The last few weeks of intolerance promoted towards transgender people in Australia through ignorance and misinformation shows just how important Transgender Day of Visibility still is.
Through days such as March 31 it is important for transgender people to be visible to help other transgender people feel supported, it is also a day for our allies to show their support and also promote education so ignorance and misinformation can be diminished to towards the transgender population which still remains one of the most vulnerable and marginalised populations within Australian Society.
I worry for transgender people who have chosen to live away from the CBD and in rural areas and young transgender people in schools across the country who are now being exposed to intolerance and bullying once again.
I worry that these new vigilante groups dressed in black will now attack transgender people on the streets and try to silence and force my community back into hiding. In effect to erase us once again.
Even I have concerns for my own personal safety now going forward.
Equality is so tantalisingly close for my community and we have come so far in such a short time.
Never more so do I feel Transgender Day of Visibility is important to show support, to empower, educate and above all convey the humanity of my community to the broader community.
On March 31, please stand with us and support and celebrate international Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31.
I have always considered my community, The Sydney Gay Community a large family, some of us feel like we are distantly related and some of us are like close relations , as relationships bloom some of us become like in-laws, and many of us are like immediate nuclear family units, and like with many relatives even when we don’t like each other we still love each other – the community is famously known to be very clannish especially to outsiders and I believe this is why.
So when someone within the family passes away, we feel a sense of loss and a sense of grief according to our close or distant relationship.
This weekend I feel like a beloved relative, a favourite nephew has passed away, and I feel heavy loss and I feel a deep grief.
I feel injustice that such a a good human being with a beautiful soul was taken from us unintentionally and so young, it is such a great waste of human equity and potential, his goodness touched so many hearts in so many different ways.
I loved to tease him with affection, it was because I loved him and I adored his beautiful honest heart.
We were not the closest of friends because we only met in the last couple of years, but I loved him like a relation as if I had known him his whole life, like a relative I had a soft spot for, it is difficult to explain because I am still exploring and processing this grief I am feeling and sense of loss.
I don’t measure friendships by depth or by standard, I love all my friends the same way and value all friends equally, deeply and with love. Because we are family.
So it is with love and with grief and with gratitude that I write this farewell.
As you prepare to make your final journey to the stars, we prepare to say goodbye to you, I thank you for being pure of heart, kind and generous, and as you take your final sleep I pray you rest eternally in peace surrounded by the light and the love of the universe.
Being born transgender I have found that there is so much to forgive others for, from childhood, adolescence and into adulthood, but sometimes we bury painful things so deep, we often forget about them until the day they come back to haunt us and there is nothing we can do but accept that it happened, be sad and breath again.
Life is about overcoming hardships and making the best of things that we cannot change until we reach a place of peace.
I have found my place of peace but this week I have had to look back on the most painful experience of my life, because the morning before New Years Eve at 9.30am in New Zealand my biological father died and being buried 9.30am NZ time tomorrow.
My mother sent me to live with him, a man I did not know and his extended family inFiji when I was 14 to iron me out and make a man of me, for two years I was physically and mentally abused, a kind of home made conversion therapy, I felt imprisoned with no escape – I don’t wish to relive the horror or the pain. But I need to finally accept that this happened.
I am a spiritual person, deeply spiritual in fact and I believe I am visited by my ancestors on both sides of my family, but only by the women.
Last year my father’s Tongan grandmother came to visit me in a vision, she explained that my father’s paternal Solomon Island bloodline had descended from slaves and that incredible violence had been handed down father to son as a result of the injustices and violation of enslavement through blackbirding, history especially a violent history, plays a cruel hand for its descendants.
I no longer feel anguish, or hurt or pain, I have changed my destiny beyond all expectations.
I do however feel forgiveness as I face a painful past and finally lay it rest.
My thoughts go out to my siblings in New Zealand as they bury their father tomorrow, grief is the price of love and for them this is a very sad time. I shall come visit one day soon and they can take me to our father’s grave.
As New Years Eve approaches us tomorrow it is time to put pen to paper my thoughts on the last 12 months and prepare to say farewell to 2022.
For me 2022 was a fabulous year full of many wonderful memories, unlike the vicious beast that was 2021, 2022 renewed my faith in the future.
Our world is slowly returning to some sort of normalcy after two terrifying years of COVID and lockdowns and isolation, but we pulled through.
With any wish, much like a prayer we should always begin with gratitude, I am so grateful for the love and support or my friends, loved ones, allies and family. I am nothing but the reflection and the sum of my friends and allies. I am truly blessed to be surrounded by some of the most loving, generous and kind people who have supported, advised and mentored me and given me love, strength and encouragement through 2022. People do not tell you they hate you, they just try to block you at every turn; the opposite is true of people who love you, we are elevated, strengthened and protected by our friends and as we say goodbye to 2022 I would like to give thanks to the universe for delivering unto me angels on Earth who I am so proud to call my friends. I am surrounded by love and I feel it and I am so grateful for this blessing.
I turned 50 this year, much against my will but unfortunately there are things that even I cannot control. Transgender people traditionally don’t live very long so I give thanks to be alive and safe and sound.
My health both physical and mental has become quite pressing of late, my liver function earlier this year was at 50% and I came dangerously close to liver failure. I decided I would rather die than give up my hormones which sent my endocrinologist into a panic but the Endocrine Clinic and the head of the new Trans Clinic at St Vincent’s Hospital found a solution that is not only better for my body but has also improved my health by leaps and bounds both hormonally and biologically and psychologically – my liver function is now almost 90%, my kidney function is now at better levels than non diabetics. This is the second time in two years St Vincent’s Hospital has saved my life so I give thanks to the wonderful staff at St Vincents who keep me healthy.
Due to ill health, financial worries and an uncertain world I became deeply depressed from 2019 though 2020, this is not something I shared but I basically let my world around me unravel and become a chaotic mess in private. I become officially obese at 134kg and a size 22 in a dress. With the immense weight loss and improved health I have been able to overcome my deep depression and have reorganised everything putting everything back in order. I give thanks to my friends and family who unbeknownst to them lifted me up and pulled me out of my depression and gave me an interest to live again. And breathe again.
Many of our friends no longer wished to live this year, I am saddened by their choice to leave us but I hope their anguish is now at peace and I honour their memory as they take their eternal rest.
I am so grateful for my relationship with Camilla, I love being a Camilla girl, it has been a dream and I give thanks to the wonderful Camilla team who have surrounded me in love and beauty, shrouded in such beauty I feel glorious and gorgeous and armed to face the world!
I give thanks to the Poof Doof Family who have stood by me through thick and thin, for the last three years at Ivy we have welcomed Gay Sydney every Saturday night, this New Years Eve is our last, ai am saddened to leave but I look forward to our new home on Oxford Street. I have so enjoyed my time with Poof Doof and give thanks for the wonderful friends and connections I have made with this wonderful team.
2022 has also honoured me with honours… Award nominations, Sydney World Pride Rainbow Champion, BGF Community Ambassador, Qtopia Sydney Pride Museum Board Director, Brand ambassadorships, etc etc. I feel honoured to be bestowed these responsibilities. I am honoured by the recognition and the faith these organisations have in my capabilities. I give thanks for these honours.
My place in the public eye is also changing with a Ladbible episode coming up, an appearance in the controversial Israel Folau documentary soon to be released by ABC, a Channel 9 tv show on ageing released in November, Magazine DNA and Newspaper interviews in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, quotes in The Telegraph, radio interviews and even a Melbourne Cup appearance on news channels across Australia.. I have even reprised my showgirl career; only heaven knows what’s coming, I only hope that I’m equipped to navigate the future. I give thanks for this renaissance I am experiencing in the autumn of the journey which we call life.
I am so proud that my trans awareness education is flourishing and is not just in corporate headquarters but has also found its way to sea thanks to P&O… I turned my corporate trans awareness education programme into a glamorous show for the Pride Cruises and they were very well received, who knows where that will take me, but I give thanks for the opportunities and the new horizons.
I am so grateful for 2022, it has been a busy, busy year, full of so many wonderful experiences, opportunities, blessings and new journeys.
I give thanks that 2022 happened, I give thanks for all the beautiful humans who have touched my life this year, I am one grateful Queen.
Let’s look to 2023 with hope and joyful anticipation.
