Gallery

A Pile of Books I Read in Early-2022

I’ve been feeling enthusiastic again about writing about books I’m reading. It became a chore rather than something I did for pleasure and fun a few years ago. But it feels like it’s a special time for the kind of writers I care about: trans and queer, Indigenous, Black, Brown, migrant … I want to say us who are not white and straight, but defining via a negative is apparently not how we do it even if it’s felt for a while like ‘straight, white, cis’ is a genre and a small one at that. Like how there’s serious literature and then manky sci-fi and all the weirdos doing unserious, b-grade, cult, trash ‘genre’.

And I’ve been feeling more enthusiastic about reading. I was stuck for a while, reading but not feeling the thrill of it, not getting lost with an author and their words. Part of that has been pandemic-attenuated focus; a long, dragging-on burnout (chronic fatigue, fuck knows what), and just heaps of stress, anxiety, the sads caused by way too much bullshit. Bullshit as in what gets called discrimination, transphobia, Islamophobia, anti-immigrant hate, and full-blown settler colonialism white supremacy which is very comfortable with doing genocide on us while white neoliberal centrists ‘both sides’ the fuck out of it all.

One of the reasons I stopped writing about reading was that I got too tied up in wanting to say everything and be intelligible, coherent, and all, like a good reviewer. I’m not that. I’m quite a bit of a bogan who uses fuck like nice people use commas. I’m looking at all these books and trying to remember them; it’s been a whole season since I read some.

Some I straight up didn’t like, or I did right up till they disappointed me. Cis women and queers (and some trans women) seem to love some 2nd Wave feminists and are all fingers in their ears when the copious evidence of their faves being TERFs and SWERFs is pointed out. So I was loving Kamilah Aisha Moon’s She Has a Name right up till she gave a whole page to Adrienne Rich. I don’t think it’s too much to say I can’t move beyond that knowing those same 2nd Wavers are still alive and as committed as ever to erasing trans people — especially and with particular violence trans girls, women, and femmes — from existence.

Randa Abdel-Fattah’s Coming of Age in the War on Terror reminded me of sitting in my flat in Charnwood Rd, East St. Kilda, having stayed up late for some reason, maybe to come down from doing an evening call centre shift and watching those planes missile into the World Trade Centre towers. And dreading knowing it was going to be Muslims who were blamed, and that gut-churn when the American news reporters started saying that so quickly. It felt like barely seven minutes had passed and no way they could have really known either way, but once that word had been uttered for the first time, with Bush as fraudulent President, with the last decade of Al-Qaeda, it was so clear what was coming. And I was a few years off then from finding out I myself was the child of a Muslim and grandchild of a Hijabi. Twenty War on Terror years later and it’s global open season on Muslim genocide, the Taliban is back in power in Afghanistan doing the same genocide on any Muslims not the right type. I just have this profound sadness.

Also in so-called Australia: Claire G. Coleman’s Lies, Damned Lies: A personal exploration of the impact of colonisation. I will always read her. That’s all. Except to say, if you’re a white person living on colonised Indigenous land, and you haven’t read her, it’s your job to. And everyone else should too.

Shon Faye’s The Transgender Issue: An Argument for Justice is specifically about trans people in Britain, and me spending way too much of decades of my life on this stuff, I think I’m not the intended reader. That audience would be you cis people who seriously need to educate yourselves. My main criticism is it struggles when talking about trans women who aren’t white. I often wonder about how whiteness recreates hierarchies of representation, visibility, inclusion and exclusion in trans women’s and femmes’ writing (and culture, community, and all). I see a lot of writing, fiction and non-fiction, and white trans women are the majority. I don’t think it’s enough to say, “I’m aware I’m white and …” as though that’s enough of a response in the structural, systemic, institutional racism in publishing — especially when writing about transphobia. And yes, trans women are an incredibly small segment of writers, and often just doing whatever to survive. So I read this with a constant internal reminder that yes, some of this is about me, but there’s a lot that’s missing.

Completely opposite, Akwake Emezi’s Pet. I’m saving for a separate post. They can write about trans femmes and women and girls any fucking time they want. I love them and they could eat my heart and take my soul and I’d be like, “Scary but worth it.”

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Trans Day of 💉💃🏻

Shortly after I took this photo, I shot a small bubble of air into my butt ’cos, in breaking my rhythm to take a photo of me having my regular shot, I forgot to do the final syringe flick and spritz a drop out. No biggie.

