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
The International Womens Day theme this year is Break the Bias.
I was honoured to be asked to be the guest speaker for international beauty giant Sephora at their Australia and New Zealand Headquarters in Martin Place in Sydney’s CBD for International Women’s Day aka IWD.
I wanted to put pen to paper about my thoughts about trans inclusion on IWD because life is a collection of thoughts and experiences, and this is an experience that I shall look back on with love.
Sephora is one of the largest beauty retailers on Earth, with 2,600 stores and an annual revenue of $US 10 billion, it is a global leader in not just beauty but also business.
Sephora consciously strives to create greater inclusion for all diversity within their company by actively educating their staff through education with diversity events during the year.
When my agent at Saxton called me to ask if I was available to speak at Sephora I immediately said yes, not because they were huge but because I remember seeing their store for the first time when I lived in Paris in 2001.
I remember I was exploring the arcade across the road from my apartment on the Rue de Rivoli beneath the Louvre called the Carousel de Louvre (also a Metro Station) when I was struck by the word Sephora which sounded so beautiful to me, being trans I got to choose my own name which I love but when I saw the name SEPHORA in lights there in Paris, I had a pang of regret that Sephora was not my name…
I had never heard of the store Sephora but one thing I did notice was it was extremely busy and obviously popular with young Parisian women. It was also in a very good position at one of the exits of the Musée de Louvre.
Sephora is one of those pretty biblical names that when spoken sounds wistful and dreamlike, I was in a cafe only the other day discussing the origin of name when I said “It’s such a pretty name, I expect it was a biblical woman standing at a well or some such”. As soon as I returned home I had a google, and wouldn’t you know it, she was the woman at the well that gave the exhausted Moses water whom he later married in the Book of Exodus!
I am always asked to speak on transgender and LGBTQI dates -Mardi Gras, IDAHOBIT, Trans Awareness Week, Trans Visibility Day, Trans Day of Remembrance, Wear It Purple Day etc. But this must be the very first day I was invited to speak on a Women’s day. This alone was an act of inclusion and breaking the bias on Sephora’s behalf, to be included as woman to speak on a woman’s day.
IWD is a lovely day in corporate Sydney, Ladies’ afternoon teas take place across the city and women come together in solidarity and sisterhood to empower each other and celebrate sisterhood and discuss the needs of women in the workplace and in the home. It is a day for empowerment and solidarity.
Sephora chose IWD as a day to help their staff understand what it is to be transgender a little more, and it was my pleasure to help facilitate that.
I am a seasoned speaker, my client list is very impressive, my very first client was Bloomberg, my second was Royal Bank of Canada and then Bank of America, so I have basically stayed in the very top tier of big business since I first began my consultancy four years ago, but Sephora is my very first Beauty Industry brand – and what a wonderful way to start!
I was telling a shoe designer friend of mine I was speaking at Sephora and for the very first time she was impressed, none of my other speaking events impressed her so I found her reaction interesting. I am dressed by Camilla for special events and when I told the Head of HR I was speaking at Sephora for IWD she was also impressed, I was beginning to understand Sephora must be a heavy hitter in the beauty and design industry. So I suddenly felt very honoured Sephora had contacted my agent to book me for their IWD event, I was honoured they had even heard of me.
The event was to take place both in person and virtually to all stores and offices across Australia and New Zealand. It was very well organised and coordinated from the NZ Head Quarters. I felt very much at ease to be able to present to Sephora ANZ in a few weeks.
I was disarmed immediately when I was greeted at the Martin Place building entrance by the Manager of Australia and New Zealand, Mark O’Keefe. Who’s down to earth approach and sense of kindness made me feel instantly relaxed and welcomed immediately, Mark’s relaxed English hospitality was much appreciated.
Rashmi Patel from their New Zealand Headquarters managed the tech aspect with strategic precision allowing me to tell my personal story with ease and without hindrance of distractions. I have been delivering my trans awareness programmes via Zoom for the last two years due to COVID-19 so there was apprehension on my part to deliver a presentation physically again, but I am very grateful to move from the virtual space to the physical space with such ease with all thanks to the staff at Sephora ANZ.
My mantra is to help create understanding for my community and acceptance that we are human and our existence is valid. My way of doing this is to tell my personal story from birth and recounting all the tribulations and eventual triumphs of my journey as a transgender woman, my childhood, my youth, my adulthood and finally my journey to an elder and community leader. I also refer to statistics and laws along the way.
I used to deliver training via graphs and slides, but since I changed it during COVID to a more personal journey the reviews always include “tears and laughter” “sadness and joy” “powerful” and most importantly of all “Understanding” but because my presentation has always been delivered in the virtual space I have not seen a person cry in front of me while I tell my story until International Women’s Day at Sephora. It humbled me to know that my story reaches people somewhere deeper than on a superficial level.
An afternoon tea was organised in my honour after the presentation which was such a thoughtful way to meet the Sydney Staff. I was encouraged to visit the Pitt St flagship store while I was in the Sydney CBD, so after enjoying the generous hospitality of the Sydney office I walked down to Sephora Westfield on Pitt St and was greeted by friendly staff, the store is stunning, and was beautifully decked out for Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras by their very talented Visual Merchandising Executive Jacob Aquilina who was also their beautiful model for their Sephora Mardi Gras Campaign
I went from the Sephora store to The Palace Tearoom in the Queen Victoria Building to debrief and treat myself to a lavish afternoon tea and to unpack the fabulous gift bag I was presented with at the end of my presentation, in five years all I can say is lawyers and bankers never bestow gift bags at their firms but I do hope some of the, are reading this because I suddenly think it should be customary and for very selfish reasons I think it’s a fabulous idea! I am currently enjoying a very lavish array of beauty products I expect will last at least the next two years.. how fortunate am I?
I would like to thank Sephora ANZ for giving me a platform so my voice could be heard and for making my experience wonderful and adding a wonderful memory to my history book. Thank You Again.
Katherine is a beautiful name, the Christian meaning is pure in Coptic Greek, the first Katherine mentioned in the Christian Era is Saint Katherine of Alexandria. But the history of the name is far more ancient as the pre Christian origin from which the name Katherine derives is Ekate or Hecate, and Ekate means the far reaching one, I chose my name well – but I didn’t know all that when I chose it!
I am from a part-European Fijian family, traditionally families that were mixed European and Fijian descended from wealthy European land owners and their legal noble born indigenous Fijian wives. Our history was not only passed down orally but is often written into Fijian history books. My family is historically significant. In the past our families only spoke very beautiful English, were extremely well mannered , owned or managed businesses and the land we owned were referred to as Estates, our part-European families would intermarry and our families were once considered Fiji’s Middle Class. Our families were also once referred to as Kailoma in Fiji. Kailomas tended to shun their Fijian heritage but were very proud of having European Ancestry and they tended never to learn Fijian, the women were graceful and well bred ladies and the men did well in business and intermarriage between the Kailoma families was traditional. Most of us are related by blood or marriage. Marriages between Kailoma and Indigenous Fijians was tolerated, but frowned upon unless the blood was Royal. Our families are also related by blood and marriage to the highest Chiefs (Ratu) and Kings (Tui) in Fiji including the current President’s wife and my great grand uncle the last Governor General of Fiji.
We are traditionally named after members of our family.
In the early part of the second quarter of the twentieth century my great-grand uncle Charles married a very proud Fijian lady we called Aunty Kata, and Aunty Kata found some of our Kailoma traditions racist. She refused to speak English to any of us stating she was in Fiji not England and she was proud of her country. So her children grew up bilingual and spoke Fijian to Aunty Kata and English to Uncle Charles.
Kata is short for Katarina, which is Fijian for Katherine.
I loved Aunty Kata, I would speak to her in English, and she would reply In Fijian, she knew what I said but I had no idea what she said. I found her principles both endearing and strong, because at the end of the day some of the Kailoma traditions were racist, and she was right that we were in Fiji, I also remember Aunty Kata’s house was full of love, I could feel love embrace me as I entered her front door, and at it’s centre was her. I will always be grateful to Aunty Kata because she forced me to learn some Fijian, the language of my ancestors.
When Aunty Kata came to visit us in Melbourne, on principal she would speak to me in terrible English because she was in Australia and not in Fiji. I loved her so much for that I would answer her in terrible Fijian. I guess Aunty Kata was the very first trailblazer I had ever known in my life and I admired her greatly for standing by what she believed in, and remaining a proud Fijian woman.
Since the coups in Fiji, the terms Kailoma and Part-European, Fiji-Chinese and Fiji-Indian is now considered racist, so one and all are simply called Fijian. I am glad, because looking back it probably was racist, it was implemented for British Colonial segregation for easy human stock taking and Empire building and it was perpetuated (without any bad intention) through old fashioned traditions that have no place in how we think today. These traditions are now falling by the wayside and Kailoma families now seek out our Indigenous Fijian history and ancestral indigenous connections which we now proudly pass down orally along side our European history, I believe this is a wonderful outcome. Intermarriage too has become common between the bloods – royal or not, it no longer matters.
I had been actively planning my transition since I was 14, instinctively I knew even then I would need a strong name.
There was an awful girl in high school called Catherine, I didn’t like her at all, but whenever teachers would say her name it sounded phonetically feminine and beautiful to my ears. And most important, it also sounded strong.
Ultimately I couldn’t decide between the names Virginia, Katherine and Charlotte all family names, and Aunties that I admired so I gave the list to my mother who agreed that Katherine would be the name she would choose if she had had another daughter.
I originally was going to spell my name Kathryn but one day I passed a travel agency and in a Norther Territory travel brochure advertising the town of Katherine in capital letters I knew KATHERINE was the name for me, because it looked strong and sounded feminine, just like I was going to be one day.
My name has served me very well, because just like my Aunty Kata, the strong woman I have named myself after, I too have become strong.
And through my advocacy I have lived up to my name, my intention is pure and I have become the far reaching one.
I would like to congratulate Mardi Gras CEO Albert Kruger for steering us through yet another uncertain year to deliver another successful Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras at the Sydney Cricket Ground, a huge thank you to all the volunteers including SG&LMG Board Directors, and staff who work quietly in the background to help this vision come to fruition and I also extend my congratulations to the Creative Director Travis Conneeley.
I hope the uncertainty that COVID wreaked havoc is now behind us and I look forward with anticipation to many Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras’ to come.
I would also like to thank Camilla Australia for dressing me over the Mardi Gras Season.
Please enjoy these images of myself enjoying the parade Mardi Gras in the Sydney Cricket Ground, attending the After a party and my journey home in the wee hours of the morning!
I am very blessed to be a part of such a fabulous community and live in a country where diversity is celebrated.
I have had many lover affairs in my lifetime, but my greatest and longest love affair has been with Camilla, it began around 2003 with a beautiful green kaftan, hand sewn and hand beaded with delicate stitches it was emerald green and I would float around in it at home when entertaining.
I rekindled my love affair about six years ago when I decided it was time to move my wardrobe from dresses to kaftans and in that time my love affair has become a passion.
I love my kaftans, and they have grown into quite a beautiful collection. You could say I’m rather potty for Camilla.
I consider Mardi Gras to be my Gay Christmas, it is a time I wear my very best and with love wish everyone in my community a Happy Mardi Gras, it is also the time the planets align and reward me for being a good girl over the last 12 months, a rather karmic affair you could say.
The planets aligned this year and gave me something so wonderful I could just pee my pants. As of yesterday I will be dressed by Camilla for events and I now have access to their very best kaftans including their highly coveted limited edition prints.
This is a dream come true.
And I’m beginning my exciting new adventure tomorrow at the Mardi Gras Brunch, an amazing kaftan was selected for me to wear which was pulled from their archive collection. The head of PR instructed “Katherine is a Queen and we must dress her in the best”. I will also be wearing something truly fabulous on Mardi Gras night, so special I decided last minute to join the parade on the 4th float before I ascend to the stand. I am still quite stunned but I am also on cloud nine and I am very grateful to Camilla Australia and the celestial Kaftan Gods and the sparkling planets that have aligned so I could have this amazing experience.