accustomed though I am to how many friends and family avoid my writing for its melodrama-bordering verbosity, I grant myself enough virtue to believe that if you’re reading this one, that you read the last one. so before I move on too far from the reflections on skirt-wearing, I’d like to make these final remarks:
1. To wear a skirt in public was not an “experiment”, nor an on-purpose action conducted to provoke people. It was literally the decision I made over overalls or jeans that I believed I should (indeed we all should) be free to make. It was not a “demonstration” but living as an example of the values I espouse regarding freedom to be oneself.
2. I am not trans. I do not wish to be a woman, though I admire women very deeply, their journey is their own. I feel affinity with women, and femininity, but in my head I understand that I am definitely male, gladly so.
3. Wearing a skirt for one day did not make me understand how it feels to be a woman. I would never suggest that by wearing clothes designated for women, that I would somehow be more empathetic to the female sex. I also loathe the rhetoric that positions the idea men will understand women better if they wear stilettos for charity, or nail polish, or dresses. That is SO NOT how it works. What wearing the skirt did make me understand more about is how judgemental and ensnared in masculinity men can often be.
4. I appreciate that to subvert the usual is to attract questions. And I am ready and willing to engage in debate or opinion. But know the difference between advice, and telling someone what to do; between discussion and demands; between caring and sewing fear.
5. My experience was just that: an experience. As my opinion is just that: an opinion. I do what I believe to be right for my balance of mind and spirit. I know we all often think we’re doing the right thing when we commit some horrendous actions. Maybe one day I’ll come to regret that one time I wore a skirt. But today, I think I did the right thing.
Ok. Moving on. I don’t know about you guys, but of late it has felt like ground is being gained by those who would reduce LGBTIQ people to their former victimhoods and alienation. It has been agony to watch as men who could have been me, vanish at the hands of their own parents by the direction of their own leaders in Chechnya. The tragic death of Peter “Bon” de Waal has rocked the community who fought alongside him and his partner for marriage equality in Australia, a nation dragging their feet behind much of the world, certainly nearing last among the developed democratic world. In Indonesia, two gay men were lashed 83 times each before an estimated 2500 people by three men whose identities were protected, humiliating both and their families, and likely silencing a new generation the world over. It hurt to watch. But I did it. Because I know my family saw it and thought about me, and I know their hearts clenched in fear for what might happen to me someday, what might’ve happened if things were only slightly different.
I had the pleasure to see a revival of Only Heaven Knows, the musical written by Alex Harding about gay men in the 1940s and 1950s Kings Cross facing everything from police persecution, social scorn, compromised sexual health, electro-shock therapy, prison, eviction and, maybe most painful, life without love or the ability to express it. Go see it, it’s beautiful and tender, and true to the experience as much now as when it was first performed in 1995 as I image it was in the time it reflected. Whilst in Sydney where I saw the show, I went on an impromptu coffee date after which we shared a simple kiss on the street. He exclaimed about the brazenness of our actions. In 2017. Where to hold hands might still be a gamble. Where to travel, you might still need to feign being sisters, or cousins to share a hotel room. Where to walk around in a skirt begs the question from friends and family “are you OK? Did anything happen to you?”. After I saw the show, I stream-spoke some poetry on the walk home the same streets those characters, those men and women trod in a high-razor-wire between fear and liberation.
This poem was at the end of a day spent volunteering at Sydney Writers Festival, a community I considered to be enlightened where I had seen an awesome human who is Indigenous be accosted by white politic, a man reach out and manhandle a woman’s clothing to determine her name, heard about horrendous upbringings, and another man accused feminists of inventing climate change. To top it all off, feeling incredibly vulnerable (and exhausted), I felt myself being judged by a member of my own community at that theatre. For my appearance perhaps, my single-seat status, my youth, my state of dress (muted and masculine by my standards FYI). But at a time when our community is being thrown off rooftops in Iraq, in our own country a man whose husband died can’t be recognised as married, and in Hong Kong suffers further turmoil when the remains are confiscated. I wish it wasn’t in human nature to cut into each other this way.
you’ve no need to feel powerless. you can march. you can raise the topic. you can defend yourself and others in conversation you feel safe in. you can use your vote. you can call your political representatives. you can search for the rainbow flag on businesses. you can ask the question if you genuinely think it’s the time and place. you can buy ONE by William Elm for $1 which goes straight Russian LGBT Network evacuating men fleeing persecution in Chechnya. you can contact Amnesty and the UN and the respective governments by tweeting, tagging them in posts, emailing to declare your concerns about international tragedies. you can.
I figure those of you reading this are the choir when it comes to preaching compassion, patience and openness, not only to diversity and difference, but to asking the question AND hearing the answer. but on the off chance you’re still wrapping your head around these things, please continue to do so with all the love and time from this corner of the human consciousness. it’s not about what you can’t ask, it’s about the intent of understanding and liberating. it’s about the fight for which we can all be on the right side: that of safety, tolerance and social progress.