Fi Macrae, a Melbourne based educator interested in advocacy for mental and sexual health, grew up in a house on a quiet street in Brunswick. Fi has been suffering from severe chronic pelvic pain, endometriosis, cysts and adhesions, and scarring caused by multiple surgeries for the past three years. As a result, she could no longer be physically involved in the community she had grown up in and found herself navigating a health care system that lacked access to education, inclusivity, and support for those suffering from chronic illnesses. As a response to the isolation she was experiencing during this time she created the not for profit web series Private Parts, an inclusive online community where allyship and education supported each other in facilitating discussions around mental and sexual health.
Photo by Gina Somfleth
Fi, who is twenty-seven, is unapologetically open with her health struggles and it is this honesty that has attracted so many to ‘Private Parts etc.’ on Instagram. As Fi describes it, “It is an inherently collaborative space for people to converse, question, share knowledge and support one another, a space that removes the stigma of shaming people into silence over topics pertaining to their sexual and mental health”.
That Private Parts has succeeded so quickly in bridging the gap between in-person and online community cannot be understated; anyone who had the pleasure of attending the sold-out Private Parts launch party at The Gasometer on the 28th of April will attest to the feeling of connectedness that night. Fi tells me that her aim with having these conversations is to challenge the idea that we must keep certain things to ourselves. “I was very aware that if I felt so silenced and so pushed into the shadows after only a couple of years, that there was a huge amount of people that were still in that space” she explained.
Fi studied International Women’s Health & Human Rights online with Stanford University during her days spent ill in bed, and the more she learnt the more she realised how necessary it was for her to use her community to spread awareness about this topic, “I realised in educating my immediate social circle they’ll go out into the world and educate and share that knowledge and what a ripple effect that will have.” Private parts have released five episodes so far on topics ranging from Endometriosis, Migraines, and Non-Genome Spinal Muscular Atrophy, all of which you can watch here.
Fi interviewing Mill about inclusive language & gender. Photo by Gina Somfleth
She posted the first video in February of 2021 with the idea of bringing together people who not only suffered from the same illnesses, but anyone who connects with the isolation and lifestyle shift that comes with being chronically ill. “I come from a very big family; we grew up knowing that to have community is the most important thing. It was a matter of a few weeks ago that I came up with this concept and within a week and a half I had over eighty people working on it in different ways” explained Fi, “It was a real testament to how tight our community is here in Brunswick and of how many people I have in my life”.
Brunswick is a hub for mainstream as well as alternative health practices and Fi tells me the access she found in exploring alternative therapies in the comfort of her suburb such as acupuncture, shiatsu, and myotherapy is a privilege she recognizes and is grateful for. “There are so many places where you wouldn’t be able to see alternative therapists in that way so it was really easy to access local health practitioners which has been really fantastic” said Fi. To learn more about the illnesses mentioned above and to support the project and become part of the community please consider visiting Private Parts Patreon page.
Fi giving her speech at the Private Parts Launch Party. Photo by Jessica Haunstein.
This feature was written on the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri people, whose sovereignty was never ceded. I pay my respects to Aboriginal elders, both past and present, and I acknowledge the tradition of storytelling, that has continued on the continent known as Australia for more than 60 000 years.