Where did you grow up?
In Alphington, an inner city suburb of Melbourne.
Were you brought up religiously/secularly/other?
My parents both come from a long line of Irish Catholics, so by default we were educated in Catholic institutions, but it was never something that we brought home with us.
Was there turbulence throughout your childhood/adolescence?
My childhood was a dream of dusty bike rides, swims in the river, climbing trees, sunny boys, and footy on the weekend. But my parents had a pretty rocky relationship, separating twice before I was 13, and at the same time my mum had a brain tumour and there were alcohol issues in the family. Subsequently there were a lot of insecurities and hurt to deal with and, personally, I experienced an incredibly turbulent and traumatic adolescence. This all sounds a little too melodramatic on paper to warrant me going further into it – but I’m a big old believer in experiences shaping your strengths and who you are, and I wouldn’t change any of it.
Were you ever embarrassed about your development/puberty? If so, why?
Aaahh, yes and no. I have three brothers and was raised with markers of merit being things like how well you can kick a drop punt and having scabby knees, so when I started developing it caused me a great amount of anxiety – the physical progression of my ‘woman-ness’ ostracised me from the things I loved most.
Can you remember any key moments in your formative years that shaped you?
When I was 8 or 9 I started playing Tackers Footy but the boys never wanted to tackle me, and my teammates acted ashamed to have a girl on the team – so I cut off all my hair so the other team wouldn’t know. You see, as soon as I could comprehend gender, I was faced with the finite prescription that to be girl was to be incompetent, submissive… just generally not that great. I never wanted my abilities to be measured within a stigma, so in order to be objectively successful it was painfully obvious to me that I had to evade anything and everything that tied me to femininity.
I’m not a big fan of labels; I’ve been dating women since I was 16 so I suppose it’s easier for people to call me a lesbian, but I’m down with pansexuality. I ain’t gonna limit myself.
When did you become aware of your gender?
As I said before, around 8 or 9, when I realised that girls could be cute but boys could be cool.
When did you become aware of your own sexuality, were there any key moments?
There weren’t really any key moments, but I can think of quirky little flashbacks like being around 5 or 6 and being obsessed with babysitters or friends’ sisters. It crystallised when, at age 16, I fell in love with my best friend. My sexuality wasn’t a secret that I suppressed for years, just a really unexpected and unfamiliar reality that I got kicked in the head with.
What, if any, are the obstacles you’ve overcome on your path to womanhood?
I’m still very much in the throes of these obstacles. Until recently I’ve found it incredibly painful to identify as a woman, due to pretty horrific experiences as a female-assigned-at-birth human. The obstacles I’m facing now involve me trying to reconcile the negative fabrics sewn into constructs that have been presented to me my whole life, and to re-wire my understanding of womanhood into a powerful, wildly diverse and limitless sphere. I’m pretty excited to figure out how to do this.
Have you ever been embarrassed, burdened or ashamed of your sexuality? If so, why?
Oh yeah. Loads of times. Sadly it comes with being in the queer community, particularly having gone to an all-girls Catholic private school where even the mildest variation of conformity is demonised. You learn to hate your (very human) idiosyncrasies. Being queer in that facet of society was – and is – fucking brutal. I had it pretty good because I had conventionally ‘cool’ brothers, so a lot of what happened was backhanded or whispered in private – but I still got spat on, or deliberately hit or knocked over in clubs. Hate crimes passed off as drunken tomfoolery was a regular thing for me. I’m not mad about it though, I pity the suckers who project their frenzied insecurities onto marginalised communities.
What is the image you think you project every day?
An over-confident, kooky dude who laughs way too loudly and is too competitive and opinionated.
How would you describe your personal experience, existing in the way you do, each day?
Um, pretty goddamn sweet, actually. I had all the gross weird shit pretty much done by the time I hit 20, so my day-to-day life now consists of friends, art, writing, music, laughing, meeting new people, and being a gentle little anarchist around Melbourne. I get the occasional upturned nose or whisper on the tram, because there are still people in this world hilariously opposed to tattooed, piercing-clad, shaved-headed, hairy-underarmed, jovial people like me. They think I must have some sort of secret manic nature ‘because surely a gender-bending delinquent couldn’t be kind AND happy right?!’
