Laura

“I can express myself however I feel.”

 Name?

Laura.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Australia.

Were you brought up religiously/secularly/other?

I went to church with my mum but she was always a bit reluctant about going, and I just wanted to play with the kids at Sunday school. I went to a Baptist all-girls school but it wasn’t super religious. When I was 13 I joined an evangelical church group that a close friend belonged to, partly so I could spend time with her. I think I had a big ol’ crush on her, looking back. What I remember most about church was trying hard to pray whilst people spoke tongues around me, yet no matter how hard I tried to reach out to God I never felt connected. I felt like I was constantly failing.

I also felt worried because of my queer identity. I thought my church would accept me but still never brought it up for fear of hearing a different response. So I gave up trying to connect with God. I identify as atheist now.

Was there turbulence throughout your childhood/adolescence?

Only regular teenage angst. I was very fortunate. I mean, I was heavily in denial about my sexuality but aside from that I was a pretty stable and easy-going kid.

Were you ever embarrassed about your development/puberty? If so, why?

Definitely. I began growing breasts around age nine, and no other girls around me had breasts at that time. Being a lil chubby gal didn’t help – I remember being very conscious of my body and constantly hiding my breasts beneath loose-fitting clothes.

"I unlocked a whole new world where everything was queer and unashamedly feminine." - Laura  Photo by Elly Freer

“I unlocked a whole new world where everything was queer and unashamedly feminine.” – Laura
Photo by Elly Freer

Can you remember any key moments in your formative years that shaped you?

I didn’t know who I was for a really long time. It wasn’t until my early twenties that I began to know which direction to turn, but watching Buffy in my mid-teens and realising I was attracted to women was a key moment.

Falling deeply for someone when I was 21 shaped and changed me – she made me a more confident and socially-aware person. I began questioning a lot of things. I was always a feminist but she introduced me to intersectional feminism. Even though we ended things, I continued to feel strong and confident. I stopped hiding my body in black loose-fitting clothes and instead dressed the way I wanted, embracing feminine beauty and make-up. I no longer felt ashamed for liking bright, pastel colours whilst being a curvy person. Through dating her I unlocked a whole new world where everything was queer and unashamedly feminine.

There was also a New Year’s Eve party in 2011 that started with photobooth pictures of everyone’s colourful hair and make up, and I felt truly ‘home’ for once. It was a movie moment; my heart was full of new friendship and beautiful people. I was astonished by this whole subculture I’d had no idea about, a subculture I could be part of. We took MDMA and watched the fireworks and I cried because it was so overwhelming and magical, and yet also sad because my partner was leaving to go overseas. It was a vivid and important night that shaped me into who I am now. It was integral for my growth and personal development. I mean, the night ended with me being half-force-fed a KFC burger on a train station platform at 4am because I was very high, but, really, it was important. Promise.

That shaped your sexuality?

Meeting my first Internet friend in real life in 2005 helped form my initial ideas about my sexuality. We bonded over Buffy and were both in love with Willow and Tara (they were about the only lesbian representations on television then) – it was so exciting to meet someone from Melbourne who was also queer and into Buffy. I caught the train to visit her, got drunk and I spooned a girl for the first time. Her friend told me she liked me and we dated, but I was embarrassed about what people would think so we did nothing but hold hands for a few weeks before I ended it – I was too worried about my parents finding out. I was so sure I would eventually like boys and everything would be okay and normal. I cried myself to sleep a lot that year.

The next year I ran into a friend of a friend who mentioned she was bi, and I was so excited that I wasn’t the only ‘weird’ one. I crushed on her for several years; we’d hang out and talk about sexuality. She told me I probably wasn’t bisexual but a lesbian (hot tip, probably not the best move to tell someone how they should identify, but we were 17 so I’ll let it go). This gave me a bit of a complex because it didn’t sit right with me – it still doesn’t. Queer has a better feeling for me. It gives me a broader range; I’m attracted to so many types of people, most of them femme-presenting but not all identify as women.

When did you become aware of your gender?

Early on. Media and family make sure you know you’re a girl or a boy and that’s it – at least in my upbringing. As I grew older I realised you don’t need to be one or the other, that things don’t need to be gendered. I identify as a cis woman and always have, but I know many people who don’t feel this way and although I can never fully connect with what they go through, I support them as best I can.

I’m the oldest of three kids and the only girl. My mother was in charge in my family and very headstrong, yet I was always told to be ladylike, to close my legs, to look presentable because the way you look is the most important thing for a lady.

