FLINTA, PRIDE

“Queer love reconfigures the way you move through the world when, at last, you are touched softly, gently and with such tenderness”

by MERCY FERRARS W. DEIRDRE OLSEN

08/06/2022

Dei­dre Olsen is a queer award-nom­i­nat­ed Cana­di­an writer, jour­nal­ist and edi­tor. A gift­ed writer of both non-fic­tion and fic­tion, Deidre’s work has been fea­tured in pub­li­ca­tions such as The Cut, Vice, Refinery29, Now Mag­a­zine and Fash­ion Mag­a­zine to name a few.  Deidre’s social media reads like a beau­ti­ful love let­ter to les­bian­ism, and their per­son­al work reflects their event­ful life—from a case of sex­u­al vio­lence in Deidre’s child­hood to mar­ry­ing their pla­ton­ic part­ner. Fer­rars & Fields talks to Dei­dre about queer love and its part in the process of heal­ing from sex­u­al trauma.

FF: Dei­dre, your Twit­ter and Insta­gram read like a love let­ter to lov­ing women. Encap­su­lat­ing the spec­trum from pla­ton­ic mar­riage to heal­ing rela­tion­ships, what did it take to craft this life?

Dei­dre: For so long, I quan­ti­fied my self-worth by the amount of atten­tion boys and men paid to me. Grow­ing up with com­pul­sive het­ero­sex­u­al­i­ty, I was delud­ed into think­ing I was straight and should appease their appetites, no mat­ter the consequences.

At age 18, a girl’s arm brushed against mine in year­book class. Shocks rever­ber­at­ed through my body. I returned to that moment over and over again, even­tu­al­ly real­iz­ing I am gay. For ten years, I have open­ly and unapolo­get­i­cal­ly loved women. All the while, the jour­ney to lov­ing myself was far more tumultuous.

I have expe­ri­enced harass­ment for hold­ing women’s hands in pub­lic. Once, while walk­ing down Vancouver’s Com­mer­cial Dri­ve with my first girl­friend, a strange man appeared out of nowhere and draped his arm around our shoul­ders. “I would love to join you two wher­ev­er you’re head­ed.” I was shocked. On anoth­er occa­sion, as we left a queer night club, one that had been over­run with straight peo­ple, a group of large men encir­cled us, attempt­ing to ush­er us into their cab. I was hor­ri­fied. Oth­er times, while in pub­lic spaces enjoy­ing myself with a woman, I have been asked to join threesomes.

As a les­bian, your love of women is under con­stant attack. Men can­not con­ceive of desire that does not cen­ter them, espe­cial­ly the kind that express­ly excludes them. These said expe­ri­ences have been trau­ma­tiz­ing. There have been moments when I have been afraid to enjoy pub­lic dis­plays of affec­tion. But the more I have stood my ground, the bold­er and more unboth­ered I have become.

Now, lov­ing women takes cen­ter stage in my life. I cher­ish and rel­ish in my rela­tion­ships with women in all forms, whether with my part­ner, best friend, moth­er, grand­moth­er, sis­ter or dog. 

FF: In your work, you’ve told the sto­ry of mar­ry­ing your pla­ton­ic part­ner Chider­ah, with whom you’ve moved to Berlin. What set this spe­cial kind of com­mit­ment apart from oth­er rela­tion­ships in your life?

Dei­dre: While we are no longer pla­ton­i­cal­ly mar­ried and are pur­su­ing our sep­a­rate paths, we will alway be soul­mates. There is kinet­ic ener­gy between us that allows us to move moun­tains togeth­er. Our next pur­suit is to launch a social impact start­up, pro­vid­ing bet­ter health out­comes for mar­gin­al­ized peo­ple. I think rela­tion­ships of all kinds can be roman­tic. Sex needn’t be the bedrock. When you meet some­one who changes your life for­ev­er and shows up for you in a mean­ing­ful way, this is worth cel­e­brat­ing and championing. 

by Lisa Vlasenko / @li_nenoli

FF: The odds of meet­ing your soul­mate in life are scarce, all the more dur­ing a glob­al pan­dem­ic. Did the impact of meet­ing Chider­ah change how you move through the world? 

Dei­dre: Yes, def­i­nite­ly. It is rare to meet some­one who under­stands you so deeply, cham­pi­ons you and believes in your capac­i­ty to grow and change for the bet­ter. Authen­tic love is uplift­ing, helps you heal and love yourself.

FF: On the nature of soul­mates, do you believe them to be supratem­po­ral out­side of place or time? Or are they rather tem­po­rary com­pan­ions, much like oth­er social rela­tions in our lives, except sig­nif­i­cant­ly more profound?

Dei­dre: I don’t think soul­mates are tem­po­rary. I think, regard­less of the out­come of a rela­tion­ship, impact lasts for­ev­er. The impact of a soul­mate on you is incom­pa­ra­ble. 

FF: If we take anoth­er look at your social media, it is eas­i­ly per­cep­ti­ble that you have been on your heal­ing jour­ney for quite some time, and the ener­gy you emit is almost infec­tious. To the out­sider, your life seems almost like a film, or a dream per­haps. Do you have advice for those who are still strug­gling with their iden­ti­ty, their sex­u­al­i­ty, or their men­tal health? 

Dei­dre: As an artist, I am inter­est­ed in ugli­ness, which is some­thing most shy away from. We attach neg­a­tiv­i­ty to ugli­ness but it isn’t inher­ent­ly evil. It is hon­est, raw and unfil­tered. Human beings are com­plex. We are not just beau­ti­ful. We are ugly too, myself includ­ed. I enjoy being open and can­did about the hard parts, the ones peo­ple are scared of. The more we can sit with, come to terms with and hold space for these aspects of our­selves, the more we can grow to love them, tend to them and heal them. 

I nev­er want­ed to admit I am a vic­tim of child­hood sex­u­al abuse, that I have strug­gled with men­tal ill­ness, sub­stance abuse and self-destruc­tion my entire life or that I love women. But not doing so was the tougher choice. In speak­ing pub­licly about my expe­ri­ences, I have freed myself from their hold over me. I have learned to accept and love myself whol­ly. I am not the sum of my trau­ma or iden­ti­ty. Rather, these are forces that have shaped my life and who I am. 

by Tea @tb.mandala

My advice would be to offer your­self com­pas­sion, patience and under­stand­ing. The world responds harsh­ly to those of us who are unruly, unsight­ly and unkempt. Choose to love your­self despite it all and show up in the world in the way that makes you feel hap­py and alive.

FF: In prepar­ing for this inter­view, you con­fid­ed in me that lov­ing women has helped you in your process of heal­ing from sex­u­al abuse. What part does queer love play for you in this journey?

Dei­dre: My ear­li­est mem­o­ries are of sex­u­al vio­lence at the hands of a teenage girl—the babysit­ter who raped me when I was three-years-old—and the mea­sures my moth­er took to hold her account­able. It took two decades for me to unrav­el my les­bian iden­ti­ty from this trau­ma, believ­ing this expe­ri­ence made me gay. Lov­ing women has been heal­ing. First and fore­most, I have learned to feel safe and com­fort­able in my body, a place that I pre­vi­ous­ly wreaked hav­oc on. Self-destruc­tion has been a con­stant. Before I knew what bod­i­ly auton­o­my was, it was robbed from me. So, to make sure no one could hurt me, I hurt myself the most, whether through sub­stance abuse or self-neglect. Mak­ing my way back to myself has been pos­si­ble through queer love. When oth­ers have hurt you and you have hurt your­self, it recon­fig­ures the way you move through the world when, at last, you are touched soft­ly, gen­tly and with such ten­der­ness. Anoth­er person’s care slow­ly becomes your own.

FF: Is writ­ing anoth­er tool which aids in heal­ing from trauma?

Dei­dre: Yes, most def­i­nite­ly. Writ­ing is heal­ing and cathar­tic. The process of writ­ing my mem­oir is like per­form­ing an exor­cism on myself. It empow­ers me to expel my demons. 

FF: Would you share three works of fic­tion that have shaped how you con­cep­tu­al­ize life?

Para­ble of the Sow­er by Octavia But­ler.
Sta­tion Eleven by Emi­ly St. John Man­del.
Oryx and Crake by Mar­garet Atwood.

by Michelle Tar­tarot­ti @drewtart

FF: In just three words—what is queer love to you?

Free­dom. Safe­ty. Home


EDITED BY Lara Helena. FOTO Lisa Vlasenko / @li_nenoli (Cover)


Mer­cy Fer­rars is a MA grad­u­ate in phi­los­o­phy and writes fic­tion, poet­ry and non-fic­tion essays. She is mad­ly in love with Scot­land, dogs and Bojack Horseman.

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