July 23, 2020
Comedian and podcaster Deborah Frances-White joins Jameela this week to discuss trans rights, the process of finding her birth mother, finding fulfillment outside of having children, the journey of her sexuality, and her podcast The Guilty Feminist.
16 — Deborah Frances-White
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the “I Weigh” podcast with Jameela Jamil. I hope you’re well. I’m fine. Still nothing going on. Still fuck all. It’s just getting worse. Everything. Getting worse, everything getting dirtier. Just devolving will just be a puddle of a human being, by the end of this, just nothing but a big pile of goop. So hopefully you are doing better than I am at human-ing and adulting because this is not pretty. Anyway, I am excited to speak to actual adult Deborah Frances-White today, who you may know as the “Guilty Feminist” is one of the most successful podcasts in the world. They’ve had way over 70 million downloads by now, and it is just a funny, irreverent, safe space for people who care about feminism and care about causes, in particular, those that affect women and gender nonconforming people. But they themselves have some hypocrisies or they’ve made mistakes or they continue to be ignorant and have stuff to unlearn. It’s a safe space for everyone to learn together and have those difficult conversations and own up to your flaws in a society that expects us all to be perfect and fully informed on everything. So I obviously, as someone who refers to herself as a feminist in progress, I’m someone who really I really resonate with this idea. And I believe in not shaming people for wanting to learn. And I think it’s really important to inject comedy wherever you can into these incredibly important discussions. So I was super lucky to get the busiest comedian around at the moment to come and talk to me about so many different issues. She’d have such a fascinating life and she was so open with me and she’s so informed on everything that she speaks about. It was just very, very thoughtful and interesting. We talked about what it was like for her being adopted as a baby and then tracking down her birth mother. We talked about her decision to not herself have children and instead choose her career and make that decision. And we talked about trans rights because it’s something that Deborah really cares about, similarly to me. She’s very vocal about the fact that trans women are women and feminism that doesn’t include them is not feminism at all. And we talked about her sexuality. Recently, in the last couple of years, Deborah has come out as bisexual and she talks me through that journey with her husband and how she is exploring her sexuality and what that means for their relationship. She was just so open and hilariously, he was in the room. He was producing her side of the podcast, and he just kept his headphones on and listened to music throughout so that she could talk openly about her bisexuality and experiences with other people without him listening. So thanks to him, he’s a legend for sticking around for the podcast episode. And I really hope you enjoy this. This is the “Guilty Feminist” herself, Deborah Frances-White. Deborah bloody Frances-White, the “Guilty Feminist” herself. Hello and welcome to “I Weigh”.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:03:09] Thank you so much for having me. Can you hear my cat? She’s trying to get it out. It sounds. I feel like the patriarchy keeping her out, to be honest with you.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:03:17] Yeah.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:03:18] ‘Cause she’ sort of, she’s protesting. She’s protesting. She’s banging at the door. She’s crying. I feel like I might just let her in because I think it’s going to, she’s going to be less loud if she comes in. Toastie. She doesn’t want to come in now. This is, this is the cat for you, because she’s a protester cat.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:03:31] Classic women. Not knowing what they want.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:03:32] Has to stand there for a while and go, not sure. Yes, I’m okay. I’m okay. I mean, the news is unbelievable.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:03:40] Yeah.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:03:40] And yeah, all the time horrendous. But I’m okay, myself.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:03:47] Okay. Good. I’m glad. Thank you so much for coming on this podcast. I had the great pleasure of going on yours recently with my good friend, Scarlett Curtis, who’s also been on this podcast before. And I had a lovely time and we talked many things that I am very interested in and I would love to get the chance to pick your brain further today about all things-.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:04:06] Oh, can’t wait.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:04:07] Mental health and feminism and shame. Really. My favorite topic. My absolute obsession. Before we get started, I wanted to ask you something, because this is something that I’m receiving a lot of recently. You know, I think when you step out into the world as a feminist, as, you know, pro women’s rights, etcetera, I think certain people develop a certain expectation of you to always aligned with all of their views. And lately, with the rampant wave of new very public transphobia, transphobia has always existed. But it’s very public and now we’re having more and more powerful people join in to perpetuate misinformation or fear mongering. You and I and many other people have started to step out in defense of trans women in particular, but all trans people. But the fear mongering tactics seem to all be mostly pointed in the direction currently at trans women, especially when it comes to sharing protected women’s spaces. I get an unbelievable amount of pushback from other women for taking a stance of defending trans women. And I was wondering if you do, too, because you’re very vocal and you are very vocal about the fact that you feel safe in that company and you believe in their right to protection.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:05:22] Yeah, I mean, it, the thing that I feel is when you know any number of trans women. Trans people in general tend to be quite vulnerable, sometimes in their personality, for really obvious reasons. If you get on a bus, on a night bus, coming back in London, you know, after a party at 1:00 a.m., there might be a certain amount of jeering if you’re a woman at certain points, you might get on. And if you’re in a party dress or something, you might get a bit of catcalling, a bit of “oy oy”. And, you know, we’ve all experienced that. But we all know anecdotally that if a trans woman gets on and she does not pass for a cis woman, there will be consistent giggling, elbowing, cheering, cheer-. And you can see how that can turn into something violent really quickly. So that’s what-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:06:28] As it most often does.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:06:29] Yeah, yeah, I think a lot of the time it does. And we all know that anecdotally, because we have all double, done a double take at a trans person, because our world is very binary and we have been instructed what women are to look like and what men are to look like, we’ve been, everything’s coded. So sometimes it looks unusual to us because since we were very small, we’ve seen images of women and we’ve seen images of men. And my friends who are, my friends who are cis women with masculine gender expression also get this. They also get people in the loo going, the men’s loos over there, and they say, yes, I know, but I’m a woman. We are so binary and we’ve been raised for the binary. So we’ve, we’ve all done double takes and go, oh, is that person trans? So can you imagine the amount of little micro signals coming at you if you’re trans all the time?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:07:27] Yeah.