CAST LIGHT ON THE SHADOWS LONG.

Seven years ago I wrote the “Shout” post on this blog. It’s over two and a half years since I wrote “Tell me, what’s fear to you?“; the post that went viral and took my words to people all around the world. June marked fifteen years since my Daughter was murdered and next February will be the thirtieth anniversary of her birth. I turned 48 years old myself this week.

In all those years there is one part of the night my Daughter Number One was murdered that I have never written about. In her powerhouse performance “Nanette” Hannah Gadsby talks about how the things we leave out, the things we don’t say, the things we hide from ourselves and from others can end up shaping our narrative. She says “You learn from the part of the story you focus on”.

Last month was the Pride march here. Son Number Two and I were again proud to march with PFLAG. Last year we brought two friends with us. This year we brought five friends with us, mostly young people. Pride, for me, is a celebration of love and community. I see people around me struggling with identity and worth, purpose and meaning and if there’s one thing I can still be certain of, it’s that we really can’t have too much love and community in our lives.

As we marched I was thinking about the “coming out process”; how for some it is momentous and for others it’s anti-climactic. Some feel compelled to make a statement while others think their sexuality is no one’s business but their own. Some fear losing their families, their jobs, their homes, their lives.

It made me think about the #metoo movement; why does anyone speak up? I think the reasons why people don’t speak up, in general, are pretty clear. Whether it’s in a courtroom, the schoolyard, online or in the media the risk for vilification and ridicule are huge. Recently, in Ireland, there have been protests after a lawyer there argued that the teenage survivor’s choice of underwear had been implicit consent to sexual intercourse. While my mind was screaming “WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?” to that there came the heart wrenching response from a Scottish mother whose 17 year old daughter killed herself two weeks after the trial of her rapist, during which she was compelled to hold up her own underwear in the courtroom, three separate times. For fuck’s sake. There are so many valid reasons not to say a word, to anyone, ever.

My Daughter Number One kept her secret. Until she found someone she loved and trusted enough to share it with. Shortly before she died she told her Very Best Friend that her murderer had touched her inappropriately when she was younger. Her Very Best Friend was thirteen years old. In the brief time between her disclosure and her murder, my Daughter and her Very Best Friend argued about her telling someone else. Someone who could do something. The Very Best Friend tried, over and over again, to get her to tell. My Daughter was trying to protect us, her siblings and her mother, that much I know. I don’t know what she had been threatened with to keep her quiet but she was brutally raped and killed, so I don’t doubt her judgement that the threat was real.

The psychologist from the Sexual Assault Unit that I worked with shortly after Daughter Number One’s murder said that, in her opinion, Daughter Number One had been testing the waters by disclosing to the Very Best Friend. She was met with a loving, supportive response. She was listened to and believed. In all likelihood, the psychologist thought, she would have made further disclosures, if only she’d had the time. If only she’d had more time. We all ran out of time.

My Daughter Number One’s Very Best Friend was thirteen years old when she rang him from a public phone box in the dark of night, shortly before she died, to say that she loved him and would miss him. Her murderer spoke to the Very Best Friend and told him that he was letting her call because he “knew how much she loved him”. He was thirteen years old when the police came to his door the next day to tell him my Daughter was dead. He was thirteen when he attended her funeral.

By the time the inquest rocked around her Very Best Friend was fifteen. He was fifteen when he sat through the evidence produced and he was fifteen when it was his turn to sit, alone, in the witness box. So many lives spun off their trajectory when Daughter Number One’s life was savagely ended. The Very Best Friend took paths and made choices that devastated me and I carried the grief and guilt for what had happened to him just as much as I did for what had happened to my Daughter.

I didn’t ever write about the Very Best Friend. He was so young, at first, and then, when he was older my own shame and guilt and reluctance to cause him any more pain kept me quiet. When my post went viral two years ago I had a message from the Very Best Friend. He said that I could write about him if I wanted to. He said he was ok. He said he still missed my Daughter Number One, but that if what happened hadn’t happened he wouldn’t be the person he is now and he’s GOOD with who he is now.

I still haven’t written about him until now. I can’t even tell you why now feels like the right time. Just that I want to honour their friendship and my Daughter’s love for her Very Best Friend. He heard her and he believed her. And I will always love him for that. For my own sake, too, as I scroll through his photos, I need to focus on seeing the Very Best Friend as he is now, a grown man who survived and is good with who he is and where he is at. While I don’t ever expect to not feel guilty for some of the negative impact my Daughter’s death had on the Very Best Friend’s life, I’m thinking maybe I don’t have to carry it around with me every day. I’d rather be proud of him and happy for him, instead.

All of the people and all of their lives and all of their words and all of their hearts and no man is an island. We are all connected and the choices we make every day can literally change lives; our own and other people’s. I was lying in bed in the home of a Beautiful Friend. It was after 1am and, sooner than I was happy to acknowledge, it would be time to get out of bed to babysit her Magic Kid. I was reading Twitter when I saw a Jim Jeffries tweet that Russell Crowe had retweeted. Son Number Two and I had gone to see Jeffries last time he was in town, in a packed Arena holding 10,000 people. I knew he was touring again but I couldn’t afford tickets this time around. In his tweet Jeffries said he’d be at an open mic night in town that night. And I thought to myself that, if my Beautiful Friend came home to her Magic Kid early enough and I made my way home in time, Son Number Two and I should check that out. He’s always up for an adventure and life is short, you know?

The Beautiful Friend arrived home and drove me to my place. Son Number Two and I got ready and by 4.30pm we were on our way into town. We arrived just after 6pm, to find a handful of people outside the club. A young guy in a suit promptly informed us that there was a list for those who had pre-booked and a queue for those who had not. There were many people who had pre-booked and no guarantee of getting in. We joined the queue. Just before the doors opened at 7pm the guy on the door, who had been clicking off the numbers of privileged people on the list as they passed, turned to us and said “You guys will get in. I don’t know about the people at the end of this queue but you will definitely get in!” The half dozen people who were in front of us when we arrived had been found on the list and gone in already, so we were at the head of the queue. And shortly afterwards we were waved up the stairs.

Entering the club a gentleman with an English accent, also looking sharp in a suit, asked me if it were just the two of us and I answered yes. He seated us in the third row, just off centre. We were under three metres from the stage. Phenomenal seats! It would be understating it to say we had a brilliant time. The venue was intimate, the entertainment high quality and the experience sublime. It was a once in a lifetime experience and with all the shit things Son Number Two and I have been through together it was cool to do something that goes partway to balancing the ledger. Everything happened so smoothly to get us there, things falling into place like dominoes. When you factor in all the variables we definitely beat the odds. But sometimes you do. Someone has to, right?

When I spoke to my Daughter Number Two about how her Sister died we talked about the Very Best Friend as well. When Daughter Number Two chose to speak about her Sister for a school public speaking assignment she asked the Very Best Friend for help. When a young friend of her’s wrote to my Daughter Number Two and told her about some risk taking behaviours she was engaging in, she heard her and she believed her. Then my Daughter went and told a trusted adult. She said to me “I was worried she would be angry with me. She was upset, but not with me. I told her about my Sister and why I had to tell.” There are so many reasons not to say a word but there are just as many reasons to speak.

We can never really know all the people who will hear us, or the impact we have by the choices we make. We will never know how far the ripples of our lives will go. But I can guarantee that you will touch many more people in this life than you can possibly imagine. That is your superpower.

Safe onward travel x

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YOU’RE ONLY DANCING ON THIS EARTH FOR A SHORT WHILE.

Does anyone else remember Space Food Sticks? They were these weird snack type thing. The consistency of half dried Play-Doh and with a flavour vaguely reminiscent of chocolate? For some reason I thought of them about a month ago and thought I’d buy some for the nostalgia value. But I couldn’t find any at the supermarket, so I googled them. Apparently production stopped on Space Food Sticks in 2014. Maybe there was a public outcry or a farewell ceremony but if there was I missed it. And now they don’t exist anymore.

Next month will be twenty years since a very dear friend of mine died. I know that because I was pregnant with Son Number Two at the time, and here he is, almost twenty years old. I dreamt about my friend the other night. In my dream I was so happy to see him. After all these years Malcolm, you are still so missed.

Last night I spent a couple of hours putting together a piece for my wall that I have been assembling in my head for weeks and, I guess in one way and another, I have been working on for years. It’s a huge Kmart poster size frame with a marriage equality poster from the campaign in the centre. Around that I have put photos ranging from a rainbow flag Daughter Number One had drawn, to a photo of her on her 14th Birthday – her last birthday- with her beloved best friend, to the wedding we attended before it was legal with Daughter Number Two dancing with Son Number Two, to rally’s for Marriage Equality and the memorial service for the Pulse victims. There were photos from the Pride Parade and the newspaper report from the wedding we attended that was one of the first legal same sex marriages in Australia, where Daughter Number Two wore the same gown she had worn to the non-legal wedding a couple of years before. All those times, separate but linked.

