Fifty Shades of Gender podcast graphic with Fleassy Malay

Episode 81

A conversation with Fleassy Malay


57 min. Recorded on 3 May 2022. 

Fleassy uses they/them and she/her pronouns, and they are a queer, gender-diverse, neurodiverse genderfluid woman. Find out what that means to Fleassy in this episode.

We also talk about embracing the validity of the phases we go through, belonging in both women’s spaces and queer spaces, inclusive language and adding more nuance to conversations, internalised shame and being willing to confront our own conditioning, having observations rather than answers, how sacred rage can change the world, and playing in all the spaces.

“Just because I’m now able to name that part of me that is fluid means that I have to denounce the part of me that identifies as woman doesn’t feel right.”

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TRANSCRIPT [expand to read] – COMING SOON

Esther: Hello and welcome. What’s your name?

Fleassy: Hi, my name is Fleassy Malay.

Esther: Hello Fleassy. So tell me a little bit about your gender experience. You’ve given me some interesting labels. So you said queer is your most enjoyed term of all the ones that you’ve given me. Shall we start there?

Fleassy: Yeah, let’s go with queer. Yeah, I think I first heard the word queer. When maybe I was about 11 or 12 when Queer as Folk came out in the UK which I think was the original version. And I wasn’t, I think, I think I was allowed to watch it. I think I used to stay up late and then once my parents had gone back downstairs, I’d like switch on and watch it. Yeah. And there was something about the, the label, the term that felt really inclusive to me as someone who wasn’t a CIS gay man, which is really what was represented mostly in Queer as Folk at the time. And it was mostly the only kind LGBTQ plus representation that you got on TV until Ellen came out, which might have been before or after that. But still Ellen was the only other one. Right?

So for me as a young tween who I knew at the time, I kind of came out to myself around 12, 13 years old as bisexual. Or that’s the term that was kind of given to me at that age and the word queer. I didn’t know about the history of it. I didn’t know that it had been a slur just to me. It was just a word that felt like an umbrella term that could include me in a way that a lot of other terms couldn’t and part of that was probably internalized biphobia.

And part of it was also this feeling that what was described as bisexual at the time, didn’t really, wasn’t really my sexuality, cuz at first it was my sexuality, right. That, that related to queer. So at the time bisexual people would say, oh, so you like boys and girls would be the thing that would be said to me.

And I’d say, I like people. I like people, it doesn’t matter what gender they are. Now we have heaps of other terms and the definition of, of bisexual has kind of grown and expanded and become far more inclusive. But there was something in me. Yeah. That really needed a, kind of more of an umbrella term. And as I got older, there was a fluidity that I noticed in myself, in my sexuality.

And it was there in my gender and I just didn’t really know what they were as a kid. I was like, oh, we had this so much the tomboy. Right. So I was like the tomboy kid. Yep. And it took me many years to, to really start embracing femininity in the social, socially perceived fashion of that. It was only really in my late teens, early to mid twenties that I started to play with femininity. And feel safe. And part of that, I mean, there’s so much for me that we could probably talk about later around societal gender pressures and the reasons I think I’ve, I’ve my relationship with gender has ended the way that it, or is the way that it is. But yeah, so as I kind of grew, the term queer I liked because it allowed for fluidity in my sexual sexuality expression.

But as I got older and started exploring gender, which really has only fully emerged maybe the last five years. Living in Melbourne, having gender diverse lovers, having a lot of gender diverse community around me and having the, the conversation around gender diversity, be so much more prominent has given me permission and space to really explore myself, which is great. And I think that queer for me gives space to my fluidity. It doesn’t put me in a box. And then when I change, when I drift out of that, because I, I will, people don’t turn around to me go, but I thought you were this, you know, it’s like, no, I am. Yeah. And I’m also yes. And exactly. Totally.

Esther: Yeah. I can relate to a lot of what you’re saying, actually. I was always a bit of a tomboy when I was younger and I kind of discovered. Like just like you say, attraction to people. I don’t care what their gender is or what body parts they have. I’m just like people, people it’s fine. It’s all good. You know? So you talked about as well about gender diverse and gender fluidity.

Can you talk a bit more about the gender fluid part? So how does that show up for you?

Fleassy: For me? I, I think it’s, I’m still, and I think a lot of people really are exploring different terminologies. And new terminologies are appearing all the time. And for me, gender fluid works because who I am every day feels different and what I feel comfortable in expressing.

And when I say this, what I mean is by expressing as far as societal norms go in gender expression. And also as far as feeling of gender as well, inside myself and those two things sometimes link up and sometimes those two things don’t but it changes and it changes daily and sometimes it changes over years and I might go through phases.

I love the idea of a phase, this, oh, it’s just a phase. It is a phase! How glorious that is, you know, there’s all this shame around phases and I’m like, no, I fucking love phases. You know, the moon has phases. We all have seen that phases… And I think throughout history, life, human life cycles are much shorter. And I wonder if the concept that you would be something for a period of time and then change was looked down.

