Your series of pieces for The Lifted Brow (each starting with ‘I can’t stop crying …’) was written as a direct response to Malcolm Turnbull announcing the same-sex marriage postal survey. What was it about this particular event that prompted you to respond in such a way?
When I wrote the first ‘I can’t stop crying’ piece for The Lifted Brow, it was because I actually couldn’t stop leaking tears about it. I was confused at my incredibly emotional response to an issue I had little personal interest in (I have never wanted to be married), and that the announcement of a non-binding postal vote hit me at my core, in my home and in the homes of my friends. I was also acutely aware that there are many more unjust things happening in this country – black deaths in custody, refugee camps, the ongoing and devastating effects of colonisation – that people weren’t mobilising for.
By many accounts, the survey had an extremely damaging effect on Australia’s LGBTQI+ community. How did the YES vote affect your healing process after the result?
I have lived with depression and anxiety for most of my life, and I definitely got worse during the six-week campaign period and after the survey announcement (as did many of my friends and loved ones). I think I’m just coming good now, but it’s taken a long time. I don’t know if it’s possible to heal from an event like this, which was spun as a ‘respectful conversation’, but in reality was a take down of any of us who didn’t perform homonormativity properly.
You’re coming to Brisbane Powerhouse for MELT Festival, Brisbane’s huge annual celebration of queer culture. What are some aspects of your community that you love celebrating?
I particularly love celebrating our young LGBTIQ people. Rates of suicide and mental illness are so high in our communities, so when I see young queer and TGD (trans and gender diverse) people coming out to dance covered in glitter and wearing football shorts and seven-inch heels, it makes me grin.
Your journal Writing from Below is the only one of its kind in Australia. What inspired you to create it?
Writing from Below was conceived during a time at La Trobe University when our Gender, Sexuality, and Diversity Studies (GSDS) program, convened by the very wonderful Carol D’Cruz, was under threat. Some of the messaging from the higher ups during that time was around GSDS not having a thriving research culture, and I wanted to respond positively to that by showing how much amazing research and creative work is happening in this space.
You’re in the process of putting together Transpositions, a collection of writing about your transitioning body. What do you hope for readers to take away from the book?
I hope readers take away a more nuanced understanding of trans lives compared to what’s in the public sphere right now – mainly the ‘born in the wrong body’ trope. I am writing in fragments to problematise the notion that transition is a smooth and cohesive progress narrative, where a body moves from one side of the gender binary to the other. I hope TGD readers find a little of themselves in the pages and know that they are not alone.
As well as writing amazing pieces of thought-provoking work, you’re a lecturer in Interdisciplinary Studies at La Trobe University. What are you teaching your students at the moment?
I’m not actually teaching at the moment! But when I am teaching, I work with first year BA students to improve writing, reading, critical thinking and reading skills in a tertiary environment. Alongside my life as an academic, I run writing workshops called ‘Ways to write the body’ where I outline techniques for giving the body space to tell stories.
If you could communicate one piece of advice to non-LGBTIQ+ people trying to navigate the incredibly complex world of LGBTQI+ issues, what would it be?
I would say remain open, do some research on your own and don’t ask us about our genitals, surgeries, or how we have sex. Read. Think about binaries, what they shore up, what lies not just in between, but all around them. Think about the construction of sex and gender in our culture, and remember that it’s just a story.
If you had to throw a dinner party with your top five queer icons, who would you invite?
Kathy Acker, Michel Foucault, Gertrude Stein, Derek Jarman and Audre Lorde.
We’ve been clued in to the fact that you’re a RuPaul’s Drag Race fan. Who is your favourite queen this season?
Okay, this is perhaps a controversial choice, but I’m going for Eureka. I love her body positivity, and I think it’s about time a big queen won Drag Race. For most of my life I’ve had a diet-based eating disorder (which kind of magically disappeared once I worked out I was trans), and now accept that the body I have is the body I have and that I need to love it just as it is. Eureka is stunning, funny, has great hair and can dance just about anyone off the stage.
Image credit: Jamie James