A rainbow collage of years and memories and meanings and people but mostly love. I am looking forward to hanging it on the wall, where I can see it and remember and be glad.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, we went to a camp. There was a ‘silent auction’ there. Items were placed on tables with pieces of paper where you could write your bid for the item and the highest bid would win. As we walked around looking at the items I could see Daughter Number One’s name written in her childish hand on item after item. I was appalled! Asked her what she was doing? Didn’t she know we couldn’t afford to pay for these things if she won? Daughter Number One protested strongly. She hadn’t written her name on anything! She didn’t know why it was there!

It turned out there was another girl at the camp with the same name, and, incredibly, a birthday one year and a day different from Daughter Number One’s. After that camp they became pen pals and exchanged letters for years.

When Daughter Number One was murdered there were many people I had to tell but, as silly as it sounds, I couldn’t bring myself to tell her friend with the same name. It felt too wrong. Like I was telling her about her own death almost. I know that’s not logical but that’s how it felt. It’s something I still feel guilty about to this day because it didn’t give my Daughter’s friend the opportunity to attend her funeral. I took that from her and I will always be sorry for that.

But this girl, with the same name as my Daughter, this beautiful, generous girl heard about Daughter Number One’s murder through the extensive media coverage and sent me a card. Over the years she has kept in touch with me. We chat on Messenger sometimes. She’s a pilot now, based overseas. A female pilot, which is pretty fucking special. The other week she sent me a video and the message attached said she hoped I’d enjoy it. It was footage taken by her co-pilot, in the cockpit, of her landing a plane. IT WAS AMAZING! And that she thought to send me the video means more to me than words can say. I saved it onto my phone.

All of the years and the memories and the meanings and the people and most of all the love. And I remember. And I am glad.

A PLACE WHERE EVEN IF THERE’S NO CLOSURE, I’M STILL SAFE.

Well, hello 2018! It’s been full on so far!

Today would have been the 18th birthday celebration of a beautiful girl, if she was still here with us to enjoy it. Instead we remember her and are grateful for the bitter sweetness of it all, because that is all we have. Today also marks ten months since another much loved soul left us and how time keeps marching on is a little bit beyond me but it does and here we are. Today is also the birthday of one of my very best friends, a glorious being who has borne excellent children and who has known me now for much of my life but who loves me still. All of the people and all of their stories on all of their days. And the days keep on coming, one after the other. So, hold onto the good ones; the good people, the good memories, the good days.

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On Monday, Son Number One flew into town to spend the week with us. Daughter Number Two, Son Number Two and I were all at the airport to meet him. It is indescribably joyful to have my three living children together in my home. They bounce off each other with wise cracks and having the luxury of time together is blissful!

Because I never like to do things by halves Monday night, after we had said goodnight to Son Number One and he’d gone back to his accomodation, the rest of us got ready to attend a Very Special Wedding. We were honoured to be invited to one of the very first same sex marriages solemnised in Australia. We headed into the city to be there for the ceremony which concluded as soon as it was possible, just after midnight. It felt momentous and incredible to be a part of history but mostly it felt exquisitely beautiful to be a part of such LOVE. I watched the ceremony with tears in my eyes and warmth in my heart. Such a profoundly happy event.

Daughter Number Two hasn’t been with us to any rallies or marches. She wasn’t here with us to celebrate Pride. So she was beyond excited and thrilled to be able to attend this wedding with us. Even though it is summer and the weather is very warm, the midnight wedding meant Daughter Number Two was able to wear a special jacket that belonged to her big sister. I put it on her and rolled the sleeves only once and said to her that it was almost like her big sister hugging her. Almost. Then I watched her skip through the city, in my first born’s jacket, beside one of her brothers, on the day her eldest brother came to visit. As close as I can ever get to having all my children together.

It’s been a big week. Tomorrow we are having some friends over. Surrounding ourselves with people who love us and who we love. I highly recommend it! Because that’s the stuff you hang on to.

Safe onward travel x

NOW I SEE THAT COLOURS ARE EVERYTHING!

I’m on my way to the Pride Parade tonight! I am SO EXCITED! This is something I have wanted to do for literally decades! Daughter Number One had been to a couple of Mardi Gras Parades in Sydney but this will be my first Pride Parade anywhere! I’m going with Son Number Two and a couple of his very best mates. It should be AMAZING!!! If it’s not enough that this years Pride Parade follows the announcement of a YES win in the Marriage Equality Survey, we are actually marching in the parade with PFLAG.

Last week I went to my second PFLAG meeting. I made my way by train and bus and then walked from the train station to where the meeting was being held. A few days beforehand the results of the Marriage Equality Survey had been revealed.

