Happily Ever After? Guest Kween: BENJAMIN NORRIS

Happily Ever After? Guest Kween: BENJAMIN NORRIS

To celebrate #STFTL’s one year anniversary, we’re checking in on some of our favourite Kweens and Kings.

What are these gems up to now? And how much can really change in a year? So…

It’s been exactly one year since we achieved marriage equality… and is everything ok?

Have you ever thought, ‘what happens a year on after superheroes save the earth?’

Did Buffy go on to slay her next job as a social media influencer? Did Frodo craft engagement rings for same-sex hobbits and did Wonder Woman become a tradie?

More importantly, what happened after our LGBTI heroes fought and won the right to marry their partners?

Did we all get invited to hundreds of same-sex weddings; enough to turn all the Real Housewives of Melbourne into marriage celebrants?

I have always been interested in what happens next: movie sequels, sophomore music albums, series 2 of anything on Netflix; I am fascinated by the follow up!

So when Carmela asked me to reflect 12 months after Australia changed the marriage act, I felt deeply intrigued.

So, what were the ripple on effects for myself and for the LGBTI community?

I personally thought I would have a big gay wedding with swans, celebrities and old pop songs sung by one of the Young Divas. (Yes, I am that gay!)

So why did I not do it? Why am I still engaged with no wedding gown in sight?

Somehow (dare I admit it), there appears to be more chance of our Prime Minister Scott Morrison marrying Tony Abbott than me walking down the aisle!

Because of this, I recently started to freak out that I had not yet done what we had been fighting so hard for.

Had I lied to my partner when I proposed? Had proposing in front of the country on Big Brother in 2012 been all about getting attention? Worse, I wondered if my partner (now 6 years on) didn’t even want to marry me!?

I felt like I was having an identity crisis.

So I started looking for answers on Google. How many same sex couples got married this year? Did everyone get married but me???

Well… there have been close to 3000 same-sex Aussies couples legally married.

This is amazing, but it certainly does not conclude that everyone in loving same-sex relationships, in deed got married. Phew! I am not the only homo alive with just an engagement ring.

Then I called my partner for an emergency date night, which went something like this: an elaborate dinner plan, face masks and a certain amount of nervous energy. What followed also was a weird conversation that started with the most romantic question anyone can ask, “Do you still want to marry me?” Gulp.

The reality was lost on me for a moment. I’d almost forgotten that the marriage equality debate was really just about equality. It wasn’t about marriage. Yet here I was hanging my relationship on a tender hook and questioning if it was all worth it because I haven’t thrown an over-priced wedding extravaganza with my life partner.

I guess our version of ‘happily ever after’ doesn’t mean we all get married right now! It just means that we are all equal now.

Maybe referencing those gays & straights as heroes might be a bit intense but i am still immensely proud of Australia for last year’s achievement.

I have found last year’s result gave Australia a chance to address some issues within the LGBTI community. However, now we face more intricate issues that can’t be blanketed over with a simple solution.

It is not a Marvel popcorn flick. It’s going to take some time to fully understand all of it. But more importantly, it’s about political correctness and not being a naive ignorant prick.

Which is where we are now.

How do we make Australia more inclusive? How did we educate those who might not be aware of the stories under the broader banner of LGBTI+?

Yes, there are more queer tales beyond ‘Jack’ from Will and Grace and the stereotypical lesbian at Bunnings.

Why do people know very little about intersex: the little discussed ‘I’ in the LGBTI alphabet?

Why does our trans community need more visibility?

Bisexuality remains to be seen as just a train stop away from gay-town. Nobody seems to respect an individual’s right to choose their pronouns.

Why is it still not ok to be a fem-top or butch-bottom? And why are gay relationships judged on whether they’re open or closed?

Please don’t think of the LGBTI community as a one-size fits all, we are actually more like the entire board of ‘Guess Who’.

While the world still turns beyond the 2017 marriage equality debate, we are still in many ways in desperate need of fighting for equal rights for all people, no matter what their sexuality, gender, race, religion and personal identity is. So let’s keep going!! And remember: it’s our differences that unite us, not divide us.

Benjamin Norris lives in Melbourne, Australia and is a presenter on JOY 94.9. He also hosts the podcast series, Word for Word and how could we forget? The previous winner of 2012’s Big Brother. You may of also seen him recently on ABC’s ‘You Cant Ask That!’

Happily Ever After? Guest Kween: CAITLYN FAIRHEAD

Happily Ever After? Guest Kween: CAITLYN FAIRHEAD

To celebrate #STFTL’s one year anniversary, we’re checking in on some of our favourite Kweens and Kings.

What are these gems up to now? And how much can really change in a year? So…

Happy 1st Birthday #STFTL! I can’t believe it’s been a year. We’ve had some good times, haven’t we? All those mornings reading your posts in bed instead of getting ready for work… I’ve treasured every one. You’re a breath of fresh air out here, girl, and we love you. Keep doing your thing!

When Carmela asked me to write this ‘one year on’ piece, I felt like a bit of a fraud, because very little has changed since this – I’m still very much the mother/wife/teacher/whinger I was a year ago. But I’m a whole year older now, so some things must have changed, surely.

I’m still teaching (it’s going good, thanks for asking), studying (also good), mothering (it’s good/relentless) and I suppose I’ve grown a little bit. I still don’t feel like a grown-up though, it’s like any minute now someone’s going to tap me on the shoulder and ask me to step aside so the real grown-ups can take over.

Has anyone (a child, probably) ever told you they want to be like you when they grow up? I recently had this experience and I’m not going to lie to you, it was a bit of a shock.

Not that a five-year-old might look up to me (she’s five, she doesn’t know any better) but that I’m considered a ‘grown-up’. Not just an adult, someone who has literally ‘grown up’, A GROWN-UP!

I looked at her little face and, after briefly wondering why my own kids don’t say these things to me (note: do not pull at this thread), I chuckled pretty lamely and said something like: “Oh, wow, and I’m not done growing yet!”

I’m willing to concede that at 32, I’m possibly not getting any taller at this point. And I admit I’ve done some grown-up things. I got married and had kids (not necessarily in that order), sometimes I buy the expensive tissues instead of the 99c ones and I know my tax file number by heart. Those seem like grown-up things.

But in lots of ways, I’m nowhere near grown-up. I have the attention span of a goldfish and still have a lot of things I want to achieve. I still run late in the mornings. I think thongs go with everything and I drink the cheapest wine I can stomach. I still don’t know what half the settings on my washing machine do and I can’t do eyeliner to save my life. At best, I’d say I’m en route to being a grown-up, but still a way off.

After some pretty self-indulgent reflection on my part, I think I’m in this weird, in-between stage where I still feel like a young person, but at the same time am bloody glad I’m not one. I guess that cliché about growing old, not growing up, is pretty spot on.

I love that I’m not in my twenties anymore. God, I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life for my thirties. Going to bed when I’m tired! Saying no to things! Making time for myself! Taking risks! Having a career! Being wiser, smarter, sexier (‘cause of the smarts) and not caring what people think of me! (At least, not as much as I used to). It’s bliss. I’d honestly never be a teenager again.

I don’t know if this feeling is unique to me or what, but frankly, I’m really enjoying getting older. Granted, in the scheme of things I’m still young, but so far I’m only getting more comfortable with myself with each passing year.

Wrinkles? Gimme ‘em. Grey hairs? Sure. Retirement? Farkin’ BRING IT. I know, I shouldn’t wish my life away (or my kids’ lives, since I’m supposed to be enjoying every precious moment, woopsee woops), but you can’t bloody tell me Gloria Steinem wasn’t onto something when she said this:

To that little girl who may one day read this (you just never know): don’t worry a damn about growing up, my darling. Eyeliner is hard, girlfriend, and to be honest the cheap wine does the same job. And f*** that washing machine, too. Just enjoy growing older.

Maybe I’ll change my mind when I’m in my seventies, but this growing-up business can go jump. Growing older is where it’s at!

Caitlyn is a thirtyish-year-old teacher with a passion for good books and cheap wine. She has two children and an ever-patient husband, though her true love is Mexican food.

 

Kween Kulture: PRIDE IN LONDON 2018

Kween Kulture: PRIDE IN LONDON 2018

Over the weekend I celebrated my first Pride in London with my beloved friend, Callum.

We started the day at his place, sipping glasses of buck fizz and lining our stomachs with a bacon butty (which he prepared). It was deeelish!

We took the train from Greenwich to Piccadilly, our bags packed with more bubbles, gin, plastic cups and rainbow face paint. Yasss, these Kweens were set!

While we were waiting for our train though, Callum mentioned how he was asked in the week leading up to the event, if he thought ‘Pride in London’ was still necessary?

Allow me to answer that for my beautiful darling friend…

-While Cal was in the middle of explaining this, he also stopped and said to me “Can you see the kind of ‘looks’ I’m getting? Don’t they know, it’s Pride?”

Now, not that any human could ever or deserves to ever, take away the light bursting inside of my gorgeous friend, but it really pissed me off that today of all days, there were still some people willing to make him feel not worthy or accepted (let alone every day of his god damn life!).

Eventually we got on the train and we were stoked to find it filled with people wearing exactly what we were wearing; boys in short shorts, girls with rainbows on their faces, glitter everywhere. Any thought of the small minded who tried to quash our spirits were themselves, quashed.

-When we got to the parade, it was delayed due to anti-trans protestors. These people not only laid down on the ground in front of the march but were still allowed to walk the parade first (police escorting them) holding signs, banners and flyers filled with such awful, hateful messages about transsexuals. It was such an ugly thing to see, especially when everyone who was standing on the streets were there for the exact opposite reason. So, we booed them. We booed the hell out of them!!

-Once the parade finally started, my heart filled with joy and my eyes welled up (they always do, no matter where I’m watching it, Sydney, Brighton). I just love the feeling of when the parade begins; it symbolizing another year of fighting and resisting, yet another chance to shout love and light from the rooftops. It was amazing seeing these humans so happy and so celebrated. Admiration poured from every street corner and scaffolding but I couldn’t help also noticing the other signs that stated that being ‘gay’ was still illegal in 72 countries. 72!

Can you believeee?

So, is Pride in London still necessary? ABSO-FUCKING-LUTLEY!!!

Even if we get to a world where none of the above exists, there will always be a bunch of brave, fearless, strong men and women, who made it a little easier for that other boy to come out to his parents or that other girl to tell her best friend that she likes girls. I imean, that needs to be celebrated not just at Pride but all the freaking time, right?!!

But honey seriously, besides these slight attempts to bring us down, nothing was going to damper our day! We sang, we danced, we hugged, we held hands, we laughed; it was a magical, perfect day. A day simply about love and loving each other.

📸: @calluminos

By surprise, I also saw my other friend Tony strutting past. This made me (once again) explode with pride and strangely also made me feel right at home. Wow, how could I have only been back in London for just over a year and already recognized a familiar face, not just in the crowd, but in the parade!? Tony shouted out my name and gave me a high-five, my eyes got glassy again, it was so special.

Actually, there were many other things that gave me ‘all the feels’.

-Parents parading with their young children (straight and gay), I swear this is something I will do with my kids too. I also feel like if my son ever told me he was ‘straight’ I’d be most disappointed. Ha!

-There were different cultures and religions also parading their gay stuff with utter sass and fun; it was super powerful.

📸: Mike Cash

The only thing that is ‘unnecessary’ about Pride in London is the amount of glitter you will continue to find on your body, in your hair, in your bathroom and in your bed afterwards; no matter how many times you have showered or attempted to clean it up. It’s like a fucking unicorn has shat everywhere. And the cheeky train-toilet-vomit one may encounter on the way back home. Whoops!

