Dancing With Orlando

I’ve sat on this post for a while, not knowing what to say, but knowing I had to say something for my own healing. As a friend and fellow blogger noted, there are plenty of blogs and articles and think pieces out there by people more informed, more connected, and more articulate than I. But I have to write. So, here goes.

Early in the morning of the 12th of June, a heavily armed gunman entered Pulse, a gay bar in Orlando, Florida, and opened fire. 49 people were killed, 53 people were injured, some still in a serious condition. It was Latin night at the bar, so many of the victims were Latinx or coloured. Most of them, as has been reported, were members of the LGBTIQ community.

Australian television reported the event as breaking news. Not once was it reported that Pulse was a gay bar. I didn’t discover this fact until the next day as I was trawling Facebook. An already horrific event just became all the more terrifying.

I am a cis, white, femme woman. The way I look invites assumptions that I’m heterosexual. The only time you would know I’m bisexual is if I tell you, or if you see me holding hands with my same sex partner. I came out to family and friends 20 years ago with little fanfare. I have never experienced random homophobia unless I am holding hands with my same sex partner. My ability to “pass” as straight has afforded me the privilege of living relatively free from fear. I’m also tough and opinionated, so the times I have been met with stares and looks in public whilst with my partner, I have defiantly returned the looks and stares. Homophobic epithets yelled from passing cars have been laughed at because I think it’s ridiculous.

My wife, however, is a cis, coloured, androgynous lesbian woman. She screams gay. To look at her, you could safely assume she’s gay. She has had a different experience all her life. She does not feel safe holding hands in public. She has to check who she’s with before she refers to me as her “wife” rather than her “partner”. She has experienced discrimination, hatred, thinly veiled contempt, and violence in the form of homophobia. She has felt a fear I haven’t.

We have both, however, taken refuge in our community. In our clubs and bars we have felt safe. Surrounded by LGBTIQ people we have felt at home, free, able to be ourselves.

Now, in the wake of Orlando, for the first time in my life, I am afraid. I know I shouldn’t be. I know that I shouldn’t allow the hate of that act to change who I am in the world, but it has. Because it could happen to me. It could happen to my wife, my friends, my dad, my family. In that one place where we go to take off the armour of staunchness against society’s view of us – us queers, the gays, the lesbians, the bisexuals, the transgendered, the intersex, the ones questioning, the ones uninterested in labels but who know they aren’t straight, the “others” – we are no longer safe. And it scares me.

The day after the Pulse shooting happened, I was on a train going to rehearsal. A man and his girlfriend were sitting next to me, arguing loudly. As they left, the man yelled out to an Asian man opposite us that he was a “filthy fucking chink pig”. Usually, I’d call out this behaviour. Usually, I’d apologise to the person abused for being subjected to that. This time I didn’t because I was afraid. There was too much hate that weekend for me to stand up against this.

Our community has had enough. This is not to say other minority groups haven’t; we have all had enough of hate. But the LGBTIQ community have been fighting for decades – for generations for our rights, to be treated equally, to be recognised as human beings who are as we are, not as degenerate, or mentally ill, or perverted, or criminal. We have fought not to be brutalised or “corrected” or killed for being not straight, for being born “different”. We have fought for our freedom to marry our partners, and to walk down the street holding hands without being heckled, abused or bashed. It seemed like it was getting better. It seemed like we could relax for a little while. Then this happened.

Not only has this act of the worst mass shooting in America’s modern history slammed the fact in our faces that we’re still not safe, the refusal of the heteronormative mainstream media – and some of our country’s leaders – to recognise the homophobic element of this crime has made us feel that we are invisible.

Yes, this was a crime against humanity and a crime against our freedom to be as we are – all acts of terror are – but this was also, unequivocally an act of homophobic hatred. There have been reports that Omar Mateen, the perpetrator of the shooting, was a regular at Pulse and a closeted homosexual. It is still a homophobic act. Growing up gay in a world that tells us being gay is wrong and evil will, in some cases, elicit feelings of self-hatred so intense that they explode in violent acts against others. That’s homophobia.