I wish everyone a prosperous year ahead, may all your dreams and hopes come to fruition, may good fortune find you and may the angels keep you safe from harm and danger, from my house to yours, I wish all a very very Happy New Year.
November 2023 has been a particularly busy month for me, with my appearance in two television documentary series The Best 30 Years airing in 9Now and Folau a major 2 part ABC documentary to air November 21 and November 28 on ABC; a four page interview in DNA Magazine; the official launch of Sydney World Pride 2023, important for me as a Sydney World Pride Rainbow Champion; performing my new Trans Awareness Show on board P&O Australia’s inaugural Pride Cruise; the announcement of my new appointment as Bobby Goldsmith Foundation’s newest Community Ambassador; Trans Awareness Presentations at Clifford Chance and Westpac and finally my appearance at Melbourne Cup as a guest of P&O and Mumm in The Elms and The Birdcage Respectively.
I lead a hectic life but I feel blessed to live it. I will need a break but there is no time until January. Because November is not the end of the busy season for me but only the beginning!
I am looking forward to being a part of this debate on Thursday, the debate is Freedom of Speech.
The USU presents: THE UNION DEBATE
Come one, come all, to the night of all nights for the USU union debate. Drawing guests from from all walks of life.
When: Thursday 20th October, doors open 5:30pm
Where: MacLaurin Hall, The University of Sydney
For information about how to get to MacLaurin Hall or its accessibility features click here
Following the event, you are more than welcome to join us at the Courtyard for some light refreshments!
Bri Lee is a Sydney-based author, academic, and activist.
After graduating from the University of Queensland with a Bachelor of Law (Hons) and Arts (Mandarin) degree in 2014, she was admitted to the legal profession early in 2017. Bri then completed an MPhil in Creative Writing and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney Law School. Her doctoral thesis is about defamation proceedings for ‘public interest’ journalism – a topic she has written and spoken about at length.
Katherine Wolfgramme transitioned over thirty years ago, she is a proud transgender woman of colour with a breadth of knowledge that is unique among other gender-diverse speakers.
Through her engaging storytelling, Katherine shares her experiences as a child born with gender dysphoria, a trans youth, a transgender woman in full bloom, and now a transgender elder, community mother, and Sydney LBGT Community Leader.
Louise Milligan is the author of Witness, The Brutal Cost of Seeking Justice and Cardinal, The Rise and Fall of George Pell.
Her work investigating the history of Catholic Cardinal George Pell – the third most senior figure in the Vatican – for the ABC TV 7.30 program and in Cardinal broke massive international news and led to Louise being a witness in the committal proceeding of Cardinal George Pell. That experience is documented in excoriating detail in Witness, along with the accounts of complainants of sexual crimes who also became witnesses in other trials.
Oliver is a philosophy student at the University of Sydney. In 2022, he was named best speaker at the Australasian debating championships and best judge at the Australian debating championships. In his spare time, he likes watching movies, playing board games, and spending time with his girlfriend’s cat.
Sam Crosby joined SVdP in 2020 after completing his tenure as CEO of the McKell Institute and has worked in senior roles in government, business and the trade union movement.
Previously, Sam served as corporate and government affairs manager for Johnson & Johnson, senior adviser and chief of staff to a number of New South Wales Cabinet ministers, and adviser to former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd during the 2013 election. His experience spans infrastructure, transport, ports, mining, forestry, Treasury, industrial relations and healthcare.
He holds a Bachelor of Economics and Social Sciences with First Class Honours from the University of Sydney and an MBA from the UNSW’s Australian Graduate School of Management. While completing his undergraduate degree, he served as president of the University of Sydney Union and national president of Australian Young Labor.
Sophie Shead is a philosophy honours student at the University of Sydney. She has been a semi-finalist of the Australasian Debating Championships, a grand-finalist of the Australasian Women’s Debating Championships, and has judged and debated in the finals of the World Universities Debating Championships.
Ellie Stephenson is the current Director of Debates at the USU. She is a Australasian top 10 speaker and has spoken in the semi-finals of the World Universities Debating Championships. In addition to studying her honours in political economy, she edits the University of Sydney student newspaper Honi Soit and is looking forward to being a Chief Adjudicator of the Australasian Debating Championships in November.