"I don’t owe anyone my time and politeness." - Laura  Photo by Elly Freer

“I don’t owe anyone my time and politeness.” – Laura
Photo by Elly Freer

Because I was her only daughter, my mother projected the serious body issues she’d struggled with all her life onto me. I know it came from a place of fear, that she thought I’d have an easier life if I were thin. I tried numerous diets, I wore clothes that would hide and ‘flatter’ my body type. My mum told me repeatedly that I wouldn’t fit the clothes in a standard-size store. She’d see me in certain outfits and say ‘You’re not wearing that are you?’ which gave me a bit of a complex with my body for a good ten years. That being said, my mother isn’t a bad person. Her behaviour comes from social conditioning. But it was still rough for me for a long time.

My experience of gender at school was very different. Despite my school being religious, it had a strong feminist vibe. I was never told I couldn’t do anything. I grew up in a women-dominated space 90% of the time, which is probably why I’ve always connected strongly with women… also read: queeeer as heeelll.

I do remember being 12 and walking with a friend when someone in a car honked at us – but mostly at her. I realised I may not have been as sexually attractive as my friend and felt disappointed that I wasn’t honked at. When I think back I’m horrified that some man decided to honk at 12-year-old girls, and devastated that I was sad I wasn’t seen as attractive by some predatory man.

When did you become aware of your own sexuality; were there any key moments?

I had sex for the first time when I was a bit stoned and drunk, and though it was clumsy and uncomfortable I was super into my partner so it was romantic. I became increasingly aware of my sexuality over the next two years with her, using toys and positions to figure out what we liked.

If I’m honest I’ve only begun to properly express my sexuality in the past 3-5 years. I realised it’s okay to look sexy and be slutty and sleep with whomever or however many people you want, as long as everyone’s on board. I’ve had some amazing casual sex and I’ve had some incredible relationships and both are fantastic.

What, if any, are the obstacles you’ve overcome on your path to womanhood?

Being okay with not being a ‘standard’-sized woman. Telling myself over and over that I am enough. That I can wear and express myself however I feel. How I don’t need to be pretty all the time, although I really like to be. That I don’t owe anyone my time and politeness.

Have you ever been embarrassed, burdened or ashamed of your sexuality? If so, why?

Yes. I was ashamed of my sexuality most of my childhood. When I was ten I’d kiss my best friend in a closet (ha) but a year later she didn’t want to practise anymore and I remember feeling ashamed that I did still want to. I was especially ashamed that we kissed at all. I was confused about why she wanted to kiss boys but not me. She transferred schools because of a bully and I remember feeling what I now know was my first heartbreak.

I also remember feeling ashamed when I was 16 and one of my closest friends was taunted mercilessly in school for being openly bisexual. I so regret not standing up with her as a queer person. I was scared of being made fun of and being different, especially in a sheltered all-girls school that bred homophobia. I didn’t fully come out as queer until I had my first proper girlfriend at 19. Before that I always said I was bisexual, because obviously if you’re still into men you’re still a bit ~normal~.

Having friends who are sex workers has been inspiring to me – the ability to be candid and open about sex and bodies is so important, and I’m grateful my friends and I are all such open, non-binary people.

What is the image you think you project every day?

I’ve been told I’m intimidating and confident. I agree with the latter. I am confident. I like to come across as intimidating to men. I want them to feel as uncomfortable in my presence as I do when I’m walking home at night and I hear footsteps behind me.

"I like to come across as intimidating to men." - Laura  Photo by Elly Freer

“I like to come across as intimidating to men.” – Laura
Photo by Elly Freer

What is the image you would like to project?

The image I project is a super queer femme goddess who is unstoppable and powerful, and I hope other women are inspired by and want that for themselves. People who follow me on my blog and Instagram have told me this and it makes my heart swell that lil old me could inspire girls to feel good about themselves.

What do you think the image other people perceive is?

Hopefully: confident, kind, loving, supportive, giving, good at listening.

How would you describe your personal experience, existing in the way you do, each day?

Intersectionally Feminist. My whole life is conflicting criticisms within the media and shows I watch and people I meet, and trying to figure out if it’s worth picking each battle or letting it slide. Each day I try to do something creative. I’m a photographer and love to model – we should all be completely vain in some way each day. Take that time for yourself. Take those selfies and love on yourself.

What is your political stance on women’s reproductive rights?

Let women do whatever the fuck they want to do in their situation with their own body.

Are you pro-life or pro-choice?

Pro-choice of course.

What are your feelings about contraceptives? Their availability, cost, stigma, usage?

Definitely should be free, but I’ve never been with anyone who has a penis so I haven’t had to consider taking contraceptives. I honestly don’t have a valid opinion as I haven’t been on any.

