the bride wore bitter

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Dearly Belittled…

We have voted here today…

Yeah, I know.

One week ago. I haven’t cried about it. Not once. I confess I’ve been almost entirely indifferent because I can’t get the questions out of my head; what if this whole public vote regarding our rights was for something we actually needed? While the right hand’s distracting us by dangling this carrot, whose is the left shaking? How, when nothing has changed, we just know more precisely what we already did for both better and worse, can we be celebrating?

And of course, the million-dollar question: why don’t I feel anything?

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Don’t get me wrong- I voted, I messaged people, I jumped on a phone bank, I social media spammed, I cross-examined colleagues. I did it for every individual couple I knew who want to feel that equality, who don’t want to live with the tension of difference guiding their lives, who want to be who they are outside the crucible of prejudice. I thought I wanted that too – but this “debate”, this plebiscite, this invasion of my privacy, this sick indictment on the country I call home – of all the things it did both dreadful and disastrous, it also made me realise something.

I have power. More power in that crucible, than outside of it.

This isn’t true of everybody, I don’t think. We weren’t all built to disrupt, nor should we be. That’s what the right to live in peace means. Quinn Eades, who has swiftly stormed up my list of heroes, made mention of something in a keynote at the Australian Homosexual Histories Conference this past weekend. That there is now classified a condition beyond Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, called Total Human Devastation Syndrome. Those words struck and split every pane of glass that protects me from the horror of the world so I can still step out in it. Total Human Devastation. What a world, what a world. Where love is cause for political debate and discrimination. I realised that I’m numb to more than I’m comfortable to confess, because the momentum and enormity of the world we live in now on a constant stream-feed, has taken me beyond exhaustion and disappointment. I’m not so despicable as to say I’m totally devastated by humanity. I am so despicable as to say I have no idea what to do, and where I know I could start, I’ve not. Not yet. I’ve been preoccupied by – and as – propaganda.

My life, my love, my rights are not a brand.

I’m asking you to understand that the ends did not justify the means. For me, and many, this has been a disaster. For some people, it was the last straw. Not everyone got to celebrate YES; some died waiting, others died fearing. The prejudice has been activated – the people who voted NO? They’re pissed, and here’s where we’d better clue in quick: they’re coming for our kids. Ground has been gained on marriage, but education is not a privilege or a luxury or a decision. Education is a necessity. That 38% are going to work harder than ever to ERASE, ISOLATE, and IMPLICATE us in whatever way will diminish the freedom to be themselves that young people are already compromised in.

Christmas Day. Ten children gather around the tree, while their respective, and respectable, parents look on. Nine of the children receive ten gifts, one from each family. One child receives six, because four of those sets of parents have decided they have the right to disable equity. Is the child grateful for the presents they did get? Absolutely. And they’d better be, because for a child to declare their observation that they had been unjustly treated would be socially unacceptable. Should the child have a tantrum, and show their anger about being discriminated against, well that’s just disgraceful.

So I might be a disgrace. I might be an ingrate. I’ll tell you what else I am. Unprotected. Fashionable. Observed.

I’m also alive. Which is more than I can say for myself were I to have been born in Chechnya, or Russia, or Chernobyl, or Beirut, or in one of the many nations from which I might’ve fled for safety and found myself held in detention just off the mainland of where I was born. But I can get married. Thank goodness.

Never mind the fact that I find relationships difficult to manage as someone who has been sexually assaulted in such a way to irrevocably damage my sense of trust and safety, and physically injured me permanently, though circumstances were not clearly warranting of recourse. I’m holding out for more than one miracle here.

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So please. Continue loving your fellow lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, asexual, queer, and questioning. Do it more, and more fervently. DO NOT throw your YES posters away, stay identified as an ally. We need you now more than ever, for the sake of what future approaches. Please also understand and respect that some of us may not be as excited as you are, but that doesn’t mean we’re not still together on this one. Still fighting. Still family. ‘Til death do us part.

B.

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the Christian, the question, and the queer

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it happened. today. in a seemingly innocuous moment of asking a colleague what their weekend had in store for them, they let me know they were attending a debate about marriage equality to be held in their church. and then we had a conversation.

let me preface this by saying that while I have been passionate about marriage equality and will be voting yes for the sake of my community, my future and generations of LGBTI people to come, I have not been emotionally attached or taken the “respectful debate” to heart. Aquarians.

But here I was, faced with the opportunity many people have talked about the importance of – to reach an influential, undecided individual. not a drop of mud was slung, nor any personal attack entered into. what was said went something like this:

he told me he was afraid that the freedoms of his community would be restricted should marriage equality be granted – that it would open a door to people of faith being further criticised and denigrated in wider society. I expressed to him my compassion, as I too was afraid that the personal, security freedoms of my community would be restricted in turn should the result be “no”. I genuinely don’t think he realised that – that we both feared the same things for those we loved – that something we believed to be so inherent to who we are – me my love of men, him his love of God – would be used as a tool to oppress us.

he told me he was scared to be judged as a Christian, that to tell people you believed in Jesus these days could attract a lot of hate and dismissal. I told him I could empathise, as telling someone I was gay has the same effect; it is a gamble. For instance, when I told a pastor attached to mission my church supported, she openly told me that for me to want to help others was selfish because God couldn’t act through me, as I was an abomination. I promptly lost my love of God, many of my friends, and a foundation of faith on which, at that time, a lot more of my life than I had thought was built. I told him not to worry, to be judged hurts, especially the first time. That you get used to it. That it gets better.

I’m sure by now you’re realising the parallels in our two perspectives as we face this issue in Australia. The irony of what I was telling him was not lost on either of us. I think if I had made the point with any derision or sarcasm, as I know is tempting to do for many people, it would have been closed to him.

So then he reveals he has suffered some incredibly isolating issues from which he knows his spiritual journey rescued him. I once again shared my empathy because I felt the same way when in amongst all my pain and confusion, the realisation I was gay allowed my mind to make sense to me, when I realised there was still love I could have, it made a peace inside me that turned my life from a sorrowful pilgrimage to a productive salvation all its own.

He said he didn’t know where he stood on the issues concerning children. I asked him if his thoughts would be the same about me having a child with a woman, which I can do, though I won’t love that woman like I would another man, though I would love my child as much. There is no law stopping me from having children, and marriage will not change my ability to procreate. On top of which, waving a marriage certificate in the school principal’s face will not play any role in whether that principal decides to deliver messages of equality, conciliation and understanding, nor what curriculum or programs that principal decides to implement or not. Being a parent is now, and has for many years been, acceptably mutually exclusive from being married.

It all came down to the same thing. They’re feeling something, potentially for the first time in the context of their social and spiritual identities: shame. Nothing awakens our defensive mechanisms like being ashamed – of our country, of our society, of our families, of our friends, of ourselves. Whatever causes us to question ourselves is often treated with contempt and rejection, because we don’t want to feel wrong; we barely want to feel unsure.

I don’t know if people opposed to marriage equality are homophobic; I feel like that’s a by-product of the real issue: fear of change. I too hope the spiritual mores of hospitality, kindness, love abundant and unconditional for one another will in this moment reign supreme over intolerance and wrath. What some call ignorance I still think of in some way as innocence. Though I am determined to move forward, to love freely as any other, to call out and disperse prejudice. Change will come, there is no stopping that. And communities under pressure of discrimination and persecution will forge what they need to for survival.

$122M could have saved lives. It could have improved health, education, environmental action or climate change. I reminded him it could be improving his pension. Instead, it’s being used to conduct a manual opinion poll, using methods that inherently discriminate against homeless people, regional communities, expats and holidaymakers.

I’m voting yes because I understand that swimming against the current is the surest way to drown, and that using these moments in our history to divide and deviate is a tragedy. I’m voting yes because I believe it’s the vote that will save more lives, bring more people together, and create more joy in this country. And now, he might too.

