Survivor Day

I’m gonna tell you a story. It’s a true story, not a very nice story, but true nonetheless. A few years ago I wrote a piece about being in Sydney (you can read it here),detailing how confronting I found that city at that point in time. A couple of other things happened at that time that I didn’t go into in that post, including getting triggered by a rape scene in a theatre show I saw, and being peeped on by the man in the room next door in the backpackers we were staying in. There was something else that happened. Something else that was lost in the mess of that trip but that stands out to me now as a pivotal point in my highly abusive marriage.

Ah yes, here we go, that old chestnut! Narcissistic abuse. Why am I writing about this again? Well, today, dear reader, is World Narcissistic Abuse Awareness Day. 1 June is officially the day to be aware that this shit actually happens, and it happens to people you know.

So, what is narc abuse? Honestly, you could read every post I’ve written on this blog since meeting my ex until now to get the full arc of an emotionally abusive relationship, but tl;dr so I’ll go ahead and tell you.

In adult relationships the person with narcissistic traits (my ex wife, KL) seeks out an empathetic, codependent-type partner (me) to suck dry in an attempt to gain power and control through the latter’s admiration of them (known as supply). This relationship starts with what’s called “love-bombing”, in which the narc falls intensely for the empath and idealises them, showing them the best version of themselves. In my case, KL showered me with gifts, flowers, food, love notes, calls and texts all day, every day. She made herself vulnerable by claiming she was being treated unfairly by her ex (whom I will call IC), and feeding me sob stories of her “challenging” life with IC, painting herself as the victim. I fell hook, line and sinker.

Once we were married, her true self began to emerge, but I was already addicted. I was a goner. Shit slowly started to happen, and that old adage of the frog in a pot of water that is slowly brought to boil comes to mind. This process is called devaluation and it starts small; the odd off joke here and there, casual belittling remarks that I took “too seriously” until it grew to adultery, contempt, triangulation, and gaslighting.

This is all very well and good, and I’m sure you all understand those words, but what I’ve discovered is without a clear example, these concepts are lost on most people.

So here goes, here’s my story.

We’re in Sydney on tour. I’m not having the most excellent time, but see, I have this habit of always being upset about something, always feeling things, you know, so I try to buck up and be happy. One night KL wants to go out and get drunk. I give her my blessing and tell her to go, happy to hang out with myself, read my book, drink my tea and relax for a damn minute. Our show playwright, Z comes into the room and some point and falls asleep, and soon I’m also in snoozeville.

It’s around 1.30am when KL comes stumbling in, sozzled to the tits and horny for me. This rarely happens at this point in our relationship and to be honest, I was gagging for it, so even though I was a little apprehensive because Z was asleep in the other bed, I comply with my wife’s wishes and fuck her silly. She goes to return the favour, but I gently rebuff her, concerned we’ve crossed the line already by going at it with our friend in the room. She falls asleep in two seconds flat and it’s all sunshine and roses.

The next day, Z goes to hang out with the rest of the cast and KL and I are left alone in the room. I’m feeling all sexy and glowy from the night before and say, “hey baby, how’s about it? I reckon it’s my turn.” I think I’m being flirty and I don’t see any resistance to the idea from her. She’s not overly responsive, which I attribute to the previous night’s drinking, but she doesn’t say no. So, she services me. I use that word specifically as that is what it felt like. She dutifully makes me come, and not two minutes afterwards as I’m pulling myself together, she says (verbatim),

“You forced me to do that.”

What?

My mouth drops open and I stare at her, aghast. “I what?” I rasp, feeling my stomach drop into my gut.

“I didn’t want to do that, but you don’t like it when I say no, and I figured I owed you from last night.”

WHAT??

I sat there, all the breath sucked from my body, my eyes stinging, my skin prickling and suddenly I feel sick and very, very dirty. “Are you saying I raped you?” I asked her, my stomach heaving. “Why didn’t you say no? Yes, I get upset when you say no, but I’d never force you. I feel like I’ve raped you.” I started to cry.

This seemed to shock her and she suddenly backtracked, exclaiming “no, of course not, I have issues, why would I say that, I love going down on you, I just …” But at that point I feel I want to tear my skin off my body, slough away the shame oozing out my pores, so feeling like a sordid old sleaze I excuse myself to take a shower.

In the shower I scrub at myself, feeling like the worst person in the world. Guilt, fear, shame, all of those awful feelings cascaded over me. I was certain I had her consent. Didn’t I? I went over and over what had just happened and I couldn’t understand why she would have sex with me if she didn’t want to. And then claim that she did want to! I was so confused. I later came to realise that this is gaslighting, a tactic to confuse and addle me, to keep me under control.

I start to sob and smash my head against the side of the shower. I clamp my hands over my mouth because I’m hiccuping and sobbing loudly and that embarasses me even more and I don’t want her to hear. I hear her calling my name but I yell for her to please leave me alone so I can get myself together.

Eventually, I calm down and get out of the shower, dry and dress myself, and open up the bathroom door to find her lying on the bed, foaming at the mouth. There’s a part of me that knows I’m being manipulated, but I’m learning now that this is a game, and I have to play my part. I stare at her. “What have you done?” She’s crying and foaming and gurgling, so I say I’m going to get Z who is a nurse, and she suddenly sits up, spitting the contents of her mouth into her hand and says, “I didn’t swallow them.” I understood then and there what this was. This was emotional blackmail, something she would do a further two times. So again, I played my part and I comforted her and I apologised while she convinced me that she put the pills in her mouth because she was “so hurt” by what she had accused me of doing.

And then it was forgotten. Just like that. A few days later the peeping incident happened and the last two nights of the show we were performing in was cancelled, partly because of the peeping, partly because sales were shit, and partly because the venue organisers were being difficult. I, being the eternal martyr of course, felt overwhelmingly responsible and began to disappear into myself in an attempt to dissociate.

Our last night there was the Mardi Gras parade and we were marching. I didn’t feel festive, I didn’t feel celebratory. I still felt dirty and disgusting and responsible for the tour being ruined, so my energy was low. Despite this I got dressed up, did my hair, did my face, slapped on a smile and we went to the marshalling area.

I couldn’t maintain the level of energy required to keep up that façade, however, and the mask started to slip. So my wife, the person who was supposed to hold me up when I was falling, the person who promised to hold my hand through the crap as well as the parade of life, the person who had seen first hand what kind of week I’d had in Sydney, got shitty at me because I wasn’t “having fun.” She told me I always did this, I always ruined it for her, and as much as I tried to defend myself, her anger won out. So I played my part. I conceded. I apologised and “had fun”. We marched, and she loved the attention. Every time a camera was on us she would grab me and kiss me in a show of defiant lesbian love. She held my hand and performed her role of loving wife for the public to see. I smiled and nodded and waved and danced and in doing so, unconsciously prepared myself for the shit storm of the last year and a half of our relationship to come.

I didn’t tell anyone except our therapist about this. I didn’t feel like I had the right. The irony is, deep in my heart, I felt like I deserved it because of my dismissal of KL’s ex IC and her claim of abuse. I was so invested in my ex wife’s version of this woman as a scheming, lying harpy that I failed to see the parallels in our stories, that she too had an incident that is not mine to tell, but that affected her as much as mine affected me. I will feel the sadness and embarrassment of that failure for a very long time to come.

~

Writing that didn’t make me feel better, I’m afraid. I’m not crying, I just feel gross. Rehashing all of that stuff isn’t cleansing for me because I know that wasn’t the first time – and it certainly won’t be the last time – she’s done something like that. However, I tell that story to illustrate what an abusive incident is, and as it was the onset of a continuing trend of behaviour, not just an isolated occurrence, it bears telling.

I understand that people with these narcissistic traits don’t actually love themselves. At their core, a narc is a mixed salad of entitlement, low self esteem, and shame. They have an idealised version of themselves that they seek out others to confirm and bolster this ideal. Underlying all of this of course, are profound feelings of inadequacy which are almost always projected onto their target. If KL was feeling unattractive, she would make underhanded comments about my age or my weight, never explicitly insulting, but barbed enough to make me start doubting myself. If she was feeling loss of control in another part of her life, she would start withholding sex, or demanding money, or claiming that I wasn’t pulling my weight.

The last year of our relationship was a blur of me working my arse off managing her career, arranging her music, writing and directing her cabaret (which she recently publicly claimed ownership of), funding that cabaret, producing that cabaret, doing all of her admin, paying some of her rent, giving her money to go to South Africa, accompanying her to night clubs in which I watched her getting hit on by various women while holding her wallet, keys and phone and generally being ignored by her and most of the other people in the club, promoting her, being available for sex on the rare occasion that she was drunk enough to be interested, and warning her about stringing along the young, 18-year-old girl that had fallen for her. Devaluing 101.

