my gender is cowardice.

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remember kisschasey? that’s where it started.

it was the first year of school, so we would’ve all been five years old. The way the game works is that girls get a head-start then the boys take off to catch and kiss a girl each, after which the pursuit reverses, with the girl chasing the boy to kiss him back. No-one was sure whether I should be on the boys’ team, or the girls’ team. No-one, including me. Many of the girls were my friends, so I naturally wanted to be pack with them, and I certainly didn’t want to kiss them. There would never really be a decision about which side I was on, the game would usually just begin because the problem was too complicated for five-year-olds to resolve. Once everyone had taken off running and giggling and feigning disinterest in being kissed, I would at some point run into the boys’ bathroom and hide in a cubicle, imagining that someone was coming to kiss me. Looking back writing this, I realise the game has not changed much. Not for the negotiation of courtship and consent between men and women, and certainly not for me.

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Growing up in the 90s when being gay was still only discreetly cool in the upper echelons of celebrity-shadowing, being called “gay” or “faggot” wasn’t common but being called a “girl” as a form of denigration was frequent. The way I walked, that I wore my hair long, my mannerisms, the things I liked, and of course my choice of friends didn’t do much to deter that harassment.

When I was three, the childcare staff told my parents I’d been put in time out for losing my temper at a girl who had dared to wear a gold dress from the dress up box which was indisputably “mine”.

As young as twelve I fell into such a dislike of my body’s gender presentation I began binding myself in too-small underwear and by fourteen I had considered self-mutilation.

At home, wearing dresses continued right through to mid-adolescence, when I took a brief hiatus – that’s a lie, I continued to shop from the women’s side of the Cotton On for many years, but dresses were out for a while until I started wearing them again a couple of years ago and went public with a high-waisted skirt and a beard. I’ll to this day regularly say things like “I’m more of a Divinyls gal”, or “I don’t vote Liberal, I’m not that kind of girl”. I’ll never baulk at being referred to in the collective noun of “ladies” or thought of fondly as “one of the girls”.

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What’s it all about? Over the years I think the hard times might have given me cause to cling desperately to a vision of myself that didn’t lose their innocence so roughly, and that sincere sense of self I possess is easily encapsulated by that stereotype of sweetness, sixteen-ness, stillness of girlhood.

As recently as last year I’ve hit patches where thinking too deeply about my gender identity causes me too much confusion and sorrow to continue – and I confess that one of the biggest factors in backing out of this thinking is my conflicted feelings about how many social challenges I’ve been socialised to believe and have witnessed myself that trans and gender-diverse people face; in finding love, in succeeding in the workplace, in achieving whatever physical actualisation of their gender they desire, in receiving healthcare, in being able to travel. My gender identity is informed by my fear of losing something I didn’t think I had: male privilege. My gender identity is informed by my fear of what my loved ones would say, how they would adapt. So, I find myself thinking that my gender is terror, my gender is cowardice.

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My gender is constantly in a state of conviction, being bartered back and forth between fierce femininity and penile privilege. Sliding along the spectrum in one direction because I’m not masculine enough for manhood, then scaling along another slant because I respect womanhood and gender diversity as experiences I do not live and wouldn’t do the disservice or disregard of appropriating any further than colloquially. I am under no false illusions that this is a to-ing and fro-ing I’ll live on the trajectory of for a great deal of time, if not all my life.

Here’s where I’m at now. That in my thoughts about gender, I still feel room for choice and that is what sets several of the incredibly brave and beautiful humans I have been given the joyous gift of knowing apart in their experience from mine. For many of them there is not choice, there is simply the fact of who they are outside the double-edged sword of male and female; the inherent knowledge of difference and a resonance with alternatives and terms of identity I have yet to feel for anything other than “man”.

I grew up in a time where being transgender was a way to describe someone who was moving or had moved from one side of the binary of male and female to the other and once there that person was still known as either – being trans was not its own identity far as I knew then. Within a decade I find myself trying to comprehend what being tri-gender and enby means when I’m still stuck on what being a man means, and how I occupy that.