Still, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

I grew up in a house where my mum would always invite her gay friends around for dinner parties; my Italian dad would sit at the table and speak to them like he was down at the pub with his own mates. My point is, maybe if everyone had the chance to grow up with ‘gay people’ being treated just like ‘people’, maybe no one would ever question if it was necessary.

So, is Gay Pride still necessary? Yasss Kween! And I cannot wait till 2019. Maybe I’ll be in the parade next time too!!

📸: @jenobeirne
Guest Kween: JANAE BRANDIS “My Angel Baby.”

Guest Kween: JANAE BRANDIS “My Angel Baby.”

The last Friday of June in Australia is Red Nose Day and I’m one of the unlucky parents who this day has a very significant meaning to.

For as long as I can remember, all I wanted to be is a mother. Growing up all my friends had specific career goals that they wanted to achieve but for me, all I knew for sure was that when I ‘grew up’ I’d be a mum!

Well, as they say ‘dreams do come true’ but my journey into motherhood has been far from what I dreamed it would be as a little girl.

On Monday, the 22nd of August in 2011, my dream became a reality when my first son Nate Lachlan Brandis was born. My labour was long and if I’m honest, waaaay more painful than I could ever have imagined. I ended up in an emergency C-section but it was totally and 110% worth it when my big 9lb 9oz baby boy was handed to me.

The first week was tough, Nate’s blood sugar levels were so low, he needed to stay in the special care nursery. My milk never came in, which after my third baby I finally discovered I had IGT (Insufficient Glandular Tissue) which is quite common with women who have PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). Recovering from a C-section was also no walk in the park! After that week, I caved and decided I was going to bottle feed (my now starving) child.

I have to admit, it was one of best decisions I ever made. After his first full bottle, he slept!! He slept so well that I was the mum at my mothers’ group who lied to all the other poor mums because I felt so bad that my now three week old baby was sleeping eight hours straight a night! (While they were up every hour to attend to their baby.)

Nate was the easiest, crusiest, happiest, cheekiest baby I’ve ever met. (I’m not even joking, he actually was!) He fitted right into our world so perfectly. My husband Paul and I both thought life was pretty damn sweet.

When Nate was ten months and three weeks old our lives were irrevocably changed when he passed away from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). I was totally blindsided. How could this beautiful, innocent soul be taken from us so soon?

I was that mum who never put the cot bumper in the cot and dressed my baby in a sleeping bag instead of blankets (as that was the SIDS recommendation). I did it all and it made no difference!! It just didn’t and still doesn’t make any sense!

The next few days, weeks and months were a total blur. All I can remember is the amount of love that surrounded Paul & I from our family and those few friends (who know who they are) that we now consider as family.

I remember in the days after Nate died, I was peeing on a pregnancy test just praying for my baby to come back to me; like I was asking for some sort of miracle.

The pain of losing a child never leaves you. You just learn of ways to cope and live with the pain, as if it’s a new part of you.

So that’s what we did. Paul and I decided to live life. We both took nearly half a year off work and travelled the world together. We did so many amazing things on that trip from learning to scuba dive in the Greek Islands to skydiving over the North Shore in Hawaii to learning the art of making traditional Spanish sangria & paella in Barcelona. It was exactly the escape I needed but it was also such a bittersweet time in our lives too.

In the back of my mind, I expected to return from that trip pregnant and it devastated me that I didn’t. However, after nearly four years of struggling with infertility and having to go on a range of fertility meds, we were finally blessed with our rainbow baby, another son Luca. Luca’s name (as well as being a family name) means ‘bringer of light’ and that he certainly is!!

Two years later we were blessed again in a rather suprising & unplanned way (due to some of my own serious medical issues, which is a whole other story in itself) with the birth of our third son, Hudson.

Being a parent after the loss of a child is hard, I mean ‘parenthood’ is hard in general but it adds a whole other level. Those fucking ‘mum guilts’ creep in way worse when you’ve just had enough but it makes you appreciate the little things just as much too.

Nate’s still every bit a part of our family. Luca knows all about his big brother ‘Angel Nate’ and Hudson will grow to know about him too.

So this Red Nose Day (as I do every day) I will be thinking of my darling Angel Nate and sending love not only to him but to all of the other angel babies and the families they have so sadly left behind. Please join me.

Find out how you can be involved and support Red Nose Day here. Help reduce nine deaths a day to ZERO and donate.

Janae Brandis is a Bunbury girl, born and raised. She’s been married to the love-of-her-life for 10 years and she’s a mother to three gorgeous children; one of whom lives in heaven. Janae is obsessed with wine and cheese but thinks chocolate is life. In other words, don’t come between her and her Snickers bar.

📷: Red Nose

Is your inner cheerleader doing her job properly?

Is your inner cheerleader doing her job properly?

What’s the first thing you do when your friend is feeling down?

Or is not being very kind to themselves?

What’s the first thing you do when someone offends your friend?

Or even looks at them the wrong way?

YOU GO INNNNN.

Yep, you’re their personal cheerleader.

You tell em, ‘shut it!’ Cos you’re ain’t having any of that nonsense!!

You follow it up with every compliment under the sun. “You’re fucking gorgeous. Your body is bang-in. You’re stunning on the inside and out. If I was into women, I’d do you!”

At times you even go down the tough love route. “Oh stop it, you silly cow!!”

Now, what’s the first thing you do when you’re not ‘feeling it’?

Or catch yourself in a pic someone else took?

Or Facebook decides to show you a memory from 5 years ago AKA ‘a photo of when you were much thinner but thought you were fat and gross and disgusting then too’?

You do not go into cheerleader mode.

You say, think and feel some truly horrid things about yourself.

What a shame.

In the last two years, I was asked by both my best friends if I would be in their bridal party.

Something I felt truly touched by. I was honoured, privileged, thrilled, you name it: I had all the feels. Unlike my sister who has been in countless bridal parties, I have been in a total of three.

So how did I wear that pride?

“I have to lose weight, like yesterday.”

“Fuck, how awful if I’m this size for the wedding.”

“Shit the other bridesmaids are so much skinner than me; I’m going to look huge.”

This dialogue went on inside my head for 14 months in the lead up to my beautiful friend Effie’s wedding. Every month I would calculate the time I had left to be skinner, prettier, better.

I feared seeing Effie weeks before the wedding because I already felt like I had let her down. Why? Because I hadn’t organised the Bachelorette party or I hadn’t given a second thought to the wedding d-floor playlist? Oh no: because I hadn’t lost enough weight!!

On the morning of the wedding, the last thing I said to her before we left for the church was: “Do I look ok? I don’t want to embarrass you.” In hindsight I’m more embarrassed for actually saying that to her. What the fuck did it matter how I looked or felt? This was her day. 🤦🏻‍♀️

When my beautiful friend Pippa asked me to be in her bridal party, I was determined to get it right this time. I was not going to be fat at her wedding. Oh god, I was even bigger. 🤣

I just ballooned in the lead up to it. I had put on so much more weight whilst living in London that when I landed back in Australia two weeks before the wedding, I really had to put on a brave face.

At the time I never said a word to Pippa (a lesson learnt from Effie’s wedding) yet she constantly told me throughout the day how gorgeous ‘I’ looked and she let me get changed half-way through the reception. Am I the most high-maintenance bridesmaid or what? No wonder I never get asked. Ha!

When I got back to London, I was secretly dreading the release of Pip’s bridal photos. I was fixated on what I would look like and I couldn’t stop thinking how once again, I had let a close friend down.

When the photos did finally emerge, what I’d been dreading was to be expected.

