It feels like a million years ago now, that I sat listening to this song with my then boyfriend not long before we discovered we were pregnant. Before we decided we had to get married. Before our fun and carefree relationship turned into something dark and desperate… before our close friends split up and tore us down the middle, before the birth of our child, before the death of my closest friend and before the weight of the lies did damage that neither of us could repair.

In those somewhat blissful days ‘before’ it would have been impossible to imagine the wound that would open us all up, the heartache that lay ahead for all of us just under the surface; crafted by every choice we were making. Yet somehow there it sat right in front of us, our future, as undetectable as a land mine. Those days we used to spend the morning in the cool water of the waves off the point. Riding long cruisy waves as the sun came up. We would sit on the beach and warm our hands on hot cups of sweet tea, sharing cigarettes and watching the swell stretch across the black sand. We would laugh at each other and we would kiss and we would hike through the jungle to secret beaches where we could be alone without the watchful eyes of culture and religion. I was escaping my world and he was pulling me willingly headfirst under the surface of his. We were foolish and carefree.

The year I turned 26 my afternoons were spent lounging in hammocks with my best friend, reading books, playing cards and balancing ice cold long necks of bintang between my knees… we told the time by the call to prayer and we could tell who was singing by the quality of their tune. Every now and then he would drop by, when there was no swell, to lay on the cool tiles between us, a speaker balanced on his bare chest and a smoke in his mouth. Together we would drink a bit, dance a bit and then we would all three pile on to one motorbike, surfboards balanced either side, tucked under arms, digging into thighs, sunburn itching and sandy faces pressed against the back of salty hair. We would always surf until dark.

When I listen to anything by Joshua Radin I’m reminded of all the good in us, all three of us, before the rug was pulled out beneath us. I remember his face, skin the colour of dark chocolate from a life spent in the surf, the dark pools of his eyes like coffee stains and his lips like peeling paint. There was a casual authority in the way that he moved.

These songs were the soundtrack to our days, they mirrored us in rhyme and rhythm. It was the soundtrack to one of his first surf films, footage taken by whoever was available to hold the camera. Setting up tripods and hiding from the sun under towels on the beach, while we watched him dance across the waves. Now he’s in every magazine, his brown body splashed across the pages, his smile, his style, his presence – belongs to them.

I still love (t)his music,even now, a whole world away from him with dishes piled high on the bench, crayons all over the floor. Neither of those people I loved a part of my every day life, one gone forever and the other just a voice on the other side of the computer – separated by broken promises. But we listen, Bo and I, and I tell her stories of all of the good. The stories of the days that she came from – my hedonistic life of sand and heat and coconuts eaten straight from the tree.

So we listen. And we laugh. And we lay next to the woodfire, defrosting our frozen toes as we talk about palm trees and black sand and coconuts eaten straight from the tree.

Music, much like food, has a habit of dragging me home – even when I’m not quite ready to go.

  • July 3, 2015 - 6:45 pm

    becky McIntosh - Although I can see you’re healing, my heart aches for you as I read. Blessings on you, and your journey forward, and your memories. XReplyCancel

“You can learn as much from your privilege as you can from your oppression,
but only if you’re aware of it and only if you have consciousness.” – Cheryl Strayed 

If your friendship group is anything like mine, your Facebook feed is probably crowded with little rainbow covered profile pictures celebrating the equal rights to marriage laws that were passed recently in the USA. Maybe yours is too – just as mine is. Maybe you are gay, maybe you are straight, maybe you sit somewhere else on the sexuality spectrum – maybe you see yourself as an ally for LGBTIQ rights.

For those of you who may not know, when I get up and go to work I do so working in the LGBTIQ youth space. I work one on one with young people and our regional community to make this part of the world a safer place for queer kids to be themselves and to access services that will help them overcome the adversity that they often face growing up gay, bi, transgender in regional australia, where discrimination is rife and homophobia is more often than not seen as just a way of life. We aren’t Melbourne. We aren’t Sydney. We don’t have gay bars. The nightclubs can be a rough place down here if you don’t fit into the socially accepted boxes (or even if you do).

I work in this profession not only because I am an advocate for social change and because it’s an important cause… I work in this profession because I’m passionate about it, because of who I am and how I identify. I was marching in marriage equality rallies in my early twenties with my girlfriend and our friends, I was marching in marriage equality rallies in my late teens with my boyfriend, and more recently I’ve been marching in marriage equality rallies with my three year old child – I march not because I care that much about the sanctity of marriage, because I don’t. As a radical feminist who once married for cultural and religious reasons and is now divorced – it’s unlikely I’ll ever walk down the aisle again.

For most of us who are the voice of equality and diversity and social change in the country, marriage equality in Australia has very little to do with marriage at all.

It has very little to do with marriage and everything to do with true equality. It’s not going to solve the deep rooted problems of discrimination that have become the dirty vein that runs just under the surface of Australian modern culture… but it’s a bloody good step in the right direction.

Young people who are diverse in sexuality and gender (for those of you that aren’t up with the lingo: gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, pan romantic, asexual, transgender, intersex or a multitude of other terms that people are using to explain and explore their sexual and gender identities) are more likely to suffer from mental illness, they are more likely to be homeless, more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, to disengage from school, to engage in risky sexual activity, to disengage socially. This isn’t because they are diverse in sexuality or gender, it has nothing to do with who they are attracted to, who they sleep with or how they dress… it has everything to do with the shit they have to put up with from their families, from their teachers, from their society as a whole. These kids are at a higher risk of suicide than their peers because their society says they aren’t equal… because their society cares about who they want to sleep with.

One step in the right direction is marriage equality, it says once and for all – the way YOU love is equal to the way I love. You have the right to choose how and when you commit to the person you love in any way you want… you don’t have to explain that love to us.

Instead, Australia makes a joke out of  marriage by creating a reality TV show out of the ‘supposed’ arranged marriages of heterosexual couples for ratings.

Another awesome thing you can do is support the equal opportunities commission and their safer schools project as it rolls out across the country, making school safer for queer kids to be who they are, to hold hands with who they want, to make out with whoever they want behind the bike shed just like every other kid who goes there. Unfortunately homophobia is most rife at school and often teachers are the worst culprits for the discrimination – either directly or indirectly.

Isn’t it time that we just love whoever we want to love without having to make such a big deal about it? I mean, what business is it of anyone else’s who I sleep with, who you sleep with, who that kid down the road wishes they could sleep with.

Our sexual and/or gender identity is only ONE part of who we are. It doesn’t define us as a whole, it’s just one little part making up a whole unique and individual being. Isn’t it time we stop with the pigeon holes and the oppression and we start loving people for who they are without condition?

Covering your profile picture in a rainbow isn’t going to cut it – though don’t get me wrong, it’s a decent start. But for you, for me, for all of us – there is so much more that we should do:

Be radical. Be the straight ally that actually stands up and says ‘hey you know what, this doesn’t affect me personally but I really care.’

Recognise your privilege. If you are white, middle class, straight – raise your voice. Be willing to give up a bit of that privilege in order to be heard – sometimes standing up for what is important is uncomfortable. A true ally steps up to the plate instead of sitting on the sidelines – noone is going to make you kiss a girl or wear sequins or dance around in a g-string (though none of that would be a bad thing anyway).

Stop being patient. Being patient is not a political strategy. Telling people to be patient is not useful, it’s a sign of privelege and total disregard for the shit that someone else is feeling. There is no time like now.

Recognise discrimination when you see it. Homophobia, Biphobia and transphobia are very real – learn how to spot oppression when it’s happening and never sit by in silence when you hear it. Discrimination based on sexuality and/or gender is against the law in this country… don’t stand for it in the line for coffee, don’t stand for it at school, don’t stand for it in your friendship group or workplace – it’s bullshit and whoever is dishing it out deserves to be called out.

Love. Loving yourself, loving your friends, loving your neighbours. Love really is the answer. People are who they are, when we love them and accept them and celebrate them for exactly who they are – we give them the gift of acceptance, it’s a human need, it does a lot of good for the soul.

Maybe in the future, when everyone who truly believes in equality starts standing up for it, when we get equal marriage rights in Australia (I’m calling it by the end of the year, regardless of our ridiculous leadership) – maybe then it will start a butterfly effect that encourages a compassionate revolution that ends discrimination in general.

Last year we took a group of young people up to the city to the Perth Pride Parade. They were flying high on the sheer power of being seen as themselves. During the march one of the young people turned to me and said, ‘it’s as if it’s the first time I’ve ever walked.’ There is an enormous amount of power in being seen after being oppressed for so long…

Have you ever felt that way?

I truly believe that we have the balls to create an equal world where sexuality, race, gender and religion have no bearings on how a person is treated. That we can not only talk about equality, but really live in it too. Where our kids don’t have to apologise for who they love or who they are.

I might be then out of a job but that would be ok by me – I always liked pulling beers anyway.

  • July 1, 2015 - 3:28 pm

    Michelle Perkins - Sash, Thank you for writing this. It’s so important. From one radical intersectional feminist to another, I freaken love your work. xxxxxxReplyCancel

    • July 1, 2015 - 3:31 pm

      Sash - Thanks lady! xxxReplyCancel

  • July 2, 2015 - 12:21 pm

    Erin - It’s been amazing to see the rainbow explosion on social media but I can’t help but feel a sour taste in my mouth at the thought of people changing their profile picture and doing nothing else. I’ve got a lot of gay friends & family members and stand up for them whenever I encounter any sort of prejudice, so to see some of those people I’ve had to have debates with change their icons to a rainbow it just feels a bit weird. I hope that they sincerely do support LGBT+ rights now and that their opinions have changed, but it’s hard not to be wary. Either way,it’s a step in the right direction. Love and equality will in out in the end, even if you have to drag people kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

    Erin | Being ErinReplyCancel

  • July 2, 2015 - 1:00 pm

    Reannon @shewhorambles - This is the best thing I’ve read all week & the line‘it’s as if it’s the first time I’ve ever walked.’ made me cry. Bloody great writing Sash xReplyCancel

  • July 2, 2015 - 1:04 pm

    slowmamma - There are moments when I feel a little trapped by my city (SF Bay Area) because I need my children to grow up in a place of love and acceptance. But days like these make me hopeful that we don’t need to live in a bubble. Social change is slow but it does happen.ReplyCancel

To say I was having a rough week, would have been a great understatement.

I set up my study a few weeks ago, finally turning our back dodgy ‘sunroom’ add on into the study it was always supposed to be. A place to work brings the motivation for work, right? I’m not sure about that but it has been nice to have the piles of research papers off the floor in my bedroom where they have lived in various houses over the past twelve months.

In the process of unpacking a total of five large boxes of writing, personal essays and memoirs I came across a piece of butchers paper that I have always known was there and have avoided for at least nine years now. On that piece of paper is the results of an exercise I did during an ‘ego dissolving’ class when I was studying acting at drama school. We used to do these classes under the premise that for us to be the best actors that we could be, we needed to start as a blank canvas, without ego, without hangups and baggage. I was too young to understand any of that. I was far too vulnerable to be able to embrace it as fully as I should have.

It was a hot Melbourne afternoon and I was sitting in a bright studio with my class mates, in our blacks, armed with large sheets of paper and sharpies. We were told that we have a set of inner voices that put us down. The voice of the negative child, the positive child, the negative parent, the positive parent and the adult. We were asked to write all of our inner voices and what they say on that piece of paper. We were told that none would see them. We were given all afternoon the delve into the depths of our minds and pour our inner secrets onto the page. At the end of the day we were asked to pin the pages up on the walls of the studio for everyone to see.

I pinned mine up and walked out.

I don’t remember how I got it back, I suppose it was put on my locker the following day… but here it was now, sitting on top of a box, ten years later and I was terrified to read it. Terrified of reading all of the things I used to say to myself. Terrified that I wouldn’t understand them. Terrified that maybe they hadn’t changed.

I pinned the paper up on the wall of my house, glad that Bo can’t read yet and for a week I lived with my own voices. I was relieved to find I’m not nearly as unkind to myself now as I was when I was nineteen. I’m not nearly as insecure. There is lots of good in growing up isn’t there? We get kinder to ourselves.

I had a fever after that (not because of it) and found myself stuck to my couch for days on end, thinking. All that time thinking isn’t good for anyone… especially for an over thinker like me.

I went to work, I took Bo to daycare, we did the grocery shopping, I ran orientations when we had them… but besides that we stayed home, hiding from the rain, meditating on tea and worrying thinking about the state of the world and those who inhabit it.

When I emerged from my house I realised that my neighbour who I don’t even know, had mowed my lawn, in the pouring rain. The simple kindness cracked me open and brought me back to the surface.

A few days later Bo and I got up early and baked an orange and blackberry pound cake. We pulled it out of the oven and complete with oven mitts and gumboots walked through the rain, down the driveway and around the picket fence to deliver it hot from the oven to a surprised neighbour and her kids at breakfast time.

Because kindness wins. Kindness to ourselves. Kindness to our neighbours.

Kindness wins. Every time.