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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What being gay ISN’T.

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Is it time for my life and worth to be the subject of public debate again already?! Gosh time flies when you’re a “minority” at the peak of social cool but still pariahs for equal rights. Guaranteed there’ll be a few hurt feelings by the time this marriage equality debacle and anti-homophobia education conniption is over and we can let humans be happy in who they are independent of outdated discrimination. The LGBTIQA community constitutes a vast diversity (and likely majority) of people, all of whom deserve recognition as valuable contributors to the world by virtue of their humanity, not their plight or struggle.

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The incredible Gus. Image from Gayby Baby.

Here’s what being gay isn’t. It isn’t living as though lives haven’t been risked so you can fill yours up with as much self-expression, passion and joy as you possibly can. It isn’t forgetting your worth outside your community as much as in it. It isn’t mistaking triumph of yourself with torture of others or confusing making good with looking good. Having been accused of conforming to a stereotype in one breath and applauded for brave originality in the next, the pressure to choose sides or meet expectations is all-too-familiar when it comes to appearance, apparel, career, conversation, sex and social life. You name it, someone always has a question to ask. The response to such questions are almost always “nobody’s business but mine!”. Being gay ISN’T disrespecting the years of oppression, massacre and persecution LGBTI people have experienced in order to flourish in who you are, and that includes LGBTI people themselves.

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Sydney’s first Mardi Gras.

Being part of the LGBTI community does not preclude anyone from other prejudices or poor attitudes, just as being part of the community does not suddenly prescribe someone to a specific type of activity, or permit others to treat them as personal property or entertainment. Being gay ISN’T a novelty.

If being gay were about sex with people of the same sex, I’d have long been excommunicated. And if it were about having a gods-built body, hung for days, dressed designer and 1m followers on instagram, then I might have something to tell my parents. And allow me to note that I’m not a witty, fantastic lush because I’m  gay, but because I’m a witty fantastic lush. Everything I do, I do it for me, which is how I do it for you. What I’m hoping is that by living for yourself, you’ll see that everyone deserves the same rights to living their life, and so open your actions to be accepting, humble and supportive of the people and animals and planet around you. Being gay ISN’T adherence to a trope or stereotype, but the experience of a real, only-given-one-time human life.

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Hearing humans at Slut Walk Melbourne. Image by Chris Hopkins for The Age.

 

The two biggest issues in this country right now concerning diverse communities, of marriage equality and anti-homophobia education, when compared with the battles of other communities (of which some LGBTI people are part), is so far beyond ridiculous that our government should be ashamed, except for the part where it is a tactical manoeuvre of misdirection. Indigenous Australians still do not have the rights their lineage, their contribution to our country’s culture, and their triumph over oppression warrants. Refugees are traumatised further than anything an Australian can empathise with, further upon which we traumatise and torture their futures for no other reason than they were born somewhere else and sought to change their circumstances. Australians living with disabilities, everything from mobility to mental functionality, are continually excluded from spaces, employment, support and education models.

Compared to those issues, and the ones that plague the climate we thrive on, the wildlife we should respect, and the imbalanced economy we are manipulated by daily, the ability for me to marry the love of my life has all the trappings of a first-world problem. However, the socio-political equality that is a key component of the right to marry as my heterosexual or simply hetero-apparent? That is a right for which I should fight because it does impact the rights of others, does improve liberation of all people, and involve the consciousness and compassion of our species further and further away from the archaic, murderous notions that take the freedoms and lives of the brothers, sisters, betweens and beyonds in my community. Being gay ISN’T just about me.

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Speaking of those issues of marriage equality and anti-homophobia education, let’s recap:

  • Homophobia and transphobia impacts ALL children. Anyone can be called a homophobic slur or misgendered as a form of bullying in a school environment. Education about LGBTI people is what prevents those types of harassment from destroying the self-esteem and mental health of those students who experience it as attackers or sufferers.
  • We do have same-sex de facto relationships recognised in Australia, which isn’t the case in many countries where marriage equality has been introduced, and so there hasn’t been as much urgency. However, decisions on end-of-life care, custody of children, provision of insurances and family support, travel safety, organ/blood donation, census information are all impacted by the ability to declare your marital status.
  • The absolutely abhorrent state of sexual education in Australia is responsible for the kinds of abuses experienced that conservative and homophobe alike use to discredit and disparage LGBTI people. Suppression and shame of sexuality can have lasting and dangerous impacts on the individual, and therefore put others around that individual at risk, but not because they’re gay, but because they’ve been mentally beaten and made an animal by their torture, internal and societal.
  • Inclusivity has never had any impact but a positive one on society at large, and it is exclusivity from systems like marriage, like spiritual lifestyles, like politics and education that have created the insanity of our species. That insanity where we kill each other, we revert our very natures, we live in alarming disharmony with the resources of the planet and have developed a way of being to secure our own destruction as soon as humanly possible.

