Tag Archives: queer

Gendered from birth: our obsession with baby junk


image

I’m 33 weeks pregnant on Sunday and there’s one question I’d be pleased to never hear again.

Is it a boy or a girl?

A variation of this question includes what is it? And my personal favourite: do you know what you’re having?

I’ve begun laughingly answering to those with whom I feel comfortable enough oh, we’re having a whale shark. A puppy. A wombat. It’s a semi gracious way to sideline the question and convey that I’m uncomfortable with it, with levity for good measure.

With those I don’t feel comfortable I usually say oh we just want a surprise. I loathe saying this because it is untrue – we actually aren’t telling anybody what junk our baby has, much less allowing others to make that the basis of gender delusions – yet this is the only socially acceptable way I can squirm out of the question without getting into a huge treatise on sex and gender politics. Which I’m not always up for – sometimes the person asking me is a midwife, or a co-worker, or a neighbour, and I’m tired and sore and hungry and just don’t want to get into it right then and there.

This question means a lot though. It tells me so much about how far we have to go when the list of questions about a baby’s identity begins with gender interrogation. It shows how little we know collectively about gender and how it works. How we effortlessly conflate sex and gender, and how sex and gender really still matter. Even though we try to convince ourselves that we’ve evolved, I’m not sure we have.

This mattering, this essential base need to know what a baby’s genitals are before we can respond meaningfully to them or connect with them, is so troubling to me. It is rife with projection and reproduction of stereotypes and roles and bio-essential notions and it is the ground zero of all of that. It is where it begins.

Just as a baby’s life begins as cells divide (disclaimer: I am pro choice! Don’t get distracted, I’m being figurative here), I feel their gender journey begins with people putting them into pink and blue boxes. And encouraging parents to with that relentless bloody question, what is it?

It is a useful question from a social function perspective, in that it is a tool for constructing identity from birth, but time and again evidence is showing us how gender stereotypes are toxic and punishing to children. Yes, you can gender your child at birth based on their physical sex characteristics and still work against stereotypes and rigidity and there are many ways to parent in a gender neutral, or gender questioning way. But as parents we should never forget that gender is assigned. It is not, at birth, who children are. We grow into gender, work it out, or don’t. Gender is a mess and nobody decides but us.

Our choice to not assign gender at birth or disclose our child’s physical sex characteristics to anyone beyond those who may need to know for physical care reasons (such as doctors) is a very personal one, and I don’t think it is more “right” than people who assign gender at birth and work on challenge gender notions along the way. There’s a lot of different ways to go about this stuff, and gender is a mysterious muddle we all blunder through together. For us, it feels weird to announce what our baby’s junk is, and all that it would invite to do that feels even weirder.

Cordelia Fine blew my mind when she talked about (in her book Delusions of Gender) how we speak to boy and girl assigned children differently. How we provide for them differently, nurture them differently, teach them differently. I don’t know if I can disrupt all of these things in myself but I can certainly deprive everyone else, for a while, of the main lens through which they may interpret my child. I want them to have a chance for a while at least to just be a child. To just be a human. A person.

I’ll respect, also, whatever my child indicates about themselves. And I acknowledge that some gendering will inevitably happen along the way because we are all subject to and swept into this gender “stuff”. However, I won’t accept rigidity around gender as a fait accompli. I know agency is a myth (thanks Foucault) but you still have to have a crack at things. Do what you can with what you have. And hope for the best.

I resolve, first and foremost, to never ask my pregnant friends what they’re having. It’d be nice if every one else could stop caring about this too – because it shouldn’t matter what’s between a baby’s legs. If it does matter to you, enough to continually hound an expectant parent, that’s on you, not them.


Flutterby femme.


20120819-100901.jpg

I seem to have become a femme in jeans, t-shirts and hoodies. With short hair and body hair and no makeup. Hikers and no heels.

I can still look like the stereotypical femme and sometimes I even enjoy it. Maybe once a month I throw on a dress. Often I do, but resort to jeans before I leave the house in frustration at the impracticality of the thing. The discomfort.

But I traded handbag for backpack about a year ago, and yeah I’m still femme – but I don’t think I’d enjoy going back to catching the bus because I can’t walk to the markets in my heels.

I like mud and sweat and wearing the same dirty t shirt for days. I like feeling very capable in this skin, and I personally feel more able when I’m low fuss. I like being about wrangling mountains and children and baking. I am not saying being a lipstick wearing femme stops you from doing these things, but for me, it isn’t comfortable doing both.

I’m cool with it. My identity lives in my heart, not on my skin. I’m just manifesting it in a different way. I don’t think I will ever be read as femme as easily, nor as butch or a boi. I understand that how we appear influences how we are socially digested.

In a queer culture where the need to be read, to have a physical codification system that marks you out for easier connection, for pride and presence, I am a little amorphous. But for myself, I’m perfectly at peace being this way. I get shit done better in hikers than in heels. There, I said it. Right now my premium is placed on efficiency, and while I’m sure I could learn to change a tyre in platforms and a fifties vintage gown, I’m not up for it right now and don’t see the point. Power to you if you can. That’s cool. 🙂

Maybe next year I’ll take up skirts again full time. Use hairspray. Wear fake lashes. Maybe, maybe, maybe not. I’m ok with flirting with identity markers, and very rarely inhabiting anything. Right now it’s all for effect, an occasional piece of theatre.

Fluttery butterfly femmes don’t land on the same branch forever.


So I’m getting married (again).


The best way to find out if someone is trustworthy is is to trust them.

– Ernest Hemingway.

Image

So, I’m getting married…again.

My partner and I had already exchanged silver commitment rings on a bone white clifftop along the trail that lead to Marley Spit from Bundeena. We found the rings from a hippie shop on King st – Russian wedding rings, the bands intertwined. We un-shouldered our packs, took some photos, ate Vita Wheats and then slipped the rings on each others fingers. Took more photos. Felt a bit giddy.

Afterwards we jumped around in this big sandy rock puddle in bare feet in the wind then decided to walk back against the falling hush of late afternoon. We got muddy, we laughed and cracked dirty jokes. There were tiny birds following us in the bushes. I peed beside the path and he stood as lookout. We finally came down to the beach and waited for the ferry. The sky was fired up in pink and grey and the mosquitos started biting.

And then we rode back on the ferry, talking in the wooden boat about kink, our dreams, our families. Our future.

That was my commitment day and it will remain in my memory as one of the more profound, sweet and easy-going exchanges towards a solid bond I’ve had. It was all us, no ceremony. Our families and friends were not witnesses which at the time was a desired absence. For that commitment, at that time.

I’m not especially into big weddings. I’m into hella sucessful relationships and I actually think big weddings can exclude some of the possibility of that by generating needless stress and worry and weighing folk with expense and debt. It feels so needless and so theatrical. At times hysterical.

But I’m not against weddings altogether, or marriage. For the longest time I raged aloud that I was against both, seeing big weddings and consumer overload, seeing my history, my own painful past marriage, my hatred of convention. I’m really not a conventional person. I was projecting my issues and writing them in big fucking capital letters across the sky for all to see. I like this quote, from Jean Kerr: “Being divorced is like being hit by a Mack truck. If you live through it, you start looking very carefully to the right and to the left.”

And it isn’t that I was wrong. It’s that I’ve dealt with some of that stuff, and I feel better. Which is pretty wonderful, I must tell you. To find some peace is something I have struggled for, long and hard. I found it long before I found Librarian; he is not the arbiter of my soundness of mind. Those props go to big pharma, my family, friends and therapist and the ambling of time.

Here’s what I believe about marriage: I believe in consensual healthy all-people marriage. That means all sexes, genders, and groupings of people, across all races and religions and so on. I believe in group marriage – being polyamorous – and I believe in marriage rights that recognise the trans and intersex community as well as the same-sex marriage lobbyists.

I acknowledge I have massive privilege in being able to decide to get formally married by the state because I am female bodied and my primary partner is male bodied. This is something nobody should ever forget, if they are married. By luck of birth, you can choose a form of relationship recognition that others are barred from. And it behooves you to at least remember that and show some respect and kindness and join the struggle for those communities across a range of issues they deem relevant.

So yeah, I’m getting married again. I had just been to a funeral of a beautiful woman, the mother of one of my brother’s best friends. It was terrible of course but she seemed such a sprite, such a fantastically funny woman who loved hard but laughed harder. And we were walking along Harris St and passing by the ABC Centre and the moon was awfully big with trees bashing silhouettes against. And there was traffic and we were arm in arm and I asked, will you marry me?

He’s sensible. He took a few days to think about it. And he answered me in response to the lyrics of a Bruno Mars song from a youtube video I was fascinated by, as he was walking out my friend Anna’s gate to a concert, throwing it over his shoulder like the cheeky man he is. There was zero cliche romance in the making of any of it – it was just a pretty unspectacular proposition with an unspectacular reply. I like that it’s pretty much only cute to us, which makes it an anti-hype story that’s too boring to retell at a million dinner parties. Have I mentioned I hate cliche? I hate cliche. I also hate pink. Not puppies or Christmas though.

The one thing I’m not going to write here is why. People ask the question with such gumption, as though they would accept it if I thought myself in a place to question their personal decisions. Folk who do this should reconsider or I’m going to start asking you who you vote for, and why, and look at you like you owe me a damn answer.

Fact is, and so I’ve learned from experience, divorce is cheap and easy – unless you have a million assets but that all remains the same if you’re in a de-facto relationship. There’s certain benefits to it when the person you’re marrying is from another country, despite him already having a work visa all on his own-some. For instance, there’s stuff around having kids together that works better when married. On paper, it’s not very romantic. It’s binding, it isn’t, it’s meaningful, it isn’t. All of those arguments seem like straw-men to justify ourselves when we should be asking just why people presume it’s their business.

I wish the people questioning me had diverted their energy to ask me how I was feeling about getting married again. That would have been actually useful and not antagonistic. Because it isn’t like I was going to sigh “ok, I fold, you’re right – this is madness!” At least my therapist had the decency to ask first how I was feeling, though to be fair she’s being paid to care a fair bit about my feelings.

I’m feeling excited. Scared. It’s bringing up a lot of memories for me. I’m apprehensive of almost everyone expressing any desire to involve themselves. I don’t want a production and I’ll fight hand over fist to keep the planning autonomous. There’ll be no hype, no bullshit, no big fucking dress, no catering and no white attire anyfuckingwhere. If the thing costs more than $50, we’ve done it wrong.

I’m sure of him though. As sure as a human being can be of another human they hope in. All human love is frail, of course it is, and all trust has the capacity to expose us and falter and fail. I have a few friends who view human attachment with a cold and cynical eye. They act like they were the only ones ever given reason to doubt the rightness of caring for another person in such a way as you’d hitch your wagon to them. I view it with a warm and cynical eye, with a carefully open mind. I’m no Elizabeth Taylor, but I’m no dyed in the wool denier of my squishy heart with it’s squishy loving-people needs.

I know what I want to do with my life, and that’s give the greater share of it to a partner well-matched, a small family, my work and my community. I’m bloody ‘well’ enough now, with a good career underway. I’ve found my grooves and I have my community. I’m so far from the stroppy, messy, unsure, anxious and malleable 21 who married an Irishman on a hill over Tamworth. I’m nearly 30, and I’m a big girl.

And I’m sure of him, my Librarian, my accented man who brings me tissues and juice when I’m sick, and wrestles like a big mean puppy with me, and finds me rare books, and hates conservatives, and hides in caves in the middle of nowhere with me, makes plans to swim in winter pools in the summer with me. Talks lustfully about the same boys I talk lustfully about. Communicates honestly, openly, gently. Who asks me if I want to live in Montreal one day. Who loves a long train ride and shares Laura Viers on his iPod with me.

My Librarian with his tall spine and scratchy beard and serious demeanour and long legged gait. With his willingness to get drunk with my family the first night he met them. Who tells me he misses my brothers. Who singlehandedly wins my friends over. Who hates the prospect of monogamy as much as me. Who teases and whispers and shakes me to my toes. Who has seen half the world and still prefers to look at me.

