Abundance is a story pantry affirming Transgender and Gender Diverse (TGD) people as they age. The project was inspired by recent research on TGD elders experiences of ageing and abuse. We heard from TGD people that, alongside strategies to address rights violations, there is a need to affirm TGD identities and build hope. Abundance draws on the wisdom of TGD elders, in partnership with younger TGD folk, to document stories and offer hope for TGD people as they age.
Abundance documents stories using text, photographs and Fowlers jars (used to preserve fruit and vegetables when they are in abundance so they can be shared with others or kept for leaner times).
The first Abundance workshops were filmed by award winning film maker Logan Muncha who won the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival’s Best Australian Short and the People’s Choice Award for his film Love is Love.
Click on the photos to read the short stories – and for full stories click here. Photographs (c) Lisa White, The Social Photographer.
Tina Healy: The thing I love most about my life right now is having time. Time to listen to music and people. Time to listen to my own heart and let it speak through my writing. This is the sweetness of the elder season. Today I did two things. First, I combined the colour and flavour of pears and nectarines and preserved them in a sweet syrup to be opened later and enjoyed. Then, I combined the wisdom of my fellow LGBTIQ elders and preserved those memories in laughter, so that I can laugh with them over and over again.
Alice: The apples made a snug fit in the pot, and as they floated and jostled in the water, I was reminded of a short conversation. A few friends of mine, their brother and I had a wonderful day out at a waterpark, and when we tired of the rides, we sat on inflatable donuts and floated around the lazy river. A six-year-old was fueding with my friend’s little brother, but when they finished splashing and chasing each other, she came up to us. She asked why my nails were painted and I said they made me happy. She nodded and then asked if I was a girl. I said yes, she nodded again and then paddled away. I am always amazed at how quickly kids understand. Interactions like this comfort me, and fill me with hope for our future.
Kathy Mansfield: The thing I love most about my life right now is perceiving gradual acceptance of TGD difference in both family and community context with some real hope for progress for all involved. The possibility of HOPE. My preserve is about the vast range of societal views (represented by fruits and veg) and the golden hope represented by pepper – showing the seeds of hope.
Toni Paynter: The thing I love most about my life right now is the freedom to choose what I like without worrying about meeting the expectations and demands of others. I love working and playing with people who are creative, especially those in the communications and media, video, radio, TV, stage and music.
Sally Conning: The thing I love most about my life right now is just the crazy simplicity of being me. My jar is a “just bits and pieces” – put together like my life – not planned – it just happens and I love it.
Gale: The thing I love most about my life right now is the wisdom of any age and being young of (mind) and heart. I can enjoy “who I am” with the benefits of experience. My preserve represents my life; unknown beginning, make it up as I progress, fairly content with the result!
Brenda Appleton: I am at the best time of my life. I am retired, been with my partner for 45 years, we both enjoy good health and fitness, our finances are under control and I am doing things which I enjoy. I reflect on what has been achieved in the last 5 years and how many people are now exploring what gender means for them. I like to use my lived experience to make it easier for those following. I preserved granny smith apples and blueberries – not to fit into the binary but to celebrate variety and diversity. We have had a lovely season for blueberries and I wanted to see how they are preserved and to add colour to the apples.
Catalina: The thing I love most about my life right now is being able to live my truth in a world that might not always agree with my Happiness. I am grateful and appreciative on how fortunate I am to live in a county that allows me to be Authentic to myself. Today’s event made me feel so empowered after meeting some of our Trans Elders and Trans Allies who are paving the way for our Community and I was truly in awe of their Strength and Determination in making sure our current and next Generation are not forgotten. My mixed fruit salad jar, represents all the different flavors and textures that we all bring to the table.
Michelle Brooker: What I enjoy most about my life is living in a welcoming community locally and across Melbourne. Coming out to friends, neighbours and acquaintances and strangers and being met with respectful curiosity, acceptance and honouring my identity. I love contributing to my communities – supporting and advancing transgender people and being an active participant in both my Buddhist communities. My jar is about vision, improvising, planning and accidental outcomes (I didn’t start out by intending to blanch the asparagus but i got there in the end).
Sally Conning: I pickled beetroot because it’s one thing that I’ve loved all my life. I mightn’t have always loved myself but I’ve always loved beetroot. I realise now I don’t try to be anything other than myself. I proud of myself. I found out who I am. I am the girl I want to be.
Brenda Appleton: I preserved nectarines because the sweet juicy fruit brings back some happy memories from my childhood and preserving them reminds me of an important pastime of my grandfather. I like to focus forward but it is nice to occasionally reflect on the past, my journey and just how far I have come.
Toni Paynter: Strawberries are my favorite fruit – and the red reminds me of my work at the Fire Museum, where I first started to realise I had a story to tell. I don’t worry about other people’s expectations too much anymore. I’m not ashamed of who I am any more. I feel free.
Michelle Brooker: The friendships I have made in the last four years have almost exceeded the number and intensity of the friendships made in the last forty years. I guess this is a testament to my own comfort in my own skin. I am much less guarded as a woman and more open and vivacious.
How Abundance works
Abundance was piloted in September/October 2017 as part of Seniors Festival Victoria. Two workshops were hosted. Four TGD elders attended the first workshop and the focus was on: one thing they valued about their ageing. Find out more about the event by reading the first InviteAndConsent.
The second workshop had an intergenerational focus. Nine participants were invited to work in pairs to respond to the statement: The thing I love most about my life right now is … Find out more about the event by reading InviteAndConsent2.
Participants were invited to provide feedback on the Abundance events. They were invited to tell us what they thought of the event/ and what worked well. In response participants commented:
It was such a good afternoon with good vibes and wonderful people – I didn’t want it to end. Every trans and gender diverse person should come to one of these
This event was like a little oasis of community and spirit. I enjoyed matching hands-on activity with storytelling. The activity made talking easier
Being made to feel special and valued for being me. Great to have a diverse group and some regional attendees
Everything. Thoroughly enjoyable telling stories, preserving food is fun
The genuine desire of folk to engage
The interactions between ages and diversity of the group as we got to talk and share
Very enlightening. Well run
Multiple generations – story telling.
Participants were also asked to provide feedback on whether the Abundance events should continue – and there was unanimous support for this. They were also invited to comment on what they thought needed to be done differently and responses included:
More diversity of ages and gender
Perhaps a longer session
I did know some other younger people planning to attend, and I’m not sure their reasons for not coming, but I think it could have had better advertising, I heard through my mum, not through facebook or anything
More time to talk. Perhaps the sessions could have been a little longer. I think it would be good to make sure we pair with someone we don’t know
More multigenerational representation. Would be lovely to find an ongoing forum to celebrate our lives and provide encouragement to all ages to be engaged and be proud of being themselves.
As well as taking portraits, Lisa White (The Social Photographer) was on hand to photograph the events. We want to share these event albums because they show how much fun we had filling the pantry.
Second workshop (September 2017)
First workshop (September 2017)
There are a range of support services able to assist if you need support, here are some of them:
Switchboard Victoria: Call or log on to the Switchboard/Qlife phone service open between 3pm – Midnight everyday on 1800 184 527 or webchat at www.qlife.org.au
QLife is Australia’s first nationally-oriented counselling and referral service for LGBTIQ people. QLife phone and chat are available from 3pm to midnight and can be contacted on 1800 184 527.
This project was bought to you by Catherine Barrett and Lisa White. Catherine and Lisa are passionate about engaging communities in real change for social justice – and are grateful to the following organisations for supporting Abundance: