Seasons turn and tides change, rearrange the strange fictions and retell the stories… burn away the deadening to make way for new growth.
I haven’t written in ages, you’ll already know that.
But what you won’t know is that everything has changed.
I’ve been sheltering storms in a cocoon, under the fullest moon making myself anew. I can speak fluently in my native tongue now, i te reo Māori. It is something I have yearned for my whole life, and now that my language has infiltrated my whole body I feel that I am reborn.
I am a different person to the person I was and as I sit in my office looking at the many images and memories of my past, it is easy to see the long-held aspiration for mana motuhake. I am a different person. I am not broken anymore.
Sway, like the trees in the breeze, like throngs in the midst of a song long loved by all, the fall came, I cracked, I died and was buried. In the soil our mother encrusted me in salt and the weight of her heavy heaving heart crushed my soul into a river of the dead. I intermingled with the multitudes of dearly departed divas, dapper dandy’s, daddies, daughters, devils, demons, decrepit degenerates all. We eddied and pooled in the push and pull of sorrow until our well-worn worries disintegrated into dreams of desires unheard of.
Yes, I have my own office. I have pinned collected colours to the wall, surrounding myself with the work already done. It all signals the journey, ka hīkoi au ki te tino moemoeā nui, ko te whainga nui o tōku nohonga i te ao nei. Māku e aroā nei i tōku tino aronga, ka uru atu au ki korā, hei whangai, hei āki, ōtira, hei mahi. Kei te ora tonu ahau.
This is day 5 of my new job. I completed my year long immersion reo Māori program the week before last, and then after a few days rest during which I celebrated by 43rd birthday and my nephew Taumauri’s 21st, I have turned to the rest of my life. Mā tāku mahi hou, ka riro māku e kimi nei i ngā huarahi pai mō nga tauira takatāpui nāna rātou ka haere mai ako ai i te Whare Wānanga o Waikato. The University of Waikato had created a new permanent position for someone to develop and implement diversity strategies that can enhance the wellness of all students and staff, in particular supporting those who live gender and sexuality diverse lives. I have a blank canvas on which to begin painting my vision of hope. Because it is a new position, it is for me to apply my expertise. It is for me to decide the best ways forward. The past week has been amazing, people are very eager to meet me and discuss their ideas and I realise that I have never been alone in my thoughts and hopes for peace. I can do this work, it was created for me to fulfill
I have begun to upload as much of my past artwork that I can find to this space. Over the past year I invested all of my creative energy into te akonga o te reo Māori nei. I will write in the future about the positive aspects of learning to reo Māori, to debunk the myth that it has little value in today’s world. Ki tāku nei whakaaro, it is a language that can help heal people today so that we may work together to heal our mother Papatūānuku. The language is so embodied, when I speak now my whole body vibrates with positive energy. It has been good to look at the memories and acknowledge how much work I have done. Now that I have filled my empty heart, I have the energy to make again and in the coming months I will create works for exhibitions which have been funded. In the 15 years of my creative practice these are the first instances where I have received public funding to make art. I have never needed money to make powerful and beautiful art, but I am excited to see what can happen with a budget.
The work I have been doing is wholly spiritual, although it manifests i te whai ao, the physical world. I am going somewhere that I cannot perceive, but it is a warm place filled with aroha.
I’ve been getting the ol’ legs out a bit lately. It feels good to have gained some body confidence in the realisation that I turn heads, my bed’s still seeking space for one other but hey it’s a journey.
I’ve been in Canberra this week and am at the airport waiting to fly home. I can’t wait – I always miss my home when I’m not there. This week has been great! I’ve been at an HIV conference run by ASHM – its the annual national Australian HIV conference. It was great to see a lot more diversity amongst attendees and presenters.
It is going to take a collective effort to end HIV. The sector is begininng to adapt toward better engagement and strategising. I presented findings from my PhD yesterday and have been humbled to receive a lot of great feedback. I’m valuing the contributions I am able to make and am recognising my power, my presence, my inner and outer beauty and my warmth of spirit. Now that I have a new prefix attached to my name, it’s hard to deny the good things and positive energy I embody.
I feel like I’m putting the best of myself forward and this is helping me share healing pathways.
I made friends and gained new allies…these epic legs of mine carry the lightness of a person committed to positive social transformation.
Hope in breath, in life, in love, in spirit, inspire and do not spiral ever again. Live and haka all day long, and rest in the garden of stars and sleep. Fight with a smile and an open embrace so that harm hurt and harrowing hells of polyester yester-years fade to crumbling chromachrome dust. I must muster the energy of my ancestors and share – baring witness to whitewash as I wish it away. Hope is here and I have no fear forever. Ethereal me my imagined future present.
Image credit – Ngāwai Smith (Marketing and Communications Advisor for the Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies at the University of Waikato)
Ok, i’m sitting at the kitchen table looking out over the lake. It’s sunny but also windy and I’m sending out the good vibes for a summer that seems waaay long overdue. This year’s winter was one of discontent, the content dis-associative in that I was able to make a break from the past that kept me in stasis.