I can hardly wait to stand with no fanfare in no expensive dress, with no fancy food, and no fancy appointed place, to say how excited I am about the reality of being primarily bonded with this person for, hopefully, a long fucking time.

Here’s to a long fucking time!


Norming Mardi Gras


One evening in Sydney in 1978, a group of brave people marched together in a spirit of celebration and dissent.

They were marching after a morning commemoration of the Stonewall Riots, a violent resistance to homophobic state oppression in NYC.

There were at least 500 gays and lesbians as the march commenced (and of course, many identities not included in those bounds).

They shouted “Out of the bars and into the streets!” as they marched down Oxford Street, and their numbers swelled to something like 2000 from accounts I’ve read. Then, police revoked their ‘permission’ to use the streets, and they were attacked and horribly brutalised.

53 were arrested, and the Sydney Morning Herald printed their names in full. This outed people to their friends, family and workplaces. People lost their jobs and suffered terribly as a result of the SMH’s actions.

This was the first Mardi Gras.

I wasn’t there. In 1978, I wasn’t even born. My father was probably finishing his teaching degree, and my mother was finishing highschool, I think.

My first experience of Mardi Gras was in 2010, as a Queer femme participating with the Roller Derby Leagues float. And again in 2011, with the Sydney Polyamory float. To me, it was a strange, glittery, hyped morass of energy and suspiciously money-led activity.

I’ve heard a lot of my friends talk over the last couple of years about how New Mardi Gras has lost it’s way, and is not a radical or inclusive space. I agree with them. I don’t think it is a radical or groundbreaking festival or march anymore, based on the history of the event. I think they’re right when they say it has become a drive for dollars, and a place where ‘homo-normative’ narratives ascend into full view and push those of us who aren’t the three ‘Ws’ (waxed, well-off, white dudes) into the margins.

In the last twenty four hours, I heard via social networking that they’ve renamed Mardi Gras. Now, it is no longer the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, nor is that the push. Now, the GL Mardi Gras will be called the ‘Sydney Mardi Gras’ and will be a place for, you know, just anyone in the ‘wider community’ (translation: straights) who feels a bit different and feels like celebrating that.

Far from this being a push to include more of us, this is an alienating action that insults the pain and work and bravery of the 78ers, and every single kid who has been bashed for being a fag, and every single girl who has been killed for being gay, and every single person who has languished in an unhappy sham marriage. This was OUR festival, and even if it got fucked up and lost, it was still OURS. We needed to make it more Queer, more inclusive of OUR community.

People have been positing that there is no need for the festival to demarcate itself anymore. That the work is done and the world is now a friendly place for Queers and so, we can open the door and let our spaces be shared.

This is bollocks.

When I go home to Tamworth I’m always relieved to leave, and this is mostly because I know if I talk about the wrong thing at the wrong time or flirt with the wrong person, or bring the wrong gendered person home, or ever tried to move back there, I’d be in trouble.

I’ve received street harassment for holding hands with women. I’ve been silenced by my family from talking openly about my identity. I’ve seen my trans lover be treated like shit, I’ve heard them be spoken to and stared at by strangers in ways that are not ok. I’ve met a wall of silence when mentioning an ex-girlfriend at work. I can’t talk to my grandad about non-straight relationships. And I know that most of the beautiful freaks, homos, fags, queens, bois, dykes, and onnnnn, would not be safe in most parts of Sydney.

Nowhere is safe, really.

So, no, now is not the time to shed one of the few popularly celebrated spaces that could – just maybe – be worked on and made to include everyone (and not just the WWW’s). We own the history, and our Elders deserve to keep what they built, even if the incarnation we currently have is worrisome. Where will the young ‘alphabet soup’ youth look to now? Is the best we can give them a gaystream, simpering, norming bunch of money hungry marriage-centric folk eager to throw away their heritage?

The straights have the rest of the world, after all. Do they need this too?


Talking to kids about Queer.


