Monday, October 30, 2006

More tools for the toolkit - or in my case handbag

I've continued to have various conversations with queer women about relationship dramas; about why we do what we do - over-commit, under-value ourselves and set ourselves up as the president of our partner's fanclub - regardless of the fact that they may not be nearly fabulous enough to keep company with our amazing queer girl selves...I thought I'd share some more thoughts - some gained through therapy, some just through my own digging about.

1. If they tell you they can't do relationships right now, or that they aren't emotionally available - they mean it! They are giving you all the information right then and there! Thank them and LISTEN! If you are up for casual play with an uncertain expiry date, then by all means, have fun - but if not, or if you change your mind at a certain point, run like the wind in another direction. If someone has told you they aren't looking for a relationship right now, and you get involved and expect them to change their mind, you have no right to get angry if they don't. You can be disappointed, sad and wallow all you like, but it's not fair to get angry coz someone doesn't want the same things you do.

2. I've learn recently that I have put past partners on pedestals, looking through rose coloured glasses, and then, I put so much love and care into that person, supporting them in everything they do in the hopes of them putting me on a pedestal in their lives. How deeply manipulative are the arts of default femininity.We are trai
ned to do this as women, of course, but really, isn't it creepy and passive-aggressive? Instead of admitting vulnerability and need, and just asking to be loved and nurtured in the way I want to be; becoming indispensable, being so much more unselfish and supportive than any previous partner in order to win love, adoration and gratitude from a partner, in order to addict them as much as I am addicted to the warm-and-fuzzy relationship rush..... Eeewwww.I kinda knew about this dynamic for a long time, but making a connection with how manipulative and unethical it is spurs on my efforts to unlearn this toxic sludge.Which harks back to my earlier words... love yourself as you would a partner. Work out what kind of supports and caring you get from relationships and start practicing them on yourself. Invest all that love energy on yourself and your own life. Buy your own damn flowers.... take yourself to dinner and a movie..... become president of your own fan club.... write lists of all your best qualities (see if you can come up with at least 100)....... masturbate every day at least twice....... congratulate yourself whenever you demonstrate self-valuing behaviour or assertiveness...... ask for what you want. It is only the under-resourced, the trapped and the needy that need to manipulate others. If you fill yourself full to the brim with self-value, and resource yourself by practicing assertiveness you won't need to manipulate. If you treat yourself well enough, you won't be so needy as to fall into an incompatible relationship and have to twist it around until it fits.

3. Ultimately, you have very little control over the actions of another person. You can't trick, force or convince someone to love you, to treat you better or to meet your needs. Save gifts, letters explaining your point of view and why change needs to happen, flattery, post-break up sex designed to erase all memory of the break up. Invest that energy instead into walking away with as much grace and dignity as possible (not for them, who cares what they think - but for you so you'll have less to cringe over later), and putting into self care.

4. Remember that romantic relationships are one aspect of your life.... being single is not a death sentence. There is so much else going on in your life, or should be. Relying on a partner to fill up an otherwise empty life is also a bit creepy, and applies way too much
pressure on them.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Sex Workers Reclaiming the Night

I really enjoyed marching for Reclaim The Night.
A reasonably big sex worker and supporter contigent - and with two large banners, and several smaller signs - we managed to make the march look, to the casual observer, like a sex worker rights parade.Which makes perfect sense from the following article from the Sydney Morning Herald :

Sheik was 'out of line'
Elicia Murray
October 26, 2006 - 10:31AMo
Trad: Mufti comments misrepresented

At least one Muslim leader has branded the Australia's Mufti "out of line" for his comments blaming immodestly dressed women for sexual assault.The former secretary of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Shujat Mantoo, said the Sheik Taj Aldin Alhilali was probably out of line, but he defended the Muslim cleric's right to stay in Australia."There would be many people like [the sheik] who uphold those views, and there would be among mainstream Christians, but we don't simply deport them. We educate them," Mr Mantoo said.Sheik Alhilali's comments were delivered in a Ramadan sermon to 500 worshippers in Sydney last month, a newspaper report said.He blamed women who "sway suggestively" and who wore makeup and no hijab (Islamic scarf) for sexual attacks.

"If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it ... whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat," he said."The uncovered meat is the problem."If she was in her room, in her home, in her hajib, no problem would have occurred."

Sheik Alhihali said that he only meant to refer to prostitutes as meat, and not any scantily clad woman without a hijab.

Mr Mantoo said the sheik was probably entrenched the Egyptian culture he was brought up in."Prostitutes ... enjoy the same rights as any other woman or man in this country and if he has said that he has to understand that there is equality before the law."He likened the cleric's views to those of some elderly judges, who were out of step with mainstream society's standards.Sheik Alhilali's comments have drawn strong criticism from some federal politicians and the federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward, who said he should be sacked and deported."It is incitement to a crime. Young Muslim men who now rape women can cite this in court, can quote this man ... their leader in court," she told the Nine Network.

"It's time we stopped just saying he should apologise. It is time the Islamic community did more then say they were horrified. I think it is time he left."

Treasurer Peter Costello branded the comments "totally unacceptable". Mr Costello called for Muslim leaders to condemn the comments, disassociate themselves from them, and pull their leader into line.Sheik Alhihali said that he only meant to refer to prostitutes as meat, and not any scantily clad woman without a hijab.Mr Mantoo said the sheik was probably entrenched the Egyptian culture he was brought up in."Prostitutes ... enjoy the same rights as any other woman or man in this country and if he has said that he has to understand that there is equality before the law."He likened the cleric's views to those of some elderly judges, who were out of step with mainstream society's standards.Sheik Alhilali's comments have drawn strong criticism from some federal politicians and the federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward, who said he should be sacked and deported."It is incitement to a crime. Young Muslim men who now rape women can cite this in court, can quote this man ... their leader in court," she told the Nine Network."It's time we stopped just saying he should apologise. It is time the Islamic community did more then say they were horrified. I think it is time he left."Treasurer Peter Costello branded the comments "totally unacceptable". Mr Costello called for Muslim leaders to condemn the comments, disassociate themselves from them, and pull their leader into line.

Some of us earlier in the day were outraged that the notion that if women sat quietly at home we would be safe from sexual violence still had currency. We were discussing marching in nothing but hijabs... but it would be an obscure and tricky way of communicating a message, and would risk getting interpreted as anti-Islamic. For me the fact that so many people still believe that the rape of sex workers is any less heinous that that of any other person makes me want to scream. Have we done such a bad job at educating society that rape is about power - that it is a form of violence - that although rape might look like sex, THE DIFFERENCE IS CONSENT - what determines if something is an assault is if it occurs without consent.

I believe that sex work is one of the most consensual forms of sexual contact. So many aspects of sex are taken for granted in a relationship - or even casual sex context - that just aren't in the commercial sex context. Kissing on the lips, cunnilingus, natural french (fellatio without a condom) are all negotiated - not just expected. As the commercial sex exchange is such a heavily negotiated exchange - where as an ideal, sex workers have the maximum amount of control over what occurs - why would non-consensual sexual contact be somehow more acceptable?

I believe that all rapes are in fact hate crimes. When your ability to have control over your own body and choices are disregarded by another - what else can you call it? Rape as a weapon of war, rape as a form of punishment, rape as a form of control: "If she was in her room, in her home, in her hajib, no problem would have occurred."

Monday, October 23, 2006

Drag Queen Femininity

I was at Carmen's 70th birthday party Saturday night. I don't know her very well, but I enjoyed paying homage to a Sydney icon much more spectacular and much warmer and friendlier than the Opera House.

It was a bit of a whore fest for me, with several Debbys and other local sex worker activists in attendance. Yah for the tiny bit of whore community in Sydney - and I look forward to playing a part in it's growth and development.

The room was full of gorgeous Maori, Cook Island and Australian transwomen and drag queens. There was also two big floor shows - drag extravaganza! The problem with so much drag experienced all in one night is the sense I had afterward of failed femininity. Ordinarily I feel quite comfortable with my femme status, but last night, I felt inadequate. My emotions, jewelery and hair just isn't big enough! I don't wear enough sequins!

