Georgina Beyer, Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Mutunga, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Porou, takatāpui, wahine irawhiti, trans woman, sex worker, actress, politician.
Star of Jewel’s Darl way back in ’86. The first trans MP in the world. Responsible for getting the 2003 Prostitution Reform Act passed, decriminalising sex work in Aotearoa, and for the 2004 Civil Union Act which led to legalising same-sex marriage.
I’ve never celebrated str8 wyt valentine’s day but I always forget it was the day colonialist invader Captain Cook got himself murked for trying to kidnap Kalaniʻōpuʻu on Hawaiʻi. This ten-year-old reminder comes from somos lobos, no ovejas. Fucked around, found out, bro.
Continuing on from my last post on the early-’90s comic She-Male Trouble, the back cover of Issue #1 is highly relevant to all the cis hysteria about us pissing where they piss. #bitchesgottapiss #utijustsayno #washyourhandscunt
Talking about me in yusra magazine the other day, and guess what turned up in my mailbox? The Special Edition came out in June last year and first attempt at sending a copy to me didn’t work out but second attempt did. Tight as fuck cover and it’s never not a thrill to see my writing in a language I cannot read. And to whoever chose the artwork for the facing page, thank you for honouring perfect boobs. When I said, “I mean, mostly I want boobs I feel their bounce of when I walk.” I meant exactly those. (And tentacles are also welcome but that’s for another life.)
And some I gave their own posts to ’cos they were utter bangers, and some I might even give their own posts, ’cos also bangers. So many books. I can only take one fiction and one non-fiction with me? Robyn Maynard and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s Rehearsals for Living, and Tamsyn Muir’s Nona the Ninth. And one book of poetry? Fatimah Asghar’s If They Come For Us.
It was last year already, late-January, when Vass asked me to write something for yusra Magazine. I vommed a bunch of words about utopia, was well thrilled to get published in Greek, and immediately forgot to blorg the actual words. And cos I have not done anything on here this month, and for some reason (also immediately forgotten) I was re-reading it the other day, here we go. Me, slightly less than two years distant, would rewrite, reframe some of this. Doing needlework on tapestry is always specific.
For the last half of my life, no matter when it cuts out, I don’t want to be the most radical person in the room. I’m not even that radical. I want my unremarkable radicality to grow around the people I aspire to be more like. I want radicality I can feel in my junk. I want radicality that screams like a redlining 767. Car, not jet. Terrifying. Not idling in a garage blipping the engine thinking this is the journey.
I want the fuck like they rule mediocre dreary pain out of our lives. I want us to have space and time without their conditions and smallness and noise.
I want fucking joy.
I want the possibilities for a liveable flourishing life which split and separated so long ago and run in distant parallels along the flanks of hills I can see but can’t cross over to, I want these to run together again, and all those possibilities no longer requiring I give up something in return for a life. Part of a life.
I mean, mostly I want boobs I feel their bounce of when I walk.
Being very clear on what utopia requires now.
World War on Eternal Terror I and II.
I have lost count of all the wars. I recite their names like poison in Shahadah. I bear witness there is no War but War.
I go back through time, unravelling colonialism, back through those wars and wars a whole century of small empires on the tip of Asia’s north-west peninsulas churning their own lands and peoples like they plough the globe. Back past the Berlin Conference, the Race for Africa, the Great Game, the Companies and royalty and politicians drawing straight lines across us, compacting us into the land with their pencil lead and rulers. Back past Marx and give him the finger, back past Kant and his civilised philosophy of racism, fucking debating us, turn around to look forward from there as the Middle Passage streams by making a triangle of the Atlantic, see the Age of Enlightenment watering graves in all the lands I’ve lived on.
Back until it’s the Renaissance. Whose renaissance? Why? Was it perspective or Constantinople or Reconquista? Back until the patron saint of Holy Roman Emperors was a Black man in the armour of nobility named Saint Mauritius.
That’s a thousand years.
I should know this all better. I have this unfathomable itch which says, if I could just make sense of this, I’d know why. Why all of this leads us to now to our graves and how we can unstitch this tapestry woven with so many bodies they are pulled like silk into threads covering walls in those castles, vast like fields and plains.
There will be no utopia as long as stolen land and water remains occupied.
There will be no utopia as long as there are borders. As long as there is money. As long as reparations remain unmade.
This is what it looks like from the other side: a thousand years forward. What was done to one planet has been done to this solar system.
There will be no utopia.
Utopia will be used against us. Utopia will find a way to remove us because we diminish its perfection. Remove. Erase. More than kill. Prevent our existence in the first place. Genocide is a historical process moving backwards and forwards in time as it resurfaces the geography upon which it takes place.
See this happening now.
See the round hole of the mouths of people saying, “Oh. I didn’t know.”
I’m trying hard to imagine utopia. I’m trying to imagine good shit. I know all about bad shit. I wake and sleep and eat with it, see it in my eyes, know it back and forward through history and add to it each day. Choose my colours for the threads I knot into that tapestry which I read right to left and left to right, all coming together and focussing on that absent, unseeable, unspeakable centre. Follow the story, follow the warp and weft in any direction and it ends with us in a ditch in a grave.
Which us? Who us? All of us. When it is done with us being trans, it comes for us being Muslim. Done with that, for crossing borders, speaking language wrong, walking wrong, learning wrong, eyes wrong colour, skin wrong colour, bones wrong shape, history and ancestors wrong. Comes for us for our desire. Comes for us when we get angry get pissed get stroppy fucking front for being told we’re wrong.
We are never right. There is no utopia on this tapestry in which we are not stitched out of existence.
I’ll try again. I’m trying to imagine utopia.
In a utopia, a real utopia, one where we all make it, I’d still want to hoon the fuck out of cars. I’m simple like that.
Okay but that’s kinda small, eh? Like, what else? Big moment here, be fucking epic or summing.
I need Lucifer to look me in my eyes and say, “So tell me, what is it you desire?” And besides being wrecked by you, Satan … shit bro, you’re asking a lot there.
Can I even imagine a utopia when I’m busy surviving? Do I even want an idea imagined by the patron saint of statesmen and politicians? I’m more patron saint of unmarried girls, spinsters, and knife sharpeners kinda chick.
I don’t want human rights. I am drowning choking on human rights. I want consequences for meanness and cruelty and hate. Not in the next life or on Yawm ad-Din. Now. Immediate. Terrible consequences. Consequences which topple cities and empires in earthquakes and floods. Ah, but those consequences rain down on us first.
I want my sisters and aunties and old ones and especially especially the young ones to have lives undiminished by that meanness and cruelty and hate. I want to see them whole. To know they will thrive long into the future. To not worry they live one eye always over their shoulder, just in case.
Back in time again. Long time back. We walked with Goddesses. We fucked for them. We warred for them. Made justice and beauty for them. Remember that.
Forget that. There is no going back. There is no utopia arriving to save us. There are no new ideas in Europe.
Indigenous Native Blak Māori Pasifika First Peoples have been fighting to survive since before Thomas More took ouτόπiā and eὐτοπία and wrote Utopia.
Another in the small pile of books out of Aotearoa I’m getting all up in my memories about reading. I haven’t thought about Witi Ihimaera for decades. Same with Peter Wells. Old names in an anthology of mostly young Millennial and Gen Y poets and writers. Some of the other old names I can’t read past knowing they were rad-fem-les-sep transphobes back in the day. Cool if they’ve grown from that, but irrelevant to me; they did the damage then and I don’t need to read them now.
Dasniya said, on Thursday when their nohinohi little one was all big eyes and focus as I sung old Māori songs I seem to have remembered for them, she was seeing a show as Sophinesaele by Pelenakeke Brown and I said that name sounds familiar, reckon I’ve just been reading them. And I had. Her writing, A Travelling Practice, one of the couple of non-fiction pieces, and one of the couple that really stuck with me out of all the writers. The other was Jessica Niurangi Mary Maclean’s Kāore e wehi tōku kiri ki te taraongaonga; my skin does not fear the nettle, not the least for reminding me te Reo Māori is grammared but gender neutral, ia, tāna, tōna … like all the best languages. I photographed Pelenakeke’s piece and sent it to Dasniya before she saw her performance.
I should have marked all the writers I really liked. Forgot to do that with my usual oh I’ll remember of course I won’t and now I spose I could go back through. Almost finished my most recent stack of books and the upcoming pile is heavy on Māori Pasifika and I’m very fucking happy about that.
I joked I reckon I’ll know some people in this book. Turns out wasn’t a joke. Turns out it was much more personal than I expected, even when under that joke I knew I bought this book to remember history. My history. History around me. History I should know.
Long time ago, young me worked end-of-week nights in the needle exchange in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, binning returns and handing out fresh packs. Which led to me being nights at the NZ Prostitutes Collective drop-in centre, because being a young transsexual, the only work available was sex work. Or selling drugs or doing robbery, more or less in that order. I never did proper street sex work on Karangahape Road, but did occasionally crack it opportunistically, sometimes just so I’d have a bed for the night. All the transsexual women who worked the street passed through the drop-in centre of an evening, Māori, Pasifika, and the one of two Pākehā. Later, they’d be up the Ponsonby Road end, and when I lived in the old brothel, above the sex shop looking down Howe St, I’d see them on the corner.
My Body, my business: New Zealand sex workers in an era of change reminded me of a lot of history I’d forgotten, and connected things, filling in blanks, explaining details. Like the probable identity of the old Greek man who owned the house in Pirie St I lived in when I was (once again) homeless, the upstairs apartment home since the ’70s to various Māori trans sex workers. Or the doctor at Three Lamps in Ponsonby who used to prescribe hormones to all the transsexuals, also known since the ’70s. I don’t think I ever saw him, but pretty sure it was a woman Doctor in the same practice.
