Inspired by BurningBee’s fabulous comic about realising how the world is different when you are properly medicated for ADHD, I’d like to posit my thoughts on complex trauma (C-PTSD) and how it’s like carrying around a big rock. Sadly I don’t have anywhere near the talent of BurningBee, so it won’t be illustrated (but if you want to illustrate it, hit me up).Continue reading Complex trauma or carrying around a large rock
And then there were more stories about relationships
The first being this excellent piece from Roxane Gay, “The Honeymoon Hasn’t Ended“, which talks about how fucking weird it is when (usually hetero) couples seem to actively resent being in relationships, their spouse and their children. The way that marriage and relationships are seen as a chore, or suffering to be endured.
Please people, find happiness.
The second was this quote from a response to a letter in The Guardian, “I miscarried, while my best friend had a healthy baby. Is it time to move on from the friendship?“
It sounds like part of the problem is you don’t feel properly understood. An event that’s become such a big part of your life and emotional landscape doesn’t seem to take up the right amount of space in how she understands you; like the map you have of yourself and the map she has of you don’t match. That makes it really difficult to have a friendship. It’s hard to connect when you’re not even really seeing each other.
And I connect with this statement as I felt massively misunderstood by a now ex-friend last year. There was more to it, but that is part of it. The friendship is over, the impacts are not. Unlike the advice in the remainder of the article, I don’t think there is a chance to resolve things. I’ve spoken to a lot of people since the event, and no one, those who know both of us or those who are further away, suggest that there is any way to repair the bridge that was set on fire.
A story quote on relationships
I began reading this short story by Will McIntosh called The Savannah Liars Tour as part of a Lightspeed Magazine (Issue 68). This paragraph summed up several conversations I’ve had recently with people.
You never love someone the way you do when you’re twenty. When you fall in love at thirty, or forty, your past comes with you – your broken hearts and shattered illusions – and there’s just so much of it, so many additives and preservatives mixed in that your emotions are never as pure as they were when you were twenty.The Savannah Liars Tour by Will McIntosh
The conversations I’ve been having relate to how I could never replicate the relationship I have with James with anyone else. Not with Scott (who I’ve been with for 15 years) and not some future partner. James and I fell in love and started a relationship at a very formative time of our lives, we built templates for ourselves for things that we value and look for in other relationships, but the deep trust and understanding are very much one of a kind. No matter how much I may want to, I will never trust anyone else as much as I trust James. It’s something that frustrates me from time to time, but as that quote says, my past comes with me and things will never be as pure.
Art and trauma
So it turns out that when I’m going through my childhood trauma (knowingly or unknowingly) I tend to art, drawing, painting or writing poems. When I am happy, I rarely art, spending more time on other things that add to my happiness. So my art is pretty bleak, fairly abstract and reflective of my inner emotional state.
The art I’m about to share here is from 2006 – 2008, and some of it I remember creating, and others I have no memory of at all (which might also be the tamoxifen’s fault). This stuff is mostly distant enough for me to share without it hurting me, though there is one drawing in this group that is a common one, so common in fact that James thought that it was the drawing I’d just done recently, not one from 2006 or 2007 (it’s undated, but I know when I was using the art book it’s in).
Anyway, I’ll start at the top (metaphorically speaking) and share the photos of my art with explanations as I remember (or not).
This one is apparently me. I was hurting pretty hard at the time, having survived an ectopic pregnancy (and not dying), struggling with a relationship that made me very anxious. I don’t know now (because I have no recollection of this picture) if the things inside are the pain, or the things inside are just the multitudes within me.
This is a representation of James. As a dear friend pointed out, it’s the only one of the three representations of other people that I drew that pretty much fills the page. From memory (and we are talking 2006), this represents James through his many layers of person, with a pure centre. The spiral outwards is in bi pride colours.
These two leaves represent Anne. I remember wanting to show the green of life, but without hard edges because Anne is soft and tactile.
Simon was my other partner at the time, and this drawing has him as a kind of question mark, still looking for who he was and what he wanted, but also at the same time embracing.
This image was the sole reason I took the trip to Alice Springs, by myself, in 2006. I was looking for ways to deal with the trauma of an ectopic pregnancy, and the prickling of my own childhood trauma (something I didn’t admit even then). My counsellor is going to love this when I eventually get around to sharing it with her.
My lovers have a tendency to run towards danger, the type who would want to see the aliens when they arrive instead of running towards the hill and waiting to see if they were going to eat us or not. No matter how pretty the danger, I want to people them safe.
I remember sitting and drawing this while hosting a community stall at Sexpo in 2006. Ended up having an interesting conversation with an architect who was impressed I could art, because he couldn’t, and really he just wanted someone safe to have a conversation with before entering the general awkwardness of Sexpo.
This was the first time I drew this picture, and I drew it again recently (because I forgot I’d drawn it this time) and showed it to my counsellor – though it was slightly different. This is me feeling that I am dull and boring and that all the other people, that my partners are in relationships with, are far more bright and colourful. Basically a cry of “why be in a relationship with me when you could be in a relationship with them?”
It’s a trauma response.
So after my break up with Simon, which was incredibly brutal on me, I painted this, the hole that he’d left in my heart.
I have zero recollection of what this painting is, why I painted it, or what I felt at the time. Thoughts welcome.
Another absolutely no clue. Things were better in 2008 for me, so I don’t know if this was a representation of me burying pain in a deep hole or that it is lurking and might at any moment come forth. It’s weird.
I do remember painting this one. Hoping that the pain of the ending of the relationship was more of a scar now than a thing that kept hurting me. It took a lot longer than a year to get over that relationship though, so this painting is somewhat wishful thinking.
So that’s my art from that period. I suspect one or two paintings I made at the time and gave to other people might have been lost/destroyed, which is ok. I have vague memories of them, and they’re not hugely important to me now.
I probably won’t wait another 16 years to show my current art that I have made thanks to trying to deal with my trauma, but it’s not the right time to share it now. It’s too raw and present.
So today I was minding my own business on Twitter, just kidding I was reading stuff like normal, and came across this dude offering any “Practising Catholic” $1000 if they had had pre-marital sex and were still happily married. So I poked that hornet’s nest because the shaming of teenagers and adults who want to exercise their right to fuck, by suggesting that they are somehow stained, dirty, sinful, abhorrent fornicators is fucking gross.
Disclosure, I grew up Catholic, I spent many years of my life Catholic, I have studied the bible, read most of it, did bible studies with Baptists, was in a Catholic youth group, and have done a lot of my own reading on Christian thought. I know stuff, I’m not formally qualified in any of this, and I wouldn’t want to be because omg that would be tiresome, but I have been immersed enough in this bullshit to know it’s bullshit.
Anyway, I poked the tweep and said that despite my husband and I now being atheists, we both had pre-marital sex and have been happily married for over 25 years, but probably didn’t count because we weren’t Catholic any more. The tweep congratulated us and hoped that we would find god again soon – sure, no.
And this then started a long discussion, with lots of other randos also piling on the original tweeter and other people espousing the same position, about what a “practising Catholic” actually meant, the nature of sin, and why pre-martial sex is actually bad. All things considered it was actually a fairly polite conversation, I only ended up blocking one person who decided that because of my twitter bio, I was incapable of knowing what I was talking about when it came to Catholicism.
The reason I’m dusting off the blog post, is that because this train of thought is way too long for a twitter thread, so I’m posting it here.
The first thing is the whole idea of “mortal sins“. Now mortal sins for those who don’t have a background in Catholicism is where you do a bad thing that is so bad you threaten your relationship with god. So the obvious ones are murder, rape, torture… no wait torture isn’t a grave/mortal sin… The less obvious ones are abortion, “scandal”, theft, masturbation, pre-marital sex, blasphemy, participating in Freemasonry (no really), divorce and contraception, among others.
And I really have a big problem with murder being on par with masturbation. And this is one of my biggest problems with the Catholic Church, they decided that they had to rank bad things, but then they rank them so badly, that masturbating, a perfectly normal human activity, is as threatening to your relationship with god as murdering another person. One gives you a moment of pleasure, another results in someone’s life being taken away from them. I mean seriously, what the fuck.
This is the same Church that put the sexual abuse and rape of children in their care on par with the ordination of women. One of these seriously harms a person for the rest of their life, the other means that a woman might be able to be a priest.
We also talked about the Catholic Catechism, which seems to only have been relatively recently codified in it’s current form in about 1985, and before that existed in several different documents. These are all the rules that govern what it is to be Catholic apparently. I’ve never read the document, I have no idea of its content, despite being a Catholic for about 30ish years.
The original tweep said that a true Catholic follows all the rules of the church, which is simply impossible. I asked him who could possibly do that, and he answered Saints, which is also hilarious because no, they didn’t all follow all those rules, no one does.
I’m all for people attempting to live life by a set of rules that they voluntarily accept, as long as they don’t also attempt to make me also follow their rules. If they want to aspire to be the best Catholic good for them, but they shouldn’t beat themselves up when they fail. I felt sorry for the original tweep in the end, because he said that when he failed the rules, he was no longer a “practising Catholic” and had to rectify that, and seriously that is an unhealthy way to live. I suggested that if he calls himself Catholic, then he gets to do that, and his god wouldn’t take that away from him. Me, the atheist, comforting the believer because he was being mean to himself.
So yeah… Catholics…
I fully expect to wake up to my mentions being a massive bushfire tomorrow, because I was responding to the US tweep late in his night, and there is the potential for this to be a huge mess during their day while I am asleep. This is what the block button is for.
It’s Bisexual+ Health Awareness Month (March)
TW: Rape, abuse, suicide
So each March the Bisexual Resource Centre (US) launches Bisexual+ Health Awareness Month and encourages people to tweet, facebook, blog, and write articles about bisexual health, whether it be their own lived experience or discussing research which covers the health of the bisexual+ community.
This month, and last year around bi-visibility week (the week before or after depending on your fancy Celebrate Bisexuality Day), I’ve been thinking about the numbers. The numbers are not good (and I’ll detail some of the not good later), and as a community bisexual people struggle to access services, be believed, manage biphobia, and constantly deal with bi-erasure.
A note about terminology. I use bisexual a lot because that is how I identify and it is listed as part of the rainbow acronym (LGBTIQA+). The information and data I’m sharing below is often drawn together from people who identify as bisexual, pansexual and queer. The term that is easiest to use (and I’ll fail a lot at this because habits die hard) is multi-gender attracted (MGA). That is a useful and descriptive term that is a decent umbrella. It captures attraction (sexual and/or romantic and/or any other type) and just states that some people are attracted to more than one gender – even though they may use other labels to identify themselves.
Bisexuals may be same-sex attracted, but that’s not our only attraction. Pansexuals are same-sex attracted but that’s not their only attraction. Multi-gender attracted is a useful descriptor.
Let’s start first with poverty because poverty really limits your ability to access health services, social services, keep a roof over your head, exit from abusive relationships, etc. The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) data was examined in relation to LGB and straight financials. Sadly the authors of the paper I’m about to list were biphobic and really didn’t talk in detail about the bisexual community, but I managed to find some relevant numbers. (Sabia, JJ & Wooden M 2015, ‘Sexual Identity, Earnings, and Labour Market Dynamics: New Evidence from Longitudinal Data in Australia’, Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series Working Paper No. 8/15, University of Melbourne)
The HILDA data found that bisexual women are less likely to be employed, bisexual men have a larger earning penalty than gay men and that bisexual people have slower wage growth.
This is backed up by a Canadian study by Ross, LE & O’Gorman, L & MacLeod, MA & Bauer, GR, MacKay, J & Robinson M 2016, ‘Bisexuality, poverty and mental health: A mixed methods analysis’, Social Science & Medicine, Volume 156, May 2016, Pages 64-72, ScienceDirect, which found that bisexuality impacts employment experiences and/or earning potential, which in turn impacts mental health and a substantial number of bisexuals live in poverty.
Bisexuals are less likely to be out – and that’s a whole ‘nother post about why it’s not always safe to be out. The table below is from Private Lives 2 ( Leonard W, Pitts M, Mitchell A, Lyons A, Smith A, Patel S, Couch M, Barrett A 2012, Private Lives 2: The second national survey of the health and wellbeing GLBT Australians, GLHV), a study undertaken of the LGBTI community in Australia. Private Lives 3 is being planned I understand. This table shows that bisexual men and women (thanks the binary) are much more likely to hide their sexuality or gender identity than lesbian and gay people.
Studies in the US also have found that bisexuals are less likely to be out. This means that it is difficult to find community, to find services that can treat the whole person, and for services and communities to actually understand what multi gender attracted people need.
This next bit talks about sexual and other forms of violence experienced by bisexual people.
Within the LGBTQ community, transgender people and bisexual women face the most alarming rates of sexual violence. Among both of these populations, sexual violence begins early, often during childhood.
The CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (2010) found for LGB people:
- 61% of bisexual women and 44% of lesbians have experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, compared to 35% of heterosexual women
- 37% of bisexual men and 26% of gay men have experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, compared to 29% of heterosexual men
- 46% of bisexual women have been raped, compared to 17% of heterosexual women and 13% of lesbians
- 22% of bisexual women have been raped by an intimate partner, compared to 9% of heterosexual women
- 47% of bisexual men and 40% of gay men have experienced sexual violence other than rape, compared to 21% of heterosexual men
Here is a fluffy duckling
As you can imagine this leads to poor physical and mental health outcomes. Just today The Trevor Project discussed how poor the mental health is of young bisexual people in the US is.
Overall, bisexual youth reported higher rates of various mental health struggles than all their peers.
When asked if they felt sad or hopeless, ever seriously considered suicide, or attempted suicide, bisexual youth had the highest affirmative responses.
A majority of bisexual youth (66%) reported feeling hopeless or sad. In comparison, 27% of straight youth reported this, as well as 49% of gay/lesbian youth.
When it comes to suicide ideation, 48% of bisexual youth have ‘seriously considered it’. 27% have actually attempted suicide.Nearly half of all bisexual youth in the US have seriously considered suicide – GayStarNews
Among gay and lesbian youth, these numbers are 37% and 19%.
And really I didn’t want to write all this down (or borrow it from presentations that I’ve done) just to say “Look numbers!”, because there is so much more to this.
How does it feel when you see yourself and your experience in those numbers? How does it feel when you see those numbers and can relate them back to friends and family? Having co-facilitated Bisexual Alliance Victoria‘s bisexual discussion group since the mid 2000s, I have heard these stories, I have witnessed this pain. At no point are these numbers ever abstract for me. They are real people that I have met.
I’d personally love to do more activism, to stand up and shout louder. However, I have my own trauma to manage, I provide mental health care and support to people I love fiercely, I have a job, and I just don’t have time to do more (despite so many organisations constantly asking me, both LGBTI and other).
I feel like I’m not always a visible activist, despite being the President of a Bisexual advocacy and support group, because I am not always on these issues. And I can’t be, because to get the stuff done that I need to get done, I have to prioritise my time.
So I’ll be here, with the people who have experienced the shit that society dumps on bisexual people, standing fast against the storm and moving ahead, one step at a time.
Why the catholic church is a morally corrupt organisation – Part 1
Trigger warnings for child sexual abuse, violence, assault and other religious fuckwittery
Back in 2012 (yes, this blog has existed forever), I wrote about our favourite National Politician, George Christensen, forgetting the history of the Catholic Church while he was defending it. It’s pretty funny (it’s not) that he hasn’t said anything about the goodness of the Catholic Church since, given all the morally reprehensible things that have come to light since.
This post is mostly going to focus on Western Catholicism, specifically the churches in Northern America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Churches of the colonisers and settler states.
I’m separating this post into multiple sections because a) it’s taking so long to write, and b) it’ll take WAY too long to read.Continue reading Why the catholic church is a morally corrupt organisation – Part 1
Working for the Australian Public Service – some thoughts
I just finished up a role in the Australian Public Service (APS) that saw parts of my blog locked down, and my twitter turned to private thanks to the agency’s and general APS’s social media policy. But that’s not all. Let me talk you through my 8 and a bit months working in the current APS.
First I want to start that I worked for over 15 years in the Immigration Department early on in my career, finishing up there in 2009. I loved what I did, appreciated my colleagues and was proud I was making a difference. I left because I felt that the agency was increasingly risk adverse and I felt that I was no longer trusted to do my job. I thought I understood the requirements of the APS, but I didn’t know how much they’d changed since 2009 and 2018.
For a little bit of background, let’s start with Michaela Banerji, a former Immigration staffer, who was sacked for tweeting critically about the Government’s asylum seeker policy from a pseudonymous Twitter account. She later claimed compensation for the psychological condition she developed as a result of the sacking, and was eventually successful in court.
The key part of Michaela Banerji’s story is that the judge hearing her case of unfair dismissal found:
Judge Neville found Australians had no ”unfettered implied right (or freedom) of political expression”.
”Further, even if there be a constitutional right of the kind for which [Ms Banerji] contends, it does not provide a licence … to breach a contract of employment,” the judge said.
The investigator, when Immigration suspected that Banerji was the owner of an account critical of Immigration and the government recommended that (same source as above):
…Ms Banerji be dismissed as a result of the two breaches of the Australian Public Service’s code of conduct, noting bureaucrats must avoid making ”harsh or extreme” criticisms of politicians or their policies.
However, Ms Banerji, who has a law degree and represented herself in the case, argued none of her tweets were ”offensive or damaging to individual persons, but instead, they are expressions of political opinion, to which all Australian citizens have a constitutionally implied right”.
”It is evident that they are a simple expression of political opinion, made in [my] own time away from work.”
She said any finding of misconduct against a public servant ”for expressing a political opinion contravenes the implied constitutional freedom of political communication”.
Ok, so that’s some background on the current environment in the APS, particularly in relation to employee’s ability to publicly state their opinions about things. This article from August 2017 is probably the most recent bit about social media and APS employees:
Public servants could breach tough new social media rules if they criticise the government by “liking” posts on Facebook or Twitter or by sharing negative information or comments in private emails.
The public sector union and Labor have called a new social media guidance released by the Australian Public Service Commission on Monday “overreach”, warning government employees should be allowed to participate in normal democratic debate.
Liking, reposting and sharing social media content or even selecting Facebook’s “angry face” icon could breach employment conditions, while not taking sensible action about objectionable material posted by someone else could be seen as endorsement.
So… part of my employment was that I consented to a background check, which included me listing for them every social media account and website that I owned. I gave them the address for this blog, my cookbook website, my Flickr account, LinkedIn, and my twitter details. I was told that the background check could take up to 4 weeks, but was usually done in 2 weeks. Given this was over the January school holiday period, I thought it would be closer to 4, but was surprised when it was 5 weeks before I received a call from HR.
Apparently there was a problem, and the problem was my blog. You see, I have blogged freely about politicians and other individuals who have preached hate about people like me, or other marginalised groups. This didn’t align with the social media policy. When I asked them about the fact that some of the material they had problems with was literally years old, and clearly written before I had even contemplated working in the APS again, I was told that it didn’t matter and that I had to take it down because the APS is a-political and has to be seen as always having been so forever and ever (even though it really isn’t) and that employing someone who had publicly criticised politicians (read the current government) was not going to happen, so I had to tidy stuff up. I tried to explain that the internet is forever, and no matter how much I unpublished or deleted these blog posts, they were still there on the internet. They told me that they knew that, but I had to choose. At this point I didn’t have a job, and I needed one, so I thought I’d swallow my pride and tidy up my internet presence and see how it went.
I asked them to tell me which blog posts they wanted removed, and this is where we ran into the first problem. They told me that they’d send me the agency’s social media policy and I had to determine from that which ones I should remove. This apparently meant it was up to my discretion, but if we’re honest, it just means that they potentially had another stick to beat me with if I fucked up, because I didn’t delete/hide all the blog posts that they had issues with. So I was extra cautious with hiding anything that might potentially be a problem.
I also locked my twitter account to private and spent significantly less time there than I had prior to getting this job. That made me a bit sad as I like my twitter friends, and I like getting involved with conversations about things with people. But I needed a job, and that was that.
On starting I did all the standard induction things, including reading policies relating to HR. One of the policies, not the social media policy I had been sent, but something similar, had a phrase in it that will stick with me for a long time:
“Do not engage in uncalled for personal attacks”.
I thought about this phrase a lot. Who makes the judgement as to whether or not something is called for? I can guarantee to you that it is not the employee. If someone complains to the agency that they were personally attacked by an APS employee on social media, then that employee could find their employment at risk, regardless as to whether they thought the personal attack was called for. (I can’t even define what a called for personal attack would be).
We were also told that we should mind our language. Now I don’t recall what policy this was in, nor how it was phrased, but I got in trouble twice for using the word “fuck” and “shit” in two different emails. Both times I was describing a situation, at no point was I swearing at someone. The situation I was describing was the ill health of a friend, not a work situation. When I asked for the list of words that I was not allowed to use, I was told that there wasn’t one (there clearly was because my email was being monitored for using them). I also said it was 2018, and I really didn’t think that they general public would object to public servants swearing, and I was told that we had to maintain public confidence.
I also heard other people self censor their own swearing, or censor colleagues who swore in the workplace. It was not a good thing to hear. In one case my director said that she thought an excuse provided to her by a supplier was “bullshit” before apologising to the other people on the phone with her and said it was “bs”. At the lunch table a group of colleagues turned on someone who had said “fuck” saying, “oooh, you dropped the f-bomb”, and “don’t use the f-bomb, you’ll get into trouble”. That group of colleagues were all young by the way, all of them would have grown up with far more swearing than I would have.
In the end I decided I had to leave because I couldn’t be an effectively representative for the bisexual community and continue working in the APS. I have to be free to call our politicians and lobby groups for their queerphobic behaviour. I have to be free to call out homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and intersexism where I see it, including online, and working for the APS meant I was muzzled.
Now, please don’t think for a moment that the people I worked with are bad people. The policies and constraints they operate under are limiting, but they all believe in doing the best job they can and providing the public with the best outcomes they can manage. The Australian Public Service is a group of people who are constantly being asked to do more with less and less, and who despite this keep churning out services and products. Yes there are problems, Centrelink’s call response times for starters, but there are a lot of people doing everything they can to keep the machinery of government working. Blame the politicians for the issues that constant “efficiency dividends” have caused, the ASL cap (limiting the number of staff agencies can employ), and effectively gagging the APS from being able to give free and fearless advice to ministers and the government (as well as discussing their own political opinions).
I’m out now, heading back into private enterprise. No employer is perfect, but I will never be able to work for the APS while these policies are in place. Personally I think that limiting your employment pool to those who are happy to not express political opinions is going to bite future governments on the arse.
Calling it for what it is
Trigger warnings: Emotional abuse, rape
I’ve been thinking about writing this blog post for about a week now after some realisations, and I think it’s important to say, even though I know if the people who I’m about to talk about ever read this post, then there might be hurt feelings. I want to make it clear that this is my experience and thoughts on my experience, and your intention (whatever it was at the time) does not negate what I felt about the situation/s.
Continue reading Calling it for what it is
Submission to the Federal Government’s Religious Freedom Review
You have until 14 February to make a submission. Go now. There are fears that this review “Is Actually About Entrenching Discrimination, Participant Says“. Please make a submission.
Continue reading Submission to the Federal Government’s Religious Freedom Review