me at all, but being scared about throwing them out, what if they are essential to my very being and once gone they are gone.

I do know that not all the pieces are going to fit back into the suit case, this is both good and bad. I have realised that I have been carrying far too much and I can’t keep carrying it all. It feels like some of my hopes and dreams will never come to be, I’ve been carrying them for far too long and I have tried to make them happen, but they haven’t, and now the thoughts of them just cause me pain.

As I pack my new backpack up, I need to work out what to leave behind and what to take with me. Otherwise the contents of the suitcase will wrap around me in the river and drag me to the bottom.
redback_bites23: rainbow blanket (Default)
Sequins and Feathers 2

This entry follows on and follows my journey through Kitten of the Year 2013....

During the week I continued to work on costumes I have for upcoming performances and heard about a third performance I will also be doing. Normally I wouldn’t be able to fit in so many performances with so many elaborate costumes, but seeing as I am not at work (much) at the moment I have the time and energy to do that. Except for the fact that I started to change medications a few days ago which, is a process that can last a couple of weeks. A couple of weeks of feeling really unwell. I had my first day of this several days ago and could barely move. I felt so week and dizzy and like I was going to vomit. Possibly the worst I have felt physically, but I was ok mentally, which is a really good start.

Today we had to do the tribute photos. For me this mean being nude, apart from a furry wrap thing in front of a room full of people. Well, that sounds more dramatic that what it was. I woke up and had trouble getting started (damn medication change poo) and felt very unsexy. The feelings I carried about how I looked when I tried the makeup on earlier in the week didn’t really help either. My burly friends thought it looked great but the responses from my dearest and nearest were not very validating and left me feeling a bit sad. But, I did sort of, mostly understand their responses and reminded myself that it actually didn’t matter what they thought, this was for me.

Getting out bed and getting started was a bit slow. I managed to get my makeup on and looking good. The only challenge is always the false eyelashes. My hands were a bit shaky and unsteady, which made it hard and the fact that I actually can’t see well at that distance adds. But, I still got them on. I also put my wig on. I was looking very hot, in my old flanny shirt, tracksuit bottom, men’s shoes, sunlasses, full makeup and red curly wig. I had to be completely nude for the photo and so didn’t wear any underwear as, I learnt in previous modelling experience, underwear and socks can make lines, which can ruin the photo.... I learnt that in the days before photo shop.

I felt pretty good when I got there. I moved around and chatted to different people. Everyone was spread out, in this fairly big room, in various stages of readiness. Hair curlers in, hair curlers out. Half dressed, makeup half done. It’s times like that, that burlesque is definitely not glamorous. The end result looks glamorous but the preparation often isn’t.
They had the DVD of the previous Kitka show on the big screen and people were watching it in amongst the preparations. Unfortunately I didn’t have my glasses, so it was a bit blurry to me. In this show I had a very big role. I was Pastor Randy Powers and myself and my wife Fannie Mae Powers were the leaders (MCs) of Kitka Minstries. Fannie Mae (my good friend Jane) and I did a duo together towards the end of the show. This came up on the screen, so naturally I stopped to watch it.

Now many people don’t like photos of themselves, or hearing themselves recorded. Seeing yourself on screen is really odd. I guess what you are doing is, as a performer trying to look at your own performance objectively and see how you can learn from it, what you need to do more of, or less of, or if there is any annoying things you do. What you do well etc. So, all of that, but it’s odd too because what was going on in your head could be very different to what you see. It’s a very interesting experience.

Anyway, I watched and laughed, I really enjoyed my own performance. As if it was someone else. It kind of blew me away at how good I was. I really didn’t have this perception at all. I mean, I gave it my best and I enjoyed it, but it was as good as everyone elses or better, depending on how it was viewed. I felt so proud of myself and of Jane, we rocked it, we really did.
Watching this I realised just how much I have improved as a performer. I really didn’t know or think I had improved that much. This has definitely given me confidence for the upcoming performances I have on. I know that I can do them, but now I know I can do them well. It doesn’t mean I will slack off or anything, but I will watch the footage of me a bit more and look at it critically and try and take this into what I do next.

Having the photo taken was fine. My friend Lauren, who I met in another burlesque performance was assisting the photographer Anne. Lauren helped me get my pants off, she actually pulled them off for me while I stool precariously holding the wrap over my top part. Sure, the room was full, but everyone was busy doing their own thing that it was nothing. I was reminded when I was having the photo taken about the entirely awkward positions that models have to stand in. They look really normal and natural, but in fact body parts are twisted in ways that they don’t normally twist. I like Anne as a photographer, she takes really good shots and when it comes to directing someone into a pose she is really good. This is (I think) because she is a model herself, so she knows how to give that direction. So the glamour shot is now done and we’re onto the next stages of the production. Which is hearing Miss Kitka say ....... again...... again........ again........
redback_bites23: rainbow blanket (Default)
I have been thinking about blogging about my journey as I do Kitten of the Year. I am not sure how I will go over time in terms of regular blogs, but here we go with the first post.

I have been involved with Miss Kitka’s House of Burlesque for three years now. I first became involved as a drag king performer. As a drag king, there have always been few places to perform in Canberra and those places had dried up. I had been to a Kitka show, The Sheriff’s Daughter, which was the first local burlesque show I had seen. I went because a friend was in it. In this particular show, it followed a story line and there were male characters in it. Cowboy types. At the time I had thought it would be awesome and bring something extra or different to the show if it was a drag king. So when my performance opportunities had dried up I contacted Miss Kitka and told her a bit about myself as a performer and ended up in the next show as a male character.

For me this whole experience and story is also about gender. I had been doing drag king performance for a while and had pretty much made my own way with this. I had had no tutors in it, I just learnt off my own bat. I had never performed before this in any kind of way. I had become interested in drag king performance as I came out as a lesbian, and my world was changing dramatically. I could be who I wanted to be, or this is how it felt. I had always felt that I had a masculine unexpressed side and this was a way to do it. My first king performance was a couple of years after I had decided that I would do it somehow in some way and that was about 8 years ago.

A woman in the lesbian community had moved to Canberra from Melbourne and was putting together a drag king performance for a women’s only queer event. This is what I had been waiting for. A group of us got together and she showed us some basics and we did a one off show for the event. After that I kept going, taking every chance I could to perform, which wasn’t often and always within the LGBTI community. I entered drag idol competitions and eventually someone convinced me to run a drag king workshop. Which I did. From this, a few of us formed a group for a while and performed reasonably regularly over a few years. People came and went from the group, but I loved it and continued to look for opportunities to perform.

This gave me the opportunity to express a part of myself. I was celebrating the masculine. Doing this taught me a lot about gender and how people respond to it. I nearly always had a ‘straight’ woman come and try to self consciously flirt with me in the early days. This always threw me; I never really knew how to respond. A lot of the lesbian community like drag kings but many also don’t. Lesbians, gay men and straight women have all fancied Mr Teal. Straight men often laugh, but in a good way and give me advice and tell me what I am doing right and what I am doing wrong. Mostly they laugh at my accuracy because they see themselves in the character.

Mr Green Teal is very much a part of me and how I see myself. I have learnt that gender binaries don’t sit comfortably at all for me. I am more of a gender fluid person.

For the most part of this time, I became more masculine in my everyday appearance. Wearing mostly men’s clothing and vowing a few years ago that I would never wear a skirt again. This was shifting slightly as I became involved with Miss Kitkas. I had been completely immersed in the LGBTI community until this time as I had ‘lost’ a lot of my straight friends when I came out. Not because there was any real rejections, (okay there was a couple), but because my life was vastly different and I couldn’t relate to them anymore. We had the past in common, but not much in common in the present.

When I did the first show with Miss Kitkas I was very wary about what the women in the show would think of me. First of all I was a lesbian; secondly I was dressing like a man. I had been sitting in a place of relative safety about my identity and didn’t have to fear rejection over sexuality. The added detail here was that I was sharing a dressing room with these women, who for a good part of the time were practically naked. I was very careful when staring randomly into space that no one was in my field of vision for fear of them thinking I was perving at them. I was in a position that many women loving women and men would be extremely envious of. But I wasn’t allowed to perve, it would be most disrespectful. To be one of the ‘girls’ (sitting in the corner dressed as a man) I had to behave respectfully, not like someone in a lolly shop.

So I was quiet at first. I had joined the rehearsals for the production at a later time than them which meant they had already had time to form bonds with each other. It felt a bit tricky. By the time we had done the show I realised they were all lovely and very open minded. In fact much more open minded than the queer community which I was used to. They were very encouraging of Mr Green Teal and didn’t hold back that they thought he was a spunk. This was different from the queer women, who I could never really tell what they thought. The burly ladies had created a very safe, supportive environment for each other to be women in, to be people in, and I had just joined that environment, so why wouldn’t they be forthcoming with support and encouragement.

Just as I had joined Miss Kitkas to do that first production I had been thinking about accessing my feminine side again. It had been a while and I had never done this as a queer woman, which is different from doing it as a straight woman. When I use these labels I use them loosely, I don’t believe that sexuality and gender fits neatly into boxes, it’s all fluid. I speak very generally and use these terms to create a narrative about my experiences.

It was very interesting watching the women in that first production and just how much they changed and grew in confidence, even in such a short period of time (maybe two months). It was fantastic seeing them celebrate and be happy with who they are and their bodies. This same thing happened with subsequent productions and lessons. In my experience as a straight woman there was a whole lot of pressures to be female in a particular kind of way and I believe in some ways this is getting even worse/harder for women. Feminism is definitely not an out dated way of being.

When I came out as a lesbian many of these ‘rules’ no longer existed and I thought I was free to be something more. Which, I was for a while... I soon discovered that many of the ways of dressing or things I thought were really cool fitted the lesbian uniform(s)/stereotypes. Who knew there were bunches of women just like me. I began to not feel less like the wallflower I had been all my life, but someone who fitted and had ‘stuff’ going for me.

The only problem here is that queer women also feel a whole lot of pressure to conform in particular ways. If you are ‘too feminine’ you may disappear in the eyes of other lesbians or not be recognised. You may be seen as not ‘enough’ of a lesbian. If you are too butch then surely you really want to be a man. There is also pressure with both butches and femmes to do and look, and be a particular ‘thing’ to fit what is called butch and what is called femme. There seems to be some lesbian mafia somewhere that dictates the correct behaviour and look.

Watching that first production and wanting to extend on my performances skills, and explore my femme side lead me to do the beginner burlesque classes, which was followed by the intermediate classes. Then there was an end of year show, Kitten of the Year, which I participated in, in drag. This was because I had a major art exhibition on and didn’t think I could manage so many new things. Again, I saw a group of women go through the process and really bloom. A number of them were women who I had also done my beginner and intermediate classes with. I vowed I would do the next show ‘girly burlesque style’, because I wanted to grow that part of me.

At the beginning of that year 2012 my health started to decline. I had already been experiencing some problems but it continued. The doctors didn’t know if it was peri menopause or something else, but the main experience was that it felt like my uterus needed ripping out of my body because it was giving me so much pain. Going to burlesque lessons and participating in that first production as Arachne Phobia kept me partly sane. I really felt like I was faking it the whole time. I felt like crap, I was supposed to be feeling great and energised and feminine and alive from doing the burlesque lessons and the show. But I felt old and peri menopausal and in pain. The very parts of my body that are supposed to be physically sexy or those that are connected to sexuality were hurting me. I didn’t really get any kind of buzz from that show. I enjoyed it in the moment, but the next day any joy was gone (that is impact of depression).

