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

Organising Life

I feel in many ways that my work life is not the most organised. For years now I have balanced multiple jobs and projects, something that continues today even as I start my PhD. I’m doing a PhD while writing articles, doing some other freelance work, making a podcast, and hoping to continue progressing my books.

In the past I’ve managed much of this in an ad hoc manner, largely dealing with the urgent stuff first, and putting the important, but less urgent, stuff second. It’s been a bit of a strategy of figuring out what needs to be done in a week, without necessarily prioritising items with a long term focus.

While it’s something I’ve dabbled in and out of before, over the past week, I’ve decided that this multitude of projects probably requires some more organisation. Increasingly I see myself de-prioritising big, but important projects, something that is certainly not possible while I’m trying to produce a thesis.

I’ve started small, this week doing something that has been valuable to me in the past – defining a priorities list and providing some weekly quotas of work I need to do one each. So, I have put hours per week I should be spending on the PhD, other writing, podcast, promotions etc. I am now also keeping a bit of a record of every day, making sure I keep track.

So far, as has happened before, I have found this extremely useful. It keeps me on track, and stops me from getting too distracted. They very nature of keeping track of the hours I am doing keeps me focused, even though I am the only one who sees the spreadsheet I have developed.

Building from this I hope to maybe be able to create some form of routine, dedicating particular hours of a day to particular focus areas. This I think will have the potential to force me to open whatever document I need to open, keeping me on task no matter what I need to do.

This is just a starting point for me. A PhD in particular is something that requires some forms of systems. Otherwise I fear I will get two years in and have achieved nothing and panic.

In the meantime though I’d love to hear your ideas? How do you keep your work life going? What strategies are good for you, and what aren’t?

Newsletter #9: Rejections and Starting a PhD

Hi all,

Welcome to a very long overdue newsletter for 2017. Here are some updates on everything I’ve been up to and progress on my writing.

I’ve started this year feeling quite confident about my book Sexy Capitalism, beginning to finally send off proposals to a number of publishers in the past couple of months.

In doing so I have started to receive the inevitable rejections, with a few publishers already coming back to say my work is not for them. I have also got some very clear feedback about some of the shortcomings of the book as it stands, with editors giving serious advice of what I need to work on.

The feedback has been an interesting mix. I have received some positive comments, with some saying they think the chapters I have written so far have been interesting and that the book is something that should be published (yay!). In the meantime I have had some comments that the content is at times a bit dry, and a bit too niche. I’ve also had some specific comments on the theory I have been working on, in particular in relation to the early stages of capitalism, requiring me to do some more research and background reading to ensure I get everything write.

This is okay, and clearly a part of the writing process. It is something that every writer goes through to some extent. However, at the same time it has definitely been tough. I get immediate feelings that I am both failing and disappointing all of you who have supported me for so long. Even though I have always been warned that writing a book is hard, and takes a lot of time, part of me is surprised at how difficult it has been so far.

The book is still a work in progress, and one I am still working on and thinking about every day. It is not an easy piece and something that is taking a lot of research and writing to make right. I am now working to take on this feedback, taking a step back from the narrow focus I have been taking in many ways to re-broaden the appeal, and to research some of the key areas of theoretical shortcomings I need to fix up. Despite the disappointments I will insist on getting it done, making sure it becomes a reality as soon as it can.

In the meantime I thank you all again for your support and patience, and will keep you updated as things progress in the future. Never fear, it will happen!

Starting the PhD

In the meantime, this month I officially started my studies as a PhD student at the ANU. I have really enjoyed my first month and am loving the institutional support I am receiving as part of this work. I feel like this is something I really needed to do to create some stability and certainty, and am excited about the research I am embarking upon (which you can read about here).

One thing I am definitely working on is the balance between this research and my other writing work, which I fully intend to continue on as much as physically possible. While I absolutely feel this is an opportunity I needed to take up, I have, and continue to feel, nervous, that this will hold me back from working on Sexy Capitalism and my other writing. While there’s a good chance this will make things a little slower, at the same time it is also giving me a whole bunch of support behind my writing, which I think will inevitably make the writing process easier. It also means I do not have to search for anywhere near as much other work, which is a big load off my mind and time! As my research topic is very similar to the book and other writing I do, I hope to be able build them off each other, with the book informing the PhD and vice versa. It will be a challenge, but one I am determined to manage.

