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Our SHero: Goondiwindi Jones shares powerfully about Kings of Joy

drag king empowerment feminist gender kings of joy kings of joy all-stars lgbtqia+ making a difference queer queers of joy the king coach Jul 21, 2023

The Kings of Joy community is filled with incredible people, all with their own personal journey and story of how becoming a first-time Drag King with their crew has positively impacted their lives. This week, Sasha aka Goondiwindi Jones shares her own powerful story of growth and transformation and what became possible in finding a place to belong in the Kings of Joy community.

[Trigger warning: death, grief, abuse]

"I’ve been pondering the first Queers of Joy show I attended nearly two years ago now. I was shattered from the death of my beloved mum, the last of my close family members, the shock end for my kids having a connection to their father (maybe not tragic though), and me finally free from abusive, stalking, coercive abuse from him.

I was escaping to the ocean pool in Coogee and writing, recovering, and rebuilding a sense of self I had almost forgotten. Then there she was again.

Instantly at ease, safe watching the Queers of Joy show at Red Rattler. I signed up to the Kings of Joy, almost, not quite ready. It took me three shows to finally pluck up the courage, stamina and space to fully commit.

After the first Zoom call with the King Coach, Danica Lani, I was hooked. I felt totally cared for and seen, no matter how I showed up, throughout the whole experience. I found a drag persona, I found my masc side and allowed myself to take up more space (man-spreading and tough). 

Then I went home and was mama to my two. I fully immersed myself in the dance, the walks, and the quirks of my King, Goondiwindi_Jones. A hero, a survivor, the guy who always gets through in the end. He is me, I am him. So much fun, but more than that, I’ve shed some of my fears and insecurities. I’ve become a boundary-holding, no more shit mothafukka (mostly)!

I’ve grieved and raged. I’ve seen countless sunrises just to get through the seemingly relentless pain and struggle around me.

Going back to the first show, my children's father overdosed while my son was on a weekend visit. He saved his father. One of my deepest fears came true. I realised I couldn’t stop my kids from suffering. I had to stop rescuing everyone and rescue myself. Goondiwindi was born. 

I saw who I’d been in this connection to their father. It was a huge process to finally start the process of letting go of another family member, who hadn’t died but somehow had. To me. I wasn’t going to be shamed, or diminished anymore, for fear of the repercussions to my kids, to financial support or not, to my privacy and freedom. 

It took a year or so to release the hold of my deep need to feel I was responsible if they lived or died, parented or not. When I fully let go, the worsts did happen. Dereliction, overdoses, stalking, abuse, my son being distressed and angry at me, at the world. I had to stand my ground like I never had been able before. It was life or death. 

To give in meant I’d die, to stand strong meant facing the harsh reality that it may be his death. I kept telling myself, over and over, ‘It’s not my responsibility,’ even when every cell in my body cried out that it was. Only I could save him, save ‘them’ all. My lifelong belief; shackles.

So, I kept doing drag, I kept showing up to life, the sea, the stuff. Things got better, then they got harder. I found myself in more and more pain, physical pain, losing my natural flexibility and mobility. I thought it was PTSD, shock, history playing out in my body (maybe in some ways it is). I started to struggle to walk. So I  saw my GP and soon was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in both hips and surgery was needed.

Of all the shit I’ve seen, this was a hard and shocking diagnosis to accept. I felt suicidal, as movement was life to me. Had saved my soul on many dark days. I fell into depression and a hopeless state. Lay on the couch, as this was where I felt the least pain. Just walking to the bathroom was agonising. Then I got real, took some power back and did the work. Like an injured soul, I went to the hospital physio, and slowly got less fear around the pain with movement. In a month or so I was at the gym working on strength to help the recovery process, and the benefits were impressive. 

I kept coming to the shows, I lived in the queer spaces. I was loved and supported. I had the first surgery rescheduled and am now having a double hip replacement in four days. The full and magical circle is this story.

I decide to do the newest Kings of Joy All-Stars. Why not!! Suck as much out of life as I’m physically able. Within a few weeks, the external shit hits the fan….as I’m programmed to believe that it’s always has been, and always will be like. No space or room for me to really start, complete, and heal. Kids dad in trouble. Calls me, I jump. He’s in prison. I’m back in the emotional rescue role. 

But this time, I’m different. I take a step back. I don’t want this drama. It’s not mine. I say No! A couple of times until it’s real. I come to rehearsals. I show up, for me, for the group, in a dazed, familiar state, in pain. 

I swim in the freezing sea, I feed my kids, dress and shower and mostly get through. The strange way of coming to Kings of Joy, the strange way of it being at a huge ending of stuff in my life, and now huge endings again, but mostly huge beginnings. I’ve had chances to change direction before, that soft nudge or whisper, sometimes a massive slap in the face, but this is the cutting of bones from my body. 

The people around me saying, it’s time for you now! The hardest thing is to turn from the crisis’s which surround me and to look within. Urgh! It’s not easy and I don’t like it. It hurts and it’s scary, but sometimes it’s incredible and endless and silent. Peace. Just a fragment here or there. It’s with getting off my hardwired path of chaos, crazy and self-doubt.

Through the Kings of Joy experience, I’ve stepped further into an authentic healing path (alongside therapy, 12 steps, good food, swims, laughter, pleasure, and more). The Kings of Joy All Stars has been the perfect finale for this body, embarking on a newer and improved body. New hips, new life, new experiences. It feels like destiny and the angels were at work, even as I step into the terrifying, letting go as I head into the unknown of surgery and recovery. So, ultimately, I am, and always was, the hero, the shero, Goondiwindi, Sasha.

A very long-winded, personal way of saying Thank you to you, Danica. You have allowed so much to come though and I’ve loved the whole full circle it’s been so far. Thankfully there are spirals and the circles keep going, keep going.

Thank you to you too Chris. You have immeasurable kindness and warmth. To see you on your gender journey has been a massive privilege and joy. I’ve landed like a jigsaw piece in the wonderful world of Joy. If there’s ever a place I’ve felt like I’ve belonged, fitted in, it’s here. Even on those days I forget and feel alien in the world. Thank you for this experience. For me, it’s been awesome, intense, healing and confronting!"

Thank you Sasha aka Goondiwindi Jones for sharing your story with such raw authenticity and powerful vulnerability. You are truly an inspiration.

If you want to contribute to Sasha’s GoFund Me to support her healing journey as she bravely faces each new day of recovery, taking care of her kids, then please click here and give what you can.


Danica Lani

The King Coach

P.S. If you wanna be a Drag King, go here to join the waiting list of Kings of Joy.

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