I know so many of the women who I have done burlesque with, have amazing stories of facing their own fears and feelings of adversity and more recently we can add men to this experience as well. This is why most of us keep doing burlesque. There is the beautiful lady who bared her scars after having breast cancer; there is the woman recovering from a serious cancer of the cervix scare; there is the mums who deal with pooey nappies every day; there is the women who see themselves as overweight and definitely not sexy; there is the performers that deal with mental health issues daily...the list goes on. In some ways my story is not unique, but one to add to the stories and experiences that exist. It’s the companionship, the laughing, the facing our fears about our bodies, about stereotypes of what men and women are meant to be. It’s the being daggy together and the getting dressed up and being glamorous that brings us all together.

I had wanted to continue with the burlesque that year but my health was declining and I had to give up a number of things in order to look after myself. I did go to the end of year Kitten of the Year Show.

Kitten of the Year is annual production Miss Kitka puts on. People enrol in this as a course (as with all her productions) and can negotiate how much they want to be involved in the show. Kitten of the Year is a ‘competition’ for Kitten of the Year, although the competitive element really does not exist in such a supportive environment. Each performer who chooses to compete is to research a vintage burlesque performer, pre 1965. They are to find out about the performer, find pictures of them and a clip of them performing. In this process they also need to contact the performer and ask permission to pay tribute to that performer. Part way through the course each performer ‘copies’ the photo they have chosen of the performer. These are used as later publicity for the show and also for the performer to get a ‘nice’ photo of themselves, a bit like vintage glamour shots. The performer then works towards copying the chosen clip of the performer as closely as they can. The performances are judged by a panel of judges and there is also an audience choice winner.

The winners then become Miss Kitkas bitches for the year. Seriously though, the winners become the face(s) of Miss Kitkas business for the next year. This includes being the poster girl/boy of the productions and performing at various events and hosting hen’s parties.

I was very disappointed that I could not do that production but went along to support the performers and Miss Kitka and of course have an awesome night out.

I think about my childhood and how I loved pretty dresses. I wanted to do ballet just so I could wear a tutu. I did a couple of ballet lessons then didn’t want to go anymore because I realised I would have to work real hard to get that tutu.

I see the ladies in the Kitka shows, as so beautiful and the little girl in me and the grown woman wants to be just like that, they are grown up versions of that little girl I wanted to be wearing a tutu, but never got there. If I have known them at all, that only adds because I have known what they have had to overcome to be part of the show and to be as glamorous and pretty as what they look. Having said that the burly ladies are always laughing at how glamorous it is. For the last couple of years this has felt like something I can’t be, but someone that I want to be. My health continued to decline last year and coming into this year it seemed to be resolved. Then I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, which was actually the cause, or so it would seem of all the pain.

This has continued to have an impact on me for the last 9 months. All together I’ve been unwell for at least 2 ½ years and not really known how unwell I’ve been, until now as I slowly get better. I was suicidal last year, and told no one. It’s a very wearing experience in the least. I have felt anything but attractive, any confidence I have gained in myself as a ‘grown up’ has dwindled away and I feel like an old woman who should be leaving this ‘stuff’ to the younger women. That’s on a bad day. On a good day I feel empowered to show the world that I still have ‘something’ and that ‘older’ women can be attractive as well.

I don’t know how to be a femme queer lady and I want that, and I want to access that part of myself and express it, as it’s as important as being Mr Green Teal. The masculine side of me is more the default me, but I am learning I like to be feminine and ‘girly’ sometimes. This still feels clumsy and I am hoping by doing Kitten of the Year I will feel better about it. That I will feel the performance buzz everyone else talks about. I did feel it in the last show, which was Mr Green Teal’s biggest show, but it was as a man/masculine me. This is much easier and more comfortable than feminine me. I believe that playing homage to Betty Howard ‘The Girl Who has Everything’ will teach me how to be more feminine and how to feel comfortable with it.

It has become one of my goals to enter Kitten of the Year and be the beautiful femme woman I have always wanted to be, but never felt like I have been, and even wondered if I could.

Pea Soup

May. 29th, 2013 07:07 pm
redback_bites23: rainbow blanket (Default)
Last year I had a lot of issues with my physical health and as part of the recovery process I went to my GP at the beginning of the year for some general follow on checks. She sent me to an immunologist because I thought I might have had allergies. I still wasn’t feeling great. I had to wait a number of months for the appointment and by the time I went, I felt like I had a lot invested in the outcome. I felt a lot better but I still didn’t feel great. I was feeling negative about it, it had all just taken what seemed like forever to solve and it still wasn’t solved and I was still feeling rotten. I thought he would not find anything, I didn’t expect to walk out of there with more or less, a diagnosis of depression. One of the things he described was it was like walking through pea soup all the time. ‘Things’ are just generally hard work. At that point I was blinking back tears because that is exactly how I had felt for ages, but I thought I just wasn’t trying hard enough with my life. I should have been able to deal with ordinary things but I wasn’t. Clearly I was deficient and lacking. I needed to keep trying and clearly I wasn’t trying hard enough, or understanding things because I was stupid.

I went to my GP again about a week later and it took her all of about 5 minutes to diagnose depression with anxiety thrown in. She recommended medication, straight away, as I was already doing ‘all of the things’ one would do to help their well being. I had increased my exercise; I was watching my diet; My vitamin D was fine and I was doing things to help perk myself up. But really none of this was enough. The conclusion was that I had been in a depressive episode for at least a year. Thinking about it, I think it started about two years ago. The doctor said it was hard to know whether my physical symptoms from last year were because of it, or possibly the cause of it. I think they were because of it. Just because I’ve had so many hard things to deal with leading up to that time and for a few years in a row there I wondered when the hell I was going to get a break from shitty, hard things in life.

I have no qualms about taking medication, or at least trying it for a while. I also have no problems talking about mental health – to an extent. Talking face to face with someone can be extremely hard depending on the day. Why don’t I mind talking? Because mental illness is common as muck, but there is still stigma about it, but if people don’t talk, the stigma won’t be broken down. It was hard for me to tell my work colleagues or others about it because it’s really hard to know how people will react. Unfortunately with the symptoms and the way one feels, it’s extremely hard to believe that people will think you are anything other than defective. I also know that medication takes time; I know it can take quite some time before you hit on the right one or the right dose. For some people, it’s not the answer at all. Of course it also works best in combination with a whole lot of other things. Like a psychologist or a counsellor, the right support around you and all the other ‘stuff’ you’d do for your general well being.

I acknowledge this is my story and my experience, but I am sure that some things will resonate with others. How is it walking in pea soup? It’s shit and it’s hard. Average living, going to work, cooking dinner, doing your washing and cleaning your house just becomes really hard. It’s like walking through pea soup; it takes far longer with much more effort than if you were skipping along through the sunshine. It makes you feel really tired and all you want to do is go to sleep, and that’s after being at work, let alone trying to do all the rest of it. Throw in the other household duties and you’re walking through pea soup juggling a few balls above your head. This is if things are going well.

Wondering why you feel so tired and why things are so very hard to do, just the ordinary things and wondering why you need so much time to just be ‘still’ in your own company.
With things feeling so difficult social interaction is hard. There is no energy; there is no time to go to anything socially. Small events or interactions may be picked to attend, but then at the last minute the exhaustion takes over and the effort required to go and be around people becomes too much and it doesn’t happen.

Now, walking along, through pea soup and juggling a few balls something else comes up ‘out of the ordinary’ like a car needs fixing or your internet is not working and life really begins to feel overwhelming. My memory turned to shit, I forget things all the time, there is general confusion and half the time you think you’re on the ball and then you discover at a later time that you were so off the mark with something.

Too many things to do become overwhelming and ‘things’ become circular. I had already worked really hard to shut as much of the world out as possible. I don’t read news, watch any televised television (only shows on dvd), I rarely listen to the radio. Why? Because I decided the world was just too fucked a few years ago, it was all negative stuff all the time and it was just too much to deal with, it was eroding my already fragile resilience. Really, this was most likely the beginning of my mental health issues. The need to protect myself from all things bad. And really, everything seemed bad.

The result of doing this for a couple of years means that I often don’t feel like I have a clue about what is going on in the world, and this has only served to further alienate me from other people. I feel stupid. Because I don’t have any understanding of world events, or local events, or any events really. All for self preservation. The down side to this is when I mix with other people, in any capacity and they start talking about many different kinds of things I feel stupid, and thick because I don’t understand and I can’t contribute to the conversation. This of course is not true. I am not stupid, thick or worthless, I have plenty to offer, but my illness tells me I am. The voices and feelings that take over tell me that I am. Repeatedly.

Social isolation is a biggie. Feeling unwell means it’s hard to commit to doing anything socially, and really people will only invite you so many times before they give up, trying to organise anything for your self is pretty much the same. The idea that you might not have the energy or feel up to it means you don’t often try, only with a few people who might understand where you are at. Because this is something that goes on for months and months, possibly even years, people don’t understand. Earlier on I had said I wasn’t well and people offered to bring me soup. Now that’s all very nice of them, but A) this is not a flu and I don’t know how long I will feel like shit and B) even if it would be nice for me to have the soup (because I haven’t managed my grocery shopping), it means I have interact with you when you bring the soup.

In the meantime, I notice I have lost friends. In many cases if you are involved in community, or various community groups you have to actually interact with them – oddly enough. Otherwise you get lost or forgotten, or at least it feels like you are forgotten. If you want to be invited and grow friends in the groups you have to actually be friendly and participate and go to lots of things. This way invitations will flow your way. If you don’t do these things then forget about being included. This is how it has felt to me. I see pictures of various social events, between people I know, people I introduced to each other. But I am not there. This has really hurt in the past. To not be included in things, to not even get an invitation. But the other side to that, is that I probably would not have been able to go even if I had. I would have either not had the energy. Or the work of being around people would be too much, even people I like.

Going out and being around people is confusing. It produces paranoia and many hurtful moments. It’s hard to be friendly because you feel the person doesn’t want to talk to you, even someone you know and like. You feel like you are imposing on them. So you stay away on the other side of the room, and of course then people think you are unfriendly, or a snob. But really you are wondering how to go and talk to them and if they want to talk to you. If you do talk to them you might be wondering if they want you to go away. I went to the Candelight Memorial a week ago. Lots of people I know and like were there. I entered the crowd, found a seat, by myself and didn’t move. A woman I know came and sat near me. I said hello but didn’t enter into any other conversation. It was too hard. While I was sitting there it occurred to me that I would have to get up, and be surrounded by people and I would be expected to be sociable. I had a moment of panic and then thought, it’s ok, I can do this. I will leave before I have to do that. The ceremony proceeded and when it was finished at the end, I made my way out of the crowd as quickly as I could so I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone. But I went. That was the main thing.

Being at work is probably the hardest thing. This is because there are certain expectations behind the way you behave and, well, you have to work. So being tired or confused makes it a bit tricky at times. I haven’t been as on the ball as I know I would normally be. Unfortunately I have basically been unwell the whole time I have been in my job, so it feels like my colleagues don’t know the real me.

My mental health combined with my physical health has meant that I have felt, fuzzy, ditsy and just not on the ball. Quite hard when you are in a management position where you are expected to lead others. The paranoia of people not liking you or feeling worthless continues at work. There have been times when I have felt I have just not been able to do a thing right by certain people, and that means they really don’t like me. They think I’m an idiot of course and this is what my head tells me as well.

Another thing I spoke to the immunologist about is the absence of mood, or feeling good. That ‘things’ haven’t lasted. The things I would normally do to increase my self esteem or help me to feel good haven’t ‘worked’. I have performed in shows, made great artworks, seen amazing things. They have all been sort of enjoyable at the time of doing them, but afterwards I haven’t remained happy. Everything has felt grey. I know in theory, I have so much to be grateful for, I have amazing partners and a great job, I do interesting things. But the enjoyment I get from being with my partners and doing interesting things is only there when I am with them or doing the ‘things’. There is no sustained mood, everything remains flat.
Regardless of the situation, ‘other’ people are always more intelligent, nicer people, more attractive, have better jobs, are more talented etc etc etc etc .....than me. This is what my head tells me and it has hurt my heart more than I can say over the last couple of years. External validation becomes really important, because what one says to oneself is anything other than validating. When someone does something that hurts your feelings, or you feel like you’ve made a fool of yourself around them, or you have wronged them it cuts deep and it is hard to ever feel comfortable around them again. In a lot of cases people possibly don’t even know they have ‘done’ anything.

This is why it was such a relief to be diagnosed with an illness. I can work with the illness and make it go away. It’s not me, I am not deficient, I don’t have to ‘try harder’. I just need to look at things differently. I need to reprogram my thinking. I might not fully get over some of the hurt feelings I have had, but at least now I can see and understand that a lot of my responses to things are illness. When I am feeling better, yes, I would love you to bring me soup, pea soup, which I will enjoy eating not wading through.
redback_bites23: rainbow blanket (Default)
In my experience when you are young you don’t think too much about what it will be like when you are older. You might have some plans and hopes and dreams, you might have lots of plans and hopes and dreams and feels a bit like a vast expanse of time you have to do them all in. Even if it’s only next year. When I was about 24 I made a conscious decision to ‘work on myself’ because I was convinced I would never meet Mr Right and that I would be living on my own forever. This was an OK thought to me at the time. I had dreams of making my way through art school, which I had just started and somehow or another I would end up living in my grandmother’s house in Ainslie, long after she was gone.

So I started the work on myself. I worked my way through art school, a couple of years after that completing a graduate diploma in teaching and then entering into my first job in the community sector. For a number of years I worked hard, I developed many skills both in my creative endeavours and through my work with the various community groups that is Canberra. Then I had another landmark time, which was when I came out as being a lesbian (this label has changed since then) and began another parallel journey into discovering and working out my ‘queerness’. In this time I became very involved in the Queer community.

The time frame that I am talking about for all of this is now just over 20 years. I have spent all this time ‘working on myself’ and creating an identity and developing an idea of who I am...perhaps, whoever does, I think it’s always evolving. In about the last 5 -10 years there has been times I have been considered a bit of an ‘authority’ on particular things, issues and topics, just because I have been around for so long doing some of these things. Because I do many things, I am more a ‘jack of all trades’ than a specialist in anything.

I recognise a big part of this is also about me. I buck the system so to speak. I refuse to fit into any kinds of moulds if they feel uncomfortable and I do my own thing. My entire life I always sat on the edge of various things. My friendship groups were wide and varied, but I was never in the centre of one.

In any case, I have done lots of things, and done them in the way that I want to do them, and had a sense of identity based around how people might have perceived me in relation to these things. People would ask me for information or advice and I would tell them. There are plenty of ‘stars’ out there who I have supported. Who I have given key information to about life opportunities, which has meant the person has the chance to fulfil their dreams.

I became very active in Canberra’s LGBTI community, and at one point thought I must have known every lesbian in Canberra. This was both good and bad. I found when I entered the lesbian community I could use many of the skills gained in work life to do things to assist the LGBTI community and I did go from someone who was quite shy and not in the spotlight in any kind of way to someone, who on the surface was quite extroverted. This was because I implemented a number of activities on a regular basis for the community and also began performing as part of my art expression and the audiences were most often the gay community. The assumption from many people was that I was a flamboyant extrovert. This really was not true.

This takes me up to 2010. In 2010 I ended up shutting myself off a bit in order to finish writing a thesis that I had started a couple of years earlier. It was time to get the fucker done and finish the degree that I had started the year I came out.

At the beginning of 2011 I emerged again and was ready to be a bit more sociable. The only thing is there appeared to be no one around. I felt a bit lonely and disconnected as it seemed that some of the friends I had made had moved on or weren’t interested in catching up. Thing is, I had been so active in all the things I had been doing, but I realised that I had few real friends. I had previously been surrounded, but it was with people who were there because I had organised the ‘thing’, not because they were friends.

It was a bit tough, I started to reach out and try to connect with some people, some old friends some new friends. At the same time I had experienced a few health issues. I had also finished my thesis and was wondering if the job that I was in was really ‘me’. I decided it wasn’t and resigned with the idea that I would have a bit of time off before starting a new job. Which would be the right one. It was a leap of faith that did lead me to the job that I am currently in. One very amazing thing also happened in this time, I met (one of) my partners. We had met briefly previously but it wasn’t until I asked her for coffee, in an effort to make new friends that we connected properly. Unfortunately she had already decided to leave Australia for her native New Zealand, which she did a couple of months later (that is a whole other story).

Now this is about when the ‘stuff they don’t tell you’ starts to kick in. I had had some health problems and my body had been changing slightly for a couple of years. Nothing major, I had been and had some general health checks done previously and I was fine. I also understand that this is my story and it what I say is true to me and my experiences. Some of it will resonate with people with chronic illnesses and some will resonate with others for whatever reasons.

I have had lots and lots of energy for many years, and lots of drive to do all the things that I do. I don’t believe that age should matter and I certainly try my hardest not to be ageist. But the stuff they don’t tell you about middle age or being peri menopausal or whatever it is when you are young is really not fair.

It’s shit. Plain and simple. I had a full year last year of being in pain 90% of the time. The doctors couldn’t name what was wrong with me; they just went about treating my symptoms. The focus of my symptoms being the pain I was in. But the effects were far wider than this.
I went from having much much energy to hardly any. I couldn’t go out, I couldn’t do much and this did my head in. I felt socially isolated, but it was really hard to make any plans to do anything because I never knew if I would have the energy or not or if I would be in pain or what. So I became one of those people who could not commit to anything or who would possibly have to cancel at the last minute. Now I get this, there are people who are quite able who do this who are a pain in the arse, and there are people with illnesses etc who really want to be there and be doing something and to see you but they can’t. Of course after a while, most people stop inviting you, so you just get forgotten and left behind.

Trying to tell people you aren’t well and also trying to explain that there is no end in sight is also hard. People say things like ‘let me know if I can do anything’ but really they think you will be better in a few days, when really it could be weeks or months. My head became very fuzzy and affected the way I did things all the time. My memory was badly affected and this was very frustrating. Trying to get through any given day was often a challenge because I had no idea how capable I was going to be. This made work hard. Having to go in and be organised and do a good job was tricky. I was promoted into a manager position and I had to learn all that it entailed, plus be on top of it and at least appear to know what I was doing for my staff team. Which on many days I just didn’t feel that way at all. Going to the doctor every couple of months and still not getting any joy in getting anywhere with any solutions was very frustrating. With new treatment ideas came renewed hope for a short period of time until I realised it really hadn’t worked at all.

So it appeared that the issue probably was/is peri menopause. Although it’s still not clear. This is the stuff they don’t tell you when you are young. They don’t tell you how miserable you can feel through all of this and how lonely it is, because NO ONE TALKS ABOUT IT. The whole ‘thing’ is kind of just not something that is openly discussed and some subjects within it are just scoffed at. The whole ‘but you don’t seem old’ or ‘age is just a number’ or ‘you as as young as you feel’. Well, I can tell you that I went from feeling really energetic like I could take on the world to feeling 90. And no it’s not a tiredness that a good night’s sleep will fix. It just goes on and on. I also had had a very healthy libido. OH NO, LIBIDO, now that is something that everyone is ‘supposed’ to have. A very taboo subject to talk about because we’re all supposed to fuck like rabbits, always (except for our parents or our children, they never have sex). Well for me, my libido had become very much a very important part of whom and what I am, especially since coming out. It has suffered. The feeling of desire still there, but the feeling of being covered by thick blankets, that have a heaviness that you have to fight the weight of to get anywhere, is not always conducive to sex. Definitely not conducive to picture I had of myself as the forever charming and able to please my partners whenever and wherever I (and they) wanted.

People stopped asking me questions; people were no longer interested in my opinions on things. I felt passed over on many occasions and as if I had nothing to offer anymore. My self esteem suffered all round. I often felt depressed to a point of not wanting to be alive. I felt hopeless and stupid. So many of the things I had, ‘worked on myself’ as being, went out the window, they disintegrated and it was hard to know who I was. I was also fighting being angry, I had just reached a time before all this had begun, where I felt like I really knew who I was and what I wanted and it was cut down, because I didn’t have the energy to do any of the things I wanted to do.

I also have to add that I work in this area, I know what signs and symptoms are in relation to peri menopause and I know about body changes after 40. I believe in sexual and reproductive health for everyone. Even for me working in it and around other people who support it, it was hard. I hate to think about what it could be like for other women. It feels like some sort of ‘excuse’ for particular behaviours and something (cis) women are to just deal with. I tried reading some books and I went to a forum my work conducted (in partnership with another organisation) and the information about this ‘stuff’ for queer women is shit. So much of it just doesn’t apply. Our context seems very different. When the woman who is the specialist on relationships and libido as a guest speaker in forums keeps talking about the male partner and all about him, it’s just downright annoying and the advice and what is being offered is not something that can be transferred around in one’s head to apply to women. Queer women relate to each other differently and some of our issues are different, the information they were offering just didn’t apply to me. I managed to find one book aimed at lesbian women. Some woman’s thesis. It was shit, I stopped reading it when she kept going on about women who are heterosexual as being conditioned in different ways, so women who had come out at an older age would have this conditioning, it was insinuating that I was somehow flawed..... A total load of crap that just made me feel worse.

This is the shit ‘they’ don’t tell you, or the stuff that is just not talked about often.
This year I am feeling much better. Finally a medical procedure/medication has actually assisted me. However I am still ‘not the same’. My energy is still very low. I have to make sure I get just the right amount of sleep and enough time out to just laze around, combined with the right amount of exercise and everything else. Everything is finely balanced and if the balance is tipped I don’t feel well, either physically or mentally/emotionally.
The good thing all of this has done is it has made me realise what is important in life. My relationships are the most important thing. Nothing else matters. I am working on redefining who I am based on this, and based on the simple things in life. It doesn’t matter if people don’t want my pearls of wisdom or my company even. I am getting enjoyment out of the ‘little’ things these days, because it’s the little things that matter.
redback_bites23: rainbow blanket (Default)
I first met Mr Moonbery about 12 years ago. He was one of my first students. I worked in a program where I taught young people literacy out of youth centre type environments. My students came to me for any number of reasons, and my job was to improve their literacy. Most of them had major fears of learning environments, many of them thought they were dumb. I was learning to be a teacher at the time and also learning how to relate to young people. I was a cross between a teacher and a youth worker. My students aged between about 12 and 23. Mr Moonbery was 13.