The next part, in which she ended our marriage and shacked up with the girl – who I’ll call PR and who she went on to also abuse – is called the discarding stage. PR, young, inexperienced and naive was fully ensconced in the idealisation phase and only saw KL’s ideal self, not knowing that she was caught up in the next cycle of narcissistic abuse. Of course, KL took no responsibility for this, just as she took little responsibility for her abuse of IC and again the cycle has continued onto the next woman.

This is what KL wrote to me just before our divorce application was submitted (I will add that this was not the end result of a text fight, this was in response to my refusal to print a document for her):

“Being married to you that last year sucked as you never appreciated what I could do for you, only pointed out what I couldn’t. Stop blaming others for your problems. Stop blaming just me for our failed marriage. I am safe and happy now and in a great place that I have forgiven myself for everything. I am moving forwards.”

She wrote something similar to both IC and PR after their relationships were over. I don’t think either of them refused to print a document for her, but who knows what atrocities they committed to elicit such a response (joke).

Despite what it may look like, this is not a “dump-on-my-ex-wife” post. To be honest, I feel genuinely sorry for her. Her behaviour, that message from her, her continued vicious cycling all point to someone who is deeply broken and self-hating. She doesn’t know how to fix it, how to make it right, so she keeps repeating the same thing over and over again, hoping for a different result. However, the only person that can get her off that wheel is herself.

I am a survivor. The other two women who have shared in these experiences are also survivors. We are strong, we are supportive, we still cry over what happened to us, but frankly, we’re kicking ass and taking names.

If you see anything similar to what you may be experiencing in my story, please seek help. In honour of World Narcissistic Abuse Awareness Day I end with a link to their page, and a list of warnings and red flags, edited because I’m a grammar nazi. I experienced probably about 95% of these signs. Be safe, peeps.

WNAAD

WARNING SIGNS

  • They have a sense of superiority, often being highly critical, often judgemental about others.
  • They have a sense of entitlement. Sometimes this comes off as confidence, but can manifest in subtle ways, like cutting through a service station rather than wait at the traffic lights, or deliberately leaving rubbish for someone else to pick up.
  • They give out back-handed compliments, such as “she has a figure like yours, you know, slim but no muscle tone.”
  • In a romantic relationship, the relationship moves quickly. For example they will shower you with attention, compliments or gifts, and say “I love you” very early on in the relationship.
  • They will start to subtly ignore you. They may appear to lose interest/get distracted or check their phone while you’re talking.
  • Their seemingly innocent words are often contradicted by their body language and tone of voice.
  • Their stories don’t quite add up, and you start to see the little lies. You may even tell yourself, “I just heard them lie to their friend, it was just a little white lie. But s/he wouldn’t lie to me.”
  • They have two sets of rules. Rules that apply to them, and rules that apply to everyone else. They may have unrealistic expectations of love and nurturing from others, but don’t hold themselves to the same high standards.
  • They have a lack of empathy, and are unable to see things from the perspective of others.
  • They have poor boundaries, and may regularly invade your privacy, go through your belongings, or expect that you can mind-read their wishes and needs.
  • They may be highly sensitive to criticism, or any suggestion that they are not in the right.
  • They have a “my way or the highway” attitude. They believe that they know best, and that their way of doing things is the correct way.
  • Initially they can come off quite charming and charismatic, always knowing the right thing to say.

RED FLAGS

As the relationship becomes more established, you may start to see some stronger warning signs, or red flags, such as:

  • You may spot bigger lies, and when you confront them, you never get a straight answer or they will turn it around and accuse you of what they’re actually doing.
  • If you try to raise an issue with them, it becomes a full-blown argument. They may accuse you of causing the fight, or they may use the silent treatment as a way of punishing you for confronting them.
  • Arguments feel circular and nonsensical. You’re left feeling emotionally battered and confused. There is no resolution to the issue, no sense of compromise or seeking a win/win outcome. It feels like they need to “win” regardless of the issue or what’s at stake. You’re left feeling unsupported and misunderstood.
  • They may tell you something didn’t happen when you know it did, or vice versa. This is called gaslighting and it’s designed to make you doubt your own reality and judgement.
  • You feel like you need to ask for permission before making plans with others. They may try to control where you go, or call and text constantly to check up on you, and interrogate you about where you’ve been/what you’ve been doing.
  • You start seeing less of your family and friends. Perhaps because they openly prevent you from doing so through guilt tripping or threats of abandonment. Or, it could be more subtle, where they make such a fuss about seeing your family and friends that you start avoiding them so you don’t have to deal with the fallout. You end up feeling isolated and lonely.
  • The relationship feels one-sided – like you are the one who is doing all the giving, the one who is always in the wrong, the one who is trying the hardest, changing the most or doing the most sacrificing, just to make them happy. And it still doesn’t work. Nothing is enough for them.
  • You can’t feel at ease or relaxed in their presence. You feel like you’re walking on eggshells, waiting for the next time they lash out at you. You realize you feel a sense of relief when they aren’t there.
  • You feel like whatever you do, it’s not enough. You’re manipulated so that your flaws and vulnerabilities are exploited and used against you at every opportunity. You begin to feel inadequate, unlovable, and like everything is all your fault.
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Choosing to be Childless

I had it all figured out. I had a plan of what I was going to do when I got pregnant. I was going to have photos taken every month of my baby bump, from the day of confirmation all the way up until the birth, Artsy, candid shots of my blooming belly in soft lighting, but not hiding any of the messy bits of pregnancy like stretch marks or rosacea.

Then, when the baby was born, I was going to have a pagan midwife and use meditation and hypnosis to give birth drug free. We were going to have mood-filled family pics, rose coloured and achingly beautiful. The miracle of birth. New life. All that.

I got older. We had donors lined up, my lesbian wife and I, but they all fell through. Then I turned 40 and we decided that probably the only way I could get pregnant was through IVF, and that was hella expensive, so the choice was made for my wife to bear our children. All my plans for the documenting of my own pregnancy was transferred to her, as was most of my life. She would have photos every month, she would have a pagan midwife and lovingly cradle our newborn addition in that rose coloured light. I was so excited for a brown baby, for my little rainbow family. We planned for it, had names picked out, godparents chosen, shared pictures of baby and toddler fashion that our very cool kid would wear.

And then everything changed. And I mean everything. Shattered marriage leading to a new job, new life, new couch to surf, new goals. Whether I liked it or not, my existence shifted. I found myself cleaning houses for a living; the suburban homes of the working mother, some married, some not, all with children of different ages, different stages. The one thing that became abundantly clear to me is that children take over everything. And I mean everything.

These women I clean for are all intelligent, hard working, motivated career women. They have jobs, they have partners, they have lives. But one thing I noticed that they all shared was that their lives and their homes were dominated by their children. They were mothers first. Women second. People third. Their lives were defined by their offspring. It made me feel anxious.

I went home, back to New Zealand to figure out where I was going. I tested the waters back home, trying on the possibility of moving there, having a baby on my own. My dad and his husband are there, both big fans of the idea of me progenerating little Bentons everywhere. I had a chat to one of my cousins about how her life had changed since she had kids. She said unequivocably that she loved her sons, but all her dreams for herself had taken a back seat. I looked at her face. She was tired.

On the plane flying back to Australia I thought about all the times I’ve been pregnant, ended in either a termination or miscarriage. My doctor had told me that I was very fertile, that despite the polyps in my ovaries and the scarring in my uterus, I had a “very viable womb”. If that were so, why so childless?

The realisation settled on me like dust settles on polished wood: I would make a wonderful mother. But I will never be one.

Quite simply, I’m too selfish to give up my life for a child. I gave it up for a partner and it nearly destroyed me. I would love that child until I had nothing else to give, but I would grieve for my childless life. I understand that everything changes when the child is in one’s arms, but to be honest, I don’t want that change. I’ve just emerged from a cocoon of my own making, all my insecurities and neuroses woven into a personal carapace that blinded me as it protected me. I have broken free of not only an abusive and toxic relationship with another person, but also with myself. I’m not ready to put that aside to dedicate my energy to someone else, fruit of my loins or no. By the time I am ready, I will be too old. I’m already too tired.

I wept painful racking sobs over this decision. I had longed for a baby since puberty hit at age 11 and I had always assumed that it was an inevitability. Even as I flip flopped about marriage, shooting out a sprog was unquestionably a thing that would happen. But as I’ve matured and grown and realised what being a parent actually entails, I’ve chosen myself instead. I look back at all the sacrifices my mother made for us kids, how the decision to have a family impacted her life. She died stating that her greatest achievement was her children and I am so grateful to her for that. But I just can’t do it.

