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

Queerstories 2020 | Family | Enoch Mailangi and Nayuka & Witt Gorrie

Queerstories 2020 is a special series of the Queerstories podcast recorded during the lockdown months of 2020, featuring LGBTQI+ storytellers reflecting on the events of the year.

These stories are about queer, blak family, both in the general sense and also in a very specific sense; they’re about one particular queer and blak family.

Enoch Mailangi is a TV writer and text-based artist based in Lakemba. They are a 2020 Sydney Theatre Company Emerging Playwright, a 2020 Urban Theatre Project Resident Artist, and an MFA student at NIDA.

Nayuka Gorrie is a Kurnai/Gunai, Gunditjmara, Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta freelance writer who’s been published widely. They were a Wheeler Centre Next Chapter recipient in 2018 and they’ve written for TV, including Black Comedy, Get Krackin! and The Heights.

Witt Gorrie is a white trans social worker who has worked alongside communities impacted by criminalisation for the past decade. They are currently based at Flat Out supporting survivors of family violence who have experienced criminalisation, duty failures and violence from police. They also provide outreach support to trans and gender diverse people incarcerated across Victorian prisons. Their writing on abolition has been published by the Guardian.

Transcript

Hi, I’m Maeve Marsden and you’re listening to Queerstories 2020. The stories for this series have been recorded during the lockdown months of 2020, when most of us couldn’t gather the way we used to.

Today’s stories are about queer, blak family, both in the general sense and also in a very specific sense; they’re about one particular queer and blak family.

First up… Enoch Malingi is a TV writer and text-based artist based in Lakemba in Western Sydney. They are a 2020 Sydney Theatre Company Emerging Playwright, a 2020 Urban Theatre Project Resident Artist, and an MFA student at NIDA.

Enoch

A yellow-capped urine test jar, a luscious bathroom with greenery in a Brunswick share house, and a clear plastic syringe. Oh who would’ve thought the loneliness of DIY sperm donating could actually be so hot? For some sperm donating could be seen as the ultimate labor of love, for others the stark reality of being single in COVID-19.

As someone who grew up mormon I decide that it would only be appropriate to watch gay Mormon porn – which if you didn’t know is quite a popular American genre. I thought if my heavenly father was peaking through the floorboards watching, this was the moment he could not miss. Healthy relationships with fathers are lit.

I think I was on MDMA when my friend asked to borrow some cum over the phone, through my chewing I say yes obvi, but I can’t do tomorrow as I’m going to the doctors to fix my gonorrhea which I had contracted from another doctor I was dating and was fully in love with at the time.

As I’m getting the gonno shot in my butt I wonder if they were friends? But realise that’s problematic to think all doctors know each other. Fast forward to a new year and several comedowns later I find myself sitting on a Melbourne toilet masterbating, and I know what you’re thinking ew Enoch – Melbourne. Nah fully Melbourne’s gross.

But on arrival of the goods, I’d sit and wait maybe a minute or two for a text saying something like “we’re ready. water drip emoji wink emoji”. I had googled prior to the premiere load what the average time for orgasm was and if you didn’t know it’s anywhere from four to eleven minutes – I didn’t want the couple to think I had cold feet, or even worse I was bad at masturbation.

Anyway, I’d get a text which was like a gay ready set go for me to wattle down the hall on my Cathy Freeman shit, with the goods in my hand and a dream in the other, and I’d pass it through the creak in the door like a relay baton – I’m gay – and we’d all LOL whilst doing it.

The queers who needed my sperm had read somewhere that sex between them increases the chances of pregnancy, I mean sometimes queers find really elaborate reasons to flex good roots in your face, but I’d nod like the good zoomer I am and respond with a ‘totally’.

And then after I would lay down to catch my breath with their housemate Natalie, another queer Blakfulla, who I think was upset with me for dropping chewing gum in her expensive bed linen after getting drunk and passing out with it still in mouth. But she forgave me because it’s better than a cum stain I guess. Right before one of the sessions she knocks on the toilet door that my phone is still connected by bluetooth to the house speaker.

Other times we’d have dinner, a drink, and cheers to a new beginning, it was all very Elizabethan. Then I find out the first round didn’t actually work. As a Libra I can’t help but make this news about myself or potentially into a Tik Tok, but we make plans to do it all over again the next month. This time I do things like manifest. Sorry, the only thing I actually do is manifest. Apparently there’s a bunch of things to help increase the chances, but none other worked like manifesting.