In 2020 in a private group on Facebook I warned Mardi Gras Members to be careful of the Pride In Protest group because they try to infiltrate minorities like they were trying to do in my community the transgender community by pretending to be non binary so they could hijack our space to and use important transgender dates such as Transgender Day of Remembrance as a vehicle and sheild to protest other things such as their hatred for the police.
In retaliation Pride in Protest took a screenshot of that statement and turned it into a completely different narrative claiming I was “Transphobic and Racist” and also claiming I rejected the idea of non binary people existing also claiming I shamed trans victims of sexual assault – of course this was a lie, but many small groups believed this lie without fact checking its validity and and signed petitions demanding my resignation from boards and organisations I was affiliated with – some of the signatories were people I considered friends.
The organisations’ lawyers advised me to stay silent because even though they understood these allegations were unfounded and untrue any conversation would enflame the situation.
I sought legal advice and my lawyers found I had a defamation case against the Pride In Protest group but because they were not registered I could only charge the ring leaders individually. When I went to find the ring leaders I was shocked to see how young they were, teenagers and early twenty year olds still in university. In the end I decided not to press charges because the optics were not in my favour.
There was also a conversation among Queer identifying academics around the problem with cancel culture:
There were also a few obvious and jarring issues, Pride In Protest claimed they believed in protecting black transgender women and elders yet they were in fact using lateral violence against me a black transgender woman and trans elder, but less than a year later the masterminds behind the smear campaign were accused of being racist and transphobic themselves as seen in this open letter from Pride In Protest Melbourne and signed by community members.
This was the very first time in my life I have been publicly lied about and also my first experience of the toxicity of cancel culture, this Pride In Protest came dangerously close to destroying me by a smear campaign, fortunately for me my decades of transgender advocacy and kindness diminished their campaign against me.
BUT had they succeeded the transgender community would have lost a successful advocate who has created positive impacts for the transgender community nationally.
I have personally succeeded where their protests have failed, an example of this was when Pride In Protested picketed the Head Offices of New Corp Australia in protest of the anti transgender column Gender Issues in The Australian Newspaper, their protest was noisey but ineffective, however I took legal action against the media outlet and won in conciliation. My action was the catalyst to remove the column Gender Issues – and here in lies an example the problem of Cancel Culture.
The lie that Pride In Protest tried to use against me has since perpetuated and occasionally pops up on social media, but I have decided it is time to put a stop to it once and for all. I have decided to take legal action against anyone who decides to perpetuate the lie that I am phobic or hate non binary people because it’s just not true. My close friends who are non binary can attest to this.
I will no longer be patient with slander and defamation online by any member or past member of Pride In Protest because lying about anyone is fundamentally wrong and I refuse to allow this negativity to perpetuate anymore and will happily send out Cease and Desist letters before I take legal action, I live my life openly and honestly and I demand people talk about me with honesty too, not through a bias lens or hypothetical reinterpretation of what they think I have said or a manipulation of a truth to turn it into a lie, this is toxic and I have had enough.
I have written this piece because my truth is going to set me free, I refuse to be imprisoned by hate and the toxicity of Cancel Culture based in a perpetuated lie created to degrade and silence me.
I have two fathers, the one who is biological that I never speak of and the one I was raised with, the only one I ever mention in conversation.
My mother was so ashamed I was transgender she could not stand the sight of me and tried to give me away at every opportunity since I was around 5 years old.
After spending most of my childhood with my great grandparents when I was 12 I was sent to live with my biological father in New Zealand, he was a stranger to me but I held a letter from my mother disowning me and giving my birth father full guardianship of me. The second letter said I was bad and I faked my debilitating migraines to get out of school and I was gay and to straighten me out.
I spent a year with this physically abusive man who tried to beat my transsexuality out of me..
After a year he gave up and sent me back to my great grandparents.
When I was 14 my mother sent me again to live with my birth father but this time he was in Fiji, but mother lied to my great grandparents and myself because she had not written to my birth father at all so I arrived as an unwanted and unwelcomed surprise.
Once a month for nearly two years I was beaten by him, broken noses, black eyes and bodily bruises, he told me I would be an ugly woman, everyone would hate me, that I would end up on the streets, that everyone would laugh at me and I was the shame of everyone, his abuse was always followed by justifications and remorse, once when everyone thought I would die from an illness he cried at my bedside asking me to forgive him, he and his mother and siblings were very cruel to me because they also resented my mothers kailoma family and by extension me.
