Nayuka Gorrie: On Loving Black Women
Hi. I’m Maeve Marsden and you’re listening to Queerstories – the podcast for the LGBTQIA+ storytelling night I host and programme. I run Queerstories regularly in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, as well as one-off events in other cities and towns. Check out MaeveMarsden.com for dates and details. Nayuka Gorrie is a Kurnai/Gunai, Gunditjmara, Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta freelance writer who has written for The Guardian, Junkee, Vice, SBS and others. They also write for TV, most notably for ABC TV’s Black Comedy. Nayuka is featured in the Queerstories book, though with a different story. You should go and buy it.
Oh, my God. Hey. If any of you follow my Instagram, which you must, I moved back down to Melbourne a few weeks ago.
*Audience member whoops*
Okay. It’s good to be back, faceless person.
Have you ever moved to Melbourne? It’s great. I love it so much that this is the second time I’ve done it. The first time was when I was, like, 20, 21. Have you ever been 21? It’s fucking awful. Would not recommend. Anyway, so I moved down and have been looking for a house, which is also fucking awful. You go to inspections, you pretend to be straight and white, and a public servant, but they never believe you.
So, this will be my fourth house that I’ve lived in, in Melbourne. The first was in South Yarra. I don’t know if you’ve ever been there before. The next place was in Brunswick West, and after that was Fitzroy, and now I’ll be moving back to Brunswick. This is all boring. I’m just showing off my geography skills now. Truthfully, I’m killing time because for a long time I didn’t really know. I was on the bill and I didn’t really know what I was doing tonight, didn’t know what I was going to talk about. I’m a bit nervous because this is the most sober I’ve ever been doing any of this.
Anyway. Related: I’ve been seeing a therapist regularly for the last little bit, and we had a bit of a breakthrough last week. I’ve got this really super rare condition thing. You probably haven’t heard of it. It’s when you don’t like to be vulnerable.
I know. I’m so random, right? Anyway, he told me I do this thing where I pretend to be vulnerable, and apparently Brene Brown has a name for that thing that I’ve forgotten, so the last time I was here I think – I did Queerstories – I talked about the time I lost my boyfriend in Japan, and then the time before that I mentioned things like pissing my pants, but that was all fake vulnerability.
And so, tonight is the real deal. Anyway. I’m doing it again, I’m killing time again because I’ve decided tonight is going to be an earnest one, and I feel really uncomfortable about that. Anyway, whatever. You can stop laughing now because from here on it’s just all very serious.
Anyway, I’ve been really angry lately. Yeah. I feel like every day I’m angry about something new, like my homegirl Michelle Guthrie, or whatever. I just feel perpetually fucking angry, and I feel I can hear this muttering. She was the ABC person. She’s fired. Anyway, I can hear muttering like, “Who is Michelle?” Anyway, you can Google her later. It’s actually been a bit of a fiasco at the ABC.
Anyway, Michelle aside, I’ve been feeling really fucking angry, and more so I think that whiteness in this country has become really suffocating, and I don’t know if I can handle it any more, thus the therapy and the drinking aforementioned. Police have been killing black people and no one seems to give a fuck. And instead of talking about real things, we’re talking about or hearing white people defend the merits of Australia Day and seeing weird and extremely photoshopped images of Pauline Hanson scrubbing Australia flags inexplicably.
We have an election coming up here in Victoria that seems to be built on race hate, and it feels, you know, we’ve got the Pies playing in a couple of days; I go for the Pies. I know… Yeah. Big time. But it feels like one of the only good things about this time of the year is that media focus on football and everyone else gets a bit of a break for a few weeks. Anyway, go Pies.
With all of this shit going on, and I’m not exaggerating. Black people are dying. I think last week, the week before, three different people died in police custody. The State just keeps killing us. It’s hard to know where to look without feeling like I’m going to pull my hair out. Instead, I just chopped it off and dyed it, and it looks great. But it’s hard to feel like there’s any good in the world. But, I know that there is good in the world because I think all of you are evidence that there is good in the world. I’m trying to see the good in the world. Yeah, that’s what I’m going to talk about; the good shit. I fucking hate it up here.
So, I mentioned before that I lived in a house in Fitzroy, so that was in 2016, which is two calendar years ago. I’m trying to make jokes because I’m nervous.
It’s just a terrible trait I have, I’m hilarious. Anyway, so it was at the start of 2016. That’s a lie. I’ve got to stop doing that. Anyway. I come back from Europe. Whilst I was in Europe, I’d experienced this shitty traumatic event, and before that, I’d had this kind of messy break up with someone I’d been with for seven years. I was just a general messy bitch. We’ve all been that bitch.
*Audience member quietly whoops*
Being this absolute mess coincided with my writing career – that seems weird to say but yeah, my writing career – kind of taking off. And being given, I think, more attention than I had desired at the time, and also deserved. I wrote one thing that took off and I’ve totally backflipped on my opinion on Treaty. But, yeah, I wrote this one fucking think piece and that took off. Then, I kept getting asked for my opinions on shit. I’m a mouthy broad, so I had things to say. I argued more than once with Tom Tilley. Not related: I started taking a lot of party drugs. That was a quick one, you had to keep up with that joke.
