Archer Magazine #13 - the FIRST NATIONS issue (Jan 2020)

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a magazine about sex, gender and identity

the first nations issue AUD $16.95 (incl. GST)



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QUEER UNSETTLED Provocative and unearthing, QUEER UNSETTLED celebrates stories from Pacific womxn of colour, Indigenous perspectives, dance darlings from Thailand and Taiwan, asylum seekers from Iran and queer diaspora communities as they share their journey through storytelling, live music, multi-disciplinary moving-image installations, immersive performance, and new work exhibitions. Produced and presented by Midsumma Festival.




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by Jonathan Homsey ft Pangina Heals and Chrissy Chou at Nocturnal Melbourne Museum

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by FAFSWAG & Jaycee Tanuvasa at Abbotsford Convent

by Joel Bray at Arts Centre Melbourne

by Blame The Shadows collective at Manningham Art Gallery and Centre for Contemporary Photography

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FOUNDING PUBLISHER Amy Middleton GUEST EDITORS Bridget Caldwell-Bright Maddee Clark DESIGN + IMAGE EDITOR Alexis Desaulniers-Lea LAYOUT DESIGNER Christopher Bosevski SUB-EDITOR Greta Parry IMAGE ASSISTANT Hailey Moroney ONLINE EDITOR Lucy Watson DEPUTY ONLINE EDITOR Roz Bellamy WEBSITE DEVELOPER Mark Egan COVER IMAGE: Laniyuk COVER PHOTO: Toz Withall ISBN: 978-0-6485583-1-6 ISSN: 2204-7352 Visit us online: For advertising and other enquiries, email ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The editors would like to thank every one of our contributors, including the writers, photographers, designers who contributed powerful stories and images to this issue. We would also like to thank the whole team at Archer for supporting the work, and thank all the other support people who assisted in getting this to print, and thank the expansive, beautiful and supportive community of Blak queers that we live in. We acknowledge the country of the Kulin Nations that we live and work on, and pay respects to its Elders and its spirit. This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body. Printed in Australia by Printgraphics Pty Ltd. Š 2019. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without permission from the publisher. Views expressed in Archer Magazine are those of the respective contributors and not necessarily shared by Archer Magazine.


Editors’ note



Editors’ note



Q&A with Diimpa



Q&A with SJ Norman






Back to Where I’m From






Mapping Identity Through Words 60


Fashion and design



Pronoun Trouble



Meet Elijah



Q&A with Stone Motherless Cold 98

Identity and Place 106





Editorial note by

Bridget CaldwellBright and Maddee Clark We acknowledge and pay our respects to the people of the Kulin Nation, whose land this issue was created on. We honour those who have come before us, those who are alongside us and those who are still finding their way. This is a special issue of Archer that brings First Nations LGBTIQ writers to the front. There are mob in this issue who are writers, artists, photographers, fashion designers and storytellers. MC: I’ve been living here for about 10 years now, but my country is in South East Queensland. As someone living off country, on the lands of the Kulin Nation, I think it’s important to acknowledge the history of queer Blak activism here in Narrm. One of our contributors, SJ Norman, points out the importance of knowing your history, and is very critical of the white queer urge to erase the generation that’s come before. While we were working on this issue, the Archer office was located in the Collingwood area. Fitzroy and Collingwood are where the Aboriginal health services were established. OutBlack, a community organisation that supported Aboriginal queer mob, was situated in this place when it started almost 25 years ago. Going to an OutBlack NAIDOC party was my first experience of meeting other queer mob in an affirming space when I moved here. Those Outblack events could sometimes be very cis queer spaces. I was misrec-ognised a lot, assumed to be a lesbian at a time when I was starting to rearticulate myself as a bi and trans person, but I still felt supported. It was amazing to me that there were so many queer mob of all ages, representing alongside the white gay club scene, performing, organising, and supporting each other. There were always so many straight Blackfullas around, too, supporting the mob queer events and partying with us. Now, in this issue, we have the opportunity to hear from some of the younger generation of queer and trans mob who are working on their crafts, making art, doing


drag, thinking critically and telling their stories. I feel so grateful to the contributors for the work they’ve given us. BC: I think it’s really important to acknowledge the theme of place in this issue. It’s evident through the stories that country, land and place are all central to how people have identified and formed identity, and the different ways in which this has helped us to connect to different communities. I think what you’ve touched on with the physical spaces of the health services is similar to some of the ideas in Andrew Farrell’s piece about how infrastructure affects the Blak queer experience in terms of access and inclusion. Magazines often want to ‘decentre Melbourne’ and seek more remote writers without understanding that they need to establish a relationship with the local community where they live. I have lived in Melbourne on and off for over 15 years. My family have worked hard to be a part of community here and have paved the way for me to be recognised,

movement, and what it meant to be an Aboriginal person working there given that history. For me this was a personal issue, something that I know is on the minds of many Aboriginal people who work or study there – not to mention that the eugenics movement also targeted sex workers; people with disabilities; lower-class people and people considered to be sexual deviants. One of the editors gave me feedback that it was not personal enough to be in line with the Archer house style, that formula of confessional queer personal narrative. I felt uncomfortable with that, like I was being pressured to expose my traumas, my body and my sexual experiences, in a way that might cause me to focus too closely on my feelings of vulnerability or victimhood. I couldn’t really reconcile what I wanted to say with that model. As Aboriginal queer and trans people, exposure is demanded of us all the time. I relate really strongly to one of our contributors who decided to make their essay anonymous. They unpack some of the problems with pronoun rounds and other white norms around public declarations of gender and sexuality, as if to say, My pronouns are private; they are only given out to people I trust. Since pronoun rounds have become popular, I’ve started to resent well-meaning people who ask me how I’d like to be referred to. It feels like a demand for a particular kind of intimacy. What were your experiences of writing for Archer?

welcomed and supported. I don’t think I could be involved in projects like this if I didn’t feel comfortable knowing that I have the support of my community here in Narrm. This is the second time I have been involved in the process for a First Nations edition of a magazine. When I was asked to edit this issue, it never made sense to do it alone. I am so glad we have had to the opportunity to finally work, think, stress and sigh together throughout this process. Just as with the previous collective, this issue would not have been possible without the many years of collaboration and trust we had built up with those within the pages. MC: We have both written for Archer before, and we both felt complicated about it. I wrote a piece a few years ago which I later pulled from the magazine. My experience was that I wrote a piece for the History issue, which was originally going to be about the University of Melbourne’s relationship with the eugenics

BC: I think it takes a lot out of you to dig deep and present a lot of yourself onto the page. All of the stories in this issue are so personal, and I think we should acknowledge how that comes with a level of editorial trust; there is an aspect of safety when handling stories that are so raw. I take so seriously this role of co-editor with you, that we have been gifted such trust by our contributors to share their stories. It really isn’t easy, and my experience writing at the time for Archer’s Play issue was pretty difficult. I spoke about parenting at a time when I was dealing with a miscarriage. I wrote about my relationship with my partner and our family without perhaps thinking of the bigger picture. I think there is such power in telling stories that are from a deeper level of truth and are personal in many different ways, but I’ve been thinking lately about how much of yourself you should choose to keep to yourself and how much should you share. I think this issue, and our experiences as both contributors and editors, has been a testament to the strength that queer Blak people hold and how our voices do maybe have some sort of transformative power, but also that those words are still ultimately ours and don’t need to be shared. We have hopefully held and nurtured these words with respect and honour for the writers and our communities.





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Non-binary fantasy and the erotics of Daddy/son play by SHAFIK ZAHYR

No justice for sexual assault victims: Sex workers ‘less than citizens’ by GEORGIE WOLF

When shame comes from the inner-sanctum: Biphobia within the queer community by SOMMER MOORE

Accessibility at queer events: It’s hard to have pride when you can’t access it by SONYA KRZYWOSZYJA





a magazine about sex, gender and identity


the first nations issue

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Musician and artist Diimpa chats to Rose Chalks about endurance, enlightenment and climate change.

Your main influences are from the minimalist movement, removed from the traditional classical landscape. How is classical music different from the minimalist movement for you? The minimalist movement in music sprung up around the 1960s, removing itself from the classical scene through the simplification of ideas. It’s all about repetition and improvisation, just like jazz and Indian music, from where it took its influence. For me it’s all about using the ideas of repetition and extended periods of time to get to levels of what I guess you’d call ‘enlightenment’, or heightened states of sense and being. I think that’s really important.

When I perform, I’m trying to take the audience on the same journey as me, or they take me on one. Usually I’m in a relaxed state, but it can take a couple of songs dependent on the space and sound mix, really. My mission at the end of the day is making the audience forget about all these internal personal problems and external spatial problems, and being able to just concentrate on the sounds. Leave your troubles outside!

Your work is engulfing, with epic variation of instruments and noise. There is a journey for the listener to take. I’m curious to know of your journey when you play/perform?

Is your work a way of releasing or redefining that social pressure? I like to think that I wear these identity labels quite loudly and proudly. For a long while I was not


A proud autistic, queer and Gubbi Gubbi man creates a dense and impressive identity; there is so much history and story behind all these identifiers. How do you manage the expectation and warped perception of these things, in your career and everyday life?

proud, and was ashamed of certain labels – from being a light-skin blackfulla, to being not just gay but gay, strange and disabled – and I’m continuously learning to throw off these old shames. I was diagnosed with autism during its rise in the early ’90s, so have grown up with the ever-changing opinions on it, especially now with the current anti-vax movement. From learning society’s pressures and expectations of these parts of you, it can be fun to lean into them and then fuck them up from the inside out. But I also know that just with my presence I’m redefining people’s perceptions, especially through my work of ‘classical’ music, which isn’t seen as traditionally blackfulla land. Where does ‘Diimpa’ come from? ‘Diimpa’ comes from a Murri

“My creativity comes from channelling my ancestors. Not just through my race, but through queerness and disability. By learning who has come before me, I learn who I am” version of Heads Shoulders Knees and Toes that goes ‘Gabra Wallah Dimpa Dinnah’, so ‘knees’. I had a name change from William Elm because, while serving me well, I felt like it didn’t match with the electronic music realm I was now treading in, and so searched for something that’s always been with me. Also, in a funny way knees are the body part related to my zodiac sign, Capricorn. Does vibration play a part in your sensory consideration or another form of translation? Vibration and sonics play a huge part in everything I do. Being autistic I tend to hone in on a lot of certain sounds, and can get


overloaded easily just navigating through the world. But through music it’s all a fun game of tension and release: from confronting and strange textures/frequencies to opening them up with consonance. In a way it can be self-fulfilling, but I also want the audiences to play this game, too. Your music is an extended theatrical version and character of your own identity, constantly evolving, morphing and growing through all these forms. Do you bring out aspects of yourself in your work that aren’t usually seen in your everyday life? The music that I produce and perform is very much an extension of the way that I am every day. I suppose in a way music allows me to confront things in a certain light. We have to remember that every person performs every day, and in that way it’s an extended form of camp. Of course, as I’ve grown as a person, the types of performances and music I do have changed along with that. Rather than bringing something on stage that’s never been seen before, I just bring myself. Why is endurance important to your practice? Because duration and endurance test the limits of patience in your mind and spirit. There are two aspects of endurance that come into effect when I play live durational pieces; physical endurance and emotional endurance. Playing for eight hours can sure leave one’s body exhausted but mind exhilarated! I also try to put myself in the mind of the audience and see how long they can take listening to similar things. Not necessarily the same, just extremely similar. And how long can they be patient for, to see when their minds go from being aware into a meditative state.