I’m okay with it now. In another life, in a parallel universe, I am a mother and I’m damn good at it. In that existence, my kid is ridiculously talented, intelligent and beautiful and will grow up to change the world. And in that world I would be content with being a mother first. I would be proud to be a mum.

But not in this one.

You used to take my breath away. There was a time when I’d look at you and my heart would stop, just for a moment. I’d watch you dance and my knees would buckle at the heat emanating from my very core. I used to wonder how I got so lucky to get someone as sexy, as talented, as wonderful as you.

Now, it’s all been exposed as an illusion. You tag me in things because I wrote music for you, hoping I’m sure, to impress me. But I can see through it all now. It doesn’t impress me. I don’t feel the same heat. In fact, I feel a passing indifference. It’s all the same. The same moves, the same looks, the same songs, all directed at someone else, all trying to show me what I’m missing out on. I’m not missing out on much.

Today, though. Today was different. It was supposed to be a day of celebration, a day of love. It was, but I walked into that room where three years ago we exchanged vows that I thought were sacred, that I took very seriously, and it all came crashing down. Here, in this room, where another same sex couple were joining themselves together under the law, where I thought my life as a married woman had begun, I was reminded that you got away scot free. You walked away relatively unscathed. You don’t have to be confronted with any of this.

I returned to New Zealand seeking solace. Seeking my home. I didn’t find it. I hadn’t been home since my mother died, since you and I became wives, and it all slapped me hard in the face. You don’t have to feel any of this. You keep telling me that you were hurting too when you ended our marriage, but how could you have been? You will never be forced to come back here and go to the places we went to together, to relive those times now knowing it meant nothing to you. You do not have to look into the eyes of my family that took vows with you to help us to honour our union and admit that you fucked up. You will never be forced to remember, to have your home forever linked with something that was so full of promise, but wasn’t treasured as it should have been. You can just walk away into another person’s arms and never have to take responsibility for the pain you caused because you’re so good at pretending that everything’s fine.

I have to carry that weight. I have to carry it for both of us. Still. And I hate you for that.

But …

But, I’ve met someone else. I’ve met a man that has opened my eyes and my heart. I’ve met a man who has reminded me that I’m allowed to be beautiful, that I’m fascinating, that I’m intelligent, that I’m sexy. All the things you failed to see in me, he sees. I’ve met a man at a time when I don’t want a man’s attention. I’ve met a man at a time when I don’t need anyone’s attention, and yet here it is. And it’s reawakened in me the knowledge of my own power as a woman. It doesn’t lie with you. It doesn’t lie with him, either. It’s all within me and it’s all mine.

I am not pursuing this man. He came into my life simply as a signpost. He has reminded me that I am not your soon-to-be ex wife. I am not a divorcee. I am not one of many of the broken souls you have left behind. I am not one of your victims. I am better than how you left me. I am better than how you treated me.

I am moving on.

Onwards

This is an angry rant. Something I have to get off my chest once and for all and then I won’t waste any more time or energy on this bullshit.

Am I okay? No, I’m not.

I wish I had never met you. I wish I had never given you my heart. I wish I hadn’t fallen so hard for you. I wish I had never taken you home to my country to meet my family. Do you know that no one in my life EVER has met my entire family? No one, not friends, not partners, not even school friends have met both my brothers and my mother and father much less my extended family. No one. Except you. And now, with my mum gone, no one will again.

I wish I had never pinned my future on you, talked about kids, dreamed about where we’d live. I wish I had never believed you when you said my heart was safe with you. I wish I had never trusted you with my darkest secrets and fears. I wish I hadn’t relaxed with you.

I wish I had never married you.

I wish I hadn’t wasted all those beautiful and special experiences on you, you who didn’t appreciate or respect how so very important they were to me. You didn’t care.

I wish I knew how I had got it so collosally wrong when everything in me believed you were the one. I wasn’t naive when I met you, but I got it so wrong.

They say these things happen to teach us something. Well, all you taught me is that love doesn’t exist. All you taught me is that no one can be trusted. All you taught me is that I’m better off alone.