For a lot of the time, you could say, that there wasn’t a lot of reasons for me to be doing this. My whole reason for doing this was that my queer Black family needed  a favour and, like, why be a dog about it and say no? The whole idea of weighing up pros and cons about this felt really White. I actually find lists, disguised as self-betterment as a form of colonial violence.

Straight friends and family often felt bewildered at the idea that someone who was always late, liked a drink and a bit of horse tranquilizer could potentially be ready to do this as if they had forgotten that a lot of their conceptions began with like a drink at the pub, having some beers with the boys, then the girls come through, I’m… I have no idea how straight people court…

For a long time people didn’t really have an understanding of the emotional side of what it meant to be a donor, and what I may have been feeling is that a lot of people didn’t really understand what it meant to be a queer, Black, Pacifica donor.

I’d probably like to preface this with another quick story. I probably wasn’t a model teen growing up. So, like, after school I’d catch the train from Martin Place to Hurstville and meet up with my cousin who was the same age as me and like hang with this motley crew of brown and black teens after we all ditched our white friends from our Catholic schools, and one day he rocks up with a pocket knife he found, and it somehow ends up with us being arrested by cops. I think homophobic cops never knew how to deal with a queer kid who was theatrically inclined and, like, cried all the time so they’d often let us go.

I had huge issues with crying as a kid but someone told me, ‘no you’re just gay’. I’d performatively cry every time cops interacted with me just so they’d leave us alone. But also, this crying was obviously rooted in this reality of how police transformed the way by Black and migrant family related to each other. These crocodile tears were often real but the scaled skin of this reptile protected how performative masculinity and survival secretly held hands when no one was watching. Although you would have perceived it as a gay act, my cousin thought it was absolutely gangsta. Absolutely gangsta to cry to make police leave us alone.

My cousin was far from perfect but he was actually the best. He gave me my first cigarette at Hurstville station, and he’d say things like “what are you looking at poof?” to straight white couples, and one time a kid from another school called me a faggot on the train and my cousin punched him because we don’t have faggots in our family.  Basically I learnt all my queer politics off my straight cousin. And more importantly we learnt that even if the cops let us go we hate them because why do you need a knife when you have a gun?

The point of this story is, sometimes the English language doesn’t encapsulate the reasons you do the things you do. And what you describe as the politic. As I get older it may never encapsukate the love Black and brown people have for each other. Even when the everyday minutiae doesn’t feel like resistance, me and my cousin didn’t unpack it, we just did it. And sometimes when family need help you just do, and when asked for sperm, you bet I came.

Although, a lot of people like to bring up whether it is ethical to bring children into the world with the state it is in or under, people often are just like, over-population, fires, covid, police just can’t stop killing Black people, and to be honest with you, these fears around child rearing can’t help but feel like White projections of guilt. ‘How could you bring children into the world with everything happening?’, Chads and Karens would say, as if their existence made the world a better place. If that sounds mean, well, maybe it’s the fact that in the past month, six Black people have died in custody, and if you think that’s alarming, wait til you hear how many people survived, the stories you haven’t heard. And honestly, if Black people stopped having kids, every time a problem Whiteness and White people called, you could definitely say the world and this country would be a lot worse. Black and brown kids are the best. Queer kids are the best. If anything, not having kids as queer people is probably, like, the most unethical thing you could do to the world. [laughs]

But I can’t help that feel that instead of policing Black bodies and what they should be doing with them, or whether they should be making kids, maybe we should start by telling the State to stop stealing kids or locking kids up.

The second round happened, I leave Melbourne, catch a plane, go to uni, party with the queers. I get a call a few weeks later that it’s a positive! And then another, twins! Who would’ve thought, two for two.

Last November they are birthed by an amazing writer, Nayuka Gorrie, who’s just an absolute gun, please check out their work, and Witt who does deadly work around prison abolition, who’s work you should also check out. He’s also like, scarily hot. I’m not trying to ruin any families.

I then get to meet two of the most sacred babies, one of which is a Barb – a Barb is a Nicki Minaj fan. And for the first time I understand what it means to be part of a Queer Blak family.

This time, giving changed my life, now I can;t wait to see two young people experience play, community and the ultimate beauty of what it means to be Black.