The moon is new and growing fuller as the moments pass, calming these new waters as they escape from beyond their dammed flow. Time to grow, progress and prosper.
I had my second job interview for my dream job. I am praying each day that I get it because instead of planning for the future I can start living the future into existence.
I’m a doctor now lol.
I had my final performance and oral examination last week and the experiences were powerfully transformative. It was good to make performance art in the manner I most love – occupying a cold space and making it into one where I feel safe to live at my best and sometimes too my worst. Performance art, especially guerrilla performance art is amazing in its ability to awaken people to the ideas spaces hide. The ideas hidden in spaces are made manifest through unspoken rules about how to behave – these become the foundation for our norms. In the art I enacted last week, I simply mapped out a common space that people have to move through on campus at the University of Waikato. I used 3 large adhesive images, shells, condoms and random things from my room like earrings, toothpaste, superglue and necklaces to create patterns on cobblestones. Once I had marked out my space, I then spent time cutting the images up to create an assemblage whilst singing and dancing. Really, I was just performing my ‘happy place’ – the mindset I occupy when I’m in the zone making art. The performance lasted about four hours.
The feedback was really great and the following day at my oral exam, those present remarked that it spoke directly to the themes of my research. It feels weird to have a PhD. I am still processing it. I think about all the amazing places, the self-discoveries, the lessons learned and the figuring out of political processes that have underpinned (and undermined) my PhD journey. I think about the life of a fucked-up, trashed tranny who spent all those nights in dark dark spaces, waiting for death. I think about the tears that seldom fall from my eyes because I have been too robotic to emote. I think about a lot of pain. It feels weird to have a PhD and to feel alive, vital and empowered at the intersection of academia and art. For me, making sense of those two things has helped me make sense of all the other intersections my body occupies – Māoritanga, New Zealander, same-sex attracted, transgender, living with HIV, drug addict, alcoholic, rape survivor, suicidal tendencies, depressive and impoverished.
It’s pretty powerful that a person with all those markers can write a PhD thesis to grow new space at the unique intersection of many oppressions. Maybe that’s my journey in this life, to give life where before there only felt like death.
It’s hard to look back and feel equally happy and sad, but great art is about contradictory tension.
I’m writing up a storm at the moment. It’s research writing – concrete and structural, sensuality sidelined for the hard-line of text to motivate policy plasticity. I love writing research aimed at structural change. The tools of the oppressor, learn how to use them to break the system.
I used to think words were cement, pulling me down beneath the surface to suffocate. Written text is tortuously permanent and pedantic. That’s why the world is slow to change – words have too much power.
This week I’m writing an article that describes barriers to accessing equitable and quality healthcare for Māori who are transgender. So much about public healthcare problematises transpeople and looks for ways to fix us. The real problem is that society needs fixing.
I’m trying not to watch the news. I have been pretty good at filtering out all the faff lately, but since the election in Aotearoa I have been interested to gauge where things are headed. I shouldn’t waste my time because regardless of who gets into power I am still stuck living with an invader’s government. I can manage my life fine thank you very much. I’d be able to manage it a lot better if it weren’t so dictated by billboards, supermarkets, cars, roads, shops, footpaths, farmland, television and satelites – alien terrains terrorising my territory.
I heard a buzzing in the sky the other night. It was faint and because I am always listening to music through my headphones I almost didn’t hear it. When I looked up I saw the unmistakable front and back end lights of a drone. I stopped. The drone stopped. I walked. The drone moved again. I altered the direction I was walking in. The drone wavered with uncertainty. I threw stones at the fucker…eventually it went its own way. That’s the second time I have seen a drone hovering nearby lately. Next time I get followed by a drone ima browneye the fucker.
I hate this surveillance reality, but I am not going to change nor hide.
I had a blast at a poetry slam last weekend. Betch got her legs out and turned up the heat a little. I laid down some deep shit, as I do. I was feeling shy and nervous, but people really responded and I felt good to deliver some rivers flowing. I was pretty tired though having spent the morning flying to Christchurch for a meeting to present some research and then flying straight back to Rotorua for the gig. This week I have been working from Hamilton and tonight I will spend the night in Auckland for a board meeting tomorrow. Next week is crazy, I’m home in Rotorua for kapa haka practice and a few days chill, then flying to Auckland for a panel on hidden priviledge, flying home again and then back to Auckland for the following weekend to facilitate an HIV community leadership workshop. I get a day’s rest at home in Rotorua before heading to Hamilton to install my final PhD work and perform my final creative work. The next day is my oral examination. Once I’m examined I’m publishing my entire thesis on this blog, which btw is one of the major works created for the thesis.
Dr. Mary-Legs is on huuuuuuurrrr way. Life is busy but somehow the makeup stays all day and the smiles keep on coming.
Fuck those drones – they ain’t got the battery to last my distance.
Can’t you hear me calling out your name? The same song over and over catastrophes, super-novae, cataclysmic events, disaster, after effects and post-mortems.
Anal….why is this anything important enough to be an issue?