I had hope before you. I trusted before you. I saw the best in people before you. Now I’m closed off and cold and brittle. This is your legacy. You have ensured that no one will feel the depth of my love for a very, very long time.

But I’m so silly, because you don’t care about any of this. You don’t care about what you did to me. Our relationship was never about us, it was always about you. Even now, it’s about you. You didn’t love me. If you did, you would have never done those things to me. If you did, you would have left me alone.

So good luck. Good luck with your new, “completely normal” bedfellow, after all the lies and bullshit you told me about not being ready for a relationship. Good luck with not abusing her like you did me, and the woman before me. Good luck in not fucking it up like you did your marriage. A marriage that was only sacred to one of us.

Don’t tell me you’re sorry. You’re not. Don’t tell me you care. You don’t. I am a light that showed you the way and now it is lost to you. And you don’t even know how valuable it was, you narcissistic fuck.

You are dead to me.

Just In To Leave Her

Just Say Yes

 


Yes folks, it’s that time again! It’s that time to pull out my dusty old copy of the Gay Agenda, turn to page 246 of sub-section 39b (the Bi Agenda) and wax rhetoric about marriage equality! Yay, that old chestnut.

Australia, while a wonderful country in many ways, is a little bit backward. Besides the rampant racism and xenophobia, the alarming domestic violence rate, and the existence of XXXX beer, Australia is the land of the seemingly homophobic government. Tim Minchin puts it best in his latest online offering, so I won’t go into why it’s ridiculous that marriage equality isn’t legal. But let me just explore our options here.

In 2004 John Howard’s Liberal government introduced the Marriage Amendment Bill, changing the definition of marriage in the Marriage Act 1961 to state, “Marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life. Certain unions are not marriages. A union solemnised in a foreign country between: (a) a man and another man; or (b) a woman and another woman; must not be recognised as a marriage in Australia” (source). What that means is that the government pretty much sanctioned discrimination based on sexual preference and it was done without consulting the Australian people.

In 2013, however, the High Court found that the Constitutional standpoint of marriage included same sex couples and that basically the federal Parliament has the power to decide to whether same sex couples have the right to marry. Instead, good ol’ Malcolm Turnbull has decided that we should have a plebiscite, even though his government can pass the law if they choose to.

What’s a plebiscite? Well, time to get my nerd on. A plebiscite (ˈplɛbɪsʌɪt,ˈplɛbɪsɪt/) derives from the mid 16th century: from French plébiscite, from Latin plebiscitum, from plebspleb- ‘the common people’ + scitum ‘decree’ (from sciscere ‘vote for’). The sense ‘direct vote of the whole electorate’ dates from the mid 19th century (source, Google dictionary). The word is a noun and its definition is:

  1. the direct vote of all the members of an electorate on an important public question such as a change in the constitution.
  2. a colossal waste of time and $122 million (second definition is the author’s).

Why is it a waste of time? I’ll let australianmarriageequality.org take this one: “… a free vote costs nothing. A plebiscite will become a platform for hatred and division. We elect politicians to make laws, not handball them back to voters. Issues that raise religious and moral concerns are almost always resolved by free votes in parliament, not plebiscites. A plebiscite is not binding so the issue will have to return to Parliament anyway, at which point there should be a free vote. There is more community support for a free vote than for a plebiscite, especially when voters are aware of the cost of a plebiscite.”

Kinda a no-brainer, huh?

Of course, the majority of the LGBTIQ+ community has rallied around the issue, stating that all love is equal, that it’s a human rights issue, and most importantly, that there are other far more pressing issues to put that time and money towards. We are the last developed English-speaking country in the world to legalise it. It’s embarrassing.

But there’s another facet to this issue, a less buoyant, positive, fluffy facet. Yes, love is love. Yes, we should have the right to marry whichever consenting adult we like and be happy. Yes, marriage is not about gender. But on the other side of that truly beautiful coin is the sobering reminder that things can turn shit. Marriages end, dreams die, break ups are horrible and can be really messy, and the unfortunate thing is that in Australia, there’s not a whole lot of legal support for same sex divorce. Our marriages aren’t even recognised for one thing, so it’s stay married forever, or go back to the country you got married in and become domiciled, and then apply for a costly divorce. Break ups are disruptive enough, but the added insult of not actually being able to legally divorce the person one legally married in another country means that closure is deferred, the connection to one’s ex is still active, and salt is rubbed in the open, suppurating wound.

As it stands, my marriage was not taken seriously by some members of the communities I am a part of (much in the same way that my sexuality isn’t taken seriously, but that’s a different post). Therefore, by extension, my divorce is not taken seriously, and that adds to the devastation. My need to cut ties, move on, perhaps even marry someone else is thwarted by this myopic view of a relationship that was very real (if I want to marry a man in the future, I can’t, as I will be committing bigamy in every country in which same sex marriage is recognised). It’s a cruelty on top of an already hurtful situation.

Divorce rituals are important for healing. Many cultures and religions around the world have rituals that are designed to break the bond and ease the suffering of both parties involved. People throw divorce parties. A temple in Japan allows visitors to literally flush their failing relationship down the toilet. I could do all the rituals in all the world, but still, the country I live in doesn’t give me or my ex the option to make it legal. And that’s shit.

I hope that this plebiscite will not go ahead, because there are many, many people that I love (including myself) who will be affected by the inevitably hateful ‘No’ campaign. The anti-marriage equality lobbies that we have in Australia are champing at the bit to unleash their homophobic vitriol upon my community, and this plebiscite will give them leave to do so with relish.

However, I fear that it will go ahead, so I’m throwing everything I have into campaigning for an overwhelming ‘Yes’ vote – even if it isn’t binding, even if the government continue to be a pack of cowards, even if it doesn’t lead to an immediate legalising of same sex marriage, I will still vote yes. I hope all my Australian readers will do so too (mind you, if you’re a regular reader of this blog and you don’t vote yes, my mind boggles as to what you’re doing here).

Once upon a time, I campaigned and protested to have my love recognised. Now I’m campaigning to have the end of it recognised. Equality is equality.

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.

The Right to be Human

I am writing today as a human being, born with the same rights as every other human being in this country. Born to believe in whatever spiritually makes sense to me; born to follow whatever dream I may have for my life; born to live freely in a Western country that embraces every human as an equal inhabitant. Equal, that is, as long as I’m straight.

Australia is supposed to be a free country. We arrogantly call ourselves part of the first world, an appellation we give to this country due to industry, opportunity, freedom of expression, and human rights. But that’s bullshit, because in Australia, gay people are not equal. Gay people do not have the same rights as every other citizen. A gay person is not allowed to marry their partner.

Now, I’ve heard every argument under the sun: the mother of my ex-girlfriend (yes, a woman with a gay child) questions the validity of the government putting energy into marriage equality as “there are so many more important things to consider, like our economy!” The ex-boyfriend’s mother said it was not a governmental issue because “marriage is a religious concern.” Julia Gillard, our Prime Minister, says she doesn’t believe in marriage equality because “it goes against my upbringing”. And spare me the religious diatribe that states that “homosexuals are an abomination against God”, ’cause I don’t believe in your God, and the Universe I am connected to doesn’t give a fuck who I share my bed with.

What this whole thing boils down to for me is that it’s about basic, fundamental human rights. These human rights are being violated, which makes it an extremely important governmental issue. Marriage ceased to be solely a religious convention decades ago – thousands of heterosexuals have non-religious marriage services conducted by civil marriage celebrants. It is definitely a legal issue. There is no demand for marriage between gay people to be recognised by the Church anyway, so the point is moot. And if you, like Julia, were brought up to be a bigoted, prejudicial idiot? Well, change. You’re an adult, aren’t you? You have the capacity for independent thought, yes? If that’s troubling for you, try this on: imagine you love someone so much you want to marry them, but you can’t because your government says you’re not allowed to. Imagine that the very act of loving that person was considered a crime in some Western countries a few short years ago. Imagine that holding your lover’s hand in public (or even behind closed doors) could get you hanged, shot or bashed. Now what do you think?

Photo by Christopher Bryant

Photo by Christopher Bryant

Look, not every gay person wants to get married, just as not every straight person does. The point is, the marriage equality fight is for the right to choose, just like straight people have the right to choose. And what will happen if gay people are allowed to marry? Well – hold on to your hats, people – some gay people will get married. That’s it. So, what’s the big deal?

This effects all of us. We all have a connection, however tenuous, to someone who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, and is therefore being discriminated against by our government. All I am asking you to do, is open your mind and your heart. Change is coming.

P.S. In case you’re wondering, my sexual orientation is irrelevant. I’m writing as a human being, with the same rights as every other human being in this country. That is all.