Oh, and then there’s the hoaxers – the people who believe the shooting was a false flag to further the “gay agenda”, Islamophobia, gun reform and Obama’s “black politics”. You know, the people who post videos, vehemently insisting the victims don’t exist, demanding photos of gun shot wounds from survivors to prove they aren’t “crisis actors”, giving “evidence” that the whole incident didn’t happen. You know what? I’d probably take these opinions more seriously if their videos and opinion pieces weren’t littered with homophobic tags (e.g. “aw, look at the poor grieving faggot”), racism (“it was only them spiks that were killed”), and general insensitivity.

Look, I’m not going to deny anyone their right to express their opinions however abhorrent I find them. I’m not a big fan of blindly swallowing whatever the mainstream media feeds us, but for fuck’s sake, people are dead. Those who are using Orlando as a platform to vent their anti-government/authority/big corporation/whatever viewpoints aren’t serving the greater good. They’re just augmenting the hate.

People are dead.

Fuck, it hurts. It really hurts because I’ve realised that I haven’t seen myself in any of the terror victims of the past. I haven’t recognised the fellow fallen humans in Baghdad or Paris or London or Syria or anywhere at all. It’s not until my community – MY community, MY identity, MY place of belonging – is threatened that I am affected. That saddens me. I may not have been at Pulse. I may live on the other side of the world in a country with gun control. I may not be connected to any of it other than the ownership I have as a queer woman. I may not know any of the victims or survivors, but I see myself in them. And it’s made me aware that I see myself in all victims of violence, and that’s overwhelming.

Enough. Enough hate. Please.

Having said that, having admitted my fear, K and I have been going out to our local gay bar for the last couple of weeks because she is competing in a drag competition (she’s a drag king, and she’s hot as a guy, and more on that later). There was so much love, so much acceptance, so much the gathering of like-minded and love-minded people that all my fear dissipated, even if it was just for a few hours. I love our community. I love the supporters of our community. In spite of all that’s happened, we will keep on dancing. We are dancing.

 

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The Weight of the Cross

I hate Sydney. I’m up here touring a lesbian show for Mardi Gras, and I’m trying desperately to make peace with the city that stole whatever innocence I had left. This city with its cockroaches, rude drivers, homelessness and drunken backpackers. I’m here at a time when I should be celebrating my gayness, where the rainbow flag waves with pride in the humid breeze, where my wife and I can hold hands with confidence in the busy Newtown streets. But all I’m doing is trying not to be broken.

I lived here for a very short time more than ten years ago. I lived here to attempt to move on from my failed relationship with my ex girlfriend. To be more accurate, I lived in the Cross, in a brothel where I worked. The Cross – Kings Cross – is Sydney’s notorious red light district. It’s been cleaned up considerably since I walked its pavements and ate in its dingy restaurants. It’s still a tourist attraction, but maybe for different reasons now. In my day, there were streetwalkers every few metres, interspersed with junkies, strippers, and organised crime bosses. It’s where I witnessed an Aboriginal man, high off his head, being brutally manhandled into a paddy wagon, and when I say manhandled I mean beaten across the head with a baton and thrown – literally thrown into the van. It’s where I witnessed a woman being slashed and stabbed by whom I assumed was her pimp in an alley by the brothel where I worked. It’s where I walked passed a teenager dying from an overdose in the gutter. I saw all this, and I kept walking. I told no one. I pretended it wasn’t happening. I was too afraid. I kept walking back to the brothel where I let men pound me for $110 an hour so I could forget. The Cross is where I lost myself.

Being back here is like paying penance. Every time I come to Sydney I have a headache. It feels like a tight band around my head, just behind my eyes. My mental health deteriorates more the longer I’m here. I thought that touring here, doing something I loved here would create new, better memories. I’m all for facing my demons head on, but I think this is one dark part of my life that I can never make up for.

