QWS PODCAST S1E3 – CADANCE BELL
QWS Podcast S1E3 – To listen to the podcast click on this link from Words and Nerds.
In this episode Rob interviews Australian author, Cadance Bell, about her new memoir, The All of It: A Bogan Rhapsody. out July 2022, published by Penguin Random House. Full interview transcript below.
Blarney Books and Art book reviewer, Grace, reviews Perfect on Paper by Sophie Gonzales and From Darkness by Kate Hazel Hall. Books mentioned and reviews can be found on QUEER WRITES SESSIONS | Blarney Books and Art
Mentioned in this Episode
Cadance Bell website – https://ca.dance/
Queer blogs Rainbow Roo and I Miss Pockets.
Who I Am, the world’s first documentary exploring the intersection of gender diversity and neurodivergence.
QWS Podcast S1E3 – Cadance Bell interview transcript
Please note: this interview transcript has been modified for ease of reading.
Rob: Cadance, Cady, Bell is an Australian storyteller whose writing has appeared in publications, including The Guardian and the popular queer blogs Rainbow Roo and I Miss Pockets. She has written, produced and directed dozens of award-winning short films, music, videos, and TV commercials. Her documentary films include the Rainbow Passage for Network 10 and Screen Australia and Who I Am the world’s first documentary, exploring the intersection of gender diversity and neuro divergence.
She has performed at events such as Queer Stories, and the Antidote Festival at the Sydney Opera House in 2020 she shared a virtual stage with Dr. Anthony Fauci and Bill Gates with the Pop Lab Social Impact Incubator with her mission to ‘unmake prejudice’ by encouraging audiences to know LGBTIQA plus stories. Cady is a co-founder of Rainbow Day, which celebrates its 20th year and 2022 having raised almost $1 million for charitable causes. And she is the founder of ThreeKi which seeks to promote mindful kindness. She’s currently working on a science fiction novel, Letters to our Robot Son. Cadance lives in New South Wales with her fiancée, Amanda. She likes Pokemon Go and short walks to the fridge. She’s openly transgender and freaking loves burritos.
Cadance: Damn straight.
Rob: Hey, welcome to QWS podcast.
Cadance: Thank you, Rob so much for having me. And having heard that lovely, that very well read, bio I now realise it entirely too long.
Rob: <Laugh> well, I love it. It just covers such an amazing breadth and having just read your memoir, The All of It: A Bogan Rhapsody, which is out this month – Congratulations – It’s just so great to see that resume, you know, ‘cause we get to see parts of that throughout the book. And also All of it is just so well written and raw and funny and what came out, I think, very strongly for me reading it, was just your compassion. It was such a such a great read, so I wish it all the very, very best.
Cadance: Thank you so much. That’s very kind. I really appreciate that. Thank you so much for reading it as well. Every time I hear someone’s read it, I get a little, just a little bit delighted and the cumulative effect of that lately has been really wonderful.
Rob: Oh, fantastic. Look, we, we start each episode, Cadance, with an opening question that we ask all of our guests. And that question is “How has your work influenced your identity?”
Cadance: Yeah. How has my work influenced my identity? Isn’t that interesting? ‘Cause you often hear that the other way around. How has my work influenced my identity? Well, I guess you’d have to boil down, what it is that I do, and I’m a storyteller. And I actually think that storytelling is one of, if not our oldest tools. And I think that all of us, our sense of identity comes from a story that we tell ourselves.
That we are, you know, this person or that person, that we will do this, or we will do that, that we have done this and this makes us that way or, you know, we don’t like this about ourselves. And so I, I think when your identity is, is one of a storyteller and when your job is <laugh> as a storyteller, then I think that that can make for some really fun and interesting and introspective work, which is ultimately how you lead down to a path where you ended up with a memoir.
Rob: Yes, no, that’s brilliant. I love that. That’s such a, a great way of answering that question. And with your memoir I want to, for our listeners, I want to just read the summary we were provided. The blurb.
Cadance: I love it. It’s so cool.
Rob: So here we go. “Just seven years ago, Cadance was Ben. He looked like Hagrid on the dole, loveless, overweight, depressed, and blinking his life away in a haze of marijuana, vape and drug abuse whilst trying to find ways to suppress his girly streak. He loathed his body and resented every piece of boy clothing he owned. And it was only when he could sneak on a stolen bra underneath those boy clothes that he felt like his true self. As he slowly started to understand that he was suffering from gender dysphoria, he began to feel hopeful. His mindset changed. He began Hormone Replacement Therapy, hiked a mountain every day and planned a trip back to Mudgee to tell her parents that although her name was now Cadance, she was the same person inside as she had always been. Just a hell of a lot happier. Becoming Cadance was more than a gender transition: It was a transition in every way, fear to acceptance from self-loathing to love, anger to kindness.”
Again, congratulations. It’s just such a, such a great read and you know, this is your life. And I think probably listeners are sick of me saying it, but I always just have such deep admiration for, for any writer that does memoir. I just think it’s such an incredibly brave thing to do. So for you, with the book coming out, and as you mentioned, you know, you’re having people read it. How is that for you seeing, you know, this, this part of you out in the world?
Cadance: It is. Look, it’s a trip. It really is. My mum is actually with me at the moment. We’re in New Zealand today and she’s been sitting there reading the book <laugh> sitting out at cafe tables. I came out this morning to find her out the front of the hotel, reading the book and showing it the strangers. And <laugh> and it has actually been really, really surreal to see it as a packaged product and, you know, seeing people hold it and absolutely delightful. Now you actually have the old blurb, I think for the book, actually there’s a new one that people will probably find, I think, on pen’s website.
So I like that one, and that definitely deals with the part of the story that I, I guess that I’d never figured that I would tell anybody about that girl side. I thought that was like a secret that I was going to take to the grave. And instead here I am, I’m finding all these weird and wacky stories <laugh> and packaging them up and telling the world some of the most intimate details. So it, it is kind of surreal yeah, and a little bit terrifying, but it’s a lot of fun as well. It’s a celebration.
Rob: Yeah. Fantastic. And does is there a feeling of liberation with having your truth out there, like this?
Cadance: Liberation? I don’t think so. No, I wouldn’t call it liberation. I think maybe like a degree of validation, I think. When you carry a story like this and when you’ve lived you know, through what have been some really crazy and wild and often fun and often really intense experiences. To be able to recount that from the safety of having the distance of, you know overcome so much. Yeah. It can be very valid to be able to go, okay. I have made it so far that I’m able to talk about it. Because when you’re in the, the thick of a storm, the last thing you wanna do is, is go, wow, look at this, <laugh> in your head between your knee, but now I can be like, oh no, I can see how that could be funny.
Rob: Yeah. And so we’re about say two thirds of the way through, I think it’s just on page just over page 301 had. And if you don’t mind, if I can just read a, a short excerpt?
Cadance: Yeah. I have the book here with me. I’m going to follow along. This is the first time I’ve heard somebody else read it to me.
Rob: Oh, right. And this is you know, one, obviously one of the lowest points and this is where you break the fourth wall. And you know, we’re reading and then suddenly we, we have;
“And you reader. Yes. You, you were there. Do you feel that it’s strange, isn’t it, that feeling of being outside your own head, aware of your thoughts, you were reading this chapter of my book, and now you wonder if you are being read it’s okay. I don’t mean to scare you, but that Thursday afternoon in the prison cell of the Aubrey police department, I thought of you, you helped me transcend the chaos.”
I mean, it’s just beautiful, like and so unexpected because, you know, we’re three quarters of the way through the book at this stage. In that moment, is this, when you, you knew you wanted to start sharing your experience and story? Or was it to do with this particular event in your life, which, you know, was horrific?
Cadance: I think a bit of both.
Cadance: We said at the outset of the chats today, we talked a little bit about how you know, we are for storytellers. That’s how we define our identities. And so to an extent yes, that part of me that tends to be a little bit more open to sharing my life definitely pocketed that one and went, “Okay. We’ll deal with it later.”