Keep an eye out for your ballot. Tick the box. Vote. If you are someone who believes this issue should be resolved and life progress beyond this prejudiced issues and focus on more important things, then please vote. Make the effort, on the behalf of those being slandered and belitted and abused and beaten up for who they are – and often just who they appear to be. Christians may be taking heat now, but it will die down after marriage equality is won in a way LGBT people can only dream of. Winning this will cost us, but it will be worth it, because the whole country knew we earned it.

Big love,
B.

artwork by Rachel DelaGardelle.

Further reading
https://marriagesurvey.abs.gov.au/

http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/08/10/same-sex-marriage-how-vote-postal-plebiscite
http://www.smh.com.au/business/samesex-marriage-postal-plebiscite-doesnt-pass-the-pub-test-20170817-gxyhdj.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/08/15/marriage-equality-postal-plebiscite-what-you-need-to-know_a_23077619/

 

 

 

 

brother and sister, together we’ll make it through

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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.

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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.

B.

I don’t want to hear your sympathy, I want to see it.

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Even if there wasn’t a single LGBTI+ identifying person who wanted to get married in the world, marriage should be an equal right to everybody in this country regardless of race, religion, sexuality, gender identity, ability, income level. No-one should have to demand equality; this should be beyond common sense in this day and age where we have seen the most depraved prejudices play themselves out on the bodies, minds and histories of populations of people. There is not one reasonable justification to dislike, dismiss or deny equal rights for life and living to a gay person. Not a single reason whatever that you should permit the exclusion of the LGBT community from social privileges and rights.

Giving LGBTI people in regional Australia a voice

If you’re reading this and baulking at my claim, it’s possible you are either all about that book or that bigotry – and by that book I mean the holy one that a vast majority of the religions have some outdated notion of diversity contemporary readers have used to justify countless acts of villainy and discrimination. While religion remains the backbone of many societies, and abuses that position wildly by impairing the progress of wholesome and harmonising thought or deed, then we must endure this insufferable maltreatment by zealots and the huddled ignorant. Fair call, you’re clinging to salvation and believe that involves disagreeing with people’s personal choices and private lives.

But where church/mosque/synagogue/sacred circle and state are separated, there is not a single bearing for preventing access to civil liberties that legitimately exists outside the personal pride of our elected officials, of whom many have shown incredible cowardice, which does not belong in the leadership of any nation. Electing officials does not mean relinquishing control. Being an elected official does not mean governing only the portions of society you can relate to.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cj-prince/save-your-sympathy-tweets_b_10512818.html?

So here’s where I get to the point, where if you haven’t worked out by now you’re being manipulated, then here come the chips. Every time you feel like you’re waiting too long for a doctor’s appointment, every time you abhor the quality of your child’s education, every time your tertiary education fees skyrocket, and our country lapses into an energy crisis because government haven’t invested in sustainable options, you can blame the marriage equality plebiscite. A strategic manoeuvre intended solely to drive disunity in the LGBTI+ community, to marginalise conservative and progressive alike, and to distract mass media from the outcomes of abhorrent decisions made in recent governments.

Just as Howard did with the referendum for the Republic, as continues to be done to avoid a referendum regarding the status of Indigenous Australians, the Turnbull government hopes to confuse the issue and concerned public of marriage equality to irreparable conditions and create so much civic unrest among the people that he could only be labelled a hero for the eventual calming. The hope is that the plebiscite will divide the community into some pushing against the plebiscite altogether, and some pushing for a YES vote, and some bowing out altogether because it’s too difficult. I’m in the former camp, just to be clear.

http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/gay-marriage/tasmania-and-act-back-moves-for-marriage-equality/news-story/d9fed4a90804f24b21ede179ea8398bb

I don’t support a single policy that serves no other purpose than to separate people to the extremities of their view and discourage diversity of opinion beyond a yes-no binary (yes another damn binary). I don’t support a single policy that permits prejudice, as Brexit, Trump’s Wall, Putin’s Silencer have all done. I don’t support a policy that is rooted predominantly in dogma of any kind.

