Posted on December 06 2018
Dawning fingers of light reach out and tickle it, splintering a diamond shimmer through morning drops of frosty dew. Its flowers appear like an exploding nucleus, like a rounded pincushion - a cherry red core with hundreds of creamy jets shooting outward. Like a spikey child’s squeeze toy. Like rockets taking off from a martian world.
It is a Hakea Laurina tree, and it is waiting.
Among its bright pincushion flowers, between its flat green boomerang leaves, dangling like a wanderer’s knuckles are its hardened fruit. They are brown and yellow and beige, with dimples and darkened dots, loyally protecting the seeds inside. Even after they detach, and fall earthward, touched by the crisp moisture of a nova morning, after nourishing spring rains which call to the forest around them, even then they will not open.
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The grim bastard glow of a Windows blue screen of death has painted me. I am a teenager, and quick to any frustration, more so for having just lost hours of progress in my 3D modelling assignment when the system crashed. Around me the computer lab is bathed in fluorescent chalk, and I am one of only a handful of students in class that day.
My academy teacher is watching the clock more closely than any of my peers. He is always the first to leave, disappearing through the doorway like a lit rabbit. He has made it known that teaching is beneath him, merely a day job on his unshared road to better riches.
“Okay, nearly that time, save your work everyone,” he says, then looks at my dead screen, “well… not you, mate.”
“Now, tomorrow will be a half day to allow you to attend the protests. George Bush is stirring a lot of shit and there’ll be rallies down George St - how appropriate - to protest his illegal war. If you value human rights, I urge you to attend.”
“A half day?” I say, growing chipper.
“If you value human rights, yes.”
“Obviously, if you don’t believe in the sanctity of human rights,” he pauses as he looks at me the way I’d just been looking at my bastard computer screen, “and if you don’t want to protest, then you have to come to class.”
I parade the sum of my political proficiency, and with proud proliferency I proclaim: “I’ll be there!”
Smash cut to…
The next day I am sprawled on a purple bean bag, wearing a daggy purple shirt, pantsless, in my Ultimo loft, shooting mean ‘ol space aliens on my Xbox. I look like a Grimace mounting a Grimace. I am devouring fistfuls of chips. I raise a shard of potato skyward in salty salute.
“To human rights!” I say, then thrust it into my cudding maw.
A dozen or so years later...
I am transgender.
And I am protopian.
Protopian is a term coined by Wired magazine editor Kevin Kelly and it refers to the idea that society isn’t heading towards a utopia or a dystopia. Both are romanticised fictions, unrealistic and unlikely given the proof of time. Rather, we nudge our species forward in tiny increments. To put it another way - 51% of everything we create is great. And 49% is pure shit. It might not seem like much, but that 2% difference, multiplied across the endurance of human history, is what gives us our civilizations today.
To that end, and to the chagrin of many a proud, declared hardline conservative, we are all progressive. We are a progressive species. This is, after all, the reason that you are reading this via electromagnetic pixels and not on a dim cave wall. We possess a quality unique to our species - we can choose the course of our existence and have a say in our evolution.
Though it doesn’t always feel that way.
The democracies we once so proudly enjoyed feel like ash slipping between defeated fingers. In Australia, politicians like Tony Abbott, Peter Dutton and Craig Kelly seek to destabilize progress. They are in the pockets of other rich, white men, and they have personal agendas which seem to require the advent of some kind of time machine to achieve. Helping them try to build one is a conservative media so powerful that it can whip up coups to overthrow the Prime Ministers we elect, the same media who tell us that different people are… scary. It is a divide and conquer tactic, one which impedes progress.
The leader of the free world who signs his name in crayon. Truth is dead in his vision of a utopia - or rather, it is relative to his ambition. Among the many truly awful ways that he uses systems to force change on people are his plans to render transgender people… not. He proposes to use “science”, the kind that advocates for an Aryan race, to say that there is and can only be two genders, meaning that transgender people simply… don’t exist.
It often feels that people like Trump and Abbott are so very powerful, that they cast long shadows which render anything we do to stop them irrelevant. This is not because they are great leaders, but rather because they are the winners of capitalism. They have bought and traded their way into power. They have money, access and influence, and they seek to control us with their war chests. Hunter S. Thompson said that politics is the art of controlling your environment, and these men are skilled at that dark art.
What, then, is the point of trying? Why should we bother to fight for something as improbable as human rights?
Because of 2%.
Because while we can never be entirely rid of so much of the shameful cruelty which plagues our world, we can still push the needle forward, we can still carry kindness and goodness in our hearts, to great effect. A society is a structure which defines the capacity of a people to exist. It is an instruction booklet for being, and it is incumbent on us to include everyone - gay guys, lesbian gals, heterosexual folk, transgender and intersex peeps. People of all colour and capacity and creed. Everyone who has ever had the temerity to say - “I am”.
We must be the 51% of sovereign kindness. We must be the mere 2% difference which pulls our peoples forward, advancing the good in all of us. If Australia was ever the land of the fair go, then this is the time to prove it. Now, at the foot of a fascist wave. It is not an easy task, but we can do it because our civilization remains, advancing. Progressing. Because we have so much beautiful history of good provided by our ancestors, who delivered us the rights we cherish today. We can stare into the unforgiving dark and know that we are the bringers of light because others have lit the way before us.
A little over a year ago I bawled, grinning like a dickhead, holding a limited edition rainbow Care Bear. Its fur was purple, with tiny silver sprinkles scattered through. After my mind went numb listening to the head of the Australian Bureau of Statistics talk about why his work was so important, giving a long winded recipe for dip, or something, he came to the announcement I had longed for.
The overwhelming majority of Australia had voted for marriage equality. We had progressed our nation in spite of the tyrannous deceit of a powerful conservative lobby.
The fruit falls. Fires rage around it.
But the Hakea Laurina tree has been waiting for this moment. Its fruit is serotinous, meaning it opens during bushfire. When destruction is raining and all feels lost, this queer tree opens its fruit, and the seed for a new generation emerges from the ash.
It may feel right now that the wildfires of dangerous men are surrounding us. But we must never forget that it is we, the good and the kind majority, who determine the balance of progress. It is we who determine the instructions for living, by living well and allowing the same for others. We can withstand the heat.
We push onward, proud, bringing light as we carry the fire in our Hakean hearts.
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Written by Cadance Bell
Cady is a transgender writer and filmmaker who misses pockets but loves girlifying. You can read more of her shenanigans as she transitions on www.iMissPockets.com and connect with her on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/iMissPockets.