Crispy Bacon – The Thought That Prompted an Hour-long Conversation

Recently, I worked with a Muslim child to develop a prescription poem in a creative writing workshop. This was one of the things I did in as a part of my social work placement. Prescription poetry similar to what a medical doctor does, prescribes something (medicine usually) to make a person feel better. The kids were tasked with writing lists of things that made them feel good, and you bet there was a lot of fortnite on their lists.

An example list of some eye-catching feel-good every day joys included the sensations linked with smell, spending time with someone they loved and my favorite, sleeping.

On this example list of the class’ feel-goods, was the listing of ‘Crispy Bacon’.

The Muslim child instantly reacted when he saw that listed, citing that he thinks it is disgusting and he’s not supposed to like that. This interaction made me think about whether or not such a workshop, which was presented to a pretty multicultural group of kids, should have had named Crispy Bacon. I sympathised with the kid by saying “Yeah, I can see how you wouldn’t like that. Don’t worry, this isn’t personally for you but rather something anther student wrote.”

This brought up a few interesting ideas, on one hand I thought this listing could be omitted so that cultural safety for the kid could be ensured in case there was offence. On the other hand however, the child will undoubtedly be exposed to this idea in multiple avenues in their life and will need to learn that other people life differently from their own culture. This also touches on issues of censorship within practice.

I came to the conclusion in a school that had a higher percentage of Muslim students, omitting Bacon would probably make a more relatable list. However, omitting it from a group of student’s might make assumptions on their cultural practices. While I myself am not Muslim, I know some aspects about Islamic beliefs and cultural practices. With that said, I am no expert and would always treat whoever I am working with in a social work/human services space as the expert, and I simply the facilitator of their knowledge.

This goes with a workshop like this, which specifically focuses on what the children most enjoy in their lives. This inherently is subjective and even though not eating bacon is a collective cultural practice, it still occurs on that individual level that I should not ever assume. But if they didn’t take part, knowing that others do is a powerful tool to help show diversity of cultural practices in small, every day ways. Since my supervision session and after the workshop in particular, I think it ultimately helped showed a different way of living life, although briefly.

Yes, that supervision session was an hour-long. As a social worker, I feel like being able to unpack micro-interactions like that are a powerful tool in critical reflection. Focusing on a whole interview in reflection is just too much, but focusing on one particularly moment in a client interview helps inform the rest of the interactions and shows how little mirco-skills inform client dynamics. This is something I wish to further explore, how to really think critically for potential other social workers reading.

If you’re interested in more, you can subscribe below and check out some other posts!

Grey House – What the Heck am I Rambling About? #9

‘Grey House’ takes on the persona of a young child who eagerly goes into a new home, an apartment complex, with their mother. Rather quickly, the child becomes exposed to harsh realities and becomes disillusioned with the excitement of moving to a new place, and the conditions that led them there.

What the Heck am I Rambling About is a series of blog posts where I breakdown a work I have created and shared. You can read the poem here if you aren’t caught up!

Someone has commented that these series of blog posts and the Author’s comments section are going to be useful tools for HSC students in the future. A very flattering comment and I think when I did the HSC I would have loved it if the people I was writing about how done a blog series like that. Alas, the prescribed texts were all mostly dead white men.

Set out – almost barefoot. Along my journey

on the cigarette path, I met Crystal, Molly,

was tracked by a Dragon and became BFs with Mary Jane.

Stanza 5

There is only two stanzas that have the optimistic tone, perhaps misguiding the reader due to the child’s curiosity. When the child’s life starts to break down, she becomes systematically disempowered, first starting with the bare necessities such as electricity and then at school by teachers who punish them for being late, not at the fault of the child. Those who the child meets on the way aren’t people but the code names for different drugs. The child being Best Friends with Mary Jane (Marijuana) is a comment of how this unregulated use for people in such fragile states can act as a gateway drug. The reader can take away what that type of relationship would be for a young person. Is Best Friend also someone for life in this instance, denoting a pessimistic point of view that they cannot escape? Or, like a fleeting childhood friendship, will the child escape it eventually?

I had to leave that woman when I came of age.

For she said we’d be home by autumn’s end.

Stanza 6

When I Came of Age” is subjective. Does she mean when she became an adult? Or when the child could legally move on from her mother at the age of 16 (in many western countries)? Or perhaps when she realised when her mother wasn’t good for her. The term Autumn’s end is meant to symbolise that this move was supposed to be a grace period in the mind of the child. The excitement of a new place perhaps shadowed the permanency of such a living situation the child was not ready for. The line also shows that there was a desire to return to the past life, before the Grey House. However, like a great number of cases, this return isn’t always as conceptualised. Referring to her here as that woman is the last time she is given a gendered identity. When the mother becomes labelled as parent at the end, it is revealed that the child still conceptualises somewhat of a caretaker role, but not in the typical narrative of the maternal bonds.

She was neither the executioner nor the criminal

but the wife of the bread-thief.

Stanza 7

Throughout the poem, there’s no direct attack against the mother, just comments about the unruly life. As the child ‘grows up’ they become more aware of her mother’s context. The child expresses sympathy for her mother, which is captured in this line. The metaphor of the bread-thief alludes to their situation, which suggests that her previous father did petty crime to support their family, which has led to the current life. The mother was responsible for the situation or the person who created the situation. In the same way, the child is linked to her mother as they are not responsible. Although neither are deserving of the ‘Grey House’, they both end up in that life, a sad common tragedy experienced by people with similar hardships.

This poem has been heavily inspired by my social work experience. This is perhaps the most tangible of the ‘Autumn, That Bastard’ collection. To leave you with some thoughts think:

  • What happens now to the girl? What happens to the mother?
  • Is this a cyclical life-event, like the season of Autumn? Or has the child realised their predicament and overcome it?

I hope you enjoyed this rambling and you can find some more ramblings below.

Pride Month in Creative Writing, Academia and Social Work!

Pride Month is upon as, the seasons of the gays, is upon us. In the spirit of pride, I will be dedicating a few more blog posts this month to queer creators!

Today I just wanted to focus on three Professional Areas of my life and how being showing pride in the queer community in these sectors has resonated and affected the networks I am a part of!

For those unaware, I identify as Bisexual as hinted at in the pride flag on this post. I will just mention as an aside, the I didn’t particularly enjoy the colours of the flag but they have grown on me

Creative Writing

So recently I have been shortlisted for the Penguin Random House Write It Fellowship which has been an awesome writing confidence boost. It has also been an exemplar for my pride in my writing themes and identity, as it was designed for under-represented writers. Still waiting to hear if I am a finalist but regardless, it has been an exciting time that I feel could have only be accomplished if I expelled pride in my day to day life, and my own writing craft.

Academia

Cass’ Model of Homosexuality Development neatly outlines the stages of realising gay identity (which has been further refined by others).

The Six Stages are:

  1. Identity Confusion
  2. Identity Comparison
  3. Identity Tolerance
  4. Identity Acceptance
  5. Identity Pride
  6. Identity Synthesis

These stages I would argue are fluid and don’t need to be strictly followed, as it is just a way of understanding. I feel I have synthesised this identity for a while now. Although, promoting Bi-synthesis probably sounds more like plant science experiment.

In Academia, I am starting an honours next semester in the area of same-sex marriage and social work. Showing pride in this area prideful will help get out a more considered and tailored approach when researching and writing up this honours. As Bisexual minority, I imagine there will be some reference to bisexual in same-sex marriage as well.

Social Work

Recently in my last placement, I initiated, developed and facilitated a Professional Development about working the queer community in the context of the agency I was at for Staff and Volunteers. Having pride in being helped reevaluate how information was handled and helped open conversations about homophobia within the context of their client base. It was great experience which again, only happened when I could take pride in a part of my identity. However, this will affect their client base much more and in so many positive ways, that I feel thrilled to have led some impact.

This is just a taste of what promoting pride has contributed in my life. I should mention, I have the social conditions that have allowed this to happen, not everyone has this opportunity. But if you have the opportunity to express this in one of the avenues of your life, I say Take It!

You never know who you might help!

Acknowledgement of Country – Why it matters for Us (Non-Indigenous Perspective)

Recent times I have heard many differing opinions on the Acknowledgement of Country. Opinions such as why/if it should be done at meetings and when it is done.

Sometimes that it happens too much. Sometimes that it happened before and as such, not needed to happen afterwards.

If you are unsure what an Acknowledgement of Country is, it is a way to pay respect to the indigenous people who are the custodians of the land. You can see an example of one, that is very vague and all identifying, in the footer of my website.

Needless to say, if I have the desire to include it in my footer, I probably think it’s a big deal whether it’s included or not. And you are right! I think it is an extremely important way of reflecting on my sense of being, a way to communicate my values of indigenous rights and to build continual discourse on how we should be treating our indigenous friends.

In a class recently, I asked the question for a presentation if the lecturer would like us to do an Acknowledgement of Country, so it is embded with our presentation practice. (Social Work and Indigenous peoples unit just to clarify).

I thought this was a clear cut yes, but an opinion was held that perhaps one should be done at the beginning as it could potentially take up too much time for our 10-minute presentations.

If you want a practice of how long it takes, try reading out my acknowledgement of country.

acknowledge the indigenous people as the traditional custodians of the land that I work and gain knowledge on. I would like to pay my respects to Elders past, present and future .

I read this out, timed myself, slipped up on saying ‘traditional custodians’ and it took me under 10 seconds. In our 10-minute presentations, if 10 seconds can’t be given (15 maybe because i’m a fast reader) to pay respects to the longest living culture and the culture that has been subject to ‘fourth world’ conditions (Dyck, 1985), then there is a bigger semantic error that we must address in the ways we talk.

Another issue which I did not personally experience, but people have mentioned was at a cultural facilitation event. The company provided training about multiculturalism without doing an Acknowledgement of Country. The justification was that they had done it at the beginning of the year, one time.

Perhaps the intended audience of the workshop are incorporeal beings that know not the strings of time and fluctuate across the eons, searching for that one time that one white guy presented an acknowledgement of country, Jeremy Bearimy style (THE GOOD PLACE SPOILER)

Now without throwing in Doctor Who or a Delorean into the mix, we gotta understand the tokenism that comes with such a statement. To say ‘we did one already’ is another way for indigenous people to be told to ‘get over it’. It treats the act as if it is the really poorly written and unfunny bestman speech at a wedding, before the festivities (idk how weddings work tbh). That it’s something to get out of the way. Thats what both of these comments suggest.

And I hope by making this post, I try to point out that it shouldn’t be a one-time thing. That akin to New Zealands Haka, this respect should be ingrained with our national identity.

But what do you think of the Acknowledgement of Country? Particularly, I am interested in indigenous voices and if i get enough discussion with this, then I may make a follow up post. Feel free to hit me up on my social medias or by commenting.

Artwork from:
https://www.murumittigar.com.au/darug-artwork/

https://www.murumittigar.com.au/darug-artwork/

International Transgender Day of Visibility

I wanted to write a few words in support of International Transgender Visibility Day! As a social worker interested in LGBTQIA+ issues and working in those spaces, I try promote issues relating to the trans experience in my practice. As a writer/reader, I appreciate stories such as ‘Julian is a Mermaid’ that show and validate the trans perspective.

But even though books like Julian is a mermaid are important, I also love stories that include transgender and gender diverse characters, without making that their whole characterisation and goal of a story.

You need only look on this Wikipedia Article to see how important and prominent diverse gender identification is, not just our euro-centric construction. Particularly two groups I have studied of note are the Bugis of Indonesia and the Sistergirls/Brotherboys of ‘First Nations’ people.These two groups don’t even use the label of transgender and these types of gender-diversity has existed for a long time.

To further promote this visibility, I want to present Seishun (Emily) and her new track ‘hello to the sunshine’, which is quite an uplifting song!

I’m loving this track and if you want, please consider supporting my friend’s musical endeavours here:
https://seishun.bandcamp.com/track/hello-to-the-sunshine

Please continue this visibility, by including transgender issues in your works, by being an active ally and even in the smallest way. Even by just saying hello to the sunshine!