*please note that all names have been changed in this post, for privacy of the children concerned. Also note that I’m not using “gay, queer” etc interchangeably, nor am I trying to define them.

—-

Ally is eleven, and sidles up beside me. I’m sitting on the couch, making beaded bracelets with the girls (and one boy only, alas). We’re cosied up, chatting, reflecting on life as only a bunch of kids hanging out in OOSH care can. Justin Bieber is a hot topic, as is the fact that Joseph’s stylus for his DS is gone and we all know who stole it, don’t we. Hmmm.

We’re all stuck in this heat together – so why not craft and natter? These are my afternoons – conflict rich, delightful, learning heavy (on my behalf) and giving of an easily borne yoke of watching 70-odd growing bodies blossom with curiosity and dissent. I work in child care.

I’m also Queer.

Ally notices my bracelet. I made it yesterday at home. It says, in coloured letters, ‘Queer Femme’ and it stands out in an aesthetically provoking way on my wrist. Kinda pretty. Ally fingers it and asks “what does ‘queer’ mean?”

At first I’m surprised she doesn’t ask about the femme part, but I suppose the word must be so similarly spelt to ‘female’ that she doesn’t note it. Then I pause before answering. She’s the only child here who has said anything about it. I shrug, cock my head and say “it’s kind of like, when you feel different from most people. Queer is a word for all the different people.”

“Like who? What kind of different?” Ally asks me. She waits patiently. She’s a pretty cool kid, this one. Patient but hungry for answers and she thinks them over. I swear I can see my words going in like chunks of change, and while I’m not always sure what’ll vend, it’s usually intriguing and awesome.

“Well, like…like, some gay people like to call themselves Queer in a happy positive way, and some people who have boyfriends and girlfriends call themselves that and some people who get called a boy when they’re little but they grow up feeling like girls instead. And heaps of other things like that.”

“Oh. Ok, yeah. Cool. My mum has friends who are gay. And Violet has two Mums.” Ally nods towards Violet across the room, a curly-haired six year old playing with clay. She looks at my bracelet a while longer. “It’s really pretty. I like it.”

And then we go on in silence, smiling and collegial, no more said on the subject. I want to talk to her more about it – about how Queers own the word, about how to use it, about trans* folk in the community, about gender play, what ‘femme’ means and a million other things – but I don’t want to push, so I leave it, let it drop. I guess she’ll raise the topic when she wants to speak more on it and I’m ok with that.

You just need to plant the seed, not grow the whole damn tree yourself. Stick the seed in the ground, hang around for sprouting and hope to hell some other adults will come by with watering cans later.

The next day I posted a question to Facebook, curious to see what other queers and caregivers would think about talking to kids about Queerness, and all the manifestations of it in our community (though not everyone GLBTIQA identifies within the community or with the Q word).

There were a variety of reactions. The one I naively didn’t expect was from my father (and then my mother, who called me to argue at length on the point. I feel sorry for the people riding the 418 bus that morning. Sorry guys…). His point was that you should avoid the matter altogether.

My parents were, primarily, concerned that I keep my job. Fair enough, they’ve seen me in and out of work. I’m not that worried – I have two jobs and my childcare position is not the one that pays the bulk of my bills, so whoa there, worry horse.

My centre is also situated in the inner west, has many GL (gay and lesbian) staff who are openly out, and progressive(ish) management. A couple of our kids have same sex parents, and a range of backgrounds. We have one kid who is gender-fluid.

There’s no guarantee that I’m safe from a queerphobic kneejerk by a parent – but it is a calculated risk I gladly take as a form of honesty, decency in my role as an agent in childhood development and of course, activism.

Are they right though? Are carers and education providers at risk from public backlash if they speak to kids in an upfront way – hell, any perceivable way – about Queerness, or in a more focused example, gender and sexuality?

Yes. They really are. Move outside of the inner west of Sydney and your odds of being cast as an agent of diabolical political incision into the delicate consciousness of childhood is likely. Predictable even. For many, childhood is a precious, fixed, traditional state – which, by most adult renderings, is nothing like what kids actually experience.