That’s my rhyming for the day. I’m well plastered. The faster the furious, the more frenzied the curious inquiry.
I have been trying out video and photo apps, so that it’s easier to make art on the go. It’s hard to steer the apps to do what I want them to do, but it’s just a beginning and I’m sure that eventually I’ll be able to find good ways to make art using them.
Regardless, it has felt good to be on a creative buzz again. I’m the type of person who makes art at a prolific rate. I need to make art or I begin to die…writing a PhD can kill that buzz – spoiler alert for anyone wanting to make art-making the focus of a long research project.
I’m still a long way from mastery of these apps, but new technologies change fast – by the time I learn them good they will function the way I need
I’ve been chilling lately – mostly because I have had the flu. It has been sucky to be sick, but at the same time I have been glad to stay in bed and read.
I’m getting over flu-ness though. Really, my body just needed time to get rid of the build up. Last week I started to train again and this week I have been getting into hardcore rehearsals for my final PhD performance. It’s really pretty good and I’m curious to see where it might lead.
It has been good to be feeling the creative feels again…my fingers itch to make art and my mind flips with formations firing fast.
Rather than get to making though, I’m wading – there’s time to kill at the moment and I’m making the most of it – things will change again soon and I’ll be busy as fuck, so I need to enjoy the calm ground.
I’m a media-slut and am in the national paper today. I feel awkward as fuck having been on tv twice over the past month and now having a profile piece in today’s online news. Racism, HIV/Sexuality and Suicide are the dominant themes thus far. Last week I got asked to speak on an upcoming panel for Auckland Musueum’s LATE series, on ‘invisible priviledge’ – I’m looking forward to that and am having a practice by talking with my nephews this eveing about their priviledge. They are good boys, but lately they have been typical teenagers and have forgotten how blessed they are to live in a safe village amongst whānau. They need to be reminded about the responsibilities that come with priviledge? and the costs when priviledge is abused.
Anyway, I’m hiding out today and being the chillest cos tomorrow I’m headed to Melbourne for work till Sunday. It’s work that I enjoy in the HIV sector, where as a facilitator of a peer leadership program, myself and others are updating the program we deliver. I feel like it can be so much better and I’m planning on being at my collaborative best to help toward good outcomes.
Yayday payday making me queenly in my kingdom. Don the fanfare fashion and bare witness, the whiteness is just a wash and although awash through my thoroughfares, I am thorough enough to apply colour where necessary.
I’m on the other side of submission and it feels pretty fairy. Glittery glissandos of generous abundance…dance, it always makes me feel better.
I still have a few final performance works to prepare before examination but the seriously hard yards are done.
When I think of this PhD journey I want to cry for the extended pain of rebirth, but without it I was withering, wasted and just a watered-down version of reality. Sometimes you gotta feels the feels to fully feel again.
Since submitting I had a few job interviews scheduled, but after the first one realised I already have created the beginnings of my dream-life. I’ve reset from colonised circuitry and am now whole as the Māori person my ancestors intended for. I didn’t go to the second interview but instead committed to the projects I am working on which excite and fill me with hope…suddenly I have been blessed with more work doing what I live for.
I have taken myself out for brunch…the rosé is delicious. One of the men I dated during the first part of my PhD always gave me shit for eating out by myself, but I enjoy my own company…I am a pleasure to be with.
And so as I order a second glass of wine and some fries because the eggs, bacon and mushrooms I ate will not sustain me for the amount of research words I need to progress today – I enjoy the wintery sun, I give thanks to my tūpuna. I give thanks to atua and I give thanks to the many tāngata who have helped me on this journey and am excited for all that is to come.
I’m taking myself out to the movies tonight…to see Transformers.
I pretty much spent most of the day in bed, after cleaning my room and burning some sage and then sweetgrass.
I needed some chill time to release the pent up PhD anxiety…which for the most part is over.
I submitted my thesis yesterday.
It is a beautiful thesis. I’m so proud for my achievement in getting it out. I was on TV the night before last and lots of people have been saying, “hey, I saw you on Māori TV the other night…amazing korero bro”.
My skin is hideous and I need to get my body back in shape after these years of not looking after myself properly to birth my research taonga.
Today I’m doing things simply. This week has been dramatic but I’m firmly grounded regardless.
In 5 days I’m handing my PhD thesis in. Just a few little edits left and off to the printers on Monday. I gotta get some paid work done too, so that I can afford to pay for the printing lol.
The head of Native Studies in Arizona wants me to go there and help them set up a creative practice PhD program. That’s a job for this week, beginning that discussion and looking for funding. I’d like to go for a year.
I submitted a few abstracts this week. One was on barriers to healthcare access for transgender Māori, the other was on kaupapa Māori creative strategies to empower the HIV sector.
I have been cray emailing cuators and scholars all over the world during the past week as well. I think there needs to be a Takatāpui/Two Spririt gathering in 2019, with a focus on creative practice and relational strategies toward healing our land, communities and futures.
I don’t care that I’m a black, hairy, HIV positive fucking tranny who’ll never get the chop cos I love my dick.