Maybe, I don’t know, maybe it was looked down upon socially because you only had a few years to kind of define who you were, do your thing, finish up and die. Like that was your role. And if you did something and gave your, all your conviction to it and then changed. Maybe, I don’t know. I don’t know, but my brain wonders that, and I think now live for so long.

It’s impossible to think we’d ever be one thing for the whole journey.

Esther: That is so true. And people say, oh, it’s just a phase as if it’s then less valid. You know? I mean, exactly. Why would it be less valid?

Fleassy: Such a good, yeah. That that’s like saying to me you’re teenage years is just a phase. Yeah. And who I am in my teens is gonna be different to who I am in my thirties and who I am in my thirties is gonna be different to who I am in my 50s. And that doesn’t make any of those time periods irrelevant. It makes him part of the makeup of who I am. And so my fluidity, my phase-ial is that even the word, my phase-ial let’s take it. My phase-ial identity. Yeah. Is that, is that there is absolute magic and validity in every single version of who I am and how I show up.

I love it. You know, I’m a double Gemini, I’m gonna be, I’m gonna be popping out every angle because that’s part of me as well. We believe in we’re the whole astrology thing. You know, I love that, that concept. And I think that that’s, I’ve always really identified with my astrology because of this multifaceted experience that the, the Gemini archetype kind of represents and I love that about myself as well. This. Gemini… Mercurial, I think is the word really the Mercurial nature. So yeah, for me, that’s what fluidity and it also in the same way that the term queer, it gives me that freedom to be who I want and someone can’t come up to me one day and be like, what are you doing wearing a dress? I thought that you were nonbinary. And I’m like, yeah. And also. Yes. And, you know yes. And yes. And yeah.

Esther: Yeah. It’s so like, especially like societal, you know, gender roles and all that nonsense. It is very like, yeah. It’s either this or that, you know, that’s okay. That’s not, what is, that’s weird. Why do you not, you know, conform, conform, conform. Yeah. So I’m just looking at the labels you put in your email. So there was queer, there was gender diverse neurodiverse and gender fluid woman. So yeah. So you still rose there. Yeah. Yeah. You still resonate with the word woman. So where does it yeah. Where does all of the woman fit in with the fluidity and the nonbinary-ness of it all?

Fleassy: Well, for one part of it, I have been raised and socialized as a woman and therefore I carry all of the social trauma of being a woman and I carry all of, for me personally, I carry a lot of the ecstasy of being a woman as well. I have, I worked really hard in my life to combat my shame around womanhood. And when I started to really accept that more fluid side of myself, I, and I’m still in this now, I’m still working out my relationship with gender, with womanness, with, with fluidity. So this is all, yeah. You know, I’m still deep in it, but I spent over a decade. I spent the last decade creating women’s spaces, running women’s events. Speaking at women’s events. I went viral for a poem about women’s rights. I’ve been fighting for women’s rights. I’ve been advocating for women’s rights for so many years. The concept to me, just because I, now I’m now able to name that part of me that is fluid. Means that I have to denounce the part of me that identifies as woman doesn’t feel right. And I think some people are really challenged by that and I’m challenged by it as well, because when I go to some women’s spaces and the languaging hasn’t been worked out, and maybe there’s a really exclusive language used, or maybe there’s transphobic language being used and things like that. And I sat there trying to work out where do I fit in? Where do I fit in this world in this realm, but I fit and I know that I fit and I belong. And I know that I belong, even if the language used around me, even if people are still working out the language, which I think is what mostly it is is people just there’s ignorance and there’s learning happening.

That’s what I like to hope it is. And then also watch that part of me. That’s constantly looking for mistakes. And trying to nitpick for mistakes, because part of me goes to women’s spaces and I’m nitpicking and trying to find reasons that maybe they’re getting it wrong. And and so I have to really watch that part of myself because I don’t think it’s helpful for me always. You know, and with my relationship to my own gender, to just be when I’m in women’s spaces, allow the part of me that really does find absolute joy, in those spaces to exist and to thrive there because what happens is that other part of me tries to step in and like rip it apart. And I dunno if that helps me.

Yeah. So yeah, this is kind of where I’m at at the moment is this. And for a while I started to wonder, well, I women, like, should I be running a women’s event? And if I am running it, should I maybe open it? How much do I open it? Who do I open it to? And this is still something that I’m still looking into and currently I swing back and forth between yes, no, yes, no, yes, no. And right now I’m in, and I think with everything that’s going on in the world around abortion rights and things like that, and knowing that how long, and being just really reminded how deeply seated the, the marginalization and the oppression of women, cis women and trans women have been throughout history.

How deep that is. The memory, that women’s spaces that are for women, people who identify as women is so important. And I do, because I have this foot in multiple realms, I still belong in those spaces. Other people might not feel like they belong in those spaces. And that’s also okay. You know, and be like, okay, that’s okay to have spaces that because we also need to.

So it’s like, yes. And yes, we have these spaces for people who identify as women. And I can also make spaces for the other queer side of myself. The, the more, the, the gender fluid, the, the part of me that is not at home in those spaces completely. And and I can create those spaces as well, and it doesn’t have to be one or the other. It can be both, and it doesn’t have to be both in the same space. It can be, but it also cannot be. And just giving myself that freedom to explore and and create, because I think I was beginning to feel… And I think part of my, part of my contraction around it all was less to do with what I felt and more to do with what I felt others thought I should do.

As someone that’s gender fluid. Yeah. So what a fear of upsetting fear of excluding fear of, of not fitting in fear of not belonging, anyone who’s. I think anyone who exists within the LGBTQI plus kind of spectrum would understand that fear of not belonging. And once we found a community, the fear of losing that is so deep is so deeply ingrained.

Yeah. So that’s been a big part of the journey I’ve been on recently, but I do really. And then of course there’s when we look at femininity and masculinity, which is so separate from gender and so about expression and presentation, but there’s been so much, I’ve had to unpack in my life around expression and shame. Whether that’s shame of femininity or shame of masculinity. Hmm. At the moment, I’m finding a lot of joy and ecstasy in those spaces in all of it, because I, this freedom.

Esther: Yeah. Yeah. See, that makes sense. Cuz I’m also in a place where I’m like woman, what does it mean to me to be a woman? Is that, is that really who I am? What does that, what is that about? You know, so I’m also in a place of like, I’m not sure I’m trying to figure it out. And then also, like, I can recognize some of the doubt, like being in certain spaces, is that okay? Does that feel good? Like, how are others perceiving me? Like, if they know this thing about me, will they still see me in the same way?

You know, because for one example, I’m gonna be a guest on a podcast that’s all about, it’s a platform for women and all of a sudden I’m like, Like, am I ok in that space? Do you know what I mean? Like, yeah. All the doubts sort of come up.

Fleassy: For me if I’m going to a woman’s event that feels like it’s their choice, whether or not I belong, that’s not an event I want go to, if it’s a woman’s event, like the one that I create, where I say, this is a space for women’s voices, for women and also for gender diverse people.

And the term that I’m currently using is for gender diverse people who have woman within their spectrum. Their gender, spectrum, whatever that looks like to them, no matter what they were assigned at birth, no matter what they were socialized as if woman is within your gender spectrum, this space is for you now. I’m not gonna go to someone and be like, Hey, I’ve looked at your bio and you use they/them way more than you use she/her, I’m sorry. Get out. That’s not my place. Yeah, absolutely not my place. Yeah, I can. I set, I set the, I set the flavor of the space and it’s up to other people, whether it’s their flavor or not. And, I can. And in that I do my best to make sure that I uphold respectful language, respectful treatment. That is my responsibility as a space holder, but it is not my place, my responsibility to ever tell anybody else whether or not their identity fits in my space. That’s what? Yeah,

Esther: that’s a great distinction.

I love that. Yeah. When it comes to gender. Okay. I was just thinking about your, your post on Facebook from Transgender Day of Visibility and yeah, there was, there was some challenges with that post, I understood after a while, but I was just thinking. What do you wish people asked you when it comes to gender and queerness and sexuality and fluidity? Or what do you wish people understood more about?

Fleassy: That’s a great question. My first response was they wish they asked me my brain was just like, nothing. Just stay out of it, but actually that’s not true. That’s just my defensiveness. I wish people asked my pronouns more often. I think that’s really, I feel really affirmed.

And actually when I get they/them pronoun, it’s not even necessarily my gender that feels affirmed just my identity as, as queer. So feel like affirmed. And that is really great for me. It’s like my whole life. It’s not like this, this segmented part of myself, which I know they/them the pronouns relate so deeply to gender, but maybe as someone who passed so long, of my life as cis and straight because of the way I presented or because I stayed in or whatever else. Having people use they/them pronouns for me casually without making a thing of it casually is so affirming , which I love. I mean, aside from people trying to have blooming conversations with me about how they, them as plural. I don’t really know if there is anything just that it’s all okay. I wish they knew that about themselves rather than me. I just wish all about, about the world in general, that it’s okay to be mercurial that it’s okay to be mercurial and you can do that and it’s okay for somebody else to be mercurial and they can do that. And that my worth is not defined and their worth is not defined by how they present or how they identify at all. So I can go out and I can wear, I can shave my legs, which happens rarely, but it does happen, shave my legs, wear a mini skirt and go out somewhere and still be as relevant in queer spaces as if I, and also go out and wear a button up and, and suit pants and still be as valid in, you know, straight spaces and that, that mercurial-ness and that doesn’t mean I’m being a different person. It just means I’m being myself in different forms.

Esther: Yeah. I love that. Yeah. Yeah. So you talked about pronouns a little bit as well. So when did you, you talk about yeah, what they/them pronouns feel to you? I mean, I’ve, for me, I’ve adopted a she/they approach I’ve added they, like as a, as she plus yeah.