Sydney broke me. I realise that now. I forget the effect it had on my life until I’m back here. I was walking up Darlinghurst Rd with my producer and a few cast mates the other day, hanging up posters for our show because our theatre is just down the road in Woolloomooloo. We turned left onto Bayswater Rd and I couldn’t keep going. I couldn’t walk past a particular street. It was an odd sensation, feeling trapped in my shoes. It’s like being stuck in tar. I started to cry, the tears prickling in the corners of my eyes as the band around my head tightened. My wife asked me what it was that hurt me so. I couldn’t tell her. That fear was back, laced with a sprinkling of shame. This is the place where I learned not to care. This is the place where I hardened my heart and my soul. This is the place where I fell apart, bits of me scattering everywhere, and I still can’t put the pieces back together again.

Never before has my mental illness affected my ability to perform, but tonight it did. My head was scattered, my thoughts disappearing into black holes. Being here a week, trying to keep it together, dealing with missing my cats and my home and my ordinary love-filled life finally dealt its blow and I gave one of the worst performances of my career. I came offstage and burst into tears, so embarrassed, so mortified that I couldn’t get my shit together enough to actually do my job and act well. This place is threatening to tear me apart again. Thankfully, my cast and my producer are a tight knit group of understanding and compassionate people. They deserve a better me than the one they’re getting.

I am tired. I am beaten. The weight of my experiences and decisions is heavy on my heart.

I am trying not to be broken.

Anatomy of an Arsehat

I think we human beings have a big problem. We spend millions of dollars every year in search of this problem, it is taught to us as children by our parents, by our religion, by our politicians, and it causes more psychological and emotional grief than any of us realise. It is the pursuit of perfection. For some reason, there is an unnamed paragon of virtue that exists somewhere in the world that we are supposed to live up to at every moment of the day, every day of the year for as long as we live. Some people call this paragon Christ, which is cool, except he was a human being just like the rest of us. Others call this person Gandhi, or Mother Teresa or some other such public figure that is held up to be superhuman in their goodliness. That’s the thing. We are supposed to be “good” all of the time, and one slip into not-goodness means we are crap human beings who should be forever vilified and tarred and feathered and left out to rot and be fodder for vultures and hyenas.

I’m sorry, but that doesn’t make sense. In fact, it’s a bunch of bullshit. We are not Prometheus tied to a rock. Our livers are not to be consumed on a daily basis by a Chianti-and-fava-bean-loving eagle because Zeus said so. I defy anyone to put their hand up and declare that they have never in their lives snapped at someone they love, or lied a little, or pushed in front of someone in a queue, or not let that car in that’s been waiting to pull out into traffic for 20 minutes, or any number of little not-good things. Okay, let’s raise the stakes a little. Who can say that they haven’t cheated on a partner, or treated a family member badly, or embellished a sickness for attention, or called someone names, or behaved cruelly or like a brat or like an immature douche bag? Seriously peeps, look deep inside yourselves. Every single one of us has done something – usually to someone else – that we feel bad about. If we allow ourselves to look back on that act, we feel a sick, prickly sensation behind our sternum, blood rushes to our face, we feel hot and twitchy. If you don’t feel these things, you’ve either come to terms with your humanness and therefore deserve some sort of delicious biscuit, or you’re a sociopath and don’t care. No judgement there. Good for you.

Something I hear from a lot of friends is this notion of “deserving” things. I don’t like this idea of a rewarding Universe/God/whatever, as if ticking all these boxes of good deeds will earn us the spiritual equivalent of a free toaster oven. The Universe gives us what we ask for. Period. It doesn’t care if we’re “good” or “bad” or indifferent because the Universe has no ego and neither will it get a free gift if it recruits more souls. Our behaviour is our responsibility, no one else’s. Whether we are “good” or “bad” is entirely our choice, and our accountability for that choice is what means something. As I’ve said to my partner, my friends, and anyone who cares to listen to me pontificate, I don’t actually care what you’ve done as long as you own it. And because we all have the capacity to be an arsehat for various reasons we all know the feeling of embarrassment and shame in the admitting of it. I have moments of looking back at my behaviour towards past partners and cringing at my assholery. The fact that I was very sick at the time holds no water as I still feel responsible for my actions – as I should. But bashing myself in the head because of past behaviours that I have admitted to and apologised for (when given the chance) serves no purpose except for ensuring I feel shit for longer and giving myself a headache.