How quickly that happens, or if it happens at all, are things I like to explore. It tests the limits of really important aspects of people that need to be explored more often in art and everyday life. I had a conversation with a blackfella artist a while back, we were discussing that inherent artistic drive that’s within us; why do we perform and create? His answer was to represent his ancestors; mine was to reach mine. What is it

“Just with my presence I’m redefining people’s perceptions, especially through my work of ‘classical’ music, which isn’t seen as traditionally blackfulla land” that keeps you pushing the boundaries of your creative field? Every single darn person on this Earth is creative and has an innate creative drive. For me, my creativity comes from channelling my ancestors. Not just through my race, but through queerness and disability. I channel all those who have come before me. By learning who has come before me, I learn who I am. Because knowledge has so much power. My family line was broken through the diaspora of the Stolen Generation, and it’s so difficult to keep creativity alive when you’re removed from land (which is why it’s been hard for us mob to find family and trace our ancestors in recent decades). It’s what keeps me pushing; this


drive to learn who I am. Music is obviously a massive part of your life and identity, but what do you do when you’re not playing, composing, performing? Basically, filling my well of references and inspiration. Reading books and learning constantly is my passion. Currently on a book called Unsound: Undead that’s all about the potential to reach other realms through sound. Seeing other people’s shows and art. Surrounding yourself with others’ creativity is really important as an artist. It’s infectious. To take in other people’s works, see what’s going on around you, see what’s happening in the scene. I’m into sewing, looking after my pet millipedes and isopods, and exploring, which I guess I got from growing up in the country. You’re working on a new record, ‘Wasteland’, about the lack of government initiative to tackle climate change. What do you hope to achieve with this undertaking? We’re at a climate crisis throughout the world, so I’m doing what I can; not just with activist work but through music. Climate change is such an important thing to me, and I think people in Australia aren’t listening, especially to the right people, including Indigenous folk. The way the Adani mine will poison our water basins, the continuous logging of old forests, the death of the reef. These things don’t just come back. Hopefully this work will draw attention that we need to drop everything and do something, to dismantle the pedestal that industry is placed on. To dismantle the colonising ideas that still run rampant.






SJ (Sarah-Jane) Norman (b. 1984) is a cross-disciplinary artist and writer. Their career has so far spanned 15 years and has embraced a diversity of disciplines and formal outcomes, including solo and ensemble performance, installation, sculpture, text, video and sound. They are a non-binary transmasculine person and a diasporic Koori, born on Gadigal land.

MC: I’ll start with the basics. Where are you? What have you been up to lately? What are you working on? At the moment, on the road. I have been for the last four months or so. Like every other performing arts professional I know, I spend a good chunk of my life stressing out in hotel rooms, and that’s what I’m doing now. At least this time it’s a pretty flash hotel, so I’m hardly complaining. I was invited here by Maria Firmino-Castillo, a wonderful scholar, agitator and conjurer who I connected with in Lenapehoking/New York City earlier this year. Maria and her partner, Tohil, who is a wonderful artist and medicine person, are both Indigenous Guatemalan (Tohil is Ixil Maya, Maria is Mestizx). They are two bodies in a greater constellation of Indigenous collaborators and co-conspirators that I’m very fortunate to be working and connecting with over here. That includes Diné, Cherokee, Apache, Inuit, Yup’ik, Zapotec and Maori people, mostly other trans, queer and two-spirit mob. The currents of creative labour and kinship seem to be carrying me to the so-called Americas a lot at the moment. It’s my fourth trip so far this year to what a lot of Native folks refer to as Turtle Island, and I have two more coming up before the year is out. The next big thing in my calendar is a program called Knowledge of Wounds at Performance Space New York [PSNY].


PSNY hit me up to curate a program for them in January 2020, and I saw that as a wonderful opportunity to ignite a collaboration with Joseph Pierce, a Cherokee scholar based in New York City. Joseph and I met through a mutual friend at a dinner party, immediately kicked off a massive IndigeQueer vibe, stalked each other on Instagram for a while, and now we’re birthing our first love child. It will be a very gentle and beautiful gathering of bodies and minds from throughout the Americas and Asia-Pacific. The forces that are carrying me around the world at the moment are currents of deep collaboration with other Indigenous people across multiple contexts. I’m receiving that for the huge privilege and joy that it is, knowing that whatever I gather I bring back with me, and that maybe the movement of this body can, in its small way, serve a greater weave of solidarity and the strengthening of all our knowledges. When I’m not on the road, I’m in one of my other two camps, those being Narrm/Birrarunga/Melbourne and Berlin, where I’ve had a base for the last nine years. Berlin is the fucking hellmouth but it won’t let me go, I have a decade’s worth of love and community there and an old-school flat that I rent for an old-school price. Back home, I made camp in Melbourne about two years ago, and I am still finding my place there, slowly and gently. Figuring out what I can respectfully bring to that place and the communities and histories that are there.



I have amazing Blak and trans sibs and collaborators there – Naretha Williams, Carly Sheppard, Joel Bray, Mykaela Saunders – who I hold very close, and those relationships keep me alive. I’m getting used to Kulin country – the slowness and subtlety of this land compared to what my body knows from growing up in and around Sydney. It’s tough to stay grounded in community and land when you’re in my line of work. When you’re away a lot and limited in your capacity to engage on the ground in community struggle, it’s hard. Keeping grounded and connected is often a challenge for diasporic mob at the best of times, so I am always trying to carve out time for rest and reconnection. I’m a sky pirate, I am at home on the road. But I also get sick when I’m away for too long. I’ll be back in Melbourne for a bit at the end of the year, and after that I’m going to go and spend some time on my great granny’s country. My Wiradjuri line comes through my mum’s grandfather, but my matrilineal line links me to Wonnaruah country – that’s where she was born. That was the language that my mum grew up hearing her speak at home. Her presence has always been really strong around me. She shows up in my dreams all the time and she’s been kicking me for a while to go spend some time with her river. So I’ll do that and get my heart and spirit set right before I head off on the road again to keep doing the work I gotta do. MC: How are you? What’s been on your mind lately? Well I got out of hospital a couple of weeks ago after a major surgery, one of a number that I have for an ongoing medical condition.

I’m trying to balance a heavy work and travel schedule while tending to my physical healing. That is obviously inextricable from my spiritual healing. When I was sitting alone and doped up in a weird German hospital, my phone was going off with messages and big love-ups from siblings from all over the joint, and that was a beautiful and overwhelming experience of kinship in a very hard and lonely moment. Thinking and moving and breathing through kin-making as an active practice is something that is occupying me a lot lately. I’ve realised that this is a thing that I’ve always done, but right now I think I am letting that bleed more into my work and research in a more enunciated way. A week or so ago I was awake and in total fucking agony, post-surgery, and I got a voice message on my phone from Joseph, who read me a passage from a book called As We Have Always Done by Leanne Simpson, an Anishinaabe scholar. There is this one line in particular I remember: “Everything we need to know, about everything in the world, is contained within Indigenous bodies”. And I was hearing those words spoken aloud by another Indigenous body, as an offering of solace to my own Indigenous body, which at that point was in a state of great physical pain. So I have been thinking a lot about the medicine we bring to each other and into the world just by being in loving co-presence and co-corporeality with each other. Without wanting to sound grandiose, I’m thinking a lot about how Indigenous love, and especially queer Indigenous love, can transform the world. I’m thinking about the queerness that is inherent in our processes of kin-making, and the ways in which joy and humour and eroticism and cheekiness co-occupy



space with extraordinary pain and extraordinary strength. Sometimes we are exhausted and all we can do is hold each other. And we know how to do that. And we produce brilliance in that. Indigenous bodies know how to hold each other in ways that offer a profound alternative to the narratives of dominant settler culture. MC: I understand that your work is often performance-based and meant to be experienced and participated in, not viewed from a distance. I’m fascinated by how you pull the audience into an intimacy with you as a performer. How does this feel for you? What kinds of audience responses do you get? I’m really interested in power. I’m interested in how it works, how it is exchanged, how it slips and morphs. I am also interested in the space that exists between two bodies, and the potentials that animate that space. So that exploration is central to my work. As a Blak and trans artist, the idea of being consumed as a spectacle or as a product makes me feel fucking gross. The audience need to have some skin in the game, too. How it feels for me really depends on the work. It also depends on the audience and the context, so it’s hard to give a single answer to that question. I feel my work is very tender and generous, but apparently a

lot of audiences don’t feel that way. I make things that really, really, really upset some white people without necessarily setting out to do that. Some audiences drain you, others energise you. Some are actively disruptive. Others are incredibly beautiful. I aim to create an architecture within a performance work where greater societal, historical and embodied power relations are brought into tangibility, and sometimes audiences don’t like what they find themselves feeling. Sometimes they don’t like the feeling, but they are still prepared to

frequently asked is “Why do you do that to yourself? What is wrong with you?” and we both had the same answer: we do it because we are trying not to die. If we didn’t do this, we would find another way to annihilate ourselves. Living as a targeted body is the hard part. Cutting yourself on stage is fucking easy. The performance isn’t the wound, it’s the medicine. That said, endurance and pain is not my main focus. That’s something that I think a lot of people misapprehend about my work, when they have only heard about it but not

“I know that I am the futuredream of my ancestors, that in fact they are dreaming me right now, and I find tremendous strength in that” feel it and to sit with it. That’s when I feel like I’ve done my job right. MC: So much of your work involves the body, and often your own body. Some of it involves pain, endurance and scarring or tattooing. How do you come down after an intense performance? I was having this conversation recently with a friend and colleague of mine, Cassils, who is a Canadian performance artist working in similar zones of intensity to me. Our practices are very different but we circule around a lot of the same ideas. We are both concerned with limits and processes of physical transformation, with the body as material. We were drinking and yarning recently and we were both saying how one of the questions we’re most


actually seen it. I’m not interested in the spectacle of pain. I’m especially not interested in the spectacle of Indigenous pain or trans pain, and I am not interested in embodying that for any audience. What I am interested in is how pain can be healed through community ritual. This has looked like a lot of different things for me. I’ve been in 48-hour raves that involved greater feats of physical endurance than anything I’ve ever done for a paying audience in an art context. I’ve been in and witnessed BDSM scenes that were more challenging physically than the work I do as a public entity called SJ Norman. But my performance work provides a container for me to do very specific work. I use it to reclaim healing and ritual technologies which belong to my blood but which



colonialism has divested me of. I use performance as a space of excavation, a way to pull knowledge out of my flesh. I’m interested in the process of mark-making within greater art history and how our cultures have deep histories of mark-making which centralise the body. I’m interested in the skin as a threshold and the wound as an opening into knowledge. Scarification is a beautiful and

the ensemble together and taking care of the group. I get to be Daddy now. That’s quite nice. MC: I remember this amazing thing you wrote: “Speaking to my queer and trans artistic peers, lemme say this, as an Aboriginal person: without your Elders and your Ancestors, you have less than nothing. You will not survive.” I’ve noticed such a disconnect between the older and younger

“I’m thinking a lot about how Indigenous love, and especially queer Indigenous love, can transform the world” poetic ritual. So is tattooing, so is piercing. And all of those practices belong to some part of my various ancestral lineages. I’m not trying to shock anyone with my blood, because I don’t think my blood is shocking. I think it’s beautiful. Art-making is spiritual work and I take that responsibility seriously. I train seriously to hold those spaces for myself, for my collaborators, for the audience and for the discarnate energies that enter the room. On a more practical level, I try not to overbook myself because I know that after a show, I might have to go to bed for two weeks to recoup my energy. So I really only ever do three or four shows in a year. I’m getting better at knowing my limits and also allowing them to shift, as I get older and as I also live with a body that is quite afflicted by illness. Now that I am working in an ensemble, with a cast of performers and collaborators, my work has become much more about holding

generations of queer and trans people, in white culture especially. Where do you see this in action? What are the effects? I feel the Mob are generally socialised to understand ourselves as part of a lineage and in intergenerational relationship. Not in some dynastic way! I know that I am the futuredream of my ancestors, that in fact they are dreaming me right now, and I find tremendous strength in that. White folks like to think they are always the first to do something, though, and that erasure is one of the more toxic hang-ups of settler colonialism and of capitalism. People suffer because of it, communities suffer because of it. If some of the younger white queer and trans artists that I know had half a clue of the rich, powerful artistic and cultural lineages they belong to, and were prepared to embrace the Elders that are available to them in their immediate


communities, maybe they would not feel as alone as a lot of them appear to. Maybe they wouldn’t be reproducing violence and exclusion to such an extent. This is a syndrome that Melbourne in particular really suffers from. Sydney is a very different context where people are held in a strong weave of intergenerational support and accountability. We suffer enough as people and as communities without contributing to our own erasure. This makes us lonely, it makes us sick, and it un-grounds us from the root of our knowledges and robs us of so much joy. I take so much joy in the many people, Blak and otherwise, whom I regard as my Elders. I was on tour in Italy recently, and a young queer Maori artist was at the same festival, and we were yarning one night and they said to me, “You are part of my lineage.” And it was so beautiful for me to hear that from someone who is probably 15 years younger than me, and for that to be said and received in mutual love and respect. I draw my strength to go on doing what I do and being who I am in the world from those relationships, to my Elders and my ancestors, and knowing that I am accountable to them as well as to the ones coming up. The only way you can continue in a healthy way in this field is to work from a basis of service, accountability and love. Mob understand that. A lot of white queers still have some learning to do in this regard.



Pierra Van Sparkes is a Kulin country-based Pibbulman artist. Her work is inspired by the shared history, feelings and encounters that shape lived experiences of Aboriginality amidst a diverse range of Indigenous identities.



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I ROLL OVER AND get out of my single bed. It’s the only piece of furniture in a large white room, with old wooden floorboards, a high ceiling and a bay window. I go outside to catch some sun and stretch my body. I am surrounded by valleys of pasture and cattle. Not a house in sight. I am isolated. The sun is out but a part of me feels dim. My queerness feels dim. Where I reside is a metaphor for my queerness at the moment: isolated and far removed from the rest of the world. When I do interact with people around here, they’re people I know as heterosexual. A capital city is not within my proximity. I don’t really express my queerness that much out here. I don’t feel safe to. I HAVE GROWN UP in regional Queensland for most of my life. Growing up, I didn’t really have much of an issue being out as queer. It’s just now, as I have gotten older, and have changed and adapted my identity and who I am, that it has become a problem for me. I grew up as a girl. I was a queer girl for most of my teenage years, mostly intimate with women, but occasionally men too. I was a bisexual girl. I am writing that in past tense because now I am writing as a man, a bisexual man. I started my transition at the age of 18 and migrated my way down to Melbourne in search of acceptance and growth. I was welcomed into a queer community that embraced transgender siblings alike. I felt belonging outside of people who were not blood. It’s where I got my first professional job, my first serious relationship, my first rental, and so much more. Melbourne was never going to be a

long-term solution or work out for me. I had to leave and go back to where I am from. In ways, I am better for it too. I moved back to Queensland after three years away, taking hormone replacement therapy, with a new name, a new voice and a new image. A lot of people didn’t understand this at all. COMING BACK, I ACTUALLY thought I would cop a lot of transphobia. But, I don’t...? Actually, a lot of people don’t even recognise me. Some even ask me if I am (my deadname)’s brother. Is it bad I go along with it and tell people she’s doing good? But really, it is kind of a blessing in disguise, quite literally. I am passing/ disguising as a cisgender man. There is a total disconnect; I have had almost no socialisation with cis males in the past 10 years. A cis/disconnect. One thing I did do was take advantage of this and join my local rugby league club. The only team was men’s A-grade in a Queensland country competition. I had never played a game of men’s rugby league before and if you’ve ever watched an A-grade match, it can get pretty bloody. Bloody scared was I of being outed. I played it cool, though, and did my best to assimilate into this cishetero part of the world. The only times I believe I get close to being outed is when someone tries to sack-wack and I don’t flinch. At the end of the day, we are there to play football and that’s all they really care about. OPPORTUNITIES LIKE THESE, I don’t think would have come to me if I had lived in Melbourne. Here, football and sports are central to the social fabrics of where I live. It makes

my life feel that little less isolating, and also has my gender identity reflected in ways I’ve never felt before. Though, I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am if it weren’t for those integral years of growth down in Melbourne; growth under the wing of the queer community. Since I left that nest in Melbourne, I do often feel lonely and isolated in my queerness. I’m really thankful for those friends who have endured a relationship with me long-distance. They make me still feel connected to my queerness. It’s events in the calendar like Mardi Gras and Tropical Fruits that I now look forward to, as a queer person who lives rurally. I can manage to get down and see everyone and be among the culture that gave me so much. Access to these kinds of yearly events are crucial for me in maintaining identity and belonging to queer community. Perhaps there are more queer people where I live. Perhaps I haven’t found them yet. Whenever that time comes, I’ll be nestled in my home, waiting, with my doors wide open. Just like doors had been wide open for me in the past. Perhaps, I should come out? Again? But, I don’t have to. And that’s okay. I’ll still be queer. Kai Clancy is a Murri trans guy who lives in Queensland. He enjoys sunsets, train rides and carbohydrates.



BLENDS OF BLUES and greens shimmered back up at me from the palm of my hand. Lightly brushing sand off little pearlescent jewels, I looked into what was very recently a home for a little saltwater friend, but was now lying in the company of many other colours and shapes. Every trip to the beach I take some time to walk up the shore, bending over the water to quickly scoop up a quick wink of colour, or slowly crouch and sift through the sand when the tide is out. Looking out at the ocean I imagine where this shell must have been days or weeks before. Clinging onto the dwindling kelp forests, slowly sliding among the paced push of currents, eventually letting go, falling to the seabed and tumbling towards the coast, and now laying at my feet. For time immemorial Kaurna people have stood on this same sand, looking out at the same water, awaiting the arrival of the ocean’s gifts. KAURNA COUNTRY BECAME a second home to me. It’s where I was born and where we moved to when I was a teenager. After a childhood of cyclone seasons, t-shirt lifestyle and the sounds of geckos and frogs to fall asleep to, the dry summers and southern personalities were daunting. But I grew into it. Kaurna country witnessed a lot of me. It watched me grow from an unsure child into an unsure teenager and watched me do the first thing I felt sure about. It was in the foothills I kissed a girl for the first time, it was on West Beach I fell in love for the first time, it was on Henley Beach


that I forged friendships with sunsets as backdrops. This country became my Queer home. It was where my Queer family (although now dispersed) was forged and where I gained an understanding of how a family can be made. OF COURSE, AS A LARRAKIA person, I believe my country to be the most beautiful. Mangrove trees, a warm breeze and ochre cliffs of yellow, orange and purple. You can walk down to the beach at any time on any day and find it almost empty. The fear of dangalaba is enough to put even locals off. Our totem lingers in the water, protecting our shared country and its people. Driving down the coastline with my partner I beamed with pride. “Isn’t my country fucking beautiful?” She smiled. “It’s like you’re showing off your child, like a proud parent!” When I’m on my country I stand a little taller, head a little higher, back a little straighter. I am proud. And I am my country’s parent, just as my country is my parent. I am a carer and a daughter at once. I know nothing and everything at the same time. I am a leader and a follower, a part of country, birthed of it but not separate. I miss it every day. I MOVED BACK TO KAURNA country a year ago to care for a sick sibling. After moving to the Kulin Nation and spending years trying to build a community and life, it was hard returning. Particularly under such heavy such circumstances. I sighed to myself: at least there’s the beach.

IT WAS A COMPLICATED and compromising return. I lost a degree, had to give my cat to friends, was away from my partner for weeks at a time and was effectively homeless for months while trying to find money and a house to live in with my sibling. Both my parents had stopped talking to him. Part of me can find compassion for them and for their own complicated relationships with mental health. Most days of the year I can listen to that voice and accept that they are doing the best they can with what they have. Other times I can spend days crying in bed, wishing for a reality in which I get to be supported and loved and cared for by the people you expect would. The ways they closed themselves to my brother made it very apparent to me the limitations of their love, the conditional nature of ‘family’. As their Queer daughter, I am very familiar with how quickly status in family can be demoted. WHEN I CAME OUT TO Dad in my early twenties, I was in the middle of constructing gingerbread houses. I’d kinda been cornered into having this conversation after one of my brothers outed me, so it was more of a ‘now you’ve heard it from me’ type phone call. Dad seemed irritated, possibly bothered that I didn’t tell him sooner. He said that I shouldn’t call myself ‘Queer’, misinterpreting the capital-Q, reclaimed and uncategorised identity Queer for lowercase, outdated slur queer. He then went on to say, “Well you didn’t get it from us, that’s for sure. We don’t have any [gays] in our family. Must’ve got it from your mum’s side.” I’d come out to Mum a few years earlier (and by that, I mean she arrived unannounced to my house and found two women sharing one bedroom). Let’s just say she didn’t take it well and I didn’t talk to her for nearly three years. Nothing had prepared me for the possibility that I could lose family over who made me blush and giggle, who I fall in love with or who I fuck. It seemed surreal that I could go from having my broken but still nuclear(ish) family one day to not having them the next.