And there’s something about being seen as more than just your, your gender or your body parts or something. Like there’s something in it. I don’t quite have the right words for it myself yet. I feel, but yeah, there is just some extra acknowledgement in there that I feel is important. And also I like it when people use it interchangeably in sentences, you know, cuz it okay. It confuses people a little bit, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

Fleassy: It’s an interesting one. I also use she/they or they/she, depending on my mood on the day, I have pair earrings and once is day and the other, is she, and depending on which one way I’m feeling, I put them on different ears. So people them don’t that… and interestingly, on that thread, I think some of the, it was done in a really transphobic way, but there was something that the person was getting at. And if they part, if I think if they pitched it as a question, it would’ve been completely different. But the concept of inquiring in myself as someone who was raised and socialized as a woman with all the shame that if there is misogyny in, if, if my choice to accept this gender fluidity in me is actually coming from a place of shame or fear or resistance to the identity of woman. And I think that that’s a really, really important question for me to ask the woman, part of me has to ask that whether or not that’s something anyone else has been through or not for me, I have to ask myself that because I have been conditioned to hate myself by society. And I see that part of myself, but I don’t think that is linked to my gender identity. And I think that. And it’s such a, such a risky thing to talk about because it can so easily become incredibly transphobic. So I don’t think it’s a place for cis person to turn around to somebody who’s gender diverse or gender fluid or trans and say, you are just doing this. It’s got none of their fucking business, but it is my place for me personally, to question myself on that. And to unpack that because the feminist in me and the, the in fact, just the human in me has to make sure that societal conditioning and shaming isn’t playing out in, in unhealthy ways in my life. And I absolutely have looked at that. And still, still, I am a gender fluid woman, you know, if you don’t, yeah.

I’ve looked at it up. I see that, yes, this stuff plays out and it actually plays out in every single thing that I do. And you know, what part of me is like, even if that is true, that’s also still valid. If part of me is struggling with my gender because of the way I was raised. Well, isn’t that what everybody is doing in their own way.

Aren’t men struggling with their gender because of the way they were raised? Absolutely. You know, so for me, it’s yeah. I feel like that conversation that you brought up. There are rather horrible and transphobic comments that were in there on one level. There’s an element of it that me personally, I do have to look, I did have to look at and not that anyone else ever has to look at that. I just wanna clarify that for anyone listening. That’s not, you don’t have to look at that. I had to, for myself and I found it really helpful actually to affirm where I sit in my gender to look at that, because I knew that I’d looked, then I’m like, oh yeah, I’ve looked at this.

Esther: Cuz I think a lot of people don’t go to those places because they are difficult and uncomfortable and it does confront us like this whole journey that I’ve had with my podcast and meeting a partner who’s trans or binary, and now another trans partner as well. I’ve been like, it’s really opened my eyes. There’s so many assumptions we make and it’s all based on how we’re brought up and conditioned. There’s so much like internalized stuff, internalized misogyny, and how that shows up, like how a woman’s supposed to be. And this whole thing about one of the big realizations I had was like this whole obsession with women being skinny, which is something that we police ourselves and others for. It’s all to do with like, oh yeah, we shouldn’t take up too much space. And it’s like, oh my God. And that’s like, when you open up that kind of worms, you know, it’s it’s well, and truly like, yeah.

Fleassy: It’s really interesting. This internalized conditioning stuff. Yeah. Because looking at that question I had earlier of like, okay, so I run a women’s event. Maybe I should be making more inclusive to the point where I was like, well, maybe it should just be for anyone who identifies as LGBTQ plus, you know, I kind of started to like really open the gates up. And absolutely those spaces deserve to exist, but is that what this event that I’ve been running for a decade now, is that what that is? And the truth is that’s not what that is. It’s not what it was born to be. If I wanna make that space, I can close up this project and start a new one. . But this one here is its own project, which is always in a space for the experiences centralizing the experiences of women, right? Yeah. Yet that’s. So when I was working with another poet recently, Gabriel Jenny Jones, and I was talking about opening it up and she said, Fleassy, she said, playing around your internalized feminine desire to, or feminine expectation or something to be incredibly inclusive and to make a space for everyone. And I can’t remember the languaging that she used, but it basically, I took it as a real calling out on that part of me that has been trained to please, to people please constantly no matter what I identify as now that internalization is there, it’s been drilled into me. and I, it still plays out in my life. And it was such a beautiful realization. I was like, thank you. Yes. Like, thanks for calling that out in me because I need to be aware of those things. And absolutely I can make inclusive spaces, but am I doing it to people please? Am I doing it because of fear of not belonging? Am I doing it because of worth a sense of, am I worthless if I don’t do that? Will I be viewed in a certain way if I don’t do that? Or am I doing it because this is what I feel called to do right now. And those are two very different things.

Esther: Totally. Yeah. God, the people pleasing. I can so relate as something I’m you know, working on at the moment as well, like, and recognizing these patterns and like, holy shit. And yeah, I’ve just had my 50th birthday and I’ve just been learning about like, it’s, it is been a journey of the last few years, which also like having therapy and, you know, unpacking all this baggage that I have as, as a woman and having been socialized as one is definitely a big part of it. And interacting with gender diverse folks as well. And it’s all so connected and interlinked. And I think, I think one of the main reasons for people lashing out and being transphobic is because I think trans and gender diverse nonbinary people, they kind of almost confront us with. With all this stuff, like there’s a different way here. And it’s like, if you take the lid off it, what you’re gonna find about yourself and in yourself and about society is not gonna be pretty. So I think that’s why a lot of people just don’t wanna do that. You know, yeah. That’s my theory. Anyway.

Fleassy: I mean, for me, there’s a whole thing of, of like, I haven’t studied gender. I’m just gonna put that out there for anyone listening that I haven’t done gender study. I’ve just lived my experience and gender is completely made up by humans. Yeah. The whole construct of it is completely made up by humans. And that means there are actually, there are rules, but there are actually no rules as well. And so the fact that there are people coming at this from a million different directions and coming to a million different conclusions, make sense. And some of those conclusions are really transphobic. And some of those, some of those conclusions are like pushing the boundaries of what we know and what we understand around gender. And and to me, I may not agree with all of those opinions, but I can understand why people are either confused or are, or are perceived as being kind of revolutionary or, or any of these things, because they’ve actually like gender was made up by humans. And that means that once we start to pull on the thread, things start to unravel and some people love unraveling. Some people love the feeling of things like that unraveling and some people fucking hate the feeling of the world that they understand around them unraveling that I can sense.

Esther: Yeah. It is unsettling to say the least, but also there’s so much freedom in it for, for others. Yeah. Yeah, there is though, but it’s, it’s not an easy it’s not an easy path to take. And what you’re saying about gender roles and stuff makes me think about, you know, colonization and indigenous identities and how things were before all that happened, you know, cause mostly people who were fluid in their either sexuality or gender identity, which the words at the time, obviously weren’t even a thing then they were just people with this nature, this spirit, like in, you know in the Americas, you have the two spirit people, which is also a relatively recent term, but like that, that kind of thing. And I think there was a fluidity and a role for people like that and they were honored and, you know, an important part of their community and society and stuff.

And, you know, colonization happened and all that, so good grief. Yeah. And I, one thing I like about talking to Australians by the way is there’s usually an acknowledgement of the land and stuff like that. And I notice it in the footer of your email. So yeah.

Fleassy: Yeah. I, I live in Narrm, which is the land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. And it is, I really don’t know much actually around gender around the relationship of gender, of the Wurundjeri people specifically. Right. And I can’t ask or, you know, how do Aboriginal people perceive gender? How did they perceive gender before colonization? How do they perceive it now? I can’t ask that, that question because that’s asking of, you know, hundreds of different actually hundreds of different peoples hundreds of different nations. There would’ve been variations. There are variations, but. I did watch a really interesting documentary recently around, I can’t remember what it was called at all, but it was actually they were talking to someone who was Maori and gender diverse and how there actually was a place for that in Maori culture. So I’m, I’m still, like I said, I’m still really on a learning journey and as a, you know, white colonizer on this island, I am, I’m a first generation settler, so I literally am colonizing, I moved here and now I live here. And so it actually is my responsibility, I think, to research more into that.

Esther: Yeah, totally. I think we all should do that really no more and look into it more and yeah, totally. I was just thinking about the, the poem you did, which is one of your, one of your very popular videos about it’s called Witches. And yeah, I feel like all this talking about gender and, and fluidity and sexuality and gender roles and like F feminism, you know, obviously becomes part of that.

And like as a reaction to all those things. I mean, where did the Witches poem, where did it come from? How do you feel like, I don’t know. I just wanted to talk about it. So I guess I’ll hand it over to you.

Fleassy: Witches. I mean, witches was written five or six years ago now. And it came as I was driving to meet a friend and the lines just started pouring into my head. Now about three days later, Tarana Burke #metoo went viral and to me, what I feel like what’s happening to get a bit woo woo, is that there was, and there still is. But at that point, we, we were, we were in a bottleneck of emotion within people who had been, who have been socialized as women and people who are women and have experienced sexual abuse and different forms of patriarchal abuse as well, abuse from, from culture as well. And it popped out in various ways. One of those ways was, I mean, Tarana Burke had been using the hashtag since 2016. It wasn’t a new concept it’d been around for a while. And the fact that it went viral, then around the same time that this poem popped through for me, which also went viral when I made, I actually made the video that you are speaking about a few months later. That I made the video, I’d done it the day that I wrote it, I did a Facebook live of it. And that went from, you know, it went to a couple hundred thousand or something. People that when I made that other video, it went to 3 million a few months later. And, and there was heaps of other, there were heaps of other things going on that time of, of people sharing their experiences of abuse. And I think for me, Witches was on some subconscious part of myself, some biological part of myself, like, like talk about biological, like cell DNA, understanding of the weight that comes from for people who have been socialized and brought up as women. That, that is carried in that. And that’s what came out was that poem for me at that time. Now, again, this is a perfect example for me. Like, since that poem came out beginning to explore my gender, you know, like there are tens of thousands of people followed me from that poem mostly. And they were all people who were really into supporting women’s rights. And they were drawn to me because I was a woman who was being very vocal about women’s rights. So the fact that, you know, when I made my post a few weeks ago, that you referred to about my gender identity, I felt like when I wrote it, it would create a discord in some of those people, because there is a way they have perceived me as being this, you know, strong, inspiring woman who’s speaking up. And somehow me expanding my gender identity to them, showing them the, a fuller width of it full of breadth of it. Somehow ruins that for them.

Esther: It takes it away from the, the woman part. It’s almost like it was like, maybe they perceive it’s weird, isn’t it? Cuz I can imagine something like they see it as like a hundred percent woman and all of a sudden, because there’s a fluidity, like the percentage of woman goes down and then it’s almost like not woman enough or not. Do you know what I mean?

Fleassy: Yeah, it actually more like it’s like I’m a hundred percent woman, but I’m also. And exactly. Yes. And yeah. Yes, and, and and I feel like, I mean, 99.8% of the comments were deeply positive and supportive. And I was so grateful that, and I wonder if those ones that weren’t were either. People who just didn’t know me and just came across that post or that maybe there was a sense of betrayal in there that somehow I had betrayed them by no longer being “100% woman.” And yeah, it’s been great for me over the last five years. Since that poem goes out, every time I share something around trans rights or if I share something by a trans writer or trans artist or trans contact creator. It kind of shows people the door, if they’re not into it, you know, they’re like, oh, maybe I don’t…

Esther: it’s a good filter,

Fleassy: So, yeah. So it’s been a real it’s that line as a content creator of it’s that line of the content creator of going between being liked and being honest and I’ve had to learn that if people aren’t gonna like me in my honesty, then they shouldn’t be following me.

Yeah. And that is what I love about my followers is that the 99.9% of them celebrate me in every single facet of who I am so I can show up and I can look different every time they see me and I will get told how awesome I look. I can show up and talk about a different thing every day. And they will show up and say, thank you for talking about that Fleassy. I can post about anything that feels true to me and they’ll, and they see it and they don’t see it as me being someone different to who I am. They see it as another page in the book of me. And I love that about them so much.

Esther: Totally. And that’s why it’s so important, I think, to show up as authentic, because like, what you said about being liked is very much, it’s such a people pleaser, social condition thing, isn’t it? Yeah.

Fleassy: And in a world where cancel culture is so rife, it’s also survival. It it’s. So, I mean, it goes back to primordial times. If I say the wrong thing and I’m kicked out of the village, I’m a lone wolf and I could die. And that’s, that’s primal fear. We feel that I definitely know that I felt that in queer spaces, that if I, if I slip up as a queer person, if I slip up and then kicked out because of my ignorance, . Then I’ve lost my belonging. And if I feel like that as someone who is part of the community, I can’t even imagine for people who aren’t part of the community, no wonder people don’t wanna like speak up, what if they get it wrong? You know? And I get that when in the world of cancel culture, like the way that people are being pulled down and also on the flip side, I’m fucking there to call people out. I do it all the time on my socials, on my, on, on Facebook. Like if, if a guy sends me a creepy message, I will screenshot that message and I will post it publicly and be like, this is not how we do things. You know, so it’s like, it’s for me. It’s that line between, yeah, I don’t, I still, again, I don’t have answers. I just have observations and I am really worried about the level of, of shame building that is happening in online culture. And there’s someone, you know, I’m in the midst, there is now I’m going on. And I just, I think I’ve seen shame, not work for a really long time. And I’ve seen what does work and what does work doesn’t always give space for really, for anger and authentic rage, but also anger and authentic rage is so needed. And so it’s that line of having space and having, being able to really express our rage and really express those big emotions that we feel while also having conversations that open people up rather than shut them down. And I still haven’t fully worked out how to do that myself, you know?

Esther: Yeah. That is so tricky. Yeah. I’ve come across a term that was “sacred rage” and I thought, oh, that’s so good. I love that. And it’s like, you have to feel all your feelings and especially like, if you’re a woman and, or conditioned as one, then there are certain emotions you are welcome to express and have, and others that you are not, you know, so, yeah.

Fleassy: And, and actually there are times that rage has changed the world. And we look at, you know, we, we look at at the Stonewall rights and we look at the Black Lives Matter movement. And that is a perfect example of, people didn’t listen when we sat at the table and said, Hey, we’re here. People didn’t listen when we sent in the petition. People didn’t listen when we were polite and nice and people pleasing, and then the rage comes in people, you know, because of all the awful things that are going on. And the rage does something. It changes the world. So I don’t think again, it’s this like material there’s no, it’s nuanced. It’s about nuance. And I think that to me is what I wanna see more of in conversations about gender in conversations, about sexuality, in conversations, about inclusion and about identity is more than time for nuance. And yeah, the platforms that we use don’t always create space for that. TikTok has no space for nuance. TikTok’s great for dance. It’s great for silly voiceovers. It’s not great for nuance.

Esther: Yeah, it’s interesting how you talk about being in a space where you’re like belonging here and a fear of not belonging or being outcast in a way. And also being in that space, calling people out. It’s very much, it almost feels like a paradox, but it’s not. And, and also one thing I thought about, cuz there’s, there’s a lot of talk about and I’m in spaces, like woman spaces and stuff like that as well. And there is a lot of talk about the, the witch wound and that, and, and like there, there are people who like take you to a process of releasing and working with that. And, you know, being in that space. And I think that’s really valuable. And also I think a lot of people maybe can get, this might be a bit controversial, but like people, people are like, yeah, we are the ancestors of the witches they couldn’t burn, you know, and all that stuff. And that feels really powerful. And I think that’s, that is definitely true. And yes, and our ancestors are the, the persecuted and the persecutors. So there’s, it’s both there. We, we’ve also been like in, in our DNA, like if our ancestry is in our DNA, which I believe it is, go back to the woo woo. I think, yeah, there is, there is the betrayal in there, and also we did the betraying and we did the persecuting and we were the persecuted and, you know, there’s all, all the, it’s all in there. Like it’s like this melting pot of, of that, right. Yeah, I dunno how you feel about that.

Fleassy: Oh, I feel that we, unless, and this as a white person living on colonized land, unless we are prepared to look at the parts of ourselves that are racist, the parts of ourselves that are misogynists, the parts of ourselves that are consumed by capitalist desires. You know, we are never, parts of ourselves are fattest. Like you mentioned earlier, the parts of ourselves that are where you talked about, you know, the pressure of being skinny. And that also is so connected to fattism. The parts of ourselves are ageist. All of it. It is in all of us. I am all of those things. Yeah. And unless I’m prepared to own that, I will never see it when I’m doing it. And unless I’m prepared to own it, I will never be able to choose to make better choices, knowing those things about me, I can make better choices. And that doesn’t mean I do it right every time, but it means I’m doing it way better than I would’ve been doing if I didn’t acknowledge those things about myself.

Esther: Yeah. Yeah, I think, and that’s why it’s so important to have like self-love and self-acceptance because it’s so easy to see all those things in other people and, and judge that and, you know, want to be anti that and call things out and be angry at that. But in a way that’s also directed at ourselves cuz it’s all in us. So yeah, that takes yeah,

Fleassy: And I try my fucking hardest to have compassionate, gentle, caring, understanding conversations when faced with ignorance. And then there are also times that I have zero fucks left to give, and I will turn to someone and just say straight up, “you’re being an idiot. You’re being an asshole, like stop,” you know, and I think that That the kind of the visual image that I hold in myself is that every single human lives inside this little trauma bubble and we kinda walk around like bounce our bubbles off each other. And sometimes two people get together and their trauma bubbles open, and we kind of snuggle in together and we’re like able to connect in our little trauma bubble. And most of the time we’re just walking around, fucking bumping off each other and leaving little bumps on little. You. Yeah. And I have to really remember that in that, in that having compassion for myself when I react. And also when I shrink and don’t say anything and don’t have the space and time to have that conversation, or when someone says something homophobic at the Christmas dinner table and I just go quiet and eat my potatoes, you know, like, cause sometimes I don’t have it in me.

Esther: Yeah. That’s that is totally fair though. Absolutely. Yeah, we have to accept that by ourselves.

Fleassy: Yeah. Yeah. And this is where the nuance comes in is that we can, we can, we will always just, we always show up the best we can in that moment. And if I can remember that, if that’s the best I could do in that moment then great. And that’s that’s good enough. Yeah. And to remember that about the people that talked to me that maybe that person was a complete douche. Maybe that was the best they could do in that moment, you know, and hopefully they’ll come away with a little bit more information and be a little less douchy next time they have that conversation.

Esther: Totally. Yeah. Well, like rather than good enough, it is. It is just okay sometimes. Cuz if you don’t have the spoons for it, then you don’t have the spoons for it. Yeah. Wow. Is there anything you would like to add that we haven’t talked about yet?

Fleassy: I think I just wanna name that the shame as a girl growing up, which I was a girl growing up socialized to be a girl and how I was given this, which I would so many things I was given a rock and a hard place to live between and a very small middle ground to exist in of if you look too feminine, therefore you’re weak. But if you look too masculine, therefore you are like, and to use a slur, a heads up on people, then you’re a bloody Butch Dyke, which is sometimes isn’t a slur, but it was being used as a slur at the time. And therefore, I don’t have worse as a yeah. People at that time. And I therefore had such shame around presenting too masculine or too feminine and would live in this weird comfort zone between the two that wasn’t even really androgynous because androgynous was too masculine. And so being able to not only embrace my androgyny, but to also embrace my high femme has been so fun. Like the night I went out in pinup style. With like four victory rolls. Yes. And then, and then the next day, I, or I think the day before that I went out in a suit with a button up and a jacket. And to be able to play in all of those spaces is fun. And it’s also really hard and it’s really taxing on emotions. And just, if anyone out there, you know, part of them hungers to play in those spaces. But also when they do it, they come away feeling quite drained and tired. I think that’s quite normal because we are facing and unpacking so much of our own internalized stuff, as well as dealing with what’s happening around us at the time.

Esther: Yeah. So true.

Fleassy: And, and for me, I think lockdown was great because I did this series, I was Clementson Ford was doing these daily fashion prompts that people were lockdown. We’ve spent a lot of time in lockdown here in Melbourne, just so you know.

Esther: Yeah, I heard. Yeah.

Fleassy: And so every day for months there was different prompts of ways to dress.

Esther: That sounds so cool.

Fleassy: I, some people did it very casually and I just went all out. I’d like, I’d do like full drag king or I’d go full high femme drag, put it on for 15 minutes, take some photos, be really playful with the camera, get in the shower, wash it all off and go back to my comfy hoodie or whatever, like track pants or something. And it gave me a real place to play and to play within my own euphoria. and I think my encouragement for others is to, not that you need it, but like, if you want to hear some encouragement, it’s like create a space or find a platform for your euphoric exploration. So it doesn’t have to define you every time you try something that doesn’t have to define you forever. That you can show up and play and you can play for 15 minutes and that’s still you. That, that, that part of me that was there looking like a nineties boy band? That was still Fleassy and it was a hundred percent me. It wasn’t me pretending to be somebody else. It was just me expressing another facet of who I am and playing with it. And me creating a platform for myself, do that by jumping onto Clementon Fords kind of challenge was so helpful. And so, yeah, euphoric for me, I got real permission.

Esther: Wow. Euphoric expression. I love it. Yeah. I feel like I wanna play now, but I think I need a new wardrobe.

Fleassy: yeah. And just find safe spaces. I think that’s the big part of it. Like I kept and, and you say you need new wardrobe. As we came at a lockdown and the shop started opening, I had this hunger to like find button up. I’d never owned a button, like, like a shirt. And I went, kept going to op shop charity shops. And I kept going to charity shops, looking for shirt. And I’d go to the shirt section and I’d kind of have a mild panic attack and then I’d leave with some kind of long floral skirt, which I never wear. And then I’d put it back in a bag and get it back to the shop two months later. And so it’s like I would polarize I’d go in trying to explore my, my more masc self, my more masc presentation. Feeling so uncomfortable. Not because it wasn’t who I am, but because I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how, I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t know what would feel comfortable. So everything felt uncomfortable and I’d freak out and I’d polarized to like Uber femme and take that home with me. And not wear that either. So yeah, just to be okay. I just it’s just that that’s normal. I just think, I just wanna normalize that. Yeah, I guess just because even if you never, even if you hunger, if you hunger to express, like there’s a lot of talk on social, especially in the younger scene, like the kind of people in the early twenties and late teens who are exploring moving out of their gender dysphoria and exploring other expressions, it gives them euphoria and it just easy. It’s like one day I’m in a dress and I feel crap the next day I’m in a button up and I feel great. Maybe, I don’t know. Maybe when you are 19, that’s easier because you’ve had a certain amount of time. Now, when you had doubled that amount of time living expressing in a certain way, maybe that transition isn’t gonna be that easy. Maybe isn’t that easy for those kids, but you just don’t see that in social media as well. Just to clarify that actually there can be some shaky ground in between. That doesn’t necessarily mean you instantly find euphoria. I bought this button up and it’s probably actually a woman’s shirt, but I’m wearing it, like I tied up when I’m feeling more femme, and I leave it down and button it up and tuck it in when I’m feeling less femme you know? Yeah. And this is euphoric for me right now. This shirt is like giving me all the feels, cause I can change halfway through the day, what feels me, you know? Yeah. More, more feminine or more masculine. And yeah, I think that that’s the thing I wanna say.

Esther: Awesome. I love it more “yes, and” yeah, totally. Thanks so much for sharing, Fleassy.

Fleassy: Thanks for having me and asking.

Fleassy acknowledges that they live, work, and play on the lands of the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nation. This land is, and always will be, Aboriginal Land.

About Fleassy

Two times TEDx speaker and viral poet, Fleassy Malay is an Internationally renowned, evocative and powerful spoken word artist, performer, and writer. A global advocate for Women’s rights, LGBTQI+ visibility, and a fierce voice for the power of authenticity and courage as a social change tool. A self-identified queer, erotic, spiritual, mother she has a theatrical and yet deeply authentic performance and writing style, renowned for captivating their audiences with depth, honesty, and humour. They now write and present regularly to their online community of over 20k followers with poetry, talks, and opinion pieces.

You can find Fleassy on their website, on Instagram @FleassyMalay, on Facebook @FleassyM, on Spotify and on YouTube. Fleassy also has a podcast called Fierce-Gentle: The Courageous Voice Podcast.

What we discussed & useful links

WITCHES – A Poem by Fleassy Malay

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