Born to Love, Cursed to Feel

I can be on my own. I’m actually quite good at it. I enjoy my own company. I think I’m funny, smart and a good conversationalist. I could talk to myself for hours. I can be silent by myself for longer. I function better, actually, on my own. I have more money, I eat better, my career thrives, I’m thinner. I’m better on my own.

I never expected forever; I wasn’t brought up in a family of forever, but I must admit I got used to the idea of it. I felt like I could relax. I had no fear of making future plans.

I’ve been in love before.  I have loved keenly and powerfully, but with you, I don’t know, it was different. I can’t even say why it was different. I mean, I can give you reasons, like my eye was never turned (except once by an old high school friend who lives in New Zealand so there was no chance of anything coming of it and I wouldn’t have done anything anyway because I was so ridiculously in love with you). Like I could be myself around you, my full mentally unwell, ageing, thickening, witchy, farting and burping self. Like my family loves you. Adores you even. Like I could be wrong and you still thought I was cool. Like, I married you.

And then you lied to me. You did something that hurt me and you lied about it. I was angry and betrayed and I did what I knew I was allowed to do and I felt that anger and betrayal and I didn’t let you slide away from it softly. But I was prepared to forgive because I have been forgiven. I was prepared to love you anyway because I have been loved anyway and to be honest, I couldn’t help but love you. I always knew that I would with you.

It was hard, don’t get me wrong. Everything you did triggered (I hate that word) what had happened with my ex, and all that distrust, that black, sticky doubt came creeping back in, but I wouldn’t let it infect me like it did back then. It was a struggle, but I was determined. Sometimes it overtook my thoughts and strangled them because my BPD doesn’t let go easily, but I was working through it and trying to find ways around it. Understanding myself and my own hand in it. Understanding you and where this behaviour comes from. I understood. It didn’t take the pain away, but it would have eventually. If you had just held on.

But it was too hard. Facing up to not being perfect, owning that sometimes you’re an asshole – just like every single member of the human race is sometimes an asshole – was too hard for you. The fighting that is inevitable after a bond has been tested was too hard for you. The work that had to be done was too overwhelming because you believed you couldn’t do it. You believed you weren’t worth it. So you left. And again, I understand. But my God, it cuts deep into the depths of my soul, a place that I have kept wrapped up and hidden away from the world. The path to that place was something I allowed only a very few of you to discover. A wiser person would grow vines around that path, obscuring it, allowing no one to ever again stumble upon it. But it appears I’m not wise, because I would let you find it once more. You left your mark there. It wants you back.

I was put on this earth to love. I am a nurturer, a guide, a gardener. I am a welcomer and a helper. A healer. But I forget that I need those things too, and I am cursed to feel all my experiences and all of yours and yours and yours and yours and I am left empty and broken but I still feel. I cannot stop feeling.

I am not perfection in any way other than my imperfection. I am a child, stumbling around in the dark, pretending I know the way, faking it until I make it. Life taught me that I must be prepared to make mistakes in order to grow, so I have made them gleefully at times, ready for the wisdom that comes with it. I am a hermit, I am insular, I block people out because I feel too much, I isolate myself because the voices in my head are too much company. I’m a terrible friend one minute and the best person to be around the next. I am selfish and selfless, I am strong and fragile. I am beauty incarnate and the hag of your nightmares. I am the queen of the Universe and the muck on your shoe.

This is who I am. And I will walk this trail again and again until the day I die. I’d just prefer to walk it with you.

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.

 

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

Love’s Labours

She burst into my life like a bolt of lightning out of a clear blue sky. I stole that line from Christopher M. Cevasco who said that in reference to reading Tolkien for the first time, but it’s accurate. It was unplanned, unexpected and unsought. I had thought she was beautiful from the moment we met a year ago, but she was in a relationship, about to get “married” – as much as lesbians can get married in this country – and I don’t mess around in other people’s relationships. I kept my friendly distance, stayed acquaintances with her and her wife, and continued my lonely journey.

Six months after the wedding, the marriage soured. Gauntlets were thrown, mud was slung, feelings were hurt and names were besmirched. It was ugly. Ugly and painful for all involved, I’m sure, but the only people who know what truly went on in that relationship is her and her wife.

