Block 13 voices lifted by The Guilty FemininstAug 02, 2022
I'm a feminist but... I admit that as we turned the corner to join the end of the queue for Deborah Frances White's live podcast show, The Guilty Feminist, it was not a soaring sense of 'sisterhood' I felt, but rather a sudden sensation of intimidation being surrounded by 2,000 feminists. Having been a student feminist activist for several years during my uni days, the memories that came flooding back were of times when we turned on each other, started new factions and left people behind. Times when I'd been cast out of communities.
Needless to say, these experiences never changed my mind about being a feminist and I'm still happily a feminist today.
It was Chris who had bought us tickets to this comedy podcast that is feminist in a very human way. Deborah Frances-White has an extraordinary way of bringing people with her and uplifting them. Masterful at using her public platform to support feminist causes, we've had a lot of fun listening to her podcasts. Chris has been listening for 6 years and most days. So to be shown to our seats in the State Theatre only 4 rows from the front was the first unexpected miracle. We sat forward in anticipation.
Knowing how the format of the podcast goes, Chris was prepared and had briefed me. We'd had time to prepare - this show had been rescheduled due to a previous lockdown.
Simply seeing Deborah Frances-White, her co-host Cal Wilson, regular on the show butch folk singer-songwriter Grace Petrie, and guests Julia Zemiro, TV personality (think Rockwiz and co-host of Eurovision on SBS), Indigenous queer poet, Jazz Money and Maeve Marsden of Queerstories walk onto the stage was enough to be moved just by their presence. After each sharing, 'I'm a feminist, but... here's a funny thing I thought or an unfeminist thing I said recently,' the comic wit and banter were a joy to witness. Cal and Deborah were both dressed to the nines in new 'pantaloons' bought from a local fashion designer at the QVB. Part jodhpur, part Diva, part pin-striped, they both looked dashing.
Audience inclusion is an integral part of the show and so began the question, "What's a feminist act you've done recently." So as not to intimidate anyone else, Deborah instructed us to start with small, even mediocre acts of feminism. "Anyone who starts with - I'm the co-founder of... - no, sit down."
Someone shared about interrupting his co-worker's dominating habit of staring at the young female research students as they walked into the office. Someone else shared about being a burlesque teacher and empowering one of her students to break through her body shame and perform on stage. And then, Deborah opened up the door that Chris had been ready to walk through. "Now has anyone else got an act of feminism or a project that they need help with?" Before she had even finished her sentence, Chris had their hand up and I was nudging them to stand up. Deborah spotted them and said, "You. You're positively bursting out of your seat! Come down to the microphone."
Watching one's partner sharing in such a real, authentic and powerful way in front of 2000 people is always moving and Chris absolutely nailed it.
"Hi, my name is Chris, I'm trans-masc & non-binary. I've actually got top surgery tomorrow..."
Then they shared about how starting Queers of Joy had enabled us to meet our LGBTQI friends living in horrific conditions in one of the world's largest refugee camps, Kakuma, in Kenya where it's illegal to be homosexual or trans. We meet with about 8 of the 56 adults (plus their kids) on zoom every fortnight. They shared how our friends create a performance video for every show and we raise money for them which they spend on food, medicine for malaria and typhoid, and other necessities. And they shared that when we first met them, they were sleeping on the ground outside without shelter. They were able to rebuild their shelter which was petrol bombed and in which one of their comrades lost their life.
Deborah responded in her usual yet incredible robust way. "Ok everyone, you're allowed to get your phones out for this. Go to www.freeblock13.com and donate whatever you can. I'm going to donate $200 - if you're in a position to do that, please do. Otherwise, who can donate $5? Who can donate $10? Who can donate $20?"
During the interval, someone came up to us and gave Chris cash. By the end of the night, I'd been moved by so much laughter and so many of the conversations that the sense of intimidation and threat from the start of the night had dissipated.
At the end of the show, Deborah called Chris back up to make a video of the audience saying all together, "We're with you Block 13!" and cheering. And then "The Guilty Feminist supports freeblock.com!" When we sent these videos to our shared WhatsApp group, the responses from our friends were plentiful. They cried.
"Waoooow. <3 <3 Am crying. This is so fabulous Chris and Danica. We are speechless honestly," - Festo.
"Thank you Danica and Chris. Am speechless. This is very attaching (autocorrect). I didn't know that in the world are still people would love us." - Shifra
"Ma eyes are wetting. This kind of love is extra ordinary." - Lucretia
"WOW.... Am speechless... Thanks very much Chris and Danica. That's so amazing. Well done family." - Juliet
"Thanks for raising our voices. Have lost what to say. We much appreciate you. This is beyond. We can't thank you enough Danica and Chris." - Reginah
"Wooooow. This is showing the Solidarity and love towards us. We much appreciate thanks very much Chris and Danica for always making us your first priority." - Kevin
Donations have continued to come in. When I spoke with our friends last night on zoom, they were so moved that people care about them - and also happy to have a short-term future where they will be able to eat 3 meals a day. They each individually shared what it was like to see that audience and hear the message that 'we're with you.' As I listen to their sharing, over and over again I'm struck by the fact that they hold no bitterness against anyone. They speak from an attitude of gratitude and thanks in a humble way which is extraordinary given the relentless harassment and discrimination that impacts their daily life - and some of them have been living in the camp for years now. There is so much we can learn and apply in our own lives from listening to them. As I always tell them, our lives are enriched by having them in them. They make the world rounder for us. They give us hope, connection, love and restoration of faith in our shared humanity.
If you'd like to contribute to improving the safety, security and daily survival of our LGBTQIA refugee friends, please go to www.freeblock13.com
Thank you to Deborah Frances-White and her podcast, The Guilty Feminist which you can listen to on all good podcast platforms.
P.S. If you like this conversation and you want to discover how to be empowered through the body including the fourth pillar - being a gift to the world, click here to set up a complimentary call.
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