Mr Moonbery came to my program for about 3 years. He used to come along and balance pool cues on his forehead and do other such things. He had developed an interest in circus and acting skills and this was always apparent. He had also taken up the uni cycle. He was one of these artistic types that would much rather be doing something, like balancing something on his head, other than reading and writing.

Towards the end of the program I got all my students to draw a map of their future. I had done a basic drawing of a winding road with some trees and I asked them to write or draw along the road, what they wanted or saw in their future. This could have been a future of one day, or a year or five years. Mr Moonbury’s drawing covered about a 12 month period. On it was a whole bunch of things, mostly revolving around something to do with uni cycling, which ended with attending the world national unicycle championships (or something like this). Mr Moonbury left my program, at the end of year 10, and went on to college.

A few years later I was working as a manager of a youth service and we had to launch a new name. This involved a big event being held in the city area with stalls and bands and other entertainment. Mr Moonbury was employed with his Uni cycle group/troup to come and do some performance/tricks. I hadn’t seen him for a couple of years, and he told me or I had found out somehow, that he had indeed gone to the uni cycle world championships and he had done all this other ‘stuff’ in that area. We had a chat and he told me that he was interested in doing youth work as a job.

A bit after this I was trying to track him down to let him know about some youth work traineeships that were coming up, and in the process of doing this had a conversation with his mother on the phone. She told me that it was my influence that had lead him to want to do youth work. She relayed to me a conversation she had had with him where he had said, the things that I did with the young people when he was coming to the youth centre was really good and he wanted to do something like that and be like me. That was one of the biggest compliments of my career.

Several years after this, with this thing called facebook we became facebook friends. From this perspective I’ve been ‘watching’ his life a bit. He still seemed to have many of the quirky qualities he had at age 13. I couldn’t quite tell where he worked, but from the occasional comment I got the impression that he was working with young people in some capacity. I was also able to see his artistic talent developing into stencil art and painting.

More recently he posted photos of himself with a young woman (there had been others in the past) and I thought to myself ‘he is going to marry her’. I just knew. I am not one who really believes in marriage, not for myself, but if others want to do it then that’s fine. Next thing he announced via facebook (and other forums I’m sure) that they were indeed going to get married. There was a couple of posts about this, and one of them was an announcement with the date and time telling everyone they were welcome. I thought, right, I’m going, unless disaster or something else strikes.

The wedding was today. I turned up at the venue, which was outside near a lake. There was a bunch of other people there, some clearly family and others friends. It was interesting seeing all these people that were part of his life. Earlier on someone, I assume a family member, asked me how I knew the couple and I said that I used to be a teacher/youth worker to Mr Moonbury. I don’t think anyone had a clue who I was or even thought about it too much. They were all absorbed and excited about the event.

Amongst the crowd of people was a group of young people with disabilities and what appeared to be a couple of other people who were organising/looking after them. I put two and two together and realised that Mr Moonbury was in some way working with these young people. He is doing just what I had done when I met him – working with young people.

The bride and groom to be, arrived, nicely dressed in a fancy car, which I think they drove themselves. The ceremony was performed by a celebrant who had known Mr Moonbury for a long time through an association with uni cycling. The ceremony was quick and nice. Very soon after it was done I went and hugged Mr Moonbury, who thanked me for coming and then I quickly escaped the small crowd and left.

I was quite teary throughout the ceremony. I could see how meeting me 12/13 years ago had impacted on the shape of his life, and I always knew how much I had learnt from him (and others). Whereas I doubt anyone else there, apart from him and I would have any idea about this impact.

We just never know what effects we can have on others.
redback_bites23: rainbow blanket (Default)
There are a number of things I have learnt over the past 6 years as to what I need to feel safe and happy in my (poly) relationships. 2012 was a particularly challenging year, as I had bad health and was in a pain a lot of the time (both physical and emotional), my longer term partner also had health issues. I had met a new (potential) partner mid way through 2011, and she left the country only a few months after we met, meaning that our relationship over the last year has been by distance. With all these challenges many of the ‘ordinary’ poly ‘rules’ or ideas were quite hard to work with or did not work at all for me.

I am someone who does have problems with jealousy, but have learnt many strategies and ways of dealing with this. With my longer term partner, we have worked through a number of challenges in the in the last 5 years. Last year I was working through some of the same and new challenges with my new partner. The year brought new lessons and really solidified some existing ideas for me. These ideas don't include the 'basics' of poly, rather some 'stuff' that I think is a bit harder to learn.

These are some of the things I need/like to do, for me, in order for me to have happy, health, poly relationships and not necessarily in this order).

1. I believe you can have whatever kind of relationship you want with who ever. I don’t believe in primary or secondary partners, that implies some kind of hierarchy. What I believe is that there is a place for whoever you choose to have a relationship with and you shape it or work it out with them. Individual people do relationships and feel things differently, they express love and affection differently, and they express themselves sexually differently. This means that every poly relationship (and relationship, could be monogamous) is going to be different. Circumstances might, or could determine how a relationship is done. An example of this, is that I live with my longer term partner (J) and my other partner (T) lives in another country. Some might look at that from the outside and determine that because I live with J and T is a long way, away then T is secondary. T is very important to me and means no less than J. I have a different dynamic with both of them. I view both of them as ‘main’ relationships.

If I was going to have another relationship now, I think it would have to be quite casual, in terms of time spent with the other person. T is currently in another country, but if T & J were both close to me I would be giving both of them a lot of time. This is what I want from them.

2. I have learnt that comparing partners to each other is not the thing to do and one of the main reasons why people suffer from jealousy. ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’ is my favourite quote. It’s about appreciating everyone for who they are (and can be applied to many things). I have read many times, that by meeting your partner’s partner - however they might describe their relationship – be it some casual or something much, much more, can often demystify them for you. They are not the best looking, smartest and most interesting person that is clearly much better in every possible way than you imagined them to be. They are indeed often someone you can like and get on with and you may even have things in common with them and you may indeed have your own friendship with them.

3. I have found that I like to be friends with or at least ‘like’ my partner’s partner. I find it’s much easier to understand why my partner would want to spend time with someone I like, than someone I don’t know or don’t like. If I am feeling insecure and they are nice, I can rationalise, that my partner has great taste, and that includes me. I have had friendships with all of J’s partners in the past.

4. The past twelve months have been solidifying for me in some of my ideas. The main one being that I like travelling along in parallel to my partner when they develop an interest and a subsequent relationship with someone else. I do get feelings of insecurity when a new partner develops interest in others. In my experiences of poly, I have met my partner, they have been single and they have subsequently met other lovers/partners. This means I have been their main ‘interest’ or centre of attention for a while before they have had involvement with others. I have realised I really need to go along the journey with them. I like to know or understand that they might have an interest in someone else, and I like to be part of how it develops. This includes seeing them interact with the other person, along the way and seeing how their relationship develops. This is not done under a microscope, the last thing I would want is for the new interest to feel uncomfortable. I just like to know what is going on and when it is going on.

5. If I don’t see the relationship develop and have limited information about it, I feel left out, and this definitely does not help my feelings of insecurity. If I don’t feel acknowledged by the other person/new lover , then I feel a sense of rejection. It’s useful to know when they have their first ‘date’ or when they are first planning on having sex. I have found the advice I have read many times of keeping yourself occupied, doing something nice for yourself on these occasions does help. I have also found that you also know it’s happened, that step is over and then you can move on.

6. I do process my feelings of insecurity fairly quickly in most cases. I do lots of positive self talk about what is good about me and what my partner likes about me and I will also talk to myself about why the new person is nice and how it is nice for my partner to have someone else they are interested in.

7. I need to understand how I sit or what my role is with my lovers and understand how it is to be with them socially. By this I mean I need to be able to go out with them to events etc and know how it is to interact with other people as a couple. I have found that being in a distance relationship I have not had this and it has contributed to reasons why I might feel insecure. Distance relationships are their own kettle of fish, and when you throw the poly element into it, it can get more complicated. I don’t believe I would pursue anyone if they were at a distance in the first instance. In my situation I met my partner and we clicked, then she left the country. We had no sense of where our relationship was going when she left, we just knew we wanted to keep trying. I had never done distance before so I found the communication tricky. We have/did see each other every couple of months for a few days, but the added complication was that I was unwell. All this being the case I do not know what it is to be her partner around others, I don’t know how she is in general interactions with others, or how I ‘should be’ with her around others.

I have had other partners (much shorter term), who did not want to be a ‘couple’ in public or found it hard for various reasons. I also believe that be interacting socially with my partner I learn a lot about her and what she is like if she fancies someone else. I get to see her flirting, there is opportunity to desensitise by witnessing all sorts of behaviours that can assist me with any jealousy issues, very early on. This type of social interaction is something I have realised I really need or would prefer and is key to me in understanding my partner and dealing with any jealousy issues. It is a foundation stone in a relationship.

8. I do know that once I have been through some experiences of my partner being with others I am perfectly fine and don’t feel any kind of threat. I think this is because they have ‘proved’ that nothing has changed with me. I know when I first meet someone that I will be hurt, I prepare myself for that. I take this as a challenge to look at why I feel that way and question my own insecurities. Although this is hard at the time, I know I can do this and do my best to look at my own my feelings and process them. I believe I learn something new every time.

In my experience, this is always a very difficult thing to manage. No one likes to hurt someone they care about, and basically I think the other person is hurt by hurting others. So the dilemma here is that if you tell the person you are hurting then they feel hurt and bad and guilty. No matter how much you attempt to own that for yourself, you can’t stop the other person’s response. I always find this hard. If I don’t tell the person I am feeling hurt they might not know at all (in the case of distance) and I can move on in my own time. But then by not telling them it feels like lying and is not a positive step in a relationship if you are trying to be honest with each other. I don’t have a solution to this one at all. I guess it could come down to monitoring how I might tell the other person how I am feeling and have them also look more into why they feel so responsible for hurting your feelings, when in fact they have done nothing wrong.

9. Social media can be a tricky thing with any relationship. It’s important it is not used as a method of communication and anyone posting anything to be careful of who might actually see it. It is fine if everyone is on the same page and has an understanding of all the relationships and how they are progressing, but I think it’s something to be very mindful of, particularly if this is not the case. If relationships are being negotiated or if there has been big shifts in existing relationships. Everyone uses social media in different ways for different reasons.

10. I think with poly relationships it is not ok to assume that your partner is getting ‘something’ from their other relationship/s without checking with you first. I am not talking about a case of jealousy, I’m talking nuts and bolts. I have been in situations where partners have assumed that I am getting ‘something’ from someone else . Whilst one of the good things about poly is being able to share workloads etc it is not always the case.Check your assumptions with your partner/s, they might not be accurate.