Cadance: Yeah. But there was also another part of me that I think a lot of trans and, you know, non-binary people and look other queer people as well, and people of other identities that they keep secret. I think to a degree we often do tend to live outside of our heads a little bit. Live outside of our bodies a little bit, right?
In order to just transcend and get through without there being too much friction, because that’s what gender dysphoria is at the end of the day, it’s friction. It’s your body going, “Hey, this isn’t right.” And if you experience that enough times in the day, enough times in an hour, it can start to slow you down and it can make you quite miserable. And so one of the ways that we learned to deal with that is to transcend it. Is to kind of ignore part of ourselves in order to be able to get through the day. And so I think that that became a coping mechanism that I developed in my teens, but then the artistic side of me captured that and carried it forward. So I, I don’t think it was any one thing. I think it was a, a little bit of that, that natural storyteller in me. That storyteller of identity, but it was also that part of me that was shutting down what was an absolutely intense and really awful experience and being able to just be out of it for a moment.
Because otherwise I think I would’ve crushed like a can. It was such an incredible thing to go through. So, and yet again, it’s one of those surreal things where I can be here many years later and look back on it and be able to talk about it and still remember that feeling of one day I will write this if I can survive it, that’s my reward is being able to share what has been an unbelievable event.
Rob: I just, you did it, so, so well, and you know, that power in you reclaiming the story and the truth about what happened. Yeah. And look throughout your book, obviously there’s some pretty dark stuff, but you also, I love the humor and the way that you’ve approached. Do you think if I can just read out another, just little excerpt, and there were so many as I was going through, I was just like, I was just wanting to get the highlighter out, even though it was a PDF. <Laugh>
I just want read this one out for our listeners.
“I see his scrotum hanging through the holes. He wore a blue jumper covered in mystery stains, like a hillbilly Jackson Pollock. He invited me inside where his cat walked in and crapped on the carpet in front of us. Sorry about that. He said then like a bad magic trick. He wiped the cat shit into the carpet with his bare feet.”
<Laugh> That’s just brilliant. I love it so much. It’s just, for you. Is that just always been, has it been like a family thing? You know, humor
Cadance: Very much so. Very much so. I’m with my mom at Auckland at the moment and yeah <laugh> I think I’d get that from her actually. She tends to reduce a thing to something really impactful. She can really turn a phrase, but it’s also a great way of even dealing with something intense by making it really funny. So yeah. I, I love that one as well. However, it’s yet again, one of many, oh my God. I can’t believe I’m sharing this moment. <Laugh> yeah. At the time it was just, yeah, no, this is Tuesday, but these days it’s like, “Oh my God. How about that time? When, so, and so did a thing.” So, yeah.
Rob: Well, I think as a reader, I think, you know, with just the rawness and the amount of honesty that came through, just made us engage and just love you because you were sharing everything and it’s just like I had mentioned before, I think it’s incredibly brave, but it’s also gives us that sort of, I don’t know, I don’t want to say empathy training, like Scott Morrison, it give us an insight into your life and your experience. And just so grateful for you for sharing that.
Cadance: Well, thank you. And can I just say that if anybody is listening to this and would like to turn that book into the value of Scott Morrison’s empathy training, I would be happy to take your money on that one.
Rob: Excellent. You heard that here.
Cadance: Please chuck us a couple of hundred thousand dollars my way for Cady’s Bogan empathy training. Thank so saying really warms my heart to know you’ve come away grown as a person from reading my book. That feels incredible.
Rob: Well, I am gonna ask you a Cis education question. Hope you don’t mind?
Cadance: Let’s do it.
Rob: All right. The use of your dead name, which like in the summary that I read. In the book you mentioned about not-name for our listeners, what is your view on, on this? You just touch on it briefly in the book about dead name versus not-name?
Cadance: Well, The All of It is more of a book about gender dysmorphia than it is about transitioning. However, I cover some of those issues around trans a little bit later in the book. And as I describe it, I view it as Ben was an error, like the sixties. So, Ben happened, but isn’t happening now. The way that the sixties did. So that’s the way that I tend to view it. And as a consequence, I’m okay with it. Like, it feels uncomfortable, it really does, in the same way that if somebody gets your name just wrong generally it’s awkward. It really is awkward. Now you have to imagine that if that name was associated with an era of your life that was really traumatic, pick whatever that is, death or disease or something, the it’s just an era of your life. You just appalled. If you heard that every time, that’s what it feels like to be misgendered.
And so it’s still there for me. But I don’t ignore the past and I’m quite willing to be able to look back on it, hence the, you know, 400 odd pages of memoir – but for a lot of people that feeling of being put back into that moment where they felt just absolutely wrong in their bodies that’s just too confronting. And if you hear it too many times, it can actually really defeat you. It can just make you feel like, oh my God, I’m just not getting ahead.
So yeah, the general etiquette is just to be with whoever you are with. So if that person says to you that that’s who they are, that’s what their pronouns are, that’s what they are. We all change throughout our lives and it doesn’t cost anything to be nice to another person. And that’s what the right pronouns are. That’s what the right name is. It’s just a kindness, just like smiling or wishing somebody a good day.
Rob: Of course. Absolutely. Thank you. Yeah. And it’s yeah, to not do it is, seems quite willful as well and disrespectful.
Cadance: It’s okay to make mistakes though.
Rob: Ah, yeah. It’s
Cadance: It’s important to remember that everybody does. I mean my mum did last night. She did, we were wandering through the casino here at <laugh> to Auckland ‘cause we are classy, you know, we fly out from <laugh> from Bathurst in Australia. Soon as we get to Auckland, of course we’re going to go to a casino <laugh> we were wandering around last night and she misgendered me then because she has, you know, a few decades of memories me as Ben. So I can forgive that because there’s no malice there. So as long as it’s a genuine mistake it’s fine.
Rob: Yeah. Fantastic. and yeah, you, so do you go back to I’m a Kiwi, so I please forgive me if I’m saying the town wrong – monkey?
Cadance: I love that. That is fantastic. I had never actually thought about it. Yeah. Mudgee is how you say it, but monkey, that is, that is so cool. When you were reading it, what, what sound were you reading in your head?
Rob: Like I was seeing the word mud and then I was like GE and there was like monkey I trying with my Australian accent. Yeah.
Cadance: That’s not bad. That’s a pretty good run at it. Yeah, <laugh>
Rob: Apologies to anyone from Mudgee.
Cadance: Yeah. I don’t get back to Mudgy too often these days I live in Bathurst, which is only 90 minutes away. But my partner manager and I live fairly busy lives. So instead we try to have our little adventures like grabbing my nearest mom and dragging her to Auckland for a few days. Yeah. Sorry.
Rob: Its a pretty awesome casino really.
Cadance: To be fair when I booked it, I didn’t realise. I just thought oh yes, go city. That sounds delightful. It sounds like something outta SVA. I’m gonna must be a really classy marketplace, surrounded by churches and <laugh> other ways to be charitable, but no, it’s actually quite nice here. I’m not gonna complain.
Rob: Oh, fantastic. You also mentioned a term cracking your egg. Can you explain a little bit about that? And that was, for you quite a like a pivotal moment. Is that fair to say?
Cadance: Yeah. For those that who aren’t familiar with it, cracking your egg is a term. It basically means that you figured out you’re trans. It’s that moment where you go, “Oh my God, that makes so much sense now.” It’s not the moment where you come out and you go to people, “Hey yo, I’ve switched genders.”
It’s that moment where you are figuring it out yourself – cracking your egg it’s called. And honestly I, I’m not gonna say I wish everybody could try it. Because <laugh>, I think that that would well, I think that’s what, you know, Scott Morrison fears and needs his empathy training for, but I do think that it is one of those things in life that you can experience in many different ways.
It could be that you realise that you were always supposed to be a painter or that you realise that you really, really love your partner and you go, “You know what, I’m gonna propose.” or you really, really love a house, or a kitten that you pick up. And I think that cracking your egg is that moment when you realise that your life is taking a new direction.
Cadance: And you’re along for the ride.
Rob: Brilliant. I love that. Cracking your egg. Now, L S D
Cadance: Oh, I love LSD.
Rob: <laugh> I just, I thought it was really, I thought you portrayed it really well in the book. And the reasonings, you know, behind you wanting to start trying it.
Rob: How influential was it? For you to be able to process, to begin to process a lot?
Cadance: Yeah. The first thing that I would say is not to, I wouldn’t wanna run the risk of conflating, you know, gender identity or sexuality or anything like that with, you know, psychedelics. I think that there might be a lot of people in conservative circles that might fear that that’s the fad that’s gonna have everybody smashing avocados, <laugh> transitioning and it’s gonna, you know a ahole new way for the kids, right?
But look, I think that it helps me see myself in the perspective of everything else. Yeah. When you are in the thick of depression or there’s something going on in your life that is just so intense that your entire thought patterns reduced to how to deal with the day to day of surviving. You forget that there is not just so much more beautiful stuff out there, but also that the world and the universe are so massive that in the scheme of things you know, your problems, they can be overcome. And once you have the capacity to, to be able to see outside yourself and be able to reprioritize things and open those, those pathways that allow that self-discovery you can start to affect some changes in your life.
Cadance: I mean there are a lot of trials in psychology at the moment where they are trialing, and I think there’s some MDMA trials, there’s multi trials. Yeah. And in Australia, of course we have just medicinal cannabis as well. And so we are definitely starting to experiment with ways of people using their mind in a way that they’re driving their experience. Because they can actually look at the, I would describe it as like those cameras, I dunno if you’ve driven a car that has them, but lots of cars these days have reverse parking cameras.
Some of the newer ones have that cool top down view where you can actually see the car as good hovering it, but ah, they look so awesome because they’ve taken an amalgam of all these different cameras around the car and they create this like stitch together picture. And I, I think that psychedelic experiences can do that to an extent they can take all these different aspects of your life and just mash it together into this experience, which if interpreted in a safe environment, you know, and with, you know, support from a healthcare professional, including your doctor and your psychologist, like it, it can actually be quite a transformative experience. But I would, wouldn’t actually say it was the LSD that ended up helping me crack my egg. I think it was self-improvement generally it was walking that out.
Rob: Right. Yep.
Cadance: That did it, which I need to do more of <laugh>.
Rob: Oh yeah. I think, I think all of us need to get that Fitbit back on.
Cadance: I didn’t realize it until I was on the plane coming over.
Cadance: Yeah. I mean, I flew business. Thank God. But <laugh> even then I was like, yeah. Okay. It’s been two years since I’ve been on a plane three years. Yeah. Alright. I’ve definitely gained some weight cuz it feels heavier than last time, so yeah. I’ll have to work on that.
Rob: Oh yeah. What do they call it?
Cadance: COVID kilos.
Rob: With, with the LSD though, like you know, I’ll just say to the listeners like read the book because in context I just think it was beautiful. Just, you know, showing how you were reconnecting, like you say with world, and I think it was really well done. And then in conjunction with everything else that, that you started to do, like you chose a life really. Would that be fair to say?
Cadance: I think that would be very fair to say. I simply chose to live at the end of the day. That’s what it boils down to. I went, look, I’ve seen the worst of it. And now I wanna see the rest of it. I made that decision to just turn everything around and I’m grateful every day that I did.
Rob: The way you communicated that throughout the book. When you make those choices is just very, very well, well done. Fantastic. We have a writing question which is just around any advice or top tips for writers out there, and particularly emerging writers, or beginning writers as well.
Cadance: I’m sharing some advice that was given to me a long time ago in Mudgy. Some people might know it as Mudgy <laugh> and <laugh> there was an author who was coming through town. His name was Peter Watts and he was absolutely delightful and I stopped by and I asked him the same question when I was about 16. So, this was back in the bad old days when I was Ben.
And I went into the corner store the, the corner bookstore back in the day when there were multiple book stores in his town. And I met Peter at this signing and I asked him that question. He said, “Persevere.” He said that that is the word that you’ll have to ingrain into your memory if you want to make it as a writer, “Persevere.”
<laugh> You know, that was more than half my life ago now and he was right. If there was anything that I was going to say to writers who might be listening, it’s just stick with it because you never know the way in which your life might change, that you finally adopt what it is that you’ve been missing, that makes your work really pop.
And sometimes it’s not that your work isn’t good. And sometimes it’s just a matter of you haven’t found your audience. And the only way that you can both make your work good and find your audience is to persevere and to be available, to take those opportunities when they come cuz one thing leads to another and eventually yeah, you find yourself staring down the barrel of signing your own book. <Laugh> which is so really surreal. And I want that for you as well, Listener.
Rob: Fantastic. That is excellent advice. I love that. And yes. So true. Yeah. It’s a marathon.
Cadance: <laugh> very much so.
Rob: And something we also ask all our guests is a shout out. So how can listeners connect with you on socials? Or are there any events you’d like to mention with the book coming out? And then any LGBTI QA plus artist, books, authors, shows, organizations, social media accounts that you would like to mention. So it’s a bit of a double barreled question.
Cadance: I like it. All right. Okay. Well to find me just go to www dot Cadance. So it’s www.ca dance is the coolest name ever. That’s the entire domain name ca.dance Cadance with Cadance. I know. How cool is that? Or just Google Cadance Bell with Cadance with an a. You’ll find me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. I’m barely on Twitter. So I’m terrible with social media, but please ca.dance. And please sign up to my newsletter. I am actually giving away a Samsung Galaxy Tab A eight, 10.1 inch to one lucky person who signs up to my newsletter by June 30. So, it’s called story circle. And yeah, you can find out about my new books what I’ve got coming out and talks and events and, and the like, and you may even win a copy of my new book and that call it a Samsung tab.
And I would love to shout out my friend’s Naomi’s new film. It’s actually the reason that I am in New Zealand at the moment and I’m going to the premiere of it. Now it’s a little self-serving because I’m also the producer of the film. But <laugh>, I think it’s absolutely delightful. It is called Who I Am and it’s the world’s first documentary that explores the intersection between gender variance and neuro variance. So neuro diversity and gender identity AKA. So, it is this delightful film that follows a teenager on the spectrum as they discover who they are with the help of their animated characters. So, we’ll have more information about where that’ll be available. That’s coming soon to a major streamer and it’s just about to begin a small theatrical run. So that’s, Who I Am.
Cadance: Yeah. Keep an eye for it. Soon. It’s Miami Balls, the band that I produced.
Rob: Great. Well, we’ll have links to your website and to information on who I am on our show notes, as well as a transcript.
Cadance: Love it.
Rob : And our closing question, thank you so much, I could talk to you all day.
Rob: Is, “What is your hope for the LGBTIQA plus communities?”
Cadance: Wow. Love. So many of your questions have been so lovely and positive, and this is one of those, what do I have so many hopes for the LGBTIQA plus communities. First of all, I do hope that we can get the letters down to something a bit shorter one day, some sort of an acronym that doesn’t make you feel like your teeth are falling out as you say it. But I think one of my hopes would be that we get to tell more of our own stories. I think that there was a lot of damage that’s been done over the decades by seeing queer stories that weren’t from queer storytellers. And as a consequence, that damage has come in the form of people not realising who they were because of stereotyping or because of bad representation at the end of the day.
So I hope that more of us get to tell our own, our own stories are good authentically. And there’s real value in that as well, because we have the experience that you could not pay to get, you have to live in our shoes. And that means that we get to tell all the funny stories and the sad stories and the hopeful stories, and you get tremendous value out of our stories by queer people. Because they bring their lived experience with them. And so I just want, that’s my hope. I want more of those really good stories that connect with people so that we can all be known.
Rob: Love that. That’s beautiful. Thank you. Thank you very much. Cadance. It’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the show. So, The All of It: A Bogan Rhapsody by Cadance Bell is out now. Thanks again Cadance and enjoy the casino!
Cadance: Thank you Rob, I will!