Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day has meant a few things to me over the years, most not so positive. I haven’t spoken to my biological mother (though she barely deserves that title) for over 7 years. The last words I said to her were to tell her I was moving out and would live with my then step father to complete my final year of high school. I know she’s in England and I know she’s alive. Well, I assume she is, that side of the family wouldn’t even know if I’m alive.

My relationship with my father isn’t much better. While I do see him at least once a year, it isn’t by choice and I won’t say a word to him. My partner has noted that my whole body will tense when he is in the room.

So Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are events I’ve grown to endure. My biological parents are narcissistic at best, emotionally abusive and neglectful at worst. Sometimes people ask if I would reach out to them, if I would try building a relationship with either of them. More than once I’ve been met with judgement when I say I would not.

People seem to believe that I should forgive and forget, that I should be the bigger person. But why should I? What possible reason do I have to forgive people who don’t even believe they have done wrong? Why should I forgive them when, if faced with the damage they have done, would blame each other, would blame me, rather than admit any kind of wrong doing? Why should I forgive a man who causes an involuntary reaction of fear so strongly in me, I enter a fight or flight mindset being in the same room as him. If he weren’t my father, my anger would be socially justified, but because he happened to provide a sample of DNA, I’m not allowed to despise the man?

Why should I forgive a woman who, when faced with the reality of my self harm at 15, laughed it off as a joke. She told me that I was just messing with my teachers as she drove me home after having picked me up from school. After having been told by the school counselor I had admitted to it, that the counselor had seen the marks to prove it. My mother didn’t ask to see. Didn’t need to know. It was all a joke because her daughter couldn’t be suffering. No, that would reflect badly on herself. The same woman who complained about having to take me to a psychologist once a week when I was 16, but then cried when I was ‘all better’. I’ll never know if I’m a particularly good liar, or if it was a particularly crap psych.

So no, I won’t be forgiving either of them. Be it tomorrow or on their death beds. I have another mother now, a woman who came into my life with only the intention of being a friend. A woman who respected me enough to not want to replace my biological mother when she married my father. A woman who then cared for me enough to see my pain and though I wasn’t her concern or her responsibility, let me know that I was loved, am loved. A woman who kept caring long after she came to her senses and divorced my father.

A lot of people don’t seem to realise it’s not the family you’re born with that’s the strongest, it’s the family you create and fight to keep. So while a part of me will always hate Mother’s Day (even if I manage to have children of my own), I am extremely thankful to the woman who met this messed up kid, put up with me as a teenager and now supports me as a full fledged adult making my own way.

Pandemic Panic

Anxiety and low level panic are a daily occurrence for me (thank you brain chemicals), but it’s had a target of late. Corona virus has been a hot topic lately, and while most seem to have at least a vague grasp of how serious it is, I have the dubious pleasure of working with people with far more privilege than they realise.

I’ve heard all the jokes, the disbelieving incredulation at the lack of toilet paper and the reassurances that it “won’t happen to us”. And, at first, I was one of them. I know I’m lucky, I’m relatively young and healthy. I don’t travel, have been social distancing for most of my life and could probably self-quarantine if required. I work in a world of privilege where we talk of how “more people die of the flu every year”.

I’m becoming more aware of how our health systems aren’t built to last, how our service industries don’t allow people to be sick, how our whole economy relies on a workforce it refuses to support. And when I complain or question, I’m told it’s how it’s always been, it’s just human nature. As though my own nature isn’t screaming out to do something, do anything.

I’ve always known that corporations care more about the bottom line than the people who create it for them, the same way we’re aware of the sun. Something that’s always been there, but we’ve never given it much thought. I know people don’t always think beyond their own bubble of existence, but I don’t think I was prepared for such apathy. I wasn’t ready for the willful ignorance and disregard for life.

But, really, should I be surprised? I don’t have to look too far to see the same sentiments perpetrated. Climate change, homelessness, world hunger, countless examples of how little we care. Just because it doesn’t touch us personally, it doesn’t matter. As though it couldn’t reach us, as though we’re immune from the effects. As though this won’t have repercussions.

How many people will lose their lives? How many families permanently altered? But no, that doesn’t matter, does it? We need to think of the economic costs. Like the jobs lost and businesses closed as customers panic buy toilet paper and little else. Because those with the ability to buy in such large bulks are those at highest risk. I’m sorry if the sarcasm doesn’t come through.

With basic necessities being resold online for outrageous prices, who does this hurt the most? Not people who can afford it. No, it’s the poor and the sick and the elderly, you know, the ones most likely to be killed by this pandemic. Because our willful disregard for their lives wasn’t enough, we’ve also got to deny them access to everything else too.

No one person or family needs 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer. But there are thousands who did. Not everyone has the financial capability to buy hundreds of packets of toilet paper. Not everyone has the privelege of financial security. Not everyone has the privelege of a functioning immune system. You’d think good health and the basic capability to survive would be a human right, but it’s not. And for most of us, we’re a lot closer to losing these than we’d like to think.

Found Family

Today, while rushing to buy last minute provisions for a New Year’s Eve gathering, my future mother in law and I got to talking. Talking about the house my partner and I just bought, the home we’re going to create and the children we’re half considering.

Amongst all that, the topic of our impending nuptials came up (though I’m not sure if they can truly be described as impending when we’re not even engaged yet, but that’s a minor detail). I mentioned a location my partner has selected and set her heart on, something small and intimate. And we began discussing who would be attending. I mentioned my guest list would be short, my family comprising of two younger brothers, a sister and my mumma bear.

‘What about your sister?’ She asked.

‘Lily?’ I responded, referring to the daughter my step mum/mumma bear kind of adopted. She has that habit, keeping other people’s kids in the divorce. It’s amazing, because it means we get a real parent who actually cares for us, even though we aren’t hers by blood.

‘No, your sister.’ My mother in law insisted.

‘Lily.’

‘No, your blood sister.’

I’ll admit, I knew who she meant the first time, I was just trying to give her a way out. Because she well knows I haven’t spoken to my ‘real’ sister in almost ten years. The same way I haven’t spoken to my ‘real’ mother in the same space of time.

I’ve mentioned many time before, and will no doubt mention many times again, that blood doesn’t mean shit to me. Just because someone shares some DNA, that an accident of birth links us, doesn’t mean I have to love or even like them. My ‘real’ family is toxic or so distant they’re non-existent (to avoid the toxicity). I don’t have the time or energy to pretend they’re anything other than what they are. They’re bad for my mental health, I don’t care if we’re related, I’m not putting myself through that.

I don’t remember what my mother looks like or what she sounds like and everyday she gets a little more distant. And that’s okay. That’s actually great. I could pass my ‘real’ sister on the street and not know it’s her, which is fine.

My family are the ones who have stood by me. My family is more than blood, more than DNA, more than an accident of birth. They’re people I know will be there at 3am when I mess shit up, just as they know I’ll be there for them. My sister may have only come into my life a few years ago, a teenager who needed an older sibling so very much, but she’s my family now and I will do anything for her. My brothers aren’t ‘half’ anything (though I have days when I wish they were half their size). My step mum may have grown a brain and divorced my father, but she’s my mumma bear and I know I can count on her. Unlike the ‘real’ parents who donated some DNA to make me.

I love my found family, the misfit bunch we make up. I don’t need obligations of blood to stand by them. I don’t need the expectations of society to tell me to take care of them and love them deeply. My sister is family, regardless of our births. My mum is the woman who came into my life and refused to leave, even if it would have been easier for her to do so.

I don’t need blood to tell me who is family.

Lay Off Greta

Guess what? I have an opinion. Shocking, I know.

So, Greta Thunberg. Whether you love her or hate her, think she’s an incredibly brave young woman or a brain washed puppet, can we all agree she deserves better treatment?

She’s being openly mocked by people in the media two or three times her age, mostly by white men who really need to re-evaluate themselves. She’s only 16 and people on both sides are putting enormous pressure on her. She has become the voice of her generation and millions have marched in support of her message, sending her across the globe to talk to the people who should be doing something.

And that’s opened her up to some pretty harsh criticism. Even if we ignored the science (because it’s there and no amount of shouting will make it go away). Even if we agree a teenager shouldn’t be leading this charge (because the adults shouldn’t have failed her so badly). Can we not attack her?

I don’t care if you don’t agree with her, I don’t care if you think she’s just another angry teenager, or if you think she’s shrill and unlikeable. Don’t bring her mental health into question, don’t pretend her neurodiversity is to blame. Don’t sit there and use stigma and damaging stereotypes to further your political agenda.

Yes, she has Asperger’s. So does my younger brother. Does this make either of them lesser? Does this mean they can’t form an opinion, or have an understanding of the world around them? Of course not. My brother is her age, and if he was doing half of what she is, I’d be so unbelievably proud. Not to say I’m not already proud of him, he’s overcome his own adversities and is kicking ass in his own way.

But if someone were to talk about him the way people in the media have talked about Greta, heads would roll. If people were to use his neurodiversity and mental health as a weapon against him, I would be just as furious. Because not only is it a sign that they have a less than stable argument, it’s also completely unnecessary.

Am I sitting here calling these people deranged? Am I calling into question their sanity, or pointing out their physical flaws? Because I would have a riot doing so, no matter how hypocritical it would be. I mean, it wouldn’t be hard to bring their own mental health into question, considering the way in which they’re spitting vitriol at a kid.

And even if we stepped away from what that’s doing to her, even if we ignored the pressure she’s under and the scrutiny she’s enduring, this is horrible for all the other neuro-diverse kids out there. This is just another way the world at large is telling them that they’re broken, that there’s something wrong with them. And there isn’t.

These adults are telling a chunk of the population that they’re unstable, that they’re broken and that they don’t matter. Grown men and women are up there saying ‘if you have a mental illness, if you think differently, if you’re not like us, you’re evil and bad and wrong’. This is not okay. This has gone on far too long, gotten far too nasty, and we need to stop it.

I don’t care what side of the argument you’re on, the minute you try to discredit someone for being neuro-diverse or for having a mental illness, you should lose your platform. Just as you shouldn’t discredit someone for their gender or race or sexuality. These are all things that we can’t chose, and have no effect on our opinion, our knowledge and our abilities.

So, Greta, I stand with you. Not just because I think you’re right. Not just because I think you’re an amazingly brave young woman. But because I can empathise with how much harder this has been for you. You deserve to be treated with respect and compassion, you should be thanked for all you are doing for the future of this planet and our species, and I wish none of this had been necessary in the first place.

Logic

“… it makes no logical sense that Pell attacked those boys…”

In a strange twist of fate, I agree with Andrew Bolt’s words, if not his sentiment. While I will never doubt that many have suffered at the hands of Pell, both directly and through his attempts to silence victims and protect perpetrators, I will never understand it.

I’ll never understand what it is like to be a child, betrayed in such a disgusting manner by someone meant to guide and protect. I will never fully appreciate the scars that victims carry every day of their lives. And I will never understand those who could commit these atrocities.

I understand this isn’t about vows of celebicy and sex. I understand this is about cycles of abuse and sick people feeling the need to exercise power over others. I understand this is about the church wanting to protect their reputation more than they want to protect their ‘flock’. I understand this has nothing to do with logic.

So, no, it doesn’t make logical sense that Pell destroyed the lives of those two boys, Mr. Bolt. It doesn’t make logical sense that Pell worked so hard to cover up other ruined lives. It makes even less sense that he actively worked against justice trying to be served.

You know what else doesn’t make sense? High profile figures continuing to defend a convicted man. Pell has actively protected priests who have preyed on those most vulnerable. He has used his power to destroy lives and families. And you would defend him, Mr. Bolt.

Remember how during the marriage equality debate, you were so concerned about “healthy, happy and well socialised children”? Remember how you tried to convince Australians same-sex parents couldn’t provide the love of a ‘traditional’ family? Where is your concern for the children now?

You talk about freedom of religion, as though people will be persecuted for worshipping a certain God. Unless you’re speaking of the blind hatred of Muslims, all I’ve seen is how the church has been allowed power and privilege. Even now, they resist taking steps to prevent the continued abuse of their system.

Why is it that you, and many of the politicians you support, are still defending a convicted man, Mr. Bolt? Where is your compassion for the victims, both those brave enough to face the vitriol directed at them and those who continue to suffer in silence? Where is the logic in that?

I know I’m screaming into the void here, so maybe we’re all a little short on logic around here. I just wish you weren’t so short on empathy as well.

I’ve got a theory

I have a theory (neither about bunnies or brontosaurus’). Well, less a theory, maybe more of a vague idea of an understanding.

I’ve been seeing more and more people claiming that homosexuality (and any other sexuality or gender that isn’t the ‘norm’ of cisgendered heterosexuality) is wrong and unnatural. Of course, we know that’s false because it exists in many species of animal, including apes (who we share heritage with). So, if it exists in many species, and we haven’t bred ourselves out of existence (because we all know straight people make straight babies and gay people make gay babies), we must have some evolutionary purpose.

So, ever the reader, I did some (very brief) digging, and did you know homosexual couples in the animal kingdom have the habit of adopting the discarded offspring of their heterosexual counterparts?

And that’s something us humans have been fighting for as well. If relationships are only about making babies (because that’s all I took away from the marriage equality debate; that marriage is for the sole purpose of breeding), why do we exist? My assumption is to look after the offspring heterosexuals can’t, or won’t, raise.

And doesn’t that just make sense? We see stories of how the little gay penguin couple adopted the abandoned chicks at the zoo, and it shows that not only is homosexuality natural, it serves a purpose. It’s not just a glitch in our genetic code, or a random anomaly that pops up every now and then (despite being a pretty sizable chunk of the population).

It could be argued (from my flimsy place of little research and no scientific experience) that homosexuality exists to manage the overpopulation heterosexuality creates. We care for the children that would otherwise be abandoned.

And I’ll admit, this whole exercise is just a way to make me feel better about the endless idiocy I’ve been witnessing lately, but it’s a nice idea isn’t it? Not only are we natural, but we have a purpose in the grander scheme of things. We’re actively contributing to the betterment of society. I’m not ashamed to say that the recent hatred is taking its toll, so being a little silly with it all is my way of dealing.

Privilege

I’m a queer woman. But I’m also white and vaguely middle class. I have a higher education and job that allows me to live and save money. I understand I come from a place of privilege, even if I’m not a straight, middle aged, middle/upper class white man.

So as a writer, I want to speak up for those who traditionally don’t have a voice. I want to defend those who are often silenced. But I don’t know how to do that. I want to use my privilege to shine a light on those who deserve recognition, I want to empower minorities, so that they can tell their own stories.

I want to use my voice to tell stories of minorities, of queer kids and people of colour and those who don’t fit the usual narrative. And I can do that for queer girls safely, because I am one, but how do I tell a story in good faith, with utmost honesty, when I’m asked ‘how can you know what it’s like to be X when you’re clearly Y?’

We’re always told to ‘write what you know’, and I’ve seen people use this as an excuse not to write queer characters or women or any other minority group they can’t be bothered researching. I’m not saying I know intimately what it’s like being a POC teenage boy coming to grips with his sexuality, but I do know what it’s like to grow up suffering from depression and not having the right tools/words to seek help. And that’s why the protagonist of my WIP is who he is. He is built around what I do know intimately, and what I know from research. Does the fact that I’m a woman make him any less real? Any less of a whole character? I’d honestly hope not.

Am I going to go out and write a trans POC next? Not without a tonne of research and a decent understanding of what it’s like to be a trans POC. I write these characters in the hope of making them more mainstream. I don’t want them to be tokens, but part of the beautifully diverse society we live in. I’m sick of the oversaturation of straight, white men. They aren’t the majority by a long shot, so why are they the ones we see most often?

But then I worry. I want to use the little privilege I have in a positive manner. I know I can boost queer writers, female writers, non-cis writers and writers of colour, but I almost feel as though I’m not allowed to write them as characters. I feel the excuse of ‘write what you know’ and the endless stream of white men, writing mostly white men, has created a world where you will be criticised for writing anything you’re not.

Maybe I’m being paranoid. Maybe I’m overly sensitive in this area. I know I can only do so much, I just wish I knew the best way to support those who need it the most.

Weightless Woes

I’ve always struggled with my weight. Whether it be borderline anorexia or toying with obesity, I’ve never quite managed that healthy middle ground. And now, as I try to claw back some of the fitness I had as a child, I can’t help but look in the mirror and wish I saw what I feel society expects me to be.

I look at myself and I wonder, will my stomach always be too big? Just like there were days when I wished my boobs were bigger. As I monitor every piece of food I eat, I not only wonder what it will do to my body, but also what everyone will think of me as I eat them. There are days I agonise over every mouthful because dammit, why can’t I be like the girls on TV?

I know what it feels like to be faint from hunger because I haven’t eaten a decent meal in a week. I know what it feels like to struggle my way up stairs because holy hell I’m out of shape.

I may not be as big as a house and I may not have been rail thin, but I know both ends of the spectrum intimately. So, while I’m trying to find that happy medium, forcing myself to pay enough attention to eat healthy without becoming obsessed with the number on the scales, I have to remind myself: I will never look like the girls on TV. I just don’t have the time or patience for five hours on hair and makeup.

I won’t ever be picture perfect, because no one really is. I know I will never be 100% happy with what I see in the mirror because I know myself and I know I will always look for flaws. I know toeing the line between caring about my health and obsessing over my weight will be difficult, but I will keep doing it.

Getting fit while working a full time desk job is hard. But I’ll do it. Because at the end of the day, my stubbornness well outweighs all the voices of self doubt in my head.