11. The grass is not greener over there. This comes back to the idea that there is a place for anyone who is important to you and who you might want a relationship with, or who you might want to change the way you are doing your relationship with. It also comes back to not making assumptions. I have picked up bits and pieces of stories/information on people talking about primaries and secondaries, and I guess this is why I don’t like these expressions because it implies a hierarchy and also relationship styles that I don’t subscribe to.

However, some of the assumptions might be that a primary is somehow more important. The markers of this are things like physical proximity, shared bank accounts, time spent together and living arrangements. There is assumptions that this means that the person has more dedication from the partner. I would see this more as being a proven track record.‘Secondaries’ might think they are less important, they don’t get to see their partner when they want or as often, their partner is more dedicated somehow to their primary.

Suppose these simple things...

It could simply be that that person came along first, and this is the track their relationship went on. In a primary relationship it could be hard for them to get the ‘quality’ time. It’s could all be about domestic chores and managing the day to day. It might seem to lack romance that comes with a ‘secondary’ relationship. The partner watches as their loved one goes off for an exciting night with the ‘secondary’. In the meantime the secondary thinks they mean less, they get less time (perhaps) and there is less dedication and that somehow there is a time limit to this relationship.

Some of the elements of this scenario might have truths, but this is the extreme. Anything is possible. It can be difficult for the person who is the ‘meat in the sandwich’ who has to negotiate these negative ideas held by their partners. Shape the relationship into what you want it to be. Not all relationships work out, monogamous or poly, it is not more or less likely to collapse because you are poly or because you are monogamous. It’s about relating what you want.

It could also be difficult if your relationship shifts into something that you didn’t think it would be, or become. This is about coping with change and reviewing what it is you want from the relationship. The relationship may not suit you anymore; You may think you want more or less, or to spend more or less time with your partner. You may have a breakup with a partner and that means that you want to now focus more on one of your other partners. We all have different styles and things that we want. Talk about it with your partner.

12. I have found distance poly difficult. But this is my experience. In reality it is about determining goals and what you want from your relationship. It might be determined by how close you feel to the person, if it is casual and based on sex, you might be happy to see them a couple of times a year, if you feel you want more from the relationship you might need to discuss future goals together, including being in the same place. In doing this you will need to talk about how you might cope with the change and what your relationship might look like once the move has taken place. Simple and big things like living arrangements, how often you might see each other, how your partner will fit in with your other partner/s.

If your partner is in a different place, you might need to discuss how you fit in, if they meet another partner, or if they have another partner how you fit into the existing picture. Also if they are leaving a partner behind what you can do to assist them, if they need assistance and if they will see that partner again.

13. I like to keep the big picture view. Especially when I am feeling emotionally challenged. I bring myself back to this. I am poly because I know I can and have loved more than one person at a time. It hurts me when my lovers have new lovers, but I get over it. I know this because I have done it. I know it gets easier with a new partner over time and eventually the trust is very high and I almost wish they’d go out and get someone else so I can have some time to myself  The rewards far outweigh the short periods of discomfort I have felt.

14. I can put my partners needs above my own when I am in pain/jealous and in fact it is a good strategy. If they tell me what they need and we communicate openly I will try my best to assist/enable them into a successful new relationship.

15. When I am feeling inadequate and low, I try my best to look at why I am feeling this way. What is it that is driving it. I have found that being poly brings up lots of insecurities that might otherwise stay buried. I try to reflect and figure out what button has been pressed and to deal with it in the most positive way I can. I think being poly is helping me to become a better person because of the self reflection.

16. Safe sex. Practising safe sex is high on my agenda, it’s important to me to have the conversation very early on (before you have sex!) on safe sex. I also like to get an idea about what is ok and not ok with my partners in terms of sexual activities, I like to get an idea if we are sexually compatible and work out consent. I also like to discuss issues around latex use.

17. I am not into poly families. More into each person being responsible for their relationships. I don’t believe that consent is required from anyone for my partner to enter into a new relationship. As mentioned above l like to like my partner’s partner and I like my partners to like my partners. I believe that if I wanted to introduce a new partner and my existing partner/s didn’t like them for whatever reasons the relationship with the new person would not get that far. It has not happened to me as yet, that my existing partner/s has not liked the new partner, I consider myself fortunate here.

18. Terminology and meaning. I think this is an important conversation to have and keep having. I believe many people can potentially set themself up for heartache because there is a different understanding of particular words or labels. An assumption is made as to what something means, without discussion and then it is found later that the understanding was different. Some common ones I have come across; kissing – can be seen as vitally important or not important at all; sex- different understandings of what sex actually is; open relationship – a core relationship where two people are dedicated to each other but they fuck around with others (is one understanding but not to all).
redback_bites23: rainbow blanket (Default)
What has been making me feel like shit (mentally that is, the physical stuff is easy to answer). I realised sometime in the last couple of days it’s because I feel dumb. I feel stupid. I feel like I’m lacking something in the area of intelligence. Why would I feel like this???

I had a pretty average childhood I guess, some would say lucky. We didn’t have a lot, but we had enough materially and my parents were always there to support me. They encouraged me to be the best at being me, they didn’t push me into anything. They did worry about things like job security and they did have the idea that you get a job and stick to it forever. Although, years later my dad said to me ‘Megan, I had the same job for 40 years and I hated it, so you do what you want’.

I went through school and I had no aspirations to go to uni, in fact I didn’t really know anything about uni, no one in my family had ever been. They had all left school at 15 and gone straight to work.

I had always liked art and craft and had been playing around making and drawing things since I could remember and at 25 I got into art school. Prior to this I had thought I was too old to go to uni and I had to just keep working but some things happened that led me to believe I needed to take the leap and go. It was partly inspired by attending evening classes at the art school. The smell of the building everything about it, after two weeks of evening classes I decided I had to go to this place. I worked my arse off to get in. I didn’t get in on the first round of offers, which nearly crushed me, but I got in on the second round of offers. It was one of the best moments of my life, the head of the department at the other end of the phone telling me I had gotten in. Because of the effort involved in getting in, I didn’t want to miss any opportunity. I knew what was going on and what I needed to do for all my classes the whole time I was there. I had found determination and I had found something that made me feel good. I had found a big part of myself.

Art school not only taught me a whole lot of ‘arty’ skills, practical skills it also helped me to learn and think differently. I know that my lateral thinking skills is something that definitely helps me with many things to this day and I know I learnt these at art school.
A number of years later after I had finished art school, I completed a teaching diploma. I had known all along that to live as an artist alone was a bit of a pipe dream and probably only something that select, select people could actually do. I did my teaching diploma and had a really crappy experience on my first round of practicum teaching , which basically resulted in me getting a crappy rating for gaining a job in the public school system. Somewhere in there and looking for a job I ended up having a conversation with a friend of a friend type of thing and I ended up scoring this job which was to teach literacy to young people out of youth centres.

Literacy to young people out of youth centres, holy fuck, how the hell would I do that, I had trained to be an art teacher. So I embarked on a job that ended up being the beginning of my journey to understanding people.

I worked for 5 years, the job started out as 20 hours a week and 5 years later it was one and a half full time jobs, because I was very good at what I did it turned out. The program involved teaching young people literacy, in places that they felt the most comfortable which was usually youth centres. We’re talking hard core young people who had the most difficulty learning anything, they were aged between 12 and 25. They were most often scared of school environments and classrooms because of what they represented. They were young people who had undiagnosed learning disabilities; they were young people from dysfunctional, often abusive families; they were young carers, looking after someone at home. They were young Aboriginal people who had suffered discrimination of all kinds. They were young people who came from all sorts of disadvantage.

I’m sure they taught me more than what I ever taught them. At first I was working out how to relate to them, as well as how to teach. One of the overwhelming feelings these young people had was that they were dumb. They would say to me, ‘do I come to see you because I’m dumb’ and similar such statements, which were always heart breaking. Over the years I gained a lot of experience in how to teach and communicate with all kinds of young people, I learnt what their needs were to help them grow and be better people and to succeed, at whatever level succeeding was to them.

When I was working with these young people and they told me they were dumb, I used to tell them that everyone had something they were good at and that they liked, that there were all kinds of versions of smart and I would point out things like musicians or how someone was really great at sport. I would encourage them to find things they liked and pursue that in terms of jobs or practical application. When they first came to see me, most of them had lost any courage in learning, they had been told or lead to believe they were stupid and it was something that had often been repeated to them over and over again. I helped them learn critical thinking skills and I taught them how to learn. As they did this their self esteem would improve and in turn their literacy skills.

Today I was thinking about this and thinking that I needed to remember all the things that I had said to the young people I used to teach. That there are different kinds of smart and I am indeed not dumb or stupid.

Then I got to thinking about why or how did I get to this place of thinking.

After I left this job I went to work at a youth service as the manager. I wanted to learn how to manage staff. It was also at the beginning of my coming out. The next biggest event after art school (I did get married and that also ended in this time as well).

I continued to become and develop my skills as an advocate for disadvantaged and vulnerable people and focussed on young people and education of a sorts. I had realised I had a passion for helping other people discover their passions and to reach their full potential through education. I felt that nothing should get in the way of someone reaching their full potential, and I still believe this strongly. If people are not given equitable opportunity to learn then they can’t learn. It doesn’t mean they are stupid. It used to get my back up when I had someone quoting someone else’s IQ to me. That is bullshit, I have always focussed on what the person can do, not what the person can’t do.

I worked in that position for a number of years and during that time, amongst other things was trying to do a lot of work for Canberra’s queer youth. I left this position after a few years because it turned into a situation where I was doing less for the young people and having to justify numbers and why I was doing what I was doing for the funding provider of our service. By this point in time I had been exposed to, and heard so many stories, horrible stories of mistreatment of people and injustices. I had assisted, and helped my staff assist so many young people in crisis or young people who had to push shit up hill to get anywhere in life. I would have to say the most awful times for me was Friday afternoons in winter, when the phone calls would come from young homeless people looking for accommodation over the weekend. Although there are most likely people in worse situations than this, this was just my ‘sore spot’. I think all community workers have a ‘sore spot’ or a group of people they find it near impossible to work with.

I moved on from this position and went and worked for a local AIDS council which also assists lots of the queer population in it’s work. While I was working here I had a friend suicide and then a series of friends with mental health issues which I assisted as best as I could.
Throughout these years I also came out and got heavily involved in advocating and assisting the local queer community. I was also completing a masters degree. After this I worked for an advocacy organisation and was looking at the population of Canberra as a whole.

I had gradually moved away from direct service type of work and was doing more advocacy work, but in my time in the community sector I have worked with many, many, many types of people. I know people, I have people smarts. I believe I have exceptional skills in understanding people as individuals and groups and what their obstacles in life might be.

While I was working for the advocacy organisation I had this moment of..’Oh MY GOD, I KNOW TOO MUCH’ . At that point in time I had to have a good understanding of many of the systems of government and what was being done in particular areas. And I thought ‘OH MY GOD, WE’RE ALL FUCKED, EVERYTHING IS FUCKED’ . I believe this was the point where I was burnt out, or the beginning of it. I had given so much for a long time, driven and pushed to try to help make some other people’s lives better and I was tired. Looking at what was going on from a big picture perspective, everything just seemed fucked and hopeless. People were being mistreated and subject to all kinds of injustice and the way things were going it was only going to get worse.

Not long after that, I finished writing my thesis, which was a big struggle to write and get finished. After this I had a range of illnesses, one after the other, which was actually stress. Stress headaches, and odd gizzard, bad memory all sorts of things. I decided to leave my job and have a break. My months break ended up turning into three months.

In this time I began to shut the world out. I hadn’t really been watching television, but I stopped watching television, stopped reading any kind of news articles. I shut out the world as best as I could because it was all fucked and too hard to deal with.

Now I find myself 18 months later in a new job, in the community sector. It’s a job I love and I’m back to advocating and working with people. Well I never gave up really. But I did, and have shut lots of things out of my life. I feel quite out of touch because of it, but I just can’t deal with it all. It’s too much negativity. I feel out of touch with what is going on in popular culture – the young people used to keep me quite up to speed on everything. I am pretty inept with technology and find it hard to navigate any kinds of technology, which in the world we live in, is the way to get new information and communicate in ways we didn’t in the olden days.

I have also been unwell, and the pain that I’ve had physically has also contributed to my low self esteem. I don’t feel good in the body and the unwellness I am sure has also affected my head. I have no resilience to things and so when I can’t contribute to a conversation or I don’t know something, because I am so out of touch with things I just feel dumb. But I need to remind myself of the very thing I used to say to the young people I worked with. You aren’t dumb, there are all kinds of smart. My smart is people and knowing how to work with and understand them. I’m also not bad at creative endeavours.
redback_bites23: rainbow blanket (Default)
WARNING: Big pessimistic whinge coming up.

There are people who will read this who will be all sympathetic and want to offer advice. Well you know what, I don’t want it, people have been giving me advice for months. I’m sick of it. I’m over everything at the moment. Why? Because I’m over my stupid, repulsive body and the pain and grief it’s been causing me for about a year now. I must acknowledge that there are people who deal with far worse than me, which I remind myself of often. But at the end of the day I feel like shit and I’m sick to death of the daily pretence of everything being fine and good and I think I’m entitled to complain (now and again).

My body started to give me grief about a year ago. My periods started to go all out of whack and all over the shop. I ended up being in pain often, too often. I just thought that was normal, that it was ‘my age’. I hesitated about going to the doctor, and oh, did I say I fucking hate doctors (except for the doctors at my work who are awesome and a few other rare ones who actually listen). I hesitated because I didn’t trust that I would get anywhere by going. So I waited until I thought had a ‘reasonable’ amount of symptons before going along. When I did my doctor told me that I shouldn’t be in so much pain and she prescribed me the contraceptive pill as the first step. She also sent me off for some blood tests. All the tests came up as fine. I did have a low thyroid function, which I had to have more tests for about 6 weeks later, in that time it rectified itself.

Anyway, that was at the beginning of the year and really nothing is better. I’ve had a range of tests and everything is fine. For this I am grateful. I am grateful that there has been no revealing of cancer or any other revolting, horrible things that other people have had to endure. So why the fuck is my uterous still giving me so much pain?

Over the months the whole ‘thing’ has given me so much grief. I have felt depressed often to a point where I just wish I wasn’t alive anymore. I’ve felt lonely and isolated and like I don’t have any friends that give a shit. The effect on my mental health has lead me to question many things about myself, my friendships and my relationships. Mostly in a very negative sense. Of course no one loves me, I have no friends, the LGBTI community sucks, is completely unwelcoming of me and who I am. No one invites me to coffee or anything, it only happens if I do the organising. And then if I do do the organising no one fucking bothers to come. Of course I logically know that most of this is not true that, that is my negative thoughts and not true at all.

Another contributing factor to my awesomeness is that I have absolutely no energy. Of course I know about the spoon ‘thing’. One of my partners told me about it some time ago. I’ve been working with this idea for a while. The idea simply being that you choose where to put your energy. I decided a while ago that I could only manage one social ‘event’ a week. This being the case it also contributes to how much time I get to spend with friends.

Of course a lot of what I said previously about friends is imagined, I have ‘lost’ some friends in the last few years but more recently I have managed to ‘find’ some lovely new people/friends. The problem here is that I can’t seem to get it together to spend time with them and I have to keep putting it off. This means I’ve become one of these vile people who says they will do something, catch up or whatever and never does. Or constantly lets people down. It’s also difficult to say to new friends, ‘oh I’d love to come, I’ll just need to let you know because I don’t know how feral I will be on that day’. So there’s some awesome people, who probably think I have no interest in them whatsoever and pretty soon I probably will stop getting invitations from them too. I am also very much an introvert and all of this is making me become quite phobic of socialising in groups because I’m not getting any practise and often the energy needed to do larger groups requires too many spoons.

I hate the impact I feel this this has had on my intimate relationships. Sure my partners keep telling me they love me and give me all the supportive words they can at the appropriate times. But I feel like shit. I feel like I let them down constantly because I can’t be myself. I am cranky and irritable and give them a hard time too often. The partner I live with has also had health issues and this has made everything harder for both of us. Being unwell has caused a lot strain. I keep telling the other partner who lives overseas that she is lucky she doesn’t have to be around me. That if she knew what I was really like then maybe she wouldn’t really want to be with me. I met her at the beginning of all this and she has never known me any other way. Conducting not only a new relationship, but one that is also at a distance and the fact that I am polyamorous has been very hard. I feel like I’m hard work for both my partners and often feel guilty for this.

I really love my job which I also started about the time I started to feel unwell. Much of how I feel about other areas of my life applies to my work. I have been fortunate during the time I have been in my new job to apply for and successfully get a promotion. I feel like I have had so much time off work and that I am unreliable there that it bothers me a lot. The balancing of sick leave, time bank and annual leave is all very tricky and something I have to watch constantly. Although one of my staff told me that she thinks I’m a good role model as far as self care goes. I guess that is something. My manager also keeps telling me what I good job I do. Despite these difficulties I think work is the only place I feel fully empowered at the moment, it would be good to have full energy to really be able to do my job as I’d like.

I perform, I do drag king performance and burlesque. I started the burlesque in part to help myself feel better. To feel better about being feminine and attractive. I had some determination in ‘all this’ to try to make myself feel better, to beat it. Even though I had so much self loathing going on, and I really hate my body and at times don’t want anyone to touch me. I thought I will fake it until I make it. I will dress up to the nines and ‘pretend’ I look good. I will defy my body, because I won’t let it make me feel like shit. This has helped a bit at times. What often helps more is the actual burlesque classes and involvement. This is because it brings fun and social interaction.

As all of this is going on, the months are going by and I’m trying really hard in every way to feel OK about myself, but it’s been difficult, it’s hard to maintain and have resilience. I have been to the doctor(s) numerous times and things haven’t worked. Every time I’ve had a test or tried a new medication I have hoped I will feel better, but nothing seems to have any significant impact. I have also tried homeopathy (which is something I believe strongly in), I visit an osteopath regularly, and I’ve had massages. Every time something new is tried there is a gap of a few months between to see if it works. Every time I’ve been to the doctor I talk about being tired and how it’s been ‘doing my head in’, but I haven’t necessarily felt listened to. I have told the doctors continually that in my family there is a history of early peri menopause, but that feels like it’s not been taken seriously. It was only fairly recently that one of them said that is what it might be. I understand that different ‘things’ need to be tried out and they need time. I understand that get rid of the pain and probably the rest will follow. But understanding something isn’t helpful when I’m dealing with consequences of it all.

I am really fucking over having to pretend all the time I am ok. I’m tired of having to ‘make up excuses’ for things, for not going to things or whatever. They aren’t excuses but it begins to feel like that’s how it’s taken by others. It’s vastly annoying if you say you are exhausted and someone else says, ‘oh I know what that’s like’ and gives some stupid example which indicates they don’t have a clue. It’s also annoying if you say something like ‘I feel old’ and you get fucking stupid responses like, ‘you don’t look old at all’... I know I don’t fuckwit, I said I feel it. Or ‘do you have a problem with young people?’...oh course I don’t I said I feel old, I didn’t say I hate youth. Or people telling you how great you look, on days you feel terrible and if you say you feel terrible they look at you like you’re lying. I’m tired of the constant disappointment about really looking forward to attending some social event and then not being able to go. I’m just over it, over it all.
redback_bites23: rainbow blanket (Default)
Without any context this will seem odd. But at the same time it might also be quite self explanatory. I don't want to repost the other letters that other people wrote that went alongside it because they were written in a closed yahoo group and I don't think it would be fair.

This is a letter that I wrote that went onto Yahoo Group ACT Queer.

Thanks Stephen(Lawton)for you posts...

I think it's important that when we are talking about our community and how best
to support it that everything is as transparent as possible. We are small enough
and face enough challenges as it is without causing problems amongst ourselves.

I have quite a few questions about Diversity ACT as well, and agree with you in
that many questions don't seem to have been answered transparently or publicly.
There seems to be a lot of contradictory information floating around. I have
worked in the community sector in Canberra for 12 years and been involved on a
number of community organisation's boards. I have also provided training for new
boards of management (in other words, I have experience in setting up and
managing community organisations).

It would seem to me that if a new wiz bang service was going to be set up a lot
of things would be happening, and happening in a transparent way in order to
gain the trust and respect of all stakeholders. The first thing I would have
thought 'we' would have seen is some type of needs analysis to see what the
LGBTI community actually wants and needs and indeed if such a service is
sustainable. I didn't see any evidence of such a needs analysis. This would be
something that would involve many community services. I am well connected in
this area of work and have heard of no such analysis. Also it would be something
that in order to be done properly the whole community would be surveyed widely.
Wouldn't we all want to be supportive and involved if it was for our community?

Another key action, I would think, would be positive relationship building with
other key organisations that provide services the new organisation would be
linking in with and this includes many services that do already assist LGBTI
people but may want or like to be able to refer to a specialist service that is
due to launch. Not all LGBTI people are going to want to access a service that
is 'just for them', in fact, in my experience in the community sector many will
avoid it for a whole range of reasons. Hence relationships with mainstream
organisations is vitally important to ensure everyone's health and well being.

Most new organisations would be seeking a good skill set to ensure that the
'new' organisation had the required set of skills to set it up and keep it
going. Many organisations will have information on their web sites listing the
skills or some information about the committee.

I also have concern that the fantastic work of some people in our community has
been undermined and misinformation fed to the community.

For the record, I have been nominated for a Diversity ACT Award. I found out
about it when someone in a closed facebook group I am part of congratulated me
on my nomination. I thanked and them and said I knew nothing about it. I looked
on the Diversity ACT website and there was nothing about it, it was apparently
announced on QRadio, I looked on the QRadio facebook pages, the Diversity ACT
pages and there was nothing. Today there appeared a listing of nominees in
numerous places. I have no idea what I was actually nominated for (as in the
work that I have done),or what the people nominating know about me.

