By Neen Chapman
Connection is a strange word. It has multiple uses, from inanimate objects like Lego, connecting to build a Star Wars model
fighter; comforting connections with animals, such as cuddles
with my four kitty cats; physical chemistry between humans
that can range from a fleeting spark to a decades-long burning
desire; and then there’s spiritual fulfilment with a person, a
location, or a memory.
As I know it, connection between humans also has multiple
depths and meanings. I’ve always had varying depths or levels
of connections throughout my life. I’ve just turned 50 (no
celebration, yet, thanks, COVID-19) and in, let’s say, 30 years
of memory and experience, I can honestly say I’ve been lucky
to have two deep, emotional, life, laughter, love connections.
They were complex relationships, filled with honesty, absolute
joy, maddening frustration, intense love, grief, and tragic loss.
Mardi and Wayne will forever be the loves of my life.
Along the way, I’ve also had and have intellectual connections,
likeminded connections, community connections, supportive
connections, lost connections, kink connections, artistic connections, fleeting connections, and connections that return over
and over just when I think they have seen their day.
Connection with other humans, some say, is essential. I’m a bit
iffy on that one. I’m comfortable on my own and in my own
company. I’m never bored—I can either entertain myself or relax
and switch mostly off and be in a good space. I love long drives
in my Mini Cooper up to the mountains, to the bush, to the
beach, listening to music or just being still and in the quiet of
the moment. I have what I call “lite” connection with some work
colleagues, acquaintances, community friends, bi+ friends, and
some of my family. I know they’re there, and some check in from
time to time, but I don’t rely on others to buoy my headspace
and wellbeing. I’ve had years of practice. I’ve lived with DID
(Dissociative Identity Disorder) for over 23 years, and that kind
of disorder has trained me to rely on myself for so many reasons:
sometimes it’s just easier, sometimes I keep myself private and
on my own as a way of self-care, and with my flavour of DID
I’m never actually alone—25 alter personalities.
DID doesn’t mean that I hold special connections at bay, but
they are few, and I’m discerning. I have exceptionally beautiful
friendships within the bi+ community, here in Sydney and all
over the world. I have a wonderful, hilarious, comforting, intellectual, worldly, incredible friend who lives just up the road,
and we speak every night. We talk about everything. Always
have. I met her at the bus stop that takes us to work. She has
incredible hair, beautiful dreadlocks, and I have out there, cool
and interesting shoes. That’s how we met. I complimented her
on her hair, she on my shoes and, over three years later, here we
are, being each other’s COVID-19 girlfriend (carefully caring at a distance for each other while in isolation—if the cops ever
asked). We have such an honest connection in friendship and
life’s hardships, and it all started with dreadlocks and patent
I have an erstwhile lover who, over the years, has returned to my
life from time to time and, right now, he is a clear and calming
influence on my, at times, chaotic mind. He reminds me that
my own isolation is acceptable—but not to remain too long in
it—and that whatever I’m experiencing, feeling, thinking he accepts 100% as me. He is a breathtakingly beautiful Scottish man
whom I met when we were much younger. The intense young
man having an intense affair with a woman 10 years older. He
has his own demons, his own trials, and we sort of speak about
them, perhaps not as much as we should. Even so, I count him
as someone who knows me intimately in the most vulnerable
way—my true nature. This is the most mystifying and intense
connection I have and suspect I will ever have.
Then there is my big brother. A person whom I adore and admire, look up to, and am equal with. He’s been an unwavering
support, friend, counsel, fellow car enthusiast, ethical, and
intellectual conversationalist and just the best big brother for
the past 50 years. He’s struggling right now, and when we get to
talk, it’s with care and love and empathy for the difficulty he is
in with a young family, some health concerns, and uncertainty
of work and income all thanks to COVID-19. The main thing
is when he can, we do talk. We listen carefully to each other
and our concern and familiar connection is the most loving and
heartening of all my family relationships.
The thing is, as I said, I don’t rely on people for “connection,” to
feel grounded, to be in the world or of the moment. Maybe that makes me fortunate right now as we all face this crisis. That said,
I’m immensely grateful for good conversation, sharing laughter
and comforting counsel. My Beautiful Humans. I chose these
people and reveal all that I am with them. My strongest human
connections, these days, and always, have been these.
How has COVID-19 changed my connection—well, long drives
with music blaring and quiet barefoot walks on the sand or in
the forest are a no-no at the moment. Experiencing the moment
that I’m in. Breathing in the vastness of the universe, knowing
my very small place in it, and accepting that I rely on myself
for calm, for care, for self-management and for the health of my
mind. I hold my connection to the earth in as high esteem as I
hold my chosen Beautiful Humans.
What COVID-19 has done is to focus my efforts and clarify
my mind on exactly who/what I invest in. I love our bi+ community here in Australia and abroad. Beautiful cups of tea with
likeminded people with whom I never need to explain myself to
and have ease to talk and listen. Mostly one-on-one, occasionally
with several of us online, playing a game or telling stories. In
many cases it’s the same as it has been without COVID-19, as I
am, as they say, a loner, but I do miss our picnics and lunches. I
miss our meetings and conversations with our wonderful diverse
humans and the stories of their lives.
What I have done on purpose is turn Facebook, Instagram,
Twitter and news feeds off. The bombardment of hundreds of
posts and updates—even positive ones—got too much for me.
That’s working for me. My dear friends let me know anything
pertinent. The quiet is blissful. Real conversation and listening,
accepting my busy mind and allowing it to rest are my tools for
facing COVID-19. Making the effort with loved ones whoever they are and finding conversation other than the woes of the
world are keeping me from being too introverted.
So are playing trivia on Zoom, reading poetry to a friend, creating bi+ art, painting bi+ t-shirt/jacket patches, recycling old
world fabrics to make alternative fashion; these are the ways I
stay sane, engaged, and active outside of working from home.
COVID-19 is a virus that has physically separated us from the
beautiful humans in our lives. And it’s a shite way to spend
2020—no question about it—but maintaining or starting up
conversations, perhaps with more focused listening, reflection
and empathy is what we all can do. Use the internet wisely,
make phone calls, write letters—be old-fashioned in the 20th
century kind of way, arrange a footpath conversation, meet for
a distanced walk in the park or a coffee.
Connection doesn’t have to be with many, and the ones you
do have, and the ones you care for are exactly enough. You
don’t have to stay busy; you have permission to do nothing or
permission to breathe deeply and face the virus in whichever
way helps you. Your community is there. Will always be there.
Have a cup of tea over a video chat or a phone call; if allowed,
get a coffee and go for a walk in the sun with someone you can
listen to, call in to your bi+ and pan+ networks as I’m certain
they’re organizing ways for you all to see each other, listen to
each other, and remain connected to the real loved ones, the
Beautiful Humans in your beautiful bi+ life.
Neen Chapman is bi+ pan and out in all aspects of life and work,
recently 50 (how did that happen), silver haired-and loving being
the Vice President of Sydney Bi+ Network, housemaid to four lovely,
crazy kitty cats and deeply into history, reading, geology, documentaries, art, painting, poetry, equality, bi+ activism, politics, and kink.