 

Next up, Nayuka and Witt Gorrie.

Nayuka is a Kurnai/Gunai, Gunditjmara, Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta freelance writer. They were a Wheeler Centre Next Chapter recipient in 2018 and they’ve written for TV, including Black Comedy, Get Krackin! and The Heights. Nayuka has performed at Queerstories in Sydney and Brisbane, they’re a staunch and brilliant creative dedicated to their communities. They also guest curated and hosted Queerstories in November 2019, just days before giving birth to twins .

Witt is a white trans social worker who has worked alongside communities impacted by criminalisation for the past decade. They are currently based at Flat Out supporting survivors of family violence who have experienced criminalisation, duty failures and violence from police. They also provide outreach support to trans and gender diverse people incarcerated across Victorian prisons. Their writing on abolition has been published by the Guardian.

Witt: I’d first like to acknowledge that we are recording this on the lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. Sovereignty was never ceded.

Nayuka: So, we should start from the beginning.

Witt: So, March 19.

Nayuka: Nah, earlier than that.

Witt: November 24?

Nayuka: Nah even earlier I reckon.

Witt: Hawaii?

Nayuka: Mardi Gras 2018.

Witt: Ok, sure.

Nayuka: So I put the call out on IndigenousX. I was the guest tweeter that week and I thought, fuck it. I tweeted something like: I am looking for a black sperm donor. I am being serious. DM for serious offers only. I also put it on Facebook because black people use that and sure enough an ex got in touch offering his services. I don’t think he clocked the ‘donor’ part and just wanted to have another crack. Some people on Twitter had a go at me for using that website as a means to search for sperm donors because it wasn’t serious enough or something.

Witt: Little did we know we’d figure out the donor of our dreams munted at Mardi Gras in 2018. Far more serious. But this isn’t just about how amazing our donor is.

Nayuka: But it could be. They’re hot.

Witt: And funny.

Nayuka: And have good hair and skin.

Witt: And aren’t inclined to take us to the family court

Nayuka: You can’t afterpay legal fees.

Witt: This isn’t just about them, though.

Nayuka: This is about being in iso but we can’t talk about iso without talking about the queer and black family who have ensured our survival. And our iso story does sort of start at that Mardi Gras munted realisation.

Witt: We fell pregnant at the second crack of a DIY home job. We flew Enoch down from Sydney to Melbourne, played a lot of Frank Ocean. Enoch was the cum machine.

Nayuka: I was the cum dumpster.

Witt: It was a match made in heaven.

Nayuka: We fell pregnant at the end of May 2019.

Witt: Like the other notable Virgo, Beyonce Giselle Knowles Carter, Nayuka was pregnant with twins. It was like every other pregnancy – bleeding in Hawaii, a kidney infection upon return requiring hospitalisation, a shortened cervix followed by two weeks of bed rest and a Q&A episode only to be given the all clear… and to then give birth a week later.

Nayuka: Absolutely regular pregnancy shit.

Witt: So the twins came at 27 weeks. For those that aren’t across the gestation of human pregnancies, it is about 13 weeks short of fully baked.

Nayuka: The first week was a complete blur of shock, excitement, and when the endorphins dissipated, we were really fucking scared and feeling the grief of realising we couldn’t take our babies home when we were discharged.

Witt: It’s hard to summarise our experience in the NICU. We were there for about fifteen weeks, on average eight to twelve hours a day. Every single day was the same sort of day – getting up, going to the hospital, spending hours cot-side with the kids, Nay was pumping every three hours, 24 hours a day, feeding the kids through a syringe, waiting round for our skin to skin time, the only contact we had with them, changing their nappies with wires and cords hanging off their bodies, then we would leave them, come home, sleep and hope we wouldn’t be called by the hospital during the night, wake up and do it all over again.

Nayuka: Often our only relief was embedding ourselves in the NICU gossip – who was queer, which staff sucked, who hated who etc. Mostly though, we were surrounded by straight, lonely, tired, women doing it alone. Every single day I thought about how lucky Witt and I were to have each other. We could only do it with the help of our family, friends and community. From the moment the twins were born our people gathered around us. Within days everyone mobilised to organise food to be delivered daily with a roster, within a few weeks friends had set up a GoFundMe so we could both take time off work to be with together as a family.