Look, it’s a long story of unaddressed intergenerational trauma, fractured family and European Catholicism, but I spent those years not talking to my atheist mum while trying to build a connection with her hyper-Catholic parents and siblings in a desperate attempt to feel connected and a part of something. I was trying to figure out if they would have the same reaction as my mum. A few months into Project Find a Family, I ended up listening to my Aunty’s monologue in a Coles aisle about how disgusting it was that gays could adopt. I found the answers to my questions without ever asking them. SO HERE I WAS, a few years after realising my Queerness made me exempt from my French family, and Dad was telling me that there weren’t any gays in his family. Which made me wonder what I was to him. At the very least, don’t I make his gayless family into a family with one gay? I bit my tongue and held back tears while rolling out gingerbread and pressing cookie cutters into spiced dough. Here I was again, standing on the outskirts of what constituted family. Not fitting the criteria of who’s in. I scooped up the dough scraps, rolling them into little figures and squishing them into the corners of the tray, and slid them into the oven. AFTER MY PARENTS went through an explosive and violent separation when I was a young child, I was raised by my single-parent French mother. This meant being exposed to the racist ’90s discourse of the pre-intervention era, without a community of Aboriginal people around me to challenge public perception and state-sanctioned propaganda. It became incredibly important to me to be able to be white-passing to the best of my ability. I was very much aware that white meant clean and white people were clean. The knowledge that I wasn’t white meant that I was inherently dirty and no matter how many times I washed my hands I would always leave dirt. Realising that Australia conceptualises


“ I am my country’s parent, just as my country is my parent. I am a carer and a daughter at once. I know nothing and everything at the same time. I am a leader and a follower, a part of country, birthed of it but not separate – Laniyuk

Indigeneity as innately immoral left me trying my best to be white. Spending most of my childhood around an all-white family strengthened these feelings. Being visually different in appearance left me looking longingly at my blue-eyed, blonde-haired cousins and inwardly cringing every time they were complimented for their cherub-like appearances. My thick, frizzy brown hair felt unruly and like it took up too much space. My tall, brown legs felt uncoordinated and my brown skin on the dinner table felt out of place and unwanted. I pretended not to hear the conversations around how many handouts Aboriginal people got, and not to see the ways their mouths curved down in disgust. Pretended that they didn’t know I was Aboriginal. Pretended in that moment I wasn’t Aboriginal, so that all the words of contempt would glide over eight-year-old me. Perhaps they would love me then? AS TIME WENT ON I TRIED so hard to be a member of my family. I went to the weddings and the dinners and the gatherings. I went without the invites for a plus-one, I listened to my cousin tell me he loved me (the sinner) but couldn’t support my lifestyle (the sin). I sat in on the conversations about homosexuality being a choice and sat through the looks of disgust when Queer couples held hands. I sat next to my grand-mère and wondered if she would love me less. I took my girlfriend to my cousin’s wedding and didn’t lower my head when we walked into the room. I cried,

I silently wished, I stopped hiding and I stopped getting text messages and Christmas cards. And somewhere along the line my understanding of family shifted. I realised that I was fighting for a seat at a family dinner table that ultimately didn’t want me. I realised I’d been reared on conditional love and that if I spoke and acted in ways that weren’t conducive to their heteronormativity, I was demoted to a lower level of family. I realised that I wasn’t performing in the way that allowed me to be family. That being Queer, and openly so, meant that I wasn’t always family. MEANWHILE, THE DISCOVERY of my sexuality was coinciding with the ever-growing push for the legalisation of same-sex marriage. Regardless of whether marriage was an institution we wanted to engage with, it still provoked continent-wide conversations around Queer morality and worthiness. In a similar way to the morality of Indigeneity being up for public discussion, the morality of my Queerness was now up for debate, minus the army tanks being rolled into communities, child removal, and the 250 years of strategic genocide, propaganda, mass killings and systemic institutionalisation. I was being exposed to another form of othering, but this time I was an adult, and had a community around me to challenge those notions. Now I had the language to critically and emotionally engage and resist. Being able to stand back and witness the blatant and unfiltered bullying tactics


of individuals and the state allowed me to reflect on similar and varying tactics being used a Indigeneity. To experience a new mode of othering at 18 allowed me to understand socialisation and conditioning in a more nuanced way. It wasn’t just reactionary, the response of a child trying to survive. It was contemplative. I was trying to make sense of my family and the world, trying to understand why something that brought me so much joy and love could possibly be anything threatening. MY POLITICS HAVE SINCE shifted and I have no interest in, or intention of, being a member of ‘Australia’ and certainly don’t consider myself to be ‘Australian’. I have no interest in conforming to colonial understandings of Indigeneity or sexuality, and I work more to destroy the table than fight for a seat. *** MY PARTNER AND I WERE driving to the beach. I closed my eyes for a minute and let the air from the open window hit my face, throwing my hair to the roof of the car. We were chatting about kids and the ever-approaching realities of climate change. Talking about violence against brown bodies and the fear for our theoretical children. What would happen to our kids if we died? I turned to them and asked, “Are you


worried? About having kids? Like, about what might happen to them, or you?” It wasn’t even up for deliberation. She immediately responded: “No, not at all. I know that no matter what, I have my parents and my brothers. No matter what happens they’ll always be there for me.” It was such a passing thought for her, it was so self-evident. Meanwhile, I couldn’t answer that so quickly. I didn’t have that same sense of security, besides a cousin who I adore. I didn’t feel that level of safety with my family. I looked at her driving through traffic and wondered what it must feel like to have that sense of security. To know, with such certainty, that your biological family, a web of people, would come through for you. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d put biological family down as my next of kin. When I had major surgery, my Queer friends were put down in the event that I should die on the table. When I needed money or somewhere to live, it was their beds I bunked in. Even when I landed back in town after months of travelling overseas, it was them that waited at the gate and hugged me, carried my bags to the car, made me dinner and listened to my stories. When I found out I would be sent a publishing contract, it was them I called, crying, imagining the little girl from Anula, lying awake in public housing, paint peeling off the walls, never believing but always hoping that she would make something of herself.

AFTER CLEANING THE SHELLS and patiently scratching holes into the lip with a needle, I tentatively looped through steel hoops, nervously closing them with enough pressure to bend steel and crush shell. Threading brown twine, I tied a knot before and after each shell to hold them in place. After hours of scrapping, looping, threading, knotting and biting my lips in fear of utterly destroying months of creation, I held the necklace up in front of me. I counted 10 shells and smiled to myself. One for every year I’ve been out.

currents, chatting and laughing. These people had come through for me in the most extreme ways in the past year. They’d responded to threats of suicide, they’d housed me for months on end, they’d supported me emotionally and financially. Kaurna country had gifted me so much. It brought me a community of people that became family. It held me gently while I learnt hard lessons, and in quiet moments had healed small wounds, edging me on some days, whispering that I can do this. On others, it gave me a place to just rest and cry. ***

“I was very much aware that white meant clean and white people were clean. The knowledge that I wasn’t white meant that I was inherently dirty and no matter how many times I washed my hands I would always leave dirt” SOME DAYS I FEEL so alone. Floating through the world unnoticed and unconnected. Tumbling through the rubble of broken family and unbuilt boundaries, only to wash up on the sands and be gawked at by strangers. Baring my soul only to be put back down on the wet gritty floor if my shine does not shine enough. Other days I can feel my own luminescence transcend the desires of others. I feel myself picked up by community, gently brushed, and I have someone see and know my journey from sea to shore, value my cracks and crust, see the memories of generations in me and the journey of time. *** I SAT WITH THESE tiny shells tucked in the sandy palm of my hand and looked out over the sea. It was a quiet moment of defeat. Allowing myself to accept the limitations of my abilities and the limitations of my biological family. Further down the beach I watched my Queer family standing in the lapping


Shrouded in the night The soft sounds of water Kissed our feet I wanted you to see me To know me To understand me Can you hear that? This is where you can find me When I’m gone In this sound Laniyuk was born of a French mother and a Larrakia, Kungarrakan and Gurindji father. Her poetry and short memoir often reflect the intersectionality of her cross-cultural and queer identity. She was fortunate enough to contribute to the book Colouring the Rainbow: Blak Queer and Trans Perspectives as well as win the Indigenous residency for Canberra’s Noted Writers Festival 2017. Laniyuk received Overland’s writers residency for 2018 and was shortlisted for Overland’s 2018 Nakata Brophy poetry prize.







Minang country, 346km from Ballardong A small plaque outside the IGA includes a photo of a couple with an inscription, which reads: “The only known image of ‘Denmark’ Aboriginals 1898. Their camp was across the river in Millar’s times but it is believed that European diseases killed most of these people.” I look around as Mum puts groceries in the car; day spas, vegan cafes, galleries and organic food co-ops line the street indicating the town’s status as a tourist destination while maintaining its pull for white hippie creatives wanting to escape the city. A poster advertises spiritual healing workshops informed by ancient knowledge systems, run by a hippie with dreads, as if to confirm the settler amnesia that runs through this place. Like nothing ever happened here but we really should incorporate some spirituality into our capitalist existences. But Mum loves the photo of the couple, Bobby and Ginny, and somehow manages to dissociate herself from the horrific implication that most of us died out. She loves thinking about how we lived on country pre-colonisation, and the photo provides a connection to our Noongar ancestors living among the Red Tingle eucalyptus trees. Ginny is staring into the distance, wrapped in blankets and kangaroo fur, with the kind of ‘fuck you’ indifference that kept us here. Refusing to meet the photographer’s eye.



Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma, 16,908km from Ballardong We meet online, a non-space that blak and First Nations people occupy globally for connection, protest and some form of sovereignty, however fragile it might be. I saw the Facebook post calling out for Indigenous writers to participate in an online exchange though the Iowa Writers Program, tutored by Ali Cobby Eckermann and Jennifer Elise Foerster, and applied immediately. Out of nowhere, writing for an international publication had become a possibility. I jumped into a global Indigenous community before I knew myself as a writer, exposing vulnerabilities and layered identities without hesitation. I wanted to be at the centre of something before I’d read the map outlining the best way to arrive. But I had Ali and Jennifer patiently providing suggestions on my impulsive early writing that exhumed romantic pain and white passing unease. In her poetry collection Leaving Tulsa, Foerster writes: Before makers There were maps. There was skin. At the time I didn’t always understand my makers or skin, and wasn’t always sure where to go even though the map showed me. Ballardong was a small, declining town with an English name and I craved the frenzied pace and feel of cities. So I wrote about sex and hipsters in Portland, Oregon, loosely connecting it to the rise of Indigenous design in Melbourne/Narrm. Sex, pain and Aboriginality collapsed into each other as I unselfconsciously exposed my feelings for a man and our flimsy connection via his ex-wife’s Crow ethnicity, believing that it meant something. All the while Jennifer and Ali gently offered changes to my work, asking that I think about character and descriptive language, encouraging me to keep moving in this early state of uncertainty. Before I was able to see that some connections weren’t a good thing.



Bunurong country, 3405km from Ballardong Bruce writes: “Australians find it upsetting, a kind of betrayal, when light-skinned people identify with their indigeneity. I can think of dozens of prominent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander politicians, activists, artists, writers, musicians, nurses, teachers and train drivers who have all suffered the charge of not being a real Aborigine. Why should they be denied what the Irish, Greek and Jewish diaspora celebrate at the drop of a baklava, Guinness or gefilte fish? Especially if you are in your own country and in touch every day with the land that breathes its soul into your nostrils each time you wake.” I’m struck by this passage from his recent essay/ short story collection Salt while trawling Hill of Content bookstore in Melbourne city during my lunch break. It’s tempting to take the book back to the office and casually leave it in the mini library that a colleague started. Hoping that everyone picks it up and reads his essay ‘An Enemy of the People’. But I also recognise that even if they do, they probably won’t get it, or at least won’t be able to see themselves implicated through his words. It’s challenging that in 2019 we’re still asked to legitimise our identities, navigating myriad questions and anxieties that never seem to end. Lost in cities that drive change rapidly, integrating Indigenous knowledge systems into the mainstream. Forcing us to compete in an illusionary landscape where only a few ever really succeed. But it was my white father who initially asked me if I’d heard about Bruce. I think he felt some sort connection with him, being a fisherman in South Gippsland too. Never really knowing how to talk about history and identity, we hover on the edges using books to outline feelings in the hope that one day we’ll have a real conversation about blak Australia.

“It’s challenging that in 2019 we’re still asked to legitimise our identities, navigating a myriad of questions and anxieties that never seem to end”



Narungga country, 2584 km from Ballardong Her collection comes packaged via registered mail. Opening it is like breaking the legislative boundaries that Archival-Poetics documents. In three parts, beautifully bound in brown cardboard, Natalie shows us the Colonial Archive, Haunting and Blood Memory, asking that we understand that violence is never restricted to the streets, but permeates the legal frameworks that were designed to save us. I read the collection from start to finish without taking breath. Slowly realising the double irony that I’m trapped within the archive that both Natalie and I want to erase or reclaim. Natalie states, “Write decolonial poetry. Forever mourn and weave your way out.” I’ve tried to write decolonial poetry but worry that I’m too far in the archive to weave myself out again, anxious of being caught between the boundaries of activism and the urban planning industry. Strangely beginning to understand that legislative change may require literary silence on occasion. And while I admire those who straddle both – writers like Alison Whittaker and Larissa Behrendt boldly mastering Western law while preserving our lore in decolonial use of the imposed language – I still haven’t found a point where I feel safe to do so.

