Three Billboards, I, Tonya, and the value of a complex narrative

In the past few weeks I saw two of the best movies I’ve probably seen in many years. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, and I, Tonya (both movies with commas in their names) are both frontrunners for a number of Oscars and have been big hits this summer. 

Both have also been controversial! Three Billboards has been critiqued as being racist and portraying short statured people in a reductive way, while I, Tonya has been criticised for valourising a criminal at the expense of the real victim, Nancy Kerrigan.

In doing so I actually think these two films also have a lot in common. Dealing with issues of sexism, class and racism, the critiques of both films highlight some of the weaknesses of a purist form of identity politics, and in turn highlight the value of complex narratives when it comes to issues of identity and oppression.  

Before we go ahead beware that there are spoilers for both of these movies contained below, although for I, Tonya it is less relevant as I only write about historical facts that are already in the public domain. 

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Sport builds strong communities. Why therefore do so many on the left scoff at its importance?

Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki celebrates after defeating Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro during their quarterfinal at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

The Summer of Tennis in Australia is once again over. This weekend brought us two epic grand finals – with Caroline Wozniacki taking out Simona Halep in a three set cliff hanger, while Roger Federer beat Marin Cilic in a surprisingly competitive five-setter.

I love tennis. Every year I spend weeks up late at night watching matches, and always get sad when it’s over. This year I went to the Australian Open for the first time, and felt chills run down my spine as the first balls were hit. It was great fun.

What has always interested me about the tennis is how so fleeting it is in the Australian conscious. Tennis is a sport that grips us for one month and then leaves us just as quickly – departing to foreign shores with coverage only occurring if there’s a scandal, or if an Australian manages to win a Grand Slam. This is the very nature of the structure of the sport. Of course we are more obsessed with the sport while it is on our shores, and it is certainly harder to follow when players take off overseas to compete in the myriad of tournaments across the corners of the globe.

But watching the Australian Open this week I also think there is something a little more to this.

Continue reading Sport builds strong communities. Why therefore do so many on the left scoff at its importance?

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.

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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. 


“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.

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