March is Women’s History Month, which also recently held International Women’s Day.
To celebrate March, this is an ode to one of Adelaide’s most tight-knit, generous, and loving groups.
These seven women hail from around the world and all live on Kaurna Land (Adelaide) today. They are diverse in identities, backgrounds, experiences and paths, and come together with acceptance and love.
Meet: Stef, Pam, Wallis, Lucie, Dulcie, Daye, and Ella.
How do you identify and what do you do?
Bisexual female. I work full time as a designer/marketing person, sales person, data person, all sorts of ‘person’.
Female. I come from a Lebanese house. I don’t want to say I’m a lesbian or gay because I’m still attracted to men and emotionally, too. I don’t like to label it.
Pit boss at the Garden of Unearthly Delights during Fringe season. I own a pizza bar with my family. And I’m a photographer.
For me it’s something that’s still being worked out. I feel pretty fluid within sexuality and within gender. I’m not restricting myself. To put yourself in a box can be quite detrimental because then you start damaging and punishing yourself for something that is forever changing.
Everyone grows and changes and adapts. I’m just trying to exist – whatever that means.
I’ve fallen into the blue-collar industry where I bounce from construction job to construction job because it pays the bills. I write. And I guess I consider myself a poet.
I identify as a gay woman, as a lesbian. And I’m Filipino.
Firstly, I’m a musician. I’m a songwriter, a producer, and somewhat a performer. Secondly, I’m a café owner.
A woman who identifies as a lesbian, and I work at a high school.
I identify as a Korean-Australian female. That’s it. I don’t really like to put any labels on my sexuality, I like to keep that as open and fluid as possible.
I’m a musician. During the day I work full time as a manager at a retail store.
I’m a queer woman. I am a musician and a psychology PhD student.
How was your coming out process?
It was good. It was very good, actually. I came out to my friends when I was quite young (15/16). Most of them were pretty supportive and some of them were just a little bit unsure of what that meant for them. They came to terms with it. I came out to my sister and brother-in-law when I was 20-ish, and they were beautiful about it. And then I came out to my parents last year, and they were also beautiful about it. My mum cried… Dad was great, he said ‘As long as you’re happy, I’m happy.’ I was very lucky.
It got to a point where it didn’t really matter if they did or didn’t know, it was just exhausting them not knowing. You can feel it after a certain amount of years, it just becomes this pressure on you physically. Personally, I wasn’t concerned about the outcome, it was just my nature to keep these things to myself. To tell them was something I didn’t expect to be so rewarding.
To do it [come out] was a great relief I wasn’t expecting. It’s a different kind of living afterwards.
So far so good. I started coming out when I was 18. I’m still coming out. The only people I still need to come out to and have a conversation about it with are my parents.
Wallis really helped in my coming out, too.
I was ready to come out to my brother when I was ready to hear, ‘No’ and I was ready to answer back confidently. I’ve never had to defend who I am and I knew it was a possibility coming out to my brother.
My grandpa said to me, ‘If it feels good and it’s not hurting anyone, it’s probably okay.’
I’ve had it a lot easier than some. I was 16/17 when my mum found out. A year or two later my mum got over it. My friends were like, ‘Yeah, cool, and?’ It was reassuring.
After coming out I surrounded myself with more people in the community and it’s all normal. Who cares, really?
The first time I actually told someone I was 19 and it was my mum. Throughout my schooling… The way I presented myself, my mannerisms, the way that I talk and all the things that I do and am, people have just known. I’ve always been open about it. Luckily enough, the friends I surrounded myself with in high school were always open to it and accepting.
When I told my family, I’d already moved out of home. Sexuality wasn’t really an issue but something that was never spoken about. I knew they’d be okay with it… So when I told my mum, she asked if I was going out with someone (a girl), and I just said yes.
It was beautiful. My mum told me. I started hanging out with a girl quite often and I was talking to my mum and said, ‘I’m just going to their house tonight,’ and she said, ‘Okay, well this is when you tell me. This is when you tell me you’re gay.’
And it was that moment where everything just pieced together.
I don’t think I ever ‘came out.’ My first love was a female and that was just what it was. During that relationship I never identified as a lesbian or gay, I just identified as someone who was in love with this person.
I think it’s a nice 360 because my first experience with my sexuality was non-existent, it was just based on love. And it kind of ends that way, because that’s how I feel at the moment.