Natalie exposes government documents in her collection, extracting details from a 1922 report from the Adelaide Aboriginal Department, which reads: “The whole question of how to transform these people, who are gradually becoming whiter, into a useful race who will be able to maintain themselves, is a very difficult and serious problem.” I read and re-read the alarming assimilation policy, which lingers into 2019. I worry that I may look like a whiter one that is able to maintain myself. Adequately transformed under government reforms. But when they let me in, like a chameleon I disrupt from within.



Mununjali Yugambeh, 4337km from Ballardong In a ‘Real Moment’ something shifts, a short story within a larger collection touches me. The book, Heat and Light, will go on to inspire many of us to write in our own small and increasingly big ways. A housemate who was working at Readings gave me my first copy and told me that everyone was talking about it. I understood why: it moved people in new ways. For me it was just one story that would remain in my imagination, “it was what I wanted for so long and couldn’t believe it”, as the character proclaims.



Viejas Indian reservation of the Kumeyaay Nation, 15,116km from Ballardong It was like he knew me and recognised the ironies both heinous and hilarious before I did. A queer First Nations poet navigating OkCupid and land rights activism with an indistinguishable intensity. He writes ‘OkCupid asks what’s worse – a starving child or a starving dog, and I’m like is this a fucking joke?’ And he knows that it is and it isn’t for millennial First Nations kids coming to terms with the enormity of colonisation while trying to find some sort of hope on a dating app. If we’re not dealing with racist crap from curious suitors who send messages asking where we’re from, because we look kind of ethnic or something. In fevered dreams I move to New York City in an imaginary Brooklyn dream home with the poet Tommy Pico. So fucking native down by Brooklyn Bridge. We write about race, we write about our past. But most days we just write about all the weird shit white cis men say when they fuck. Because we can’t write about our culture or a story about our connection to the land because that conversation is already happening at the NGV Triennial between two RMIT academics and some old white man. But it’s not all bleak, Tommy has more books released and a screenplay on the way, in a pan-Indigenous fantasy where millennial First Nations kids speak back to the law through literary glory. And it’s tempting to stay but I slip back into the archival landscape, a chameleon still searching for change.



Wajarri, Badimaya and Nhanagardi cultural groups from the Yamaji Nation, 954km from Ballardong I’d been told her collection, co-written with John Kinsella, is too harsh, which reflects the peculiarities of writing in the blak renaissance. It’s true there are more blak books and blak words than there were when I was growing up, or maybe social media is helping us disperse our messages faster than before. Walking past a bookstore with a variety of blak books in the window, not because it’s NAIDOC Week but because blak writers are prolifically delivering awarding-winning work, feels good. Deep in the belly of the archives, progress is slow, but on lunch breaks I see my heroes displayed in Bourke Street windows. And those of us emerging on the edges benefit from commissions and publishing opportunities, which weren’t there for older generations. But it’s odd to feel wanted and censored at the same time. Charmaine’s book False Claims of Colonial Thieves is an urgent call to arms, asking the reader to think seriously about the environmental impact of mining in a time of climate crisis. I read it admiring her descriptions of country that I’m so familiar with, while closing my eyes, not wanting to see the future her writing predicts. I had nothing but praise for the collection, but given the circumstances in which this country we call Australia grew, I had some trepidation about it being co-authored with a white man, curious about the power dynamics. While it’s arguably impossible to transform a nation on the brink of ruin if blak and white don’t work effectively as equals, it’s also rare to find an Aboriginal person who hasn’t been scarred or just disappointed by a collaboration with a white Australian. This was what I wanted to say, but felt disciplined for the suggestion that it might be worth analysis. Charmaine writes about Northam, a shitty town on Ballardong country where older blackfellas take respite from the 40-degree heat in the frozen food aisle of the supermarket because their run-down public housing flats lack air conditioning. But there’s nothing to question here.



Goernpil woman of the Noonuccal people of Minjerribah, 4302km from Ballardong Reading her new book Aboriginal Country, which in some ways isn’t really her book because she was only in the process of thinking about a new collection (busy with activism, teaching and community work) when time passed too soon, I start to think about the way we juggle our identities. Lisa hated the archival systems of government bureaucracies. In ‘Message Failed’ she writes “PARLIAMENTARIAN: We do not come in peace”, and in ‘Thirty Seconds’ she shows that “Time’s Up” for a government trying to understand our spiritual needs. But Lisa also found a way into the system, the first blak woman to be elected as a Councillor for the City of Collingwood. I imagine her walking along a thin line, narrowly balancing the needs of her community with bureaucratic responsibilities. Perhaps falling along the way and finding herself back where she started. An activist, poet, photographer and elected representative, she created an unlikely map of multiple identities. I trace the lines of hers and others, mapping their words in an attempt to find where I belong. Knowing that all lines point west, 3418km to my ancestral home.

Timmah Ball is a non-fiction writer whose work is influenced by working across urban planning, zine making and other creative forms. She grew up in Birrarung-ga /Melbourne but her heritage is Ballardong Noongar from Western Australia on her mother’s side. She has written for a range of publications including The Lifted Brow, Meanjin, The Griffith Review, Going Down Swinging and other anthologies.




Fashion and design by Clair Helen. I am a proud Aboriginal woman from the Tiwi Islands. I was born in Darwin NT, I moved from the Tropics to Sydney to embark on my journey of becoming a fashion designer. I am the first Indigenous graduate at Whitehouse Institute of Design, Australia. After graduating I have had the chance to design a dress for the Oscars and intern in New York. My New York experience has given me an open perspective on art and fashion because it is a completely different environment to Australia. My collection tells a story of my Tiwi culture and my totem. My collection encourages sustainable and ethical practices through working with used recycled fabric and locally designed Tiwi fabrics. The Tiwi fabrics are hand-made from a local Tiwi woman’s group of artist and designers from Bima Wear located on Wurrumiyanga, Tiwi Islands, NT. I drape the fabric and improvise silhouettes through the position of the prints, adding yarn embroidery to create my own signature style. Aboriginal people have been resident in Australia for at least 40,000 years. The Aboriginal culture is considered to be one of the oldest surviving cultures in the world. Tiwi people still practice their rich cultural traditions through ceremonies, dancing, singing, and art. I consider that my inspiration to combine the authentic experience of this rich ancient and contemporary Indigenous environment with the fashion concepts from my community, which is the best way that I can make a contribution to the future of fashion. I want to empower Indigenous communities through ethical sourcing of materials for fashion. My aim is to encourage Indigenous economic development through locally owned businesses and to focus on preserving traditional practices for the community. If my fashion label is successful, I want to make change nationally and internationally so that I am also able to open equal opportunities for other communities.

Pronoun Trouble by Anonymous

Navigating gendered language in public and private spaces. I most frequently find kinship with bodies unlike mine. In this space between my body and theirs are shared ways of moving, shared language that describes us in archetypes, not individuals. It is from this space that I have picked up the language I use to describe myself, from this space that I can draw comparison and not find myself lacking – not that I am not these men, but that I do not have to be. These three-letter words move from bodies unlike mine, to the mouths of my counterparts. The words become expectations of what we are to each other. I am distant from the drive to shape my body further to match theirs, so distant from their experiences that even sharing a three-letter word may be too much of a transgression. In this way pronouns become intimate performances, parts of our own worldview that we stick to other people. The words we choose are shaped by our own experiences and our perception of gender and its relevance to our lives, and our environment responds in turn to these communications. I find myself thinking about this often. In some ways, I am compelled to. The desk across from my workstation bears a rainbow flag. These days everyone I work with wears a brightly coloured lanyard, and some even sport badges or stickers reading ALLY. Anne, She/Her, describes an artist we are working with as a queer woman. I wipe the memory of spit from my face as I quietly say that Sam uses they/ them pronouns, and Anne goes, “Of course.” It becomes known around the office that I am sensitive about that type of thing. A lesbian in her thirties says, “I thought she was like us,” and I am quiet for a second too long, having been reminded of a passage from Between the Boat and the Dock, describing

the uneasy position between butch and man that mustn’t exist but does. It is in a similarly uneasy position that I find myself, though I cannot be accused of being butch. Like many of my predecessors, I am permitted to mix freely in selfdescribed queer spaces under the condition of not caring how I am introduced. This has suited me, as I have not inherited my siblings’ ease for labels along with their disregard for the categories contained within. If you’ve been out for more than a decade, at some point you’ll realise that our communities at their healthiest are deeply intermixed. This isn’t a schoolyard response to a lack of mainstream acceptance, safety-in-numbers style, but rather a recognition of the many points at which our lives mirror each others’, despite our many differences in approach and terminology. Gender has always been difficult within my circles, tied as it is to social roles that exclude us physically, mentally, emotionally, totally. Many of us confront these genders, making space within those that exist for ourselves or creating new words and phrases that describe our behaviours and how we are, and how we wish to be, perceived. And many of us don’t, either opting out or finding comfort within our assigned roles. There is no correct choice within this system, only the best possible for each of us. Where our terminology clashes, as it should, there is room to express the differences in our experience. Or to dismiss them. And so I have come to think of gender as an argument that I must eventually have, but never quite yet. I have shied away from this for a long time, assured as I have been that I will have the time and that the Q still has room for me in the meanwhiles. This doesn’t always feel like the case. I did not and still do not quite care to know what anyone thinks of my own gender or how it should shape the body that contains me, partly because the messages I get tell me that no matter what, I am wrong. From what I’ve been told, women don’t aspire to a testosterone-moulded body, don’t fuck like me, aren’t willing to put their comfort, health and safety at risk for the brief flash of warmth at being called “son”. Except, sometimes, they do.

For this to make sense to you, you’ll want to place me within a physical context as well. As the child of an interracial relationship, I don’t look entirely like either my mother’s or father’s family, and seem to have landed in-between gendered characteristics, too. I have grown into my father’s face, and his taste for slightly motheaten sports coats and loose-fitting jeans. My hands are broad, and so are my hips. This, matched to the slimness of my mother’s build and penchant for bright colours, seems to confuse people and makes them desperate to put a name to the way I make them feel. I am sir-ed in a hoodie, ma’am-ed in a leather jacket, and it-ed in a skirt. Somehow, I prefer this minor imposition to the more frequent pause, the blank face and full body scan: what are you? My type are often assumed to be infectious. As women we are rebellions, as men we are freaks. There is no possibility that we may exist freely as neither, or as both. There is, instead, immense pressure for us to declare ourselves so that we may be judged. I refuse. Like my masc-of-centre peers, I was steeped in a peculiar brand of masculinity that prides itself in how far we can go to be perfectly ordinary. I have become competitive in a way that makes me uncomfortable. I am at once liked and disliked for


the same things: my visibility, and my ambiguity. I have grown much too used to positioning myself in this undesirable class, subversive enough to be interesting but smart enough to know my place. I am better than your boyfriend because I could never hope to be him. I am the Conservative’s Exception, the Tester Girlfriend, the Not Quite Boy, the he-she that should cut my hair and cross my legs and cover my tits and lower my voice and shave my face and smile. I will not supplant your daughter, but I might ruin her. I might give her ideas. More and more, we must qualify ourselves or risk being stuck between relative safety and being seen as we really are. The next time Sam’s name comes up, I misgender them. I like to believe that in doing this, I have said, “this is not a safe space,” but I know that I have instead said, “I am not safe.” The casual nature of a pronoun belies the effort of will that draws us all to the same point, stripping away the hurt we have brought to each other and filling the uncomfortable silences like a drone. We then place the expectation of maintaining our illusory safe space on our trans siblings. At a meeting where I am a relative newcomer, a friend of mine asks why her colleague didn’t bring up a particular topic. She has casually outed them in the process, and doesn’t seem to realise. All eyes slide to this colleague, whose lip twitches. I can’t look up, it does not feel safe. Pronoun rounds have become popular in queer circles, to the same effect. When it’s time for me to announce my name and the pronouns I expect to hear, I never know what to say. You are not asking for my relationship to my body, but for yours. Is there a three-letter shorthand for this? I mutter my name, and say that any pronouns are fine, thanks. This isn’t the truth: the truth is that, like Anne, She/Her, you will use the pronouns that suit your opinion of me. To say anything else is to open myself up to judgements and invasive questions that, even unvoiced, make themselves known. You will mutter among yourselves about what I do with my body, speculating when you don’t have a clear answer, and this speculation will become the new truth. You will tell me that I do not have to work out how to name my identity in a particular time frame, but you will name that identity all the same, so sure that you could place bets on how quickly I will prove you right. I know this because you do it to my siblings and you make me your co-conspirator. There is not time in 15 seconds to talk about queer transphobia, to explain how it feels to see barely concealed disgust in the faces of people who, you have come to realise, love you conditionally. There is not time to soften the condescension from a person who has mistaken their ability to relate to you for an ability to understand the factors at play in who you are out to and who you are not out to. There is not time to talk about the relationship between perceived gender conformity and homophobia, and how this is still seen as a reasonable cost. Nor is there time to talk about the fact that every relationship I have had with my supposed queer family has suffered from the expectation that I fit into their box and not the other, depending on who I am talking to. We cannot even keep ourselves safe. At some point, we will find ourselves alone with people who do not understand us. They even end up in our bodies. A woman in her fifties once told me about her difficulty finding a physician who would manage her chronic health conditions without misgendering her, much less a


“I am the Conservative’s Exception, the Tester Girlfriend, the Not Quite Boy, the he-she that should cut my hair and cross my legs and cover my tits and lower my voice and shave my face and smile. I will not supplant your daughter, but I might ruin her. I might give her ideas”

healthcare team. The next day, she is back in hospital and now I am sitting with a friend in their twenties who tells me that their partner pressures them into sex acts that make them feel wrong-bodied.

My friend stayed with their partner only a few weeks. I run into them in a downstairs bar. I am looking for a fight, and they are looking to feel something. I offer to fuck them like a real boy. Their elbow connects with my eighth rib, and I laugh in their face. We are drunk and angry and both packing. Someone’s sleeve gets torn. Their cheek slams into the door frame, hard enough to draw blood. We are not numb. We are not here.

This is the first time I have heard the word dysphoric in person, in this way. I am listening from outside of my own head, the person sitting in my body nodding and saying “Mm,” every so often, and it feels as if I am bearing witness to the something broken inside of myself spilling out of the wrong person. It feels as if I am being made to bear witness to every moment, every sigh and frown and touch that has made me feel broken.

My sisters’ former partners transition, one after the other, and their most private lives are suddenly common knowledge. They were never really men or never really women, confused or deceitful, and every action they take is now somehow a sign.

The person sitting inside my body and using my voice says not to stay with someone who does not respect who you are. This feels like a cheap remark.

The way my peers talk about these exes reminds me of the time I finally argued back to my first serious girlfriend. She’d called me a daytime drag act, those exact words, daytime drag act, because I had come home to her in a cheap polyester suit with a sock stuffed in the crotch. My lack of natural femininity and refusal to play straight annoyed her, and while I’d caved on many things, she hadn’t managed to stamp this one out. The signs were there – not mine, but for me – that I should have left earlier.

In my experience, there is no direct relationship between people who respect your pronouns and people who will respect your physical integrity, the lines of comfort you draw on your own body. I did not even think to draw these boundaries, until I was taught that I could. When I first started to use he/him as a pronoun, I was met with resistance. I was introduced to my girlfriend at that time as “This is (name), she likes it when you call her a boy.”

She snarled that if she had wanted to date men, she would be dating one. I argued that I’d never wanted to be a woman. She told me I didn’t have a choice. My current girlfriend reminds me of her without meaning to, begging me to wear a dress and shaved legs to meet her family. I say nothing but we will have broken up by the end of the week.

If this was at all strange to her, she didn’t show it, telling our mutual friend to fuck off. Ours was a slow, strange courtship. She read me erotica, and this was the first time I’d seen bodies like mine represented, messy but alive. They spoke like me, but far less roughly.

I have been losing faith, and it takes my identity with it. The woman that I have been sleeping with does not know my name. Anne, She/Her, lists me as a Queer Woman Writer. I say nothing.

Pronoun fluidity is a dying art, seemingly practised only among those of us who are not yet all the way out, those of us who get off on the smallest level of gender fuckery, or those of us whose identities remain in flux.

I have not seen Sam in a year and a half, and I misgender them too casually.

I was not in flux. I felt split in two: moving as I still do through this world as one gender, though I am more completely understood in the next and communicating myself through the aesthetics of a third. Despite my friends’ varying levels of acceptance, my girlfriend at the time made me feel like that was normal. Slowly, through shared language and perhaps something more, she brought me back into my body.

The pronoun circle reaches me, and I say, “Call me anything.” I am not safe.

I hadn’t known until then that sex was supposed to feel good, having up until then chased a kind of bloodlust that jolts me out of any sense of self. If I have run into others like her, I have not recognised them. We parted after nearly two years.




“I’M PRETTY AND I’M HANDSOME” I HAD USED TAPE to strap down my chest for the first time earlier that day. It was my first live drag performance at Hamer Hall for dis rupt, a show for the Yirramboi Festival. When I was 11 I would use bandages from the first-aid box in our house. My mother would hoard first-aid items and put them into a huge box filled with plastic ziplock bags labelled “nausea”, “headache” and so on. I would often rummage through the bag with “bandage” written neatly on the front and use the spiked apparatus to pin the bandage together across my chest. As someone who went through puberty pretty early, I had enough young bosom to cause gender dysphoria and confusion. I got the idea from a book, but while the character in the fantasy novel wanted to be a boy, I just didn’t want to be either. Neither really felt what I wanted it to. From a young age I’ve always kept secrets that involved only me. On the odd occasion I’ll still do it, as a test of sorts, to see how long I can wait before revealing them. A test of my secretkeeping skills about me, for me. Wrapping my chest every day for months was one of these secrets. It was only years later that I started to reveal that this was something I used to do, and liked doing. AT AGE 16, I CUT MY long hair that went past my hips into a short


– JESSWAR, SAVAGE (2017) cropped style. No one really knew why I did it. I’m not really sure that I knew either. I just figured hair was hair and fuck it, short hair looks hot. I was also tired of being so hypersexualised and feminised because of my long hair. I thought that through cutting it, maybe I would have some answers to questions I didn’t know how to ask. The reactions that many different people had to me cutting my own hair astounded me. People from my primary school who I hadn’t seen in at least four years were messaging me about how I had cut my hair, why had I cut it, it was so nice, why would I do such a thing. Girls that I’d had falling-outs with messaged me saying they “would have killed for my hair”. I felt that people who I didn’t know would come up to me and talk to me about cutting my hair. My mother cried when I showed her: “Not your beautiful long hair, Indiah.” My boyfriend at the time dumped me, and people would snap photos of my face asking why I turned into a lesbian. This only internalised my queerness further. There was a major sense of repulsion towards the way people treated me for this decision that I had made over my body. Many of my friends at the time no longer wanted to continue being friends with me due to the way I wanted to look. It was through this period in my life that I realised the utter lack of autonomy I had over my body. I felt the immense

social pressures of colonial beauty standards that had been put in place not only for me, but by me, and maintained by those surrounding me. SOMETHING THAT CAME OUT at this time – or someone, I should say – was Elijah. My mother told me that Elijah was a potential baby name for me if I had been assigned male at birth. I was smoking a lot of weed at the time, drinking just about every day while skipping school like it was optional. The two girls I was close to at the time and I really liked to play dress-ups and go about our ‘very grown-up day’, which involved day-drinking, rolling around in the sun, hanging out at the skate park and smoking bongs. After smoking weed instead of eating breakfast, we ventured off for the day. I was dressed like a skater boy with a fake lip ring and pants that were too big, a cap on my head to make jest at my very ‘masculine’ short hair, and a skateboard as a prop. We named me Elijah. Elijah spent their first conscious day leaning into what they thought masculinity looked and felt like: slightly misogynistic. They would try to hit up girls on the bus, and maybe they would get the ‘joke’, because of course hitting on girls is a ‘joke’.

Elijah was all for a laugh. Just a really funny guy, right? Around this time my friends and I had a bit of a routine: smoke weed, have a few bottles of Trevi (a knock-off Passion Pop) and I would end up as Elijah. But, of course, only as a ‘joke’. Once, we ended up at one of the local skate parks. I pretended to know how to skate despite hardly being able to stand on the board. There were a few people there (who actually knew how to skate) staring incessantly at me. After a few hours, these boys started questioning who and “what the fuck” I was. I think back to when I started a Tinder account. Initially, I did this in secret but then posed it as ‘super funny’ to my friends because I was catfishing girls. I knew I was perpetuating toxic masculine traits, but I remember trying to relate to the masculinities that I had been exposed to, which were toxic. It felt good presenting as masculine, and even though everyone around me thought it was a joke, I still felt some form of affirmation from being able to wear these things around my friends and not being told to “go change”. The initial shame I felt when I presented Elijah to my group of friends eventually wore off. Despite this, I would always put on my miniskirts, backless


halter-necks and winged eyeliner when we went to the local club every weekend using my fake ID. WHEN I WAS 18 and dating another boy, I remember trying to help him understand trans and gender non-conforming identities. I explained that people who are assigned male at birth can be women/femme and that colonial prescriptions of genitalia don’t define gender. We were walking around late at night smoking cigarettes and drinking. I remember his warm, comforting hands holding mine. “So, like you? Because you’re both masculine and feminine?” he asked me. I responded by smiling. I was elated that I was what he thought of. Having someone who was so close to me validate me in a way that he didn’t (and, I suppose, I didn’t) understand was really integral in navigating my own identity. I liked that he didn’t see me as a cis woman at that moment, that without question, he saw who I felt I really was: someone I wasn’t sure how to articulate. He saw me in a way which was similar to the way I saw me. Responding to his question, I went into more detail: “No, not like me. I don’t feel like a man, or present masc,” which was true. I didn’t and don’t feel like a man, but I didn’t feel like a woman either. When I was 19, a few people I knew were coming out as gender non-conforming. I asked a friend of mine who is queer if they had thought much about their pronouns. “Oh, not really… how come?” I started to explain that I was thinking about starting to go by they/them, to which they responded that they didn’t think that was the point of the pronouns, not for ‘people like me’ – referring to my cis passing. This was the first time I had tried to express my deep feelings about gender. I thought my friend would understand that I’m not trying to take up space, but just exist, and I was upset that they were able to shut down the conversation of identity so quickly.


After the show I consumed many a cocktail, danced at a queer Blak art exhibition opening at Federation Square for hours, and eventually ended up going home with a friend that I had been wanting to peg for ages. I was stoked, this was one of the best days in ages - Indiah Money




This particular incident made me reflect on the perception of non-binary peoples, and performativity in relation to gender. Gender non-conforming people don’t owe cisgender people anything. I don’t owe you to fit the typical white-passing skinny androgynous look that you assign to non-binary. I don’t need to prove my non-binary body or gender to you by going against femininity. SO BACK TO JUST having done my first drag performance. After two years of quietly, then loudly, identifying as queer, I had performed at Hamer Hall as Mo Money, as part of dis rupt. Chest strapped down with tape, only wearing oversized suit pants, carrying around a

Feeling clean with lingering body dysphoria and euphoria, I got into some of their pyjamas and cuddled up next to them. We were both too drunk to even consider kissing. Plus we were missing a strap-on if I was going to peg them like I was really hoping for. I kept revisiting all of the energy from the day. But my thoughts kept leading me back to when I was 11 and when I was 16. I thought about the times that I would rock up to a party with a 10-pack of beer and someone would say it wasn’t very ‘girly’ of me. Or when I would find it hard to relate to a lot of the people in high school for a variety of reasons, but particularly the girls around my age having interests in things I found difficult to understand.

“I was acting a bit like a parrot with a mirror – every time I would see my reflection I would jump up and down a bit and squawk to express how impressed I was with the way I looked. Chest tight, big make-up on” blazer that was way too big for me, I felt good. I felt really good. I was acting a bit like a parrot with a mirror – every time I would see my reflection I would jump up and down a bit and squawk to express how impressed I was with the way I looked. Chest tight, big make-up on. After the show I consumed many a cocktail, danced at a queer Blak art exhibition opening at Federation Square for hours, and eventually ended up going home with a friend that I had been wanting to peg for ages. I was stoked, this was one of the best days in ages. We went back to theirs and I had a shower. I took off my suit, which didn’t really feel like a costume anymore. Turning on the water, I looked down at my body where I had make-up and tape on me. Slowly, I peeled off the tape and soaped off the make-up and sweat. I saw my body differently than I had a week ago. It looked new all of a sudden, but also painfully familiar.

I thought back on all the times people told me I was acting ‘like a boy’, or different from the girls they knew, or people would say I was handsome ‘for a girl’. I remembered when people would make jokes that I ‘wore the pants’ in every relationship I had been in. Suddenly it all clicked. I was genderqueer. This isn’t to take autonomy or power away from people who feel or experience these things and identify as women, but I realised I didn’t feel that way anymore. I didn’t feel the ‘womanness’ that many of my friends did. I no longer subscribe to the colonial gender that I was assigned. I’m nonbinary, and had been existing in two modes of hypermasculinity or hyperfemininity, not realising I didn’t have to perform for anyone, not even myself. I expressed this to my friend, who I was sleepily laying in bed next to. They hugged me and said how happy they were for me. After that we started kissing.


Indiah Money is a queer Wiradjuri non-binary person, currently studying Australian Indigenous studies & gender studies at Melbourne University. Indiah has written poetry and created artworks from a young age with recurring themes including colonialism, assimilation, skin colour, gender, mental illness, sexuality, climate change, stolen generations and identity, as well as critiquing the Eurocentric western idealised structure that each person in Australia is forced to maintain. They have had their work published in Rabbit Journal and been privileged enough to give a reading at The Wheeler Centre for Alison Whittaker’s book, Blakwork. They have hosted multiple events and Q&A sessions on a national scale. They have had multiple visual and written pieces published in Under Bunjil, an entirely Indigenous-run magazine, while also being a creative editor in 2018. Indiah is also a visual artist who has had their work in the Koorie Heritage Trust in their annual show for three years running and been part of exhibitions hanging alongside international artists. Recently, Indiah made their debut as a drag king at Hamer Hall as part of Yirramboi’s show, dis rupt.





A sit-down and self-exploration with Stone Motherless Cold.

After exploring the alleyways of so-called Melbourne I stumbled upon this Crystalline humanoid With broken heels as guards And strings of pearls embellishing their nest A drag creature They call themselves Stone Stone Motherless Cold Why drag? Well, on one of those sick days from primary school, I was watching daytime TV re-runs of Just Shoot Me!, a terrible ´90s American sitcom following those that worked at the fashion magazine ‘Blush’, parodying Vogue. A former model and now the fashion editor, Nina Van Horn (played by Wendie Malick), told her fellow staff that if you dance with your arms up, it means you’re gay. Well, fuck. I was less than 12, but I was already thinking about my performativity. Nina Van Horn had called me out. I became conscious of how I danced, how much enthusiasm I put into it, how high I would swing my arms up. In the fear of looking feminine, I was loudly announcing to the world I was queer. Flash forward to moving to socalled Melbourne, where to dance comfortably and be truly me, I had to be drinking.

The allure of drag to me was that it was an artform where I got to embrace my femininity and be celebrated for it. In terms of the arms, I now flail them about as much as I can in my performances. And nowadays what keeps you chasing drag? When I first started drag in 2016, there weren’t that many First Nations artists around in Melbourne; I could think of one or two other artists who were starting around the same time as me. I was the first Indigenous drag queen to have performed at Babydrag at Mollie’s, a popular drag event that only allows for baby drag artists to show off their stuff. There wasn’t a platform (online or in Melbourne) that was widely known that I could look to and be like, Look! There are people like me, doing what I want to do and being successful and happy. The first Miss First Nation pageant premiered in 2017, opening my eyes up to these beautiful queens, succeeding in our field. I had already spent years attempting to justify to myself that I could be both blak and queer, growing up thinking they were mutually exclusive. When I started drag, I only attributed it to my queerness. The faboriginal First Nations artists that are booming, and


exploding, and being great examples in our community, are loud and proud in being both blak and queer. So before, I was internally battling these parts of my identity, but there are these people, these blak queer people (who have been on this land since day dot) and they’re getting celebrated for it? I still chase drag because I know that there are still kids out there, kids that aren’t happy with themselves because they’re taught that who they are is wrong or unnatural or uncultural. I am lucky I found this artform because drag requires you to embrace and celebrate who you are. I think it’s amazing that a queer artform demands those conversations with yourself, that you and all of you deserves love. I want to pay it forward, and to be out there, so that the next generation of queer blak kids can see me, and see me doing drag. So they can clasp onto the glamour and artistry, the selfcreation of a personal fantasy. At what point during a performance do you feel the fantasy? The combination of an audience and the song starting. I find myself in a sort of trance a lot of the time, so I really lose myself in performances. I come back to earth when the audience woos, that moment of


encouragement makes me pretty aware of where I’m at and what I’m doing. What do you like to do to relax after a performance? I’m pretty antsy afterwards about what my performance looked like so I need to get out of drag and watch my performance on repeat a few times. Lol. Can you explain your drag name for us? Oh sweetie, darling, it’s a combination of this malaphor that my grandparents say, “Did you heat this over a candle!? It’s stone motherless cold!” And, I was really into Ab Fab when I started drag.

I would try and watch as many queer things in the secrecy of my room. So like Paris Is Burning, Party Monster, Kinky Boots and really, really gay foreign movies, which were always conveniently raunchy.

“I want to pay it forward, and to be out there, so that the next generation of queer blak kids can see me, and see me doing drag. For them to clasp onto the glamour and artistry, the self-creation of a personal fantasy”

What are some of your drag influences from your family? Mum was very into skincare, she was where I got my obsession for Dr. Pimple Popper, and taught me how to look after my face. But I knew showing an interest in make-up would just be dancing too close to the closet door. So I would wait till my mum was gone to run to her bathroom to just assess the make-up. I rarely touched it – I wouldn’t have even known what to do – so I just fiddled with the brushes in awe and fascination. Mum worked very hard to instil a sense of fashion in me, which I’m very thankful for.

I was really into the idea of club kids and so would go out trying out some lewks to the clubs. I didn’t really get into drag until I watched a season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, leading onto Instagram drag and make-up. It wasn’t actually until my first performance that I purposely went to a drag show. Now that I’ve been around and seen a lot more drag, it’s definitely the scene that’s influenced me now.

How have your influences changed since you’ve done drag? In high school, thirsty for queer history and just to see queer people,

So would you say that RuPaul was a large factor in the beginning of drag for you? There was this effeminate black




man that was running this drag empire, so of course I did idolise him. I loved RuPaul’s Drag Race as a reality TV show. I loved the queens, the ridiculous competitions, the platform it was providing for these queens to show off their artistry. Over time I’ve thought about RuPaul as a role model. But after his transphobic comments and exclusionary practices I can’t see him as a suitable role model. I can’t get around his negligence to address the problematic behaviour in the fandom. Because of his position, he holds so much power and influence. It’s beautiful there’s been this mass inspiration to do drag because of the show, but it’s created this toxic hierarchy that has seeped its way into the local scene of drag, with the Ru girls on top, the local scene midway and AFAB performers on the bottom, if included at all. How would you describe your experience with using drag as a form of escapism? I can definitely relate to the escapism aspect of drag. There is a kind of comfortability that I can achieve in drag, because I’m in drag. I’m not escaping from being queer; I’m not escaping from being a blak queer person. I’m escaping from the negative socialisations that smother me on a daily basis. Candy Bowers, a radical black feminist, shared this snippet in one of their Political Lyrical Theatremaking workshops: “If you don’t transform the pain, you’ll just transmit it.” Looking at drag as a form of transformation, I transform


into Stone. Transforming my body, how I see myself, how I feel about myself. Transforming my perception. Changing those looks of disgust into looks of envy. Changing those car honks into sounds of adoration. Drag artists are leaders, idols, preachers, teachers, role models in the queer community. And perhaps a reason that drag has reached this level of respect is because it’s a queer artform that heavily relies on a transformation. Transform the way you look, the way you walk, the way you talk, the way that you now navigate the world in this entity you’ve created for yourself. Drag can be a glamour spell, an act of armour that allows you to hide, show off, quieten and strengthen yourself at the same time. Quieten the negative views that can hold so much power over your non-drag character. These are the different ways that drag can transform us, allow for strength to emanate, and enable us to be the leaders and role models in our communities. For me, my glamour spell works in strengthening my femininity and my gender performativity. An Arrernte drag artist based in Narrm/Birrarung, Stone Motherless Cold is a combination of blak excellence and club kid aesthetics, here to celebrate and highlight WOC and blak queerness. She was part of dis rupt at Hamer Hall and was one of the winners of the Vic NAIDOC LGBTQIA+ Pride Crown in 2019. Trè Turner is an Arrernte drag performer/queer artist.






Understanding queer Aboriginality in regional settings is an exercise in examining place, and colonisation and identity.