Try as he might he could not beat my transsexuality out of me, because binary transgender people like me will die for our gender.
When he fled back to New Zealand during the coup I refused to leave Fiji because I knew I would be trapped in that continuous cycle of violence and abuse. He seemed greatly relieved and didn’t force the issue, he was happy to leave me behind with his extended family, I was only 15.
Once he left I wrote to my Nana and Grandpa in Melbourne who flew me back to them.
My biological father is dying. He has advanced cancer of the oesophagus and has only a short time left to live.
My half siblings in New Zealand would like me to come and say goodbye to this man that I still do not really know, but I think the kindest thing for me to do at the end of his life is stay away because I don’t trust what words may come out of my mouth. Let him die in peace. Maybe once he has gone I can forgive him.
After that I shall go to New Zealand to see my half siblings and finally meet their spouses and their children, even though they have wanted to see me, I haven’t wanted to go whilst he is alive.
I guess I am writing this piece because I hope it gives understanding as to why my belief in myself is unshakable and why I advocate so strongly for transgender children and the parents who support them – I also write this to shake this sadness from my mind because of all the memories that have been suddenly unlocked as I have been thinking about it a lot since my brother wrote me the sad news a few weeks ago.
I don’t wish my biological father any harm but I still cannot find the space to forgive him, I pray he will rest in peace when his time comes but I cannot face the man who shook me to my very foundation.
Both my parents would like to make amends for the past, but it is I who cannot forgive them, parents have one duty and that is to love and to protect, and they both failed me. They made my transsexuality about them and did not care about my welfare.
I may have thought I had forgiven them but when I look upon my nephews and nieces with so much love in my heart, I am angered, because when I look at the children I’m constantly astonished by what was done to me in my innocence through neglect and violence both mental and physical, yet despite them I survived and I flourished with thanks to my great grandparents in Melbourne who kept me safe and even in death continue to give me strength through their values and teachings.
Being transgender is an innate sense of being that we can neither help nor overcome and we have survived despite great sacrifice and suffering, I am so happy an understanding is opening so future generations of transgender children can live safer and happier lives.
I write this in the hope that my truth will set me free, perhaps my truth will help someone else reading this too.
I am proud to announce I am now officially a Board Director at Qtopia Sydney, the people behind Sydney’s new Pride Museum.
It is an honour to serve on the board of this important legacy, the museum will be a love letter, a love letter to the past, a love letter from the past and our love letter to the future.
For that is what we have fought for, the right to love ourselves and the right to be loved and the right to love others.
Led by our Patrons The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG and Ita Buttrose AC OBE, we share a common goal and an absolute desire to deliver our objectives, under the stewardship of our founding Board. It is our intention to expand the Board over the next twelve months to ensure comprehensive representation of our community.
WHAT WE WANT TO ACHIEVE
A current pandemic has provided a poignant reminder that life is precious.
The generation that bravely fought the AIDS crisis in the 1980s are our Living Treasures and recording their stories is essential.
In doing so, we will create a welcoming and inclusive space devoted to the memory, education and celebration of our unique and diverse histories, to protect, respect and extend the equality of future LGBTQIA+ lives.
WHAT WILL QTOPIA LOOK LIKE IN 5 YEARS TIME?
A thriving financially successful Museum of Education, Memory and Celebration
A proven space of education with individuals, schools and corporate groups visiting the museum,
A thriving entertainment venue with a theatrette providing educational talks during the day and artistic performances by Queer artists during the evening. This will also provide other sources of revenue by having a café/bar attached to the theatrette.
It will be included in all major Sydney tourist brochures.
There will be constant temporary exhibitions funded by outside individuals/organisations.
Katherine Wolfgramme transitioned over thirty years ago, she is a proud transgender woman of colour with a breadth of knowledge that is unique among other gender diverse speakers. Through her engaging story telling Katherine shares her experiences as a child born with gender dysphoria, a trans youth, a transgender woman in full bloom and now a transgender elder, community mother and Sydney Lgbt Community Leader.
Katherine’s story is a journey of discrimination and disappointment, of heartache and triumph, of failure and success told with charisma and style unique only to her, with wisdom and experience she also interweaves facts both historical and current in such a way you shall be enriched by the experience.
Katherine has created positive impacts for the transgender community both in Australia and abroad culminating in a Fellowship at The Royal Society for Arts (RSA) a global network of Positive Impact Makers who’s past Fellows include Charles Dickens and Louis Pasteur and current fellows include Julia Gillard and Barrack Obama. The RSA President is HRH Princess Anne, The Princess Royal and The RSA Patron is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Katherine has served on several boards including Wear It Purple, Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras and Sydney Transgender Day of Remembrance and has also served as The Ambassador of the Gender Centre. Katherine is currently serving on the advisory committee of Qtopia, Sydney’s Pride Museum due to open in 2023.
Glamorous, articulate and informative Katherine’s unique style of education has won her much acclaim in the corporate diversity and inclusion speaking circuit in Australia, culminating in the Inspirational Role Model of the Year award at the prestigious Australian LGBT Awards in 2019 and numerous nominations including The Honour Awards
Katherine is a Public Speaker, a Brand Ambassador, a Transgender Awareness Educator, Journalist, Media Personality and esteemed nationally respected Transgender Advocate in Australia.
It was a pleasure and an honour to speak at Powerhouse Museum’s LGBT Vivid Sydney event on a panel hosted by Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Jeremy Fernandez with the Honourable Michael Kirby, David Polson and Shane Sturgiss to discuss the future endeavours of Qtopia Sydney, Sydney’s very own Pride Museum.
I am very proud to be associated with this important venture.
Today I’m speaking at BNP Paribas HQ in Martin Place, my transgender awareness presentation will be broadcast to the head offices across the APAC region including China, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, India and Indonesia as well as France and America.
BNP Parabis is the largest bank in Europe and one of the top 10 banks on the planet.
Aside from China I have spoken at all the top 10 banks in the world, I feel very privileged that my transgender awareness programs are able to reach so many countries in this way.
It was such a great pleasure to deliver a trans awareness presentation to TransPerfect Legal Solutions and TransPerfect this afternoon to Australia and New York via Zoom.
TransPerfect Legal Solutions (TLS) empowers legal professionals to leverage AI, analytics and multi-language technology across e-discovery, forensic consulting, due diligence, privacy, managed review and staffing projects. TLS delivers software and service solutions to every Am Law 200 and Global 100 firm, and the majority of Fortune 500 corporate legal departments. Founded in 1992, TLS has a worldwide presence with over 100 offices and a global team of legal experts. TLS’s quality-focused, consultative approach is supported by a vast network of resources with proven success in solutions engineering, problem solving, and delivering a complete partnership that clients can trust.
I have become everything I wished I could be when I was a young boy, that’s quite an amazing thought. That poor unhappy unhappy child with gender dysphoria has became one of the happiest women in the world.
Gender dysphoria became gender euphoria.
And when I look back on that photo and remember how so deeply unhappy I was, I am filled with such love for him, and I wish with all of my heart I could reach back and show him everything will be ok, I cry for that boy because I cannot comfort him or protect him from the horrors ahead. I cry with happiness as I write this because we cannot change our past, but I stand before you as living testament that I was able to change my future.
Who I am now, has finally embraced who I was – because if he never wished me into existence, I would not be here today.
I stand by what I said, though the policy is flawed it is also a huge step forward for the Catholic Church to acknowledge gender dysphoria and also acknowledge the need to protect and respect children with gender dysphoria. This is a brave move for such a conservative church system and I commend the Arch Diocese of Sydney for supporting this new policy especially in these most troubled times when dirty politics is once again using transgender people to scare voters.
Though behind a paywall, the whole article can be found online here.
I am appearing in a feature ABC documentary about a controversial public figure, at the moment I am unable to speak about the subject because the film is in it’s production phase, but the filming took place last week at St Andrew’s College at Sydney University.
I am very grateful to be able to contribute to this documentary and to be given a voice on the subject of transphobia and the negative consequences of religious beliefs when misused by public figures.