In May of 2006, an article appeared in the Australian newspaper The Daily Telegraph – reknowned for being a conservative and right wing source of ‘news’. The article told of how Tillman’s Park Care Centre, based in Queer-heavy ‘burb Marrickville, had designed a curriculum that was friendly to gays, lesbians, bisexual, trangendered folk, and intersex people. Most notable was their use of ‘Learn To Include’ books.

Marrickville Mayor at the time, Sam Byrne, was not backward about coming forward in supporting the programme. Far from being a passive, ‘sunshine and puppies’ curriculum, it sought to take head-on already developed notions about GLBTI people and change them. The word ‘challenge’ was used.

“At Marrickville we believe in offering children and families an inclusive program based on social justice,” he told The Saturday Daily Telegraph.

Not only was he slammed, the centre was accused of ‘brainwashing’ children. Andrew Stoner, National Party leader at the time, said that the decision to teach the curriculum was ‘crazy’ and that children “that young have no concept of these issues of sexuality”.

“Whether it is heterosexual sex or homosexual sex, it is the choice for parents to talk about it with their children – not for an institution to start some political correct campaign.”

Wow, those words are sounding pretty familiar. Filter them a little, and they sound like the freaked out words of older educators and policy makers, inured to self-censorship and afraid to even begin to grasp the sides of their boat to rock it any more.

In Sweden we see a more recent example of a centre radically addressing the concept of gender. An article in the Sydney Morning Herald appeared in June telling of ‘Egalia’ childcare centre in Stockholm. Here, staff work overtime to obliterate traditional gender roles and equally value, or disrupt, genders.

Children have gender neutral dolls that display only emotions, are addressed in gender neutral pronouns – ‘hen’ rather than the Swedish ‘han’ or ‘hon’ for him and her – and are referred to as “friends” rather than boys or girls.

They cook together, construct together (and if you think those activities aren’t socially gendered anymore, stop and think which of those activities you associated quickly with ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ and if you even bothered to associate another gender with them. Yes, there’s more than two genders.)

The centre has received mostly a positive reception, but you can always rely on the worried psychologists and moral alarmists to interfere. In the article, we’re given this charming insight from Jay Belsky, a child psychologist at the University of California, Davis.

”The kind of things that boys like to do – run around and turn sticks into swords – will soon be disapproved of,” he said. ”So gender neutrality at its worst is emasculating maleness.”

Perhaps it was the snippet chosen by the paper, but I find it interesting that Belsky is more concerned about the emasculation of those assigned as boys than the possible ‘defeminisation’ of those assigned as girls. He doesn’t mention them.

Nice of him, though, to also re-inscribe the idea that boys are innately gendered, and in a hunter/aggressor way. Hey all you peacenik friends of mine who identify as male, please stand up. You’re not really a boy, so you better get yourself a sharp stick, quick.

So these two examples – one from Marrickville and one from Stockholm – show that even in the most conceivably progressive, Queer peopled districts, you can have opinion leaders upset and angered and ‘concerned’ by Queer programs. Interestingly, few parents were cited as angry in these articles.

Now try working a childcare centre in Tamworth and see how far you get with your conversation about how gay is ok, and actually awesome for many. Discussing trans issues? Forget about it, unless you like being othered and eyed with suspicion.

The problem with my parents argument that I’d best not talk to kids, is twofold, despite how correct they may be about what possibilities currently exist within the policy making, care-taking and teaching frameworks of education and care providers.

Firstly, in their submission to practical concerns (which I do not share) they failed to discuss directly whether we should talk to kids about queerness. Forget whether we can. Is there a moral imperative at work here – or two competing ones?

I believe so.

In the one instance where I was able to talk to kids in a non work environment (my four year old cousins), my mother reacted with the same amount of repressive force. In that instance she criticised my use of queer slang around my cousins, saying they were “too young” and that this was something their parents should talk to them about.

The imperative in my mother’s case was very much based in the concept that parents own children, their experiences until they graduate the home, and their moral/social education.