What are your feelings about casual sex?

Love it! Recommend it!

Take that time for yourself. Take those selfies and love on yourself.

Are you in a relationship(s)?

Not at the moment. I’ve had several lovers over the past year but right now I’m enjoying unashamedly doing things for myself without having to consider anyone else. I have such a high standard for myself now that only I can fulfill it. Date yourself for a little while, you won’t regret it. I’m doing creative things that I wouldn’t be doing if I was in a relationship, as I tend to get wrapped up in being with someone. I wouldn’t be travelling alone overseas; I wouldn’t share such intimate friendships with people. I really love so many aspects of not being in a relationship. That being said, having crushes is amazing. I’m such a hopeless romantic that I doubt I’d survive if I didn’t have a new crush to quietly swoon over all the time. Plus casual sex is perfect.

What are your feelings about marriage?

The idea of marriage is rooted in ideas of ownership and it’s really creepy. Don’t get me wrong, though, the idea of two people celebrating their love with friends and family is beautiful and I totally understand the sentiment. We need to get gay marriage legalised (so I can actually marry if I want to), but even more importantly we need to focus on getting proper transgender rights in Australia. Transmisogyny in Australia is rampant and this needs to change before any two people – queer or not – are able to get married.

What are your most positive relationships with other women?

Probably with my closest friends, who are incredible. I love how we’ve grown together in our ideas of feminism and womanhood. I’m incredibly lucky to have such inspiring, kindhearted women to look up to and who empower me to be myself.

And your negative?

Probably the most negative is with my mother. We have some incredible days and we make each other laugh, but I often feel I can’t connect with her on the majority of my life because it’s too ‘out there’ for her to handle. She doesn’t mean to be a conservative person, she doesn’t even identify as a conservative person, but in relation to how I am and how I live my life we don’t really click. It makes me sad that I can’t express so much of myself to her.

What does the word ‘woman’ mean to you?

Strong, tough, empowering and uplifting other women, and not putting other women down. No girl-hate.

What are your feelings about monogamy?

Great! If you’re into it. I’ve had great monog relationships.

About polyamory?

Ideal. Perfect. The DREAM. I want to put the praise hands emoji here. If I really fell for someone I might struggle a little with it, but I’ve dated people in the past year who’ve had other primary partners, and that was fine. I think I can communicate better these days, so I feel polyamory is entirely possible now.

"Date yourself for a little while, you won’t regret it.” - Laura  Photo by Elly Freer

“Date yourself for a little while, you won’t regret it.” – Laura
Photo by Elly Freer

Do you feel your choice to participate or not participate in consensual sex is at all affected by societal influence?

I was definitely affected by societal pressure to have sex as a teenager. But I’m really glad I didn’t start having sex until I was 19 and entirely sure I wanted it. It was so great to start with a girl I knew would be good to me about it.

How do you feel about products marketed to women?

Ridiculous. Gendered marketing is the worst.

How do you feel about feminine hygiene products’ portrayal in the media?

I love seeing blue liquid in commercials. I hope one day my period will be so blue it’ll match my currently dyed pubes.

Were you always aware of what your body could do sexually and mechanically?

Definitely not. I had to read up a lot in order to understand what was going on.

Do you feel your sexual education was sufficient?

Definitely not. Putting a condom on a banana cock at 15 is too late. Showing girls tampons and pads at 13 is too late. In fact I had my period for four months straight at age 13, due to an ovarian cyst. I thought it was normal and that you’re supposed to have your period every day for the rest of your life. After a few months my mother realised how many pads she was buying and took me to the doctor.

I also had to Google ‘safe sex for lesbians’ as a 14-year-old to check, so it’d be rad if we could get some sex ed in for queer youth so they don’t have to navigate around all the hetero-marketed lesbian porn.

I hope one day my period will be so blue it’ll match my currently dyed pubes.

If not, what would you have done to make it so?

Start at age seven or eight, have open discussions with kids, don’t let them feel ashamed of their sexuality or body parts. Explain EVERYTHING. Explain to young girls that hair grows on their upper lips and tummies and that there’s hair on your asshole and it’s okay. Have queer people explain sex ed for queer folk. Have everything be less heteronormative.

Where do you feel unsafe as a woman?

Underpasses at train stations at night. Walking anywhere alone at night. Alleyways, club toilets at hetero clubs, the city on a Friday/Saturday night.

Where is somewhere you can exist without fear?

Home, travelling with friends when we go to events.

Do women treat you differently than men?

Definitely. Men either gawk at me or ignore me. I’ve met some gems but I’m always more comfortable talking and connecting with women, and I suppose because I’m not romantically interested in men I don’t have that urge to get to know them. Not to say you need a romantic attraction to make friends, but I feel like it always helps if you’re a little attracted to your friends on some level – romantic or non-romantic.

"Being a curvy woman on the Internet is the best and the worst.” - Laura  Photo by Elly Freer

“Being a curvy woman on the Internet is the best and the worst.” – Laura
Photo by Elly Freer

In what ways does being a woman make you vulnerable or exposed?

Being a curvy woman on the Internet is the best and the worst. I know that my experience is much easier as a white curvy woman than, say a woman of colour, and despite feeling vulnerable and exposed when I put images on my blog because I know at some point I’ll be fetishized or have rude comments thrown at me, I know I still have privilege due to having a very ‘correctly curvy’ hourglass figure. I know a lot of womyn out there get more flak on the internet. Luckily my skin is pretty thick nowadays, and I don’t take anything said on the Internet too seriously. I do get really upset when gross fetish blogs post me, though, considering most of the time my images aren’t sexual at all.

Would you consider yourself a feminist?

Most definitely.

How do you define feminism?

The inclusion of all womyn of all backgrounds and ethnicities, disabilities and body types, pulling together, supporting, uplifting and helping each other in the quest for equality.

Do you think the world’s perception of women limits or benefits them?

Limits more than benefits. We are constantly scrutinised and put down for being too feminine or not feminine enough. For being too masculine for being too fat, too thin, too slutty, too prudish. That being said, websites like Herself go against this and really open up the dialogue between womyn, and that to me is so important.

What is your relationship to sex?

I love sex. Sex and intimacy are things I crave and I really love the connection with another person or people.

How do you define sex?

Connecting with someone else. Intimate, sensual, hot, consensual (duh). Sometimes just a really fun spontaneous casual thing!

What does a sexual relationship mean to you?

It can be romantic or sensual or spiritual or an itch scratched. It can be everything!

Do you feel comfortable communicating your sexual needs to a partner?

Yes.

Sex can be everything!

Have you found a balance of fulfilment with your partners?

Most definitely! At the moment, I’m having casual sex where it’s new, exciting, and about exploring another’s body. So still yes, but it’s different to being in a long-term thing.

Do you feel that YOUR desires are marginalised in the bedroom or are less important, if so, why do you think that is?

I’m lucky to have only had positive experiences with sex. My partners have all been super giving and open. It’s strange to think that three years ago I wouldn’t have expressed what I needed from sex, and the fact that so many women still don’t is scary and sad to me.

Are you fearful of being openly sexual for fear of judgement?

I never have, actually. I’ve had amazing partners.

Have you ever been in a position where your sexuality was used against you?

Only when cis dudes in straight clubs fetishize my queer identity, thinking it’s for them.

"Websites like Herself go against this and really open up the dialogue between womyn, and that to me is so important.” - Laura  Photo by Elly Freer

“Websites like Herself go against this and really open up the dialogue between womyn, and that to me is so important.” – Laura
Photo by Elly Freer

Have you ever been physically or verbally threatened because of your appearance?

Yes. I’ve had men yell things at me from cars. I’ve felt physically threatened when leaving clubs, when groups of men leer at me.

When you imagine sex, what is the visual/feeling you associate with it?

Desire, pleasure, fun.

Is sex empowering for you?

Definitely.

Is sex embarrassing for you to discuss?

Not at all! Sex is one of my favourite things to discuss.

Is there anyone in your world you undermine your principles for?

Probably not.

In which situations do you feel safe to speak your mind/stand up for yourself?

Most of the time, though sometimes I struggle to articulate myself which means I’m reluctant to fully discuss things online. It’s easy to be taken the wrong way. This interview has been a little difficult for me – I really hope I’m not coming off the wrong way.

What do you seek through sex?

Connection, fun.

How do you feel about the media’s portrayal of women?

Terrible. (My housemate suggested I put an audio clip of Fran Fine’s laugh under this question.) It’s usually misogynistic but there’s been more positive media lately around plus size women, like with Tess Holliday being signed to MiLK management as the first size 22 model. This gives me hope I could make it into the modelling industry one day. Just recently Amber Rose posted about Tess and the fact that two very different women are empowering and uplifting each other is so wonderful and important to see. That said, women in Australian media are horribly white-washed with barely any variety or diversity beyond the white, straight, thin women aesthetic. So we have a long way to go. Ascension is an amazing magazine that uplifts women of colour – I loooove the important work they’re doing.

Women in Australian media are horribly white-washed with barely any variety or diversity beyond the white, straight, thin women aesthetic.

How do you think the world at large views women?

Negatively. Women have to put up with and navigate so many conflicting ideas. The world is a misogynistic place. I appreciate that feminism has been in the media a lot lately (Beyoncé, Emma Watson’s HeForShe) but it’s such basic and white-washed feminism. We need deeper dialogues. Also, the idea that feminism needs to be catered to men just so it can be spoken about in public spaces is the most backwards anti-feminist thing ever.

How do you maintain a sense of self?

Selfies.

What is something you deeply love about yourself?

I like how deeply I care about people. I also hate that. It’s a conflicting feeling. But mostly I love it. I love my face, my body (most days) and my ability to make incredible friendships.

Who are/what are your biggest motivators?

My friends. I’m surrounded by talented artists, musicians and creative and am constantly inspired by them.

"The idea that feminism needs to be catered to men just so it can be spoken about in public spaces is the most backwards anti-feminist thing ever.” - Laura  Photo by Elly Freer

“The idea that feminism needs to be catered to men just so it can be spoken about in public spaces is the most backwards anti-feminist thing ever.” – Laura
Photo by Elly Freer

Do you have people you look up to?

I look up to my closest friends. And my dad, who’s always around and we have similar careers (both photographers and into technology) as well as being kind-hearted, big nerds. I like to think I get my continued positivity from him and my mum.

Do you ever feel overlooked in the workplace because of your gender?

Definitely. I work in IT to pay the bills, and often customers will ask for clarification from male colleagues nearby and direct ‘harder questions’ to them.

Because of your appearance?

This may be because I speak more often with women and genderfluid people, but it’s mostly women who are reluctant to talk to me because I’m not thin. I don’t think it’s intentional but it can take people a while to warm up to me, unless I’ve been introduced by a mutual friend. This has happened most of my life and I don’t blame anyone for it; it’s all internalized, but it can be frustrating.

Do you find entering the work force as a woman has any bearing on how people will treat you?

Yes. In mainstream creative spaces women and queer-identified musicians aren’t taken as seriously, which is incredibly frustrating. The upside is we can create our own safe spaces, including GrrlFest this year which was a totally dreamy festival that made me feel so inspired and proud of all the incredible artists doing their thing.

Have you ever experienced sexism or sexual harassment within a workplace?

Both. I’ve had men comment on my appearance and come too close into my personal space because they deem it okay – and I have to be polite, because I’m on the clock.

How have you dealt with conflict?

Usually I’m polite but stern. I hold my ground in the workplace. Outside of work I’m a little less stubborn and more open to discussion.

Have you ever been verbally abused or threatened because of your gender?

Yes, but thankfully not often.

If so, how did those in your life respond when you told them about it?

Women and the stellar people in my life usually react with sympathy and the usual ‘that’s really fucked up’ response. If I told people outside my close friendship group it’d be a different story.

What are your feelings on motherhood?

At the moment it isn’t for me. I’m enjoying being far too selfish for children. One day I mightn’t mind having children – I like the idea of teaching kids to be progressive and hopefully make the world a little less horrible. But at the moment I need to be free.

What are your biggest fears?

Losing someone close to me. I’m afraid of heights and I hate cockroaches but don’t mind spiders. I’m scared of men approaching me on the street and hassling me and telling me to smile. Y’know. Common fears.

Your biggest regrets?

I don’t actually have any. My life is incredible and I’m really, really fortunate to have found friends, lovers and people who inspire me, so I don’t really have anything to regret!

 

"Love yourself entirely.” - Laura  Photo by Elly Freer

“Love yourself entirely.” – Laura
Photo by Elly Freer

Your greatest accomplishments?

Probably letting myself love myself enough to get into modeling. Putting myself out there again and again and receiving almost entirely positive feedback in the past year has been amazing. This year has been so important in my growth and in accepting who I am and what I like, and going after what I want. Booking myself a flight to New York, going to cities I’ve never been to before where I have only vague contacts. I just finished working on Plaything Magazine (available at Hares & Hyenas in Melbourne), which I shot a bunch of images for. It’s about sex positivity and decreasing taboos around sex and identity. I also shot a music video for Melbourne band Habits in which I wear an outfit I styled. I’m so glad I’m finally able to express who I am without any shame attached. Just because I’m curvy doesn’t mean I can’t do cool shit.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Take selfies, love yourself entirely. Be unapologetic in your femininity or however you like to present yourself. There isn’t one right way to be a womyn.