There is a Vogue Ballroom Scene in Australia who’s roots come from The USA, it is difficult for me to explain so I will quote directly from Wikipedia
“Ball culture, drag ball culture, the house-ballroom community, the ballroom scene or ballroom culture and similar terms describe a young African-American and Latino underground LGBTQ+ subculture that originated in New York City. Beginning in the late 19th century, members of the underground LGBTQ+ community in large cities began to organize their own cross-dressing masquerade balls, both in opposition to laws that banned individuals from wearing clothes associated with the opposite gender and earlier cross-dressing balls that, while racially integrated for the participants, were usually led and judged by white people.Attendees dance, vogue, walk, pose, perform, lip-sync, and model in numerous drag and performance competition categories for trophies and prizes. Many participants in ball culture also belong to groups known as “houses”, where chosen families of friends live in households together, forming relationships and communities similar to their families of origin from which they may be estranged”
The Overall Mother and founder of Vogue Ballroom in Australia is Bhenji Ra and Bhenji is also Overall Mother of House of Slè.
The founders or leader of each House is called Mother, their second is called God Mother and all the members of the House are called her Children and her Family.
I am not an expert in Drag Ball Culture or the world of Voguing.
But I happened to meet the curator of the pinnacle event of the House Ballroom Community in Australia – The Sissy Ball, her name is Kilia Pahulu also Godmother of The House of Slé, we talked about The Sissy Ball, and I was saying to her that I had done just about everything there was to do and I was looking for a new adventure and she said simply “Why don’t you open a House?”, taken aback I was lost for words but she went on “You have so many children” and like a flash of light an idea was planted.
I was unsure about it, so I asked a young boy whom I feel very maternal towards what he thought and he started crying, telling me it would mean so much to him if I opened a house, I asked another young person, a non binary friend who said with love and emotion that they would be honoured to join my house. This made realise, though I did not quite understand what a House entailed, it was important to the children of my community, and I am after all a community mother, so establish a House I shall!
So as soon as I got home at 3am I registered The House of Darling.
Darling is a gorgeous word, I call all my loved ones darling and everyone calls me darling too, not just that, the heart of Gay Sydney is Darlinghurst and my House’s residence is Universal Hotel on Oxford St in Darlinghurst. So I will be Mother Darling, and all the members of my House will be my Darlings! We call people we like and love darling and Darling is a name that will live on even if I decided to retire or expire..
The chosen family is formed with love
I love my chosen family, my gay family, we are not related by blood but feelings of love unite us and connect us, so I guess bringing everyone under my House is just officiating what we feel already. Not everyone will compete, a select few will represent our house in competitions while many of us will work in the background to guide and protect and establish The House of Darling’s name and good reputation for longevity.
Community Development is one of my many interests, so for myself it makes perfect sense to me to gather a group of the loved ones and establish a House, because in essence I’m creating a community and I will work towards strengthening other House communities through my House.
The House of Darling will be unique because it will be the very first Inner City House, certainly the very first Eastern Suburbs House and the first Sydney Structured House. It will be unique in that a prerequisite of membership is voluntary community service within LGBT Community several times a year and also a responsibility to help open doors for the other Houses…anyway I digress..
The following week, I contacted Kilia to express my interest, and to also acknowledge I know nothing and that I wanted to establish my house in a respectful way so as not to offend any other Houses in Australia or their Mothers, and Lia dropped the BOMB -to legitimise my House respectfully I would need to present myself to all the other Houses and their Mothers at the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras 2022 Sissy Ball at the Sydney Town Hall in one week!
The problem with me and things that I believe are important is that I will do whatever it takes especially if it is within my power to do it to get something done, regardless of consequence.
So even though I knew nothing about voguing, thenHouse Ballroom Scene or their community, I prepared myself for my presentation to the other Houses. I am a retired showgirl, drag shows were one of the very few employment options open to transgender women once upon a time so at least I was not a virgin to the stage but I was still incredibly nervous about my presentation.
My wardrobe was thankfully not an issue, I am dressed by Camilla for all special events, a beautiful not yet released kaftan was selected for me to wear wear already, I just needed to go a little bit extra, thankfully Monique Kelly a legend of Les Girls the most famous Drag Show in Australian History, of which I am an alumni, lent me the most breathtaking black lace and bead encrusted cape I had ever seen and I wore one of my own floral crown creations from my label Katherine Wolfgramme Handmade, I must say, I looked spectacular – but I was still nervous and I couldn’t back down because I had to establish my House for my Chosen Family.