So I don’t want to hear your sympathy, I want to see it. I want to see you on the street, I want to be CCd into your emails to your local member of parliament, or forward me your tweets, send me the petition you signed, send me photos of you volunteering, or hand me your receipts for donations you made to organisations supporting equal rights for any community and I’ll chip in too. Research on this campaign is helping the government and socio-political groups to further suppress disabled communities, Indigenous Australians, immigrants, the planet. Step up now. Stop the Bigots.

B. 

video: #DefendSafeSchools

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Too many people who need to know this, don’t. Further, too many people who need to see it this way, don’t. Making homophobia and transphobia and bi erasure about you when it suits you, during times of mass tragedy or mass celebration, and when it doesn’t suit you, during times of actual policy change and true leadership, making it about little insignificant me, is no longer tolerable. If you want to make it about “all of us”, then when you’ve finished grieving for people who’ve lost their community, their sense of public safety, some even their lives, then I hope you get onto actually picking up a flag and a voting slip and having our back where it really counts. Please. Please.

I ask that you forgive the long-form. And the emotion. And the production values. And that I have used homophobia as an umbrella-term, as I have used LGBT as an umbrella term that should include Intersex, Asexual and Queer people. I also ask that you consider the following points that have inexplicably become nails in the coffin of anti-homophobia education:

  • If a student is expressing feeling unsafe or angry because they behave as though anti-homophobia education compromises their beliefs or value structure, then they are the student that needs counselling and parent-teacher conferencing, more support than anyone to understand why it’s not alright to hate or victimise someone for who they are, in any case nor under any conditions.
  • Rather than cutting social inclusion education, I actually believe there should be more of it. Programs that educate anti-homophobia, programs that open students’ eyes to living with a disability, programs that explore Indigenous Australian perspectives. If anything, parents should take the responsibility of reading, writing and ‘rithmetic so schools can make sure they breed global citizens of empathy and inclusion. Scholastic aptitude is so important, but without the emotional intelligence to operate that aptitude functionally or with a mind to build bridges between an ever-intermingling, ever-diversifying globe, those skills are inefficient at best, entirely impotent at worst.
  • I myself would like to think I could have some control over my child’s education when that time comes for me, but if I’m trying to curate my child’s curriculum to suit my value structure as an adult, then I really ought to home school them because placing a child in a school environment for them to only socialise with who I approve of, and learn only what I think is appropriate, being taught only by professionals I like, is entirely counterintuitive.
  • If you think children aren’t being sexualised years prior to anti-homophobia education programs, then I’ll assume your child watches not a single second of television, nor interacts with any shred of the internet, nay read a single page of a contemporary book. Think about what kind of concepts Cinderella teaches young girls (or indeed young boys!), think about what movies like Toy Story show young children. Think now about what they don’t show or teach young people who won’t grow up to be straight, or white. Children are being shown images of romance and innuendo and violence earlier on than ever, without any context or education to help them process it gradually. Sex education confronts young people with knowledge, all-at-once at whatever age seems appropriate with no follow-up, review or support for children trying amalgamate that knowledge with their experience of the world.
  • Asking a student “how do you know you’re gay?” or “what did you say to Rebecca before she punched you?” to an LGBTIQA student who has just been victimised by homophobic or transphobic bullying, to me is akin to asking a woman what she was wearing or how much she’d had to drink before being assaulted. Don’t victim-blame children, much less adults.

Thank you for watching, and reading. Bear in mind I will not tolerate any homophobia, Islamophobia in the comments section of this blog or on the video. What I will accept are earnest questions and critical thoughts that deepen, challenge or clarify the content.

Don’t just pray, defend. Don’t just grieve, galvanise. Don’t just mourn, learn.

B.