12 October 2018

There were no gay people at my school

Not one.

I went to a Catholic school so it's entirely possible they were all expelled because they would have made it hard for me to learn English, or fail maths, or any of the other things I did at school.

It was really great that I grew up with no gay friends too because the world is easier to traverse when everybody is exactly the same as you.  Well not exactly, but you could tell who the Italian lads were because they insisted on wearing white socks instead of the grey uniform ones.

Which is clearly bollocks. Well, except for the bit about the Italian boys wearing white socks which was definitely a thing.

I went to school with loads of gay people.  I just didn't know that they were gay, and in the case of a few, they didn't know they were gay. Being gay in 1991 as we graduated wasn't something you shouted from the rooftops. As a society, being gay was a long way from being something we were comfortable enough to not give a fuck about.

And let me tell you as a heteronormative, white girl with 12 years of religious education under my belt - most of real life was confusing and contra to all the things that I had learned.  Imagine if you were coming out of 12 years of religious education and in addition to that, you were attracted to persons of the same sex? That was really fucking hard they tell me. Really, really hard.

I look back at the 16 year old me graduating from Year 12 and I am bewildered by how naive and unworldly I was. I am sure that I wouldn't have cared my friends were gay (because I never have as more and more of them 'came out'), but I am also sure that I wouldn't have known how to support them in any meaningful way.

Move the clock forward 26 or so years and that 16 year old girl has learnt quite a lot. She has learned for instance that it's not enough to love somebody for who they are irrespective of who they love, but you need to stand up for them and cry bullshit on bigotry because it is exhausting having to defend who you are all the time on your own.

She has learned how insidious and impactful the public debate such as they one we're seeing unfold in the media right now can be on people who identify as gay or queer. She has learned that a person can be comfortable in their sexuality, in their relationships and in their skin but still be deeply affected by hate speech or negative media.

Because for so long, the person that they are, has been deemed something 'shameful'. It was Maya Angelou that said "People will forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel." And she is right.

Imagine what Australia is telling our young LGBTQI folk at the moment. What messaging are they reinforcing to adults that have fought for years to be accepted as they are. Which is all any of us really want when it comes down to it.

I also find the shameful, blatant hypocrisy of religious leaders wanting the right to turn away gay and queer students or teachers, when they hid, supported and nurtured KNOWN sex offenders in their midst for so many years physically nauseating.  Especially, when so much of the child abuse was men abusing boys.

We can't say anymore that this kind of public rhetoric is acceptable as free speech. I want all people identifying as LGBTQI, whether I know them or not, to know that I am an ally. A proud and vocal ally. I will be writing to my MPs. I will not be voting for people that support this kind of tomfuckery.  I will do whatever I can to make sure there are voices out there that are an alternative to the ugliness.

I want all my friends who are the parents of LGTBQI children to tell them that they are loved and supported by real people, in the real world. That if a school was to reject them on the basis of their sexuality that there is NOTHING that the school could teach them that would have any value anyway. That people that reject people on the basis of sexuality, ability, race or religion are the people that are flawed, not them.

Also remind them that change is happening. Children don't need to 'come out' as often anymore because families and friends don't care who they love, as long as they love a person that makes them happy. Children are growing up surrounded by families and friends where gay and queer couples elicit no more attention than their own parents - because basically all adults are boring.

But most of all, remind them that you don't have to be a hateful, bigoted white man to make a change in this country despite what our current government looks like. Remind them, that the future government is going to be full of people just like them - diverse, interesting, and basically wanting the world to be a better place.

It's going to be more Penny Wong and Jordan Steele-John and Linda Burney.

And I for one can't wait.

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10 October 2018

Laugh and the world laughs with you

Cry and you cry alone.  Unless the cumulative effect of various external factors leaves you sobbing like a loon to The Notebook while you're flying on a plane FULL of people between London and Sydney.  In which case, your crying is so excessive they don't believe it's just The Notebook making you cry, give you cups to hold over your ears with some kind of oil or essence inside to alleviate pressure AND page any passengers who are doctors to check you over.

But enough about 2004.  And yes, The Notebook is a tear jerker.  In case you haven't yet watched it.

It's World Mental Health Day today and I've been thinking a bit about communicating with people who are living with depression and anxiety, reaching out to people you think are affected, and all the other things initiatives like RUOK encourage you to do.

Here's the thing - depression is not subtle.  It's an insidious beast who strips away any dredge of self worth, self esteem or sense of value you have. When you ask somebody who isn't okay - Are you okay - mostly they're going to say they are fine.
Source: Unknown - Please let me know if you do

Want to know why? Because they don't believe that anybody really wants to know because they are worthless.

When you are depressed - you frequently don't have the language to express how you feel. And that's even if you're a highly articulate individual.  There are no words that express the feelings. There are words that come close. There are words that convey elements. There are songs. There are pictures, but rarely anything which can explain the darkness.

