old girlfriends

August 17, 2013 at 3:35 pm (brain, community, musings, queer, travel)

so my first girlfriend’s little green dot popped up on google chat.

i haven’t thought about her for quite a while. she said some pretty nasty stuff about me online, and never made an effort to be friends. the few times we interacted over the last seven years, i’ve been surprised she’s been civil.

my first thought was to say hi; i guess it would be up to me. but i’d have to be prepared to maybe not be answered, and to find something worth saying.

i think over my life; how i would present myself if asked what i’m up to. always an interesting exercise, a good motivator to make my life something i can own with pride. my current situation would probably not look wildly exciting to her, but that’s just fine. i realise i don’t need her approval, i just need to be able to hold my head up. i can.

then i thought that i really don’t know who she is anymore. i’d rather see if she’s still posting her travel blog, than interact personally with her. but i couldn’t remember the address, and i’m sure it was never bookmarked in this computer, which is only a few years old.

i got as far as typing her name into google; guess what, an interview comes up, which reveals that as of last year, she had been living in one place for a few years. that’s new, and good. an interesting place, too, with a radical queer women’s choir.

that all sounds good, perfect for her, in fact. i’m glad to think she’s found somewhere she can call home, i was always a little concerned about the need to up and move to the other side of the world every six months. she obviously has some kind of community, with queer and musical life, and she can probably speak croatian fluently by now. i’m glad for her.

i may look her up if i’m passing nearby zagreb one day, but until then, i don’t think talking to her will improve my life, and i doubt it would improve hers. my five minutes of nostalgia is over and i’m back to my life, happy in the knowledge that someone i used to know seems to be doing well.

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the wedding goes on without me

August 12, 2013 at 2:09 am (bug, poly, queer)

i was going to be married, 36 hours from now. my love affair with my car has been going strong for over 14 years, and i was going to acknowledge it in public, while making a statement about marriage, at the mass wedding at uts’ pride week. however we’ve just been mucked around. and the ceremony has been moved to a lawn, which is inaccessible for cars. sorry, they say.

11am on a tuesday was not an ideal time for people; my parents can’t make it. tim, my bridesmaid can’t make it. my photographer can’t make it. changing the time will be excellent, but will i have the guts to make a stand alone event of it?

it was suggested that i could show up with a photo of my car. that shows how much they think of the love of my life. it also reminds me of the humiliation of showing up to a birthday party at the bike track, with a bicycle photo frame in lieu of a real bike. i’d tried, i’d come to the party, literally and figuratively. but i still couldn’t ride the track.

it was supposed to be a stunt, but as i notify everyone that my wedding is postponed, i just feel hurt.

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stitch and bitch

July 18, 2013 at 9:09 pm (community, crafty, gender, words)

stitch and bitch. sewing group. knitting circle. i’ve run them on and off for years. at first i was wary of the most popular name for such things, but over the years i was won over by its recognisability and openness – i don’t care if you knit or sew or crochet or tat or do something obscure like making friendship bracelets.

at QC 2012, i scheduled a stitch and bitch, and it was so popular that we ended up having three of them, and our crafting spilled joyously onto conference floor. however the women’s caucus took issue with the name and reprimanded me, with no right of reply.

this year we scheduled four sessions straight up. it wasn’t as novel as the year before, but there was still an impressive number of knitters on conference floor. i didn’t change the name, and there were no complaints. i thought about addressing the issue with the new caucus, but refrained.

over the year i’ve thought about the term, and i can’t find any reason i can credit, to not use it. surely ‘bitch’ is a sterling example of a word ready for reclamation. we can’t just get rid of it because it actually is a legitimate word in the english language, and even though it refers to dogs, it is very specifically gendered. the concrete implications of its initial meaning will not fade away, even if we try to exile it. all that does is make yet another feminine word bad and taboo.

if we embrace it, however, by accepting this positive usage that has evolved organically, we are associating a feminine word with something good, changing it from a word which attaches an unequivocably negative connotation to femaleness, to a word with mixed usage. after all, what could be more positive than the informal political learning and exchange of ideas encouraged when we come together as a group to share our communal love of fibre arts?

