Written By Steph Wade
Illustrations by Kitty Chrystal
Written By Steph Wade
Illustrations by Kitty Chrystal
07.12.18

An Open Letter to Kid Me

And yet, she’s sobbing rather theatrically about an unexpected predicament that’s suddenly the utmost of concerns. 

“I don’t want to be a lesbian!” she wails. “Then I can never get married and have two babies!”
Interestingly, despite decades zooming by, the former part of her two-pronged dilemma is still the case in Australia. Her mother probably laughs in response; she doesn’t remember. But that farcical episode of tears is burned into her memory. Perhaps the mind has a way of knowing which memories will turn out to be ironically amusing one day?

Fast-forward almost a decade to the early 2000s. The same girl is now a young teen, bright eyed and immersed in the dog-eat-dog world of MySpace, performing arts, and the prospect of flirting with boys while waiting in line for a hot dog at the canteen. She’s a typically ignorant (but otherwise not terrible) straight kid, with “trying to kill it in the status quo” metaphorically tattooed on her forehead. 

Then she grew up, and lots changed. 

It’s now the present day, where it’s far more socially accepted to land anywhere (or not) on the sexuality and gender spectrums. She’s acutely aware of how lucky she is — swanning around her hometown on the daily — safe and confident in the assertion that she’s free to love/date/hang with whomever she chooses, without total fear of harassment. She thanks the privilege that comes with identifying as a cis white woman for that. 

It’s now the present day, where it’s far more socially accepted to land anywhere (or not) on the sexuality and gender spectrums. She’s acutely aware of how lucky she is — swanning around her hometown on the daily — safe and confident in the assertion that she’s free to love/date/hang with whomever she chooses, without total fear of harassment. She thanks the privilege that comes with identifying as a cis white woman for that. 

But still, there’s the undeniable and deeply intrinsic queerphobia that exists everywhere, every hour, in the subtle nuances of conversation in schools, at work, in public.

It exists in the look of surprise, intrigue, skepticism and amusement she’s received in response to her sexuality. It’s in the embarrassing hetero-normative responses: “When did you decide you were into women?”; “So is it a phase?”; “Do your thing, girl!”. As if she woke up one day and thought: Monday morning, feeling fresh, gonna be gaaaaay today.

Illustrations by Kitty Chrystal
Illustrations by Kitty Chrystal

It exists when she’s making out with another female in the corner of a bar, and two men waddle over, laughing, to interrupt with, “Do you mind if we sit here? So, are you guys lesbians or what?”

It exists in the experience of her friends, who were recently labelled “faggots” by their abusive Uber driver.

It exists in the everyday comments bandied about by straight people. The ones who blurt out “that's so gay" then protest their innocence (it was a joke, chill/I didn’t mean it like that).

It exists when a male colleague recounts being mildly hit on by a gay man, and rather than dismiss it as flattery, concludes his story with “It was so fucked up, lol.” 

It exists when the Prime Minister issues his initial statement (since amended) on the recent Orlando shootings, but fails to mention they were an attack on LGBTQI people in an LGBTQI space. It’s implied in the hypocrisy of the statement “an assault on every one of us”, when it wasn’t, and in fact not “every one of us” can marry whoever we choose, bro.

It exists in the government’s reluctance to implement the Safe Schools Program to protect the wellbeing of young LGBTQI students in Victorian schools. Perhaps if there was more compassion and education surrounding the issue, we wouldn’t have six year olds worried (albeit momentarily) about the long-term consequences of loving someone with the same chromosomes as their righteous selves. 

My trepidation in writing this piece was that, as the once queer equivalent of Bambi, I would be engaging in a literary act of self-righteousness to ennoble my ego. However, if I could, I’d like to speak to my former self: the high-achieving, confident teenager who full encompassed (and frankly, fully embraced) the feminine ideals eschewed upon her. 

I’d tell her that words are more powerful than she knows. I’d tell her to be kinder, and to think before she speaks. I’d tell her that she’s more privileged than she’ll ever know. I’d tell her life is weird and unpredictable. That to be brave is to be transparent and honest, and to live openly means talking about these experiences. We must continue to generate these imperative conversations. Because there’s still so much work to do. 

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Steph Wade is a Melbourne based writer and copy editor. Her daytimes see her producing content for a creative brand, her nights are a mix of scheming plans with friends, cooking and music. She’s intrigued by how and why we operate the way we do. See a little bit of how she operateshere

Kitty Chrystal is a Melbourne based artist, illustrator, poet, intersectional feminist and Sagittarius witch. Their art is inspired by a mix of anime, comics, early 2000s pop music, 90s sci fi novels and dreams their friends have had. Kitty is the art editor of The Suburban Review, and a co-creator of the poetry collective and zine Cooked Poets Society.