Roast your damn chicken

For dinner tonight I roasted maryland portions of ethically raised chicken in a marinade suggested by Sabrina Ghayour: rose harissa, lemon zest and juice, sheep’s milk yoghurt, and I add a whack of flaky sea salt for my own reasons. I served it on buttered rice.

I’m here to tell you to roast your damn chicken. Don’t listen to those awful American and Aussie food writers who tell you the most important thing is keeping the chicken breast moist. They’ll tell you to cook it to an internal temperature where the nasty bugs are killed and no further, in case the meat dries out.

I’m here to tell you to cook the chook until cooked. There are worse things than chicken breast that requires cutting and chewing to eat it. Those worse things are perfectly moist but chalky, flavourless chicken. I would much prefer you cook the bird like they do in a supermarket rotisserie — until the drumsticks are kinda tough and a little chewy but the whole thing tastes like heaven.

And I’m here to tell you to marinade it beforehand in something intensely strong tasting — because chicken itself tastes like nothing — and let it sit in the marinade on your benchtop til it comes up to room temperature and start cooking it from there. It’ll take about 2 hours. Stop hyperventilating, you’ll be fine.

Recipe

  • 2 chicken maryland pieces
  • 2 tbsp of Herbies dried rose harissa spice mix
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • 1 tsp flaky sea salt
  • 2 tbsp yoghurt of your choice

Combine the marinade ingredients, mix well, spoon over the maryland pieces.

Let marinade for 2 hours on your benchtop or on top of your fridge.

Roast in a pre-heated 180C oven for 45-50 mins until the chicken is deeply caramelised outside and the flesh is starting to come away from the bone. Don’t be afraid to pick it up with gloves and give the joint a gentle yank to see if the muscle is still tight or starting to relax (this is when it’s becoming edible).

Above all, cook until cooked. Don’t be temping that thing. It’s only going to taste better — chewier, more Maillard goodness — if it overcooks a little.

I’ll do a separate post about roasting your damn vegies.

Trauma and the therapeutic possibilities of public narrative

In the past couple of weeks I’ve had a couple of publications that centre on the same theme: the possibilities of public narrative for healing individual and collective traumas.

Public narrative is an extremely broad term and captures a wide range of practices from autobiographical writing and public speaking through to the creation of cultural products including books, TV and film.

The concept of trauma is similarly broad (and increasingly contested). It includes experiences that meet the criteria for PTSD (DSM-V and ICD-11) and complex PTSD (ICD-11 only).

I recognise and have some time for the criticism of recent popular cultural tendencies to describe every negative experience as ‘trauma’ and every strong emotion as ‘being triggered.’

But I would also note we’re still only just beginning to grasp the full extent and diversity of experiences that can cause and constitute traumatic disorders. It wasn’t that long ago (two editions of the DSM) that we excluded events like sexual assault and domestic violence as potential causes of PTSD. The DSM-V authors still don’t agree that prolonged exposure to those two things in childhood can constitute a separate and more severe form of the disorder.

Acknowledging these debates, I use the notion of traumatic experience to describe and talk about sub-clinical trauma — experiences that meet some but not all of the criteria for PTSD or complex PTSD. These experiences can still be powerfully distressing and debilitating and fundamentally call into question our ability to survive and the linear temporal structure of our adult lives.

The Last of Their Number

This piece poses the problem of feeling isolated because your life story cannot be told and cannot be heard; it explores public narrative, particularly autobiographical writing and public speaking, as a possible solution, while cautioning that we need to build public listening skills and practices as well.

Pandemic déjà vu

This piece acknowledges that collective traumatic experiences of pandemics can produce paroxysmal public rage — and explores the possibilities of cultural production (books, film, TV) for telling stories of mass traumatising events.

For trans people with HIV, visibility means better data

Today is the international Transgender Day of Visibility and I wanted to quickly share a statement I wrote for work to mark the occasion. I also had fun designing a graphic visualising the concept of ‘trans data’! Of course, it goes without saying this post is inspired and enabled by the work of Teddy Cook, a powerful advocate for better representation of trans experience in research.


Recently Australia has witnessed an organised campaign of hate towards trans folks, seeking to deny the simple reality that trans women exist. This campaign seeks to constrain the ability of trans people to participate in public life, to use the bathroom, to take part in sport, and to be heard in public debate. On this Transgender Day of Visibility, NAPWHA says: we see you, we believe you, and we are here with you.

There is little research into the HIV-related needs of trans and gender diverse (TGD) people in Australia. A landmark study in 2018 found ‘TGD people have been erased and excluded from HIV and sexual health surveillance systems in Australia. This has contributed to a lack of evidence about our sexual health, which has meant TGD people have been excluded from strategies, services, programs and campaigns. Despite this, we have continued to organise, strategise and mobilise for action.’ Today, NAPWHA calls for enhanced and ongoing efforts to ensure that TGD folks are made visible in the data sources that are a precondition for funding HIV programs and services in Australia.

Artwork: Daniel Reeders (2023). Please do not use without citation.

In that study, 2.6% of trans women participants reported living with HIV (Callander et al, 2018). Yet, in some Australian states, systems that capture clinical data force trans women (and nonbinary persons assigned male at birth) to be ‘recoded’ as men who have sex with men. It means we do not have an accurate picture of the trans positive community — its size, age, gender breakdown, years living with HIV, transmission routes, and most importantly for NAPWHA, the unmet health needs arising for this group.

On behalf of NAPWHA and our members, if you are a trans person living with HIV, here is an open invitation — make yourself known to us; let us get to know you and help us better understand how we can serve you. Join our call for better data and sharing of stories that give us a clearer picture of the positive trans community in all its diversity. Together we can challenge the invisibility and erasure that surround trans people with HIV.

Announcing The Firehose

I made a linkblog. I know, right? It’s like time travelling back to 2006.

The Firehose is a collection of spicy takes and thoughtful features, updated frequently. I’m a voracious reader and it’s a way of capturing and sharing what I’m reading. For a long time I shared these links on social media but I recently ditched twitter and the Facebook algorithm has become particularly unfriendly.

A picture of a red fire hydrant with brutalist stencil text in red saying 'The Firehose.'
Photo by Aleksey Shkitenkov at Unsplash

At the moment I am trying out Flipboard Magazines as a way of sharing links, because nobody needs another e-mail newsletter in their inbox!

(Unless it’s by Ann Deslandes, Erin Cook, Anne Helen Petersen, or Jess Ho.)


As you can see, the format is a lot like Pinterest, with tiles for each story:


Flipboard has a great app for browsing content but you can access The Firehose on the web — for free — without having to install the app.

Not feeling Pride

Sydney WorldPride 2023 begins this weekend and I am not feeling it.

Late last year I was conscious of surfing right on the edge of burnout. We’d plunged straight back to work after two years of pandemic disruption without any real pause to stop and interrogate what it was we lived through. We tried to maintain the same level of productivity without acknowledging there was something a bit manic about the level of output we delivered during the pandemic. Everyone I know was battling burnout to some degree or another. We went through this mass-traumatising event and there’s been no collective reckoning with what that means and what it did to us.

And Pride comes with a degree of compulsory affect that is difficult to maintain when you’re on the verge of burning out. Pride is upbeat. If I had to assign Pride a texture, it would be shiny. Pride is inescapable, judging from the corporate ad campaigns emanating from Uber and Telstra and American Express across all the apps and websites and social media and public spaces I frequent. Pride is feature-length articles in broadsheet news media negotiated by PR companies promoting first-person narrative campaigns on tiktok. Pride celebrates human rights and a sense of inevitable social progress. Pride is fucking exhausting.

Sydney Opera House laser-lit in Progress Pride colours (SBS)

Forgive me, I’m a queer about to turn forty-two and I’m just not feeling it.

Style editor at Fairfax, Damien Woolnough, had a catastrophically bad go at articulating his own not-feeling-it. He lacked the range. I would express it differently. It’s not that there’s too many drag queens in the promotional materials. (I don’t even understand the concept ‘too many drag queens.’) But WorldPride isn’t queer enough.

And I realise this is a cliché — queer people are always going around saying what or whomst isn’t queer enough. And there’s often a lack of specificity about what they mean by ‘queer.’

I describe queer as a coalitional politics among sex and gender undesirables born of the recognition that we are all getting fucked by the Right. It is not an essentialised identity but a practice of community across differences in sexuality, gender identity, disability, embodiment, sex work, drug use, etc.

My problem with Pride is the way it strips out all the politics we are fighting, as queers, to bring into public conversation. It papers over them with its faith in the discourse and legal process of human rights, and its confident expectation that social acceptance of sex and gender diversity is inevitable in the end. It is liberal centrism in a nutshell and it frowns on the queer critique of the Right. Pride turned up after the really ugly battles had been fought and won and declared itself the victor, thanking liberal centrists and respectability politics.

I pored over the WorldPride calendar looking for events that had a queer vibe. I went to the Queer Sydney Reading Group at The PARTY exhibition at UNSW Galleries and — as always — it was great. I’m booked in for Blessed Union at the Belvoir and I am looking forward to seeing the Dyke Bar exhibition at the National Art School. I’ve registered to watch the Mardi Gras parade for the first time in my life, something made possible by a partnership between Club Cindy and People with Disability Australia. I’m attending Fair Day tomorrow in a gorgeous dress. I’m walking across the Harbour Bridge with two lesbian friends. So don’t get me wrong — I am making the most of WorldPride, and my journey through the WorldPride calendar is a celebration of queer coalition.

But amidst all the rainbows and corporate advertising, I fear an opportunity has been missed. First, I wish for something like the two-day Queer Thinking festival that Maeve Marsden and Nikki Stevens organised in 2018 and 2019. Not a conference with a ten minute slot for every visiting LGBT luminary working in the UN human rights system. Rather, a celebration of queer critique that provokes its participants to consider how we can live and protest in community with each other, celebrating our differences, in effective opposition to the Right.

Second, and this would have to be part of such an event, we need to be talking about how we protect trans communities from attack. It feels bizarre to me to be celebrating Pride, which sees progress on LGBT rights as inevitable, at a time when events in Australia, the United States and United Kingdom tell us that every single thing we’ve achieved can be undone in a matter of years, and simply because our putative liberal allies — the Guardian, the New York Times — can’t get their heads around the idea that trans people are just trying to live our lives. In the space of five years we’ve gone back to the Right calling gays ‘groomers’ — and the liberals are saying ‘but they’re giving hormones to kids.’

These are battles we thought we’d won and done with — Section 28, anyone? And they’ve come back around because the people whose support we thought we had in our pockets were easily swayed by liberal transphobia. We are discovering that court victories and legislative reforms are easily reversed if we don’t also win and keep winning the cultural battles. These are the battles that queer politics draw to our attention and demand we address — together.

I came out and all I got was this lousy ‘menty B’

As September rolled around I was anticipating the publication of an essay in Meanjin. It’s a reflection on what happens when you don’t tell your story. I write about being diagnosed, in the space of a few years, with an alphabet soup of mental illness: ADHD, bipolar type 2, complex PTSD. I was ‘out’ about living with PTSD and had no issues disclosing the ADHD, but I held back on disclosing the bipolar diagnosis while I worked on recovery and grappled with the stigma. As I describe in the essay, the problem with leaving out key moments that inflect your whole life narrative is that ‘more and more of your story becomes untold and untellable.’

Continue reading “I came out and all I got was this lousy ‘menty B’”

New article: Tackling structural stigma

Today I’m attending the Heart of Stigma pre-conference, organised by the International AIDS Society, at the AIDS2022 conference in Montréal.

I’m a member of the Heart of Stigma community of practice, whose leaders have just published a special edition of the Journal of the International AIDS Society focused on tackling HIV stigma.

The special edition includes my latest publication, co–first-authored with Prof Graham Brown, along with colleagues including Aaron Cogle, Brent Allan, Chris Howard, John Rule, Susan Chong and Deborah Gleeson.

In the article, we argue that peer leadership practices can both challenge and reproduce structural stigma, and that using a complex systems perspective can help us identify the potential pitfalls that need to be navigated to achieve the meaningful engagement of people with HIV.

Free to access: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/jia2.25924

Does monkeypox discourse stigmatise gay and bisexual men?

I made a quick video addressing this vital but vexed question.

References

Link & Phelan (2001) ‘Conceptualizing Stigma’ in Annual Review of Sociology.

Parker & Aggleton (2003) ‘HIV and AIDS-related stigma and discrimination: a conceptual framework and implications for action’ in Social Science and Medicine.

Scambler (2009) ‘Health-related stigma’ in Sociology of Health and Illness.

Scarce (1999) Smearing the Queer.