It took courage for me to go into a world unfamiliar to me, but life is live by the brave, and by golly gosh, I have always had guts.
I was presented at the very opening of the Sissy Bally, my presentation to the other Houses was during the LSS aka Legend Statement Stars and it was the perfect way to be introduced to all the other Houses in Australia. The reason why I am considered a legend within the ballroom culture is because I’m a transgender woman of colour who first performed on stage over thirty years ago and also am considered one the longest reigning queen of colour anywhere in Australia.. I never thought that, that’s how I’m perceived among the queens of colour within the Australian LGBT Community. Here is a video of my entrance.
At 3.30pm on Tuesday 28th of March, 1972 I was born via caesarean at The Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva Fiji.
Today is my 50th birthday, the only thing in my life I have no control over is my age, 50 is a milestone, or perhaps it’s just another day, but for me there are tinges of sad memories of familial rejection and brothers and sisters that I never grew up with.
Sadly my mother feared transsexuality was a contagious disease, a common enough myth in the 1970s, so she sent me at a very young age to live with my Great-Grandparents. I was raised by my great-grandfather John Bloomfield Kamea, he was half Tongan and half Jewish, and my Great-Grandmother Eliza Mitchell Kamea, a half European and half Fijian Lady.
Grandpa was a former Seventh Day Adventist Pastor and Nana was a Sabbath School teacher so my upbringing was deeply religious, so on the eve of every birthday I would pray in earnest for God to turn me back into a girl, but every birthday I arose unchanged with Gender Dysphoria, by the age of sixteen I realised I would have to fix things myself, and I did when I was 18, so the past 32 years mark the anniversaries of happiness because I no longer have Gender Dysphoria – This is why I mainly celebrate my trans birthdays because September 1 marks the anniversary of my inner peace and happiness, but that is a story for another day.
So on my birthday I would like to give thanks to the beautiful people who raised me, and armed me with the strength and self-respect and good manners that I would need in the dark years ahead when I transitioned to Katherine. I will always be grateful to them.
We are the sum of our friends, I have been richly blessed by friends who are good and kind and have shown support and love – despite my many faults; on my 50th birthday I would like to give thanks for them and all the beautiful human beings who have touched and enriched my life.
On a spiritual level I have always been guided and protected by angels or ancestors, or something that I cannot properly explain. But on my 50th birthday I would like to give thanks to the Universe who have sent them to watch over me.
I am so grateful to be alive when so many other transgender people I have known over the years have died. On my 50th birthday I pay my respects to their memories and pray their anguish in life has found peace in their eternal rest.
I am so grateful to witness so much change in regards to human rights for my community in my lifetime, on my 50th birthday I give thanks to the country that I live in and the good people alive and no longer alive who have contributed to our equal rights.
I belong to the first era of transgender people in history who are able through science change our bodies to become who we feel inside. On my 50th birthday I pay my respects and give thanks to my trans ancestors who have come before me who have lived and died and have paved a way for our existence to be easier.
To my community, on my 50th birthday I give thanks for giving me a place to feel safe and home, thank you for giving me a sense of identity and belonging.
Finally to myself, on my 50th birthday I would like to give thanks to myself that I had the inner strength and the courage to stand by my beliefs and follow through with sheer determination to find a place where I could be happiest as Katherine, I am grateful to myself for the courage and strength and love and kindness it took to survive in a world that was not always loving or kind. I give thanks my strength has allowed me to commit so many memories of past horrors and so much violence both lateral and environmental behind me without making me bitter or angry.
On my 50th birthday I promise to be more forgiving towards those who have hurt me, and be more respectful towards things I cannot comprehend, and I promise to never change the essence of who I am no matter what the future has in store for me.
Hear my prayers, wish me well I am 50 years old today.
I had a wonderful meeting today with Greg Fisher, CEO of Qtopia to discuss exciting plans for Sydney’s Gay Musem, I am very excited and happy about working with Greg and Qtopia going forward into he future.
If you would like to support Sydney’s first permanent LGBTQI Museum please follow this link to the Qtopia Sydney Website