The troubles with challenging identity

Last week I shared a very controversial article from Rebecca Reilly Cooper about gender identity. To summarise the article Reilly Cooper argues that making gender a ‘spectrum’ (with all the new identities that come with it) ends up just creating more restrictive gendered boxes, when what we need to be doing is tear down the idea of gender itself.

It’s not an understatement to say that the article was controversial and there was a particularly heated, but I think in many ways fruitful, conversation about it on the Queers Facebook page where we also shared it. There were plenty of critiques of the article, which is great, but I thought I wanted to focus on one. Many, I think rightfully, argued that Reilly Cooper took an extremely dismissive/snarky/aggressive tone toward trans and non-binary people, at times outright mocking them for their chosen identity and the politics that underpinned those identities.

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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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