‘You go on Facebook and Instagram and everyone’s like shiny and happy and that would freak me out even more thinking, I don’t know what my life looks like. I would then evaluate my career and relationship or where I lived and there was just no certainty and it totally led to these really intense panic attacks.
‘It was this pressure to kill it at everything and that is what totally triggered it for me – this fear of the unknown and wanting to have control over it. What if I do take this job, then this could happen or that could happen and it was all just what if’s. I would just spiral – I wouldn’t do anything and I would freak out – it was paralysing.
‘It was a couple of years ago anxiety came in to my life and hit me like a freight train. I never expected it. I never saw it coming.
‘At my lowest point I wrote this poem called “We’re all going to die”. It was the first time that I’d had a sense of certainty. There was this one thing that could be guaranteed in my life and that was that one day, I’m going to cark it.
‘I realised that the only guarantee is death and everything is a mystery and that’s the beauty of life. So, why not go for it and why not take a risk? I’m going to die someday anyway so I may as well be who I really am.
‘On Friday November 17th I’m hosting “We’re All Going To Die Festival”. It is an amusement park for the soul. As an audience member you choose your own adventure – art installations, a film festival, music, panel discussions around fear and death and a lot of immersive experience. There’s everything from a death meditation where you actually imagine yourself not here on Earth any more through to a dance class where you’re encouraged to dance like you do in your own safe space in your bedroom.
‘It’s really about shifting people’s perspectives to just go and live life. It’s going to be a whole lot of colour and humour and we’re delivering it in the most fun way possible, because, why not?’
‘Sometimes us Sistergirls don’t like to identify as transgender. We come underneath the umbrella of transgender however we like to be called Sistergirls because it is a cultural identity. A lot of Sistergirls face discrimination and rejection from their own family and often feel isolated and are left homeless. We face stigma and discrimination in the community as well as cultural barriers to transition openly.
‘A lot of us travel to larger cities to seek refuge and solace and sometimes that isn’t even there in the larger cities. There was a lot of trauma growing up and now I’m still living with depression and anxiety. It’s funny, but I feel safer here than being back at home.’
‘When I started out, I was just a really enthusiastic person that saw they needed help wrangling zombies. Seven years later I’m the head zombie of it all. I’m a bit of a horror buff so I love the gore but I also love the fact that it does raise money for a good cause – The Brain Foundation.
‘The Brain Foundation studies brain and neurological disorders and illnesses and so it covers things like brain cancer and stuff like that but they also look in to things like dementia and that sort of thing so it’s quite broad. I’ve had friends who’ve been affected and I’ve seen how much it can impact a family.
‘Every year the number of zombies doubles so we need as many zombie wranglers as possible. When it started out around 7 years ago we had about 100 zombies and it basically just multiplied every year and so now we’re one of the biggest walks in Australia for it. It’s really cool. Being a zombie wrangler is not a difficult job but we need all the help we can get.
‘Zombie Walks take place all over the world. Some of the earlier ones started in San Francisco but not all of them are fundraisers. I think that we’re the main one in Australia that does fundraising but the rest of them are more for horror buffs and for people who want to just get bloody and messy and scare the general public.’
‘I feel scared. Who’s going to protect me at the end of the night? I don’t know if they’re watching me, or not. My family gets scared when they see things like this. They don’t want me to work anymore. They said what if they come next time and you’re there and they know I will defend myself and things will be worse.
‘Last night about half an hour after I finished work I received a call from security. They told me you have a break in or something through your windows. I was at the city with my friend having a cup of coffee and relaxing after work so I had to come straight back and found the police here. I saw my whole front door is smashed and I was surprised and shocked and really, really upset about it.
‘Also on the Friday my window cleaner told me to come and see what they’d scratched on the window. They’d written “F*** Arabs”.
‘I don’t know why this guy or guys think I’m the leader for Arab people or I’m the leader for Muslims – they’re calling me to abuse me about what’s happening overseas or something like that which is not my fault. I’m not doing nothing wrong here.
‘This is not the first time. For the last 7-8 months, every month, 2-3 calls were received threatening and swearing – talking in a racist way. I’ve been here 14 years. I’ve never had problems like this before.
‘I don’t want to know who did it. God will forgive them one day. I will forgive them if they stop doing this but I’m a bit surprised about the media. Usually if a Muslim guy does something, they put it on the TV next half an hour but if something happens to a Muslim guy, they’ll think about it a hundred times before they put it on.
‘I need the police this time to take it more seriously. It’s happened before, (they take a) statement, things happen but they never come back to me. I never heard from them again.
‘The whole community (here in Newtown) – the people, they’re really nice. They’ve been supporting me all day today – calling me, saying sorry – I love Newtown, it’s a beautiful place.’
‘Creativity means coming up with something from almost nothing. If you want something original then some of that is going to happen with you being an ordinary person working with unusual concepts. But some of that is also going to come from your own individuality – you will look at an ordinary thing but bring your own perspective to that – the way you formulate the story for example because of your background. I think we all need to embrace our inner weirdness. We need to keep it weird.’
Graeme Simsion, author of The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect.