In early 2017, when I was still in the fledgling stages of having my novel Born Again edited, I took a little trip all the way over to Perth Western Australia. The idea was to check out this whacky event called Sexpo, but also for a little break from daily life, as writing had already begun to take a certain toll on my mind. However, what I ended up discovering was the home of some of the most bizarre, compassionate, educated and expressive beings i’d come across to date. After only a few minutes of traversing the stalls and attractions i’d found a home away from home, a place where people were open about their truest and most tightly protected selves. Each stall, whether it was for pleasure or education, was willing to stop and chat to discuss most anything considered too taboo for the regular Joe.
Within half an hour I stumbled across a stall run by International Author, Frankie Banks. I was still unpublished myself, but meeting someone in my own field amongst the cacophony of the expo was completely unexpected. A brief chat about each of our projects and a purchase of her book Sharks and Lovers and I was headed home with a newfound sense of direction, as well as someone to finally connect with as a writer.
Fast forward through to about September, as I am on the cusp of releasing my novel, came an invitation to join Frankie at Sexpo Melbourne to chat with her in one of the S.H.A.R.E seminars. These talks are specifically dedicated to education, story telling and exposure to some of the more intimate and empowering aspects of our natural human sexualities. Given my own attempts within my novel to address some of the best and worst aspects of human sexuality, I couldn’t help but take up the opportunity and prepare for yet another trip, this time with me as a member of the refuge i’d found not even a year earlier.
Scared shitless with my book and paperwork underarm, I strode through the doors of Sexpo once again. After a quick detour to watch Isabelle Deltore (the very same Isabelle Deltore that i’d had leap into my arms upside down for a photo in Perth) perform onstage plus grab a quick photo, it was my turn to pic up a microphone and talk about Born Again. My hands trembling from lack of energy and my ears blasted from the din of the centre stage, I not only managed to form coherent sentences, but I could see the heads bobbing along as I spoke of the impacts of not only depression, but the restrictions we all live under by those in positions of power. My talk done, and a man approaches me, eager to discuss what he’d just heard. He tells me of his niece, a beautiful, kind hearted girl who suffered from anorexia and depression, who ultimately took her own life. He opens his wallet to show me a fading photograph of his niece, clearly within reach whenever his sense of loss gets too great. I discuss my own struggles his niece and I shared, watching on as his eyes tear up and all he can do is shake away the same thoughts that no doubt plague him everyday.
We shake hands, say our goodbyes, and I’ll likely never see this man again. However, upon reuniting with Frankie and taking a photograph of me and my novel, I can’t help but think about this man over and over again. He admitted that he hadn’t been to Sexpo before, and I begin to look around at the many other guests of the event, equally burdened by abuse, loss, or a need to understand something about themselves that weighs on their conscience. I think about the words of people outside as I waited to gain entry through the archway, “What the hell goes on in there?” One lady remarks to her distracted husband as she pushes her child along in a stroller, her husbands eyes fixated on a passing exotic dancer, destined for the Laporium inside the venue.
What starts out as a day for me and my book, quickly morphs into something far more urgent and perhaps farfetched. It isn’t about me getting a wad of cash for piecing together a fun tale, it’s about how that story impacts those that read it. It isn’t just about healing for myself, it’s about using what I know and have experienced to prevent others from similar fates or to help heal them when it’s too late.
Whether you’re stripping off your Stormtrooper attire to a crowd of onlookers or a simple writer sharing a piece of your mind, we can all tear away at the odious fabric of modern culture that leaves Sexpo as a boxed in, hidden domain for the most repulsively labelled, depraved. We can all bring it out into the open, turn our world into one that doesn’t allow others to slip away. A world that encourages inclusivity, knowledge and encourages us to all be the real us, not sheep good only for providing for those that give nothing back.
I can’t thank Frankie Banks enough for an amazing opportunity. I can’t express strongly enough my despair at one mans loss and his efforts to understand why. I think of the hilarity of the idea of myself being ambushed by a naked woman for a photograph. But most of all, I think of what a remarkable twist my life has experienced since 2014 when I saw nearly no reason to live, or eat, or get out of bed to try either. If the last three years are any indicator, I eagerly await the life ahead of me, one I intend to make the best of for myself and those that need a helping hand.
For those interested, Sharks and Lovers is available here: http://frankiebanks.com/sharks-lovers-novels/
And for anyone interested in attending Sexpo and unlearning the drivel that has been plastered upon us in western culture: https://www.sexpo.com.au/