Category Archives: Politics

Three-dollar bill, y’all

This article by Australian QUILTBAG activist Rodney Croome bears reading and taking to heart by everyone – by both cis and trans, by hetero and homo and bi and pan and ace alike. It brought me an intense sense of comfort in this time of complicated politics among queer people. I haven’t been out of the queer closet long, and indeed, I came out publicly into the middle of a minefield of sorts in the form of the Australian marriage equality debate. But what I’ve been so incredibly heartened by is the way in which a highly diverse and sometimes even quite internally-divided QUILTBAG community has largely come together on this issue, uniting in our stand on not only our rights under the law, but the manner in which those rights are given. So often the middle-ground fallacy has been invoked by opponents of civil rights, and the weakened and incomplete provisions put forward have been accepted by the oppressed because they’re perceived as being, in whatever manner, better than the alternative. Of course, I’m not seeking to in any way blame those queer people who would be happy with any small victory, those who would approach the struggle for rights from the perspective that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I just think that this Daoist approach is better rendered by other translations from the Chinese, and should be taken more literally, as my friend Agnieszka does in her translation.

千里之行,始於足下。
“A journey of a thousand miles begins right under your feet.”
– Agnieszka Solska (transl.), Daodejing 64.11-12

For my part I’m not as big a fan of the single-step approach, disturbingly close as the analogy seems to another ancient Chinese cultural preserve: 凌遲 língchí, the death by a thousand cuts, and particularly in this instance, where every step promises more pain to the community: the preliminary societal argument; the funded campaign; the plebiscite itself; the introduction (which may not happen depending on far-right voices within the Coalition) of the legislation (which may itself codify into law the right to homophobia and transphobia, and this is indeed what’s imminent if this lawyer’s interpretation of the proposed bill is right) to amend the Marriage Act (which was modified in the first place with neither plebiscite nor queer consultation). And it’s enraging, painful, and humiliating in roughly equal parts to be lectured, primarily by non-queer people – and especially by the likes of that vile purulent bigot Miranda Devine, whose recent vitriolic bile I won’t give the benefit of webhits – about why we should take the bone when we’re thrown it. How we should take the bone even if it’s thrown only with the deepest of grudging, only with effort directed towards keeping conservative fuckwits happy, and only with more strings attached to it than to the cast of Thunderbirds. We’re being given a bone alright – or to phrase it more appropriately, we’re being boned. The plebiscite, which I’ve obviously discussed more than once both here and elsewhere, seeks to allow the populace to take an unprecedented vote on whether their fellow citizens deserve equal rights, accompanied by a political-style campaign in which falsehood will be neither prohibited nor punished. But what’s more than that, the legislative bill that’s been put forward by the Federal Government takes the implicit homophobia and transphobia of the plebiscite one step further and makes it explicit, fossilising into clear, unambiguous law the Brandisian right to anti-queer bigotry in a way that’s as unprecedented in Australia as the plebiscite itself. And yet amongst all this, the queer community’s reached the sweeping realisation that our journey of a thousand miles also begins right underfoot: that we’re already on the path and need only continue moving forward, albeit with fighting against the Government and its power structures all the way. We’ve noticed that we’re in a position to make our voices heard, loudly and effectively, and that we actually have a surprisingly and gratifyingly large number of allies in doing so. As Croome says in his article:

LGBTI Australians are overwhelmingly against a plebiscite, and they are making their voices heard in record numbers through letters to politicians, in letters to newspapers or simply around the workplace water cooler. I can’t emphasise enough what a profound shift this has caused in Australian politics and culture. There have always been straight Australians, including politicians of all stripes, who cared about the trials and tribulations of their LGBTI friends, family members and fellow citizens. But never has this consideration been so widespread it has changed the course of national political debate.

Challenging though it is, this is a time in which I truly am fiercely proud to be queer. I’ve been lucky (so far, at least) to have avoided the kinds of oppression levelled at many in this community. My life as a trans lesbian woman holds promise (particularly after something wonderful that occurred today… but that’s a digression for another time, kids). And in advocating for myself, for the queer people I know and love, and the entire queer community, I’ve recently been feeling a strength of will coursing through me as well, even while I’m sensing in myself very few other strengths at the moment. And I’m enjoying that. I’m enjoying it.