In terms of family it is an ongoing process. It’s a hard one and I think it’s going to take a lot of time.
It was a long process, mainly for myself.
It wasn’t until I was away in Canada and away from my family and away from the society where I felt I needed to fit in that box that I finally let myself be with a woman. That was a light bulb moment for me.
It was interesting sitting on the fence, knowing deep down the whole time but not being willing to sit there.
Then coming home was a whole other coming out process, because then I had to try it on one more time for size. It wasn’t until I did that and I joined the band that I met this amazing community that I felt comfortable enough to come out.
What's your current position in your identity?
I’m comfortable. Content.
I realised things are always going to happen that are shit, but it’s about how you handle it. It’s about what you do next. When I realised that… I became a lot more comfortable. I feel more powerful than I have in my life.
I’m still working it out.
I have gone through both experiences, both the, ‘Needing to dress straight like my friends,’ then met the group and went through the, ‘Need to buy boys clothes’ and ‘How will people know I’m gay if I don’t wear boys clothes and a muscle tee?’
But now I’m so comfortable, I wear whatever I want.
What have been some difficulties you've faced?
I don’t think I’ve had many struggles besides how I identify when I need to identify. I don’t think I’ve ever felt a great need to pick a label aside from wanting something that feels like my own, so I’ve made an effort and tried to figure out what it might be and mean to me. So I can have something and know ‘my people.’ I think that comes from not identifying as a lesbian and wanting a group of people I feel are like me.
If you’re not straight and you’re not gay/lesbian in the LGBTQI+ community, your presence is not as large. You don’t see it.
I’ve seen the parents of partners’ be not accepting of sexuality. For me to be so comfortable with who I am, and for parents to not like me, that’s tough. I’ve had to learn to disconnect from that. Learn it’s not me; it’s their perception of relationships and the way it ‘should’ be.
I’ve learnt to understand where people are coming from, to not ever attack them for it. To think about where they’re coming from and explain that it’s okay. Try and show them that there’s a different way to what they’re thinking, and if they don’t want to listen to you at that time, they’ll walk away and think about it.
What's helped in your process?
Having a solid group of lifelong friends who are female, and who have resented the idea that women are petty and backstabbing and fight about trivial shit. We’ve always supported each other.
In terms of sexuality… getting to know a group of people through Ella that is so proud and has come so far in their own journeys. To be welcomed into that has been really powerful. These people are living such beautiful lives, and love each other so genuinely.
Talking to people. Meeting people. Connecting. What’s helped me most is friends, and family, but friends. Chosen family, yeah.
Surrounding myself with good people who don’t care, don’t judge, and are very accepting. That’s helped a lot.
I went to school with Wallis. In school she was out and everyone thought she was so cool, and we lost touch after.
One day we caught up and she said, ‘A bunch of us are getting together,’ and for me that was such a moment, like, ‘Should I go? I haven’t spoken to her in two years, I don’t really know her, I don’t know any of her friends, I don’t like going out, I’m not much of a drinker, none of my friends will come with me because that’s not their kind of thing.’
I remember sitting in my car outside and Wallis messaging me asking if I was still coming because I was late, and I was like, ‘Do I do it? Do I go into this world I don’t know? Or do I just go home and sit with Mum and Dad?’
Then I heard this, ‘What are you doing?’ and I turn around and it was Lucie. She was just shouting from the street, I don’t think she was shouting at me, and I got out, and was like ‘Hi, I’m Dulcie, I’m Wallis’s friend,’ and she was like, ‘Well get in here.’
And I remember in that moment when she shouted out to me, being like, ‘Fuck it, what’s the worst that can happen?’ And I think that was such a massive turning point.
Now I’ve never felt better about myself, about my body, my looks, everything. I’m in a really good place.
Meeting Wallis, Lucie, and Daye. I was like, ‘These are three people who, in my eyes, are so comfortable.’ And I had such a similar experience to Dulcie, when I went and met Wallis, Daye and Lucie out one night before I was in the band, and it was very much that, ‘I could go home or I could meet them.’
What does being a wom*n mean to you?
The first word that comes to mind is power. What’s great about women is their empathy and their ability to envision something and become it or carry it out or inspire it in other people.
I used to hate [being a woman], especially through primary school. I dressed like a boy… I thought I needed to be a man to be powerful. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realised I can do what I want and be accepted. Once I realised that, it meant the world. I love being a female. I love it so much, I really do. And I’ve only realised that in the last year. I feel lucky.
Well, it’s a lot easier being a white woman.
I always say if a woman was put in charge from the get-go, things would be a lot different. I think there’s strength because we’ve been so defiant and overcome so much. It’s also important as a feminist to be inclusive of every woman. Disabled women, immigrants… If you’re going to stand for women, you have to stand for every woman.
It means you can create life! No one else can fucking do that. It means you’re strong. You can understand things beyond what other people can. You’re wise, and you’re powerful.
The first thing that always comes to mind is pride. I’m insanely proud to be a woman. It’s not always something I’ve felt.
There was a stage where I didn’t want to be a woman. Not because of society or because of hardships women faced, just because I wanted to be a guy. I felt I identified more as a guy. I felt like I would be happier as a guy, even from a really young age I felt that way.
Even when I was older, when I met Lucie and Wallis for the first time, I thought it would be much easier if I were a guy because then I wouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable dressing in guys clothes, I would just be one. They’d fit me better, everything would be easier.
It’s been recent, in the last two or three years where I dress and act the way I want to, I’ve never been prouder and more sure that I am a woman. I don’t know where that’s come from. It’s possibly because of the people I hang out with and just growing up.
The first thing I think of when thinking about being a woman is strength. I think of my birth mother. I think of her being strong, quietly so. Unapologetic for who she is and what she stands for and where she comes from. But also very understanding of the world and letting it run its course and never letting anyone fuck with her. It's something I feel like I have elements of, but that’s what I look up to.
My sister and I were always brought up with the knowledge that we could do whatever we wanted, so it wasn’t until I was older when I realised the inequalities. I’ve always surrounded myself with these career-driven women. My mum, for example, is a very successful clinical psychologist. Having that influence has been really important in my identity as a woman.
What do Women's History Month and International Women's Day mean to you?
It’s about making people aware. Nothing gets done if you don’t talk about it. It’s also a time to make people more conscious about all women. You have to be inclusive.
I work at a school and I work really hard to make this day bigger and better every year, I try and get the kids involved and make them proud to be a woman and be proud of the women they go to school with and I love how much they get into it. But then the next day it’s Friday. You know? I want it to be more.
We need to commemorate this day because we live it day to day. I don’t wake up every day being like, ‘I’ve come so far as a woman, I’m strong, let’s go.’ I don’t do that. I get up, I eat my breakfast, clean my teeth and go to work. I live my life. Having this day makes you stop for a second and recognise that we are women, we are strong, we have come a long way, and yes there is a long way to go, but this is the one day where we’re all taking that moment to reflect. And I think we need to do that.
I had a very surreal moment driving home from uni the other day listening to the news and there was a story about how a female university in Saudia Arabia was teaching their students to drive, and that just hit me like a tonne of bricks. The fact that a university was teaching the students to drive and that it was news? That’s why we need this day.
How's your process of expanding your understanding been?
I always attempted to be open and accepting, but it changed a lot after I had a trans person in my life who didn’t identify as she/her or he/him. For once, I actually had to physically reprimand myself about every time I slipped up and take responsibility for respecting how they identify. It became more personal after I encountered it firsthand.
We expect a lot from people who haven’t encountered these things firsthand. For example, someone who is outside of the LGBTQI+ community. We expect a lot and I think it’s okay to expect a lot. It goes back to constant exposure and accepting it and expecting that others with accept it. To bring it into the new norm.
It wasn’t forced. I was exposed to the world of queer, trans, and non-binary people and I learnt through meeting people. My vocabulary expanded meeting these people, too. Things like top surgery and bottom surgery, people physically changing… I had never been exposed to that.
I’ve never been against a group of people, I’ve always been open for as long as I remember. I didn’t have to be taught to be open-minded, I just was.
All we’re doing is including, what can be so wrong?
It’s been a process.
I have always been in relationships with women who are seen as more feminine, and I’ve always been the more masculine one. In my younger years, within the relationships there were gender roles, huge gender roles. I would carry the girl’s bag and I would pay for everything, I would do all the things men are ‘supposed’ to do. I’ve had to pull myself away from that, and it was a hard process.
You keep learning and that’s a beautiful thing.
The way I’ve unlearned things is by watching people learn things for the first time in a completely different way at school.