And just the general truth of it all, how it was in the ’80s and ’90s — even though most of the oral histories were slightly before my time. It was all so familiar, reminding me how deep I was in that life, how they were the ones who guided and saved me. And how it was so easy to have that all taken away.
I wonder how my life would look, would have looked, if I hadn’t been through conversion therapy. Would I have started dancing (probably, I was incredibly naïve about what trans girls and women could and couldn’t do)? Would I have moved to Melbourne? Maybe, though staying in Sydney is perhaps more likely. Gone to VCA? Realistically I wouldn’t have made it through the auditions, because being trans and a dancer has only been a possibility for the last decade or so. Even my — in current language — non-binary self bashed up hard against the rigid and strict cisheteronormativity of dance back then.
This is a reminder. Where I came from, what I lived through, who were my contemporaries, family, whānau, who I owe an obligation to.
So much lethal good shit coming out of Aotearoa. So horrifically expensive to get my grubby mitts on it in Germland. Saw Coco Solid on Twit when she was fundraising to set up Wheke Fortress community space and gallery in Onehunga. Then I listened to her album Cokes, ’cos she’s nothing if not doing all the arts. Saw the cover for How To Loiter In A Turf War and didn’t even ask the price (it was 22€ fuck).
Big old memories of Tāmaki Makaurau catching the Mt Eden bus on Symonds St or Ponsonby bus on K Rd. Ponsonby was still Pasifika and Māori back then, getting gentrified for real but not like now. Fave fiction book of the year so far (non-sci-fi that is, cos that’s other stuff). Loved this heaps.
I have a pile of Akwaeke Emezi waiting to be read. After reading Freshwater I knew I had to read everything of theirs. But. It’s tricky. I held off reading Freshwater for maybe a year. I started it and barely a page in recognised something in their writing that was, if not close to mine, then inhabiting the same space. Like I can get a plane in this world from Berlin to Nigeria, and the spirits moving in my writing could do the same. And, like I said a while ago, 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. And like I also said, I love them and they could eat my heart and take my soul and I’d be like, “Scary but worth it.”
Which is maybe a complicated way of saying I need to be careful to not get influenced by someone else’s writing when I’m in heavy writing mode. Though it’s more than that.
Pet was tough to read. Funny how books marketed as Young Adult can fray me in a way serious literature simply can’t.
I was at a meet-up for trans women and femmes in Berlin the other day. Me trying to have real world time instead of online. I do love the online for friendships I’ve made with trans people (a surprising number of beautiful trans mascs) who aren’t in Berlin or Germany or Europe, but 2+ years of pandemic has utterly gutted physical connections. And it was very nice, that meet-up. Except I still felt at a distance. Some of those online trans femmes, Black, Indigenous, Roma, recently were talking about how white trans femmes — and there’s so many new ones who suddenly went ‘fuck it’ and started living their truths under the pandemic pressure — are shocked at experiencing discrimination for the first time. Which was one of the subjects talked about in the meet-up. Which I felt like I couldn’t speak truely on because for me transphobia, Islamophobia, racism, hating on migrants, all that, are inextricable. And no one was talking about disability, fat, neurodiverse discrimination either. It felt well abstract.
Which in part is maybe why I love Pet. The main character, Jam, is a young Black trans girl. She lives in a house with aunties and uncles and cousins all around and I kept seeing it as the house of the Māori woman and her family who took me in when living at home became impossible, and took me in when I needed somewhere to stay while the court case against the man who sexually abused me when I was a child was going on. And there were the bad similarities in the background also, those which are the story in Pet.
It reminded me where I came from, and where I felt most at home. It reminded me also how easily I’m gaslit to believe I don’t have a claim to … I dunno, being racialised I suppose, to my own history. As in, to most people I look white, primarily because my skin is pale, and my relationship to whatever parts of my heritage which aren’t white (in any or all the permutations of that slippery parasite) is tenuous as fuck, and aren’t I just claiming it to be special? To be cool? Because we all know how cool being not white is. And yet. I remember, because I have to keep reminding myself, of the very Muslim name I was given at birth. And the names of my grandmothers. And what that means.
So when I read Emezi, when I read Pet, I was reminded. It feels familiar. Different also, obviously, but familiar like I could get a plane there. Not the different I often feel reading white trans women’s and femmes’ fiction, which feels familiar because I know white culture from having lived in it in multiple countries, but always felt like something I never belonged to. Pet is also near-ish (our) future fiction, when all the things we’re fighting and losing our lives for as trans people, as Black and Indigenous people, has been made real. And yet, something of that was real already, decades ago in small-town Aotearoa.
Maybe lastly, it’s a real moment for trans writing lately. I can actually choose to only read trans authors and still not keep up. Five years ago even, that didn’t seem realistic. And, more importantly, I can choose only trans and queer authors who are also Black, Indigenous, Māori, Pasifika, Asian, Arab, immigrant. It’s fucking delectable.