I fucking love giving myself a slightly-more frequent than weekly shot. Since I was told injections were available again, and once I’d persuaded my endo to prescribe them, I’ve been building up a stash. Seven weeks ago, I prepped and stuck a needle into the correct spot in my arse, and fuck me if this tiny vial of oily clear goo isn’t the shit. Injections always worked better for me, as proved by my boobs growing a cup in the last weeks (and my nipples feeling like the day after the day after a heavy nipple torture session). And it occurred to me, conversely, all the problems I had with pills and, to a lesser degree, gel is because that shit does not work. I also fucking love that something so unremarkable as this can literally change my sex. Yes, it can, cunts. Go educate yourselves if you just went all, “But nah something gender something sex can’t be changed.” Truth, it’s more like without this my sex does not have the chemicals it needs, but sex-change sounds so science-fiction.

Anyway, this photo was taken on Trans Day of Visibility, which for real I do not have the fucking patience for, cis people jizzing their ‘I’m an ally’ crap and so rarely turning up with actual material value. Except for Ariana Grande, who’s ponying up 1.5 million dollars to help support trans youth. Queen right there.

Gallery

A Pile of Books I Read in 2021

Some I didn’t finish, some I didn’t start, some I’m reading by proximity until I get on to turning pages, some keep getting started and left when something I want to read immediately comes along, some just take me forever to finish.

Semi-alphabetically and fiction first (and I’m very out of practice with writing about what I’m reading):

Ben Aaronovitch is the not-TERF white dude writing actually good magical fantasy set in London. Yah, the main character is a cop and my current rule is “don’t engage with new stories if they humanise the piggos,” but I’ve been reading the series since 2017 when Gala slipped me one. What Abigail Did Last Summer is more Young Adult or whatever it gets called but my reading level is, “This. This I can read.’ I have the upcoming one on order, and that’s how I am with Ben.

More sci-fi with Charlie Jane Anders, and Victories Greater the Death is her best ever? I think so. Not enjoying waiting for the sequel though. Am enjoying the thought of it turned into a live-action series (movie?) with Wakanda’s own Michael B. Jordan.

I have been thinking about how many white trans femme or trans women authors and writers are about at the moment, how much media attention they’re getting (good attention, especially in traditional media; not talking TERF attention here), and how on Twitter (’cos that’s where the writers congregate) there’s a heap of interaction and interlinking between white trans women. And I’m wondering where all the Indigenous, Black, Blak, Brown trans femme and trans women authors and writers are and why the ones I do know, Claire G. Coleman for example, don’t seem to be interacting or being spoken about in the same sentence much. I mean I think I know why, eh.

Akwaeke Emezi and Zeyn Joukhadar (both trans but not trans femme or trans woman) I somehow place in the same space as Claire. All three have had media attention, but I’m trying to be specific on the dissonance I notice. I see white trans femmes being grouped together, and interacting on Twit and other online media — and likely the algorithms amplifying this, and feel like all the others are somehow isolated or separate. Which is one part of it. The other part is these three write about and live in spirit worlds. I feel that’s very familiar to me, and part of why they appear to me solid, multi-dimensional, in full colour. Part of why I’m drawn to them — even when it’s scary, ’cos just reading of spirit worlds draws attention to me, wakes the spirit worlds I know.

I read Charlie Jane Anders because she’s writing sci-fi and I’ve read her for years since the early days of io9. There were a number of other very high-profile novels published by white trans femmes and trans women last year, which I have no desire to read. I don’t care for the stories being told (and in one case think the story is well dodgy), and don’t feel much affinity at all with the authors. And I’m actually concerned (though not surprised) that whiteness is playing a substantial factor in trans femmes and trans women having any kind of success as writers and authors.

That’s a whole fucking convo there, so I’ll move on.

Becky Chambers I have a relationship to I don’t understand. I don’t think I’m a huge fan, but there’s something about her novels I really enjoy reading. I don’t think too hard beyond that and I keep buying them.

Genevieve Cogman though. I did get a kick out of her Invisible Library series, but The Dark Archive is where I’m stepping off. It was the ending, where the previous Big Bad turned out to be a diminutive bad who might actually be on the good side (I dunno, it was months ago now), and the true(?) Big Bad was revealed. Bait and switch is not a narrative device I enjoy unless there’s a huge amount of prior work to make me care, and six novels in feels way too late for such a plot twist.