However, if we look at this idea for even a moment, we can see how completely ridiculous it is. Children are instructed directly at school, in youth groups, in churches, in sporting groups and clubs. Most of these institutions take on some of the job of rearing childrens. With perhaps the exception of home-schooled kids, moral and social education is happening everywhere, all the time, and often without the consent of children or parents.

So we can teach kids direct positive messages about race, bodies, food, culture, ethnicity from toddler-dom in care centres and again in schools, but I shouldn’t talk to my family members about an aspect of my identity – or even reference it in passing?

If I said something that referenced my ethnicity or my disability or my gender, I wouldn’t have been taken on. But saying the word “lez” – that’s somehow extreme, right? Riiiiight.

Personally, I think if we dug at the scab of that for long enough, the blood of implicit homophobia would come oozing through. Queerness is a taboo topic, but we don’t want to say that out loud.

We’d just like the pesky Queers to respect parental rights to educate.
But what of the moral imperative to educate? That segues innately with the second flaw of their argument.

The second wobble is that it completely obliterates the role of the Queer community in education as both clients, carers and parents and fails to conceptualise of why their concerns and the need for not just an anti-phobic but a Queer positive environment may be vital.

The fact is, Queers have been parenting for a long time, and will keep on doing so. We people childcare centres with our kids, pay fees and have a right to expect safe places for our children. I shudder to think of what will happen for my little ones when they need group-based supervision – I hope somehow I’m in the position to offer them more than centre care like ABC or my mother’s vision of a political vacuum.

Our kids deserve more than putting up with kids heckling each other with the word ‘gay’ and being tiredly corrected in an “oh this is so PC, but I’ll do it anyway” manner by staff. We deserve more than tolerance. We deserve celebration.

Children are resilient, yes, but they learn how to mould to their worlds and what to expect of it from a ridiculously young age. Cordelia Fine’s recent bestselling book ‘Delusions of Gender’ illustrates in an alarming fashion how children are relentlessly gendered from the smallest of ages, and how this deeply carves ruts of expectation and trajectory into their tiny existences despite our tokenistic efforts at providing (half hearted) gender neutral parenting.

So too are they impacted if we decided to just not raise the whole Queer thing. If we pause awkwardly when the topic arises, they notice. If we say Queerness is sinful, they notice. If we shuffle from foot to foot when we see two men kiss, they notice. If we tell them not to stare at a trans woman – for our comfort and speedy moving on, not the comfort of the trans woman – they notice. Are you getting it? They NOTICE EVERYTHING.

From that they draw their own conclusions, and if their modeling of implicit messages around gender are anything to go by, they aren’t good. An awkward backhander of acknowledgment in seventh grade PE is too little, too late.

If, as adults, we fail them in this most important of regards, then we are responsible for who they grow into.

Many of my queer friends spent some of their teens homeless, in dire mental health, in conflict with their families, in conflict with their peers. Not all, but too many. Suicide statistics in teen gay youth and trans youth are alarming, and the high incidence of violence queers experience is some damn huge fallout – a direct result of our failure to promote radical positivity around queerness.

I’ve been street harassed for holding hands with a female partner. I’ve been called a dyke and a lezzo in a menacing fashion. I’ve had my sexuality held up for amusement, titillation and disdain. I’ve been teased for having short hair, hairy armpits, been vilified for loving multiple people. I’ve had shithead Christians “pray for me”. None of this had to happen if adults had over time, made an effort to change the world for me and celebrate difference.

All kids want to belong and feel ok. How can we do that without mentioning all kids, all families, all kinds of people?

Here’s the thing: we can do it differently, we can start, we can try. If we all just accept that yes, it will be hard, we may have to alienate some people and risk our jobs and crappy interactions with DOCS and faculty heads and family members with agendas – if we accept this, and just move forward with the business of speaking an honest, cheerful, embracing truth…

We can change things. One Ally at a time, and for my kids. Stars in the sky though they are.


Our sex, not your sex.


I’ve been contemplating the conundrum of male-gaze issues regarding the depiction of queer sex, specifically two queer women having sex (the traditional ‘hot lesbian’ trope).