But what I’m saying is, I feel like I spent most of 2016 coming down, to be completely honest, and I probably was. Despite all of this, it was just a weird fucking year. Despite all of this – the drugs and the Tom Tilley – it was still, I think, looking back, one of the best years of my life because it was the year I finally felt truly connected to my father’s family. I’m just going to take a step back because I realise that last sentence actually means fuck all if you don’t know anything about me. Yeah, I didn’t grow up with my father. From what I’ve heard about Dad, it seems like that was a blessing from what I know about men.
Yeah, not a lot of people are often like, “Oh, single mum. That must have been so hard.” It’s like, it was fucking great. The times my mum was single were sweet. Anyway, I grew up with… Both my parents are black, so actually growing up away from my father, although I didn’t necessarily desire a father figure, it would’ve been nice to have been connected with that part of my culture and family, so I guess I missed Dad on that. But when I moved into this sharehouse… I suppose I should also explain the share house.
The sharehouse was full of black weirdos; is probably the best way to describe it. Marcia Langton once described it on Twitter as a drug house. On the outside, it was this bougie double-storey terrace house in Fitzroy but on the inside it was magical. My cousin Tarneen, who did Queerstories here last year – Tarneen Onus Williams, she’s fucking amazing – and my Auntie [Jacque 00:09:37] lived in this house. I didn’t really grow up around them, so I was a bit nervous moving in because they just seemed like these far off relations that I knew were really cool but I didn’t really bond with them necessarily. But they also liked to drink and smoke, so there was a lot in common there.
But it was really bizarre to have grown-ups so distant from these women, but inexplicably turn out almost exactly the same. Despite not growing up together, we were all extremely loud and extremely feminist and shared a very specific kind of black politic. If I’m being really earnest and frank, I think in all honesty – and I know this is being recorded and they’ve told me they’re going to listen to it later – I feel really blessed to have spent that time in that house. They were both central in organising for Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance, and I’ve no doubt that probably many of you in the room have been to a rally or an event that they’ve organised. The work that they did I think will go down in history as some of our most powerful political actions this country has ever seen.
We would often joke. They were constantly organising, and then the next day we’d have brunch or that night they’d be swiping on Tinder. They were just wild that they were able to hold so much responsibility, and yet be so normal and carefree. It was really incredible to observe. And we would often joke because I was writing a lot at the time and they were organising, that if any of us were pissed off, people would know about it. But, outside of this work, they weren’t just organising and then doing some other work. They were working with mob, and they were doing really important work for mob.
I think as black women, they made me definitely a lot braver and they made me better politically. I’m prepared to bet that there are a small army of people around the country whose politics have shifted. They’re both abolitionists, and I think were the first to show me what that actually looks like in person. It means not calling the fucking cops because the cops suck. Yes.
I think whenever I write, I don’t care what white people think of what I write. Validation from white people is whatever, but I think when I write it’s actually those two that I’m writing for. I kind of want their approval, which sounds like a really weird thing to say out loud. Jaque said to be vulnerable, and here I am. Jaque is my therapist. Anyway, I think if you knew them, you would want them to love you too because they’re the best.
I think the reason why I wanted to talk about these two is because they encapsulate – is that the word? I think what I’m really trying to get at here is that to know the love of black women if any of the audience are lucky enough to have experienced such a thing, it’s probably one of the best things you can experience in life. I think it’s to be seen and to be held whole.
I wanted to pay these women homage tonight, but there is no way I think I can. There’s no story that can give them justice. A lot of the stories I wanted to share, I’m high, so that’s not good. But I just felt it was important tonight to try and recognise the good. Sitting on our balconies at night, drinking, and smoking, and twerking were probably the most connected to my ancestors and our matriarchy than I’ve ever felt before. These two love fully and love radically. I think they were also the first people in my community down here who’ve made me feel really accepted and proud to be queer and taught me to say, “And?” Like, “Who gives a fuck?” – question mark, full stop. They just don’t care. They just didn’t give a fuck. I think that’s where I’ve learnt to not give a fuck.
I moved away last year from Melbourne. I moved to Brisbane, I moved for love, aww. It was really, in a lot of ways, it was those two I felt like I was leaving behind. Anyway, I’m moving back. It was a fucking process to come, to actually get a house. It is a fucking nightmare. They make it hard for you, don’t they? But now I’m moving back into another house with another black woman, my best friend Natalie. She’s a Darug woman. Just really quickly about her: I didn’t really know… I see a lot of white queers – and I say this with love – post a lot about intimacy; platonic intimacy and that sort of thing. I never really knew what that meant until I really thought about Natalie. She’s absolutely a hugger and a spooner. In the best way and most consensual way possible, she has eroded my boundaries.
More than once this year, I’ve opened her door. Something shitty has happened and I’ve been sobbing in my outfit from the night before, or in my pyjamas. She’s got this fancy-ass linen and she’s just like, “What’s wrong?” And like I said before, to be loved by a black woman is to be loved whole, and it’s very beautiful. And so I’m very excited to be living with Nat and starting a new thing.
I think I’m going to finish here because I feel weird, and I think my internal clock is telling me it’s time to finish. I guess what I’m trying to say is that black women are the best, and even though the world feels really dark, there is still some good, I think. Yeah, thank you for listening to my weird story. Bye.