Five weeks later, I took her on a date, simply because I wanted to give her a moment of sanctity, maybe even a little bit of joy. It had been a long time since a woman had elicited such feelings in me, and it may have been a long time before I met someone who did again, so I took my chance. I saw her more often, my heart growing larger every time. We spent hours talking, kissing, laughing and enjoying our connection. I believed at first that I was a band aid, a means to mend a lacerated heart, and although the thought saddened me I accepted the possibility that this was my only role in her life. I honestly felt privileged to be that momentary salve for her soul. However, despite our best intentions, and even against our own wishes, we fell in love.

We celebrated, publicly and privately, this new discovery of love. We took photos, we shared photos, we accompanied each other to significant events simply because we just wanted to be together, experiencing each other in these moments, as people in love do. Within a month, we became official. We’re in a relationship.

And then the knives came out. Some were sharp, keen and loud; others dull, silent but no less painful. Opinions were formed by those ill-informed, unsolicited advice was delivered with the arrogance of those who have not yet learned to let others be as they are. People started telling us what to do, using mutual friends as catalysts, suggesting that we might perhaps think of others and not be so “cutesy” quite so publicly. We were accused of using social media to be spiteful, of manipulating others’ emotions for our own gain, and for proving nasty accusations against my partner as fact through our inappropriately timed relationship.

And I snapped. I ranted and raved. I lost my temper and my ability to be understanding and compassionate. What we were being charged with sounded juvenile to me. I am capable of being an arsehat, but vindictiveness is not in my nature, so being reproached for that offended me. It angered me, for one very simple reason:

I am happy. And people I barely know are sitting around talking about my relationship like it’s an episode of Game of Thrones and coming to the conclusion that my happiness is objectionable and should not be displayed in a public domain.

I have no shame in declaring that my life has been difficult. I have had many moments over the last 37 years in which I felt I was existing in some circle of Hell. I have fought, and struggled, and heaved my way out of that pit time and again. I have been sexually, emotionally and physically abused by strangers and by people who claimed to love me. I have put myself through trial after ordeal whilst stumbling around in the dark trying to figure out how to be human. I have suffered indignities, sorrow and pain, and through it all I still found the ability to breathe, to find joy where I could, to love as much as my battered heart would allow. And yet I was never really happy. I didn’t think I could be.

She came into my life at a time when I had resigned myself to a continuing reality in which I existed alone. Rather than being a depressive, self-pitying realisation, it was an understanding of who I was and where my existence was at. It wasn’t a reflection on who I am as a person, whether or not I was loveable or worthy, it was simply an acceptance that perhaps my life wasn’t about experiencing that particular kind of partnership, that it was more about my spiritual development, and my art, and my friends, and the more I searched for that elusive love that I craved so much, the more miserable I would be. The thought also occurred to me that perhaps I was simply too damaged to ever be completely vulnerable and let someone else in. So I let it go with an abeyant sense of sadness, and told myself I didn’t like who I became in a relationship anyway, so I wasn’t missing much.

Then she entered my field of vision and everything changed. We are unflinchingly honest with each other about everything: our pasts, our expectations, our faults, the things we don’t like about ourselves, the things we do, how scared we both are, how cautious we know we should be, and how quickly we fell for each other anyway. Maybe it’s a lesbian thing, I don’t know, but I can’t deny that I am in love. So utterly, overwhelmingly, scarily in love.

For the first time in any relationship I’ve had ever, I feel like myself. I am comfortable and relaxed, and I have so many moments where I am present and content. I don’t feel the need to impress her, to compete with her, to hide my crazy, or to be right all the time. I don’t feel the need to be thin to be attractive to her, and I don’t need to play the femme fatale to get her attention. She thinks I’m funny and sweet and beautiful and smart and a dork and clumsy and she loves me for all of it. At last, I think I’m having the relationship I should be having. I’m actually happy, not because she “makes” me happy, but because I like who I am around her.

It’s happened very quickly, and if I’d had my way, I would have preferred her to spend more time single. But it is as it is, and being the sort of person who takes risks for love, art and experience, I have accepted this path that the Universe has put me on. It’s hard, though. Staying vigilant amongst the well-intentioned but ultimately hurtful “advice” that has been sent our way is difficult. Doubt is always a factor in new relationships, but it usually comes from within, not from external sources. Many of her friends believe she has moved on too quickly, but what they don’t know is the hours of discussion between us and our close friends over what went wrong, the times she has wept in my arms over the end of that relationship, her sorrow at the loss of her wife who was her best friend, and her fear of fucking up her time with me. Of course no one else knows this, it’s private. I understand the concern of her friends and mine, and I begrudge no one the right to have an opinion, but I do draw the line at imposing that opinion as fact onto my experience. I would never dare tell anyone what they should and should not say, do, think or feel. It’s insulting.

Our relationship is not a “fuck you” to her ex, a woman who whilst hurting hurt others, including two of my closest friends. Our time together is about us, not about sticking it to anyone else. We share our adventures with our online world because this is the age of the internet, such is the time we live in now. The only person who has any conceivable right to be offended or disaffected by our public declarations of mutual admiration is her ex, who has blocked us both on social media (such is her privilege) and has no access to our private lives. Her name is not mentioned in any of my posts, and I try very hard to be respectful of her perspective of her relationship. But this is mine, and I will not be shushed.

Look, at the risk of sounding overly poetic, love will not be denied. It demands attention, expression and celebration. We as humans need to hear “I love you” as much as we need to say it. I love hard and I love well, and the opinions of a few is not going to stop me from rejoicing in my happiness with the many who have been waiting to see me in that state for decades. If that means I alienate some acquaintances then so be it. I personally think it’s sad that someone’s happiness can be the cause of so much disdain in others.

I love her. She is my illumination, my muse, my paramour, my biggest fan and my greatest ally. She is graceful and erudite, she is considerate and charming, she is accepting and reflective, and is one of the most brutally honest people I know. I admire her strength and her vulnerability, and I hold in high regard her ability and willingness to take responsibility for her own life, to seek help, and to own her mistakes.

She makes me laugh. She makes my heart sing. And yes, she may one day hurt me just as much as I may hurt her, but I choose to take the risk because I’m an adult and have the competence required to make my own decisions.

What makes me laugh is that none of this is actually anybody else’s business, not even remotely. The only people who know what really goes on in our relationship are her and me. The reason I share this now is because I want to. I have nothing to prove and nothing to justify to anybody. This, what you’re reading now, is about me. Little ol’ me, finally receiving the love I’ve always wanted.

Same Love

I’ve blogged about marriage equality before. Yep, I’m gonna do it again ‘cause there’s nothing I love more than whipping that proverbial horse until it’s broken and bleeding on the ground, staring up at me with those pleading eyes that are asking me, ‘why? Why??’

Anyway, I digress.

I went to a lesbian wedding yesterday. A Jewish lesbian wedding in fact, that was quite religious, albeit progressively so. It was held in a synagogue with the smashing of the glass and the walking around in circles and everything. You could have knocked me down with a feather when God didn’t come stomping down out of the sky to smite us all for celebrating this sacrilegious besmirching of the sanctity of marriage. No thunderbolts of lightning or evil laughter emanating from the pits of Hades. Nothing. I was a little disappointed.

I lie, I wasn’t disappointed at all. It was one of the most beautiful, moving, divine weddings I have ever been to. Both brides were beaming and exquisite, both sets of parents were bursting with pride, the love and commitment was evident and obvious in both the couple and the congregation. Many tears were shed, including my own. It was, quite simply, a celebration of the love and bond between two people who chose to be together, and were making a commitment to choosing each other for many years to come.

Isn’t that what marriage is about?

You know, it’s interesting, I’ve been to three gay weddings in the last five years, my father’s included, and one thing that is common with all three of them, besides the homosexual thing, is the very solid choice that these people have made to be together. They weren’t doing it to please their parents, or because it was expected by their communities, or because they wanted to prove something. They did it because they loved the person they were marrying and they wanted to celebrate that. That’s my definition of marriage, and why the little romantic that’s buried deep, deeeep inside me still wants to have a partnership that fits that paradigm, ‘cause yeah, I wanna get married one day. It really doesn’t matter to me whether I marry a man or a woman, so long as that person and I love each other like my just-married friends showed me they loved each other yesterday.

So, get up marriage equality horse. Have a drink, take a painkiller and saddle up. ‘Cause I’ll be riding you until Australia catches up with the rest of the cool countries in the world (like New Zealand, ahem) who realise we’re not free until we’re equal.