Mostly, I like being a low maintenance femme - I'm not the slightest bit princessy - I'm easy going and easy to be around. I have too much in the way of middle class manners to throw big diva like tantrums. However, I do have a bit of admiration for what I call the drag queen version of femininity - more means more, Elizabeth Taylor in her prime/ Zsa Zsa
Gabor life style. Live big, demand more. I think sometimes (particularly in Sydney) shameless self-promoters get what they want, and the squeaky wheel gets the oil.

However, I have to accept that activism and drag queen femininity don't necessarily mix. While I can easily march in a protest in heels and a pencil skirt, activist movements aren't (or shouldn't be) the space for divas. I'm far more interested in building community and supporting progressive change for my communities than it all being about me.

It's only since spending time in the Sydney butch-femme community that my sense of being 'femme enough' was ever a concern. The policing and competition in small communities never fails to amaze me. It's played out in every community I've ever participated in, and it shocks and saddens me each and every time. However, I find myself buying into this stuff - not so much a policing of other's behaviour, but a scrutiny of my own. It's funny how that sense of being a teenager wanting to fit in never really leaves the psyche.....

I find it interesting that my models for femme aren't yet other femme dykes, but are still transwomen and drag queens. I find the acknowledgement of femme - and gender itself as performative (" We all came into this world naked, the rest of it is all drag." Ru Paul) and the bravery and grace demonstrated by the gender queer women in my life to still rock my world. The idea that flawlessly silky femininity isn't marred by large hands and feet, adams apples or voices of a lower register makes it more accessable - even to non-transwomen. I love the idea that femininity is so very precious and desirable that you will go to great lengths to acquire it. That is how I feel about it also.

Friday, October 20, 2006

A Retraction

I take back some of my earlier comments on the Hair Monster post.... apparently it takes a femme to know what to do with all that hair....

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Fine Romance...

I've been single for a whole year now. And I intend to be single for a good period of time still. I have a pattern when a significant relationship ends... I crawl into a hole and die for a while... spend some time grieving.... spend a short period of time shagging madly.... then fall madly in love and build (my version of) a white picket fence all over again and start playing wifey. My version of wifey is a very queer version - negotiated non-monogamy, sex work and kink - but I'll still bake cookies.

I'm currently wanting to extend my madly shagging period for as long as is possible, in order to spend as much time unlearning ingrained relationship behaviours that I can. I've spoken to several friends about these issues, and (I don't know whether to be glad about this or not) it's not just me. No matter how queer we all are, how feminist, how into alternative relationship models - the Hallmark sentiments still resonate with many, many queer women.

Still over-looking obvious issues with a partner or prospective partner's character. Still valuing a partner or prospective partner's interests, goals and needs over our own. Still putting the 'relationship' in a central place in our lives, and putting more energy into it than our careers, hobbies or passions. Still changing or downplaying our uniqueness or things that are ordinarily of huge importance to us in order to not freak out a partner or prospective partner. Still feeling completely wrecked when relationships end.

How many women (regardless of their sexuality) put the same amount of passion and energy into their jobs as they do their relationships? If more of us did - we could well be running the world by now - rather than just shouldering the world (Atlas was a Titan in Greek mythology, who as a punishment held the world on his shoulders - I never really bought the idea that a male was really in that position - it's usually a woman holding up more tha
n her fair share of the world). Queer women may have particular issues that cause us to over-devote to relationships. Mental health issues are rife within the queer community (an affect of stigma), and our partners may be particularly needy as a result. Some of us have genderqueer , transgender or intersex partners, who may need special support. Often isolation and stigma that we are experiencing may mean relationships and the intimacy experienced in them may be especially important to us.

And let's face it - regardless of who you are - how many healthy relationship models are you presented with? Popular culture is full of knight-on-a-white-horse riding in to save you from the mundane images. "I'm nothing without you"; "I'd die if you left me".