Being gay ISN’T a lot to ask of our fellow human beings.

See I can get married if I want, just not your way. I can have a child, I can educate myself, I can feel love, I can travel. There is no difference between your life and mine, except you’ve got it in your head that your way is the right way. I’ll gladly leave you to the delusion, or I can rescue you from the cruel fate of strangling yourself in your own web of prejudice. Choice is yours, because I didn’t get one.

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.

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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.

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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. 

I do it in the dark

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When people say “it’s getting better”, it’s easy to agree, though we’re all working out quite recently that’s not quite the whole truth so help you God. What we thought we were erasing was only being suppressed, marginalised, unfollowed, unfriended. Ignorance and hatred are left alone to fester, or kept together to infect each other, and some of us effectively ghettoize divisive and dangerous behaviour. Cooking beneath the brush waiting patiently to burst into bushfire. Waiting for a spark, just one.

A spark like Donald Trump, or Vladimir Putin. Like a terrorist threat, an airborne epidemic or a missing child. Like a Brexit or an apartheid or a plebiscite. These are all as much incite as they are insight, and the ability to not just determine the difference but persevere to probe the problem is what will ensure progress triumphs over prejudice. How many times have you pushed people aside, railroaded or abandoned them when they pose an offensive statement or question? If you’re me, you’ll have done it quite frequently. It’s natural to surround ourselves with people who agree, people who align. We consider our presence in people’s lives to be so valuable, that by withdrawing that as a means of punishing certain behaviours or interpretations, they have been suitably punished and about-faced. More often than not, we do it out of awkwardness and aversion to conflict. The truth is, this just hardens the opinion or the actions, makes them immune to threats of isolation or seclusion because that’s how they’ve always been treated. When someone offends me now, I still demonstrate reproach, but then I show what reprieve looks like, by providing compassion and response.

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Los Incotables, Erik Ravelo

I once worked with a young man who answered a question I asked about his life using the word “bitches” to describe the women in his life. When I asked him why he used that word, what emerged were some venomous thoughts about betrayal and dependence. When I asserted that he should not take those feelings out on women by calling them that word, he informed me I was the first person in his life to suggest such a thing. His peers who were present showed much agreement. Now if I’d come across these opinions online, galvanised by the separation and relative anonymity the internet provides me like a dangerous weapon I need no licence or background check to operate, and encouraged by the conduct I see from other online women I truly admire, I’d have taken the guy to shreds. Called him a sexist, called him a disgrace and dismissed him. His views won’t have changed, they’ll likely be affirmed, and I’m exhausted. What I might have done, if I had the time to deal with the hordes of men with views like his, is engage, is discuss, is show that retaliation of his devaluing of me is beneath me, and lead by example that the answer to our discriminative ways isn’t fire upon fire upon fire, but cleansing, steady and tidal water. We need people in there to burn the rage back, but for some of us, the journey is in rivulets through the zone.

The most dangerous thing for darkness, is to come into the light.

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Brexit and Trump have shone stark lights on racism, capitalist suppression and political damage to working-class communities as well as far-right feudal nouveau for education, health and equal rights. This has awakened the politically lethargic, the apathetic and ignorant to demand information. We ignored the rumblings when Russia and Africa silenced and incarcerated gay people, but a lone gunman has brought homophobia around the world to light, where scrutiny upon it led to unparalleled action against gun laws and resurgence of equal marriage campaigns.

The reduction of interpersonal interaction due to a digital divide that is technically classist, is dulling our sense of debate or deep connection over issues of any kind of leading by example. I am grateful, though it has taken years, to openly discuss unconscious, but no less impactful, homophobia with my close friends, colleagues and family. To address the outcomes at their source, not at their symptom. It is important that you educate your opinion without investing pride in it, and that you engage with other opinions without investing pride there either. If you can really look at the root of these issues, it’s often something deep that requires compassion, not dismissal. It is always up to you to do something about injustice, but don’t do it from a distance or up in the idealism. Do it in the dark.

B.

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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.