This pondering has come about off the back of the DC Comics reboot of Starfire and all the blogosphere hoohah about it, specifically the point made that her posing and whatnot is very much for men; and that her sexuality is not being enacted for herself, or for the gaze of an empowered woman-identifying audience, or the gaze of a queer woman-identifying audience, but really, very much for the titillation of men.

I guess that’s my problem with clips like Rhianna’s ‘Te Amo’. While I think it is super awesome that we’re seeing queer narratives inscribed through pop, and the stories of women identifying-relationships writ large in mainstream contexts, I question whether the imagery used is intended to be ‘for’ queers.

I don’t think it is. I think our sex is hijacked by industry execs a lot. I think the point someone on my livejournal made – when I posted it there – that it seemed like a whole bunch of OOOH LESBIANS LOOK posing is quite valid.

And frankly, it always has and always will make me uncomfy to think that dudes think women-identifying queer sex looks like that. I mean, sure, maybe sometimes we maintain perfect hair and couture but generally women in love and lust spend a little less time dancing around each other and pouting. How we love and fuck is diverse and grounded in a zillion different contexts, from the most domestic to the most kinky.

Maybe this is a case of any publicity is good. I will admit that one of my first gateway tummy flutters was TaTu’s ‘All The Things She Said’ when I had little access to seeing girls love girls in any other medium.

There’s merit in both the argument that even the corniest representations of woman-sex intended largely for men will find itself into the right hands (teenage girls) and in the argument that our sex is our own, and should not be annexed by straight dudes.

There’s hope in the mainstream though – shows like Sugar Rush in the UK break through and are much more realistic representations of young queer sex and love amongst teen girls. Flawed and fractured, they actually provide a unique and useful tool where there have been few.


Femmes are friends, not food.


*pre-amble note: in my view of the world, the identity of femme is not conflated with cisgendered women. Femme is a gender identity that is embodied by people who ID in every which way. I also believe it is not our job, as queers, to police who may identify as femme or not.

For a while I’ve been contemplating what it means to have femme friendships.

I’ve never really had a lot of success with this. Without mincing words, I’ve found a lot of femmes really competitive, often snarky, and often hard to get to know. A bunch of them already have their friendship circle carved out, and if you’re not totally suave and up on the lay of the land they can eat you alive – or have a little gnaw on you and spit you out. And yeah, the stereotype of the ice queen alpha femme who bitches out your shoes and politics in the same breath isn’t prevalent without reason. They aren’t fauns. They do exist, and people do worship them (not my scene).

This trait – of fierceness – can be totally useful when turned against those who intrude uninvited and damage our loved ones, but it can be terrifying to come up against as a fellow femme. Especially when you just want to play nice and have tea. Oftentimes it is so damn intimidating that you don’t even approach.

Around the time of Camp Betty, I said to a Melbourne femme that I didn’t think I had any good femme friends. This was probably exaggeration – who doesn’t amplify self pity when talking to someone in a sibling community? – but it wasn’t so far off the mark.

But since Camp Betty I’ve been doing two things. I’ve been ever so slowly making tiiiiny advances into friendships with some of the femmes I regard as People to Know. Not because they are well placed (fuck social climbing) and not because they are the cleverest, the shiniest, the most well groomed. They are people I’ve sought out because they are kind, witty, and welcoming. They seem to get that you can be fierce and be accessible as well.

The second thing I’ve done is get over myself, stop being a blinkered git, and realised that there’s a bunch of femmes and femme-curious people within my reach. I’ve started giving them a lot more love. It’s a little rich to complain about a lack of connection, when you’re not even reaching out to what’s within your grasp.

I’d like to see a lot more femmehood among us, though. We have the capacity to link across our community instead of becoming these distorted symbols who are fetishised and worshiped and ultimately isolated from each other. I know it feels nice to be the centre of mystery – I mean damn, can you even really define femme? I know I can’t – but mystery can get kind of lonely.

And everyone knows loneliness is for suckers. Leopard print hugs are so much better. Scented leopard print hugs.


%d bloggers like this: