Talia

“I am proud of my love.”

Name?

Talia.

Were you brought up religiously/secularly/other?

My family are Jewish, I was raised Jewish, and I went to a Jewish school, but we weren’t particularly religious. I feel more culturally Jewish than connected to the religious aspects. It is my heritage and a big part of my identity more than anything else.

Was there turbulence throughout your childhood/adolescence?

My childhood was fun and silly and loving, which I probably don’t stop and be grateful for enough. The teenage years were a lot stormier.

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

I developed really early – in Year 5 some kids gave me the endearing nickname ‘BBL’ for Big Boob Lady. It’s probably something none of them would even remember, but these are the things that stay with a 10-year-old kid who’s already got her period when nobody else has…

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

I always thought of myself as straight, up until I started reading a lot about feminism, sex positivity, and gender theory. That’s when I started to understand that your sexuality doesn’t necessarily mean “the gender of the people you are sexually active with”. I came to understand that I fall somewhere else on the sexuality spectrum. I experience attraction to women but have only ever been with men.

I also don’t think it’s always important to have a label for your sexual preference, unless having a label is actually helpful for defining and giving validity to your sexual identity. Sexuality is both really simple and really complicated, and I’m aware of how convolutedly over-the-top an answer like this might seem to somebody who hasn’t really explored the idea much – it certainly would have seemed a bit of a fluffy answer to me a few years ago. It’s really easy for people to roll their eyes and be like “You sleep with men, you’re straight” – but I’m not sure why people feel so compelled to tell somebody else what title should feel right to them, or what is or isn’t a valid way to define yourself.

“I’m not sure why people feel so compelled to tell somebody else what title should feel right to them, or what is or isn’t a valid way to define yourself.” – Photo by Georgia Smedley

When did you become aware of your gender?

I don’t remember a conscious awakening about it. I’ve just always felt like a girl, even when I don’t feel like a girl. When I don’t feel like a girl, I feel like a girl who isn’t doing ‘being a girl’ right. I’m trying to shake that very flawed idea, but it’s hard. We’ve been raised all our lives with this subliminal idea that traditional femininity is the “right” way to girl, and if you’re not wearing dresses, doing your makeup, buying the sexy underwear then, you know, you’re othered in some way. Your femininity is broken.

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

Many, many, many. I’m still overcoming them.

What is the image you think you project every day?

I try to be someone thoughtful, considered, self aware, kind, and true to the things I think and believe. Whether I project that, I don’t know.

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

I am very solitary. As the years unfold, I am becoming more and more introverted, and it takes more energy to connect with others. I have a benign brain tumour that causes me chronic pain and makes me tired all the time, so it is hard to have a regular routine because I don’t know how I’ll feel from one day to the next. It’s taught me a lot about being inside the moment, taking things a day at a time, and about what is important to me. So my day-to-day is spent working on my own little projects, creating stuff, writing. I’m trying to relaunch the business I was running before I got sick. A lot of my personal experience is just being on my own, trying to better myself, better my life, be gentle with my judgement of myself and others. I read this quote once that was something like “a lot of people are trying to find the right person instead of trying to be the right person”. I am really trying to be the right person. I like my own company so much but sometimes I wish there was someone by my side, and if I ever do find someone I can stomach for extended periods of time, I need to make sure they can stomach me too.

What is the image you would like to project?

Confident, happy, kind. I want to be a light.

What do you think the image other people perceive is?

Goofy, a cynical dork with a sometimes fiery temper. Silly and serious in equal parts.

Are you pro-life or pro-choice? 

Pro-choice. 100%.

What are your feelings about casual sex?

I believe if everybody is consenting, then casual sex is great and you should do it as much or as little as you like. But I think the problem is a lot of the time not everybody IS consenting to the nature of the experience. They might consent to the sex but not realise that it’s a casual experience. There’s an internalised misogyny thing that happens in hetero situations where men think the women are looking for something more, so they frame it as something other than what it actually is. It’s really undermining and it doesn’t give women the same agency that the man has in entering the sexual situation. I so often see women get duped into casual situations that they would have probably entered into willingly had they known the nature of it, but then they get the rug pulled out from under them when they approach the aftermath of the encounter as though it was something more. And so these men continue to think that women don’t want casual experiences, and they continue to misrepresent what they are looking for, and the cycle perpetuates. It bums me out real bad because it places us at a disadvantage to begin with. A casual sexual encounter immediately becomes a power play. It’s like, you can be the chillest, coolest, most low-key, low expectation-having woman, and they can like buy you a pony or something and spray paint “LET’S HAVE SEX MORE THAN ONCE” on the pony, and somehow they will still make you feel like you are the one who fucked up by not realising how casual it was. So yeah, I think casual sex is cool, but I think a lot of men are doing it wrong.

What are your feelings about marriage?

I think it’s a pretty outdated concept in a lot of ways, based on ugly things like ownership. But I am also an idealist and a romantic and I think that, done right, there is still a place for marriage. It can be a beautiful sentiment. I think a lot of people get excited about proposals and weddings, but I like to think about what the actual word “marry” means. Like, to join two things together until they combine into one thing? That’s cool.

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“I have a benign brain tumour that causes me chronic pain and makes me tired all the time, so it is hard to have a regular routine because I don’t know how I’ll feel from one day to the next.” – Photo by Georgia Smedley

What are your most positive relationships with other women?

ALL OF THEM. Growing up, I encountered so many girls who acted cliquey or mean, so I thought I’d only ever be friends with men. I wish I could re-socialise everyone so that young girls didn’t think they had to be bitchy to exert their influence. Women have come to be the most supportive, inspiring, gentle forces in my life. From my mum who is always there for me and willing to hear what new social concept her outspoken daughter wants to talk about, to my female friends who are always kind, non-judgemental, and confidence boosting. I love them all.