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non-cis males

July 18, 2013 at 8:58 pm (gender, queer, words)

i know why we use this term, i understand it’s important to support groups of people who are discriminated against and put at a disadvantage. i understand that it’s just as important to catch all the various people who have experienced these things, and not just aim our support at the people who fit into groups big and obvious enough that we can name them. i understand that trying to list them all doesn’t work, even if we keep going, from women to trans women and trans men to genderqueer people and intersex people and sex and gender diverse people (let’s not get started on what it would mean for an individual to be diverse).

still, i’m anxious for the next change in terminology. a non-cis male is, gramatically, a male person who is not cisgendered. that’s about as good as arguing that the term ‘men’ includes everyone. you can insist… or you can look for something better.

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fear of matching

June 14, 2013 at 2:33 am (crafty, simple pleasures, travel)

“…manages to be cohesive yet not excessively matched.” http://www.buzzfeed.com/stephaniegda/22-photos-of-the-crafting-lifestyle-to-distract-yo-90gk
why is the west afraid of matching, coherence and pattern?
all through africa and the middle east, amazing dresses and outfits happen with matching headscarves. colours and patterns are bold, and decoration follows through from neck to sleeve to hem to scarf edge, if not more.
in russia, turkey and throughout eastern europe layering of patterns is acceptable and dressing from head to toe in one colour is just fine.
while there’s plenty i appreciate about sydney, i’m always disappointed to come back to the land of jeans and tshirts, where the only colour we can repeat is black, and even that’s a bit much if it matches properly, in a suit. everyone’s so busy fitting in that creative dressing is an anomaly.

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Greetings from Oman!!!

March 16, 2013 at 11:47 pm (travel)

A beach in Khasab, on the  Musandan Peninsula, a small section of Oman, separated from the rest bythe UAE. A large flat area of rocks and shells and rubbish – the remains of seafood and bonfires, lots of sunflower sees, ring pulls and plastic bottle  tops, minimal glass and cigarette butts, no condoms or needlse but one suspicious batch of shining brass bullet shells. It’s bounded by the beach on one side and mountains on the other. The mountains are amazing, rocky and bare, dynamic in their stillness as you can feel the movement over eons, the formation of the earth present in the different slopes and changes of the sedimetary layers, lurchingfrom angle to angle and overlaid with evience of rockslides, a few tenacious little trees and a hint of huan involvement. A mother and baby goat bleat in conversation as they find eachother, wandering up and down the almost vertical slopes with  ease.On the flat, there is  road with barriers so you can ony see the tops of the decorated trucks. Cars drive in, though, and slowly make their way to one or another of the palm-rooved pagodas set up along the edge, just before the sharp drop as it is eroded into a pleasant sand beach which is completely submersed at high tide. The water is green near the edge, with the occasional jumping fish; blue further out with dhows – elegant local fishing boats – all lined up on the hazy, close horizon which offers not a hint of Iran across the Gulf. Even the mountains that frame this small inlet fade out to nothing in the middle of the sixth rise.Cars roll by and stare at us through heavily tinted windows before rolling right back the other way. A small bus appears, and another, and suddenly there is a legion of schoolgirls on the shore. Black pinafores, some as high as the knees but mostly to the ground, with white headscarves, sleeves, leggings and stockings, perfume wafting in their wake. Hopscotch on the sloping beach, running around and swarming the play equipment at the back near the road barrier, especially the many swings. Those with shorter skirts are generally most active, they may also be the youngest but it’s hard to tell. Shreiks of laughter ring out. Headscarves gradually slip off heads but shoes aren’t removed, overseen by two figures in full black, only eyes and hands uncovered, not venturing from the shade of the pagoda.Goats wander, cars roll through, measured waves crash neatly on the beach, mountains stand. We sit on the edge, on our packs. one girl approaches fro the beach a metre below us. She greets me ‘how are you?’ and I reciprocate, then we exchange names- hers is Mira  – before she grins and runs back to her friends, ignoring Michael just as many men we’ve met have ignored me. Only a few girls have braved a jaunt to our section of the  beach, two pagodas from theirs, before one of the buses comes back and they file on, scarves adjusted. A man comes in a red and white turban, white shirt and saffron pants to pick up their rubbish as the rest of the group huddle with their teacher under a pagoda. The second bus arrives, most cars leave too and the beach is left empty but for us, some goats and the garbage picker wandering into the distance. It’s 10am and the day will soon be heating up.