What is the image you would like to project?
A confident, kooky dude who laughs way too loudly and is genuine, kind, positive and influential.
What do you think the image other people perceive is?
An over-confident, kooky dude who laughs way too loudly and is too competitive and opinionated.
What is your political stance on women’s reproductive rights?
My opinion is irrelevant. Each individual woman’s opinion is the only opinion that matters. Projecting my views onto someone else’s body is not something I believe in. Having said that, get liberal and educated, ladies, because established social constructs should no longer apply. Make your OWN informed choices that will benefit YOU and your situation.
Are you pro-life or pro-choice?
Hunno-percent pro-choice always and forevahhh.
We have been raised on a diet of apologies and this produces an aversion to being assertive sexually.
What are your feelings about contraceptives? Their availability, cost, stigma, usage?
Should be far more accessible and less demonised. The number of uneducated young woman contracting STIs, falling pregnant, or just never having sex because fear-mongering doctors make them feel like they’re perverted idiots for wanting to be in control of their bodies and actually be RESPONSIBLE for their sex life IS BEYOND ME. The old ‘it’s for my acne’ line about contraceptives is really really shit in this day and age. Ladies, you are ALLOWED to have sex and not be bullied into being ashamed of it.
What are your feelings on casual sex?
Yep yep yep yep cool great wonderful, but consent is the sexiest, and also being sexually responsible is v. v. sexy – know your status and get checked regularly.
Are you in a relationship(s)?
What are your feelings about marriage?
If you want to get married, that’s cool. I personally don’t hold a very strong desire to do so. What it represents isn’t appealing for me due to the archaic aspects that remain attached to the union. I really dig the idea of being madly in love and throwing a great huge party for my friends and family and being like ‘yo whattup guys I love this person so much that I wanted you all to come and celebrate that’ with a 12-piece gypsy band that covers Beyoncé songs all night.
What are your most positive relationships with other women?
I’ve got a ripper relationship with my aunties and my cousin and my mum; there are seven sisters in my mum’s family and they are all amazingly strong, intelligent, driven women with a keen sense of social justice and kicking butt. I have also, in the last few years, started a political feminist theatre company with three of my best mates and they rock my world. And there’s also my power-lady-in-crime who took these photos. And my other best pal of my world. All these woman have taught me to love myself fully and unapologetically.
What are your negative?
I face lots of women regularly who just don’t understand the concept of intersectional oppression of race, gender, class and ability. I have negative relationships with women who are not willing to educate themselves about injustice and inequality, or who will just stubbornly say ‘it doesn’t involve me.’ ‘Are you a human?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘…Then it fucking involves you.’
What does the word ‘woman’ mean to you?
A limitless myriad of thoughts, ideas, skills, courage – it’s soooooo much more than a gender binary. To be woman is to access that impossible scripture. I don’t know. It’s so complicated, so unexplainable.
What are your feelings about monogamy?
I think it’s an ancient construct to order society. BUT. I have been in and will continue, I’m sure, to be in monogamous relationships. I’m a sucker for finding that person you can create secret worlds with.
It will be a massive thing in the future, so people need to start familiarising themselves with it. I think IF people can master the art of detaching themselves from jealousy, ownership and status, then polyamory is the most logical way to exist within relationships.
Do you feel your choice to participate or not participate in consensual sex is at all affected by societal influence?
Yeah, it has been in the past and to a certain degree continues to be affected. Sometimes I feel completely A-sexual yet force myself to have sex because I ‘should’ want to – or other times the old ‘I just wanted to make out for a bit’ but then we started getting hot and heavy but I didn’t want to have sex but also didn’t want to be rude. Which is sooo ingrained in female sexual ideology – we have been raised on a diet of apologies and this produces an aversion to being assertive sexually. I’m always trying to work on that one.
How do you feel about products marketed to women?
I think they are mind-numbingly absurd. I genuinely laugh at almost every single product marketed to women. The marketing stipulates that we are this fragile, weird, sub-human species devoid of any right to connect with our animalism or instinct, and must instead conform to sterile man-made ideas. Like beer ads versus champagne ads? They are sooo funny. Woman are drowning in silk fabric, whispering sweet nothings about subtle tones in the wine, and men are yelling ‘slam these feisty malted hops down ya gob mate’. It’s bloody hilarious.
How do you feel about feminine hygiene products’ portrayal in the media?
Still really apologetic and hush hush, but I feel like some are becoming more adventurous simply by stating ‘We get periods. It’s a thing. It has always been a thing. It will probably never stop being a thing. And I reckon it’s actually not the worst thing that could ever happen’. But for the most part, it’s pretty appalling that the media predominantly cater to men’s sensitivity, despite this being one of the only things that doesn’t have anything to with men. Which is not to say that all women get periods or that it defines womanhood or identification. But it just makes me so mad that the media acts like ‘poor man-eyes and man-ears can’t possibly deal with information about menstruation’.
Were you always aware of what your body could do sexually & mechanically?
Nope. And I’m still not. I get pretty uncomfortable with the mechanics of my sexual self. It’s very much mental and is often complicated due to my gender fluidity.
Do you feel your sexual education was sufficient?
I went to a Catholic girls school. The only thing I learnt was what genital warts look like.
If not, what would you have done to make it so?
Have inclusive and open conversations about how incredibly wide and diverse the world of sex and identity is. ACTUALLY TALK ABOUT the queer community existing! ACTUALLY TALK ABOUT sexual preference, the world of consent, respect. As soon as these conversations stop being shrouded in fear and prejudice, then young people will be given permission to respectfully, consensually make positive sexual decisions. Hermione Granger was so right when she said ‘Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself’.
Where do you feel unsafe as a woman?
Most places, honestly. Bars, pubs, clubs, public transport, sporting events, the street. It’s not so bad for me because people are often confused enough about my gender to leave me alone, but I’ve experienced and witnessed enough abuse to always approach public places with caution.
Where is somewhere you can exist without fear?
Home, with my friends at their houses, and also when I’m stage. I’m my surest self when I’m on stage because although there’s public scrutiny, when you’re under the lights there is no under-the-table caress or sidewalk harassment, so you get the opportunity to expose yourself completely on your own terms.
Do women treat you differently than men?
Depends on where I am. My mates certainly don’t. I’m lucky that my mates and I have a very genderless way of interacting.
In what ways does being a woman make you vulnerable or exposed?
Personally I find that it’s not being taken seriously that makes me feel most exposed. It’s the slanted laughs or the patronising ‘yeah all right love, good on ya’ responses that makes me feel most vulnerable.
Would you consider yourself a feminist?
Always and forever.
How do you define feminism?
Fighting for complete, intersectional equality that spans race, religion and gender. I don’t know how we eradicate a whole global system constructed on assumed male superiority. But I reckon we’re certainly getting stronger and more critical of it every day.
What do you think are positive ways the world views women?
What are the negative ways?
Every other way.
Do you think the world’s perception of women limits or benefits them?
Unarguably limits them.
What is your relationship to sex?
How do you define sex?
A consensual, respectful interaction between people that can range in stimulation, arousal or anything they decide sex is for them.
What does a sexual relationship mean to you?
Personally I’m not great at having sex without having an emotional connection, so I suppose a sexual relationship for me means trusting and understanding someone well enough to get naked and feel good about it.
Do you feel comfortable communicating your sexual needs to a partner?
Nope. Mostly, though, because I haven’t quite figured out what my needs are yet.
Have you found a balance of fulfillment with your partners?
Same as above. It has always been brilliant and thoughtful but mostly I’m unsure of myself.
Do you feel that YOUR desires are marginalized in the bedroom or are less important, if so why do you think that is?
I’ve been lucky with respectful partners, so no.
Are you fearful of being openly sexual for fear of judgement?
Sometimes, particularly when the gender stuff is involved, but I guess that’s why I can be picky with the people I’m intimate with – I need to be sure they will be respectful of where my head is at.
Have you ever been in a position where your sexuality was used against you?
Have you ever been physically or verbally threatened because of your appearance?
Many many times.
When you imagine sex, what is the visual/feeling you associate with it?
Uuummm naked rolling around in a fort of sheets telling secrets.
Is sex empowering for you?
Not at this stage.
Is sex embarrassing for you to discuss?
Is there anyone in your world you undermine your principles for?
My family, mostly because I am going through a stage of trying to educate them as best I can about my world, which they are endlessly supportive of but don’t 100% understand.
In which situations do you feel safe to speak your mind/stand up for yourself?
I’m pretty vocal about my opinions; the only time I won’t speak up is if I feel threatened in a male-dominant crowd, or if I feel like I’m going to be physically hurt for it.
What do you seek through sex?
Connection, some kind of self-understanding.
How do you feel about the media’s portrayal of women?
Right-winged, male-gazed, unrealistic and extremely damaging for young women. There is no diversity in gender representation in the media.
Are you satisfied with the women you see depicted in film, television & advertising?
Never. It is a tunnel-visioned depiction of a singular facet. And even if there are one or two leads that are a little ‘different’, then that director/producer/company is glorified for their bravery. Having diverse women in the limelight should not be championed. It should be regular.
How do you think the world at large views women?
On a global scale: disposable.
On a western first world scale: trivial.
How do you maintain a sense of self?
By pursuing creative passions, by challenging as many constructs as I can, by surrounding myself with strong, critical and objective thinkers who push me to constantly cast my ideas further.
What is something you deeply love about yourself?
My drive and my ability to love.
Who are/what are your biggest motivators?
Mum, my friends, and also a lot of the people who have treated me poorly in my life. Sometimes that becomes a great push to prove myself sometimes.
Do you have people you look up to?
Without sounding like a big old suck, you [Caitlin Stasey], the young vagabond crew Ashleigh Grogan and Haylee Collins, my mentor and bad-ass role model actor/philosopher Glenda Linscott, my theatre crew Libby Wilhelm, Lucy Rees and Elly Hewitt, my best friends Georgia Smedley, Bridget Cosgrave and Sam Brand, my cousin Bess Smallwood who taught me how to rock who I am without exception, and my mumma.
Do you ever feel overlooked in the workplace because of your gender?
Not anymore; I’m freelance and never overlook myself.
Because of your appearance?
Funny stares but never overlooked.
Do you find entering the work force as a woman has any bearing on how people will treat you?
It’s very dependent on what industry you’re in, I think. In a broad sense, there is still that annoying thread of people thinking women are more physically incompetent that leaks into most industries.
Have you ever experienced sexism or sexual harassment within a workplace?
Yeah, at bars for sure. At one bar they tried to make me wear this really tight shirt with a tiny black skirt and I was like ‘nah bro, I’m wearing a suit’. They clearly felt confronted by how strongly I held my ground about it, so they didn’t take it further. It was actually pretty funny.
How have you dealt with conflict?
People seem to find it pretty unusual and confronting when someone is kindly firm and articulate about taboo topics. Through this method, I’ve been able to successfully disarm a lot of people who were cruisin’ for a bruisin’. A lot of people don’t expect you to openly say ‘well, okay, let’s have a chat about this and I’ll fill you in on gender identity in the trans community, and that way you’ll understand it and be able to make cool choices in the future’. It gets super tiring though after explaining it all to a million idiots.
Have you ever been verbally abused or threatened because of your gender?
If so, how did those in your life respond when you told them about it?
Outraged. But I don’t talk about that stuff very often.
What are you feelings on motherhood?
I would love to be mum, I think it will be super great when I’m ready. But, also, adoption isn’t discussed enough as an option, and in addition there’s that stigma that if you are a single middle-aged woman without kids then you are someone to be pitied. The mentality that it’s somehow ‘unnatural’ to not want those things – kids or a relationship – and that you must therefore be a ‘cold person’ or ‘a little off-kilter’ is so so so wrong. I’ll tell you what’s unnatural: having 12 children because you’ve been taught that contraception is wrong, and then not being to provide all of those kids with a good quality of life.
What are you biggest fears?
Failure, not being strong enough to stand up for myself and others, tornadoes.
Your biggest regrets?
Lying a lot as a teenager.
Your greatest accomplishments?
Starting my own theatre company, writing an album, being comfortable in my own skin. Allowing myself to finally be happy.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Always remember that you need light to create a shadow.
Be nice to each other, respect each other, always ask for consent, never make assumptions, understand your privilege and own the fact that with that privilege comes the responsibility to aid those who are otherwise positioned.