I'm really interested at the moment in the idea that you can focus on changing behaviour and the attitude shift will follow. So one of the things I'm finding helpful right now is paying attention to other areas of my life - my work, projects, friendships and spirituality. This means that I'm not allowing any room for romance to rear it's head, and if anyone appears who has enough amazing qualities to tempt me in that area, hopefully, I'll only have so much time to squeeze them in. Spending time living alone and pursuing my interests and goals has made me a happier, more fulfilled person with better self-esteem. I'm less needy because I know how to meet my own needs. I'm laughing more, I'm more playful and more relaxed than I ever was in those unsatisfying, unbalanced and controlling relationships. I'm so proud of myself for tackling depression head-on and making amazing in-roads - all because I could devote all my time, energy and motivation to my own wellness.

I guess what I'm saying is that a happy, busy person is less likely to put her whole self in to a relationship - particularly a unsatisfactory one. Someone who demonstrates tremendous self-care and self-valuing is less likely to lose her sense of self by being too much of a care-taker in an unequal relationship. And instead of rescuing our partners - how exciting would it be if we could rescue ourselves?

Monday, October 16, 2006

On Depression, Liberation and Outness

About a week ago I spent time discussing birth order and it's affect on personality - as a youngest child I am apparently the joker/ trickster entertainer - using humour and razzle-dazzle to distract from the serious stuff that is the chunky filling of life to the oldest child. I did spend quite a bit of time choosing bright feathers to wear before visiting my parents when we were still in contact. They must have wondered sometimes if they accidently gave birth to Liberace (I was considering writing a femme Liberace - but that would be redundant, really)

Discussing my costume took up at least 20 minutes if it was spectacular enough. Something to break up the safety of mundane conversational topics of the garden, recipes and my cats. Even more mundane was the guarantee of those topics that were off limits - my partner's transition to living full time as a woman, my sex work, my sex worker rights activism, the range of mental health issues present in my family, the fact that both my sister and one of my nieces were shacked up with dealers...

I wasn't ever the kind of person that could feel safe and comfortable in a closet. I'm a lousy liar, and better skilled at disarming honesty. Even though I was out about everything with my parents; the fact that everything meaningful to me couldn't ever be spoken about and that my mother was even angrier with my need to share my freakish perversion with her, rather than just doing it and never talking about it probably contributed enormously to my depression at the time.

Lack of responsibility is a huge label applied to the youngest child in the family, and in many ways, being diagnosed with depresson was so liberating, because it meant I wasn't lazy, unmotivated or irresponsible. In many ways, dealing with depression meant challenging my super-ego and it's limiting beliefs that sex working in order to fund my activism and fetish shoe habils, while off saving the world weren't as valid as being at university or some other more culturally supported activity.

I now feel pretty damn responsible, actually. I feel that some of the most responsible things I've done is to be fearlessly out and proud, and attempting to create community spaces for sex workers. I think occuping fringe areas is being very responsible, as it is the progressives and fringe elements that create change and move society forward.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Three things that have made me happy this month:

1 The return of Gurlesque! I was at the October 1st Gurlesque Sleaze Recovery, and was very, very happy to attend the first show of the season. It occurred to me how healthy and thriving the dyke/ queer women's alternative sex culture in Sydney is right now, and how important Gurlesque is to cultural change - the huge variety of acts on the one stage - lots with political content, or just very queer, and celebrating of diversity makes me very warm and fuzzy.

A huge highlight for me was Wife's piece. Beautifully cut (and later cut through) black satin frock, images of queer, anti-racism, sex worker rights, women's and broad left activism flashing up on the screen, red beads, silver sparkly stilettos, gorgeous lingerie and "Love is a Battlefield". Wife is always so amazing - a lovely, articulate, passionate, present femme woman. An inspiring human being as well as a performer. I love her use of trad-femme props - the name Wife, fabrics, sewing, fashion, cooking in a way that makes them metaphors for dissent, protest and empowerment, rather than buying into seeing femme frippery as inherently mundane, silly or symbols of oppression.