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:07:27] Of people double taking. People, you know, people, liberal people trying to make a nice, supportive, nodding face at you to go, you know. Oh, I approve. Other people being aggressive. Someone was saying, the other day a trans woman came in for a job interview and someone, was telling me about it. And it was just, it was nobody I really knew. But someone was telling me about it and saying, oh, you know, we didn’t quite know what to do. And they weren’t being, they weren’t going, I would never hire a trans person, but their, their attitude was I’ve never met anyone trans before and I didn’t quite know how to handle it. And that trans woman coming in for that job knows that. She knows I might be the first trans person that this person has knowingly met. And I have to do all of the handling to make this okay, to make this person comfortable. Before I even think about what they’re going to get the job. I’m probably not gonna get the job because they’re going to think I don’t want to be uncomfortable again. And I don’t know how to deal with this. So the amount of micro aggressions. It’s, it must be so exhausting to be trans. That and costly and frightening that I can only think that you would only be trans if you had to be trans. So in other words, a trans woman must be a woman because there is no other reason you would live with the, the consequences of being trans, under the current power structures. So being trans joyful, but being trans in this world, very fraught with fear, fraught with exhausting interactions, fraught with, with legal ramifications. All sorts of things, if you want medical treatment. All sorts of every moment of every day must be an obstacle to be gotten over if, unless you’re in your house or with your safe people, whoever they are. But even your own family may have disowned you, you know, or certainly had a difficult time getting to know you on the outside as you feel on the inside.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:09:44] Yeah.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:09:44] And I, I cannot help but feel as a woman, an enormous kinship with women who find it even harder than me to be a woman. You know, I find it hard to be a woman, but I’m in a body wherever everyone goes, yeah, you’re a woman. And now we’re going to treat you like this. Now we’re going to make it a little bit harder and go, are women funny? Can we women do comedy? All of those things that I experience as a woman, can you imagine that, times by a thousand. Because they’re, they’re actually questioning, are you even a woman before you’ve even begun? I can’t even imagine what next level of exhaustion that would be. And so I understand why the trans women in my life often are fragile, come across as fragile, or they tell me if I know them well, I’m feeling fragile at the moment, or I’m feeling exhausted or I’m feeling scared. So for me, that woman in my pub-, sharing a public loo with a woman who is more vulnerable, more fragile and more scared than me. I feel like, yeah, come in, sister. I don’t want you in the men’s loo. No, I really, really don’t.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:10:51] Statistically.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:10:52] You are likely. Oh. Oh. Oh, couldn’t. Couldn’t. So yeah, I did get pushback sometimes from women but my base point maybe. I don’t know. What do you think about this? Is that hopefully a lot of the women that are pushing back at the moment, haven’t had many real life experiences with trans women. They didn’t know that many trans women, they’ve, not their experience, has not been one where they’ve been able to sit down with trans women. And hopefully when they do, as our society evolves, this issue will go away and be replaced by compassion.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:11:33] But that’s what people are afraid of, which is why the people who are in charge of legislation, you know, who are now citing J.K. Rowling’s tweets or essays as part of their legislative discourse, those people are afraid that there might be a time in which we are a trans friendly society and there is enough equality that we can all be exposed them. So therefore are doing everything, doing that bloody damnedest to keep trans people out of our society and to make it as difficult as possible to transition in a physical sense. And so.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:12:07] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:12:07] It’s just I was, I barely slept last night because I was up, so, I was so upset with the choices and this isn’t like a let’s bash J.K. Rowling session. But I was so upset because I have so many trans friends and I am so scared for them all the time, more so weirdly now, I can’t believe in 2020, I’m more afraid for them now than I was even just a couple of years ago because of how rampant the rhetoric against their existence is. And it feels like it has definitely picked up in such a mainstream way in a way that really scares the shit out of me. And so I appreciate you for standing up against that. And I want any woman listening to this that you are not a, you are not a bad feminist for standing up for trans women in your protected spaces or for their rights. And you are not a men’s rights activist, because trans women are women. These are some of the things that get thrown at those of us who stand up for trans women. They are women. And statistically, they are way more danger than we are if we forced them into men’s spaces than if we welcome them into ours. And this, I mean, this applies everywhere. But, and I’m sorry to be so emotional. It’s just that we’ve-, it’s just been, there’s been so much in the news lately and it’s just making me boil. I was just up sweating and angry and Instagramming all night. Ignorant fights that I’m having with people and so many cis people who clearly don’t know any trans people telling me that I should, “good vibes”. You know, I should put out good vibes only and stop calling out injustice when I see it. You can’t. Good vibes your way to hu-, like human rights. That hasn’t worked.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:13:45] Well-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:13:45] I mean, I dunno, Deborah, am I wrong? Was I just not good vibing enough? Have trans people or black people or disabled-, have we just not? Has no one been good vibings enough?
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:13:54] No, not enough good vibing. Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:13:55] Fuck. I’m certain of that.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:13:57] You should’ve thought about that.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:13:57] Yeah.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:13:57] We should’ve thought of that generations ago. More good vibes.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:14:00] That’s what we needed.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:14:02] Didn’t need Stonewall, just good vibes. Didn’t need the Civil Rights movement. Just good vibes. Didn’t need abolitionists. Just good vibes.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:14:09] Yeah.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:14:10] I think.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:14:12] Gandhi.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:14:12] Honestly, I think that is, I don’t want to hear about this. It sounds difficult. I think that’s the response.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:14:18] That’s another thing is that I look to trans women. I look to trans people when I need that extra source of inspiration of how to push out of the box that I’m being forced into. They are the definition of that. And we have so much that we can learn and so many of us have learned from them. And so I appreciate you as a feminist who proudly names herself a feminist who makes sure to use your profile. I mean you have a bloody huge podcast. The “Guilty Feminist” is massive. I think you’re at 70 million downloads now?
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:14:51] 75.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:14:53] 75 million bloody downloads.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:14:56] Thank you to everyone who’s downloaded and listened, I have to say.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:14:59] No. Exactly.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:14:59] ‘Cause that’s not me. It’s not me at all. I can’t take credit for that. I barely ever download it.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:15:03] It’s actually Deborah. She just listens again and again and again and again. That’s all she’s doing.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:15:10] It’s just me on a loop.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:15:10] She has it on repeat.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:15:10] So many different devices in my house. I’ve got a hundred devices and they all play the “Guilty Feminist” all the time. Wall to wall. No, I barely downloaded it. It seems vain. It seems rude to download your own podcast.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:15:20] Seems rude and weird. Ok. So but you, you have become this kind of beacon of hope for women out there and for people, men, I mean, nonbinary people, everyone out there who thought that they didn’t have a place in feminism because they weren’t perfect. They didn’t have all of the updated information or they, you know, they felt like they’d made some mistakes or had some views that stood with the patriarchy. They felt like they could never enter into feminism. And you just sort of like kicked that door open. You were like, no, we can all learn on the job. We’ve all made mistakes. We’ve all been, you know, guilty of some hypocrisy or we’ve all been the, you know, the conditioning has seeped in somehow and it’s seeped back out into the world via us. That doesn’t exclude you from feminism. There’s always hope for you. And so for anyone out there, I mean, one of the I guess the 70 million. For anyone out there who hasn’t yet heard Deborah’s podcast, I strongly suggest you do, because it just makes you feel very welcome and very seen and way less alone in your plight of feminism. One of my favorite things about it is, of course, the classic I’m a, “I’m a feminist, but”.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:16:28] Yes.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:16:29] And I think I answered yours with? What did I say? That I.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:16:32] Oh, yes, what’s your I’m a feminist but?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:16:33] My, my, my I’m a feminist, oh yeah, “I’m a feminist, but” I’ve never, ever farted in front of a lover.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:16:40] I mean.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:16:40] And I believe in equal poo and equal fart rights for us. But I have never, ever farted in front of a lover. And I think I told you that I was worried that I’d only gotten a dog just to be able to find peace during lockdown because I’m, you know, were confined in. The doors are closed. I can’t get away. So, you know, it’s better out than in.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:17:00] How does the dog help that, though?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:17:02] Blame it on the dog.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:17:03] Blame it on the dog. I see, I see.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:17:05] I’m sure you’re blaming something on your cat.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:17:08] I, see the thing is, I do not do scatology at all. I’ve got a massive, I know, and I know I’m a feminist but. I do not do it at all. I can’t. I find it really tricky. And I wish I didn’t. I think it’s because I grew up in Australia and it was so much loo humor. I was like, oh, God, stop it. Stop it. Stop it. So I. Yeah. I can’t do it at all. But I do think it’s a classic “I’m a feminist, but” because it is, it is, Jameela, I think it’s a good one. It’s a classic one because it is, and I’m from a spot is where your values and your actions do not meet.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:17:41] Yes.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:17:42] And yeah, I was saying one today “I’m a feminist, but” I sometimes have sexual fantasies about being dominated sexually by famous fictitious misogynist, Don Draper from “Mad Men”. I mean.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:18:02] You also have a great one about a plane. Will you do you. “I’m a feminist, but”?
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:18:05] I will. I will. And I just wanna say before anyone writes in, I know that there is absolutely nothing unfeminist about domination. And-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:18:12] Yes.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:18:12] BDSM, of course. But I do feel the addition of famous fictitious misogynist Don Draper may add a-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:18:19] Yeah.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:18:20] It adds a twist. Oh, okay. So this is a true one. “I’m a feminist, but”. One time I was getting on a plane from Cape Cod to Boston and the pilot asked me in front of everyone how much I weighed, so he could determine how much fuel to put on the plane so he could safely fly it and landed. And I lied by 20 pounds, putting into danger my life, the life of the other passengers, the pilot and a border collie who was along the ride. But on the way over, halfway over, you know, those little planes where they take like six people. They get shaky in the breeze. And it started shaking. And I said to David, who is my best gay friend, who I was sitting next to. I went, because we were coming from Ptown. I went, David, David. I’ve lied. I’ve lied. Because we’re sitting in this shaky plane. I said I weighed less than I did. He said, Don’t worry, darling. They always put on 10 pounds for women and gay men and I, and I said, but I’ve lied by 20. So we really need to hope nobody else has lied too. He said, that’s fine. It’s fine, it’s fine. They know they’re going from Ptown to Boston. They know people are lying about their weight. It’s fine. And I’m like, why are they asking then? Why can’t they just do it by eye? It’s so upsetting. And in front of people. It was just after Christmas. But yeah. No, I do. I do. I do look out for them now. I do look out for these encounters all the time. I do. If I think, oh, there’s an “I’m a feminist, But”.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:19:53] Yeah, I think it’s a fun game. I can’t get out of my head now. And I, I’m consistently questioning some of my choices all of the time, which I think is really funny and and just quite a fun and relatable way to be able to unpack the last traces of misogyny that may be in us. And we’re back. So I, I’m so fascinated by your life story and by your journey towards feminism. I think it is, it’s such an extraordinary tale. And it’s so unusual with so many twists and turns. And you have lived such a life that has brought you to where you are. And I love the fact that you have utilized all of those twists and turns and all of their stories and are able to kind of help take your lessons and almost recycle them out, so other people can use them. And I appreciate that very much so. I mean, if I, can I rattle through your life briefly?
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:20:51] Oh sure.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:20:51] Would you mind if I quickly rattled? Right.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:20:52] So I’ll just imagine I’m dead. This is the news.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:20:55] Absolutely. Deborah Frances-White. No, but you were adopted. You then had a fairly what you describe as a sort of normal upbringing. And then you became a Jehovah’s Witness as a teen. You then escaped during that time while staying with a family in America. Is that correct?
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:21:13] Kind of. Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:21:14] You escaped Jehovah-, you escaped the religion, I guess. Yeah.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:21:17] I sort of woke up. Yeah, yeah, I kind of woke up. Like they’re not a cult that’s going to lock you in a basement.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:21:22] No, for sure. But that’s when you started to, you decided to leave.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:21:25] You have to liberate your own brain. Yeah. You have to liberate your own brain. And it is difficult to get out of it because the elders will come around and say, hey, and the punishment for leaving is shunning and you’re not allowed any friends outside. So it’s very difficult to get out. But yeah, I woke up. Continue.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:21:42] And so then you thrived your way through to Oxford University to study. And then you became a comedian, and then you started a hit podcast with 70 million downloads. Then you released about 42 other successful podcasts. Then you had a hit book, and then you started a company training people about diversity and the inclusion of women. And then you took in a lovely Syrian refugee gentleman who has become a part of your family. And you have utilized that experience to educate others about more tolerance and less bigotry towards refugees. And now, at the pinnacle of your career, you’re on the “I Weigh” podcast. What a life.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:22:18] Yes.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:22:19] What a bloody life. Okay, so-.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:22:20] I land here.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:22:21] A couple of things I want to talk to you about and things that I hadn’t spoken about with other people so far. First of all, I wanted to talk to you about the impact of adoption on your life. I was wondering if you had any wisdom to impart on it, because it’s something that people message me about quite a lot.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:22:45] My parents were very, very good at telling me. So I always knew. I knew that I was adopted before I understood what that meant because my parents would say, you’re special because you’re adopted. And then when I was bit older, sort of, you know, I could ask questions, that, and we especially wanted you. Some people have children accidentally. We had to fill out a form, that kind of thing. ‘Cause I didn’t know how babies were made. So quite clear about that. I only found that out at a church camp. It’s always the worst place.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:23:11] Wow.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:23:12] When I was like 12 or 13 or so, I was so old when I found out about sex and I did not believe it. But they were so good about making me feel. My, my sister and my brother are both biologically theirs, and I’m the middle child and they are so good about making me feel 100 percent that I was theirs and that, you know, I didn’t question it at all. And when I was old enough to ask about my birth mother, my mother, simple, she must have loved you so much to give you away because she was so beautiful, so she definitely wouldn’t have wanted to, wanted to. And so I wasn’t. I don’t, I think it’s handled as well as it possibly could have been. And I don’t think I was walking around a lot of hang ups from it. A lot of people are. A lot of people were not told or it came out in a bad way or they were made to feel like grateful in some way. And, you know, my parents were great about that. And when I was, not, this is not long ago, I just thought I should know my birth mother’s name. And I, I phoned up, years ago and said, can I have her name? Because if your, you, and they said, you can have her name, but it’s reciprocal. So then she can have your name. And I was like, oh no, I don’t want that. I’m not ready for that. When I was about 21, I did that. And so I said no. They said, well, I can tell you her first name. The lady said and I said, Oh, great. Well, I’d like to know that just so I know. You know? It’s just nice to know.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:24:39] Yeah.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:24:39] And she said, I’ll have to put you on hold because that information is in a more secret file. And off she went and she came back and said, oh, I’m so sorry. I can’t tell you. I can tell most people, but not you. Your birth mother’s first name is so unusual.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:24:50] Is it Madonna?
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:24:52] It’s Identifying. Yes. Well, that’s what I thought it was Germaine Greer. This was before Germaine Greer really miss the turnoff.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:24:57] Yeah.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:24:57] But so I said, so they said, we can’t tell you. So years later, she never asked about me. So I thought, I don’t think she’s going to now. I think if she’s not asked by now, she’s not going to. It’s safe. So I said, tell me her name. And they said, they told me her name. Her first name is Devon and her second name is Eulalia. And I was like, oh, my God. No wonder they couldn’t tell me those names. So I thought, there’s definitely got to be something there. So I Googled. But there wasn’t anything there. And I would Google sort of once a year. It would occur to me something would come up and there was never anything there. And then end of 2012, I was having a chat with a friend. We started talking about it. I thought, oh, I’ll just Google, and just as my head was hitting the pillow. And we’d had a few drinks. So I was sort of like, oh, I’m just gonna pass out. But I’ll just, I’ll just have a quick Google. There’s never anything there. So it’ll just take a minute. And someone had identified the electoral records from the time of my birth and put them online. So suddenly I could see in the electoral records of the census the name of my birth mother, where she was living, her address, her brothers and sisters’ names, and weirdly, all of their names start with D. And one of her sisters was called Deborah. And my mother, who raised me, she dreamt my name. She had a dream. The night they brought me home from the hospital, I was we called Deborah and everyone in their family is, name starts with D. All the kids. There’s five kids, my birth mother and her siblings. And so I. So suddenly you’ve got more information. I could see her parent’s names and things. So then I went on this treasure hunt where I, of course, now you’ve got more information. I knew where she was raised. I knew where she was living. She was living ten minutes from our house. I was raised for the first four years of my life.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:26:38] No way.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:26:38] And this was, this is outrageous because the government told us that she’d come into state to have the baby as was common because, you know, you would go away to see your aunt for nine months and come back.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:26:46] Right.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:26:47] So no one knew you’ve been pregnant. And they just told them that as a reassuring lie, like, oh, don’t worry, you won’t bump into her. She’s not from around here. She was from around here. And so I, you know, I found out all of this information. And one of, and one of the things I found out was that she had gone to an unmarried mother’s home, which is where, and there a hos-, right next to a hospital, so that the neighbors wouldn’t say she was showing. And that’s why I was born in Redcliff. And, in Brisbane. And so I did all of this searching and just absolutely it was the most intense time of my life, Jameela. I’ve never. I couldn’t sleep. It was like a day and night treasure hunt. I’d hired a private investigator because there’s some things I couldn’t find out. Who turned out to be absolutely rubbish. He was only 150 dollars. And you really do get what you pay for. Do not hire a cheap private investigator. He rang my grandfather. I said, don’t ring anyone. Don’t contact anyone. I’m not sure I want to contact anyone. He rang my grandfather and I said, and he told me he rang. He was like, oh yeah, I rang your grandfather. I was like, What? I said, no calling people. He said, don’t worry. Don’t worry. I used to cover story. I was like, what? I was like, that’s weird. You don’t ring people using cover stories. He was like, Yeah, don’t worry. Don’t worry. Calm down. I recorded the whole thing. I was like, what? Do not go calling my relatives.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:28:04] Did you hire my dad? This is the sort of thing my dad would do.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:28:07] I was just like apoplectic. I was like, oh, my God, you’ve recorded. And then went, do you want to hear the tape? I said, yes. Yes, I do. Yes, I do. So the first voice that I’ve heard was my grandfather’s voice.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:28:18] Wow.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:28:18] And he was sort of saying my, the private investigator was saying he was from a bank or something like that. Anyway, I found out all of this information and the thing that I could find is that my aunt, who was called Deborah as well, I could find her business address. I couldn’t find hardly anything about my birth mother. I just knew that she’d gone to New Zealand. And so I, one night I was just like, I have to know, because I, I had established through a network of Facebook and Pinterest and things that I had a sister living in Spain and that she had, we have so much in common, so much in common. I was like, I just have to roll this dice. I have to roll the dice. I’m going to ring up and I’m gonna find out because if I’ve got a sister living in Spain and I never do this, I’m, you know, she’s gonna be there. I’m going to be here and we’re going to live our lives and not know. So I called up Deborah and said, hi-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:29:11] I’m Deborah.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:29:12] Just searched your surname. Yeah, I’m Deborah. I’m just kidding. No, I just checked your maiden name. Can I just check that you had a sister called Devon who was about ten years older than you. And she said, yes, yes. And I said, OK, I don’t want to shock you, Deborah. But I think I’m the baby that Devon gave away. And she said, oh, yes. What makes you think that? And I said, Because I am. And she went, and she went, oh. And I said, does Devon ever talk about me? Does she ever say she hopes I’ll call? Or she hopes I won’t? And my voice was cracking up because I was so, like tears rolling down my face. 3:00 in the morning, my time. Just all of my own sitting in the dark, just like tears running down my face going, asking this question. This is the biggest question ever asked in my life. Does she ever hope I’ll call or does she ever says she hopes I’ll call? Or she hopes that I won’t? She said, I’m sorry. I don’t know what you’re talking about. Devon never gave away a baby. I went, oh. Deborah, I’m sorry. I thought you knew I. Were you not? You were living in this street and you would have been about 11. She would’ve been 20. She went, yes, she said, but she never had a baby. She went to live in a flat for a while. I was like, oh my God. She went to live in an unmarried mothers’ home.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:30:28] Threw Devon right under the bus. Didn’t you? Threw her right under the bus?
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:30:33] But I thought after all these years. And I just thought, oh my God, all these years. And she hasn’t told her sister. And so I was like, oh, my God. And I said, look, Debbie, don’t worry about it. Just, just could you just give me Devon’s number in New Zealand and forget I called. And she said, but you have called. And I said, yes. No, I do see that. That is a point. But she said, anyway, she’s not in New Zealand. She’s visiting our dad here in Brisbane, she said. And he’s got a heart condition. He’s in his 90s. You can’t call there. And I said, I do see that. She said I’ll go over there. I’ll tell her your story and I’ll call you back. And. And I was like, oh, my God, don’t. She’s going to be really angry. And she went, no, she’ll be fine. I thought, on what basis are you making that assumption? And it was cause she just didn’t believe me. She was like, I’ll tell her your story. Anyway, two hours she went over, took Devon out for a walk, and I was just sitting there in my home for two hours. Finally at 5 a.m.-
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:31:21] Agonizing. That must have felt like a year.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:31:24] Oh, it did. It did. I was all on my own. 5:00 a.m. the phone rings, pick it up. And she said, Oh, well. I’ve talked to Devon. Apparently, a story does check out. Devon does remember this incident.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:31:38] Incident?
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:31:39] Yeah, and she said she’s been waiting for this call all her life. And she’s, she’s going to call you in 10 days when she gets back to New Zealand. And I was like, what, 10 days? But she was really just processing it. She actually called me in 5 days. I think she was just having to process it herself.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:31:54] Yeah.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:31:55] Because that’s a big old thing. And so then, of course, you know, I, you know, I met them and I’m now very much in their life. I see them a couple of times a year. Devon comes here because I have, I have a sister. Yet not. Well, the thing is, I said to Debbie before she left, when she was on the phone and she said. She said, she call you in 10 days. I said, can you just tell me one thing? Debbie. Debbie. Do I have a sister living in Spain? She said, well no. Not that I knew of. But I’m learning a lot of things today. And the whole reason for my call. I have a sister living in Spain. Not true. No sister living in Spain at all. But she said you do have a sister living in Scotland. So, you know, it just started to all come together. And now, like, I’m very much part of the family, like, you know, and I see them a couple times a year. Devon comes here and I go back to Australia to see my mom and always go to New Zealand to see my biologicals, as I call them. And it doesn’t replace your family in any way. It augments it. But just like, you know, I’ve discovered, just like you can have more siblings, you know, you can have, you know, some people have got no siblings. Some people got 10. It’s, it’s just more family.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:33:05] Yeah.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:33:06] But I’ve been very lucky. I do know people who have tried to find a biological family and it hasn’t worked out at all. Or it’s worked out in really tragic ways. So I, I say this. I say take the shot, but be aware that, that it, it, there could be pain there. And I’ve just been very lucky.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:33:20] Yeah. It’s the high hopes, low expectations. And, you know, also there are many of us who, you know, who have a chosen family when we get older, regardless of whether or not we were adopted. We have grown up and we found our tribe like families come in all different shapes and sizes and all kinds of different things, you know? So I think it’s really important that, you know, we continue to have these conversations so that people don’t feel ashamed or feel like there was anything wrong with them or they weren’t worthy of love. We all find our different path to family. My family is made up of a lot of very smelly boys that I met when I was 19. You and I have privately spoken before about the fact that you have reached a place of genuine peace, about the fact that fertility treatment did not come in to the result of having a baby and that you, you feel as though that is the correct thing. And now that we look at the trajectory of where your life has gone on since. You are so busy, you have your own company, you have 900,000 podcasts, all of which are incredibly successful. You’ve done, you do live shows all over the world. And that’s something that I think is really important for us to discuss that I haven’t been able to talk to someone else about on this podcast yet because, you know, I am someone who, I myself am not particularly maternal person. And I don’t particularly want to have children. I’m with someone who does. And so that’s just like an ongoing discussion between us that he is very respectful about. I love hearing a woman be able to say that, like, actually, yeah, this is fine. I’m actually really good with the lot that I’ve got. I love hearing that. That to me feels very inspiring and important for me to hear. And I don’t hear enough. All I hear is mostly about how I’ll change my mind when it happens and I’ll be complete when it happens. And it’s not to say that it cannot complete you in some way, but it doesn’t have to be the thing that completes you. So would you tell me a bit more about that?
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:35:11] Yeah, I’m sure if I’d had a baby when I did fertility treatment and I thought it was the greatest thing in the world, like, I’d, I’d be like, oh, I can’t imagine my life without little Germaina. I don’t know why she’s called Germaina. That was never a name I considered. But. But I genuinely have got to a point where I think there was a part of me that was, in truth, always not quite sure that I wanted the massive disruption to my life because I love all the moving parts of my life so much, but also because I started the “Guilty Feminist” at the end of that fertility treatment, deciding I’m, I’m not going to do this. I think what I said to Tom when we decided to stop trying was if we’re not going to have a baby. Let’s do all of the things that people who say, oh, if we didn’t have kids, we’d do this. Let’s do all of those things. Let’s, let’s go for it. If we have an idea for a great podcast. Let’s make the podcast. If we, if we want to do some activism, more travel or whatever it is that we, that we really want to do. Let’s do it. My great fear was that we would end up watching Netflix and then dying. You know? Like, oh, I’ve completed Netflix and now I’m ready to die.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:36:36] See that for me is heaven. But fair enough.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:36:39] I was so scared.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:36:40] That’s my end goal.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:36:40] That I would just sort of, just sort of toddle around and not really get-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:36:44] Right.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:36:45] Not really do anything. And not that we have to achieve things, but just-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:36:51] Fulfill your fantasies.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:36:53] To fill, fulfill my, and fill my days with passion and-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:36:55] Yeah.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:36:55] And joy and intention. I think intention is what it is. The intentional self is so often disregarded by busy people where we just sort of scattergun by people who aren’t quite sure what it is they want to do or talk about. You know, I’d like to try standup comedy, but then they never really do. I’d love to learn to sing, but they never really do. It, to find your intention. So I think what I said to Tom is, if we’re not gonna have kids, let’s, let’s be intentional about what we fill that space with.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:37:26] Yeah.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:37:26] And once I started living, controlling the things I could control with intention and building and creating the things and making the connections that I wanted to make with intention, I became so fulfilled and happy. And some of my friends by no means all of them, but some of my friends with children expressed to me that there was a, there’s a great deal of their life that is understandably handed over to raising the next generation. And that’s wonderful and fulfilling in many ways. But it does eat into the time where they would perhaps, you know, fill out their, their world with other things that they would love to do.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:38:07] Yeah.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:38:07] Of course it does. And so. And that’s, that’s right. And proper. You know, if you’ve got kids, you need to focus on them and, and do the intentional things you can do in the time available. So. So to not have that commitment to be focused on the next generation I think is a wonderful thing. And also it means that I can commit to loving the children in my life and doing kind of fun and joyful things with them. But without that full responsibility. So what I would say is if somebody is thinking, if they’re having fertility problems and thinking, I’m never going to be happy without this missing piece, I would check in with that. I would say, what if we decide for six months, we’re definitely not going to have babies. And what are we going to do with that time? And pick a couple of things. A creative thing, an activist thing and do those for six months and discover, are we really happy and fulfilled and excited? And now actually, do we don’t really want to have children anymore? Or is that piece still missing? In which case you need to find a way to do this. And there are so many children that don’t have homes that need to be fostered or adopted.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:39:29] Mmhmm.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:39:29] Maybe you do that because, you know, we do need to be worried about the environment and the future and bringing more, you know, more carbon footprints into the world. But I would check first that it’s definitely something you want because I think sometimes it’s not intentional. It’s the cookie cutter sort of you’ve been told you grow up, you find a partner. You have children. You get a career. These are the things that’ll make you happy. And it’s not always true for everybody.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:39:59] No.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:39:59] I’m not saying it’s not true for you. I’m saying it’s not true for everybody. And I think unless you’re really sure you want them right now.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:40:08] Yeah.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:40:08] I would question it.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:40:10] Well, you’re also have someone who’s hardly shy from the idea of adoption thing, seeing as you yourself were an adopted child. So I think that it’s truly a sign of, like, your intentionality that you’ve just, you are just loving the life that you are living right now. And I feel, I feel very, very hopeful towards my own future with that, because I still don’t feel like that is an acceptable place within our society. We sort of intellectually discuss it. But still there is consistent, like just sort of, I think, well-intentioned, just nudging in the direction of children for me. And I think that it’s something that I really struggle with, something I’m doing personally as I’m putting all, all my bits on ice. They’re popping in the freezer. And I have made it.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:40:54] Oh, thats’s good.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:40:54] I’m going to do that because I’m 34 years old and I’m going to. I said I’m going to spend the next 6 years having as much fucking fun and doing as much or as little as I please. And if my boyfriend and I are still together at the end of that. Then by then, I think I’ve kind of, I feel like I have, hopefully by then, more of a gauge of what I’m ready for. But I’m not rushing into this anytime soon. I don’t care what society says. I don’t care about being an older mum. I feel like we live longer. We have better meds. That’s fine. You can push these things to later or I might just not do it at all. And I really appreciate you creating that space to discuss the fact that life goes on and sometimes it can be bloody brilliant. And what you’ve gone on to do with your life has just been so spectacular and so meaningful for so many people. I feel as though from listening to the “Guilty Feminist” podcast and, and kind of researching your life, it feels like you are just the embodiment of what is a normal human being and that you are constantly learning and constantly evolving. Your life is changing so much, day to day. I think, you know, when we, when we’re like little. When we’re like 10, we think that by the time we’re 25, we’ll have everything absolutely sorted. We’ll have all of the right ideas. We’ll know exactly what we’re going to be. And everything is just gonna be sort of monotonous from there on out. And yet, here we are later in life, both learning so much. I feel I have never learned more than I have in the last couple of years. You recently have even had a new awakening around your own sexuality, which I wonder if you would talk to me about.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:42:27] Oh yes. Well, I’ve long suspected that I was bisexual. But I didn’t really want to say that in case it felt like I was bandwagoning or something like that.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:42:42] Like the I kiss girl and I liked it.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:42:44] Yeah. Oh I like I’m queer. I’m here, get used to it. It’s like but it fundamentally doesn’t change how the world sees me or any impact to any part in my life. It’s sort of like so, so it doesn’t feel queer. If you see what I mean because I’m in an opposite sex relationship. But last year I was writing a script, a period script, not a script about periods, not a script about menstruating. Just to be clear. A script set in the past, some decades ago, about a time when it felt like in my research that everyone was bisexual and that, or certainly that bisexuality was a much more standard condition. Part of the human condition and it was all, it’s also a very kinky world I’m writing about. It’s just a world of sexual positivity. And, of course, because it was some decades ago, there was the closeted underworld of this. But within that, it was extremely liberated and seemed very, very shame free. And then you put on your shame coat and you go out into the street.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:43:53] Yeah.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:43:53] And I became very interested in this because I was writing about it and I felt like there was more to me that I had not lived. And yet I was trying to write. And I’ve been with my husband a very long time. And I just, I’ve met, so quite a few of people I knew had opened their relationships up and decided to have an open relationship. And then I met a gay man who was in an open relationship and he and his fiancé seemed so loved up and so romantic and so into each other. And yet they had an open relationship. It didn’t seem like they’d gone, oh, we’ve given up on this, but we shared real estate. So you know. They seemed so into each other. And, you know, when I talked to this chap who’s become an extremely good friend of mine. He said, well, no, it can really augment what you have between you because neither of you were thinking, oh, what if. And you don’t have to get everything from one person. So if sexually, you’re into something and they’re not. You’re not going, oh well, I compromise on that for the rest of my life to be with you. This can be its own full living thing. And also, I mean, the way he does it and the way, the way they do it and the way many people do it is to actually talk about what you’re doing and ask for permission. Can I, would you be okay with me going off with that person? And then you come back and you might talk about it and that might excite you. And he gave me a book called “The Ethical Slut”, which is-.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:45:18] Love that book. I love that book so much.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:45:19] It’s such a good book. But it’s about. It really made me question monogamy and why we’re all trapped into it. Because I think we have this idea of being faithful. But one way of being faithful is to be truthful. Because I think monogamy forces you to hide stuff in a weird way. It forces you to sort of go, I don’t fancy anyone else but you or, you know, I’m going to get hurt if you say you fancy that film star, even. Or like why are you ruining our date by going, you know, she’s gorgeous, or whatever. And I think suddenly to be able to just be completely honest and say, yeah, I have desires that aren’t all about this, but they don’t detract from my desire to be with you fundamentally. And ultimately, if I go out and experience all these other things and I come home to you, I must really want to be with you. And of course, you need to have trust. And of course, there’s a danger you might fall in love with someone else. And of course. Of course. Of course. But there’s those dangers anyway. There’s more danger, I think, from, from blocking it and going, no, no, no. I must not even look. We all know the sexy priest in “Fleabag”. When something is forbidden, it becomes much hotter.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:46:20] Yeah.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:46:21] Thank you, Andrew Scott. And. I thought, I wonder if this would be okay. So I texted Tom, I’d read something in the paper about another couple who were open, who were well known and sent a link to Tom and something that he said about her, he said, oh, I love being, living in her shadow or something. And Tom said, oh, that reminds me of you and me. That’s the kind of thing I’d say about you. And in this article, it said they were open and had been. And I, so I said, how would you feel about an open relationship? Because I thought if I WhatsApp him when he’s out, he can just WhatsApp back lol or, or something to think about. And I’m not putting him on the spot. If I look and say to his face and he gets awkward or he doesn’t want that or whatever. So I thought I’ll WhatsApp it casual like. And you know, that makes it easy for him.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:13] Yeah.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:47:13] And then the second after I WhatsApp it, like honestly within the same minute, he walks through the door.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:20] Oh fuck.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:47:20] And it looked, and on my phone said it was unread and then he came and sat down next to me. And I thought, fuck, he’s gonna read this in front of me. So I was just going. Hi. How was your day?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:33] Can I borrow your phone?
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:47:39] And then he just said, so you want an open relationship. And he had read. He must have read it, but he didn’t press it. So it came that it was unread.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:47] Yeah.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:47:47] And I said, you know, yeah, I think it would be really good for us. And, you know, I just need to explore these things that I’m writing about. And I just, I don’t wanna be on my deathbed going, I think I’m bisexual.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:47:58] Right.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:47:59] I don’t think it’s a threat to our relationship for me to have these experiences. And every time I have put another piece of my puzzle together. I have become more fulfilled, more rounded, more powerful, more joyful every time. So finding my biological family was a terrifying thing to do, but it put that piece of puzzle in. And even if I’ve been rejected, it would’ve, I would have answered the question, you know, who is she? Does she want to know me? Can I have contact with this family?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:48:31] Sure.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:48:31] And it put that puzzle into my jigsaw. And I became, where there was a hole, I was now being filled in. And so this, this issue of bisexuality, I was like, I need to find out. I need to put the piece of puzzle in. And listen, this wouldn’t work for everyone. You may be listening to this and you may be in a relationship that wouldn’t take this. And I’m not saying this is right for everybody. This may not be how everyone needs to face their bisexuality or their pansexuality or whatever it is that they have, they might be feeling. Not everyone is feeling that. But if you are feeling it, I’m not saying immediately, WhatsApp your partner and go, have to be, I have to put a piece of my puzzle in. You need to. You need to find your own way through this. But I knew in my relationship that I felt this was going to be a safe and better way through. And I trusted Tom and it really paid off. And I, I feel like knowing for sure that I’m bisexual, as I do now, having the experience and understanding. No, this is really exciting. And being able to explore some of the kink that I have inside of me that Tom is just, you know, you speak a different language sometimes. I mean, it, it’s, it’s, you cannot expect to get everything from one person. So if you only want to experience things with one person, you need to then say, my compromise is I miss out on some things. And if you don’t feel you need to make that compromise because you’re open to getting some things from other people, that’s great. And you already do get some things from other people. That’s what I think. I mean, if your partner doesn’t like tennis, you don’t go, ah, well, that’s me done for tennis then. Even if tennis is your favorite thing, you just go, I’ll find another tennis partner. If I want to do salsa, Tom does not want to do salsa. But I could go salsa with someone else. I could go clubbing someone else. I go to parties on my own because Tom is not much of a party person. You know, like I do all sorts of things. He’s, you know, and then, but then Tom loves poker. And I learned to play poker. I loved playing poker with Tom. And all these things are metaphors for sex.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:50:33] Yes.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:50:33] So.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:50:34] Isn’t everything?
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:50:35] Draw your own conclusions. Sometimes you learn to play poker. Sometimes you think, all right, I will play tennis then, for you.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:50:41] Yeah.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:50:42] And then you think, oh, I like anal.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:50:46] Great. Speaking of anal, I, in my own relationship. Speaking of anal. I personally am someone who, until this point in my life, has always just kind of just picked one lane of a human being where I’m just like, right now I’m just with you. And I’m not going to go out with anyone else because I, A, I think that I would be worried of my own hypocrisy, that I would get incredibly jealous and possessive. So therefore I wouldn’t feel like I would have the right to do that both ways. And yet now I’ve kind of come to a place where I’m just very, very protective over my asshole. Deborah, I’m just like, I don’t, it’s exit only. And we’re not going to go into that, because I know you don’t do scatology.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:51:30] Nope. Scatology-phobic.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:51:30] But the point is. The point is, is that I don’t, I don’t want anything anywhere near my asshole. And so if my boyfriend or whoever the love will be at the time, that is one rule I’ve always had, which is that if you want, if you, if you need an asshole. Go somewhere else. Don’t tell me about it, but you have my complete blessing. But that is something that works for me so that I don’t have someone who then is just dreaming of assholes all the time.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:51:55] So is your relationship anally open?
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:51:59] Yes.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:52:01] It’s only open.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:52:02] And current relations. I mean, my boyfriend doesn’t, doesn’t currently. This is so wrong. But this is not, it’s not been an issue that’s been raised in any of my relationships that I’ve had with anyone. But. And, but I’ve just always wanted to let them know that if they did, my bumhole is off limits.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:52:22] Off the menu.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:52:23] And all other bumholes are on that menu. There are a side dish that is available, 24 hour menu. 24 hour menu.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:52:31] God, now, all I’m seeing now is like you know when you go to one of those sushi restaurants where there’s a sort of conveyor belt.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:52:38] Yeah, yeah.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:52:39] And you could just grab anything off. I’m just seeing that but with bums.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:52:40] Just bumholes. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Cool.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:52:43] Yeah. Good to know.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:52:46] Good chat about stuff. And also like I, I love the fact that you have chosen to talk about this publicly, which is getting away from my asshole now. Because I had an experience with telling people that I was queer, earlier this year and because I’m in a heteronormative relationship currently, people would just like then you can’t be bisexual as if you have to at all times be shagging everyone.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:53:13] Yeah.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:53:13] And also-.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:53:13] Multiple partners to prove it.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:53:15] Yeah. And I have fancied and fallen in love with nonbinary people as well. So I don’t know exactly even where I define my sexuality. Does that mean I’m pan? I just call myself queer as just my way of explaining non, non-straight. Right? But it was interesting.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:53:29] I think queer is a phenomenal reclamation of a word because it means that you don’t have to express how you’re queer.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:53:37] Yes.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:53:38] You can identify as queer and then it’s none of anyone’s business how you’re queer. I think it’s perfect. I think it’s great.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:53:43] It’s so interesting how much people try and press me for exactly what I like, what I don’t like, exactly how I define my queerness.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:53:51] What you have experienced and what you haven’t experienced.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:53:51] But it’s also so interesting to see the pushback against it when you are in, currently, in a heteronormative relationship. And it’s as if people just want like kind of like backlog of all your relationships and sort of like a sex tape proving your own queerness. And so-.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:54:04] But if you’re lesbian, if you’re a butch lesbian, who’s been single for 10 years and hasn’t hooked up with anyone. You still a lesbian, even though you haven’t been interacting with other women’s bodies.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:54:16] Yeah.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:54:17] It’s and it’s the same, if your a bisexual woman in an opposite sex relationship. You may not have recently ignited that part of your sexuality, but it doesn’t go away. It doesn’t go anywhere. If you’re a single straight woman, you don’t go, I’m not straight anymore because I’ve been out of a relationship for five years and I’ve decided I’m not sort of having casual sex. You’re not not straight. You’re not suddenly asexual. It’s, it’s, it’s not about the, the number of encounters or the consistency. But I did feel. I mean, it’s, it’s funny, I don’t know why I sort of needed to go there, but I think I never questioned when I was younger that I was straight. I never thought, well, I haven’t kissed a boy yet, so therefore I don’t know. But I did feel that with women. And I think that’s something to do with power structures. That’s to do with it being the other. And I think when I was a teenager, had my sexuality or pansexuality been an option and lots of other people were. And I could see that representation. I probably would have assumed that’s what I was then. But that was limited. You know, I grew up in Queensland. Homosexuality was illegal. So I didn’t see that model. I didn’t know any gay, out gay teachers. I didn’t know any out gay students. It was, it was a sort of punchline of a joke being gay. It was actually illegal. So I, I, I didn’t get a chance to explore that, when I was a teenager. And I think, you know, when some people say, oh, well, you know, tran-, transitioning when you’re a teenager is very dangerous because when I was young, I might have transitioned to being nonbinary if that had been an option. Yeah, you have might been. You might have. And then as your life went on, you might have transitioned further or back. But the fluidity and transitioning in life, I think is a, I mean, I’m glad I’m not stuck with what I was at 16 because I wasn’t I was a virginal Jehovah’s Witness. Thank God I’m still not a virginal Jehovah’s Witness. Some of my friends are.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:56:12] Thank God, you’re not still. Before I lose you because you are busy and you probably have another really exciting, adventurous thing that you’re about to do that’s going to expand your horizons. Would you tell me, Deborah Francis- White, what do you weigh?
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:56:28] Ooh. I weigh my ability to change the energy of a room. I weigh my power to bring people towards, rather than send them away. I weigh my fearlessness in, it’s the face of a world that was not entirely designed for me, also wasn’t entirely designed, not for me, just to be very clear.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:57:12] Good privileged check.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:57:14] I, yeah, I weigh the love of those who are in my inner sanctum. And the value of their trust. And I weigh my nest here in Camden Town with my husband, Tom, and Steve Ali, who is as much family to me as anybody else in the world. And proof again that biology ain’t shit. I weigh, I weigh my cats who want to come and kneed on me at night and I weigh the little terrace out the side of back of my flat that I’ve managed to buy myself when I had know years in the wilderness as a Jehovah’s Witness, not being able to earn anything or, or do anything or, be in an organization was entirely run by men. Every single decision in the history of the tribe of Jehovah’s Witnesses been made by men. And I weigh the fact now that I’ve been able to buy a little flat in London, which is a remarkable thing. And this is home and this is the nest. And, and those who I love and those who they love are welcome in it.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:58:31] I love that. Well, thank you very much for coming onto this podcast and imparting your wisdom and, and loads of love. And keep on fighting the good fight of being a true feminist, someone who fights for all women.
DEBORAH FRANCES-WHITE [00:58:46] Thank you so much, Jameela Jamil, it’s such a pleasure to get to know you.
JAMEELA JAMIL [00:58:51] Likewise. Thanks for being so honest and open. Loads of love. Bye to you. Thank you so much for listening to this week’s “I Weigh”. I would also like to thank the team, which helps me make this podcast. My producer, Sophia Jennings and Kimmie Lucas. My editor, Andrew Carson. My boyfriend, James Blake, who made the beautiful music you are hearing now. And me for my work. At “I Weigh”, we would love to hear from you and share what you weigh at the end of this podcast. You can leave us a voicemail at 1-818-660-5543. Or email us what you weigh at IWeighPodcast@gmail.com. And remember, it’s not in pounds and kilos, it’s your social contributions to society or just how you define yourself in life. And now we would love to pass the mic to one of our listeners.
I WIEGH COMMUNITY MEMBER [00:59:38] I weigh that I am a present and loving sibling, that I try to be a good girlfriend, that I bring others up and never down. All the good and bad inside me. I weigh that I haven’t weighed myself in almost five months as a pretty direct result of being a part of the “I Weigh” community. I weigh that I’m a hard worker, a dedicated student and a fantastic listener. I wigh my love for dogs and the love I have for the limited number of people I love close to me. I weigh my love for puzzles and movies, my chronic illness and the constant battle to not let it be my defining feature. And I weigh my dedicated-ness in not perpetuating the toxic cycles that I grew up with myself.
February 3, 2023
Actress, LGBTQ+ advocate, and legend Laverne Cox joins Jameela this week to discuss her journey to who she is now, how spending time with trans women changed her mind on who she herself could be, the birth of #transisbeautiful, the problem with trans politics today, reaching across the aisle, the real problems facing Americans today, and more.