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Every time I step into darkness to battle with the binary, I have continually emerged male because I cannot get past believing that’s my fight; I feel it’s important for those like me to challenge and broaden what manhood is and wish to lead manhood forward out of toxic masculinity further from the patriarchal systems we are tightly bound to because its built from our gender presentation. For men to develop a compassion, and an empathy and a freedom to explore the roots of being men beyond clothing or interests or sexual exploits, that’s an image of men I want to perpetuate. I don’t want to leave my manhood behind, I want to make more of it, I want manhood – how it’s understood and talked about to adapt to include my kind of expression. To me, it matters to be a good man, and it matters that I identify as male as a means of demonstrating the room for diversity therein.

The fear I speak of is the same that paralyses me in moments where I’m in an environment where men become rowdy, or sexist, or any multitude of behaviours I know it’s important I stand up to. Somewhere inside me I yearn for their acceptance but I fear their predilection for communicating with violence or abuse. Men need intervention, not attention. I remember how positive a change I saw in men when ‘metrosexuality’ became popular, and how bitterly disappointed and ashamed I felt when the backlash came and not since have I witnessed any such valuing of self-care or sensitivity in men in Western cultures. But I’m not giving up on men yet, I’m not giving up on being a man.

Though I continue to grapple with what part prejudice plays in precluding me from being the person people ask or assume I am, what I’m sticking to is that though it may be cowardice that keeps me a man, it could be courage that drives me to change what that means.

images by Corie Shannon. insta @corieshannon.

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consent IS about you. and the Spice Girls.

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this article comes with a trigger warning for discussing sexual violence.

The last time I was ever on Grindr, I got this message:
“I’d love to rape ur penis with my arse”
I responded “As someone who has been raped, I really hate people using that word so casually”
Then I got blocked. Then I deleted the app. Then I had a cup of tea.

Consent is a topic I find unites many people when they are willing to engage in conversation around it, but typically makes men uncomfortable. That may be in some part, speaking recently, due to #MeToo and #TimesUp giving voice to women who have experienced sexually harassing and traumatic events in what appears to be endemic proportions. Even before these movements though, discussions of sexual assault or rape perpetuated a pattern of women who can’t defend themselves against men who can’t control themselves. Mainstream media narratives, unforgivably lenient sentencing, and the current presidency of the United States of America have cemented this stereotype around the world. Where great strides have been made, backlash has brokered back ground, and outside of heteronormative discourse, silence continues to dominate and dismiss victims. Not only gay men and women, but also trans people, people born intersex, prisoners, trafficked people, recipients of foreign aid, single-sex private school children and many more examples outside those we hear most about.

Speaking into my own primary community of gay males, who are often thought of synonymously with promiscuity, I’ve found there is still much to learn and myths to be busted about how we approach sex in a respectful and safe way. So I’m going to attempt imparting wisdom with the help one of the world’s universal languages: the Spice Girls.

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Consent isn’t sexy
You know what they say about throwing the baby out with the bathwater? Don’t. What I find most people mean by this is that having to instruct or talk someone through sex, isn’t sexy. I can appreciate most people want to enjoy sex the way they’ve been brainwashed to enjoy it: post-verbal passionate pornographic moaning & groaning where each person is perfectly attuned to the others’ wants and needs, hits their G-spot on the first go and ejaculates within enough time to get sweaty, but not odorous. Now with someone you’ve slept with many times, built trust between and created an instinctive communication around? Sure that’s a reasonable expectation. But a guy you’ve only met once or twice, haven’t ever seen in full light, who you’re not even sure speaks English as a first language? It’s not fair to expect that person to know instinctively and intimately how to satisfy you without communicating.

Consent during sex isn’t as complicated as we’d like to believe; being caught up in our own enjoyment or nervousness during sex can make us less able to notice or interpret the other person’s signals, and being afraid of rejection can make us unsure of how to communicate during sex.

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You only need consent for penetrative sex
Once on another gay dating app, someone I’d been talking with for a while asked me to come over for some shared nudity with casual intimacy and I made the decision to ask “are you healthy?”
This is an insufficient question. He provided an insufficient response: “I’m on PrEP”
I said that PrEP only covered him for HIV, asked when was he last tested for any other STIs and let him know I would still prefer to use a condom.
He never replied. I felt bad for not waiting to have the conversation in person. Then I had a cup of tea.

Something I didn’t know about consent when I had my first sexual experience (aside from everything because they don’t talk about that stuff in Sex Ed), was that it only applies to the situation you believe you’re in. For example, ghosting, the practice of putting a condom on to gain consent to engage in penetrative sex then removing before actually penetrating, is rape. Plain and simple. Similarly, having sex with someone whom you have told you’re sober when in fact you’re on drugs voids their consent, as does saying you’ll use lubricant but not using it in case you lose your hard-on. There’s this attitude that you only need to put a condom on at the point of insertion. There’s also an attitude that you only need to put a condom on as an alternative to pulling out. There’s an assumption that saying yes once covers you for whatever happens in the next four hours. It doesn’t.

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Isn’t consent implied if he sticks around?
An Australian Football player made waves back in 2010 with the statement “When will you learn! [sic] At 3am when you are blind drunk & you decide to go home with a guy ITS [sic] NOT FOR A CUP OF MILO!”. There’s this idea, particularly among men, that the key to absolution from any compassion or consideration of another person’s engagement in intimacy is that they can put their hands up between you, say “Stop! I don’t like it!” as they were taught to back in kindergarten and then everyone will part ways as friends. The truth is that pretty much all of us would like to feel like we have the power and the right to do as Amber Rose saidIf I’m laying down with a man, butt naked, and is his condom is on, and I say ‘you know what, no I don’t wanna do this. I changed my mind’, that means no. It doesn’t matter how far I take it or what I have on. When I say no, it means no”. I’d even go a step further to if I say “ouch”, or “wait”, or “gently”, or “try this”, I should be able to expect any of those things to ensure you check in on me, and care about my response, and respect my enjoyment as much as your own without judgement.

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Someone on twitter made a comment that there’s a spectrum of behaviour, and that being catcalled, being groped and being raped are very different things in terms of how consent works. My response to that was that consent is like a joke, if no-one is laughing, it’s not a joke. It’s only consent if everyone is on board. If you feel taken advantage of, or coerced or traumatised, that’s valid and real. Then I wrote this blog. Then I had a cup of tea.


(this blog was not authorised by the Spice Girls)
Another great read on this topic ‘The But of Butts’.
take a peek at Project Consent for more information.
I talk plenty about consent in BURLESQUE BY FORCE which is showing in Adelaide Fringe Festival February 24-27. Tickets available here.

 

to be Aquarian.

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In Greek mythology, Ganymede was a young man whose beauty and innocence attracted the eye of Zeus. To consummate his love, Zeus carried Ganymede to Mount Olympus and gave him the sacred duty of bearing water for the gods, as well as being his lover. Hera became enraged with jealousy and so to protect the young man, Zeus cast him into the sky as the constellation Aquarius where he would be immortalised and honoured as a symbol of sacred love between men.

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The age of 27 holds a hush about it. Some of our most treasured – and far more contemporary – idols have not made it past the tender year. Some mark it as the commencement of our Saturn return, an astrological event that stirs unrest and resonant challenge in our lives. My peers begin to think much more critically about the state of their lives as the ominous thirty is suddenly more apparent, and its ever-approaching encroachment becomes an acute component with which we pursue or ambitions, aspirations, desires. I have made a conscious effort in all my years to make each year mean something specific in my growth, ‘cos that’s what hippy dippy Aquarians do. I’ve been sure to mark each year of my life with some sort of interstate move, spiritual quest or grand effort at a creative endeavour. Although I have been of the philosophy that the only thing remarked upon by age is the proof that one comprehends the principles of counting, this one feels like it’s worth really steeping in.

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Aquarians are the hipsters of the zodiac, obsessed with originality and liberation. We’re moody, often a little too self-reflective (read: narcissistic), and often pair hyper-pragmatic ambition with day-dreamy idealism, to infuriating effect. Aquarians are independent, intellectual and focused more on immortality than immediate gratification. An Air sign, they’re fixated on the new, on communication and adventure. The sign’s colour is yellow and planet is Uranus (used to be Saturn).  The most frustrating thing about being an Aquarian is that it makes me predictable in my thirst for unpredictability. I suck at ‘commitment’, completely susceptible to reverse psychology, and yeah being a homosexual with a preference for the older and wiser whilst being inherently cautious of envious women? Often I feel like the very essence of an Aquarian.

To be Aquarian is to consider very deeply the lessons one is on this Earth to learn. In the Orphic cult of Ancient Greece, their belief in reincarnation was tied very closely to astrology, in that souls spent only twelve lifetimes on the planet, in each sign of the zodiac, to learn what they were destined to, and contribute to the knowledge of the universe. In those twelve lifetimes, if they could reconcile their lesson then they spent eternity in the Summerland; if not, in Hades. In the past year, I felt an incredible emergence of deep equations with which I struggled with my sanity to resolve. Being 27 is an exciting time to be working at this level, where I consider how to balance my physical body, awaken my sexual body, understand my blood relationships, and activate my creative practice.

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The pursuit of the Aquarian is rarely beauty, money, or status, at least not for their own sakes. Most Aquarians seek authenticity by impact. In tarot, Aquarius is represented by the 17th card, The Star. A quote by the Carr-Gomms about this card I love is “Inner and outer are connected in perfect harmony. All you need to do is be. Intuition flows like a bright stream”. Life becomes a series of experiments to test resolve, test whether facets of personality are impermeable, test whether interactions are soul-level because that’s what we’re after this time around. I’ve interpreted this as a sifting between what fears can be approached, discovering how to seduce what scares me: exposure, intimacy, failure, success, misinterpretation, missed opportunity. Life to me is a swirling of musing and misusing. And it’s fantastic.

Loving an Aquarian is like a beautiful obscure science. Not to say its complicated, but that its something you either know or don’t. As with all things, it has to come naturally. Aquarians spook easy, their connections are either wildly passionate then swiftly abandoned, or only entered into with the deepest intellectual and inspirational connections, dropped right into deep vulnerability before being able to truly thrive. To love an Aquarian is never to tell them you love them so you can hear it back, but only when it’s so evident that to say it is simply a statement of fact in an endeavour for sincerity.

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Maybe this makes sense to those of you who know me, maybe it makes sense to those of you who know other Aquarians. But as you can see, to be Aquarian isn’t exclusive to Aquarians. It’s a state of mind many of us find we wash in and out of, or search for beneath moonlit crossroads. Many of us try frequently to find parameters by which we might be better understood, easier reached, deeper connected, longer loved.

Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday to you. A sign is only as valuable, as what it’s directing to.

B.

 

I do not own the copyright to any of the images featured in this post. Please send any concerns directly.

#TBT: An open letter to every guy I just unfollowed on instagram. All 541 of you.

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Dearest,

By the time you’re reading this letter, you may have noticed that I have unfollowed you. Trawl though you might through the countless thousands of people who have hitched their wagon to your sexually-charged star, you will find my name is missing. I only hope you know that my leaving you does not in any way diminish the special nature of our former relationship, nor how much I value our time together. It’s just that I’ve become a different person, and it is time we went our separate ways. I hope this letter gives you some clarity as to why I’ve made this hard decision, and if you still can’t bring yourself to move on, then please snap out of it because you have thousands of other people eating your shit up with a spoon, and thousands more on the way I’ve no doubt.

It occurred to me recently as you flashed by on my phone screen, that the standards for male aesthetics are still very high – much as they are for women – and when it comes to the sexually diverse community, the permission we’re giving you to direct our consciousness by sole virtue of the fact that you’re fine as heck to look at is more than substantial. Men are feeling more and more incompetent, incapable, and unimpressive because of these standards. Further, our society is worshipping the standard more than I believe we ever used to.

The former standards for men’s beauty was shaped by physical labour, which gender equality has somewhat distributed across the sexes more. Now, instead of allowing male beauty to change to reflect the new structure of life for men, we made gyms and kept the old constriction held as idol.

Anyway, I worked out that I’m part of the problem. Our relationship is fuelling this cycle, with you as the Adonis-influence, and me as the lowest-common-denominator-consumer. I can’t be this to you any longer. Your “fitspiration” didn’t get me into a gym, or out for a walk at all. Truth be known, our relationship is purely sexual, stimulative. And you deserve more, for all you may not want more. I definitely deserve more.

Let our breakup not take away from the work you do – it is hard, unrelenting work in a highly competitive industry of social media engagement. I admire what you do, there’s no way I could do it. The fact is though, that in spite of the inspiring quote in your bio, your content is focused almost exclusively on you naked, or at the gym, or naked at the gym. Intermittent depictions of the meals you make, clothes you buy, brands you sell with sex appeal appear as diamonds in the rough.

Somewhere along the way, your particular shape attracted hordes of thumbs double-tapping and following your progress, compelled as I was once by mild arousal, perhaps envy, perhaps encouragement. That number that reigns and ranks you at the top of your profile has got the attention of agencies, product companies etc who then pay you money, ask for your endorsement, and encourage you to increase your activity. In turn, you feel rewarded for your work, and some of those followers will feel the need to push their own physical forms to also become an “opinion leader” as you are.

By this new order, the development of your mind, networking of your thoughts and investment in your sense of self all come secondary to what will place you on a platform to distribute your influence upon the world. Your six-pack makes you credible, which I find incredible. So I set about to end our relationship.

I suppose it’s fair I tell you, ours isn’t the only tryst that I have called time on. I looked over everything you have contributed to our connection, and having discovered that nothing really inspired me creatively, I had to end it. Don’t be mad or jealous if you discover other men that you think deserved the same treatment are still carrying on with me. The truth is that somewhere those men still made me laugh, or made me think, or just interspersed their naked ambition with something, ANYTHING, else. I don’t feel like I asked a lot, and I would’ve appreciated more effort on your part in the past; it became very apparent you took advantage of how unlikely I was to spend the time and battery and brain to check up on you and really evaluate who we are as people, and what impact we make on the collective consciousness. In truth, I feel quite betrayed.

You know, it wouldn’t have been hard to keep your promise to inspire me by throwing in something intellectually, artistically, politically, spiritually interesting. It’s like you don’t even know me, like you couldn’t even take a couple of minutes to give me some credit and try to spice things up. But no, you just kept calling yourself an actor when you’ve shown no interest in the profession, or saying you’re an artist or fashion photographer or beauty blogger when really you just do nude portraiture. That’s OK, just be honest! Worst of all is when you say “welcome to my life” but all I see is the parts of your life when you’re kissing someone else! At least the other guys make the effort to pretend they’re being random!

I’m sorry. You should know this was hard for me. To look over all our delicious moments together and walk away. I even got rid of the one Kardashian I follow because she was guilty of the same crimes you are. Please understand, I had to do this. I need to be needed, and there are smart, creative geniuses, political brains and sustainability causes that need my thumb-work. I’d like to think that I’ll come across you in my Discover feed someday and see you’ve changed, and if you haven’t tagged twenty other aggregate accounts, of course I’ll reconsider our relationship. Until then, go with my blessing, and I wish you all the best.

Before I go, I will say this. For all that I want you to succeed, I hope that you will take my advice. Take responsibility for the unbelievable volume of people willing to be influenced by you, don’t mistreat them as you did me, give them something to be activated by, show them a way forward not just physically but also for the benefit of our communities, our countries, our planet. Sure it may not get as many Likes, but when this whole celebrity-for-no-reason thing comes to an end, you’ll feel like a better person – for all that you’ll likely have retired by then.

Yours no longer,
Brodie

 

NB: Bearing in mind how my relationship with social media has changed in the six months almost to the day since I posted this, seems like a good time to run a throw-back! This piece first appeared on papabayj.com.