What are your negative?

Strangers on the internet who have internalised mysognistic ideas and shame other women.

What are your feelings about monogamy? 

Like most things to do with sex or relationships, I’m pro-choice. If monogamy works for you, cool. If you prefer a non-monogamous relationship, great. I just think that the most important factor in all situations – sexual, romantic, whatever – is that everybody is informed and consenting. It’s not fair if one person is holding more cards than another; everyone involved should be given the same amount of information about what’s happening. I believe hopelessly in truth and communication, and wish those values were more prevalently held.

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

I try not to let it be, but yeah, sometimes.

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

Definitely not. I’m still not sure I’ve unlocked all the mysteries.

Where do you feel unsafe as a woman?

Almost everywhere.

Where is somewhere you can exist without fear? 

My first instinct was to say “my bedroom” but then I remembered the time I was living in a house where my bedroom window faced onto the street, and I got up to put my laptop away, turned around, and saw a dude standing on the street looking into my window, jerking off to the back of my head. So….

Do women treat you differently than men? 

In SO many ways. Women don’t do that thing where their eyes glaze over once they deem you unfuckable. Women don’t encroach on my personal space or talk over me. They wait to see if my short legs are keeping up with them when we’re walking together. Women don’t make eye contact with only the men when they’re talking to a group of people.  

What is your relationship to sex?

I go through phases. Sometimes I love it and I need it. Sometimes it is empowering, sometimes it makes me vulnerable. Right now it feels too intimate a thing to share with anyone, so I’m taking a break. I’m temporarily celibate and can’t imagine wanting to be vulnerable with someone new.

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

It very much depends on the partner – some people encourage an openness in me, some don’t bring that out as much. I’m getting better at it as I get older.

Is sex embarrassing for you to discuss?

No – I have almost no boundaries, it’s a problem. Don’t ask me about sex in a crowded restaurant – I will 100% end up talking too loudly and making inappropriate hand gestures.

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

Sometimes my parents. I let things go with them that I wouldn’t with other people.

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“I believe hopelessly in truth and communication, and wish those values were more prevalently held” – Photo by Georgia Smedley

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

Most. The most recent situation where I kept my mouth shut even though I didn’t want to was in a car full of men I didn’t know very well. But it wasn’t an issue of physical safety at all, more just emotional safety – I didn’t feel like bearing the brunt of eye rolls and whatnot. That’s the kind of thing that can keep me quiet even though I want to speak up – knowing how much emotional energy it will require to explain, to defend… knowing that I am being the woman who will perpetuate their shitty opinions of women.

What do you seek through sex? 

Connection, intimacy, pleasure. A way to switch my brain off. Probably some kind of validation about my body and whether or not I am sexy.

Are you satisfied with the women you see depicted in film, television & advertising?

I recently blogged a quote that said something like “I’m pro saggy boobs, big nipples, brown nipples, stretch marks, everything that’s totally against the small perky pale boobs and pink nipple aesthetic that white art likes to praise” and even though it wasn’t my original post, I ended up getting all these people writing to me like “THANK YOU OH GOD THANK YOU I THOUGHT SOMETHING WAS WRONG WITH MY BODY”. The physical representation of women in all mainstream media is terrible. I never see 5-feet-tall, busty, squishy, ethnically-ambiguous women depicted at all, let alone as a beauty ideal, which makes it feel like I have to work extra hard to see myself as valuable. Diversity is so lacking.

What is something you deeply love about yourself?

I love the way I give love. I think I know how to love functionally, unconditionally, without too much expectation, eternally. If you have truly burrowed a space inside me, you will live there forever. I do not need to renew it, commit to it, keep it alive. It is part of me. It can make life difficult, living in a world where people waver so much and seem to have short attention spans when it comes to giving love, but I’ve always been someone who can do it deeply and truthfully and unendingly. There are a lot of things I am terrible at, but I am proud of my love.

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“I love the way I give love. I think I know how to love functionally, unconditionally, without too much expectation, eternally.” – Photo by Georgia Smedley

Who are/what are your biggest motivators?

I have a particular visual image that sometimes comes into my mind – I am sitting in this reading nook by a rainy window in a big house in some kind of foresty area. I am wrapped in a blanket and I am writing my book and, in another room somewhere, there is a sleepy, naked person who loves me. The world is far away and nothing is worrying me. Sometimes I am working towards that. Sometimes I am motivated by the darkness of the world, and I’m trying to shine a little light into it. Sometimes I am just motivated by restlessness.

What are you feelings on motherhood?

I always took for granted that I would be a mother. It seemed natural that I would meet someone and do the thing. But I haven’t met someone, and as much as I think I’d be a really good mum, I don’t want to do it on my own. I don’t think I’d be able to. So you know, I think it is something that I want as part of my future. But I want to do it with a partner. The right partner. We’ll see.

What are your biggest fears?

That I will have to have brain surgery and it will leave me a conscious vegetable. That people don’t see the light buried deep inside me. That the singularity will come to pass and robots will destroy us all. Rape. The abyss of dark loneliness that I sometimes touch. Clowns.

Your greatest accomplishments? 

Becoming a person who cares instead of giving in completely to cynicism. Rebuilding myself after somebody broke me. Learning. Recovering.

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“Sometimes I am motivated by the darkness of the world, and I’m trying to shine a little light into it. Sometimes I am just motivated by restlessness.” – Photo by Georgia Smedley