Content warning: This post was written to commemorate the 16th anniversary of my Daughter’s death. It has adult themes and references to physical and sexual violence against women and children. There are also references to grief, loss, women’s reproductive rights and mental illness. This caveat is provided to allow you to make an educated decision about reading on, with love.
Today is sixteen years since my Daughter Number One was repeatedly raped and murdered. I still have so much disbelief; that she’s gone, the way she was brutally wrenched from life, that so much time has passed; that I have survived this long – well, that most of me has survived. The After Me.
Two weeks ago I was at an event organised in honour of IDAHoBiT; the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. LGBTQI+ issues are important to me. The night before the event my friend said she wasn’t attending, which would mean I would be in a large group of people alone. I woke up on the morning of and OH BOY! Was it tempting to just stay home! But LGBTQI+ issues are one of my things; my bigger than myself things. Feeling like my turning up to be counted matters, which adds purpose and meaning to my life. Then I managed to miss my bus, which meant I would be arriving, alone, to a room full of people, LATE. And again, I thought about turning around and going home. But I kept going. The theme was ‘Visibility’ and speakers from various community organizations spoke to the importance of being visible, both on personal and professional levels.
The speakers and subject were fascinating, no less because just the week beforehand I had made a new friend by entering into a discussion on a facebook post about the anti abortion laws sweeping the United States. She wrote, powerfully, of the inherent risk of speaking out. Exposing yourself. Being visible. She said: “There is always a consequence to speaking your truth as a woman”. She said: “I’m so tired of feeling that I have to hide the truth of my life. But we have to consider the world we live in when we speak our truth, and sometimes it’s just not safe.” “The hate and ignorance are ubiquitous. And these are the views held by people who are in our lives; people who educate us, enforcers of the law, our employers, our clients who we rely on for our income, our families. You don’t always know who they are either. People who…do not value you as much as they do their need to maintain the status quo.”
Both these conversations made me reflect on what I do here and on my What Kate Did Next facebook page. I write pretty openly about sensitive subjects. I share my opinion on issues that are important to me. But it’s still edited. I still pull some of my punches, and I carefully consider what I put out there. Originally, when I started writing here, it was to empty out my head. It still works for me that way. But the longer I wrote the more people contacted me, to tell me that something I had written resonated with them, moved them, helped them. Then there was that one time my words went viral and my views and ‘likes’ on my facebook page shot up. It was completely overwhelming and scary but there was a lot of love that came my way. And again, a lot of people who told me they found something of value in my words.
Writing here, I talk about loss and grief and child sexual assault and mental health. I also talk about my Daughter. I talk about how she died but more importantly I talk about how she lived. On Instagram I follow @theaidsmemorial. Their hashtag is #whatisrememberedlives . What Is Remembered Lives. All of these things make the risk of visibility here worth it to me.
With all the anti abortion stuff in the news I have been sharing pro choice posts on my What Kate Did Next facebook page. I do, because I can. My reach isn’t huge but it’s something. Like my posts around LGBTQI+ issues, especially during the marriage equality ‘campaign’ here in Australia, that means that I sometimes lose page ‘likes’ and ‘followers’. Eh. Whatever.
A week after the IDAHoBiT event I was coming home from a night out to celebrate Daughter Number Two’s birthday when I unlocked my phone to find Australia had re-elected a conservative government. The world is a scary and confusing place at the moment. Always, really, but it seems especially so at this point in time. It feels like every vulnerable group in society is under attack and underlying it all there is so much fear. We seem so scared of those who are different from us. Or maybe we are just so scared that all we can think about is protecting ourselves? The thing is though, that we have more in common than we have things that divide us. It’s not for nothing that The Breakfast Club is my all time favourite film. I talk here about women’s issues and LGBTQI+ issues, but they are both human rights issues. Misogyny, racism, discrimination and/or oppression of any kind; it doesn’t just hurt those immediately affected. Ultimately it hurts all of us.
Another topic of discussion at the IDAHoBiT event was the toll it takes, to keep standing up, raising our voices, fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves. How do we protect ourselves and pace ourselves? How do we work together to make the most progress? How can we make the most of our not unlimited resources? For me, one of the things I heard most clearly was when the host said “For those who can, DO! And those who can’t, support those who can!”