I thought about going into the city to be in the crowd that gathered to hear the results announced but I would have had to leave home before six in the morning. That didn’t rule me out but as I was lying in bed the night before, scrolling through social media, I read a post that said something like “I am preparing myself for another Trump, Brexit upset” and for the first time I allowed myself to really acknowledge the possibility that the result may be ‘No’. Icy cold fear gripped my heart.

The whole process, which has gone on for years and has only escalated in ugliness, has been disheartening and soul destroying but, through it all, I hadn’t really allowed myself to contemplate a ‘No’ result. Reading that post in my bed the night before the announcement slightly brought into focus that inconceivable possibility. And, honestly, I’m not sure how I would have borne it. The thought of a ‘No’ being announced was enough to make my decision to stay home the next morning and face the outcome from the safety of my own bed.

Last Saturday, as I walked from the train station to the meeting place I walked through two tiny parks. Cool, green pockets of peace in the hot concrete jungle of the city. After seeing an advertisement online I had gone looking for MOP DONUTS to buy one of their Pride doughnuts. It was a light delicious circular pillow of doughnutty goodness, covered in white chocolate, filled with Nutella and adorned with an edible rainbow decal. When I looked up the location of my nearest MOP DONUTS I found it was near enough to where the meeting place was for me to find the magical doughnut before going on to the PFLAG meeting. When I looked more closely at the public transport app for directions to the meeting I found the station for the doughnut shop was actually the exact same one as the one I would be getting off at anyway, and if that isn’t a sign I do not know what is! So I collected my doughnut and sat for a time in the soothing shade of a park and then went to my meeting.

It was to be followed by poster making for tonight’s parade, approximately three and a half hours of social interaction with a group of people I had only met once or potentially hadn’t met at all. It was good though, really good. There was only once I had to take a few minutes to myself to regroup but the people there are accepting and welcoming and this is stuff that really, really matters to me. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone tonight. I’m excited to share this with my son and his friends as well as the wider community. There is much to celebrate tonight and I am happy to be a part of it.

After an offhand remark at last weeks meeting I was reading the PFLAG website to learn more. This particular branch of PFLAG was formed the same year Daughter Number One was born. Another sign. And being around accepting, open hearted folk with similar values never hurt anyone!

Yesterday I was at a funeral. It was a celebration of a life well lived. A life well loved. Right now I am in the city, writing this as I travel, and already I spy people walking past dressed for Pride. Very soon I’ll be amongst a sea of people celebrating love and the freedoms we enjoy in this country.

The day before yesterday I met beautiful friends at a scenic location; there was sun and sea and sand. After lunch my beautiful friend’s best boy made a beeline for a gaming arcade and as he played with the beeping machines with their flashing colours in the dim light I glanced past the Terminator pinball machine to the sun drenched marina outside the door. I thought that there were pros and cons to both vistas; the electric, flashing thrill of the gaming machines and the beautiful ocean scene. They were so different but both there to be enjoyed and explored. I listened to the eulogies given yesterday and heard tales of daring and adventure and compassion. A life well lived. A life well loved.

My thoughts for today are these; in this life you have to find the things that matter to you. The things and the people you are passionate about. There are going to be dark times, so we have to find the things of substance in our lives to hang on to. And when you find them, the people and places and things that make your heart sing, that’s where your energy needs to go. Because they are the things that sustain us. This too shall pass but how we pass our time counts.

Follow the signs and they will lead you home.

HAPPY PRIDE everyone! Travel safe x

DREAMS THAT YOU DARE TO DREAM. 

Not much stuck from my childhood. Actually, that’s not quite true; LOTS of it stuck but there’s not much I choose to hold onto. This week though one thing has resonated.
As I child I was taught that if you feel like saying something you should ask yourself three things – Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? This ridiculous, non binding, divisive, resource wasting postal plebiscite has exceeded the fearful expectations of those who opposed it and the climate is ugly out there. It is being used as a platform for sinister untruths and as a license to spew hate. On a daily basis, on a deep level, people are being attacked for who they love.

Of course, this is nothing new. The LGBTI+ community has never been immune to persecution. It is the openness of the hatred at the moment that appals me. That we are being compelled to choose a side and that an actual campaign is being waged to validate bigotry. More resources wasted to generate and perpetuate hate.

I am a Sagittatarian, it’s kind of mandatory for me to be blunt and I value honesty highly. But I come back to those three questions; Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? The thing about opinions is that everyone has one and I’m not going to argue that you aren’t entitled to yours, even if it opposes mine. What I am sure about though, is the neither of us should take our opinions and use them as the basis of acts that damage other people.

If you do feel you have something to say then be thoughtful around how you express yourself. Check your facts. Make sure they are, in fact, facts. Decide if you really need to say anything. Will you actually be contributing? If so, express yourself respectfully. There’s a school of thought that asserts that if you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all. I don’t agree with that. Lots of the things I speak about here aren’t nice but I feel like I have something to contribute by not staying silent. I hope I am respectful. I try to be.
Daughter Number One’s best friend was gay. Well, to the best of my knowledge he still is! She loved him dearly. She had been to several Mardi Gras parades in Sydney before she died at 14. Son Number Two, my tall, nineteen year old, straight son, also has friends who fall outside of heterosexual norms. So do I. Dearly loved friends, some I have had for decades, some who have walked with me through the darkest of nights. Even Daughter Number Two has a best friend who shows signs of growing up to walk the road less travelled. He’s young, so who knows? My point is that whoever her friend grows up to be my Daughter will not judge him on who he loves. Because she loves him. Just as he is.

I have been so sad about this postal plebiscite. The stories both from mainstream media and people I know are heartbreaking. I go to rallys when I can. I posted off my yes vote. I write about marriage equality here and I share things on facebook. But this issue has been going on for so long now in Australia that I am able to share facebook memories from three years ago that are still sadly relevant. And, in the face of the sea of hatred that is tsunami-ing over us, it doesn’t seem enough.
So tomorrow I am going to a PFLAG meeting. PFLAG stands for ‘Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays’. When I rang up today to register my interest in attending tomorrow the lady on the phone asked me for my story. She asked where I heard about PFLAG. I’ve seen them march behind their banner in Mardi Gras. I’ve watched Debbie represent in Queer as Folk. I’ve heard them speak at rallys. What’s my story? “Do you have a gay child?” she asked. And I don’t. But I could. And that would be perfectly fine with me, because love is love.
I believe in love. With so much ugliness in this world I believe in love. I know and love many beautiful people and I believe they all should be allowed to make the choices they feel are right for themselves, in their own relationships. I don’t believe ‘different’ should equal ‘lesser under law’. So, I’ll go to the PFLAG meeting tomorrow and I’ll go to the marriage equality rally next week and I’ll keep writing here about things that matter.

This article here gives some insight into why straight allies are important and this link will point you in a practical direction if you have time and energy to share. PFLAG can be found here and there are many groups and events you can make contact with in your state.

Travel safe x

WE’VE BEEN POISONED BY THESE FAIRY TALES. 


All we have to do, at any given moment, is take the next step. Sometimes they are big steps and sometimes they are baby steps. Sometimes they are sidesteps and sometimes we take a step back. But all we have to do, at any given moment, is take the next step. 
Last week I had the most lovely day with friends. We took my friend’s two year old, The Best Boy, to the park. Actually we took him to two parks! At the second we met a dog, named Milo, who was swinging on a swing. Chill as you please. Milo was so relaxed he even let The Best Boy push him on the swing. It was very cool to watch. Unexpected and entertaining. Milo, you are a legend. 
I watched The Best Boy navigating both the parks we took him to. His sturdy little legs and boundless enthusiasm taking him further and higher, one step at a time. His Mum was there to offer a steadying hand when he needed it; it’s good to have support around you. 

Incredibly, to me, Australia is still debating Marriage Equality. I am waiting for us to take the next step. 
Change isn’t always easy, even when it is necessary. Even when it is the right thing. Even when we know it will be the best thing. It is difficult to step out of our comfort zones and into the unknown. But if we do we can be Milo the dog, swinging at the park, sun in our face and wind in our hair. Loving life! 

Someone special gave me a little cactus plant. It had grown quite a lot and I was worried that it was getting too crowded in it’s little pot. I don’t have a green thumb and I thought that I might kill it if I tried to repot it. What I knew for sure though, was that it had outgrown it’s little pot. To keep living and thriving I would need to find it a new place to be. It wouldn’t look the same. It would have to adjust to it’s changed environment. But it couldn’t stay where it was. 
So I found a white pot, with ‘Grow! Grow! Grow!’ painted up the side. I found some lush soil and I replanted the little cactus. I gave it a little bit of water and let it have a little bit of sun. I don’t know exactly how it will work out but I know that I have given it the best chance to survive and flourish. 
There are no guarantees in life. Sometimes you just have to make your move and take the next step. Talk to a stranger, climb up a mountain, go to the theatre, walk out the door, open your arms.  Live your life. Grow and flourish. One step at a time. 
❤️💛💚💙💜
Safe onward travel x