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To Pride and back

Aaaaaand this blog post is going to be written slowly indeed: partly from my desk, and partly from a prone position on the polished hardwood floor that I’ve spent much of the last few days on, a position that I’m altogether too familiar with over the course of many years and that I’m utterly sick and fucking tired of. Anyone who’s known me for even a relatively short period of time knows about the intermittent but persistent issues I’ve had with back pain over the course of the last nine years, and every once in a while this unwelcome visitor pokes its head in the door again, and screams out “YOUR PAIN IS BACK! YOUR BACK IS PAIN!” like a bad punster at a shitty open mic night. For those that don’t know the backstory, these are all indirect consequences of having ruptured two spinal discs back in 2007, an injury for which I eventually underwent surgery (I still have the fragment of disc – my father set it in a little resin cabochon while I was still convalescing, and I keep it now in a small mosaic box I bought in Damascus some years ago, a vessel that’s perfectly fitting in both senses of that word). I’ll show you the MRI pictures one of these days; they’re fairly spectacular examples of disc injury. Although I’ve had several relapses in the intervening time – some requiring several sessions of physiotherapy, and one requiring an intraspinal cortisone injection – it’s never again been so severe as it was that first time around. It often takes me by surprise yet again that it happened so very long ago. Nine years. It seems almost an eternity: so much has taken place, has changed, has become different in the last nine years. But I digress. (I feel it’s important to warn you, if you haven’t already noticed, that I’m very good at going off onto long and sometimes superficially bizarre tangents, and you shall have to get yourself used to that, one way or another.)

In any case, while I’ve been feeling this phase of back pain slowly creeping up on me over the last couple of weeks, I did aggravate it further by going out to my city’s Pride parade this last Saturday, but had I known I was going to further intensify my back pain by doing so, it would have made not the slightest lick of difference to whether I went or not. Although I’ve never before attended a Pride parade (having been more or less firmly in the closet in previous years, of course), not only did I feel the need to attend to show my support – particularly given the fact that issues of equal rights for the QUILTBAG community are in the forefront of Australian sociopolitical discourse right now – but I felt a driving wish, an active desire, to go: to throw my weight behind the entire Brisbane queer community, to assist in showing the entire city that we exist, that we are here and we are angry and we are hurt and we are pushing with all of our might to move towards equal treatment and equal rights both within the law and within broader society. And the turnout to the Pride parade here showed that, I think. I was deeply anxious about going at all, and this anxiety I managed to conquer only with the assistance of a good friend who also pushed with great strength through her own anxiety to join me, but both of us were in agreement afterwards that the event was well worth the angst we had to work our way through. We didn’t march in the parade, preferring only to attend the rally and then go for lunch at a gyōza place I like thereafter, but the rally itself was brilliant. People were out in force, thousands of queer people crowding the streets in casual wear and suits and shirtless, ace and gay and lesbian and trans and bi folk wearing feathered wings and rainbow suspenders and garish makeup (though I’ve never been one for costuming, I couldn’t stop myself doing my own nails in rainbow tones as an explicit show of my own support). In my own life I’ve known so very few out queer folk: nobody in my own family, even my extended family (and on both sides,  no less), has ever so much as come out as bisexual, let alone transgender, and this lack of queer role models in my life has been a major reason why it took me so long to come to terms with my own issues of identity. And so it was richly heartening, I confess, to see so many queer people concentrated in one place, all of us there to celebrate our identities, to proclaim our legitimacy. Several queer activists as well as elected officials, including our acting Premier, spoke passionately and forcefully in favour of continuing to work towards queer rights. And considering the fact that our state’s Government have introduced legislation for State-based civil unions, and recently managed to have the age of consent for vaginal and anal sex equalised, I’m cautiously optimistic that they, at least, are actively interested in fighting for our community. For us. For me. Certainly, the federal Government seem utterly uninterested in doing so – and in many instances seem more intent on actively fighting against us.

When I was first questioning my gender identity I had a lot of things zipping through my mind, but as I’ve said to some of my friends, I never pictured myself at the sharp edge of a civil rights movement. But without wanting to sound too arrogant – I don’t wish to compare myself to Eddie Mabo or Edith Cowan or Rosa Parks or Nelson Mandela, or other, more visible champions of more devastating civil rights battles – that’s where I am, and I suppose I’m coming now to realise that coming out as transgender means that I have not only a responsibility, but also a right, to stand up and fight for my own rights when those in power will maintain their willingness to deny them. On one level, I’ve been extraordinarily lucky in that apart from those shitheads on the train that one time, I’ve never experienced a great amount of active anti-transgender or queerphobic sentiment myself. People have been, by and large, both respectful and lovely. Still, both passive and institutional queerphobia are pervasive, not least of which are those bigoted provisions lurking in dark backwaters of law (and I do mean backwaters); while not always actively oppressing the queer community, such pitfalls do still passively lie in front of the queer person who seeks to avail themselves of the law’s protections, and we have a very, very long way to go in the quest for equality with many, many of those pitfalls on the road in between where we are now and the ideal of equality. I’m realising that I’m in a unique position to make my voice heard and join in the battle of the community to which I’ve only recently realised I belong. While the fight for gay rights dates back many decades, it seems to me (even if it be little more than my falling for the recency illusion) that the groundswell of support for the queer community more generally has been rapidly growing, both in volume and in population, in the past five years or so. My perception’s been that voices are becoming louder, angrier, more insistent. And I can’t help feeling not just that I should, but that I want to, join them in getting loud and angry and insistent.