This is a huge win: let’s celebrate it

It’s official. Australians have voted in favour of marriage equality!

The yes campaign won a huge victory today, with Australians voting 61.6 – 38.4% in favour of passing legislation to legalise same-sex marriage. A total of 7,817,247 people voted yes.

There has been a lot of negative feelings about this process. Large marriage equality organisations and most prominent marriage advocates opposed to use of any form of public vote to help decide this issue. It has certainly been a tough process for many, and one that many do not want replicated ever again. It is one many would simply like to forget.

But as we come to the end of this process, it’s worth reflecting on this moment for exactly what it is: a huge victory.

Let us think about the significance of what just happened. Over seven million people voted in favour of equality for lesbian and gay Australians. That’s millions of people who ignored the fear mongering of conservatives, and took an active step to vote in favour of equality. People voted in favour across the country — from small towns to large cities, from poor areas to rich. Every state and territory voted yes, while 133 of Australia’s 150 electorates returned yes votes.

While in some ways this vote means very little in legal consequences, this is actually very important. This is a sign of huge changes that have occurred in our community. It’s easy to forget that it was only just over two decades ago that Tasmania became the last state in the country to decriminalise homosexual activity. Now, Tasmania voted in favour of marriage equality legislation 63.6 – 36.4%. I cannot think of any other social issue that has seen such a significant shift in such a short time.

For those of us who are concerned about the impacts this vote have had on vulnerable queer people this is especially important. Growing up queer can be an isolating thing, particularly for those in rural and remote communities. It can often feel like you have supporters nowhere. Now however we have the first ever real indication of the real level of support that queer people have in our community. Of course a vote for same-sex marriage does not mean someone is not a homophobe, but it is a strong start. Now through this campaign, and through this successful vote, we’ve seen millions of people publicly voice a growing acceptance of LGBTIQ people. In Ireland this resulted in a sharp spike in numbers of young people coming out, and we can expect such an outcome in Australia as well.

It is a real possibility, in fact almost a certain potential, that looking back on this campaign many will see it as a difficult moment we should all want to forget. This could easily be seen as something that above all else highlighted the intense bigotry queer people face. Of course that bigotry is still there, and we saw it sharply through this process. But what we also saw were acts of kindness, solidarity and justice — ones that clearly outweighed their counterpart.

It is these acts, and this vote, that we should remember. They are acts of a changing society — one that is clearly becoming more embracing of LGBTIQ people, and more willing to publicly voice that.

Yes this process was hard. But, change is hard. It requires struggle. When you get to the end of the struggle, and you win, you have to celebrate, not lament how hard it was to get here. Let’s do that today!

Growing up Queer

This is a talk I did as part of ACT Fair Day, in conjunction with Noted Festival. The topic from the event was ‘growing up queer’, and in doing so I spoke about the process of learning about what it’s like to be queer before coming out. Thanks to Noted Festival for organising the talks, and for the team at Canberra Spring Out for organising Fair Day.

 

Hi everyone and thank you for having me up on stage today.

The theme for today’s talks is simply ‘growing up queer’. When asked to talk about this my immediate thought was to go straight to my coming out experience. I came out, strangely enough, at the behest of Ian McKellan. I wish I could say he did so personally, but in reality it was much more boring than that. I watched an interview with him in which he talked about his coming out process, and somehow it pushed me to do it. I’d told my parents within a week.

Coming out is one thing that all queers having in common – it’s something we’ve all had to do, something we’ll all have to do again and again.

I was thinking about what it was like in those days as a teenager – the fear of rejection, the potential of bullying and taunting, and the feelings of vulnerability that I know many queers face. That’s again something we can all talk about.

Yet, after all the negativity of the past few months, I thought, why not do something different? Because while these things of course happen – while they still happen far too often – we are all here because managed to survive them.

We’re here because we managed to be queer kids, and queer teenagers, and queer young adults, and we were able to take those experience and not just survive, but also thrive, because of them. We did so through sheer resilience and immense creativity.

Continue reading Growing up Queer

Queer Stories: Poly Love and Great Sex

This talk was presented at Queer Stories in August. Queer Stories is a monthly queer story-telling event held at Giant Dwarf in Redfern, Sydney every month. The event is really great, and I encourage everyone to head along. You can get tickets to the next event here.

You can listen to a podcast of this talk, alongside all the others at Queer Stories here. 

Speech

“I have two boyfriends actually,” I said to the man who was flirting rather aggressively with me on Grindr.

“Oh, I couldn’t do that” he replies. “I would never be willing to share you.”

He meant it to be sweet. As if having a random wanting to possess me would make me flock into his arms. It was, however, not sweet at all.

“Don’t worry” I replied “I’m never going to be yours to share.”

While this chat ended, these comments from gay men so common from gay men it’s not funny. When it comes to my relationships many like to judge, seeing that my and my partners sex lives make us ‘too queer’ to fit in anymore.

Continue reading Queer Stories: Poly Love and Great Sex

Do some queers subconsciously want to lose the marriage equality vote?

Earlier this week the vote yes campaign received some amazing news. New polling from Essential Research highlighted a significant enthusiasm gap between yes and no voters. As The Guardian wrote:

 

 

Continue reading Do some queers subconsciously want to lose the marriage equality vote?

Is our response to the plebiscite making us more vulnerable than the existence of the plebiscite itself?

“Stop the fags”

This week, many of the direst predictions of those opposing the marriage equality plebiscite came true, as an awful anti-equality poster appeared in parts of Melbourne. The poster, which spread across social media, was pointed to by many as an example of the sort of hate-speech so many have feared with a plebiscite campaign.

This is not the first time a flyer or statement of this sort has received this sort of attention. In fact, especially since the decision by the Coalition to have a plebiscite, it feels like every instance of homophobia such as this ends up making big news, with queers spreading material across social media, lamenting how terrible this sort of stuff is for the mental health of our community.

While there are certainly discussions to be had about whether sharing this material is good or not, we also have to ask ourselves, are our collective responses to this sort of homophobia, and even the plebiscite itself, making us more vulnerable as a community?

Continue reading Is our response to the plebiscite making us more vulnerable than the existence of the plebiscite itself?

The Handmaid’s Tale is a relatively accurate depiction of modern sexual relationships – just not in the way you think

Last week the TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale was released on SBS. In doing so the show has revilatised Margaret Atwood’s classic 1985 novel, being considered in many ways a prescient story to tell in our current political climate.

I’ve watched the first four episode of The Handmaid’s Tale so far, and am thoroughly enjoying it. I’ve found the storytelling really engaging, and in particular am loving the juxtaposition between Offred’s internal monologue versus the society in which she has found herself. It is often rare to see an example of a dystopian future where a character has moved so cleanly from society to the next, and I think the Handmaid’s Tale has portrayed that transition exquisitely.

However, there is another reason I’ve found the show so fascinating — that is how clearly it describes, even if in an exaggerated manner, the deep roots of sexual relations, and in turn sexism and women’s oppression, within liberal societies. It does so however in a way opposite to what many think.

Continue reading The Handmaid’s Tale is a relatively accurate depiction of modern sexual relationships – just not in the way you think

Freedom and the injured subject

Over recent times, particularly since the plebiscite and Safe Schools debates within Australia, I have noticed a strong narrative of ‘suffering’ and ‘vulnerability’ within large parts of the queer community. Mainstream queer discourse has increasingly turned towards defining queer people as ‘vulnerable’, ones who have ‘suffered’ a great ‘injury’, and whose main quest is for those injuries to be fixed in some way. I have spoken about this issue in my podcast Queers with Benjamin Riley, and in Archer Magazine Fury wrote spectacularly about the same issue, stating that:

we queer folk have only been given the option to understand ourselves through the lens of pain. Because of this, it’s hardly a surprise how much we judge and police queerness by its proximity to suffering.

Fury continues, stating:

Oppression and its relevant experiences have become an important tool to define what makes us different to the mainstream and to each other. This, in its turn, has been important to ferry resources to the most in need. However, it is not without its downsides. It is easy to process the conversation around oppression like it, in itself, is a tangible metric instead of a shared context which yields statistical trends.

Given this recent turn I thought it would be interesting to have a quick look at one of the key texts I have discovered for my PhD over the past months, Wendy Brown’s “States of Injury”. Written in the 1990s, this book is a collection of essays , asking the provocative questions, how has injury become the basis for political identity in contemporary life, and how have law and other state institutions come to be seen as redressing such injuries rather than as perpetrating them? It would be possible to go through each and every essay with a blog post (maybe not a bad idea!). But for today I want to start by looking at the first chapter, which as an introduction presents Brown’s thesis as a whole.

Continue reading Freedom and the injured subject

Marriage equality, capitalism, and gay identity

This lecture was given to the GEND1001 class at the Australian National University in 

May 2017. 

What I am going to do today is take a brief look at the history of homosexuality and the homosexual, or queer, movement in the modern era. In doing so I will be specifically focusing on gay identity as it exists today, in particular examining the movement for marriage equality and what that says about gay identity.

I’m going to do this in the following way:

  1. First I am going to briefly examine the history of the same-sex marriage movement, starting from about the 1990s.
  2. Second I will look at two of the major critique of same sex marriage, being feminist critiques of marriage and assimilationist critiques.
  3. Finally I am going to bring this together into my particular field of interest, examining same-sex marriage as a tool for the incorporation of gay, lesbian, and increasingly trans* people into our capitalist economic system.

Continue reading Marriage equality, capitalism, and gay identity

Newsletter #10: Just keeping on moving on

Check out my latest newsletter below. You can sign up to get my newsletter straight to your inbox here!

Hello all!

It’s been a couple of months, so it feels like time for another newsletter on everything that’s been happening in my world of writing and research.

As Winter hits in Canberra I am thoroughly enjoying being able to hole myself up into my new office with some good books and some good writing. What a better way to spend the cold days. But here are some updates on things that have been happening.

Continue reading Newsletter #10: Just keeping on moving on

Gay Sex is Fun

This speech was presented as part of the Noted Festival Event on Thursday the 5th of May: ‘AIDS Action Council presents Gay Sex is Fun’.

Thank you to Noted for inviting me to speak and for the AIDS Action Council of the ACT for putting on this excellent event.

Speech

Growing up as a man who is attracted to men I very early on became aware that my life was supposedly going to be a lot harder than many others.

When I came out to my mother for example she said her only worry was that my homosexuality would make my life harder. My first relationship with a boy, one that lasted a huge three weeks (that’s a long time for a teenager), ended after he decided that he could not be gay and that he would be straight from now on. Based on his regular appearances on my Grindr feed I assume that has not worked out. But I still remember thinking that that would never occur if I were straight. And even now, when insisting we’re all ‘born this may’ many gays demand that “of course I’m born gay, who would choose this?” It’s like homosexuality is exactly what our protractors say it is; a disease from which we should all wish we were cured.

Now, I do not want to deny that gay lives have been and remain hard. Discrimination, repression and violence towards gay people remains rife.

Yet, at the same time, I feel an intense need to say, fuck that! Fuck this idea that being gay is a thing that’d we’d all want to avoid like the plague. Fuck the idea that it is something no one would choose.

I say this not just because gay sex — that which happens between a monogamous couple with the hope that one day this sex will be legitimised by the state and that next time the wedding rings will have to be taken off before the fingering begins — is fun, although I am sure it is.

I’m saying it because the very nature of being gay has the potential to open up a range of sexual possibilities, ones that I know I likely would never had explored if I were straight.

Continue reading Gay Sex is Fun