I will keep you all up to date with the research as it progresses!

Recent articles 

Here is a collection of articles since I last e-mailed.

Articles:

— BBC Future: What if the state provided everyone with a basic income?
— The Guardian: Anxiety is a way of life for Gen Y: in an insecure world is it any surprise?
— SBS Sexuality: Let’s take a moment to reflect on the importance of Paris is Burning
— SBS Sexuality: Intersex people have called for action. It’s time to listen.
— SBS Sexuality: Despite perceptions, poverty still has a queer face.

Blog posts:

Celebrating David Bowie: The closest thing I’ll ever get to the concert I’ll never see.
Book review: The Gentrification of the Mind.
Medicine, the breakdown of its authority, and the consequences
Learning how to write.

That’s it for me this month. Thanks again all for your support and I will be back in touch soon!

Simon

Learning how to write

Last year I finally finished the second draft of my novel, Forgiveness, and was/still am super excited about it. I thought I’d really hit the nail on the head and sent it off to a couple of contacts with hopes of getting some good reviews or even someone who was keen to publish.

Despite my excitement however I received (as everyone does) some early knock backs. The biggest feedback I received was that while the story was good (yay!) my writing needed work. I needed to develop the emotions and back-story of the book, moving away from telling and more into showing.

I have to admit I was a little taken aback and the thought of going through the entire book again to re-edit was, and remains, daunting. Part of me just wanted to keep pushing, ignoring the comments and hoping someone else sees it differently. However, with other things on my mind the book fell off the priority list for a little while, and I didn’t really touched it for months. Recently however I’ve tried to go and have another look, to see where I can fix things and make them better. I have some changes to story I want to make, as well a desire to see if I can find ways to improve the writing as I go in.

Reading the first couple of chapters what has struck me is how correct those readers were. While I remain immensely proud of what I’ve achieved so far, going back to look at what I’ve written I see the major problems with the writing. The book in many places is quilt stilted and unemotional, full of short sentences that I thought were being ‘direct’, but in fact were just me cutting off any depth. I spent a lot of time in this draft cutting things down, trying to stop myself from being long winded, but in the end just made something that was a bit dry.

I’ve also found this recently in an instance of my non-fiction. Re-reading my proposal for Sexy Capitalism I realised how dry and boring the language was (feedback I have also received from people who have read it). Trying to constrain it to the compulsory two pages I took all life out of it, making it a dull representation of what the book is about (and far duller than the chapters I’ve written).

This is something I’ve struggled with throughout this writing process. All of the stuff I read about writing talks about the ‘author’s voice’, that natural thing you develop that defines you as a writer. I have to admit this is something I’ve continuously struggled to find, or at least to see in myself. Even in my non-fiction, where I am far more confident, I sometimes fail to see what is uniquely mine, instead picturing myself largely as being a ‘nothing’ in a crowd of amazing writers with amazing voices and points-of-view.

What has been excited about re-reading the chapters however, and going over my proposal for Sexy Capitalism, is that while I’ve noticed the stilted language, I can easily see a way out of it. Instead of being stuck I have a world of ideas of how to change things. I feel more confident in starting over. I feel much more confident that I have a voice that I have developed and will be able to express in the new draft.

I want to be able to define how it is that I feel more confident in doing this. I wish I could put it down to a formula, something I can copy and repeat for every project I work on. But what I’ve realised is that this is just a measure of time, and practice. Writing, despite all we may like to hear, is not just something that is inherently ‘there’ – you’re either good at it or you’re not – it is something that takes practice, time and dedication (when you can manage that). What I’m noticing more and more is simply how much my writing is improving with every practice that I do. Just like anything else I’m learning new skills, figuring out what’s and what doesn’t, and learning how to adapt to those circumstances.

And so in many ways I feel like now is the time when I’m finally starting to properly learn how to write. I’m finally getting the skill down, and finding my voice in doing so. Despite the daunting task of re-writing the book, that is quite exciting!