Kaz is #BecomingVisible
What does becoming visible mean to you?
To me, becoming visible means knowing like Dorothy in Oz said “You are home”! Or to put it in other words, a bit more seriously, it isn’t easy living in this world that normally denies seeing people from the disabled community as worthy souls. Try walking in our shoes once, just for 24 hours.
We have to stand up tall, pack up our troubles and smile every once in a while, especially now, when we see the get2gether members in any way, shape and style – please try to remember that we are all alive, that there is only one love and that we are warriors and survivors!
How did you hear about get2gether and why did you want to get involved?
Through Sylvia! I met Sylvia when I was training to be a volunteer at Crew, something I had not anticipated as I was detoxing and trying to get better. Sylvia and I built up a great friendship amongst everything we were learning at Crew, and once she started touching base at get2gether’s club night at the ATIK, she was nagging at me to come along!
What was your first impression, from our ATIK club nights?
Such fun! I had somewhere to sit, I had somewhere I could watch and enjoy the fun as well as use my poles if I was more mobile that night. I instantly felt at home, the same as I had felt welcomed by Crew. It’s an alternative society, doing what we did, along with the volunteers and staff from Crew, it was such fun.
I think my granny would be blushing if she’d seen me putting condoms into both ladies and gents toilets but I think she would have got it. I really do. Got why it’s essential to provide harm reduction and education tools that help everyone relax and desensitize. And eventually, conversations started opening up with the members with Sylvia especially.
Everyone opens up to Sylvia, everyone adores Sylvia, she’s so easy to talk to and her ears are massive. It was a comfortable routine that we looked forward to every single month as well as being aware on the radar, was there anything else we could be doing to bring these two charities together.
Tell us a bit about crew2000? And why do you feel passionate about it?
Well, I used to be a nursery nurse, and then after retirement I went on to volunteer with the Scottish Burned Children’s Club so I was familiar with these positions and working at the Royal Blind school and with children who were uniquely different. Going to Burned Camp and volunteering with the kids there felt like another home and when I walked through Crew’s door I was initially just looking to update my information, seeing if they were still at Cockburn Street.
Parallel to that, walking through the door and seeing there was information about drugs, admitted ‘oh my god, I’ve become addicted to legal drugs and I need to get myself clean.’ I fell into the arms of Lisa, the service manager. I just couldn’t believe what had happened to me and the parallels between what’s prescribed and what’s on the street unregulated, the risks to everyone involved.
My passion for Crew is down to the support and acceptance and the safe space they gave me to process what was happening to me. Also helping me to see the value in my experience that I knew could help others.
I love this idea of walking in and feeling at home. You’ve mentioned it with at least 3 organisations you worked with, what do you think the secret is?
For me, it’s family. Coming from a broken family, a miners family, a family where you can fit in and others will accept regardless of how you look and how you speak. That they’ll love you for being you and all your rainbow shades no matter what.
How has it been moving online?
Before lockdown, we were blessed to have the opportunity to invite some of the get2gether members into the drop-in for the first Let’s Talk about Sex (LTAS). Members could explore what it was to put a condom on a demonstration penis as well as put a femidom onto a demonstration vagina. We could play with words, there were people at, did they have questions? That was just an absolutely awesome experience, but then of course we went into lockdown and things launched into zoom and outer space.
My initial reaction to moving onto zoom was ‘oh for goodness sake, seriously? I’m an old phoker now! What do you mean I’ve got to learn more technology?! I’m ill!’ – But honestly my heart just thought about people who have never used technology and the elderly and how are we all going to bond and keep in contact? When I realized that with the help of get2gether how easy it would be to press the buttons and connect onto zoom, although there are internet issues for everyone, once I had been buddied through that, it was okay.
The Wild Night In was amazing! Seeing everyone’s faces and having the tunes on.
The first four week course is a blur now but every course and every week has been inspirational. The fact that the course leads itself and we nudge it into that direction, has just been incredible. One of the things that blows me away is that it seems like the most normal conversation to have and there’s no ego, no competition. We very quickly realise it’s fun and it’s okay to talk and ask questions, have a giggle because guess what, we’re adults!
What has been the biggest learning from LTAS online in 2020-2021?
How easy it was once we all understood how important boundaries are, what consent is, what ‘no’ means and it is okay, and the million and one things that can follow, tools in our toolkits, how important conversation is when you’re considering getting into bed with someone, let alone a relationship, let alone a long term relationship.
Personally, how normal and easy this conversation can be. We just need to respect the individual and different voices in the room and we can all learn from each other, different gender, age groups or different bodies. None of that matters, it’s the journey and people knowing they have a safe space to come along and talk and ask questions.
What skills are you bringing to the team? And what skills has LTAS honed?
Listening skills, definitely. Children at the Royal Blind school were my first teachers in really listening. Tai Chi too, when your brain is going a million miles an hour. But definitely listening when I’m sitting in my house on my own looking at my computer screen and some of the technology is alien to me so I’ve really had to learn to listen. The group too listens to each other and everybody shows respect when someone’s talking and everyone feels like their voices are being heard individually and collectively. That’s a long time coming for this community.
What are your hopes for the future?
That this conversation will be an easier conversation for mainstream, for universities and colleges. That our conversations continue as they do, getting richer and richer each week and the groups will sustain the longevity. That funders will recognise the work we, and other organisations, have done and throw some money at us! We’re a community of limitations and this puts restrictions on our ability to walk the street and earn money as well as raise funds which is why we’re so dependent on funders.
What else would you like other people to know about?
Please join our conversation! It is absolutely awesome! The sessions we’ve run have shown it can be done, it can be so much more whilst still having fun.