Alanna Kellam: Celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride Part 1

June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month! Project Sleep is proud to highlight insights from LGBTQ+ members of our community throughout the month of June.

Meet Alanna Kellam:

Hi Alanna! Please tell us about yourself.

I live in Sydney, Australia, but soon I will be moving to Boston to be with my fiancé Mary Anne. I love spending time with my beautiful nephews, and visiting my parents at their rural home in Oberon, NSW. I work as an early childhood interventionist for kids with disabilities, coaching their caregivers and communities in inclusion, child development, and play-based learning. I am incredibly passionate about my career, and I feel lucky that my vocation is flexible and allows for part-time work. I love to dance, and after years of dancing as a kid I finally took up ballet when I was 21. Although I rarely get to a class anymore you will still find me practising little combinations while I wait for the kettle to boil, or stand in line. I identify as queer and bisexual, and as disabled.

What is your sleep disorder? At what age were you diagnosed?

I have narcolepsy with cataplexy. I was first diagnosed in 2009, shortly after my 19th birthday and in my first year of university. The diagnosis came about when my cataplexy symptoms started and my doctor referred me to a neurologist. Ballet was an important part of healing and adapting after my narcolepsy diagnosis.

In your experience, are there similarities and/or differences between living with a sleep disorder and identifying as LGBTQ+? 

These lived experiences have taught me so much about living authentically, finding community, and the lifelong process of getting to know myself. Both my narcolepsy and queer identity were things I knew about myself, in some capacity, long before I was brave enough to disclose my reality to others (I first became obviously, inexplicably sleepy at 13, and I was conscious that I wasn’t straight when I was about 7 or 8). With both, I spent a long time wrestling internally with self-doubt and fear of the world’s judgement, before I was ready to share my truth with those around me. And on both counts, when I finally did, I found it to be endlessly rewarding.

Alanna Kellam
My nephew is the light of my life. This picture was taken as we explored my parents' property together.
My nephew is the light of my life. This picture was taken as we explored my parents' property together.

What does Pride Month mean to you?

Well, in Australia it’s only been in the last couple of years that June Pride has crept over the international borders. But when I think about Pride in general, as a concept rather than a particular date, I feel lucky to live my queer life, and I also feel a deep sense of responsibility. So for me, Pride is about really feeling and relishing and celebrating queer joy, and also remembering and honouring those who have come before me, who made it possible for me to feel that queer joy and to be planning a wedding to my incredible future wife. And each year I try to take that energy and recommit to being a good queer ancestor.

What advice would you give someone who is earlier in their journey in the sleep and/or LGBTQ+ community?

It can be confusing to realise that who you are is different than expected. Find safe, supportive relationships in which you can be honest about what you are experiencing. Exploring and figuring out what is true for you – whether that is about your sexuality, gender, body, brain, or health – will be a lifelong, deeply rewarding process.

Thank you, Alanna, for sharing your voice! Stay tuned for more Pride in the sleep community throughout the month of June!

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