 

“just another dead fag to you, that’s all” – Wake Up Australia

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I broke out in hives on my thighs. I slowly stopped dressing. I have been shaking with cold and anger for hours now. They are hanging us in Africa. They are imprisoning us for life in Asia. They are throwing us from rooftops in the Middle East. They are luring us on dating apps into cars, then robbing, stripping, beating and leaving us for dead in abandoned parking lots. They’re shooting us down daily. They’re legally allowed to after all in America. It brings into stark contrast how it’s not so bad Down Under, but we’d all be kidding ourselves if we think ourselves fortunate or that we’re not being hoodwinked.

The man swapped-in to lead my country erased me today. He made the massacre of my community, the largest single-event death toll in the States since 9/11, about him and about “us all”. This is the same man who won’t put marriage equality, the same party who wouldn’t amend the gay panic defence’, the same coalition who have stripped young people struggling with their identity of knowledge, safety and community in their schools by taking apart the only program that acknowledged their specific challenges when it comes to bullying and socialising. He tried to erase me, tried to deflect off me, tried to wash me out and assimilate me into his cowardly rhetoric, and he is not alone.

I have been so afraid that this event would be used to prove that marriage equality creates discord and should be avoided. That this event would be used to fuel the fires of xenophobia, and destroy resources for young people who need them to know they’re not alone, and help is within reach. All my fears have been realised by straightsplaining politicians and newreaders, by vicious anonymous twitter handles and facebook pages. We’re not so far removed down here. In Australia we are the last Western first-world nation to put marriage equality, and we only this year dismissed gay panic as a justifiable excuse for assault or murder. We have every reason to support our gay community, but our leadership just won’t. That kind of aversion sends a clear message not just to young people, but to all people – that being anything other than exclusively heterosexually monogamous is wrong and will be contested. It sends that message to me, and I cannot comprehend how anyone purporting to be a leader would see people suffer at the hands of prejudices against their very humanity, and remain completely impotent and manipulative of fact to maintain such a sad status quo.

Something missing from all the anguish and blame, is the simple knowledge that the root of this attack is homophobia, the extreme and ungoverned hatred of gay people. Not Islam, which is circumstantial in this case, nor guns, which are legitimate problems but only the tool here, but unwarranted unchecked murderous rage brought about by the lives of other people. This is not just a hate crime, but a systemic genocidal episode. And for goodness only knows what reason, some people just can’t admit that they’re accountable for the perpetuation and permission of this behaviour.

In a similar way we let misogyny go by and excuse it, using words like ‘gay’ and ‘faggot’ to discriminate and demean is behaviour that frequently goes by without being questioned, challenged or stopped. So it breeds, becomes more hurtful, more hateful. Someone glitter-bombs you a little too roughly. Strangers come up behind you and whisper sexually aggressive or threatening things in your ear. You hear ‘faggot’ yelled out of a car, and watch for brake lights in case they decide to turn around. You have one drink at a bar and within minutes feel suspiciously faint. As every act of violence is sensationalised by the media, the population of people who think it worthwhile to take a few lives as a means to express the exponential anger and disgust they’ve been allowed to feel and act on all their lives grows. When I was ten, I was told to just ignore it. How do you ignore a bullet in your back?

We do have to call out homophobia and hate crimes wherever we see them, and to whatever extent they might offend or frighten. We do have to teach teachers how to put their personal politics aside in favour of saving a child’s life from bullying and self-harm, which LGBT youth are at much higher risk of. Stop attributing homophobia to gay students; you don’t need to be gay to be called a faggot, or to be beaten up for dressing ‘like a leso’ or to be accused of representing a different gender. You can cry all you want about how our kids are doing too much social learning and not enough algebra; there’s no need for arithmetic when you feel worthless, and students struggling with a sense of belonging perform poorly in scholastic environments anyway! And as to the argument about how such education should rest solely with the parents, take a read of the shooter’s father’s statement. Or better yet, Brock Turner’s dad’s about his rapist son. You can’t ask the parents to teach something they’re ignorant of, that you didn’t teach them either. And producing a child does not in any way equate to making a person altruistic or just.

We do have to stamp on workplaces to create anti-homophobia policy and we need to hear and be proved politicians’ stances on these issues before we elect them. Where we shop, what we buy, where we invest, who we encourage, it’s all part and parcel of reaching equality. Think critically about what you do, what you let slip by. They say everyone knows or is related to a gay person. Do they know you’ve got their back today?