I also spent some of my time at Gurlesque buying loads of pussy pounds and tipping the cage dancers. I'm not usually that comfortable in the buyer mode; however it feels important for women consumers of erotic entertainment (stripping, sex work and porn) to get out the money and adequately reward the workers. While the cage dancers at Gurlesque may not always be professionals, it's about shifting the cultural messages that say that women don't pay for it. I'm hoping to lead by example.

Another highlight for me was that Zoo was one of the cage dancers, wearing her new cock and not much else. I had lots of fun giving her Spanish and blow jobs while tipping. Also leading by example in this area, it seems, as people stated being much more interactive with the cage dancers after that.

2 In preparation for an intense phase of concept development for performance pieces for the afore mentioned December Debby Show, I've been spending some (at the moment quite rare) free time steeping myself in sex worker culture. I've particularly enjoyed revisiting my long-term goal of promoting adelie penguins, one of the few (recognised) non-human species that engage in sex for gain, as mascots for the sex worker rights movement. This article , this one and this one are the basis of my obsession. I have also found joy in the fact that I can get stuffed Adelie penguins on line.

3. I seem to be on top (which is always good for me) of my latest depression episode. About six to eight weeks ago I started noticing a return of early depression symptoms. Increased sleeping difficulties, decreased motivation and concentration span. I've been off meds since the new year, and 2006 has been about self-care and a focus on mental health as a way of life for me. Some of the strategies that I've found really helpful have been: working through it - just head down, push on through stuff - being stronger and more focused that the depression, long brisk walks for about 5 - 8 hours, really committeded socialising and building up networks in Sydney, and saying affirmations (sounding like a complete egotist as I'm doing so, but it actually works).

When I recognised this new episode for what it was, I was really frightened - I know that after a decade of chronic depression, I'm not going to snap out of it easily, but I was terrified of losing the gains I'd made so far and slipping back into despair. What I did was immediately made a counselling appointment, informed my boss of my concerns and the possible affects on my work, and increased my busyness levels. I've found I can out-walk depression, and generally keep my body in constant motion (something about keeping the metabolism sped up seems to do great things for the seretonin levels. Having a brain too full of work, socialising and short and medium-term plans is also helpful at keeping the cognitive distortion negative thinking stuff at bay.

So my life feels pretty fabby right now. I feel very much in control of my mental health, and although pretty over-loaded and sleep deprived, I have so many joyful moments all the time, and some special things on the horizon. The best part is that all of the things that are important to me - sex worker activism, my pride and outness, my sex radicalism, my queerness, my femme identity, are all intact and nurtured.

Anyone who tells you you have to conform more, get in the closet (any closet) or develop hobbies that involve more knitting and less saving the world in order to find peace, stability or good mental health are lying and deeply cynical. Sometimes I feel that being true to the complex creature I am is the real achievement of my life. To discover I can maintain my messy, careening, passionate self and find community and emerge from depression is awe-inspiring. Blessed Be.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Hair monster

The deliciously spikey one (Zoo) took this photo of me during lounge room picnic on Sunday. I've decided that I'm nothing but a life support system for my hair.

When you have hair that permanently looks like it's just been fucked - it's easy to slip into a space where your hair becomes a sex organ - draping, flicking, tickling,- using as bondage rope for piercings. I shed hair whereever I go. On clients, on lovers, on friends - long brunette strands - I mark my territory (at least it's more polite than pissing on legs).

However, despite numerous lovers avowed affection for my hair - very few have treated it as a sex organ - pulling, using as a handle, using as reins, grabbing great handfuls.... The options present themselves but are seldom taken up...

Maybe despite my obviously strength they still can't see past the 'delicate little petal' femininity and are afraid I'd break. So my hair fucks but goes unfucked. Did someone say stone?

The Pick-up line of the century

“You’re really beautiful, and you’d look even better with your fingers up my arse”

I was delivered this line a couple of weeks ago; it was so good, I had to record it.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Debby Alert!

Debby Doesn't Do It For Free Presents:

the Ho Ho Ho Christmas Variety Show

(we promise there will be at least 3 hos on stage)

With Special guests Kitty Minge and Sex and Glita

Sunday December 10th at the Imperial Hotel

doors open at 6, show starts at 7pm.