I had a relatively early night last night because I wanted to go for a run this morning. This weekend is gay pride in Vancouver, and last night there were lots of parties.
Rather than go out, I decided I would rather go to bed and focus on the self-pride implicit in my research and artwork.
I find it difficult sometimes, to block out negative korero that goes on in my head; self-defeating self-dialogue. Yesterday was a negative korero day. I have those days in particular, when I have not had enough sleep. I think this is because normally, I am able to logically analyse the source of the emotions I experience, and in doing so, negate their impact on my sometimes robotic routines. I feel that I can logically process my emotions in this way because I am transgender. I definitely look out upon the world as a woman, but I was brought up in a very masculine way. My father was an athlete who played rugby league for New Zealand. He wanted me to follow in his footsteps.
As a child I had other plans. I was always destined to be an artist. I don’t particularly enjoy team sports. The competitive nature of team sports intimidates me. I prefer solo sports like running or swimming, or even going to the gym. Although, at the gym I get distracted because there are so many hot guys to look at.
After I finished my run this morning, I had a short cross-fit session. When I was done I began to stretch. The park that I have been training in lately is just across from the apartment building in which I am staying. I can see where I was training right now in fact. As I stretched I finally started to be able to process my negative feelings around gay pride.
A few weeks after I turned twenty one I went to Sydney Mardi Gras with my boyfriend. I consider him to be my first boyfriend, and my first experience of young adult love. I have only had two boyfriends in my life, both are great guys who I learned a lot from. My then boyfriend and I had a good time at first, but then at the Mardi Gras circuit party, high on Ecstasy, he told me that he wanted to make out with other guys who were dancing nearby. The night was rather traumatic for me as I watched someone I felt I was in love with, kissing and having sex with other men. I felt unimportant, humiliated and dehumanised. The next day he told me he wanted to have an open relationship. I was numb by this stage and coming down. We decided to go and hang out with some of his friends and proceeded to get drunk, at which point I managed to trick him into admitting that he had cheated on me in the year that we had been together. I got violent. When I drink, I am seldom violent, more often I giggle and smile.
I was disgusted and hurt in his behaviour, but also in my response to it, and that night sleeping in a hostel bed next to him I felt quite sick. At about five in the morning I woke from a sleepless kind of dream. In the dream my mother was crying hysterically. She hardly ever cries. Through her tears she was screaming at me, “you weren’t there, you weren’t there”.
As it turns out I wasn’t.
The dream caused me to immediately get out of bed and get dressed. My boyfriend thought I was having drama, but I really needed to go and find a payphone to call my mother. When I finally managed to get to a payphone on Kings Cross, I called my mother to check that everything was alright. She said all was fine, and that my father was busy getting my little brother ready for school.
She asked if I wanted to talk to dad but I said I would speak to him in a few days when I was back in New Zealand.
Over the remaining days in Sydney all I wanted to do was go home and be in a safe environment. On our final day, waiting at the airport for our flight, I remember watching Chaka Kahn on the Sydney breakfast news. Chaka Kahn had been the surprise international guest artist to perform at the circuit party that year. Her show was one of the highlights of my young adult life. She only sang one song, “I’m Every Woman”, but in the lead up to the song there was a show where four drag-queens stood on a head-high platform, lipsynching to “Aint Nobody”. It was almost as if they were floating. Maybe it was the Ecstasy.
I don’t begrudge my ex-boyfriend. We were both very young and were simply on different journeys. I flew to London a few years ago to celebrate his civil union. We caught up a few weeks ago for dinner when we were both in Aotearoa. He is a good person, and I am glad for the fun times we had together when we were just kids really.
When we finally arrived back in New Zealand after our trip, we got drug searched. I was stressed because I knew my flatmate was waiting for me. In those days there was no such thing as mobile technology. You can imagine my surprise when we finally came through the arrivals gate to find a large number of my cousins, my Aunt and my younger sister waiting for us.
My father had died playing squash, later the same day that I had called. Because I was overseas and had not left any contact details, no one could contact me to let me know.
I stayed in denial for over a year, and instead focused on trying to fix my relationship. My on-again off-again boyfriend by then, was very supportive. He tried to help me but in the end I really needed to find a way to help myself. I spent most of my time the following few years drunk, high and living the dead life of a zombie. It took me nearly twenty years to feel normal again after those experiences, although, I think in hindsight I sauntered into those experiences with a pretty fucked up perception of self anyway.
This morning whilst stretching, I realised that I do not feel gay pride. Gay pride reminds me of the trauma of that Mardi Gras experience, and also the traumatic years that followed as I tried to resolve the loss I felt. The year after my father died, I contracted HIV. I most definitely had a deathwish.
My dad always used to say “whenever you don’t feel right, go for a run”. That was his answer for everything.
I loved my father, and even though he died seventeen years ago, I really miss him.
Instead of going to pride today, I went to the Musqueam Nation Reservation here in Vancouver. My relations are here for an exhibition of photographs that are in a book being launched by one of my relations who is a Maori academic and historian. I really enjoyed being in Native country today, surrounded by people who welcomed me and were excited to share story. For me, I feel proud to be Maori, and connected to other Indigenous peoples through shared experiences of trauma and loss. I like being a person who is in search of solutions to help heal myself and others.
At one point late in the afternoon, a woman looked at me and told me she could see all of my ancestors standing behind me. She said it was unusual to meet a person surrounded by so many ancestors. A few times she looked away from me and I could see her trying to see something. Her fingers would move as if trying to join dots. I realised then that ancestors were asking her to tell me the things she relayed. She told me that my ancestors were feeding me, and were happy for me because I have willingly embarked on a journey that is mine and mine alone. She told me that my ancestors were happy for me because I am happy to do this work. She told me that in the old times there were ancestors who followed the pathways in the stars, and that I am being guided by such an ancestor. She told me that I already knew all that she was telling me, and she was right.
I don’t feel gay pride today, but I definitely feel pride.
I am glad I got up and went for a run today.
My father was a very clever man.