Australian Pup And Handler Competition was a mixed bag of treats for me. I was so unwell I was barely able to keep fluids down and lack of wheelchair accessibility was a bummer, but still had a great time!
It was also my first public event after coming out of the trans closet so my nerves were sky high but I was welcomed in regardless. So many warm fuzzy feelings.
A special thanks to James Davidson for being the friend I need even when I don’t know how to ask; love you heaps! Thank you to Eagle Leather and Lucrezia & De Sade for sponsoring the event from the get go and still being here to support us post covid. And to everyone who goes out to support APHC, thank you. People called me crazy for starting it up but its the crowds, community to bond with, the cheering and the howls that make it continue to be popular every year.
It was so humbling to the hugs and the many thank yous for setting up the event like this, while thrilled to see it’s Queensland interpretation be a sell out event! It’s always been about creating more safe spaces and the community showed definitely up in support in a big way.
Excited to see what our new titleholders do now; next year, Perth!
It’s a demon that can lurk in a box for years then consume your life with little warning. A PTSD relapse is something uncommon that happens to those with PTSD or C-PTSD where a small trigger or a flashback can snowball and reduce your mental health to being in “crisis” mode as if one of the major traumas happened again freshly.
For me the initial trigger was small, I was re-joining the local pup play social groups in March ’21 after a two year break, but trauma from the few individuals that hurt me last time flashed-back and snowballed. Within a week I was depressed, in tears for no reason for most of the day with flashbacks from all through my life and dissociate the rest of the day away. Within a few weeks I was getting caught saying goodbye to my puppy, writing final letters to friends and trying to hang myself; and this is when hospital stays and seeking professional help started to get involved.
My mind was a hurricane in a teacup, my sensory processing went into high overdrive where my dog barking would trigger a panic attack and I would need to hide in a dark quiet room for most of the day. My mind would relive traumas from childhood to the most recent ones, without me wishing or needing to think about them and my partner would regularly find me screaming either in terror or in pain from sheer overwhelmedness.
When a panic attack would overwhelm me, no friend, partner, nurse or specialist could help me out, I’d become a crying ball on the ground with no awareness of my surroundings and usually hit the worst when I start punching myself in the head with them lasting 20mins – 3 hours.
I’d go without food for weeks at a time and sometimes sleep 20 hours one day then not sleep for 5 days. No routines of homelife, creative hobbies or work left in my life with only partner and my closest friends to hold my hand to remind me that we will get through all of this together.
I’d dissociate so bad and disconnect from myself it would be as if I would sleepwalk and try to escape the house at night, which usually ended up with me having a fall as the ‘zoned out’ didn’t use my mobility equipment. This meant I had to be locked up at night with location tracking on just for my basic safety.
Chronic nightmares turned into night terrors where I would take a quiet nap in the afternoon and once my partner comes back from walking the dog, im screaming and thrashing around on the bed with a look of terror on my face. Terrified to go to sleep for night terrors, and scared to be awake from flashbacks and triggers.
I was lucky to find an EMDR therapist by June ’21 and begin the process of working through past traumas while I was regularly in and out of hospital. For anyone with trauma, big or small, I can’t recommend EMDR enough; I was sceptical of it at first, it’s a moving blinking light and you don’t talk much but after personally trying it as we crack the shell that contains my past, I would recommend it for anyone it’s suited for. Not only does it help ‘greyscale’ traumatic memories in a was you can process them without the emotional strings attached, but it’s helped me uncover my childhood and its garbled set of memories, I’m coming out of it as a more complete and understood person for myself, which is a win for anyone to achieve.
July came around with good news, one of the treatments I started was CBD oil. This was an unexpected boost to my mobility. Beforehand I would have to use crutches around the house and the wheelchair when out and about. Now I can walk an entire kilometre assisted and my pain tolerance has improved drastically. This means if there’s a small trip out of the house to a single store, I can choose to walk with my stick and braces! It’s not only just wheelchair-bound for me anymore.
November’s hospital admission was the worst of the worst, we had found a private psychiatrist to help me out, but instead of focusing on trauma, he focused on my sporadic weed consumption and without telling me put me in the addictions psych unit which I left after a week of the psychiatrist triggering the worst panic attacks in my life. Shortly after, with a mix of exhaustion from not being listened to and my therapist helping me reveal hidden forgotten childhood traumas, I lost my voice and my body decided to become nonverbal.
It’s not something someone can just choose to do, it makes a golf ball feeling in your throat and any attempt at talking with your vocal cords just hits a roadblock or stutters too much to have any kind of conversation. The doctors think this is another symptom linked to my traumas and not permanent; My partner and I have spent a few months having to adjust to this new way of life and I’ve grown some quick fingers to type as fast as I can on my phone to reply to people so I can still have conversations. This started in mid November and it’s already early February and its still daily hurdles, it’s made me a much better listener but I still miss every day being able to communicate as much as I used to.
By December and January hospital admissions, this time I had been in hospital 6 times already for my mental health to either keep me safe or to monitor me with new medication regimes. Things started to turn around, not only with progress with therapy but I finally found a trauma-informed and trained psychiatrist willing to treat me for the situation I’m in. With his help and working with my therapist, we found a new medication routine for me, not just to help with depression but also to help nightmares, sleeping and dissociation issues.
I am now doing better though, with the major crisis issues managed, a support network of friends and professional supports. I can’t keep pretending how my past traumas have impacted me on a daily basis anymore and my therapist is working hard helping me learn a way of going through life with what I know now. This has been my third and worst PTSD relapse I’ve had in my life but I am much more prepared into what’s next and to make sure if I have another relapse, I’ll have a support network ready to jump in to help.
Kiwi has a tough time when around larger dogs but this husky gets along with Kiwi swimmingly!
Kiwi the Red Heeler and Didge the Husky x Dingo, have now known each other for a few months but now get time to roam across the property, regularly swapping treats, fights and taking turns in the paddling pool each. haha.
Their friendship is blossoming and I’m looking forward to more adventures together. Here’s some more photos of them getting along: Enjoy!
Every year for quite a while, I do new year resolutions but I also end a year with a WOP-WUP (web-of-passions wrap-up-plan) Which is kinda like, stuff related to new year resolutions but with end of year deadlines, usually things related to my creative, community and career projects (many of them are so interconnected purposefully to help me with my larger, less talked about projects and plans, like a web)
This year was a life-turning point for me, my cPTSD roared into life and has consumed most of my year of me being in crisis mode and many hospitalisations across that time too. It does mean it was a quiet year for me with lots of self-development but I still achieved a few things!
Week 5 begins of being Nonverbal. Friends and chosen family have taken it in their own stride to adjust while we all have learnt how to help me communicate still.
We’ve learnt I have really quick thumbs so now I look like im hooked to my phone at the moment even though i’m just relaying messages to be part of a discussion.
I thought after another month being nonverbal it would be good to jot down how it has been going for me with this experience. In this time I did have another hospital admission, and sometimes I can manage a whisper or two, but i’m still in this cPTSD crisis.
How your mind thinks of words, changes. I’ve been nonverbal long enough to notice a subconscious change in thought patterns to match more my current top speed, restricted vocabulary for pace of communication etc.
The amount of thinking about what your going to say next is a lot less but when you know, it’s still not enough words.
You learn how close friends remember your regular go-to stories when they share them for me.
You enjoy the immersive moment during conversation more. Without the worries about what to say next, you can get lost in your own imagination about what the person is talking about and fully engaged as a listener.
Your other senses do get dialed up, I feel like my hearing has been ramped up even more. Whether that’s a good thing or not is hard to tell yet
There’s a difference to listening to a discussion and being part of a discussion that many verbal folk don’t realise. Even if its a 1 on 1 chat.
Body language becomes an important form of conversational communication that it is no longer seen as communicating any appearance of poor or good mental health.
Even after 5 weeks, if I could have my voice back, I would in a heartbeat. I don’t think I could ever get used to this. And while it has been a big learning experience, if my brain is ready to heal and carry on, I’m ready when it is.
My disability has progressed to the point that I can no longer talk *gasp*. Specialists say its not permanent so I am trying to keep hopes up and to keep trying to get my voice back. But I thought I would share what I have learnt so far after a whole week being nonverbal:
You definitely can’t communicate as much in your body language without speech in conjunction. I may be getting better at charades but I still can’t tell someone urgently to stay in the room.
Speech-based conversations are usually moving too fast to contribute to as a nonverbal person.
You can’t set personal boundaries in conversations like you would if you were verbal.
You communicate a fraction of a fraction of what you could when your verbal, you spend the attention span on others wisely with few questions.
But still need to remember to crack a joke once in a while.
Sharing how your feeling becomes a moot point when you need someones attention to get the dog to stop chewing something he shouldn’t.
When you communicate with the world differently suddenly, your outlook and interpretation sure changes too.
Going from being verbal to nonverbal is like being made to live in the loneliest hailstorm in a teacup. You can only daydream so much until you are stuck with forced self-contemplation. No matter the revelations about yourself and others, no one’s gonna hear you scream internally.
Journaling becomes so much easier when literally everything you have said is already written down.
Other people by default speak quieter around nonverbal people for no reason at all other than social assumptions.
Text-to-speech apps are essential to make sure car rides are not in weird silence.
There definitely isn’t enough options for these kind of accessibility apps than you’d expect.
Every “friend” who doesn’t like text-based messaging will disappear from your life.
Despite my cPTSD crisis this year, getting access to CBD oil medicinally during it has helped my mobility a LOT!
I started from an ability to walk slow and painfully only with crutches and multiple braces for maybe 100 meters (110 yd) a day and my mobility.
Within the space of a month, I achieved to improve my mobility (maybe 250 meters / 273 yd a day in total, covid lockdown meant I wasn’t leaving home 99% of the time anyway) before I was in hospital for my mental health again (they still don’t allow prescribed CBD oil in hospital settings here in Australia), it got to the point that I started small shopping trips without the wheelchair so long the walking was short with pauses for my fatigue as well. I do still have to use the wheelchair most of the time when leaving the house and for the “bad days” when symptoms flare up.
Everything we do, wear and use can be a tool of self expression. Not our opinions.
This made crutches, bulky and not necessarily needed every time im upright. When suggested, I was originally very anti-walking stick. You know the usual social stigma around them and how people with them are approached; I know ableism very well with 4 years so far using the wheelchair.
When something can end up becoming part of my identity, just like how people used to describe me as “that guy in the wheelchair with the mohawk” I know I want it to express my identity while being something for me above all, everything we do, wear and use can be a tool of self expression and that includes a walking stick and my friends know much i enjoy diversity and everyone to have the right to express themselves.
A tokotoko is a traditional walking stick in New Zealand. This one was carved by a hobbyist named Ted Hatchwell from the Waikato region, the same region I was born and spent my first eight years as a country kid.
The tekoteko (the person carved on the stick) is a human-like figure most commonly placed on the gable of a house or gateway, and is there to ward away evil spirits. I named this guardian Hauraki after the Hauraki Gulf in Auckland for a very special childhood memory.
When I was 10, I was sent by the school’s health nurse for a whole school term to “Health Camp” in Eastern Auckland area, which I later found out in adulthood was for vulnerable at-risk youth; as I was under heavy depression issues from home life and unable to make friends at school. The Maori cultural teacher became my go-to therapist with the rapport we built while I was there.
To watch the Taniwha under the cloud shadows cross the Hauraki Gulf, feeling them work their way around the island Motukorea to find their way back to land to find whatever person or place they feel need guarding.
I used to sit on top of the playing field every chance the weather allowed and watched the clouds roll over the Hauraki Gulf and over the land. She enjoyed how I would make up stories, merging maori mythology with my own creative ideas, and to this day her words of “if you were here before Europeans, you would be considered a great story teller.” After this experience, this is when I started journal keeping, took a leap and got into creative writing. I don’t remember her name but she was the first person ever to help me believe in my own abilities of telling stories and encouraging my passion in Maori culture.
This won’t mean much to many here but a LANDMARK for transgender representation in the academic research about the BDSM community.
The lesson here: there’s endless ways to fight the good fight for rights and recognition.
I have been volunteering in many things in the fetish community for years, mainly the puppy play roleplay scene.
In 2016 (4 years before leaving the trans closet) I hated how ppl gossiped “trans people, especially transwomen don’t do puppy play, it’s just gay guys” (this was also reflected in the only 2 scientific papers written at the time) So instead of fighting and complaining, I got to work. REALLY HARD work because I’ve never graduated at University beyond 2 years of elite sport performance study and a few unrelated topics.
I have been learning how to do academic research (including teaching myself ethics committee approval systems) into sex research and with the help of University of Sunderland in the UK and the “Archives of Sexual Behaviour” they have completed peer review and confirmed my first academic paper disproving this social gossip and WILL include information of the gender identity and it’s diversity in this niche BDSM fetish.
One year ago, after 20 years in the closet, at age 34, I came out as a transwoman, while still working on this. This week is my 1 year anniversary of being on HRT and i get confirmed that I’m now considered the leading sex researcher on this field of work in Australia at least. What have I got myself into! 🤣🤣
And I’m still working on continuing the projects data collection into at least 2023. And the research book about the fetish, it’s community and history still a few years away from publication too.
I will make this paper free to access and download once it’s out. (We have over 12 more planned including a dedicated paper on gender diversity and expression on the ’16 and ’18 data, let alone comparing evolution of diversity pre vs post pandemic)
Happy Coming Out Day! A Paraphrased Queer Journey.
At age 10, I knew something was different to me than the other boys. By 14 I had some vocabulary to say at least, that I knew my gender did not match my body. I told my mother and my therapist… Guess how that turned out in the mid 1990’s…
At 17 I decided to come out as Gay, seemed logical, people perceived me as male, even if I don’t, but I enjoy guys more so I’ll come out as gay then (I had such a sheltered mormon upbringing that I still didn’t know what ‘Bi’ or ‘Pan’ was). Luckily my biological family had already ostracized me for questioning their faith and I had already been moved out of home, so I had minimal contact with them.
At 26 when I moved to Australia, I decided to start defending my identity more and came out as Bi, much to my friends multitude of ill jokes.
At 27, a relationship ended with me refusing to share my “secret” with my partner at the time (aka. me being trans), I was accused of many vicious things and I ended up homeless under a bridge in Melbourne CBD for 8 months till I got back on my feet and begin my life again from scratch. To this day, despite the traumas, I still think I made the right call to let myself choose when to come out. It wasn’t the first time and wasn’t the last time I was pressured to come out unwillingly.
At 28 I wanted to start exploring my gender identity more and “testing the waters” by changing my name to a gender neutral one, Taylor. With much disgust and dislike from my biological family even though my new legal name had more family connection in it.
At 29, I started volunteering in the fetish community, not only to learn more about my own body, but also to help foster safe spaces I could maybe come out of the trans closet some day.
At 31, I started my academic research work into sex & diversity. Primarily in the fetish of the Puppy Play Community. Which I still do to this day.
At 33, I said enough is enough to my biological family extreme religious bigotry and never saw or spoke to them again after a hurtful final Christmas dinner.
At 34, in 2020, during our pandemic lockdowns I reached a body and gender dysphoria boiling point and even though I didn’t know what to do next I had to trust that things will work out. I came out of the Transgender closet, I started using new pronouns while I work on what this journey means to me. Started using the name Ashley instead of Taylor to have a name unrelated to my biological family and I started HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy).
At 35 I started to openly identify the asexual part of my spectrum of sexualities I float between over time.
Much of this over time came as a surprise to a few, some that were waiting for me to come out and a lot of acceptance of those who stood by me through the tough times.
I am still learning what comes next, there is no master plan. But sometimes the story doesn’t end, there’s just another chapter.
Funniest part of coming out is the shocked or surprised look on faces of people who prior claim that they know me “so well” that they think they know me better than myself. Happens every time and is priceless 🤣