Alastair Reynolds’ Inhibitor Phase wrapped up that massive universe (for the moment). He’s one of the two or three white cis dudes writing sci-fi I’ll read. It’s mainly because his space opera is so fucking epic. This one has a heap of his delicious weirdness he let loose in the Revenger trilogy, and being Reynolds, of course any celebration is swept away by the whole galaxy getting shafted a few hundred years after the end of this story.

Zeyn Joukhadar. If I was in my old days where I’d write a post per book and spew out hundreds of words, Zeyn would get extra. The Thirty Days of Night and The Map of Salt and Stars are my favourites of the year — and would be Books of the Year if I still did that — for personal reasons as well as he simply writes beautiful stories. And he’s queer and trans and Muslim and Arab, so duh highly unlikely I wouldn’t rate him.

Sliding from fiction to non-fiction, Massoud Hayoun’s When We Were Arabs covers some of the same ground as Zeyn Joukhadar, and reminded me of my father’s family, as well as a couple of moments which caused me to look very side eye at them and what ‘Turkish’ really means. Which is another stitch in the long, slow unravelling of family from that single sentence uttered over a decade ago, “That’s why your grandmother couldn’t stay, because the kitchen was not halal.”

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s As We Have Always Done comes from near the land I was born on and is probably the single most important book I read last year or last several years. Unlike a lot of the heavy politics I read, in books, in articles, on social networks, Simpson also describes ways out of the shithole mess colonialism and white supremacy have caused. I raved to everyone (pandemic everyone, that’s about 5 people) about this book more than once. That kind of book.

Audra Simpson’s Mohawk Interruptus, slightly further east from the other Simpson, I’m still reading. It’s one that got — haw haw — interrupted by other books. It’s one that I need to have the right attention for. Reading this together with the other Simpson is good, strong words.

Geraldine Heng’s The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages is another I’ve raved to everyone about. And I was reading it in 2020, slow reader, me. I’m including it here again because … because it’s probably my non-fiction Book of the Year, over As We Have Always Done, which is a tough call. Settlers and Europeans need to know the history which led to colonialism, white supremacy, invasion, genocide, ongoing occupation of stolen land (as well as cisgender heteronormative supremacy as both a tool of those above systems and actions, and conversely a separate system and action which used those above as tools, a kind of reciprocal system of shit, but that’s not so much a topic for this book). They need to know the long, deep roots of these systems which go back most of the last two thousand years — not as ‘proto-racism’ or ‘not really racism, more like xenophobia’ or whatever, but as actual, recognisable, functioning racism. Racism at encompassing and conscious institutional, political, religious, community levels, and at individual levels. Knowing better how this emerged and evolved in the European Middle Ages makes it possible to understand more clearly Renaissance, Enlightenment, Industrial, and 20th / 21st century colonialism and racism. And that in turn makes it possible for non-Indigenous people to read Simpson and understand deeply what she’s saying and what’s required.

A bit of astronomy and space science now. And racism. Shit’s inescapable like that.

Ray and Cilla Norris’ Emu Dreaming: An Introduction to Australian Aboriginal Astronomy is really an intro, more of a pamphlet I was reading to educate myself on Indigenous astronomy which turns up a lot in my novels. And you’d be surprised at how much has been written on the subject. And by ‘surprised’ I mean not at all, and by ‘much’ I mean really fuck all, and the stuff that has is either paywalled academic papers or insanely expensive academic books.

Ronald Greeley’s Introduction to Planetary Geomorphology turned out also to be very Intro and missing all the fun of the 2015 New Horizons Pluto flyby. I love me all things space science though, so I keep buying these books.

Chanda Prescod Weinstein’s The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, & Dreams Deferred, is the one speaking about racism. Growing up Black and Jewish in East LA, going to Harvard, being queer and agender, these oppressions and marginalisations are inextricable. In my early-teens, I wanted to be an astronomer. Being a young, queer multiethnic trans femme back then — and so many of those words, their meanings, and how they were lived were not available back then — meant I failed out and dropped out of school way before that desire had a chance to bloom. Still love the stars though; still sad fuckall has changed in all the decades since.

What else?

I’m grouping these together: Tiffany M. Florvil’s Mobilizing Black Germany, Priyamvada Gopal’s Insurgent Empire, Johny Pitts’s Afropean, Asim Qureshi’s (ed.) I Refuse To Condemn. I haven’t finished any of these and at least one I’m unlikely to finish. They’re all important books. I really want to be enthusiastic about reading them. I’m just struggling with reading heavy shit (and there’s no way this stuff is not heavy) after two years of a fucking appallingly politicised and mismanaged pandemic response.

I’d almost put Adonia Lugo’s Bicycle / Race in with those. Maybe because I’ve been involved with racism and transphobia in professional / competitive cycling, as well a being very opinionated about bikes, walking, and public transport as the primary method of getting around in cities, and the need to massively reduce if not outright ban private cars and vehicles (yeah, I’m a devout hoon who loves the smell of hot engines and the sound of a redlining engine and I said that), I read this with hope and a bit of joy. I would absolutely do lazy laps of a city with Adonia.

And then there’s a few others I’m not going to mention, but the covers are below. All kinds of feelings and thoughts about all of them. This is already 2000 words and I needed to stop long before now.

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1er Paris–Roubaix Femmes

It’s autumn and that means cyclocross! Bashing around Belgian farmland in the rain and mud and sand and snow in generally shite, “Why the fuck would you?” conditions.

And!

Paris fucking Roubaix!

In autumn! Thanks, incredibly poorly managed and politicised pandemic response and incredibly selfish wankers.

Outside of cyclocross, it’s probably my favourite race? First equal with Strade Bianche Rosa, especially when it’s raining. Anything cobbles and / or hosed with mud is my safe space.

And this year, for the first time in the 118 races since 1896 when it was first run, there’s a women’s race! Fucking progress right there, eh! And it was raining buckets and blowing a gale and those 29km of cobbles were muddy and grotty and slippery and terrifying and the riders hurled themselves over them, crashed, got up, did it again. Best 3 hours on a Saturday arvo in a looooong time.

Yaaah, but. The ASO, who organised this, have had an equally long time to pull their white dude fingers out and make it happen. They didn’t. They run the biggest stage races in the world including Tour de France, Vuelta a España, as well as a heap of those hardcore one day races like Liège–Bastogne–Liège and La Flèche Wallonne. Their equivalent women’s races to those big tours are 1-day patronising yawns.

Could they come up with the same 91,000€ prize money for women’s winner as the men’s? How about 7,005€? What about smashing the 5-star cobbles of Trouée d’Arenberg? The women started just next door in Denian. Also nah. Superficially the ASO had valid reasons. Normally the men have done 100km of riding and a bunch of cobbles before barrelling at 60+km/h into the trench, which ‘sorts the peloton out a bit’. Obviously modifying the women’s course so they had some cobbles first was beyond everyone’s capabilities.

And then there’s the M-word. Paris-Roubaix is a Monument. That means it’s one of the five, 250+km 1-day races. It’s also one of the four Cobbled Classics, which are similar lengths plus, obviously, cobbles. The women’s Paris-Roubaix was a quick 115.6km, done and dusted (or jet-washed if you’re Sarah Roy) in 3 hours. None of that 6 hours in the saddle stuff for whatever the ASO thinks women riders are. It’s like back when teh menz thought that if women ran a marathon their uteruses would fall out or something.

And finally (not really but I wanna watch Legends of Tomorrow), there’s the live coverage. Or absence of the first 60km or so. Which is pretty typical. The EWS Enduro World Series this year reliably missed getting the women’s runs because “something something crew hadn’t set up something,” and that’s the top-level competition. There are more men’s races and more actual racing time shown with live or delayed coverage. The stories men tell about men racing are nuanced and full of drama and emotion and narrative arcs and character growth and are accompanied with equally dramatic images and video. Men simply care more about other men. And yes, those men, they are white.

Yah anyway, here’s Sarah Roy shredding on those cobbles.

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Apparently I’m Gonna Start Running Again

Been thinking about it for a long while now. My biggest fear is I’ll get back into swimming, and start riding my bike without socks because triathlon.

I haven’t had running as a part of my training routine since Adelaide, and even that was mostly scuffing around the South Terrace parklands. But I think I enjoyed it? Anyway, not really dancing anymore and certainly not going to morning ballet class. The last time I went to one of those was mid-2018, and the last time I was in a dance studio was early-2019. So my bones are not getting the workout they need, and as much as I have superhero bones (and apparently I did not blog about my epic bone density), cycling is guaranteed to not do the job.

So, running? And off-road / trail / cross-country running ’cos my deep cyclocross love cannot abide anything else. All of which has to wait until this so far several weeks of chronic fatigue fucks the fuck off and I can do more than walking. The colour of these shoes though is way more mad hectic in real life.

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It’s Rasse, Not Hautfarbe

I feel like the inability of white Germans to say the Race word is probably why the rest of us don’t want to talk to them about racism.

What you on about?

Reni Eddo-Lodge’s 2017 book Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race got translated into German in 2019 as Warum ich nicht länger mit Weißen über Hautfarbe spreche. ‘Race’ mysteriously becoming ‘Hautfarbe’, skin colour. When I first saw this (like 2-ish years ago, when it was first translated), a friend said Rasse sounds very strong and would turn people off from reading it. Apparently because white Germans associate the word ‘race’ with Nazis. I strained a muscle side-eyeing at that.

I’m not aware of the full convo she had in Berlin in 2019 when asked about this, beyond her saying she was ok with the translation because she wouldn’t want to be associated with Nazis through the German word, and the audience being dissatisfied with the title. Which again, to my mind, plays into caring for white Germans feelings over the very long, multigenerational history of BIPoC Germans and specifically Afrodeutsche and Turkish-, Kurdish-, Arab-Germans who have to suck up white Germans discomfort with facing race and their own racism. And not even mentioning Jewish-Germans there ’cos we all know how white Germans’ discomfort played out there.

When I titled this, “It’s Rasse, Not Hautfarbe” I mean the title of the book. And yes, it’s also about skin colour, and a bunch of other things that combine in various shiteful ways. Just that when race becomes specifically defined as and reduced to skin colour what that in fact means is ‘skin colour which is not white, or perceived as not belonging to a white person‘.

The dead staunch Nadine Chemali said, “Tell anyone in Australia you’re an arab or wear a hijab down any suburban area and tell me we are white.” while talking about this, a conversation that’s been had in Australia for a long time now. It feels to me that this inability to say ‘race’ in Germany, in conjunction with redefining skin colour as race, pushes that whole conversation of pale-as-fuck and what it means to be ‘white-passing/appearing and not white’ far down the line. They’re digging a deep hole out of which we’re going to lose another generation of time to because white Germans refuse to learn from people who aren’t white.

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It’s Been A While

I started on pills in Tāmaki Makaurau, Aotearoa (Auckland, New Zealand) way back when I was a young thing. A daily combo and I did not enjoy swallowing them. In Naarm (Melbourne) my best ever doctor gave me the choice of pills or injections. I knew about injections but didn’t think they were available and was very immediate unequivocal yes on them. First shot in my arse in my upstairs room in a flat in Carlton.

I did injections all the way through VCA, and all the way till I came back from some overseas trip in maybe 2005. They were perfect for those long travels, the same doctor — or when he left, his replacement — would give me a 6–9 month prescription of them and I’d bundle them up with the needles and syringes, taking up hardly any space. And I never had to use the letter they provided for if I got questioned in Customs about all those drugs.

Returning to Australia with a half-year supply remaining, I found that injections were no longer available. Which had sent the entire trans (-gender, -women, I forget what we were called back then) community into a spin. And six months later I joined that spin. I went on multiple different pills which had random unenjoyable side-effects — despite my doctors assuring me they were “all the same”. And then I moved to Kaurna Land (Adelaide) and because of differing State legislations I had to face the gatekeeping of the Gender Clinic for the third time.

Back in time a moment. Immediately prior to seeing the doctors in both Auckland and Melbourne, I’d tried to get into the Gender Clinics, only to be very stringently denied. Stories for another time. What’s pertinent though is both doctors I saw who did prescribe me hormones either wobbled the interpretation of the law or lol fuckit toppled the cunt. Both were very much of the harm reduction school. Not so lucky in Radelaide. Where the skeevy predatorial extremely conservative and heteronormative old codger and his matching twin old cunt presided (fun story, they still do).

I could have just got a flight back to Melbourne to score a repeat script (with what money, exactly?), but decided I wanted to attempt the surgery route again. And endured some pretty fucking humiliating humiliation at those two’s hands. Which also eventually got me an official hormone prescription for the first time in my life. More manky pills which semi-worked along with manky side-effects, in a city which, at that time, had effectively no trans healthcare. Though I did find probably the one good doctor (who I took out for a night at SO36 when he came to Berlin).

And then Berlin. Also astoundingly lacking in trans healthcare. I mean it does exist, but primarily for white trans men and mascs, and the same tired cis-het-normative expectations. I went through so many truly awful GPs (what gets called Hausarzt), and endocrinologists to get similarly truly shite pills which were slowly fucking my liver. Because pills work by overloading your liver which otherwise filters out all the hormones ’cos that’s what livers do (or at least that’s how I remember my good doctors describing it). Which left me constantly tired on top of the fun rando, life-long other hormone problems I’d had.

This is turning into a long story, innit?

Finally, I accidentally found a good endo. A young white German man who talksveryfastallatonce and is actually kinda educated about trans stuff — and from all the above I’m pretty fucking qualified to make that assessment — and actually cares and takes an interest in his patients (i.e. me) as a person and not just a recipient of a prescription. And I should mention since being in Berlin, my ‘official’ status as ‘transsexual’ (yup, 20 years behind on terminology here) is very conditional and there’s a lot of goodwill on the part of doctors to prescribe hormones to me because I don’t actually have the paperwork or proof I did two years of therapy (’cos I didn’t) with those sign-off letters from gatekeepers. All very tenuous, and as much as the world is moving towards an informed consent model the reality remains very much ‘fucking lucky to get them’ when it comes to hormones or anything else transsexual.

So, he prescribed me gel, which I describe as, “getting jizzed on your arse and then you gotta rub it in.” Which I’ve been on for most of a decade after he talked me into trying it ’cos I was really, truly jack of pills fucking with me and not in a great place, and having some actually proper serious repercussions from those life-long hormone problems (also another story, and no, you TERFy cis cunts not caused by taking hormones). And which, along with surgery back in May ’09, has given me a fairly stable, acceptable several years on meds.

But I still miss injections.

Because they’re one and done, once a week, quick and easy, no mess no jizz, I felt better on them, don’t fuck my liver, and are by far the best route to get hormones into me. And for the majority of the last 15 years haven’t been available (unless you’re in Mexico or the US or some other random countries). Until a young trans woman I met here told me she was on them. Which was a fucking eye-opener.

And she gave me the name of them and where she got them from, which I asked my endo about and he was kinda suss about it, ’cos he thinks the curve with injections (peaking then trailing off) is not desirable and favours the flat dose of daily gel, and thinks I’m a weirdo for wanting the former. Nonetheless, he gave me a prescription, which isn’t covered by health insurance, and I went to my local Apotheke and was told, “Yaaah, around 25€ and might take 40 days?” and got a phone call 2 days later, and here we are. Thanks rando pharmaceutical company in Czech Republic!

Which is me wondering what the correct dose would be after all these years. ’Cos my endo doesn’t know, I can’t remember the strength of the injections I used to take, comparing it with jizz gel isn’t a direct one-to-one, I have no long-term medical history ’cos I’ve moved so many times and so have my doctors, trans healthcare is an actual fucking trash heap on fire, and I find myself on rando internet forums trying to scrape through DIY hormone convos by people who very much are not doctors or endos. And there’s whole conversations to be had around how we, as trans femmes, trans women, transsexuals, whatever the fuck we’re getting called this year, are resorting to buying hormones from non-medical suppliers like other trans women who started making it themselves and now sell it (just to clarify, this isn’t what I’m taking). And that if we want actual, up-to-date information, we have to look to those same trans women and assemble something meaningful out of our decades of collective experience. Which is not to throw shade on them or the hormones they’re making or our collective knowledge. We do this because we’re denied real, affordable, accessible healthcare. Because we’re ultimately still seen as mentally ill in the head fucking trannys.

So finally I have injections again, and because I don’t trust anyone, let alone white German healthcare and the white German government (come on, the potential Merkel replacement let the n-word slip out her mouth, this is where this country is at), I’m thinking that getting a stockpile first is good Auntie planning.

Funny story though, I forgot to ask for needles?

An Email From the Australian Institute of Sport

AIS slid into my inbox this morning. Australian Institute of Sport, not Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. Gotta watch the acronyms when you’re in trans and intersex space, FFS. (For fuck sake, not facial feminisation surgery.)

Back in 2007 a bunch of us dancers were part of the AIS SCOPE programme. I have no idea what that acronym means anymore. It was a pilot development programme for professional and elite dancers. Yup, ‘elite’. From memory they had one for athletes and realised our situation was basically the same. Part of it was about dancers who were transitioning. No, not trans dancers ffs. I swear cis people need to be blocked from using the word transition for about the rest of my life. Dancers who were considering moving out of — what is in Australia a very young person’s game.

I wanted to write about the email I got this morning. It’s the AIS response and apology to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s independent review of gymnastics in Australia. I don’t think the email’s really meant for me, just I happened to be connected to the AIS a long time ago and apparently my email is still in their system. I don’t think any of the support they’re offering is for me either. Lots of reasons. I’m tired and I don’t really want to frame how I’m feeling in the broader structural, institutional, colonial, racist, transphobic, normative blah right now.

End–2007 I was skipping back and forth between Adelaide and Melbourne. I don’t know how it looked from the outside, making work back-to-back in Europe, China, and Australia, but I was doing it hard. Mad hard. The kind of hard where I walk home at night in either of those two cities and had a spot in each where I’d check in with myself and have a realistic convo that went, “You know if it gets too much, you can.” A multi-storey carpark in the former and a bridge over a motorway in the latter. Just checking in and seeing how I was going, how far I could go. No shame if I couldn’t.

Because of the decades, generations of abuse athletes, coaches, and staff — mostly young girls and women — were on the receiving end of, the AIS created a support service called AIS Be Heard. I’m not sure how comfortable I’d feel engaging with that if I’d been seriously, as an athlete, part of the Institute and all. I dunno, shit got mad stirred up this morning.

I got sexually abused by a middle-aged man when I was a kid, start of my teens, every weekday after school for several months. I was already very much not coping with home and school life being a young trans femme back in the ’80s. That abuse broke me.

A few years later, I destroyed him. I went to the police and pressed charges. How that came about in retrospect was something I was pushed into and not in my best interests, but me going in and giving a statement started an avalanche. Turns out he was already known, but you know, same old, no one wanted to say anything; everyone wanted to forget. They found a list with something like a hundred names on it. In the end, I think only four or five actually gave statements and agreed to being witnesses.

I destroyed him. He lost his business, his wife, his home, his standing in the community, had heart attacks, and ended up in prison where, because of the people I knew back then, everyone knew what he was in for.

Those people, who supported me through years of the criminal proceedings on top of the shit in their lives they were coping with. They put up with a lot from me, I was well fucked up.

The case broke me again. It dragged on for four years. The first two I was in conversion therapy, which is a whole other story but deeply bound with all this. It was the direct result of me trying unsuccessfully to get into the gender clinic in Auckland to get on the surgery list after being on hormones for years, and being kicked through a string of therapists because I was a fucked up trans femme, homeless, on drugs, self-harming, eating disorder and whatever else. The second two I’d moved to Melbourne and was in some, what we’d call now, non-binary phase and using dance to survive. Burying everything thought and feeling in pushing myself physically as hard and far as I could go. Apparently I haven’t changed much.

The proceedings ended when I got a phone call. Ended for me, I mean. He got a plea bargain. I was told he would plead guilty to every charge except mine. I was told if I proceeded with the charges, it would go to trial and I would lose. They would use me being trans against me and he would get off. Thirteen year old child obviously asked for it and obviously untrustworthy and crazy ’cos she’s a tranny was their line. I said fuck whatever and bailed. I already destroyed him. He got two years.

He broke me, but those four years, the conversion therapy … I think I would have survived what he did if I’d had really good, caring support. I didn’t. I had very shit, abusive, transphobic, coercive therapy where the threat of being institutionalised was always in the background, and being constantly told I would never be a woman and no woman would ever love me was up front.

I survived that too. A lot more broken. I went to Victorian College of the Arts shortly after, sucked up the shit there, dished out some of my own too. I saw abuse there on the regular. Emotional, psychological, physical, sexual abuse, body shaming, eating disorders, untreated mental health crises, skeevy older male teachers and staff doing all the same things the AHRC’s independent review talks about. Pretty sure a lot of us who went through professional dance training know all about that.

I had a couple of full-on breakdowns while I was there. The pressure between trying to find a way be true to my trans femme self in an environment entirely structured on white, cisgender heteronormativity burnt the fuck out of me. And the un-dealt with damage from my teens.

On their website, the AIS says, “We owe it to every athlete who has been part of the AIS, to feel supported and to get help if, and when, they need it.” Nice sentiment. Cool.

There’s this pervasive, verbalised belief that if you don’t get therapy, or rather what AIS call ‘wellbeing support’ when you need it, shit’s on you. Like all we need to do is make the decision and magically there will be a perfect therapist just for us. The vast majority of therapists are simply not equipped to provide care for the kind of complex trauma trans people have often experienced. Or people who have lived through child abuse.

Speaking from long, long experience here, at best the majority of therapists are useless, and very regularly they cause more harm. I had a therapist tell me he was scared for his own safety when I start talking my history. Bruh. Others have tried to frame me in a way that fits their world, like that lesbian conversion therapist. But mostly there’s just a vast, empty space where good therapists for people like us should be.

Yallah, all of this was also about a therapist I saw because of the AIS.

Back in late–2007 again, I asked the person at SCOPE if there was any counsellors available as part of the programme. I ended up seeing someone who worked with professional athletes as a sports psychologist and saw her maybe 5 or 6 times. The first time — and all this is hazy retelling of memory now — I laid out where I was at, which was a pretty fucking bad place ’cos all that untreated abuse was making me ask that serious question every night I walked home over that bridge or past that carpark. She said something like … I dunno, it’s more of a feeling now, something about it wasn’t what she specialised in, but she worked with a lot of athletes who were struggling to cope with the insanely high pressure of elite-level competition, and somehow she persuaded me to come back and got me talking. And she saved my life.

This isn’t about how the AIS supported me, or how therapy can save lives. It shouldn’t have been on a sports psychologist to deal with a very fucked up person because the entire culture of society failed her. I think about all those counsellors and support staff in sport and dance over the generations who had to become trauma specialists because kids and young adults would and still do show up at their door every day with no one else to turn to.

I had a bit of a cry on the way to the supermarket this morning thinking about all this, how that email hit. Lucky it was raining. I still haven’t found a therapist. Not for lack of trying, but fuck me there is a poverty of healthcare for trans people. And I was thinking how that email wasn’t really for me because I’m trans. We’re pretty much legislated out of professional sport and there’s fuck all space in professional dance for us either.

When I talk about being broken, it didn’t go away. I rarely get into intimate relationships with people (that’s also a euphemism for fucking, just to be clear) because of all that shit on top of the already hostile environment of living while trans. Therapy is supposed to help with the broken part, but we already covered that failure. I was thinking about Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who testified against that skeeve during his Supreme Court nomination. She talked about memory, how “… the trauma-related experience is locked there, whereas other details kind of drift.”

He’s always there. Intermittent. He interrupts and is here more real than any thought or feeling I was having. More real than the room I’m in. I know it’s not me ‘having’ these thoughts, there’s a difference between me thinking about this stuff and experiencing him like this. Him for those months and him later for those years, all bound together with abusive therapists.

Every single one of those athletes somehow has to deal with this, in some way or another. They, along with their friends, lovers, families, communities all have been diminished. The athletes who came forward, who spoke out alone, have done it so hard. We do those things, so indifferently, blandly held in ‘move on’, or ‘put it behind’, until it isn’t. Until we’re reminded and remember it all again.

Last thing. I wanna be really clear on this: everyone knew. Everyone knew way back. Just like everyone knew about my abuser. And wasn’t like no one was speaking about it.

All strength and love to those gymnasts and athletes and dancers who are having an especially tough day of it today.

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Ballhaus Ost

Dasniya had a residency at Ballhaus Ost the last couple of months, thanks to pandemic and pandemic arts funding. I got to see a private showing last weekend, with Tara (yup, Tara!) and Yui. Yeah I’m a long-time fan of her work and Glutamat confirms it.

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Gala Dries

Gala opening for Dries Van Noten at Paris Fashion Week. My Gala. That Dries. Antwerp Six Dries. I’m very in love with all this. I want to steal all the clothes and shoes.