Tag Archives: gay rights

(Avoiding) Mardi Gras

“Faggot bisexual cunt!” was how I was saluted when I exited the train in Sydney‘s CBD for the 31st New Mardi Gras. I was gobsmacked. Not because I was being insulted on the one day of the year it’s supposed to be ok to be flamboyantly gay, (clearly not), but because never had such a whirlwind of terms I adore been used against me with such aggressive force. I laughed. He wasn’t wrong.

I was in for a long night.

I’ve never been in the parade. For a long time I’ve been disconcerted and troubled by spectacle. I am highly aware of its political uses (as mass distraction, especially fascist), which disables me from ever ‘enjoying the moment’ in a crowd. However, I realised that my discomfort has more to do with the fact that I’m a spectacle every day everywhere I go. My friends and I joke about being a gay pride parade. But we are. Every day. And I feel like if I enact that spectacle in a parade, then I legitimate all the things I think are illegitimate every other day.

Mardi Gras is important, absolutely. We have cause to celebrate, and reason to remember to keep fighting: a lot hasn’t changed on the other side of the fence.

Here are some of the other encounters I had at this year’s Mardi Gras in Sydney:

l        >while sitting by myself at the end of the parade, tears running the make-up down the sides of my face, a lovely gentleman gave me a plastic rose.

 

l        3 guys in a taxi stop at the lights while we’re waiting for the bus and scream at my friend and I: it blurs in my memory –  ‘fucking transsexuals’ was there ‘what are ya?’ There’s one empty lane between us and the cars aren’t moving. We stand there as they abuse us for almost 2 minutes. I march over to the car and the guy in the front quickly pulls up his window. The guy in the back doesn’t bother and as I reach into the cab, he grabs me and the guy on the other side gets out ‘Are we ok?’ are the words he uses but what he says is ‘Are you going to fuck off now?’ I walk back to the bus shelter and he gets back in the cab. They don’t stop shouting as the cab moves away. My friend yells at me for my violence. ‘It’s fine that it makes you uncomfortable,’ I say, ‘And I’m sorry. But being yelled at and not responding I can’t abide right now. And I had no words.’

Best of luck out there,

 

Max xx

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Filed under "Queer Culture", Max Attitude, What's Queer Here?

Whose history?

Gay and lesbian historicism has all too often used gender transgressive individuals to create gay history, yet argued that gender transgression is not in and of itself important, instead assuming that gender transgressive behaviour and cross-gender positioning were taken up for the specific purpose of engaging in a homosexual partnership or ‘lifestyle’, excluding the possibility that gender transgression was engaged in for more complex reasons.

This is political work. To show that homosexuality has existed in all times and places and, in certain times and places, has been socially accepted, even revered, gay historians argue for social tolerance and acceptance of homosexuality (fair enough). However the way such histories have been written is to privilege homosexuality at the expense of transgenderism.

radclyffePat Califia explains: It does not further our understanding of human sexuality to press for recognition of homosexuality throughout history at the expense of recognizing other sexual minorities. The history of their oppression is as valid as our own, and if gay male and lesbian scholars deny that history, we are as guilty of censorship and prejudice as any straight anthropologist who chooses not to report homosexual activity.

Such gay historicism was (and is) a part of the gay liberationist project, which sought to separate sex, gender and sexuality, in defiance of the early sexologists’ assertion that gender inversion was a manifestations of same sex desire. Here, the contradictory tensions of gay historicism are revealed: on the one hand it seeks to escape the equation of homosexuality with gender inversion, and on the other it needs to use stories of heroes from the past who had just such an embodiment. Perhaps gay historians hope by locating homosexual gender inverts in the past, they can keep them there. However, in arguing that sexuality is not necessarily linked to gender inversion, gay historians have gone too far by removing the importance of gender transgression all together, thereby dislocating historical links between gender and sexuality, the effect of which is to render impossible a transgender history.

Writing a transgender history that does not exclude homosexuality, such as that of Leslie Feinberg in Transgender Warriors, is crucial work that still needs to be done. Historical figures cannot simply be ‘taken back’ and named ‘transgender’. Histories need to be constructed that acknowledge that these people were, and are, important because they were different: different because they had same sex desire and engaged in same sex relationships and different because they transgressed the expectations of their sex.

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Family?

When you’re the only queer in the family, trekking back to the place where you grew up can get tougher every year. No matter how much you might’ve changed, it always seems like no one else has, and you’re forced back into those same relational dynamics you tried to escape from. I’m lucky my parents don’t expect me to put a dress on or anything, but then, they never did. So I guess I’ve been lucky a long time.

hey hetero! family

The role of the family in socialisation is obviously integral, but it is always expected that parents will automatically fear the gender dysphoric child – the  homosexual child – vehemently. But what if, like me, your parents were totally fine with whatever?

One of my earliest memories is running around outside in the sun when I was 4 years  old and taking my shirt off (which I did often). My (older) sister said to my mother, ‘You can’t let her go out in public like that’ and my mum replied ‘She can do whatever she likes,’ to which I then exclaimed: ‘If boys can do it I can do it!’ And well, not much has changed there.

The point is, family matters. Most of the year, perhaps most of our (adult?) lives, we spend with a chosen family, our childhood family popping in here and there, or not. The queer tendency to conflate community with family harks to the shared intimacy, and often loyalty, of understanding queer sexual lives (whatever that might mean). </spanThe thing is, legal rights, responsibilities and rewards are reserved for biological or legally-bound relatives. Although in the UK, these privileges are offered to pairs of adults in monogamous sexual relationships (and their children), in Australia same sex couples do not have access to legal entitlements and are unable to adopt children.

Here, one may be inclined to question the validity of a (hetero)sexual relationship as the only parameter to acquiring such benefits. Surely consenting adults should be able to decide who they desire/require as legal and financial partners, and that be it. As Judith Butler questions: “how does one oppose the homophobia [of heterosexual marriage entitlements] without embracing the marriage norm as the exclusive or most highly valued social arrangement for queer sexual lives?

What we need is to disassociate the rights and responsibilities currently the privilege of marriage (and, for the most part, civil partnerships), so that ceremonies can still remain a symbolic exercise for those who choose it, but allow the rights and responsibilities of kinship to take any number of other forms.

Happy queer holidaying.

Hey Hetero! is a public art series by Deborah Kelly and Tina Fiveash, Australia, 2001.

 

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