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Katerina Capel

Katerina Capel (they/she) reflects on notions of queerness and the home through non-fiction and poetry




the other day someone at a rainy party told me something
he crouched over me and
putting his hand high up on my thigh
through slurred lips and cigarette breath
said that the dictionary is getting bigger

bigger like my ego maybe, or Kimmy K’s ass
I think as I roll cigarettes with the dregs
of his tobacco hoping he won’t notice

our interaction is interrupted by the aggressive
wooooooosh of a nang in creation
his eyes widen, he yells something and he lurches away from me
towards the balloon bobbing along into the distance

I sit back in the soggy armchair and inhale
I can still feel where his hand was on my thigh
a clammy reminder of his confidence

somebody falls on me
a beer bottle smashes
glass crunches underfoot

looking up there are people all around
pressed up against each other or
talking or dancing or sitting alone or
perched on the roof and the fence high above me
like crows in the eaves
their eyes glittering with drug induced intensity

I unlock my phone and google what the new words might be
I make a list of my favourites


the wet of the chair is sinking into my jeans now
the guy left his pouch behind
I roll the last cigarette
I don’t feel guilty because I remember how he put his hand on my thigh
and then I remember how earlier today
I was on my way home
and an old lady stepped onto my tram
and when it took off
when it started to move
I noticed that she smelled like shit
enough to make me dry retch and hold my breath

it made me think of the time
my friends grandmother
pissed herself in her car
and we stifled vomit silently in the back seat
the whole way home

I remember she lived in this housing estate
on a street called “treetop drive”
where everything looked the same
and at night we stole her parents wine
and rolled crooked joints
and held hands and
I cried about my queerness and
she cried about her treacherous mind
our hormonal imbalances leaning on one another
like two sides of a ladder

It’s four years later now haha
and I’m alone on this soggy armchair
she’s not here but there’s a
hundred other people
dipping keys into little bags
sharing gum
smiling at me
asking me my name

Queerness and Home

In the years before I rejected my mother, we would walk together with our big black dog on a path that ran along the boundary where urban Castlemaine met dry yellow countryside. My mother was in her early 50s, and I was just 13, but already our relationship had begun to fray. When I think about my sense of home, I am struck with the overwhelming feeling that I have none. We moved from place to place, and whilst each space did become a place to me quickly, readily, importantly, none would I consider above the other in terms of a sense of home.

I write about the path because it represents the movement that blanketed my childhood. It was always mum and I, arriving at a strange house in Darwin or in the car driving through tropical north Queensland to live in Cairns or stepping onto the Ghan, me aged 7 in tie dyed shorts and mum in khaki, going somewhere dry and big and red hot. When I think about the path though, I think about the end of something and the beginning. As we walked, the gravel dry and rolling beneath our cheap runners, we spoke mostly about me, about who I wanted to be and who I had been. I wasn’t quite a child any longer and mum had started treating me differently. 

It was on the path that she told me about the bank taking the house, the only one we had ever owned and only for a very short time, and it was on the path that I pushed her to make the decision to spur us along to Cairns where we could live in a basement with a resemblance of family to support us and cane toads around our feet. On the path the sundown would hit with a shock, every part of it shone with yellow. Later in film school I learnt that this was called the golden hour. I feel at home in this yellow even now in the city, when the tram tracks gleam and the buildings are dipped, the shadows long and soft and stretching, but I am aware that this colour and time of day belongs to the Victorian countryside in my mind the same way that red belongs to the desert.

“Where are you from?” is a vice many young people take a hold of to begin conversations and relationships. In high school, that means which school. In the early years of adulthood, it means which suburb and then which school. People are interested in which school you went to because they want to place you in a way that feels comfortable. They want to put you in a class, and they want to turn the conversation back to themselves so they can say “I”, and find out if you have mutual friends. Often now I am surrounded by people from outside of the Melbourne bubble. They’re not so interested in school names and there is a level of mutual respect for how we have found ourselves here, on a soggy couch at a queer party in the north of the city feeling good and safe and high.

In this environment, “Where are you from?” sometimes takes on the form of how bad was it, but I feel uncomfortable speaking disparagingly of how unnamed my queerness was in the Northern Territory. I feel protective of the small desert town and this other life, this other upbringing where I wore Akubra hats and went in rodeos and didn’t wear shoes and skimmed across to the tip on my bike in the pouring heat with aggressive camp dogs nipping at my heels. I feel protective and in defence especially in the supposedly anti colonial white spaces that dominate queer Melbourne. So when people ask me where I am from there is this factor, then there is the notion that in fact I do not feel that I am from anywhere in particular. I must avoid the question or recount my entire upbringing, the latter of which feels too revealing for an introductory conversation. The option I won’t consider is to pick one and just say I am from there. I am uncomfortable with this idea, for how am I to pick which place made me over the others?

I divide these places by their flora and fauna. I am from the desert, I am from the country, I am from the rainforest.

I categorise my growing up in sections of this place and that place, in blocks of time between
moves, and I feel that I lived a lifetime in each. A toddler in a Castlemaine less trendy than it is now, going to the toy library with my mum and climbing trees and meeting my father for the first time. A seven year old in Tennant Creek, a girl guide, meek, a swimmer who liked to steal. Again Castlemaine, this time 13 and growing breasts and feeling uncomfortable about it. Graffiti, falling in love with my English teacher, a MAN, skipping school to lie on the cricket nets and walk through the dry forest that grew alongside the school to meet an older BOY who I had barely spoken to in real life but with whom I had exchanged hundreds of messages. Was my queerness present then? I think maybe it was. But what about in the desert? What debris, or benefits, have these environmental changes reaped in me and my identity? I move yearly now, share house to share house. Fighting with my mother in my teen years so badly that she called the police. Stalking the path once at night, vomiting anger after she locked me out of the house. Then the next day, the yellow of the afternoon, the fight mostly dissipated and my mouth clamped shut over the words “gender”, “gay” and “love”. The neighbours avoided our eyes and I felt ashamed and defiant all at once, and protective of my mother who was in fact on my side. We were in opposition to the family across the street with their mum and dad and lawn and four children who played cricket in the afternoons. And then Cairns, during which time I felt hot and too big and unhappy, in part due to copious amounts of marijuana and in part because I genuinely dislike the heat.


Katerina Capel is a queer writer based in Melbourne. Their works explore themes of sexual and gender identity, space, place and memory through experimental non fiction poetry and prose.