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How do I support my LGBTQIA+ child’s start at a new school?

Starting at a new school is always a little daunting – and not just for the kids!

Dear parents and carers…. I see you. Until they come home from that first day, you’re waiting with baited breath, fingers crossed!

But what if your child is LGBTQIA+ ? What are the additional considerations you need to think about?

Every child is unique, but LGBTQIA+ kids have specific needs that can determine whether starting at a new school is a positive or negative experience.

“Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.”

Thomas A Edison

Before your child starts school it’s important to have some conversations with them to gauge where they are emotionally and how they need might need your support.

Here are my 5 tips for supporting your LGBTQIA+ child’s start at a new school.

As a parent or carer, it’s important to collect information about the school. Do your research about how LGBTQIA+ inclusive the school is. Attend any in-person information sessions and ask questions. Have a good look at their website and social media. Book a phone call with the headteacher. There are numerous questions to ask and the more you know, the better. It will help you to troubleshoot any issues ahead of time and understand the school culture, including how likely and how proactively they will act should any issues arise.

Talking to other parents and teachers can give you and overall feel for the school

Find out what the school’s uniform policy is? Will this be compatible for your LGBTQIA+ child?

Is the uniform (both sports and every day) gendered into boys and girls clothes or are there options for gender-neutral clothing?

For trans and non-binary kids gendered clothing that does not affirm their gender, can make them feel exceptionally uncomfortable. It is also likely to increase gender dysphoria, which can negatively impact their overall well-being.

Lesbians and non-binary students may want to wear a suit to the dance.
Wearing clothes is an important part of identity

If your child is happy for you to speak to the school, you may like to arrange for the school to provide a confidant; a trusted teacher or counsellor that your child can talk to during school hours. Having a safe space to share and talk through any issues can help resolve the issue before it becomes a bigger problem. The trusted adult may also help them with any anxieties about bullying, and be an inside ear within the staff, to help minimise impacts and make changes.

Trusted adult
A trusted adult at school can be a great way for LGBTQIA+ kids to get support

When starting a new school, kids worry about making friends and whether they will ‘fit in’. For LGBTQIA+ kids there’s the added decision of whether they will be open about their sexuality and/or gender at school. They may not want to be open with anyone until they know them better. Ultimately, it is their choice if they tell anyone, who and when.

It’s important that your child decides for themselves about whether they will ‘out’ at school or not.

Chat with your child. Ask them how they are feeling about it starting school. Have they thought about whether they want to be ‘out’ or not? Talk it through and give them space to explore what they will do. Either way, respect their decision.

If you’re child is trans and in the middle of social transitioning, you may wish to inform the school so that they can support them appropriately. However, do not assume that your child wants staff to know. Ask them first. Your child may wish you to talk to the school about where they can access quiet spaces during breaks, if they need some time on their own, or things like access to gender-neutral toilets and change rooms, how to handle their pronouns and any anxieties they have about inclusion.

Talking with school will help both you and the school know what you expect from each other.

Want to get confident in parenting LGBTQIA+ kids?

Message me for details of my new beta program.


Cath is an LGBTQIA+ inclusion consultant, coach and mentor who supports parents of LGBTQIA+ kids to get confident in LGBTQIA+ inclusion.

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An invitation

Maps…They’re the best open invitation.

– Richard Glover

That’s quite a phrase isn’t it?

There’s a delectable sense of discovery and anticipation held within those few words.

Spoken by Richard Glover in his book, George Clooney’s Haircut and other cries for help, this phrase really struck me.

I guess it summed up everything I’ve always thought about maps.
Having trained as a landscape architect, much of my university life was spent designing and exploring the world through the aerial perspective.

For most people maps are for planning holidays, or the car trip discomfort.
I’m sure that many couples have nearly reached divorce because the chosen ‘navigator’ has misread the map or the vital road intersection happens to land on the map fold – the same fold that has now turned into a hole on the paper from repeated foldings.

Perhaps the introduction of GPSs has saved many a relationship?!

To me, there’s a beauty to maps.

As you trace your finger along the roads, you begin to imagine what each place looks like; the place names conjuring up images in your mind. Half the fun of planning a holiday or an overseas trip is in the preparation; pouring over a map before you leave.

In many Australian maps, place names offer insight into human hardships.

credit: Summerdrought

Mount Misery and Lake Disappointment so acutely describe the state that British explorers found themselves in hundreds of years ago. Yet, Anglo names do nothing to describe the massacres, traumas and desecration of the local indigenous people who called and still call these places home. Other names written out of history.

As artistic masterpieces, maps can be exquisitely detailed and take you on a journey through the creative mind of the artist.

Other maps allow you to explore communities that once lived.
Personally I really enjoy looking at the old parish maps.

Parish maps are beautifully simple with just a few lines making up the boundary of the cemetery and delineating the different denominations. Which denominations were the most revered and the most influential in the town is also evident. The ‘best’ denominations were those that could be accessed without having to venture through another denomination’s land.

The desire for street frontage still rules!


Then there’s simple mud maps, drawn quickly to help a friend find your house in the countryside.

‘Mud maps’ reveal much about the creator. In an attempt to help you find the destination, the creator includes prominent points of interest – defining locations to help you on your way.

But it’s not simply a map.

It’s a code that reveals more about the individual than we might realise.

I notice natural features; the trees, the rocks, watercourses as well as the absence of such soulful features. I love trees – everything about them. So for me, my mud map might describe the road turn-off by the enormous Eucalyptus that stands on the corner, the trunk that glows brightly at sunset.

Other people might instead, notice the new brick house on the same corner, its double garage and carport featuring prominently – something which passes me by.

And so in using someone else’s mud map, we follow their journey and gain an insight into their loves, their interests and their life.

We might not know it.
They might not know it either, but there’s a subtle insight into that person’s internal dialogue.

As Richard Glover says about maps, ‘they’re an open invitation’.

It’s an invitation to find out more.

Cath x

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What’s your secret and how do you feel about it?

Twice, in my life I’ve had to ‘come out’. Say that phrase and to many it means coming out as gay. Yep, done that one. But it was the other that took me by surprise.

I grew up in a non-religious family. I never went to church except for funerals and weddings. It was a desperately uncomfortable space for me. It felt make-believe and as though everyone was being conned.

‘Faith’ as a good thing was a foreign concept to me. All I knew of it was it being used as a weapon to control people and the damage done in its name. For me that was Aboriginal people who had been forcibly removed off Country and put into missions to convert them to the Christian way.

In short, I always thought anything spiritual was a crock of shit.

Then in 2008 things started happening to me that I couldn’t explain….

I just ‘knew’ things that came true – information I could not have known. I had visions. I saw people in my dreams before they died 36 hours later. I could tell people specific details about their deceased relatives – people I’d never met. I saw people I knew in car accidents that then happened a week later exactly as I’d seen them happen.

In short, I thought anything spiritual was a crock of shit.

– Cath

Try getting your head around that, when you think it’s all a crock of shit! Not easy.

Fast forward 13 years and a chunk of Shamanic training, and this is now my every day.

I’m no ‘fluffy bunny’ type. I’m visceral, candid and work with a discerning gut.

Who is this woman?! hahaha

It’s not something I ever thought I’d be owning as part of my identity. And I certainly never expected to ‘out’ myself a second time to the people who were with me during the ‘crock of shit’ phase.

White sage is used as an incense and for cleansing.

Claiming Your Identity

What are the things in your life that you hide? What are those parts of you that are worthy of you ‘outing’ yourself? The funny thing is that some ‘outings’ fall completely flat. We anticipate reactions. We build them up in our heads. We work out ways to justify who we are and to counteract any resistance.

That’s a lot of energy there isn’t it? All that effort.

So what if we were bolder and brave enough to show who we are?

I know that can be scary and there’s always the fear of being hurt or of an unpleasant reaction. But we can’t not do it. It’s too important.


If you’re feeling resistance, consider this.

Identity goes to the core of who we are. That’s why it’s scary. It’s meaningful and it’s personal.

So if you’re hiding that part of you, who are you really hiding from? Is it others or yourself?
Living authentically is so much more enjoyable. Take it from me. When I told a close relative that I was gay, he said that he was glad that that’s all it was. He’d been worried about me as I hadn’t been myself. He’d noticed that I didn’t seem happy.

After that ‘outing’ everything changed. Everyone noticed it too. Everyone commented on how I felt lighter, more positive, more of a free spirit. I felt different too – a weight had gone.

And I also noticed the change when I started working Shamanically. By being honest with myself about who I am, I could see how much better I was. More at ease, a quieter mind and nicer to be around – ask my wife!

When we’re at our best everyone benefits.

I now even work with clients who are seeking spiritual guidance and healing.

Occasionally I pinch myself to remind myself that this part of my life is real, this identity. It’s so far from where I once thought I’d end up.

But then I think of the people I’ve helped and I know that’s been good. When clients give me feedback, I know I’m on the right track.

“I was ill prepared however, for the true depth of what Cath was able to do for me.”

– N.H.

“Two years ago, eight years after the death of our daughter my husband and I were both at a very low ebb. Cath was very gentle, respectful and totally non judgemental. We are both enormously grateful to Cath for the inner peace she has brought us.


I love helping people and I love doing what I do. Now, I can’t imagine not working Shamanically.

But even more so, I can’t imagine not being able to help people through some of the most difficult times in their lives. It’s a huge privilege to be invited into that space and I’m incredibly humbled by those who do.

And that’s not going away anytime soon.

This Shamanic woman is here to stay……with her ever changing identity.

Cath x

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Debunking Myths and Illustrating Identity

“In our culture we respect the person, regardless of the look. We don’t look on the outside. It’s the inside.”

– Crystal, a Transgender Tiwi Islander (on the BBC’s ‘Miriam Margoyles – Almost Australian)

These words were part of a conversation with 5 Tiwi Islanders – all transgender women, about whether or not they’ve had ‘bottom surgery’ (also known as gender reassignment surgery).

It’s a common question. Why it’s anyone else’s business still flummoxes me, but for many TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists) it seems to be all about the male ‘member’ and primarily, the fear of its use in predation. One of the Tiwi Islander sisters, (the way they refer to themselves), goes on to say “it’s just there for decoration”.

This is the BBC’s series, ‘Miriam Margoyles – Almost Australian‘, in which Margoyles, a British actress and new Australian citizen, takes a 2 month journey around Australia to find out what it means to be Australian.

She doesn’t hold back. The conversations are fantastically open and honest.

In broader society the concept of ‘decoration’ versus predation creates an instant clash. One group sees it as a weapon, whilst for the other, it can be almost immaterial to their internal identity.

Margoyles continues, “Crystal tells me, the Tiwi Islands are home to Australia’s largest per captita transgender population and they have been part of the community, its life and traditions since time immemorial“.

THIS is significant and one of the reasons I decided to write this blog.

So many people think that being transgender is new. It’s not.

Tiwi Islands in the north of Australia (credit: Google maps)

Debunking the myths

Over this last weekend I’ve been involved in lengthy conversations on Facebook about transgender people. There is so much misinformation and fear out there and where possible I try to counter the opinions with more factual information.

Knowing that I do “Talk-Back Tuesday – a live session on Facebook where I answer questions about LGBTQIA+ stuff, a friend tagged me in a conversation on a mutual friend’s page – “Get in here Cath Brew”.

So I got in there.

My preferred way of writing includes calm polite conversation no matter how ‘expressive’ the other parties get. I’ve learnt over the years that they expect a fight and they come out fighting very early on – mostly because that’s what they get back. This is the issue with discussions around trans issues. Debates become toxic very quickly and often end up with participants slanging insults at each other.

Whilst our views may differ, I am proud that two of them thanked me for my kind and polite comments.

If I’m sarcastic back or equally ‘expressive’, no one wins.

So why write about it here?

Because on Sunday afternoon as I was driving home I passed a transgender woman we know. She was glowing from the inside out as she walked in the sunshine. I smiled, but was reminded of the times I’ve heard her talk about being hassled, about being threatened and of seeing her standing alone in pubs with no one talking with her. So I write this for her and every other trans person.

I want her to be seen and not feared.

I want all trans people to be supported and not subjugated.

Setting the record straight

Much of my work with Drawn to a Story is about ‘centring the margins’. By illustrating the experiences of marginalised people, I hope to create safer spaces.

In continuation of the weekend’s Facebook discussions, here are some clarifications of common myths about Transgender people.

Being Transgender is not a mental illness

Gender dysphoria is not a mental disorder. Some people however can develop mental health problems as a result, particularly because of how society may treat them.

Pedophilia has nothing to do with being transgender

Foucault’s queer theory is often quoted as ‘proof’ that being queer and that the + in the acronymn LGBTQIA+ includes pedophiles as it’s different to the hetero binary social norm. Firstly, a theorist does not define our lives. I think it is worth considering that a theory is just that, a theory. Other queer theorists speak differently, yet focus is always brought back to Foucault. It bothers me intensely that pedophilia is again linked to our community. It becomes a biased generalisation. I think Foucault’s theory feeds into unconscious bias and proves the whole point that queerness is ‘othered’ by the dominant heteronormative society and therefore demonises genuine queer as a result.

The + does not include pedophiles. Most pedophiles are actually straight, so why are they lumped in with the LGBTQIA+ community? This is my problem. Queer is different than, not ‘deviant or deviant from’. The + can also stand for straight allies, but no one ever links the straight part to pedophiles. It’s always linked to our community and spread with motives behind it. The propaganda used to be that gay men were all pedophiles, now it’s trans people. It just shifts to whomever is deemed the weakest link. Please don’t confuse pedophilia with being queer and/or transgender. We have a hard enough time without this falseness being added to us.

Being transgender is as old as humans have existed. It’s not new.

Many people assume that being transgender is a new trendy thing and that society has only ever had two genders. My first comment is always, “Which society are you referring to?”

Trans people have always existed, just like Crystal the transgender Tiwi Islander woman expressed. There are also gender queer and different relationships in the Bible, but that’s a WHOLE other topic.

Franciscans in the 1650s talked about men and boys who dressed like women in Pakistan. The ancient Kama Sutra talks about sexual acts being performed by women of a third sex. The Hijra in India are one of the oldest non-binary identities, despite the British trying to ‘erase’ India’s third gender.

In Native American nations, ‘two-spirit’ people represent a third and fourth gender and in some nations, up to six genders. They are the healers, visionaries, and medicine people. “Amongst different Siberian nations (tribes to colonialists) one finds a variety… men taking on womens roles and tasks, wearing womens clothes, marrying a man or woman. Same with women.” (taken from a personal conversation with a Tuvan shaman)

Hijras in India are considered holy people.
Hijra and companions in Bengal, 1860s.
We’wha (1849-1896) was a two spirit Native American who shared much of her culture. Read More.

It really isn’t new. It’s just that people talk about it more.

All human embryos, as do all mammals, start as female. Around the 2nd month, maleness develops (if it’s going to). With the enormous range of differences we see in medicine, it’s only natural that the same happens with gender, and therefore natural that crossovers occur.

There’s so much more I could add here, but I’ll leave any questions you have for “Talk-Back Tuesday.

You can ask your questions anonymously here or ask them on the Facebook Live at 2pm BST on Tuesdays.

Cath x

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What Makes Us Human?

“Because there was still some human in me….

– Sergeant Rudy Reyes, US Marine

Systematically trained to kill people, Sergeant Rudy Reyes was shown people’s heads being shot off to desensitize him.

Speaking in the BBC’s documentary Once Upon A Time in Iraq, which aired in the UK last week, Reyes talked about being part of an elite group of marines. ‘When I saw that, I looked inside myself and said, “I don’t know if I have what it takes to do this”. Because there was still some human in me.’

There’s still some human in me….

Those words stayed with me.

I was struck how rarely I’ve thought about what it means to be human. As is the norm, I go about my daily life, its highs and lows and all the bits in between, but never have I had cause to ask, what makes me human?

I know too well, that not having to think about that question means that I’ve lived a privileged life. Apart from distant observance, human rights haven’t been pushing at my doorstep.

That’s because I have them.

What makes us human?

Simply put, the most obvious answer is ‘genetics’ and how we are distinguished from other species. If your mind is already thinking about our links with the ‘Chimpanzee family’, Sir Walter Bodmer, Professor of Genetics at the University of Oxford will not disagree. Whilst humans share 99% of chimpanzee sequence, he refers to the 1% that we don’t share, as giving a massive amount of space for ‘significant differences’ *

Phew! So that random strangely course hair I find on my… ahem…. that a woman finds on her chin sits within the 1% and not the 99%? Grand. Makes me feel so much better.

I once read that the difference between ‘Modern man’ and the previous species was that as homo sapiens we couldn’t leave the deceased where they fell by simply walking away. We needed to deal with the body and during that evolutionary shift, we were most likely to bury the person.

I recount this because genetics are one thing. Most of us can’t fathom our genetics with any detailed knowledge, so I find myself going to more tangible things that I can grasp. Bury your dead. That seems human to me.

I would also suggest that in a diverse cultural and global context, ‘bury your dead’ now needs to be exapanded out to a ‘ritual goodbye of the deceased’.

So what does ‘being human’ have to do with identity and belonging?

There are a range of accepted contributions to what it means to be human – bigger brains, cognitive ability, cooking, language, curiosity and quest, and we have a ‘deep social mind’ which means that we are more social than any other animal on earth.**

Now, the scientists among you are going to cringe when I say this, but I want to ignore genetics and scientific explanations…….

I want to ask you what it FEELS like to be human.

And as you start to think about this, you’ll find that it taps into areas of your soul that link to Identity and Belonging. This question forces you to think about what you value, what feeds your soul like nothing else does, what makes you feel happy and potentially what brings up a range of uncomfortable emotions – especially which you may not have yet admitted to yourself?

So – What does it feel like to you to be human?

Is it the connectivity of your closest relationships?

This taps into:

  • You needing to verbalise what YOU want from a close relationship
  • How YOU need to connect
  • Whether you know YOUR own identity and not just the identity of you as a couple.

Is it that you dream of bigger things for your life and your family?

This taps into:

  • Your hopes and dreams and whether you are living them already or not – and if not, do you feel that you are living the real YOU?
  • Do you feel that you belong with your family or are you at odds? If you’re at odds, how do you feel about that? How does that impact you and your sense of self?

Credit: @ToluBamwo from

Is it that you explore the laws of the universe and all that is beyond yourself?

This taps into:

  • What does it mean to be you?
  • Where do you feel you belong in the Universe?
  • How do you relate to the world around you and why?
Credit: @ToluBamwo from

These are just a few of the questions that you can ask yourself.

I guarantee that when you ask yourself ‘What makes me human?, you will delve into the deepest parts of who you are.

If you say it’s your emotions, which emotions? Why? Why are they important to you? What will you tolerate and not tolerate? What does that say about your identity? What values do you align with? What triggers you emotionally? Why?


Asking ‘what makes you human?’ is only the beginning of the conversation.

So where do I stand on being human?

How I feel is eloquently captured by Roland Barthes in his book, Mythologies.

For me, being human means that we deal with the ‘goodness of wine, not with the wine itself‘.

Personally, this simple phrase captures the richness of being human.
It creates space for each and every single one of the layers that create our internal conversation.

The internal conversation that makes up who we feel we are and where we feel we belong.

And so I ask you again….

What does it feel like to you to be human?

Cath x

*Bodmer, W. (2009) ‘Foreword’ – What Makes Us Human, One World Publications, pg.ix
**Whiten, A. (2009) The Place of ‘Deep Social Mind’ in the Evolution of Human Nature, One World Publications, pg.146

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Not fitting-in is your Superpower

When I arrived in England, my partner gave me a book.

I didn’t realise it at the time, but Watching the English: the Hidden Rules of English Behaviour would become my bible.

Kate Fox’s book is a marvellous addition to any expat’s research on England. I read it, but like so many things about culture, it didn’t really sink in until I’d experienced the things I read about.

My now wife and I met at a conference, a death conference to be precise.
As you do…

We sat next to each other the first night at dinner and the rest, as they say is history.

But it seems I only made it by the skin of my teeth, or rather the teeth on my fork.

Unbeknown to me and outside of the rules of English behaviour, I had no idea that on that first night, I held my knife and fork correctly. We’ve joked about it ever since. Held it wrongly and we wouldn’t be married…

The Knife Holding Rule

Page 316 talks about the knife holding rule, whether the handle goes under your palm or rests like a pencil between your thumb and index finger.

I jest about whether I would have passed the test to marriage. But it gets more extreme. When we met, Angie ate a pot of yogurt with a fork, because she didn’t want to move away from me to get a spoon. Sweet huh, but oh so wrong!

I jest, but these social rules about eating utensils are the key to opening up the whole world to English social history – the history of class. It’s certainly a fascinating insight into a country when you understand where it’s come from culturally and socially.

In one sentence, whether your midday meal is lunch or dinner, or whether your evening meal is supper or tea tells someone exactly what your social standing is.

I don’t say this to judge. I’m not judging.

This is historically how England operated. Your social behaviour, the words you used, the tone of your voice, your mannerisms – so much was and is revealed.

This history of class was part of shaping the nation. Your social status defined what you could achieve, what doors opened to you and how others viewed you.

The influence of class on identity

As an outsider arriving newly to a country you observe in ways that you might not as an insider.

I’ve often wondered about the infamous English reserve and where it comes from.

I still don’t know, but I can’t help but think about the impact of class. I may be wrong, but historically, if the minute you open your mouth you’re judged, then you’re going to keep it shut aren’t you? Whilst there are many other signs, your behaviour is also going to be more measured to not let out any hints.

Is this where English reserve comes from? I wonder?

The outsider’s view

Whilst time has evolved English society considerably, its history remains present and influential.

When I arrived in the UK, I worked in the field of heritage management. All my experience was Australian history and so I was a little concerned about how I might fit in working with English history, of which I knew very little.

But being an outsider was my genius zone!
It put me in a powerful position that I hadn’t considered.

I could get to the heart of things.

Someone said to me, “As an outsider, you’re in a really powerful position. You’re not part of our social history or class system. You can ask the questions we know we’re not allowed to ask.”


That blew my mind and I suddenly realised that I didn’t need to fit. My value and strength was precisely that I was different.

So, I asked away. It enabled me to have conversations that locals couldn’t in normal work settings. Professionally, it became my asset. People hear my Australian accent and I’m allowed a space that others aren’t. My accent attracts other comments, sometimes not friendly, but that’s their shit not mine.

The longer I’ve lived and worked here, the more I knew what I couldn’t ask, but with my accent I was still given open access.

Make the most of how you don’t fit

For all the people out there who are struggling to find a sense of belonging where you live, remember that your difference is your asset.

Whether you’re an expat, relocated 100 miles down the road, or maybe moved to another State or region, you will experience a period of adjustment. It’s easy to fit in because it feels safer.

However, my advice?

Don’t try to fit.
As I stated in the American Express magazine, AMEX Essentials, belonging comes from within

And the best bit?

You really want to know?

Your ability to not fit is your superpower.

Cath x

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To Speak Up or Not – can you live with yourself?

I wish I’d said something.

These were the words of a friend of mine when she witnessed someone being discriminated against.

A comforting friend might say, Ah well, next time you can…

I suspect that we honestly believe that we would say speak up next time, but when the moment comes, we are presented with a choice.

And the choice not to is easier.

I won’t today because I’m tired and just want to get home

I won’t today because the bloke that said the comment looks like he could crush me through a meat grinder.

I won’t today because I’ve just ducked into this shop for one thing. I’ve got to get back to work.

I won’t today because, well…. do I care enough?

I won’t today because I’m here for work and don’t want to make a scene.

These thoughts are common and normal. I know they are because I’ve thought them.

It’s hard to speak up.
But I always regret it when I don’t.

When I worked in Sydney I had to visit a maximum security prison to relocate a family of birds that had nested in the exercise yard of the prisoners who were severely mentally impaired. To this day I regret not saying anything about the prison officer whose language belittled and made fun of the prisoners.

Did I think, she knows her job and I know nothing about how hard this must be, so I won’t say anything?
Yes, I did.


I also chose to ignore the uncomfortable body language and facial expressions of her colleague whose behaviour was completely the opposite – positive and open hearted.

Personal or External?

When it’s personal, it seems easier to speak up. When a colleague started talking about ‘drowning gingers at birth’ I had something to say. When I hear homophobic stuff I speak up. When I receive anti-Australian sentiments I will voice an opinion. I can do this without thinking because they all affront me personally.

I feel justified.
It throws that energy back at them so I don’t take it on board.

So why is it harder to do for others?

Because we have a choice.
We can choose to ignore.

Subtle versus Smack-in-your-face!

The recent Black Lives Matter campaign has highlighted how so much of racism is subtle.

As Patrick George says, “White people in England can be a bit smarter, they know exactly what they can’t say to be obviously racist, but they’ll do it more subtly. They’ll come for you in other ways.”

Evidently, this is also why large proportions of White people don’t think there’s a problem, because they don’t see it personally. As Patrick George explains, those who discriminate know they have to be careful about how they do it.

But what about when it is not so subtle? Does that still happen?

Can you remember the last time you witnessed racism openly and boldly?

I can. Several times, unfortunately.

It shocked me.
It shocked me because it showed that the racist felt safe to be racist.

They felt that they had support from the White people nearby.

No, this gentleman is next” said dad as he pointed to the Aboriginal man next to him.

Only then, did the White staff member choose to serve the Aboriginal man who’d been standing there waiting for several minutes – passed over every time a White person had walked up and ordered.

Again…. an Aboriginal man asked us for a lift in our car, but unfortunately 300kms in the opposite direction to our route. We found another family nearby to give him the lift. They were more than happy to until they saw he was Aboriginal. In front of him they screwed up their face, said No and shook their heads.

It’s abhorrent when you witness it.

It’s abhorrent when you realise that people have to change their behaviour to stay safe.

On remote Australian roads, everyone waves at oncoming traffic. It’s gives a sense of ‘we’re all out here together’.

Over many years I’ve noticed that Aboriginal people hold back until you wave first. Then with beaming smiles you get a friendly wave.

A few weeks ago I read about a couple in the USA; he’s Black, she’s White. When they go running, she always runs behind him, so it never looks like he’s chasing her.

Pardon me, but FUCK! How is that okay?

I know it’s easy to say there’s a lot to learn and there’s no easy fix. That’s true. And I also know that Australia, the USA, Africa…. they’re all different. The discriminations have cultural contexts and histories that give each country its own complexities.

But, we do have a lot to learn and by understanding cultures and people different from ourselves better, we can understand the impact of oppression and discrimination and how to change it.  

For example, do you know that in many Australian Aboriginal languages, there is no word for ‘thank you’ or ‘please’? The value of sharing and caring is such an important part of Aboriginal culture, its value is inherent. There’s no need for such words (from Clothing the Gap – an Aboriginal owned and led social enterprise)

In Resmaa Manakem’s book, My Grandmother’s Hands, he talks about the impact of genetic trauma and how bio chemical stress hormones influence what is passed down through generations. These traumas are living within Australia’s indigenous people. Equally, the traumas of slavery (which happened in Australia too) are in the bodies of People of Colour in the USA, the UK and other parts of the world.

Imagine the impact of colonisation on ‘sharing and caring’ people by ‘conquer and take’ people.

The damage starts instantly.
It’s now very old. These are old deep wounds.

We cannot ignore this when considering whether we choose to speak up today or tomorrow or we are regretting yesterday’s lack.

Let’s work to change the record
Let’s work to create new experiences that positively influence genetic trauma
Let’s be part of healing
Let’s make sure that subsequent generations are not dealing with this shit in 50 or 100 years.

You with me?


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Claiming Your Margins

“I’m not a White woman. I’m a faded Black person”

– Jane Elliott

Sit with that.

Take a little longer.

“I’m not a White woman. I’m a faded Black person.
My people moved far away from the Equator, and that’s the only reason my skin is lighter. That’s all any White person is.”

Jane Elliott, is an anti-racism activist who says some powerful things. She’s right of course.

“We are one race”. As I say that I can feel my gut fighting ‘we are one race’. I want to interject and say we’re all different, that culture creatives diversity and there’s different languages and, there’s …. and there’s….and there’s…..

But she’s right again.

Underneath the thin little layers of pigment, we are all the same – muscle, fat, bone, organs etc.
Yes, I’m human, but again I want to say I’m different because of x,y and z.

So why is that? I’m asking myself this question too.
Why do I feel the need so strongly to assert my difference?