Witt: They even organised our baby shower when we were too fucked up from shock to figure it out.

Nayuka: The medical care the babies received was world class, no doubt, but medical intervention only goes so far. We saw, not only with our own babies but also those around us, how important things like human touch, voice, smells and company are to babies. We have no doubt that being able to be with them every single day accelerated their journey home. We couldn’t have done that without our community.

Witt: We were so fixated on bringing them home. We were told by the doctors to expect three months in the NICU, give or take. We thought once those three months were up, though, we could finally start being a regular family.

Nayuka: Or, you know, as regular as an interracial, queer, non-binary couple can be.

Witt: We dreamt of taking them for babycinos and brunch, day hikes on their country, having their aunties and nanny around and being loved up. Instead of hospital chairs, we’d be laying on the couch or in our beds cuddling them. Turns out the last one is all we would get to do.

Nayuka: Yeeri came home first in late February. We spent weeks waiting for Wani to be weaned off oxygen support while covid chatter became louder and louder. Everybody has been asking us how we’ve been coping with the stage four restrictions but the truth is, we’ve been living like this since March 19 when we rushed to get Wani home.

Witt: We thought the days of relying on our friends to survive would be over and we could finally start paying back their kindness. We thought once both babies were home we could live a life that resembled some kind of normal.

Nayuka: No good, we were set loose from the hospital with two babies with chronic lung disease, one of which was still hooked up to an oxygen machine, and thrown into a world trying to control a highly contagious respiratory virus.

Witt: Our world has grown infinitely since having children. Everyday we love them more than the last one which is weird because you think you’ve reached your limit. At the same time our universe is infinitely expanding, our universe was growing smaller and smaller.

Nayuka: Restrictions intensified while we became obsessive about hygiene and safety. We didn’t go to the shops and only went to virtual appointments. Witt developed a gnarly rash from excessive handwashing.

Witt: It was kind of handy being in hospital for months with such intense hygiene routines. Even now, we still wipe down every single item that comes through our doors with disinfectant. No one has been inside. All of our friends and family have visited us and looked at us from outside the windows. They don’t know how the weight of the babies feels in their arms or their smells. It has felt sometimes like we are the only people left in the world because the world has shrunk so much.

Nayuka: No one really tells you how to parent. We’d sort of learnt the basics being in hospital – how to feed them, bathe them, change their nappies, that sort of shit, but no one really tells you how to do the day to day stuff. No one tells you that we’re all just making it up as we go, which is fine under ordinary circumstances, because under ordinary circumstances, it wouldn’t be just us.

Witt: But it hasn’t been just us though has it?

Nayuka: I guess not, no.

Witt: From the moment the twins were officially home, just like their early arrival, we were held by queer and black family. Our people cooked for us, posted our mail, ran errands, even stood outisde in the rain on our windowsill to say hello and remind us we were not alone in this. Plus, you can’t get every single thing on line, you can’t anticipate that you’re going to run out of baby paracetamol at precisely the wrong moment, you don’t realise how often you would normally just duck off to the shops.

Nayuka: Or how often it’s time to get my anti anxiety medication refilled.

Witt: Or how often it’s time to get my T shots.

Nayuka: COVID aside, extremely premature bebies like our two can be hospitalised from the flu or even a common cold. We’d been able to finally undo the months of medical intervention and finally be together as a family with no tubes, no cords, no doctors rounds or saturation monitors going off in the background.And this is because of the genorisity of our queer and black friends and family.

Witt: And somehow managed to go through all of this loving each other and not completely losing out shit, and that’s because of the people have our backs.

Nayuka: We would have been fucked basically, in a nutshell.

Witt: We don’t know how to end this. There is no resolution here because in many ways we are in the same position as when this all started but we know we are going to be ok because we are lucky enough to be queer

Nayuka: And I’m lucky enough to be black. There is no way to thank everyone for the last few months, there really just isn’t. Our kids are alive and thriving and that’s because of our people.

Nayuka and Witt: Thank you.

Maeve

Thanks for listening.

This project is supported by the City of Sydney through a Creative Fellowship Fund.

You can also support Queerstories by signing up to my Patreon, buying the Queerstories book from your local independent bookseller, and you can  follow Queerstories on Facebook for updates. Follow me, Maeve Marsden, on Twitter and Instagram for photos of my dog Dot.

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Credits

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.