THE INTERPLAY OF IDENTITY and place is fresh in my mind after re-reading Bronwyn Fredericks’ ‘We don’t leave our identities at the city limits’ (2013). In this article, she argues that space and place are never neutral in the sense that there is an ongoing cultural, social and political struggle at play. This was also highlighted by my PhD supervisor, Professor Bronwyn Carlson, in a radio interview discussing the legacy of colonialism found in the physical landscape. Drawing on these discussions, I began to think about how my experiences have been shaped by the spatial absence of queer Aboriginal peoples in regional Aboriginal communities. This sensitive topic draws attention to the replication of unequal power relations between queer and non-queer Indigenous peoples, highlighting fractures within oppressed groups in place of the broader binary of the coloniser and colonised. I am an Aboriginal person from the south-east coastal region of NSW. This area is also known by Indigenous peoples as a part of the Yuin nation. I do not identify with the Yuin nation, but others in my community do. Growing up, I identified, and still do, with the Aboriginal community I belong to: Jerrinja. This does not mean I do not support terms such as ‘Yuin’ as having significance across communities in my region. I do not typically identify with Yuin as its symbolism is not transferable to my ties


to Jerrinja, which have so deeply characterised my identity and the physical, social and cultural spaces that constitute my experience of community. Variant tribal affiliations including Tharawal/Dharawal, Wodi Wodi and Yuin function to reconstitute boundaries of identity and country. Locals often evoke these words in the context of formal community meetings. As a young child I remember hearing these words while playing, as a land council meeting took place in what was formerly known as the Roseby Park school – an institution in mission boundaries where the community endured generations of an enforced Western, Catholic and Christian education. The significance of community organising happening on these grounds did not really occur to me as a child. It has taken years of learning to understand that the community meetings were more than just ways to organise and administrate community space. They were actively performing their reclamation of land by rejecting its colonial ties. This is important to us as sovereign peoples in an area that has one of the longest histories of contact between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples since 1788. THE DISPOSSESSION OF OUR cultural practices and identity aligns closely with the colonising of place and space. Indigenous peoples across the continent were denied their sovereignty

from the outset with the claim of terra nullius, and quarantined by paternalistic and eugenics-based policies that assured society we would die out. When we survived, a renewed push came to integrate us into the nation so our culture would dissolve over time. On the south coast, my people were pushed out onto the fringes of society and our nation’s boundaries were eroded. My community was placed out of sight by settlers with the establishment of the Roseby Park Aboriginal Reserve in 1900, which we now call Jerrinja Aboriginal Community. A local news article in the Shoalhaven Advertiser in 1900 describes an appeal to move the community of Aboriginal people at Seven Mile Beach to more suitable areas as their current habitation of the region was deemed unsuitable by local community groups. These demands were put into action by the Aborigines Protection Board, who also established one of the most insidious institutions in our region and state, the Bomaderry children’s home. Our recovery from this history includes notable achievements, such as the handing over of the Roseby Park Reserve to the community in 1978, pre-dating the 1983 New South Wales Land Rights Act. My community has also actively resisted nuclear facilities and military occupation in the 1980s, and were accounted for in the Sydney bicentennial protests in my birth year, 1988. Jerrinja would not exist without the activism of community, including our LGBTIQ+ relatives. My history and trajectory are shaped by this long history and help me to understand the effects of engaging in sites of struggle. I like to think that this has imbued my identity


with a sense of justice that is community oriented, and sensitive to the perpetuation of colonising forces as they arise. THE LEGACY OF MY community’s staunch political activism is visible in the infrastructure emerging in our community. This includes a facility that serves the community as, among other things, a medical centre. The building sits at the main entrance of the community and is distinctly Indigenous, with familiar designs of animals in dot motifs. It is actively utilised by the community, as it was when it first opened in the mid 2000s. The medical centre runs community workshops and provides a gateway to medical care beyond the space, including an outreach medical service run by the South Coast Medical Service Aboriginal Corporation, which is an Aboriginal community-controlled health organisation located in Nowra, NSW. Our dependence on these services reflects continuing difficulties in accessing health and wellbeing services, regardless of the misconception that Aboriginal people have access to all the privileges associated with living in the wealthiest corner of the continent. I have a lot of nostalgia tied to the medical centre. Prior to its establishment, I remember feeling intimidated by the quiet, musty, brown office of my local GP on Silvermere Street. The aged reception room was, in many ways, culturally foreign. Jerrinja‘s new medical facility fulfilled the need for a culturally appropriate space which reframed these experiences as well as shaping the requirements for culturally appropriate practices by medical doctors and health workers. The medical centre is always decorated with


I want to explore gender and not experience violence, alienation and isolation. I also want that space to be safe to be Aboriginal and free of gender and sexual requirements that are used to authenticate my Indigeneity

health promotion resources in the form of posters, pamphlets, stickers, badges and condoms, and we all had playful yarns about who took them and what they were doing with them. Every noticeboard is filled with posters on smoking, alcohol and a litany of health concerns illustrated with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and flags. This sensory overload of materials reinforces the cultural space by territorialising representations of health and wellbeing. My relationship to community and these organisations has changed as social fractures have occurred. My gender and sexual identity, and the associated health and wellbeing needs, meant that I wouldn’t and couldn’t access these spaces, nor were there connections to services I could seek out. As an adolescent I was afraid of where I would end up, and I was particularly scared of the risks I would have to take to be who I am. I was vulnerable and isolated in my community due to my queer growing pains. My boy troubles were not just about crushes and affection; they were also issues about being male. Through these ambiguities and my shifting relationships, I became hyper-aware of the ways that I didn’t fit in, and distressed by the fact that I couldn’t openly figure things out with my own mob.

particular people in the community, it results in mob who are not counted and not cared for. My community is not special in this regard. There is a widespread failure to facilitate LGBTIQ+ inclusion. Broader regional medical services are significantly more challenging to navigate for both the Aboriginal and LGBTIQ+ communities, let alone queer Indigenous peoples. This is why it is vital that community lead the way. Physical and emotional dislocation is a common narrative in current media representations of queer Indigenous experiences, in which Indigenous LGBTIQ+ peoples express fraught relationships with home. We frequently seek out safer queer and Indigenous spaces and undertake the process of physical relocation, often to urban centres. We also navigate relationships with local Indigenous communities

ALTHOUGH I DO NOT LIVE on country today I am still connected to my community in many ways. I see what’s ahead on community pages on Facebook, through relatives who work in community, as well as via the social grapevine. Through these connections, I am able to maintain a critical eye on the challenges that our queer mob face in community. In my region, the running of men and women’s groups is in some ways problematic and normative, as these programs are sometimes exclusionary and alienating for LGBTIQ+ people who want to participate. From that position, I am aware of the ways normative gender and sexual practices take authority in the space. When that authority has a disregard for


while contending with spaces and places claimed by settler queer peoples. Aligning with these narratives of relocation, I originally moved from community to seek a space to, for lack of a more nuanced description, be myself. Being myself goes beyond identifying as queer. I want to explore gender and not experience violence, alienation and isolation. I also want that space to be safe to be Aboriginal and free of gender and sexual requirements that are used to authenticate my Indigeneity. Most of all, I want to live a queer Indigenous life on my traditional homeland. WHILE STRUGGLING WITH eventual dislocation from community, I have found a sense of purpose by pushing boundaries and claiming space in academia. After moving to Wollongong and beginning undergraduate courses at

the University of Wollongong, I met Professor Carlson, who became my PhD supervisor. Her leadership, proactive solidarity and acceptance of LGBTIQ+ Indigenous peoples has in many ways permitted me to challenge Indigenous Studies and build interdisciplinary challenges to the broader university landscape. Professor Carlson is now Head of Department and I am an academic fellow working on the unceded lands of the Wattamattagal clan of the Darug nation claimed by Macquarie University. The Indigenous Studies Unit has forwarded a vision to revitalise and innovate Indigenous Studies at Macquarie through new curriculum and research. These developments are situated within a longstanding institution named after a settler whose role in early colonies involved military strikes against Aboriginal peoples including the Appin massacre. By acknowledging this problematic juncture, we continue to name and resist silence and exclusion to better reflect and accommodate our vision so that both Aboriginal and LGBTIQ+ people may be able to navigate a space which is largely recognised and criticised as unwelcome to both. We are unapologetically proud and inclusive, and aim to materialise those values in our place within the institution as a beacon for Indigenous LGBTIQ+ peoples both nationally and globally. I am a part of the academic staff and a doctoral student. My thesis is on Indigenous LGBTIQ+ communities online. I am working on multiple research projects, doing a thesis by publication, and developing new courses. My team is developing an Introduction to Indigenous Queer Studies course (ABST1030), in which I and other Indigenous LGBTIQ+ scholars will articulate the historical and current experiences of Indigenous LGBTIQ+ peoples. It is the

first course of its kind in Australia and will be available through Open Universities Australia beginning in 2020. Across the semester we will investigate the complex and layered gendered, sexual and racial dimensions of prevalent social issues. One of my many aims with this course is to boost the literacy of students who will potentially work with and for Indigenous peoples in any capacity. Assignments, lectures and tutorials are built to provoke critical awareness and demonstrate sensitivities to our diverse communities. It will have an impact and hold currency outside of the university space as a skill set. I have found this to be already true as students reflect on the ways that Indigenous Studies helps them in their current workplaces. Within the framework of cultural diversity, there must be a recognition of gender and sexual diversity. ABST1030 addresses that. BEYOND TEACHING, I AM also involved in projects around social media, interpersonal relationships, online safety and violence. Through these projects, our unit has created visual resources that introduce communities to the issue of online violence, safety and inclusion. These are materials that can be displayed in medical and community centres, and are designed and marketed specifically for Indigenous organisations and audiences. Through collaborative design, these posters introduce community to the prevalence of LGBTIQ+ violence online. They will undertake a journey in which they will be displayed, rejected, vandalised and torn. On the optimistic side, they will be seen, provoke a discussion, and have longevity on the walls of these spaces. This project ultimately aims to highlight the experience of LGBTIQ+ Indigenous peoples in relation to place and space between community, community


services and the digital terrain where LGBTIQ+ Indigenous peoples experience complex positions as insiders and outsiders, included and excluded, visible and invisible. At a time when we are discussing treaty, voice and truth-telling processes, it is important that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are critical of diversity, autonomy and inclusion. Bringing to light struggles of queer diversity is complex, both between Indigenous and colonial nation states and between and across Indigenous peoples. These sites are struggles of colonial gender and sexual norms which must be understood and interrogated for our Indigenous LGBTIQ+ community to feel that we matter and belong. Diversity work is messy, no doubt, but inclusive and culturally autonomous coalition-building is essential for future Indigenous advancement. What is important to me is that cultural spaces adapt where it is vital for the wellbeing of our marginalised and oppressed. These discussions become more accessible when our physical space provides us with an opportunity to mediate unspoken tensions. It does take a lot more than posters to bring about inclusion and acceptance, but these material objects and their display can hold power in a path of articulation. Andrew Farrell is a Indigenous Early Career Academic Fellow in the Department for Indigenous Studies, Macquarie University. Andrew is a Wodi Wodi descendant from Jerrinja Aboriginal community on the South Coast of NSW. His research is multidisciplinary with a focus on Aboriginal LGBTIQ+ gender and sexualities, media and online studies, and drag performance. Andrew is also undertaking a PhD project titled ‘Aboriginal LGBTIQ peoples online’.

Drummond Street’s Queerspace is proud to launch a silent auction of: KEEPING By emerging Visual Artist Daniel McDonald sized at 1980mm x 1980mm The goal is to raise at least $8,000 TO BID: https://www.

Proceeds will go to

A proud LGBTQI Gadigal and Wonnarua man living with a disability, Daniel was taught to paint by his grandmother and Aunty Mumma Shirl (Shirley Coleen Smith (1921–1998), a wellknown inner- Sydney-based community worker and activist). Daniel is auctioning this work to raise funds and awareness for Indigenous Australians living with a disability, particularly if they also identify as LGBT. For more info on Daniel McDonald:

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