And I thought “I can do that!”. For me, being visible and doing what I can means continuing to write here and post on my facebook page. It means being a paid up member of PFLAG and putting my time and energy into LGBTQI+ issues as much as possible. It means continuing to be involved in things that are bigger than myself. When I am tired, it means liking or sharing someone else’s post or leaving out a pamphlet or reaching out and checking in on how someone else is doing.
What does it mean for you? If you can’t commit time or energy to causes that are important to you, maybe you can become a financial member of an organisation that aligns with your values? Or make a straight out donation. Sign petitions. Share groups and pages that support others, like their posts; support their visibility. The next season of the Handmaid’s Tale starts next week. Watch it and take heed. Become informed. Decide what is important to you, which might sound silly but if you decide what really matters to you then you will know where to focus your energy. Invite organisations into your workplaces to educate. Have conversations, especially with your kids, who really are our hope. Write someone a letter. Make a meal, bake a cake. Hug someone. Take care of yourselves too. Give yourself the same care, respect and energy that you extend to others.
Look, I don’t pretend any of this is easy. That it is easy to keep going when times are hard and your heart is heavy. I woke up this morning to reports that there is evidence a head on crash that killed four beautiful little children may have been deliberate. Can anyone say ‘Trigger warning’? I made breakfast and waited until Daughter Number Two was in the shower before collapsing in violent sobs that tore through my body, chest heaving as I gasped for breath. Even if it was an accident, the utter devastation for all who loved and knew them, the impact on the first responders, the senseless loss! But a deliberate act? It is literally too much to bear.
Earlier this week I fell at home, spectacularly. A dinner plate flew through the air and exploded into flying shards of ceramic. Daughter Number Two came running from her bedroom. Son Number Two came to help and I asked him to just leave me where I was for a minute, to catch my breath. So he assured his Sister he had things covered and started to clear up the part of the debris that wasn’t me. After a few minutes he helped me up. Nothing aside from the dinner plate was broken but we have concrete floors and I had hit the ground hard, so since then every joint, especially, on my left side has been painful. I get a lot of muscle soreness anyway, from constantly holding tension in my body; always being on high alert. Migraines that make me vomit; all par for the course. So is the clumsiness really. I’m chronically clumsy but during times of intense stress I am much more so. After my fall I googled it. Anxiety related clumsiness. Sure enough, it’s a thing. So I’m never going to be the one who tells you it’s easy, because it’s not, but if we are going to be here anyway we might as well give it the best we can, right?
At the end of this year PFLAG Perth goes into it’s 30th year of operation. It is the longest running PFLAG group in the country and it’s core business is keeping families together. PFLAG are also involved in education and advocacy. If you look at the bigger picture – and I’m always going to be a big picture kind of girl – they work to prevent suicide and homelessness, substance abuse and mental health issues. The flow on effect is huge, so that’s a lot of bang for any buck you feel you can contribute. When you add in the fact that prevention is always better than cure, and for the economic rationalists amongst us, COSTS MUCH LESS, then it’s easy to see how a small, well placed contribution can go a long way. Plus, any donations are tax deductible.
Angelhands, who support those who have experienced extreme trauma, also do good work and are dear to my heart. On Sunday August 18th Angelhands will be attempting to beat the Guinness World Record for the largest number of angels assembled in one location. It’s one of their main annual fundraisers. You can keep up with all the latest news on the links above or you can become a paid up member of Angelhands. Outright donations are also tax deductible. Although a slightly different flavour to PFLAG, Angelhands supports people as well, and they have many of the bigger picture outcomes I spoke of above. Angelhands also works in the fields of education and advocacy.
I initially published this post almost two hours ago. I shared the links on facebook. Some of you read it. And then, due to technical difficulties the finished post disappeared and all I was left with was the draft I had started before I went to bed last night. A version of this post saved nineteen hours previously, with all the work I had done on it today, gone. In the blink of an eye. The irony of the fact that the whole vibe of this post is about doing the best you can with what you have is not lost on me. Not like the finished piece was. I don’t know if I have remembered to rewrite everything I lost. I don’t know if this version of the post is better or worse than the one I initially published. What I do know though, is that this is the post that is here. And that counts for something.
So, that’s What Kate Did Next. She kept going.
I don’t have a magic wand or a time machine. I oh so wish I did! There are SO MANY things I would change if I could but I can’t, so I focus on the things that I can. I can’t bring my Daughter Number One back so I try to live my life in ways that I think would make her proud. I speak out because she can’t and I love because she did. It’s the very least and the very most I can do.
Safe onward travel x