It all relates to how I am identified – not how I self-identify, but how others identify me.

Have you noticed that being Black is so important to Black people? Or being gay is so important to gay people or being Jewish is so important to Jewish people?

It’s not because they are proud.

It’s because they’ve fought.

They’ve fought to be who they are and there’s no way in hell, that is going to be taken from them.

And they are proud.
They’re proud because they’ve survived.

I believe that middle-aged white people, i.e. the Privileged, can struggle to define themselves.

Years ago, I was sitting in my car by a waterhole in far north Queensland, Australia. An Aboriginal man drove up with a car load of Japanese businessmen. He walked up to waterhole and spoke loudly in Language, before coming up to my window to explain that he’d just introduced himself to the Spirits and thanked them for allowing us all to be there.

“Where youse from?” he asked and just as I was politely answering that I was from Sydney, he butted in. “Oh that’s right, youse don’t know where you’re from”.

I was slightly affronted; I knew where I was from!

But I’d missed the point.
As a White woman I didn’t have Dreaming and beyond a handful of generations I don’t know where I came from. As an Aboriginal man, he has a lineage to that continent that goes back 60,000 years.

Privilege doesn’t question

With Privilege comes a lack of questioning because of a lack of threat and therefore, a lack of needing to define yourself, because you, are the accepted ‘norm’.

Someone once asked me to describe myself in 6 words. I surprised myself by saying without hesitation, ‘red-headed Australian lesbian’, before I had to think a little harder about the remaining three descriptors.

The red-headed Australian lesbian 🙂

In hindsight, red-headed, Australian, lesbian are the three things for which I’ve been discriminated. At various points in my life, I’ve been made to feel that they are problematic and they have attracted verbal abuse.

So now, without thinking, I claim them.

I claim them because they’ve been used against me.

I claim them because I’ve fought for them.

And I claim them because I’ve had to.

They are not simple descriptors. They have power. Without the discrimination, these identifiers would not have the same level of importance.

And the wonderful irony, is that the people who discriminate actually create completely the opposite effect they are after.

They abuse and mock to belittle and to make themselves feel bigger. But all they do is make us rise stronger.

The VERY thing that they see as our weakness, is what makes us the strongest.

And a recommendation before I go…..

Don’t ever piss off a drag queen. You’ll live to regret it.

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There’s Truth and then there’s TRUTH


We know our truth.

Well at least we think we do.

Two people can have a conversation and come away with different ideas as to what it was about.

There’s a lot of new age, feel good stuff out there at the moment about knowing your truth.

Be true to yourself
You can only be responsible for your own truth
– Find your truth and you find yourself

These are all well and good, but what does that actually mean?

Last Friday, in my regular Barefoot Friday I talked about what it’s like to live with a neurodiverse spouse. Barefoot Friday is live illustration and conversation in which I cover a range of subjects around Identity, Belonging and Expat Life. 

With half an hour to spare before I started, I said to my wife, ‘what am I going to do for Barefoot Friday? Nothing is coming to me. I want to do something simple, but powerful’.

My wife replied,

‘I’m simple….’

‘And powerful’.

We often joke about her being simple, like the happy bouncy dog that can only focus on the ball you are about to throw. I appreciated her nudge towards our inside joke.

‘Why don’t you talk about what it’s like to live with a neurodiverse partner?’ she said.
She was right. This felt good.

Barefoot Friday’s illustration from 5 June 2020

It’s not something I could have talked about once. I didn’t understand it.

My truth was frustration, pain, hurt and confusion.

Ang’s diagnosis of Dyspraxia at aged 50 and our belief now that she’s also got Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Autistic tendencies created a space to talk.
It turns out her truth had been frustration, pain, hurt and confusion.

Ang is now 61, so we’ve had 11 years to learn, negotiate communication that works for both of us, and find ways that mean we get what we need. It’s like anything in a marriage. It takes a commitment to each other to make it work.

So, my truth turned out to be her truth too, but from a different angle.

Finding your truth

In reality…

I didn’t find my truth as the new-age tells me. I found my wife.

My wife didn’t find her truth. She’d known it for a long time. She finally felt understood.

In talking about neurodiversity, I received feedback from another neurodiverse listener who stressed the importance of talking about the positives of neurodiverse people, not just the struggles.  They are right. Neurodiverse people have amazing skills and that will be the subject this week, but it got me thinking about truths again.

It was my wife who suggested the subject matter and she was very happy with it, but someone with a similar experience holds a different truth. Even when we speak the same language this disconnect exists.

In the expat context, imagine too, the added complications of different languages and culture. It’s a wonder that anyone ever understands anyone else!

Dyspraxia is classified by the World Health Organisation as a disability. The benefit of this means that diagnosis opens avenues for funding, support services and further public recognition – all of which has been invaluable for my wife.

However, and I know this is going to sound like I’m speaking from a position of Privilege, non-neurodiverse privilege, the majority, the main-stream…. but I’m going to say it anyway.

And I am saying it, because THIS is my truth.

There is limited support for people who are married to people with dyspraxia. You can find information and services to help with bringing up autistic and ADD children and if your partner is autistic, but dyspraxia? Not so much.

At one point I even contacted the Dyspraxia Foundation to ask if they had resources, but they didn’t. Rightly so, their focus is on helping dyspraxic people, but I do wonder about partners. Are they also hidden voices as they navigate neurodiversity? Resources for non-neurodiverse people would certainly also benefit their neurodiverse spouses and relationships.

Have I just given myself another project?

Navigating neurodiversity in a marriage

Both my wife and I will openly admit that it’s been a challenge to negotiate, individually and together, but we’ve done it well and we continue to. We are an amazing team and I wouldn’t change anything.

Being dyspraxic is as much part of your identity as having brown hair. THIS is the reason I am talking about this issue. Diversity is about understanding, acceptance, embracing and celebrating.

Not allowing space for the full spectrum of people is nothing short of rejection. Who do you reject without realising it or without being honest with yourself, because you can’t cope with their difference?

Living with a neurodiverse spouse can be really challenging, but so can living with a feisty red-headed Australian. We are just who we are. Angie has opened my eyes to the world in ways that I would never have looked it. My wife’s approach to life has given me a lot to think about and loosened me up, inspired me and helped me in numerous ways….

but to find out about that, you’ll have to watch this week’s Barefoot Friday (Friday 2pm BST) on Facebook.

Cath x

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The cultural limitation of being old

Old hands

We all think someone else is old until we get there ourselves.


We massage our mind to try to be at ease with the number before looking to name a new distant number as ‘old’.

Is it any wonder though? At least in a large proportion of the West.

We erase the older generation from our lives.

And I don’t mean physically. It’s bigger than that.

It’s a deeply seated attitude where ‘old people’ are socially sandwiched between residential care and dying.

They become less than human.

When was the last time you saw an elderly person involved in a romantic storyline on TV?

When was the last time you saw an elderly couple in a film sex scene?

I can’t remember either.

It’s not because it’s not happening in real life.

In the UK, 54% of men and 31% of women over 70 report still being sexually active with a third stating ‘frequently’.

So, why is it that society pretends it’s not happening? Is it because it makes us (the society that values youth) uncomfortable?

I know that there’s the awkward thought of your parents having sex. I’m sure mine only had it twice…9 months before I was born and the same for my sibling.

Seriously though, in the expat community we often talk about how others box us in, especially with the ‘Where are you really from?’ question. Often, the enquirer doesn’t like our answer because it doesn’t fit their predetermined limitation of one’s identity.

The same applies to the elderly.

We place limitations on what we expect suitable behaviour and identity to be, but in doing so, we impose our own identity and attitudes. Apply it enough and at some point, the social pressure becomes a lived reality.

Last year, there was an incredibly good TV program in Australia called Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds. I think it is my most favourite program ever on TV.

This unique social experiment brought older retirement home residents together with pre-schoolers, to see if their contact and connections could help the residents to lead happier and healthier lives.

The children placed no limitations on residents and the results were remarkable.

It got me thinking.

When we place limitations on others, we also limit ourselves. We assert our own fears. We lower our standards. We close our minds.

I do not think that Josephine Smith felt limited.

Meet Mrs. Josephine Smith, aged 84, whose hobby is digging graves, says the caption to this National Library of Australia photo.

Josephine Smith

Woah! Stop right there!

84 and digging graves as a hobby?

I think I am in love with that woman.

She certainly does not look like a woman who would take well to being treated as old. She is a prime example of the power of seeing the elderly very much as active members of society.

They have a lot to offer if we allow ourselves to see them. I am not saying that to be seen, they need to be as active as Josephine Smith.

Rather, let us look beyond our own lens of limitation. Wipe your murky glasses to help you see differently. You might find that you do not even need to wear glasses and a new perspective will reveal itself.

The integrity of any society can be judged by how well it treats its youngest and oldest members.

– Brian Atuhaire

We have a lot to learn about how other cultures treat their elderly.

Mediterranean and Latin American cultures often all live under the one roof. I remember reading an article years ago that talked about the elderly living longer in cultures where they lived with family. The simple fact was that they were not isolated.

In South Korea, it is an honourable duty to care for one’s parents.  In India, the elderly are the head of the household and respected for their wisdom and sage advice to younger family members. In Vietnam, Japan, and China they also live with family as do many other cultures.

So where does leave us?

I look to Josephine Smith.

I’ve made a deal with a friend that we will go running together when we are 75. Who knows if we’ll even reach 75. It might be more of a crawl, but I know one thing for certain.

I’m aiming high and, in the meantime, I’m going to aim high for the elderly in my life.

I might even ask how good they are on the end of a shovel.

Josephine would be proud.

Cath x