I agree with you, there is nothing wrong with people receiving awards as
acknowledgment of their work, but to me this seems shallow, as the voting now is
just lists of names with no information about the nominees and what they have
'done'. Not all members of the community know everyone and what they have and
haven't done. I believe it would be more genuine if more information were openly

I also think a tad more information should be provided to the community if they
are to pay up to $50 a ticket, to an opening to a service that at the moment
seems shrouded in mystery. Who knows maybe after the launch, it will all come
into the light and these questions will be answered.


Megan Munro
redback_bites23: rainbow blanket (Default)
For most of my life I’ve had an accountant gnome. First described by my ex husband. I was both appalled and amused when he went into a very vivid description of my accountant gnome. He described the gnome as a part of me that sits and keeps a ledger and in this ledger all my friends are held accountable for their actions. Well not all, but the ones that do something that hurts me, which, is quite a few. When I first saw the film ‘Harry Potter’, and observed the scene with the gnarled gnome like bank tellers, I thought to myself, that is what my accountant gnome looks like. Pretty ugly, mean, not someone or something you really want to meet in a hurry. The realisation that I had this gnome, was something that I felt I needed to hide from people because I knew the ex hubby was entirely accurate, and really, who wants the world to know about the horrible stuff about themselves without perhaps having the chance to acknowledge it and work on it for yourself.

I guess, like many people I can be interpreted in many ways, but it hasn’t been until recently I have developed an understanding about the accountant gnome and the long term damaging effects he has had on me and my friendships. I guess as a friend I had always thought of myself as open and caring, able to talk about anything, and in fact have wanted to talk about anything and everything with some people. I feel at times I have perhaps given way too much of myself out and this just sets me up to be hurt, and really in those situations there is no other way for it to go, my expectations of the other person were probably way too much, but anyhow this is one circumstance where the gnome steps in. Someone hurts my feelings and he sits back and writes their name in the ledger and puts a big black mark next to their name. I rarely told the person, it’s usually something I am so hurt over and so flabbergasted that they would ‘do that to me’ that I become mute. When I get over it, I forgive the person on the surface, but the accountant gnome sits back keeping the ledger in good order and the effect is has is that I probably don’t ever really trust the person again. The other way that the accountant gnome has worked has been to sit so close to the surface that he doesn’t let me give anything away about myself. He has told me that I am too shy or not worthy of having friends, or letting people get close to me because surely they will just hurt me and he doesn’t want to become overworked.

The last 18 months have been hard when it comes to friends. I found myself in a position where I was extremely tired and burnt out after finishing a uni degree and a few years of being hard core busy doing ‘stuff’ for the (LGBTI) community. I felt very isolated and when I looked around it felt like all my friends had ‘disappeared’. I blame the accountant gnome partly for this and I also know it’s just life. People had moved on in their own lives and were not able or available to catch up with me.

The 18 months after this time have been followed with massive personal changes, including just resigning from my job with no other job to go to and then finding a new one. I’ve also had a major art exhibition, started a new job, been promoted and pursued other creative endeavours. During the last 9 months I’ve had some health issues that remain unresolved, but leave me with very little energy to pursue the multiple things I would have once done. More recently I decided that I would only make one planned social event or occasion a week and it would have to be on a weekend. This is simply because I can’t cope with any more than this. All of this has lead me to think about friends again and what on earth it is that I do wrong with friends. One of my partners suggested that maybe I expect too much, and maybe I do, but I do know that I have had close friends before. In all of this I decided the accountant gnome really had to be killed off.

One of my partners introduced me to the idea of friends and credit points. Now this accounting system seemed much better than the accountant gnome. She explained that basically the way it works is that you meet people, you earn or exchange credit points with them, just a few and the more you get to know them the more points you give and earn. When you have something ‘big’ going on you can discuss this with a friend who you have a pretty good bank of credit points with. I am assuming that perhaps by having this type of conversation some of the points get used up and then you work on building more again, because it would not be ok to let your friend run dry or for that to happen to you.

So it’s all about exchange and more importantly, equal exchange. I’ve been approaching social events and occasions with this idea in mind. I find groups of people hard, I’m basically very introverted and find it hard to engage with a group of people. I remember a woman who I really look up to, once saying that she wasn’t good at small talk. This made me feel so much better about myself, since I admire her so much and really this is me to, the conversations I like to have the most are not light, they are ones that are deeper that challenge me intellectually or emotionally, but it’s hard to have those conversations with people you don’t know well. I realised that in order to earn credit points with people who I don’t know well I must do the small talk ’thing’, and given the previous work of the accountant gnome (which was to destroy or make a mess of all the points with ‘old’ friends) I have had to basically work on starting again with everyone whether they are friends old or new.

My health has also impacted pretty significantly on me emotionally, I have lost a lot of confidence in myself and given I already find people hard, the building up credit points has been tricky. The accountant gnome left me battered and bruised and it’s a very slow process because I don’t see people often, which means I don’t have much credit. Credit is often what I have really felt like I need because I feel so crappy I just want a friend to talk to but don’t feel I should. If I go out to a social event I don’t want to be all depressed and grim because this will generally get me no credit points and it really doesn’t help me feel better either.
Hopefully soon I will feel better and I will have more energy, which will mean I can go out more and get more points. I am trying hard to be a better person, a good friend, a good partner and a good daughter, sibling and all the other roles I play.


Mar. 11th, 2012 01:38 pm
redback_bites23: rainbow blanket (Default)
I have been thinking a bit about intimacy on and off in recent times and what intimacy actually means, and what it means in relationships of all kinds.

In my view, people can have sex and no emotional involvement and deep emotional involvement with no sex; the two don’t go hand in hand. People who fuck around a lot, as deemed by others, tend to get called sluts or a seemingly more positive word player (although player seems to relate more to men and therefore the whole ‘thing’ becomes gendered). Slut implies it’s a bad thing to seek out, let alone enjoy sex, and I would say perhaps this label comes with the idea that there is no emotional involvement ‘that’ kind of sex. It is somehow lacking and not moral because of no emotional connection. Of course the only people that know whether or not it is intimate is the people who have engaged in it. Of course if there was emotional connection the person would then become virtuous focussing all their attention on one person, who they truly love.

The link in these ideas, the concept that makes it hard to define and what blurs things, is what is considered intimate. To have sex with someone, to have two or more bodies rubbing up against each other with the possibility of the exchange of body fluid, I would consider intimate, but not necessarily emotional. To have a long conversation revealing your deepest personal or emotional ‘stuff’ is intimate, it has the emotional but not the physical. I believe it’s when you get all the physical, the emotional and the intimate, you might begin to feel something that is described as a sexual interest and intimacy described as love.

Love seems to arise upon the sharing of the emotional stuffs, the revealing of oneself, of one’s vulnerability and things that cause us to feel. The acts that go on around this are sex, or engagement of thoughts, ideas, intellectual conversation, laughing for if you click intellectually you will probably share a sense of humour. These are the things that occur when we meet someone, these are the things that keep us busy. Hormones are playing part, if the sex is great and we are floating on a high because the person is so god dam hot and we’re getting to fuck them a lot, then that will keep us interested. If we like their intelligence that will also keep us there and keep us busy, we don’t need to feel anything emotionally, we are being entertained.

In the meantime that part of the brain the amygdala which is connected to emotions and emotional memory, is doing all sorts of things and it might begin to take over and we have these ‘feelings’ which rise up and eventually these feelings, god forbid, will turn into something that resembles the beginnings of love. Or we might feel no resonance or no feelings and the nature of the relationship is likely to change or remain stunted in that it may not deepen into love but develop into something else with some other sort of label.

A relationship really is any interaction between one or more person; you have a relationship with yourself, and others. It can be fleeting or something that goes on for ages. It can be intimate, it can be sexual or it can be business like. It can be anything that you make it; it’s all about how you interact with that person. How you communicate.

A question I have, or rather a thought, is around the occurrence of close intimate sexual relationships. As stated above I think it’s when we get a number of things all happening at once. Otherwise the relationships could be described as friendships, fuck buddies, one night stands, lovers, business partners or any other label we choose to use.

Being polyamorous, I know it is in my nature to have feelings for more than one person. When I have feelings for a person I give quite deeply on an emotional level. To truly love someone beyond friendship I need to have all these interactions with them. I need to have an intellectual understanding, a physical connection, and an emotional connection. I also tend to ‘work’ on an emotional level so for a deep friendship with someone I need emotional exchange or understanding.

I’m always thinking about how other people might feel. I’m always thinking of that little amygdala underneath and what it’s doing. Because I work this way and my waters run deep I am very careful about whom I open up to, because when I do I just tend to gush. Or that’s how it feels. I feel very emotionally vulnerable, but at the same time I believe I am also very emotionally strong, otherwise I would not be able to be polyamorous, jealousy would be far too much to deal with, and confronting jealousy is what I have to deal with in order to let all the other amazing stuff in. I can also sense and understand where other people are at, even when they don’t and at times I feel this carries responsibility, it also means that being around lots of people can be downright draining.

I enjoy watching people and their relationships with others, I find it helps me to grow and learn and reflect on how I move in the world. I have observed friends in relationships which I would describe as very intimate relationships, close friends, ‘besties’ and I sit back and just think that they are in a polyamorous situation, they love that person, they care about them, they have most of the ingredients except for the sex. I have also felt that way about friends in the past. Then there are people who operate on a purely intellectual type of level, people who are in their heads, they might be having sex with someone, but they are scared of and deny the feelings that the amygdala throws at them. It’s not like they don’t feel, but they just don’t know what to do with it, how to process that feeling, where to go next. Feelings are scary things that make them loose control.

I believe any kind of relationship is possible, it’s just how we process things, what we want from others and how clear we are with that. I think there are misunderstandings because people do not communicate clearly. They don’t talk about sex and what it is they want, and they indeed don’t even know, because they don’t have a strong relationship with themselves in that sense. Then they don’t know how to negotiate sex and safe sex with a partner and they don’t know how to tell the person they don’t know what they like. Friends don’t know or don’t understand each others’ friendship boundaries, it’s unclear about what a friend is and then if they develop feelings it can be hard to move onto the next stage which might be sex for fear of ruining the friendship. Indeed I think there are multiple, multiple duty statements for friends. Some friendships are deeply emotional and intimate, others only operate on the intellectual level. Some people consider they need to see someone every other week to remain friends, whereas other people (myself included) think a good friend is someone you can see every six months and it’s all fine.

Anything is possible and many people would be much happier if they learnt to face their fears and take risks when encountering intimacy.
redback_bites23: rainbow blanket (Default)
I imagine all my pieces of crockery to be individually made, and or collected and handpicked...not the pieces of crap that they are...but at least I have plates to eat off and if I don't want to do the dishes I can just throw the lot out and replace them again.

I think about the time when I might be able to walk into a shop and be ok with spending $100 on a shirt...but hey, I have some really awesome op shop shirts and it's not such a tragedy if something happens to them. I have the ability to find good ones and look ok, and I can afford to buy 'new' clothes, and I have a wardrobe to put them in.

I think about how great it would be to have my own studio space, instead of one small room and a bit of a garage to work in, but hey, I'm lucky I went to art school and I have a degree and I can use my creativity in so many ways.

I get frustrated at my body because it doesn't always work the way I want it to and I've been tired for months and I just want some energy again, but hey, I have access to good health care, I have private health insurance and I am way, way better off than someone with a full on disability or illness of some kind.

I worry about my aging parents and it makes me sad to see my dad turning into and old man...but hey, I have parents that both love me and would never want me to be sad about them. They do ok, they own their own home and both have many many interests to fill their days. And my mum is finally retiring after working 35 years in a job that she started while I was kid to earn a few extra $$.

I worry that I am not being a good girlfriend to both my girlfriends and I sometimes fret that I could do better. I could somehow show them more effectively how much I love and care about them and make them feel safe with me..but hey, I am very fortunate and have worked hard on relationships to even be able to have two girlfriends who care about me so much. Some people don't have one that is anywhere nearly as amazing as mine.

I get concerned that I don't reach out and make friends and keep them and sometimes I feel lonely...but when I stop and think I have friends, I just need to try harder and change the way I do some things, I am lucky I have friends who love me, I have friends who I have had for well over 20 years.

I get annoyed at people who are younger than me, with less qualifications who are in jobs that pay them megabucks...but hey, I have chosen my path and have only worked in jobs that are in line with my personal values for many years now. I choose jobs where I can be totally myself and not hide in any kinds of closets, whereas many people do not like their jobs.

I would love to be able to buy my own house, sometimes it feels so far away. This would give me security that I just don't feel I have..but hey, I can afford to rent a house that is comfortable and warm and gives me shelter, not like many people in Australia and people overseas who don't even have access to fresh water.
redback_bites23: rainbow blanket (Default)
Now that I have come up with such a awe inspiring name for this entry I feel under pressure to follow through.

I have been rather irritated and angry on many occasion for some time now about the way people deal or rather don't deal, with their privilege.

Now that I've said this, I need to explain privilege and what it is in this context.

Everyone carries a back pack of privilege and it depends on who the person is, and their upbringing as to how or what they do with that back pack. Of 'stuff'. Privilege has various more overt cousins who tend to stand out more. We all know that yelling out to someone, that they are a bloody fag and it's unnatural, is homophobic. We know this is wrong and the broader population knows it's wrong, generally speaking most sane people don't do this. But if you carry heterosexual privilege in your backpack, you may be unaware of it and how it effects your behaviour. It is the assumption that everyone is 'straight', because you are straight and that is the world you operate in. You ask the new (let's assume she is) woman work in your office if she has a boyfriend or if she is married. You don't do this because you have a big bundle of heterosexual privilege sitting in your backpack that you haven't looked at.

A woman I worked with was (Australian) Aboriginal. She was worried about her son. He had told her that he was going to the movies in his holiday time. Mum sensed it was a bit different and on pressing her 14year old found out that it was a date with a girl. Mum had to then ask the son if the girlfriend was white, which she was. Mum was stressing about this situation because she feared discrimination by the girl's parents in the form of White Privilege. She was worried because her son didn't understand the wider implications of the situation and that she would have to go down the track of explaining this to him. She told me that on many occasion in her community and with her family one of them would become 'involved' with a white person. The white person would say they didn't discriminate, but it would 'somehow' come out in their behaviour. Unnecessary worrying or more worrying about what their son/daughter might be getting up to on a date with a black person. Many white people carry shitloads of white privilege in their backpacks.

Another type of privilege is male privilege. Although women have come a long way thanks to feminism in it's various forms, women across the world are still discriminated against and men have privilege over them. A woman executive may be passed over for promotion for man. Because she would be seen to be more 'unreliable' than him, for various reasons. She worries about this beforehand, and sees it for what it is, male privilege. He on the other hand does not even think about it, because he has male privilege which helps him move around in the world.

So people carry privilege in their backpacks. People who want to understand themselves better will attempt to unpack their privilege. They will get their hetersexual privilege out and have a look at it and attempt to be aware. They won't ask the new office 'woman' if she has a boyfriend or husband. They will not assume her sexuality, they will ask her if she has a partner, or if she has a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Some people carry more privilege than others. These people move around in their worlds more freely, than others. Privilege is the ability to not have to worry about something personal about you, because it is 'the norm'. It is what the majority of the population have as an advantage.

What is annoying to me is when someone suffers from lack of privilege, for want of a better way of putting it. A black, transgendered, gay man, who has mental health problems is someone with serious lack of privilege. He may have a steady job, be totally functional in regards to his health and live a life that is quite good. But the way the rest of the world makes assumptions around him would greatly affect his resilence levels, making it very difficult for him.

Anyway, that is the end of this rant, I just get upset and irritated when people cannot see their own privilege, or don't even know they have a fucking great back on their backs. I know I have one and I do try, and try to work on being a better person for knowing of it's existence.
redback_bites23: rainbow blanket (Default)
I've been doing a lot of thinking and way too much angsting about friends this year and I guess I have reached point where I feel vaguely resolved, although bits still cut and hurt me unexpectedly which I can't control. I thought I had it all sorted and was explaining it to my partner only last night when images came through on facebook that upset me. They were photos of a group of friends meeting up for end of year drinks/catchup. There were a number of women in the photos who I once really cared about as friends and I guess still do. I felt hurt that I hadn't been invited and I guess it made me realise that I probably need to let go of them.

To explain my thoughts and ideas I have to go back a few years. Just before I came out I was in a place where I didn't have much of a social life and all my friends were at having to stay at home and look after small children or babies, whereas I had spent the year studying. I came out and realised that in order for me to grow and change I had to go and meet people. I was very shy and felt very awkward, but I knew I had to get over this in order to move forward, so I did.

I very quickly ended up going to every lesbian event I could and I was having a great time. I felt really comfortable with the women I met and for the first time in my life I felt part of a group. Over a period of time I grew as a person and I used my other skills as a community worker and educator towards doing stuff in and for the community. I was having a ball. I was immersed in lesbian culture (or so I thought).

After a few years some things happened and things turned bad. One of the women who I had been friends with (but had shifted away from a bit) was murdered. I can't, and won't even go there, it was horrendous to say the least. Women in the community came together for her funeral. I'm not sure how long after that, maybe a year or two, one of my best friends suicided. Being told about it was surreal, the whole thing was surreal. I had seen her just the night before, when she had told me that she loved me and wanted to spend more time with me. I had told her I loved her too. I was glad that those were pretty well much our last words to each other. At least we both got to express ourselves.

As I was trying to get over that, only about two months later, another friend who had been well was threatening suicide. It was unbearable, but I helped as best I could. That year I had no less than two other friends with serious mental health issues. As well as my own 'stuff' going on. I had a new job and I was trying to study. During this time I focussed a lot of my energy on these friends, trying to stop them from dying, which, fortunately myself and a couple of oher did prevent. It was also the time, I had my first publicly open polyamorous relationship.

During this time I think it was, was when things got nasty. The community that I had felt so comfortable in, turned on me. I was accused of having all sorts of relationships and fucking any number of people. People were malicious and it was hard for me to go anywhere. There were people who I had been friends with, whose friendships I lost because I spent so much time with my unwell friends, unbeknown to the other friends who probably thought they were just being ignored. Over the next couple of years life continued to be full on. The friendships I had lost were not regained. People move on and I was actually very wary of others. I had a couple of other short relationships or flirtations but they were hard and fraught with difficulties.

Last year I was locked up studying and trying to recover from all these experiences. Members of the lesbian and gay community responses to me varied. Unfortuneatly too many people knew me and a lot of them not actually very well, and it was these people that made assumptions about me. I've experienced people being jealous, putting expectations on me and and what sort of person I am. I found it all very, very hurtful, because I had gone from a little nobody wall flower, to feeling quite empowered with lots of friends, to realising actually they aren't friends and we don't actually have that much in common apart from wanting to fuck women.

At the beginning of this year I found myself feeling more lonely than what I had felt for many, many years. Much of the sense of loneliness I had felt all my life had gone when I came out, obviously there was a connection to that and me finding part of myself. I was feeling a bit like this again. I hadn't felt so lonely for a long time. I might add, this is in despite of having a beautiful partner, who I have been with for 5 years now. I was missing friends.

After finishing my thesis at the beginning of the year I started to get stress headaches and other stress responses at work and I decided that I really needed to take the plunge and give up work. Take a risk and know that it would be ok. I worried that if I didn't then I would get really sick.

After much angsting and writing inappropriately emotional things on facebook this year I find myself in a pretty good place. I have found a number of friends in places I wouldn't expect and have realised I am indeed queer as opposed to just being a lesbian, which to me is more a descriptor of my preferred sexual attraction. I think the LGBT community is a good place to dip in and out of, as it is good to be around people who share an important part of who you are. It's good to be around people who get you on some levels that no one else does. But I think the thing that makes me different or not want to be there all the time is that I LIKE being different. Rather than conforming or trying to conform to heterosexist ideas and relationships of being just like the 'straights' I like my difference. Calling myself queer acknowledges and embraces my poly self as well as my other 'quirks'. Whereas, many people in the LGBTI community (in Canberra anyway) just want to be like the straights. Any other sense of difference is not welcome and indeed threatening.

The things that hurt the most in this process was that I really had blind faith in the LGBTI community and thought that I could just be me. I thought that being part of a minority who experiences discrimination and and heterosexism on a daily basis would mean the lesbian community would be more open. But this is definitely not the case. I became a threat to other women because they couldn't understand me and many didn't want to try. I was having a conversation with a friend recently, who is a lesbian mum, and she said this exact thing. That her and her partner had encountered all sorts of discimination and heterosexist attitude and much of it was from the lesbian and gay community.

In my mind the division is appaulling. I cannot understand bi phobia and trans phobia, I cannot understand why people are not more open and supportive. When my friend suicided people threw their arms up in the air and were shocked that this could happen to 'one of us' and 'we should do something about it'. There were people who didn't even like my friend saying this, who had been nasty to her. Everyone in the lesbian community was saying that as a group 'we' should do something so it doesn't happen again. At the end of that year, when one of my other friends was experiencing bad mental health all she got was shunned. People's memories are very short.

I have realised that (LGBTI) Community does not equal friendship, and it does not equal support. That is something that comes from individuals. I feel a bit like I have regressed in some ways, back to what I was like when I was 23. I am intimidated by groups of people again and find the idea of many social events scary. Many people who are part of the LGBTI community post open invitations to events and 'everyone is welcome', however I don't feel that way, and I am not going to attend something unless I am going with a friend. I don't assume people are my friends at these things, as I've been burnt to many times in the past few years, and even if they say they are inclusive, heaven help you if you are bisexual or trans.

I do finish the year with two very amazing, beautiful girlfriends. I have hit the jackpot. They are both more amazing than words can express. I also found some friends, or realised they were there, in places I didn't expect. I realise I have to work better at my friendships and be more open as I often put walls up for fear of people not liking me or getting hurt. I've realised I am very much an introvert and embrace this. I love performing and it is the time I expect and want to be centre of attention, but it doesn't mean I'm out there and flamboyant all the time. I have also found a marvellous group of women to perform with, who although mostly 'straight' are more open minded than many of the lesbians I found in the lesbian community. I also realised that I probably have and equal spread of queer friends. There are some Ls, a few Bs and Ts and there is even a jelly baby in there.

It took me a while, but I'm out. Being a queer is an essential part of who I am, but it's not all of me. Being a lesbian is a very small part of me, but definitely not all of me either.
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