Of course, there are people who actively abuse others. This is something completely different from people just being arseholes. Abuse happens more than it should and if it’s emotional abuse it’s difficult to prove. There is no excuse for abuse and those who abuse others for whatever reason, in my opinion, are people who desperately need help themselves. The definition of abuse is thus: to treat with cruelty or violence, especially regularly or repeatedly; to speak insultingly, harshly, and unjustly to or about; revile; malign; to commit sexual assault upon. As someone who has experienced all of these things, I can tell you that abuse has the propensity to seriously affect and/or destroy lives.

However, there is a trend at the moment on some social media sites (tumblr, I’m looking at you) in which arsey behaviour from a partner, workmate or family member is being labelled as abuse, specifically a form of abuse called Gaslighting. Gaslighting is a term used for a form of emotional abuse. As a fellow blogger Alfred MacDonald states: “There are several definitions of this term, but in a nutshell it refers to the act of trying to deceive someone into a false reality by discrediting their emotions. Like most mental health terms, it describes something serious; also like most mental health terms, it is ubiquitously misused.” I’m not going to go into this too much as it’s a detailed and complex issue, but accusing someone of abuse when their behaviour is not abusive is as much of an arsehole act as anything else. Having said that, the accusation in itself is a cry for help, so like everything arsey that we do there should be a measure of understanding in how this behaviour is dealt with.

To recap: being an arsehole is not being an abuser. Being an abuser is waaaaay more serious than being an arsehole. Learning the difference between the two is advantageous for happy life-living.

Back to the issue at hand. In my little world view, if you are sorry for hurting someone, if you acknowledge your accountability in a toxic relationship, if you can raise your hand and say “yep, it was me, I fucked up”, then no one should use your behaviour as evidence that you are a horrible person. Because no one is infallible. No one really has the right to point the finger at any one else and make a judgement on their character because, let’s face it, everyone’s an arsehat at some stage of their life. Everyone. We’re supposed to be because we’re not perfect. And truthfully, as much as we’re all connected and have this shared knowledge of emotional responses, no one really knows what anyone else has experienced. We’re all equipped with different tools for dealing with these experiences, and some are better at dealing with this shit than others.

Of course, this knowledge by no means should be used as an all-access pass to the arsewipe expo. Running around being a dick on purpose and then saying “oh, I’m sorry. I’m just being human” is not cool. The point is, try not to be a dick. If you are a dick despite all your best efforts, own it, accept the consequences of it, fucking apologise, and move on. Here endeth the lesson.

 

Being Silenced


I like to think of myself as a humanist. All people are equal in my eyes. Some I like, some I do not like, but in terms of race, religion, creed, sexuality, gender, or culture, I endeavour to respect that essentially everyone is the same and should be treated as such. If I don’t like someone, it will probably have more to do with how they treat me or others and much less to do with any discernible “difference”.

However, I am now going to vent my spleen on an issue that has been grating my goat for a while now. I grew up with two older brothers, one of whom would habitually talk over me, interrupt me, and contradict me from childhood all the way up to my late 20s. My father – until I pulled him up on it – would regularly respond to any opinion I had on any subject with “no” as the first word out of his mouth. I’ve had male partners tell me to shut up because I dared to intelligently argue against them and they couldn’t win said debate. I’ve had male bosses who hire male employees because they’re less likely to sue them for sexual harassment (this is not conjecture, this boss actually said that to me). I’ve had male bosses say to me that they prefer male employees because they don’t have “family problems” (my mother had just died and my female partner was unwell).

