Stories of Origins

Stories of Origins

Originally written for the former Woman-Stirred blog on 29 September 2006

I don’t know what light my early poems and drawings might shed on the woman and poet I am now, but I know I’m very glad that I’ve kept them. The Woman-Stirred women have been discussing our earlier lives this week, and wondering why we choose to share certain stories and images with each other. Are we simply looking to build connection, and sharing whatever aims to do that best? Or are we deliberately constructing a particular image, a preferred image for all the others to see?

I wanted to be a writer as young as age seven, probably a lot earlier. In fact, my publishing ambitions may have their origins in a lecture Miss Lambert gave my first year infant class when I was still a small four-year old. A lecture? To four year olds? It had that effect on me, certainly. It was a stern and solemn lecture. In other words, a telling off. She told the class that we should all be ashamed of ourselves, for not one of us would be appearing in the school magazine that year.

This was an important lesson. It may have been my first real and personal understanding of injustice. I knew I had worked very hard in my first term, and this news hit me hard. I remember feeling hot and bothered and almost incapable of keeping still as I sat on the floor with legs crossed, struggling to remain silent. Perhaps it was not our efforts but our age that was against us?

In that moment, as Miss Lambert made me feel shame, I was determined never to find myself in this position again, not if I could help it. I never again wanted to have that feeling of underachievement. And that placed a whole new burden on me for the rest of my schooldays. I would work harder and harder, until my work was acknowledged. Except working harder and harder soon became the norm everyone expected from me.

This is a long preamble to a couple of poems I wrote as a seven or eight year old. I don’t know what these poems have to tell the world now. Cartoons are good, perhaps. They fire the imagination; just don’t watch too many. Be sure to maintain a balance and keep an eye on the natural world also. I don’t know. Perhaps these poems say: never underestimate a child.

Tom and Jerry

TomJerryTom and Jerry
Were having a tug of war with a berry.
Jerry went ouch,
And Tom went eugh.
It splattered on the floor,
And Tom’s bottom became sore.
Tom ran after Jerry,
Jerry hid in a bottle of sherry.
Tom drank the sherry,
And there was Jerry.
Jerry ran across the lawn,
And landed in a prawn.
Tom ate the prawn,
His tail felt like it had been sawn.
He spat Jerry out,
And Jerry looked about.
Tom turned red
And went to bed.


Birds are singing,
Birds are swinging.
They build a nest
Away in the West.
The babys [sic] are squeaking and cheaping,
I can hear a bird weeping.
We have got twenty three budgirigars,
In budgirigars [sic] there is two r’s.

© Nicki Hastie the Younger, 1976/1977


Perhaps I should be grateful to Miss Lambert. Did her words actually fire my desire and passion to write? Just look at those red teacher ticks I was getting for my drawings by age seven!

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What does your love look like?

We stand with Orlando ribbonSo here I am – driven to leave my quiet-ish hiding place (of late) and send some comments out into the world. It’s hard to have anything new or powerful enough to say about the atrocity in Orlando, FL, USA this weekend, but I must register my voice of grief, outrage, solidarity and connection with LGBT+ communities and allies everywhere. My thoughts are with all those who have been affected directly through the loss and injury of loved ones, and through the weight of being witness.

Some facts are clear. A heavily-armed man murdered 49 people and wounded 53 others at the LGBT+ Pulse nightclub. This was an act of hatred and homophobia (also biphobia and transphobia), and the majority of those targeted were people of colour during a Latina/Latino/Latinx night. All believed themselves to be in a safe place of celebration during a month of worldwide Pride events.

Here are some other commentaries which say far more than I can:

Latinx LGBTQ community response from Isa Noyola interviewed on Democracy Now (warning – this video contains a shameful clip of Donald Trump taking advantage of the massacre to spread anti-Muslim hate speech).

Orlando is just the tip of the iceberg – a powerful article by Jane Czyzselska, editor of UK Diva Magazine for lesbian and bi women.

Statement from the British Psychological Society recognising that members of LGBT+ communities experience high levels of abuse, discrimination and psychological distress.

I’m sad and angry and confused. It seems to have been a default position of mine recently. But at least these emotions make sense in these circumstances, even if I will never be able to understand how someone can plan and carry out such an attack. I am unable to understand any crimes of hate, whoever is being abused and killed. I have empathy beyond the communities I specifically identify with. It’s important I say this because some despicable individuals are already using the Orlando shooting to encourage different marginalised communities to turn against each other. We must not let that happen.

News sites are reporting (surmising) today that Omar Mateen was most likely gay himself and therefore chose to kill people in a LGBTQ venue due to intense self-loathing. As if this somehow stops the attack being an act of homophobia! As if it’s suddenly explained and means all others in wider society need take no further responsibility and can file it in a tidy box which requires minimal scrutiny: Oh, that’s alright, then – it was just one queer of a certain faith we can’t be bothered to understand killing a load of other queers we can’t be bothered to understand. They only have themselves to blame!

Don’t you see? No person starts out hating themselves or others. It comes from years of indoctrination and prejudice, where instead of  being embraced and celebrated, difference and diversity are viewed as the enemy. When you think of love, what do you see? Who do you include?

On Sunday 12 June, I posted this on Facebook:

Fuck! Why do some of us care? And the rest are intent on destroying the whole world. You don’t have to understand me to not want to kill me. I’ve spent my whole life trying to hurt no-one but myself. I shouldn’t even want to hurt myself. If there was more empathy for diversity, far more of us may survive.

All of my Facebook friends are trying to comfort each other right now.

I understand something about self-hatred. I really do. The agonising attempt to explain to yourself why recognising you’re different from a so-called ‘norm’, and regularly being misunderstood, can make you feel as if there is something fundamentally wrong with your whole being. That your very self is the problem. It’s sad enough when that personal inner struggle only destroys the individual experiencing it. But where does the destruction end when fear and hate is routinely justified? No-one decides to hate. It is taught and it is validated by legislation. The Orlando massacre comes after lawmakers in the US filed more than 200 anti-LGBT Bills.

This fear of difference goes way beyond sexuality. I have experienced this feeling of self-doubt, self-sabotage and insecurity around my mental health. Some of my close friends will know of a new journey of self-exploration I’m just embarking on. It’s not the time to talk about that but, ultimately, this will be positive for me, and I will write about it when I’m ready.

Actually, I’m not sure I have ever *hated* myself for being a lesbian. I just feel as if I’ve been bruised and punished a lot, and that is why the poem below refers to “being a lesbian / would be one / prompt apology.” I am who I am. I’m proud of that. I have not, do not, and I never will apologise. But I have always had to be ready to defend myself which can sometimes amount to the same thing.

It’s another blackout poem, taking words from an interview with author Emma Donoghue which appeared in the Observer Magazine on 8 May 2016. It makes a lot of sense to me, but I wish it didn’t mean so much. I wish I didn’t have to write about being sad, confused and fearful.

It was two weeks ago when I chose to highlight these words and create a new personal commentary. It doesn’t help much with understanding the atrocity in Orlando. But in light of the terribly sad events, perhaps I can ask you to read between the lines to find another space which invites connection, remembers to begin with love, and doesn’t have to end on hate.

Newspaper blackout poem from interview with Emma Donoghue

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