I’ve always just taken things as they came and didn’t think twice. Just having as open of a mind as possible, and growing up and surrounding myself with good people and likeminded people.
But then there’s a whole other world I have to be a part of that completely defies all of those things. For me I have to respect that side and live my life juggling both. But that doesn’t mean I necessarily agree with anything that’s opposing all those progressive things, it’s just that I have to deal with it.
Trying as much as you can to not have a stigma, label, stereotype, opinion on anything and just let things happen and don’t have any expectations or any judgment on anyone, anything, ever.
Why is community important?
I think women can find that power in themselves at any time because we’re wonderful and we know that ourselves deep down, even when people tell us otherwise. I don’t think the LGBTQI+ community has that same self-empowerment. There’s a lot of shame.
I think to have a community that counteracts that [shame] is incredibly important. I think that’s more important than a community that just supports one another. It’s more than that. It justifies their existence. Women don’t need justification, they exist, they know they’re needed – even biologically. But the LGBTQI+ community needs love in a whole other way.
All we have is each other, right? That’s how colonies and worlds are built. How emperor’s ruled. They got people together and said, ‘We need to do this.’ That’s what we’re doing. We’re building.
If it wasn’t for the people I surround myself with or having that space, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
To feel like you belong to something or a particular group who think the same way and are going through the same struggles as you, who are learning the same things as you. [Being a queer woman] can be isolating, but as soon as you find a community, it changes your life.
It’s everything. I am the person I am today because of community. I would be nowhere near as comfortable and proud and confident as I am today if it wasn’t for the community. And I would never have met Daye if it wasn’t for community, so it’s everything.
I think we, as humans, thrive off being surrounded by other people. Bouncing off people and finding likeminded people. We share ideas and things we have in common and you grow and build each other up, that’s what we do. That’s one of the brilliant things about us. When you’re in a minority, those things are so important because those are the things that are going to live every day and wake up feeling like, ‘I’m not the only one who’s dealing with all of this shit.’
Being part of several communities is very important to my identity. In my psychology stuff I’m a part of a community that’s widespread over the world. Then being part of the crossfit community gives you a community anywhere. And this community has been the most important in discovering the identity that means I’ll have community anywhere I go.
What do you do for self care
I’ve struggled with self-care for a long time. Only recently have I decided that it’s important. It’s included getting medication and eating well, making sure I talk about how and what I feel and not isolating myself.
I write down what’s hurting. I write a lot. I talk to people. I read. I think I could work on my self-care. I normally just ride the wave.
I think I need to take more time for it. Going on a drive so I can listen to music or going the long way round. Taking the time to do the things I want to do… I should do more writing.
I have to listen to music. What comes after is writing music, and that’s a release of emotions, but self-care to me is learning about yourself and being open to that.
It can be scary. It’s the most terrifying thing learning things about yourself, like that you’re maybe fearful of being alone… that’s part of self-care. Self-care is opening up to those ugly emotions and realising them. Accepting them, that they’re a part of who you are.
Swimming. It just completely takes me out of my head because you’re concentrating on your breathing, your strokes, the sound of the water, and everything around you goes silent. It’s a form of meditation for me. Now I swim twice a week and I’ve never been in a better headspace.
I have a very extensive skincare routine. It’s time that I take to look after myself and just how health is important, looking after your skin… That’s so important. It makes me feel confident. And also eating right and doing regular exercise.
I do yoga and meditation and that puts my head in the right place and knowing how to control your thoughts. That’s helped me so much. But also just focusing on things that make me excited and happy, like music or drawing.
I’m notorious for doing too many things. I’m a go, go, go, crash. Self-care is an ongoing journey because I’m still really bad at giving myself time. That’s something I’m working on. My main self-care is doing crossfit, it is so good for my mental health.
What do you think other wom*n should know about?
Vera Drake directed by Mike Leigh
Suffragette directed by Sarah Gavron
The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
The L Word created by Ilene Chaiken
Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain by Portia de Rossi
The Venus Project by Georgia Broods
You can support the people in the group by visiting Lucie's cafe Nagev; supporting W.M.N, the band Wallis, Ella, Daye, and Lucie are in; and by supporting the women around you on a daily basis – not just in March. Furthermore, to commit time to understanding different identities and making sure your feminism is intersectional is crucial.
All identities are valid and important, and those identifying as a woman or non-binary are crucial to society.
Happy International Women's History Month x
All images are courtesy of each wom*n.