Hi everyone, I arrived in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, after fourteen long hours in the air. I met up with Michael and we went straight back to Dubai where we could afford to sleep – Abu Dhabi having no youth hostels. After a day seeing Big things in Dubai, including the Palm Jumeira, a dancing fountain and many incredible buildings and giant malls, we moved on to Sharjah. Sharjah is much more approachable than Dubai, with a beautiful town centre and lots of dusty space. From there we got a bus to Ras Al Khaima then started to hitch, across the Omani border and up to Khasab. The town isn’t much, but we spent a whole day on the beach  and took a dhou ride up the fjord to Telegraph Island. Some of the most beautiful scenes I’ve seen in my life and worth all the travel! After two nights in a tent then a day on the water, we were eager for a shower and electricity so we headed back down to the UAE, since there is no way for a visitor to cross from the peninsula to the rest of Oman without doing so. We managed to get a ride all the way down to Muscat, which was supposed to take five hours but was much longer. Now we’re ahead of schedule and can relax a while! Hope all is well at home,
In Muscat,

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February 12, 2013 at 8:30 pm (musings, words)

another word to use instead of crazy or mad or insane is wacky. but it’s replacing the positive uses of those terms, so maybe i really should still call a fabric insane when it’s over the top and bright and i love it. i don’t know.

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no poo

January 10, 2013 at 12:42 pm (simple pleasures, words)

for the life of me, i can’t remember what prompted me to google ‘no poo’ half an hour ago. turns out, it describes me! it means no shampoo, usually using bicarb and apple cider vinegar, egg yolks, conditioner only or mint tea on your hair, and sometimes, as i have done for nearly fourteen years, water only. amusingly, it seems that water only is the ideal to aspire to!

you can find reams and reams of writing on different people’s assessments of their hair, with blow by blow accounts of what they’ve put into it, how much and how often, how they combine it with massaging or brushing or combing or cutting. what it felt like when it was wet and dry, whether there was this or that effect, whether they’ve been ‘brave’ enough to try successively minimalist versions. i wouldn’t be surprised to find people charting their experiences in haircare!

yet i haven’t found a scrap of information about why you’d put vinegar in your hair.

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October 20, 2012 at 3:34 pm (community, words)

how’s this for a word?

i think i’m pretty good on not using words associated with physical disabilities as pejoratives, but i have trouble not using mad, crazy and insane. this is hardly unusual, according to the comments in http://zeroatthebone.wordpress.com/2009/09/24/next-on-the-list-of-things-that-really-annoy-me/ . it’s something we need to work on, and part of it is more than language; while most of us do understand that someone in a wheelchair isn’t less human than those of us who walk unaided, we don’t necessarily actually believe that about someone who is displaying erratic behaviour, going somewhere completely unexpected in conversation or even using unusual speech patterns, any of which may be attributable to a ‘mental illness’ or other non-neurotypicality. thorny, thorny issues.

please correct me if i’m wrong, but i don’t think dozy is a word that anyone will be upset about beyond what i’m actually meaning. in the last couple of days i’ve been noticing plenty of dangerous behaviour on the roads, and just now at macquarie centre, dozens of people just walked uncaringly in front of both my father with his walking stick, and me with a very full trolley. neither of us are able to stop as easily as they seem to assume. dozy. so dozy. i feel a little strange at feeling so accomplished by virtue of having found a word to be negative but not too negative with, but it really is necessary. any others?



numpty – a good word i hear, mostly for people who believe in woo.

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atheism and religion in queer communities

October 20, 2012 at 10:53 am (atheism, community, queer, words)

this is an article i got published in Querelle 2012.


As I was thinking about writing this article, by chance I came across a word that summed up exactly why I care about atheism: religionormativity.

Just as we’re familiar with heteronormativity, roughly the privileging of heterosexuality, religionormativity is the privileging of religion, religious views of the world and religious interests.

Religionormativity, and specifically christonormativity, is rampant in Australia. It’s why our atheist Prime Minister spends tax money for catholics to visit the Vatican and says that she doesn’t think society is ‘ready’ for marriage equality. It’s why we see churches and billboards displaying crosses like gallows in the town square, and dub it ‘freedom of speech’. It’s why cuts to cities’ christmas budgets generate more outcry than cuts to the country’s welfare budget, and even minority religions feel the need to vocally perform their acceptance of the all-pervasive decorations.

It’s why we accept religious private schools and the fact that they often get more funding than public schools, while even the ‘secular, compulsory and free’ public schools teach christmas as curriculum for three months of the year and allow scripture teachers in to openly teach dogma every week. Primary Ethics has fought hard to run ethics classes in NSW schools for the non-scripture students who are often neglected and discriminated against, but even they dare not touch the religions’ regular access to school students, nor acknowledge any link to atheism. Now our government now upholds the right to put untrained religious ‘chaplains’ into state schools despite the High Court’s ruling against the program. Our government which still has prayers in parliament. It’s all religionormativity, and it’s dangerous. Secular people regularly accept that queerness and nonbelief are matters for adults only, which allows religions to stereotype us as the dangerous ones, who shouldn’t be around kids. Certainly not all religions commit these travesties, but they all support the religionormativity which is why we have to fight for adoption, insemination and even the right to teach. Not only do religions get tax breaks because dissemination of religion is still categorised as charitable in our law, but they also get permanent exemptions to the anti-discrimination laws that keep us out of their schools, adoption agencies and crisis shelters.


The census doesn’t give us data on atheists, as the question is framed religionormatively. However the number of people who marked ‘no religion’ has grown in this latest census to 22.3% of the population, counting us at nearly a quarter of the country, and bigger than any single religious group except catholicism, even without the 8.6% of the population who didn’t answer the question, those who answered ‘jedi’ or ‘pastafarian’ and all the people who put down their family’s religion instead of their own beliefs. Yet people still say ‘but we all believe in the same god anyway’ and really believe they’re being inclusive. And we let them get away with it.


In queer communities, we often think we’re better than that! We can analyse the effects of religious lobby groups on politics and the media, and we’re certainly clued in to the marriage debate and the motives of the players. A high proportion of us are nonbelievers, and an understanding of the destructiveness of intolerant churches and conservative religious families resonates through us, whether or not we’ve experienced the effects personally. Indeed, I’m glad to live within such an astute crowd.

However, all is not perfect. We have our own subtle forms of religionormativity that we often hold dear. In communities so full of atheists and other nonbelievers, we often let this aspect of ourselves remain closeted. We don’t want to recognise this, because we still fall prey to the idea that outing ourselves, declaring our belief structures, is oppressive to those of us who still are religious. Even while we find some people’s beliefs to often be pretty odd, we underestimate them by placing our assumptions about their sensibilities above our own freedom to be out and proud atheists, agnostics, secular humanists or whatever else we want to be.

We need to come out about our beliefs just as much as we need to come out about our sexualities. To name ourselves allows us to build communities where we can openly express ourselves and stand together for what we need. We already know this. So examine your own internalised religionormativity and come out, so that everyone else can too.


Kate Alway

Join the Queer Atheists at sydneyqueeratheists@gmail.com




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