I’ve had male partners tell me what to wear, what to say and how to act in social situations. I’ve had male partners correct me in front of other people when I didn’t need to be corrected. I’ve had male partners undermine my intelligence in front of others, or make fun of me if I’ve said something funny (because women aren’t funny, apparently).

I’ve had teenage boys in classroom discussions challenge me on my feminist views of Lady Macbeth (“if she’s so happy being a woman and all that feminist stuff, why does she have to become a man to kill the king?” It’s called context, fuckhead. The play was written 500 years ago) just to get a rise out of me. I’ve had male directors dictate my actions to me, ignore my requests and concerns, and accuse me of bad acting because they’re The Boss, so I should just fall into line like a good girl.

I’ve had male partners rebuke me for crying, claiming that I’m trying to manipulate them with my tears. I’ve had male friends exclaim “that’s a big word for a little girl” if I use words with more than two syllables. I’ve had male police officers dismiss my claims of abuse because “women aren’t violent.” I’ve been told by more men than I can count to keep my mouth shut when opposing this treatment. I’ve been told to “go back to the kitchen”. I’ve been told to know my place.

Like many other women, I got used to it. I got used to it because it’s been happening all my life. My mother once said that she knew she wouldn’t have to worry about me in a man’s world because she knew I could look after myself. I shouldn’t have to “look after myself” in a man’s world. It shouldn’t be a man’s world. It shouldn’t be a woman’s world. It should just be a world, and I am really fucking sick of having to fight for my right to be treated like a human being in this world simply because I’m a woman.

The terrible thing is, most men don’t actually know when they’re undermining women. That’s because they’ve always done it and it’s never been a big deal and they’ve never been pulled up on it and that’s what they’ve subconsciously been taught to do since childhood. Fortunately, most of the men I know would be horrified to discover that they may have undermined a woman in their life. But there are some who get defensive or angry, even when they are gently chastised on their behaviour. There are some who even secretly believe that it’s their right because that’s just the way the world is.

The recent #YesAllWomen campaign (and the #NotAllMen response) is a clear indication on where the world stands. What I’ve described above has happened to every single woman I know, and I daresay it’s happened to every single woman on the planet, whether they’re aware of it or not. No, not all men are misogynist dickwads, but instead of getting all uppity and antagonistic at the women who’ve been subjected to this treatment, why not get angry at the men who are giving all the good guys out there a bad name? Tell them off for being the perpetrators instead of telling us off for being the victims. But that’s it, isn’t it? We live in a world that finds it easier to blame the victim instead of addressing the behaviour of the culprit.

Well, I’m done with it.

Look, I like men. I get on very well with most men. Most of my male friends like me because I’m upfront, honest, funny and open. But even those male friends fall into the trap of patronising me if I’m being a little too upfront, honest, funny and open. And I’m over it. I can take being treated like an arsehat if I’m behaving like an arsehat. If I’m not being an arsehat, however, I’d like very much to be treated like a human being.

My womanhood is not a disability. Neither is it a commodity, an affliction, a hindrance, or a hurdle to overcome. It is my strength, my mantle, my superhero cape, and my pride. I love being a woman. I love everything about being a woman. I reserve the right to defend being a woman until it no longer has to be something to defend.

And to the men out there? Treat me like a human being, whether you like me or not, and you will have my eternal respect. If not, well, be warned. I will not be silenced.

Fuck sexism.

The Lost Art of Compassion

My heart hangs low in my chest today. Eight people were killed by firing squad in Indonesia this morning as an attempted deterrent to drug smugglers everywhere. Eight people faced their killers, all of whom denied the offer of a hood. It is said they died with dignity, as dignified as being shot whilst tied to a plank can surely be.

I had a scathing post ready, full of zingers and well-crafted literary comebacks. I can’t do it now. My lowly opinion is nothing compared to the agony the families of these prisoners must be experiencing.

I have deliberately refrained from engaging in any online debate over the Bali Nine ringleaders and their fates. This is partly because up until recently I didn’t actually know a hell of a lot about it, and partly because I was afraid I’d end up getting into an argument with a friend or acquaintance which would eventually culminate in me losing respect for them and their opinion. But mainly, it’s because I can’t hide my disgust for the “average” Australian sitting in their comfortable suburban armchairs, yelling “kill the bastards” at their television. It hurts me how easily we can separate ourselves from others, how cozily we pass judgement, how ruthless we are in our dismissal of others’ pain, just because they broke the law. Just because they made a mistake. Who here on this planet has never made a mistake? I just wonder how gung-ho these armchair executioners would be if these men were their own family.

Yes, these people broke the law in a country that upholds the death penalty. Yes, they did the crime therefore they should do the time. I’m not arguing against Indonesia’s laws although I vehemently disagree with them. What hurts my heart is the callous indifference to the fact that these men are now dead. Dead by the hands of other men. Up until their execution I heard people give me all sorts of reasons why the Indonesian government should “kill the bastards”, including that the heroin they were trafficking would have claimed lives here in Australia. Okay, fair enough. But it didn’t. No lives were lost at the hands of Andrew Chan or Myuran Sukumaran with that heroin. (And please don’t lecture me on how heroin destroys lives, I know more about that than I care to. Even after my experience watching a loved one mess herself up with that drug, I still wouldn’t want anyone else’s death to be a payment for her life.) When discussing it with a friend few months ago, she told me she had no sympathy for Chan and Sukumaran because, irrespective of her own feelings about the death penalty, they broke the law. Pure and simple. I then said to her, “can you imagine what it would be like knowing you’re going to be shot in the heart by twelve faceless people?” She said she didn’t want to think about that. That made her feel horrible.

Yeah. Me too.

Truthfully? I don’t know what I want to say, other than I’m grieving for those men’s families. I grieve for those men who were by all accounts successfully rehabilitated and who took ownership of their crimes. I grieve for those countries who utilise state-sanctioned murder as a punishment, and I grieve for those who have died for their crimes in those countries. I grieve for those people who separate themselves from their compassion and empathy because it’s easy to do so from the safety of their own home. I grieve for those who are victims of crime and are still hurting so much that they feel someone else’s death will lessen that pain.

Sometimes people do stupid things for stupid reasons. They still do not deserve to die. To quote Professor Jeffrey Fagan who appeared as an expert witness for Chan and Sukumaran in 2007: “Executions serve only to satisfy the urge for vengeance. Any retributive value is short-lived, lasting only until the next crime.”*

That’s all I have to say.

*Quote from Fact check: No proof the death penalty prevents crime, published on 2 March 2015 on abc.net.au

Pain For Art

Around September of last year, one of my closest friends was hit by car in Berlin. I got the call early in the morning from his boyfriend, the words crashing into my head and bouncing around inside my skull.

“What? Oh my God, what? Are you okay?” It was all I could say, over and over again, my incredulity belying my shock. This doesn’t happen. This stuff happens to other people, not to my friends. I start to cry. My friend – the boyfriend – starts to cry. The voice in my head utters one word:

“Nope.”

That’s the thing about being a close friend but not the best friend. I couldn’t do anything except ineffectually offer consoling words and lots of ‘I love yous’ to my friend’s family and partner, and sit and wait to find out if he was going to come through the coma, then the brain injury, then the rehab, then the trip back home. Other friends wanted to send care packages full of cards, letters and photos; I couldn’t think of anything to say that wouldn’t sound trite and disingenuous, when all I wanted to say was “don’t die, okay?”

He didn’t die, and he has recovered like a boss, the only signifiers of his accident being the corrective glasses he has to wear (because one of his eyes was knocked out of place by the car) and two scars on the back of his head. He jokes about his accident all the time. It tickles me that he got hit by a car whilst very intoxicated, running across a Berlin road to reach an after-hours bakery. He almost died for cake. My kind of guy. He can still walk, talk, be funny, and most importantly, he can still write.

I’m rehearsing one of his plays at the moment, and, as always with his work, there’s something in my character which challenges the fuck out of me. The particular challenge of this play I’ll discuss later, but there’s an important piece of information about “Carol” that really didn’t hit me with any sense of brevity until last night: she suffers a brain injury. My friend, who’s directing, gave me a note about playing a particular scene in which Carol is on her journey of recovery, and he said dryly, “as someone who has a brain injury …” I must admit I stopped listening after that because the actuality of his situation smacked me in the face with such force that my mind went blank. And I felt ashamed. I felt ashamed for being a wanky actor trying to find the authenticity of this woman’s situation, congratulating myself on being such an intuitive and sagacious artiste that I could just pluck her emotions out of thin air, and here was someone I loved who experienced this thing sitting in front of me, all matter of fact and candid and non emotive and I had no idea how he got through it all, much less how I was supposed to convey that on stage. I was awestruck, and sad, and grateful all at the same time. I was humbled. Not only did my friend survive this incredible thing, he humbled me with it – no mean feat, let me tell you.

As an actor, my job is to reconstruct, represent, recreate, interpret and narrate a story; a journey, if you will, that one character goes through. This character is a fabrication, even if it’s based on an actual person, therefore one has license to embellish, colour and adorn that character’s personality. My goal with every character is to try to find the human in the fabrication. I try to make the character relatable, if not likeable (because sometimes I play really unlikeable personas), and I’m good at it. I know that. My wife tells me I’m a little conceited about it, and she’s right, but that’s only because it’s the one thing in my life that I’m 100% certain about. I know I can do this, whereas with everything else I only have a vague, hopeful surety that I’m kind of getting it right at least 50% of the time.

Having said that, even in the face of my own arrogance, I am humbled and blessed and thankful that my friend trusted me enough to give me the assignment of representing a small part of his story. He didn’t write this character based on himself, the play is based on several other true stories, but as fate, or divine will, or just a happy accident would have it, here is another opportunity for me to delve further into the mires of the human psyche and therefore learn more about myself.

So thanks, friend, for getting hit by a car so I can know myself better.

Christ, I’m such a wanker sometimes.

My friend has a blog. It’s very good. Check it out.

https://eisforestranged.wordpress.com

Love Isn’t Enough

Trigger warning: contains references to drug use, violence, abuse and rape.

I remember the first time it happened. We were in St Kilda East, opposite the cemetery. Stupid idea for two energetically sensitive people to live opposite a massive cemetery, but there you go. We were breaking up for the second time. I had confronted her about her return to drug use, and by confront I mean scream “fucking junkie” in her face. She punched me in the mouth, held me down on the bed and raised her fist to punch me again. She called me a dumb fuck, ugly bitch. I muttered for her to get out of my house. She did. I cried. I went in to work at the parlour the next night, my lip swollen and a blood blister forming. The girls took care of me, but all I wanted was her.

I begged her to come back. She did eight months later. By this time I had spent a few months living in a factory cultivating an amphetamine habit that I didn’t have to pay for, I had worked in Sydney for the first time and been anally raped by a client whilst there, and had been homeless for a while, bouncing from couch to couch. I had finally found a little flat to call home in St Kilda, and she came back. And then she left. And then she came back. Even when she was with someone else, she came back. This was to be the final two years of our relationship, this push me/pull you bullshit.

The second time it happened was at the flat. I had found needles and poorly written love notes from another woman. I confronted her again, this time adding “whore” to the well-versed “fucking junkie” routine. I slapped her because she called me stupid. She doesn’t remember this, but I do because she fractured my nose in retaliation. She slept in my bed that night, while I lay on the couch, sobbing. She was gone in the morning.

I punched the wall next to her head once because she stole my entire $700 pay packet to score some heroin. Then I took her to a Buddhist temple to be cleansed. She thought I was taking her somewhere to kill her. I guess she didn’t know how much I loved her, that regardless of how many fantasies I had of beating her up and throwing her off the balcony, I could never harm her. Love does that.

The last time was the last time anyone ever laid a hand on me again. I forget now what the argument was about. Probably drugs, again. I goaded her, that I remember. I pushed her hard with my words until she snapped. She held a knife to my throat and tried to smash my head through the kitchen window. Fuck, she was strong. I have strength, yes, but she was propelled by something more forceful. I couldn’t push her away. She suddenly let me go, grabbed her things, and stumbled out the door. I didn’t see her again for years.

I grieved for her for a long time. I thought she was The One for me because I felt so strongly for her. I didn’t realise until years later that the physical stuff was not the only abuse we heaped on each other. She lied to me constantly, about stuff that she didn’t even have to lie about. I called her names to hurt her because I couldn’t touch her. She stole money and jewellery from me. I read her private phone messages. She took drugs and worked at the parlour one New Year’s Eve instead of spending it with me, so I cheated on her with another woman – I was free to sleep with whatever man I wanted to, but I broke our one rule in spite. She shot up anything she could get her hands on. I cut myself. She’d proposition men for drugs. I laid on my back for her habit. We played stupid games with each other, her using, me enabling until we burnt ourselves out. We were like a supernova that imploded into a black hole.

The funny thing is, we loved each other fiercely. That’s probably why we lasted for five years all up. She still says that I was the perfect girlfriend. I beg to differ, but I loved her, there was no doubt about that. Sometimes, though, love isn’t enough. We were bad for each other. She lost herself in drugs and I lost myself in her. While we were together, terrible things happened to us and we weren’t in the frame of mind to get help. Our network was sex workers, brothel managers and drug addicts – people who had their own stories and horrors to contend with. We removed ourselves from our respective families because toxic relationships tend to make their inhabitants do that. Oh, there was love. In retrospect though, looking back years later, it is so clear that it wasn’t enough.

Ten years later, we’ve reconnected and we’re friends. Good friends. Some people raise their eyebrows at this. I guess I wanted her friendship because I refused to be the victim and I refused to make her the perpetrator. I’ve told very few people the particulars of this story because I still refuse to be the victim in this. I spent a lot of my life victimising myself because of the things that happened to me at the hands of others. I needed to, and identifying as a victim of abuse is very important for the healing process to begin. But by the time she and I were finished I was done with it, I was done with being the person bad things happened to. Therefore, I think, I was able to forgive. She and I have talked and talked and cried and talked about that time. She has apologised again and again, still does, to such an extent where I have to tell her to stop because she doesn’t need to anymore. I can see by simply spending time with her that she’s a completely different person now, as am I. I said my sorries to her too, as one thing this relationship taught me is that things are rarely one-sided.

I’ve suffered abuse. At the hands of my mother, at the hands of a child molester, at the hands of a few rapists, and at the hands of a lover. It does not define me, but I know more of this subject than I care to. No one can tell me otherwise.

If you know more of abuse than you’d care to, please get help. Talk to someone. Recovery is not about being angry at the person who hurt you (although that helps for a short time), it’s about finding a way to move on with love for yourself. Talk therapy helped me immensely. Maybe it can help you too.

This post is dedicated to this year’s Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty, whose strength, resilience and bravery is an inspiration to many.

CASA
Support for victims of rape and sexual assault

http://www.casa.org.au

Family Drug Support
For families and loved ones of those with addictions

http://www.fds.org.au

ASCA
For adults surviving child abuse

http://www.asca.org.au

Victim Support Australia
Help for victims of crime

http://www.victimsupport.org.au

Child Wise
Help for victims of child sexual abuse

http://www.childwise.org.au

Domestic Violence Resource Centre
A very helpful site for those experiencing domestic violence, also caters to LGBTIQ

http://www.dvrcv.org.au/support-services/national-services

1800RESPECT
https://www.1800respect.org.au

Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association
Although there is no over-reaching national association, this page has links to other organisations that offer support and help to current and ex-sex workers. (Based in NSW)

http://www.scarletalliance.org.au