A national LGBTQI+ storytelling project curated by Maeve Marsden
featuring a book, event series and an award-winning podcast

A national LGBTQI+ storytelling project curated by Maeve Marsden
featuring a book, event series and award-winning podcast

336 Natali Caro – A Golden Thimble

Natali recalls a long-awaited visit to Chile that unknowingly set the scene for a life-changing moment.

Natali Caro is a queer Colombian/ Chilean comedian, actor, drag king, writer and producer. They’re the founder of queer comedy cabaret GAG and PoC comedy lineup show Thanks For Having Me, they’re also the resident host of King’s & Queens, fBi Radio’s queer culture segment. You might have seen Natali on SBS The Feed, The Chaser War on 2021, Me&Her(pes), I’m Dying Inside, or your very own dreams!


Maeve: Hi, I’m Maeve Marsden and you’re listening to Queerstories. This week Natali Caro is a queer Colombian/ Chilean comedian, actor, drag king, writer and producer. They’re the founder of queer comedy cabaret GAG and PoC comedy lineup show Thanks For Having Me, they’re also the resident host of King’s & Queens, fBi Radio’s queer culture segment. You might have seen Natali on SBS The Feed, The Chaser War on 2021, Me&Her(pes), I’m Dying Inside, or your very own dreams!

Natali: In 2014, I was a bright-eyed, somewhat closeted, ‘cis-convinced’ 19 year old. I’d just moved to Byron Bay to study Audio Production in hopes of taking my then 2-year DJ career to the next level, becoming Australia’s next Flume.

One day I finally decided to cook my first meal in the communal kitchen, but I couldn’t figure out the induction stove…I grew up working class, ok. This guy slowly walks over. Let’s just say his name is Ryan Gosling…for legal purposes. Ryan was an elusive presence on campus…He alternated between graphic tees of the Big Lebowski, Star Wars and obscure metal bands. He had no style, with hair like Obi Wan Kenobi…but there was something about this dude! Without saying anything…he presses the power button… And just like that, something else was being inducted. And, I can’t help but wonder, was that stove the reason my life would change forever?

Six months into our relationship I’d dropped out, forcing me to move into Ryan’s dorm! College life was a slew of parties and drinking, and yet overwhelmingly lonely. I decided to make the most of my now study-free time, and after months of planning, my sister and I FINALLY book our flights to Chile. We hadn’t been since our memorable 2007 trip, when I was 13 and she was 15!

Our first destination; the Atacama Desert – a visually stunning, arid landscape where we hiked through sand-dunes, visited an incredible home restaurant, saw pink flamingos and went Evening snowboarding. Well my sister did – I sat a third of the way up just watching. We stayed at a beautiful hotel where we ate most days and made sure to fill-up on the filtered water, cause “tap stuff was bad”. Next we went to the salt flats of San Pedro, sitting at about 3-4000m above sea level. We prepped for altitude sickness by buying Coca leaves to chew on. It was a steep and bumpy ride to the flats on a very cold, early morning, and I was not doing well! The plan was always to get into the hot springs together but after a gruelling drive, and probs a vom, I was in no state to partake. My stomach was still fragile when we got back that night and the truffle-laden menu was no help. I was feeling disheartened that my vacation wasn’t going to plan.

After these mis-adventures, we headed off to see family. Our Abuelita, and most of our aunts, uncles and cousins live in San Vicente de Tagua Tagua, a dusty pueblo of humble surroundings, where my family live on working-class properties, some with chickens, veggie patches and grapevines. Family feasts and kitchen prep are common – it seems Abuelita spends most of her time in the kitchen, still at 80 years old. I enjoyed the quality time with them all, but there was also an overwhelming sense of disparity. Often I felt anxious and like I didn’t belong. I struggled to switch off the part of me that just wanted to be back home in Australia.

One day in the kitchen, an anti-abortion/pro-life segment suddenly came on the news – a view I was absolutely not used to entertaining but that was the long-established accepted reality in Chile. “Que culpa tiene el bebé?” “It’s not the baby’s fault?” my Tia Feliz asserts. Feliz means joyful, content…which she normally was! But did they all feel like this? I looked over to my cousin Belen, Tia’s 18 year old daughter, who was already expecting her first child, just like her sister Maria Jose before her. I remained quiet.

“She won’t eat a thing, Tenga, mas Porotos!” My Abuelita slammed down a plate of stew-y spaghetti soup with beans and sausage… I was still feeling affected by my trip to the desert, and certain foods made me retch. “Disculpe Abuelita, esta delicioso…I just don’t feel like eating anything.” Perhaps it was altitude sickness, or the bit of tap water I drank on a hot day, or maybe it was all that bloody truffle oil. But by now, my mysterious case of ‘Chile Belly’ was getting out of hand, all my aunties were worried about me. They charged on the attack with a litany of different herbal teas and remedies.

One frustrated evening I messaged my mum. I was missing home and her sympathetic shoulder was exactly what I needed. “What if you’re pregnant?” she jests with a bunch of emojis. What a flippant and quirky thing for my mum to joke about. We never spoke about this sex or relationships. “Muy rico si estuviera,” “I’d be so happy if you were, I’d love to be a grandma,” she continued. Wait, she was actually serious…

After our chat, I couldn’t shake the feeling that “mum knows best.” I had to figure out a way to get my hands on a pregnancy test. But we were a ways away from town, the house was full of conservative family members and the notion of privacy doesn’t exist in Latin culture. A family excursion was planned, and somehow I convinced them to make a pit stop at the pharmacy. To my horror, the whole family jumped out of the car, following me into the pharmacy…My sister distracts them on the other end of the counter as I awkwardly make eyes at the girl signalling SOS. “Ugh-em, una prueba de embarazo, porfavor?” I gently whisper. 

Back at the house, I sit watching the bathroom. The opportunities to inconspicuously go to the toilet were numbered. But I found my window and sneaked in; Test In Pocket. I pee on the stick. My mind races – longest two minutes of my life! I grab the stick, and there it is…Two lines that would dramatically change my life forever. Two lines that summed up a million thoughts, regrets and wishes. I checked again, and stared at my future hoping it would change right in front of me. Maybe if I shut my eyes long enough, and hard enough I’ll wake up and this will all just have been a bad nightmare. I open my eyes and those two lines are still there…I think back to a few months earlier when I was taken off the pill because it was making me depressed!

I leave the bathroom in a contained rage – and my emotions overcome me. A quiet, more reserved Aunty, Tia Edith, finds me alone. She’s the poet of the family, the artist, a single mum of my cousin Roberto. Without any words, she knows. And instead of schooling me, she tells me “I went through the same thing, sabes?”. We sit together in silence as I cry on her shoulder. Did I mention it was my sister’s birthday?

As my life flips upside down, the rest of the family cheerily prepares for celebrations; moving tables, setting up the bbq. I find a moment to go outside and call Ryan. I didn’t have great access to the internet and felt so helpless – all I had was two lines. Was it a false positive? How far along was I? Could I get flights home? Was Chile an option? We ended the call with a sense of urgency and some semblance of a plan. Dinner was still a while away and my cousins had planned another excursion.

We arrive at an unassuming rickety bridge…this is the last thing I want to be doing? Suddenly I find myself surrounded by an endless horizon of orange, a stunning field of California Poppies, also known as Golden Thimbles – an invasive and widespread weed in Chile, often toxic and damaging. In other words, “beautiful, but deadly” …and I think to myself “Ha…how clichè.” But also, “…Good metaphor…I’ll probably use it one day.” 

At the time, Chile had one of the strictest abortion laws globally. The practice of Abortion would be prohibited altogether for at least another 2 years. The more I tried to keep this under wraps from my Catholic family, the more I had to let people in on it. But just like the poppies, I was lucky to find family members who would help me. Tia Edith who discreetly helped me form a plan. Maria Jose, a nurse, who helped me confirm the pregnancy. And Francisco, who helpfully called a Medical Centre, trying to help me get rid of this “stomach bug”, but then consoled me as I confessed the truth.

Not knowing exactly how, considering I was a tourist without healthcare, Francisco got me in to see a Gynaecologist in the City, who confirmed that I was two months pregnant. This has been chilling inside me for a whole 2 months? That was soon after I went to Splendour in The Grass! “Do you want to hear the heartbeat?” the Doctor asked…whilst simultaneously pressing the button that plays the heartbeat. I gripped onto my sister’s hand, and tried to cry discreetly. Expected due date, ‘23rd of April.’ My dad’s birthday…Another nail in the coffin.

I had to get back home, at this point it was life or death. But my sister wanted to stay in Chile. “We might not get to see Abuelita again,” she said.

My farewell with my Abuelita was punishing. The guilt of leaving after 8 years of planning this trip was destroying me inside but I wasn’t able to show her that. Still, she reassured me that I was making the right decision. Did she know?

At the departure gate, I turn to my sister. She wishes me luck and says goodbye through tears.

On the other side, my mum and Ryan wait for me at Arrivals. I run to them, no words, just more tears.

The days that followed were slow and exhausting. I was so sick I felt like a demon was being exorcised from me every time I went to the bathroom. I remember waking up on certain mornings convinced Ryan was my husband? I remember spending time online finding baby photo generators that would morph my face with his. I tortured myself over the decision.

The day of the procedure comes around, solemn and heavy. Ryan tries to console me but I’m just angry at the world. Following a quick screening process, or what felt more like a condescending chat from a male doctor who didn’t know the hormonal effects of contraception, I go into the operating room. I wake up, groggy, BUT there’s tea and biccies. I’m filled with sadness, and for a brief moment think, “Where’s my baby?” With all the drugs I don’t know if it was in my mind, or if the words actually left my lips. Either way it was scary. I dig into those treats and start composing myself as the drugs wear-off. The receptionist stops me on my way out. “That’ll be $400 today…” Today? I don’t think I’ll be coming back any time soon…I paid, and Ryan and I never discussed the expense. I will always resent the unspoken responsibility and sacrifice I absorbed out of a decision of two.

Sometimes on my lonely days I wonder if I made the right choice. I think, ‘a child would love me unconditionally and be there for me when no one else is’. Parents in the audience, I know that might be foolish and naive. On my good days I wonder if a 7 year old would just harsh my vibe? Nonetheless, I’d make a convincing MILF. But ultimately I’ve grown out of any shame, reconciling with my decision. I’ve grown to appreciate my freedom of choice. I’ve grown thankful for all the opportunities that have come my way. Not because of the absence of a child, but because of the autonomy to live freely. I look to the future, as uncertain as I was back then. And I just hope and trust that if I ever find myself standing in an endless field of orange poppies once again, that it will be because I went searching. It will be because I crossed that bridge. Knowing what was on the other side. It won’t be a discovery, but a familiar sight. A Golden Thimble just waiting for me to find it.

Maeve: Thanks for listening, please subscribe to the podcast, share your favourite tales on the socials and follow Queerstories on Facebook for updates. You can also follow me, Maeve Marsden on Twitter and Instagram.

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Queerstories is produced by Maeve Marsden and recorded by wonderful technicians at events around the country. Editors and support crew have included Beth McMullen, Bryce Halliday, Ali Graham and Nikki Stevens.