That is because everybody's experience is absolutely unique to them and finding common ground with other depressed people can be hard enough, let alone finding the language to connect with somebody with no lived experience.

What people can do though is persist. Don't just ask 'how are you doing' or 'are you okay'. Say 'Dude - I know you've got a lot on but I'm worried about you because you don't seem yourself - can I do some listening?'.  And then say it again a slightly different way tomorrow. And then again.

And if you know you don't demonstrate love the same way as somebody else - acknowledge it. Say 'Hey there, I don't know what's the best way for me to show I love you so for the moment - it's going to be a call and some memes, but if you need something else from me, we'll work it out together'.

Basically - don't assume somebody knows you are there or understands your intentions. Be present. Be present even when they don't make you feel welcome. Be present in a way that shows them that you are looking out for them and that you care.

If somebody cancels on you AGAIN, ring them and ask if you can come and veg with them in front of the TV instead of going out for drinks. Don't just dismiss them. Don't say stupid things like 'snap out of it', or 'get off the couch' or 'eat better' or 'drink less' or 'exercise more' or 'in my day we just got on with it'.  It's an illness, not a pity party.

And be super mindful of people whose lived experience is different from yours but may be subject to some fairly intense external pressures.  Sure we've got marriage equality, but it's been a fairly brutal few years and with politicians still trying to implement homophobic and queerphobic legislation into the mainstream, the negativity is still alive and well for people in the LGBTQI community. Be an active ally. Be vocal about bigotry so that even the people you don't know are gay, know that you are on their side.

Call people that have just had babies. Not just the person who gave birth, but their partner. New babies are cute but they are not easy. It can be isolating.  Keep in touch. GO AND VISIT. Don't ask them to call if they need something - turn up and do something.

Keep in touch with friends and family that move to new cities for work or study or just a change. They say change is as good as a holiday but we've all had holidays that totally suck arse. Let them know that they might be away but they are still part of your circle.

Find things to laugh about - share good stories in your socials as well as disdain for the cricket team. Tell people about a show that made you laugh. Or a book that cheered you up. Or terrible unicorn jokes. Tell them about small things that you have done which have provided a solid dose of slapstick to the person that saw you fall on your face or mistake a stranger for a friend from behind.

Basically, do what the great JC (and all of them) commanded of his followers - "Don't be a dick"*

*This is not a direct biblical quote. But to quote Denis Denuto "It's the vibe of the thing"

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3 October 2018

This body of mine

Fact: This body of mine is overweight. It is overweight because at this current point in time I don't exercise enough, drink too much and eat erratically. I think way too much about this body of mine. The marketing tells me that I don't think about it enough.

This body of mine is sometimes treated well and sometimes not so well. Like all bodies - Mine is a temple - some times it is a well attended temple in a crowded city full of the very devout, and other times it's a derelict Mayan temple with centuries of roots growing through the broken rocks which signal the slow decay of a once magnificent structure.

This body of mine has canoed 100 kilometres down the Murray River in Australia, and several kilometres up the Volga in Russia. It has skinny dipped in the Mediterranean sea off the side of the boat at night time and it has snowboarded down slopes wrapped in as many clothes as possible.

This body of mine has squeezed through cave systems in various states of Australia, abseiled down mountains and prussicked up shopping centres.  It has hiked up, it has hiked down.  It has waded through rivers holding a back pack high in the sky.

This body of mine has broken bones, had surgeries and endured a long and ghastly bout of giardia through the length of Central America. It has laid water pipes in Indonesia, it has helped build a medical centre in Ecuador, and laid bricks in rural parts of Mexico.  It has danced in Taiwan, in Turkey and once, infamously, it even Irish danced in Tesco.

This body of mine has grown two humans. It has made love. It has lashed out in anger. It has held the hands of dying friends and hugged thousands of peoples. It has run races and once, it even ran an ultra half-marathon. It has lovingly smoothed the hair of a husband and kissed away the ouchies on daughters.

This body of mine has tried belly dancing, ballroom dancing, yoga, pilates, playing instruments, bungee jumping, tobogganing, sailing and dragon boating. It has marched in protest, it has performed on stage, it has spoken at events, it has cried until it was but a husk.

This body of mine has climbed volcanoes in Italy, in Costa Rica, in Indonesia. It has climbed temples in Mexico, it has walked the streets of cities and towns across the world. It has cycled, it has roller bladed, it has roller skated, it has ice skated. It has skied - badly. 

This body of mine has done so much more than I can put in a single post. This body of mine is more than it's weight. This body of mine is more than its imperfections. This body of mine is a deadset legend. 

This body of mine has lived with the kind of chutzpah and sass that I have only recently recognised to appreciate. This body of mine has lived with the kind of attitude I wish for my mind and to role model to my girls.

Fact: This body of mine is under rated. And I need to be kinder to me.

Do you need to be kinder to you?

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