Some of the photos I’m in are lovely. Others have so many chins and back rolls, I have to now laugh, otherwise, well you know how this sentence ends.

The day I went through her wedding gallery for the first time, I tried to do the cheerleader thing.

“They’re ok babe.”

“Jesus, calm it, they’re not that bad!”

“Look how much love is in these photos!? Who gives a fuck what size you are?”

And a bit of the tough stuff too: “No one is looking at that. YOU are looking at that. Get over yourself.”

But I couldn’t stop torturing myself and admittedly, I didn’t sleep much that night. I was wracked with guilt.

I reached out to Pippa a few times to confess how sorry I was (I felt like I owed it to her). She responded with:

Fuck me. Is this not the worst part?

Isn’t she a diamond? Am I not the luckiest mole in the whole damn world?!

What the hell have I been putting myself through over the last few years? My friends didn’t pick me to be in their bridal party because I take a nice photo. They picked me for so many other reasons. Why couldn’t I just focus on that?

What a shame.

The first wedding I was ever in was my beautiful friend Caitlyn’s. I was 15-20 kilos lighter but I felt the same then too.

When will this stop? What’s it going to take?

Kweens, it really is this simple: if you wouldn’t say it to a friend, then don’t you dare say it, think it and feel it about yourself!!!

Now, it’s not every day I do this. I’m actually getting a lot better at being kind to myself. I’m definitely a lot better then I was.

These days, I’m better at letting things go. Where before I would see it as I was letting myself go. I would punish myself for having any feelings of self-love (like maybe I was just lying to myself).

Today, I’m wearing skinny blue jeans with a black singlet tucked into it. This is a black singlet I would normally wear under tops to keep everything in and tight.

Lately I have been following some accounts on Instagram where women have been showcasing and embracing their size and curves. Each and every one of these women are sexy AF.

So I feel like the script really is changing. Am I more confident now by chance? By age? Or by the examples around me? The kind of examples that weren’t around me when I younger?

I got up this morning and I put on an outfit that totally emphasized my boobs, butt, waist, stomach and thighs. You should have seen me strutting across London Bridge, I was owning it!

The reality: I packed another looser top too, as I wasn’t sure how long today’s new found confidence would last.

The important thing: you would not have caught me dead in something like that a year ago, let alone 5 years ago (when I was thinner: thanks Facebook).

Growing up as a ‘bigger’ girl you get used to things.

Like: obsessing in the mirror and securitising every angle before heading out.

Like: pulling at your top every time you sit down.

Like: making excuses when your friends invite you to the beach.

Like: walking down the street and constantly fiddling because your dress is sticking to the wrong parts of your body.

Like: having mini-meltdowns in bathrooms during a party because you feel so uncomfortable.

Like: not getting changed EVER in front of ANYONE.

Like: dreading seeing an old mate because you’re not the same size you were the last time you saw them.

Where was my inner cheerleader then?

Where is my inner cheerleader now?

Well, she’s pretty strong today. She’s getting stronger and louder every day. She’s doing high-kicks and all kinds of fancy shit.

If you’re the same, can’t you see a pattern? You weren’t happy when you were 5 kilos lighter. You weren’t content when you 10 kilos lighter. You were still miserable when you were at your lightest.

When’s it going to stop? What’s it going to take?

Will my inner cheerleader always be around? No. But I genuinely believe that if I’m ever going to be truly happy that I need to love her just the way she is right now.

I need to learn to let my inner cheerleader do cartwheels, no matter what size she is!

Will my inner cheerleader be around tomorrow? Oh, I bloody hope so!! And I hope yours is too.

Goooo ‘Team You’!! Yaasss!

Big love,

Carmela

13 reasons why (I love myself sick).

13 reasons why (I love myself sick).

1. I’m not ashamed to order a small family’s worth of McDonalds and to tell the cashier that I’m pregnant. So they make it fresh.

2. I’m not ashamed to spend an entire sunny bank holiday weekend on my friend’s couch, binging on episodes of ‘Love Island’. While eating a whole tub of Nutella.

3. I’m not ashamed to have had at one time only £12 in my bank account and to have spent that on humous, cheese and bread. The good bread!

4. I’m not ashamed that I ball my eyes out like a baby every time I watch Will Smith in the ‘Pursuit of Happiness’. Every. Time.

5. I’m not ashamed that if I want to look 5 pounds lighter, I think of getting a spray tan but then chicken out because that means standing in front of a perfect stranger naked. Exercise also never presents it’s self as the best option.

6. I’m not ashamed that the only thing I can successfully cook in the kitchen is a salad and a toasted cheese sandwich. I once called my Mother and asked her how to boil pasta. 🤦🏻‍♀️

7. I’m not ashamed that the only time I ever shave my lady parts is when I think I might be gettin’ some. So rarely.

8. I’m not ashamed that on one particular day, the only time I left the house was just to buy donuts. And successfully ate 4 in one sitting.

9. I’m not ashamed that recently I was so hungover that I ordered Deliveroo 3 times in one day. From the same restaurant. That restaurant may or may not have been McDonalds as well.

10. I’m not ashamed to respond with ‘sorry I’m busy tonight’ when all I’m doing is heading home to wash my hair and pop my pjs on. And watch Love Island.

11. I’m not ashamed to take myself out for a dinner and a show. Solo dining is liberating AF! Even when you have to respond “No, just just me” when the waiter says “Table for 2?”

12. I’m not ashamed to have 3 different dating apps on my phone and that I still gush over a guy, if he shows me the slightest bit of attention. Seriously. Yesterday a guy emailed me at work and I had zero chill about it. A fucking email!

13. I’m not ashamed that I was ashamed about these silly little things in my twenties. How fucking cool is it to be in your thirties?

How fucking cool is slowly giving zero fucks about the stuff that would of had you stay indoors or kept you up at night when you were younger?

There is something fucking cool about slowly settling into your own skin and scars. There is something fucking cool about staring at your flaws and imperfections and charging forward anyway because you now know there are other parts of you that are just as flawless and perfect; and that needs to be celebrated too!

Oh the wonder of simply sitting with your own quirks and weirdo moments, without needing someone else to validate them. The bliss of having the ability to feel really good and not good at the same time, because let’s be honest, happiness is not a destination.

No matter how hard we try, we will never arrive at ‘happy’. We’ll drive past it, around it, and stop at it, many times. What’s fucking cool is how we’ve also learnt what to do when we arrive at the other stops, like ‘uncertainty’, ‘misery’ and ‘devastation’.

If getting older simply means loving yourself sick just a little more every day and pulling through the ugly stuff with gusto; then bring that shiz onnnn!

I also encourage you to make a *list. It sounds small and pointless but give it a go. I promise not only will you feel better but at the very least, have a good chuckle at your fine self.

Yasss Kween!

Big love,

Carmela

*Your list may not have as many food references as mine. I mean, if loving carbs is wrong, I don’t want the be right! Riiiight? #Guilty 💁🏻‍♀️

Introducing Carmela Contarino, the #PowerKween behind ‘So The Fairy Tales Lied…’ 👸🏻♥️✨

Carmela is an Aussie in London with wanderlust. A TV/Radio rebel. Fierce feminist. Loud laugh-er. Emotional eat-er. Pop culture cat. Red wine wooer and karaoke kween. She hopes that her experiences are just like yours, funny, warm, loud, raw and that maybe you can figure out this thing called ‘life’ together. #YasssKween 🙌🏼

Guest Kween: BENJAMIN NORRIS “Australia RSVP’d Yes To My Wedding!”

Guest Kween: BENJAMIN NORRIS “Australia RSVP’d Yes To My Wedding!”

Five years ago I proposed to my partner in front of the country and today, Australia has RSVP’d ‘yes’ to our wedding invitation! So exciting!!

Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to grow up in the 60’s and 70’s and be a gay man. Would my choices in the way I expressed my sexuality be different? Would the impact of ‘gay hate’ felt in that era and the suppression of my true self, have made me different?

Then I think about the 80’s and 90’s, the decades that I grew up in, and how I was affected. At school, the teachers were just as damaging with their comments as the students. I learned to lie about my truth and mastered the art of hiding my sexuality. Inadvertently I taught myself that lying was okay because it was about protection. More importantly, I masked my private self-loathing which made me not believe in myself. Still, I’m sure it wasn’t as bad as what I imagined it had been for the gays before me.

Then I think about the following generation that grew up with Glee and Dawson’s Creek; where girls had the gay best friend at school. It felt like the world was changing and in some ways I was jealous.

I can tell the difference between the way I was affected by homophobia compared to my elders and I know my story is different to how Graham Kennedy felt years ago and how Joel Creasey feels now. Different battles at different times and we are making progress but it has been a journey.

Today I found out that my country will allow me the right to marry my fiancé. The marriage equality debate was served, like a final dish in Masterchef.

My partner and I have been together for eight years, engaged for 5. I have had offers from magazines to pay for my wedding due to the fact I stumbled across some media notoriety with my winning of Big Brother in 2012. You may not have watched the show but you probably remember the ‘gay proposal!’ Yet I said no to those offers because I wanted to wait for my country to give me their blessing. I am a patriotic Australian and I love my country. In some ways I could have just had a party and said it was marriage but it didn’t seem right, not without a certificate and official recognition. It was no longer about marriage; it was about equality.

In some ways I wonder if we hadn’t exploited our sexuality with explicit sexual content (like in Mardi Gras) and we had focused on words like ‘love’ and ‘equality’ earlier, maybe we wouldn’t have repulsed people so much? Which makes me realise how much this journey has really affected me, looking for blame within myself, within my community. So I waited for the answer, not wanting to be too loud with my inner monologue because I couldn’t bare to be hurt and I wouldn’t leave myself open to do so.

The plebiscite was put in place and I was mortified about what my country was actually going to say about my sexuality. It’s a direct example of my upbringing and the scars of being treated unfairly in my young adult-life. I watched on as they wrote ‘no’ in the sky and people fought aggressively in the streets, as a basic civil right was discussed openly- like a reality TV show ‘Who is going to win?’ I heard someone say.

I asked myself, why I am so scared? I asked myself, will this be our Brexit or our Trump?’ Why had I lost faith? As a breakfast radio host, I was told I was too gay by senior management. I was asked to tone it down. I cried for two weeks and tried to push it aside. I thought my sexuality wasn’t something of an appropriate conversation. I felt like a freak and I began to overthink everything. How had I allowed myself to be so badly hurt? It took months to lift my head to face level with other Australians. My confidence rocked to the core. My partner at times saw me reduced to a shadow in a room full of people. I had fallen apart.

Will the same-sex marriage result bring me happiness? I hope it will… today I feel like I could fly. I will never forget that time I didn’t know if Australia was willing to say that I was equal and I will wear these scars for my lifetime. However, I will continue to remind myself that is was worth it. So many people played a role in that and I thank everyone, LESBIANS, GAYS, BISEXUALS, TRANSGENDERS, INTERSEX and QUEERS. Also those allies. I just hope that my tears and my struggle will mean that your children won’t hurt the way I did. Most of all I hope Australia realises that I waited for their ‘yes’ and now I invite you all to my wedding and this new beginning. The beginning of acceptance. What we fought for was equality and love won.

Benjamin Norris is a reality TV star known for winning Big Brother in 2012. Ben has gone on to have a successful career in radio with a number one show in Queensland. He’s a serial blogger and has had TV roles on Foxtel and channel Nine as a guest presenter. Catch Ben next as he embarks on a 16-part podcast series interviewing LGBTIQ influencers on Joy Fm 94.9.

@BenjaminJNorris