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Lasciate ogne speranza

In this post, as the Klingons’ Second Rite of Ascension calls for one to say, tIqwIj Sa’angnIS I must show you my heart. I both warn you all and apologise in advance; I’m unloading a lot of stuff here in order to help me push it out of the unhealthy residence it’s been taking up in my head. One of my best friends has suggested I write more #weirdthingsivedone posts, especially since she claims I somehow manage to scale new heights of Peak Nerd in her eyes every time we talk. (I’m not sure I’ve ever been complimented so wonderfully in my entire life.) And I will do that in future posts, I promise. But for now, here, I need to wax maudlin for a short while, so I ask for your indulgence while I do.

I read this small chunk of prose by a poetically-inclined denizen of Facebook a couple of nights ago – the ancient historians call these prose fragments gobbets when set as stimulus fragments for essay exams, and that term I’ve been utterly unable to get out of my head for every single one of the fourteen years since I last did an ancient history essay exam – on the news feed of a friend, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind for a couple of days (a wonderfully pleasant Friday evening notwithstanding, spent picking out new glasses and having dinner with the same dear friend who accused me of perpetual apex geekery – that was a perfect distraction that I desperately needed and am grateful for). I don’t know if it qualifies as prose-poetry as such, but certainly the style isn’t typical of standard prose; far more highly emotive, a cry of empathy with the deeply wounded. Because of the psychological place I was in, reading this piece was like a shout into a vast canyon with perfect acoustic balance, echoing countless times within the vaults of my mind and the power to silence it or call it back utterly out of my control.

I know what it feels like to live on the edge of loneliness
to have every hope crushed and everything you touch die
and to try so damn hard only to realize
nothing is going to change anytime soon
so you deal with the pain the best you can.
Reggie Nulan

I’ve been entrapped by this proselet largely because it feels almost like this Reggie Nulan has looked straight through – perhaps past – my eyes to see directly into the darkest, grimmest walls of my mind, and has unhesitatingly read the spidery scrawled inscriptions of my worst fears, shallow glyphs scratched weakly into prison walls of piled grey stone by the most anguished part of my psyche. My October was exactly like this verse says. It was a period during the start of which which I did feel occasional snatches of something like motivation, a feeling I hadn’t had in some time: motivation to work, to write, to move forward with my life in aspects that had previously been stagnant and beginning to grow heavy on my shoulders. It was a time during which I didn’t just make plans, but also took steps to – as the revolting business jargon would phrase it – action those plans. (As the great philosopher Calvin – no, not that one – puts it, verbing weirds language.)

Eek. I just wandered off searching for that link, got distracted, and fell into the Internet for about half an hour. I can’t even think about this for long enough to get through the writing of a full post on it. I’m sorry. Where was I? October. That’s right. Much as I’d have liked to forget. September came to an end on quite a high, with notifications via email that one of my academic articles had just been published and two further articles had been accepted for publication in the professional journals. This is probably, I’m pretty sure, what gave me the motivation to start building on the momentum I was experiencing: to keep it rolling forward while it was there, and try to avoid falling back into the lethargic inertia I’m prone to. (I’ve long since come to the conclusion that Newton’s first law of motion has relevance to more abstract forms of progress, too – that an object in motion tends to stay in motion, and conversely, an object at rest will tend to stay at rest.) I was getting my medication régime back under control with the assistance of a good psychiatrist, some academic success had come my way in the form of these three papers, there was promise of upcoming paid contract work at my alma mater, I’d had an offer from a friend to move out of the living situation I’m in that’s contributing to my worsening health, and I was feeling ready to step back out into the world of romance by asking out someone who in recent months I’d been both getting to know better, and growing to fancy, roughly in lockstep with each other.

None of these things have really worked out, though. It brings clouds to my eyes just to type that, but it remains true nonetheless. The romantic thing didn’t work out, which isn’t a problem in and of itself (particularly since the person I fancied had the immense integrity and wondrous grace to sit down with me and talk honestly and openly about why it would be best if we not date, at least for now) – it just feeds into a long, long history of romantic missed opportunities, missteps, and failures to act (more than forty in all; I counted once, in a particularly deep fit of despondency) that always, always make me criticise and harshly judge every aspect of myself to see in which ways I don’t measure up. In addition, my friend’s offer of moving out of my problematic living situation had to be cancelled entirely at the last minute because of the breakup of her relationship (that week was not a good one for relationships – another couple I know also had their civil partnership come to a screeching halt at that time). And I feel doubly awful for that because I know my friend and her partner were both themselves struggling with serious mental health issues, issues that ultimately contributed to their breakup but that must have caused them extraordinary hurt during that process and that make me feel really guilty for feeling upset about the situation for my own (and utterly selfish) reasons. The offer of work I’d had has also had to be postponed several times for a variety of reasons mostly revolving around people being in the field or caught up with other commitments that couldn’t be broken, taking me past the end of my third full year without full-time employment and making me feel even worse about my prospects for beginning to build a life that I can in any way take joy in. As a consequence of these three situations – romance, habitation, employment – I’ve taken a solid backslide even under the increased dosage of the medication my psychiatrist has been working with me on (no doubt situational rather than fundamentally biochemical, which at least does give me a tiny but mathematically non-zero degree of consolation), which has subsequently impacted upon my ability to focus on the writing of further academic papers, on the writing of job applications, and on the continuing effective conductance of my life on a day-to-day basis.

Ultimately, all this is why I feel so keenly the sting of the wound that propelled Reggie Nulan to write his lovely but heart-wrenching prose-poem. Living on the edge of loneliness feels like my reality at the moment; I feel lonely at virtually every moment, even as I try to push myself to address it, to connect with friends, to remain in contact with people I care about. And all that I hoped would come to fruition during October shrivelled on the vine. Life is as stagnant now – moreso, perhaps – as it was at the end of September. At moments like this, I almost fear that my depression and my anxiety are the correct and true way of experience, slyly and underhandedly suggesting that optimism is abhorrent and hope to be shunned. On one level, I’m used to feeling that in my own head. I suppose it just causes a rather deeper ache to feel that the universe around me should be nodding its head so vigorously in agreement.

Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate.
(Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.)
– Dante Alighieri, Inferno III.9

Dear Tim Wilson

Tim Wilson, Federal Coalition Member of Parliament for the seat of Goldstein, just recently wrote an op-ed for the Sydney Morning Herald on why QUILTBAG people should just accept the threatened plebiscite on the topic of marriage equality in Australia and that nothing worth fighting for was ever easy. I didn’t want for my first original-content post to be as angry as this, but Mr Wilson’s post spurred me to a new colour of incandescence, and so I wrote this in direct response to that. Please forgive me this anger, and I promise that the next post will be more interesting, or at least less politically oriented.


To the Allegedly “Honourable” Tim Wilson:
I want you to know that you are a horrifying hypocrite, a terrible representative for the queer community, and should hang your head deep in shame for this revolting piece of self-congratulatory, heavily patronising, deeply prescriptive, and subliminally anti-queer political exegesis for the marriage equality plebiscite.

Oh yes, it’s entirely possible for queer people to do anti-queer things, and this is one of the worst I’ve seen in some time. The debate over this plebiscite is not, as you represent it to be in your opinion piece yesterday, about “ensuring every Australian has full citizenship”. The opposition from the Greens, the Xenophon team, and Labor is not borne of opposition to marriage equality, and you damn well know it. It is borne of opposition to the Coalition’s dawdling and sandbagging over the provision of equal civil rights to Australian citizens. It is borne of disgust with the Coalition Government’s stark abrogation of that very responsibility to “ensure every Australian has full citizenship”. The responsibility of, and ability to change, legislation for marriage is properly the preserve of the Federal Parliament, as indeed the High Court of Australia decided when they overturned marriage-equality laws introduced into the ACT’s Parliament in 2013. You, and all other Members of Parliament along with you, are given the rights and responsibilities to create and amend legislation when you are elected, and under the pretty-shit-but-it’s-all-we’ve-got Westminster system, you are expected to exercise those capabilities, not throw the ball back into the court of the electorate when it all just gets too hard. It’s like going to the shops in the rain, this plebiscite. You’re telling us we should go out in the rain, trying to assure us we won’t get too wet and only one or two of us will probably catch a cold, but you’ve got a perfectly good car in the garage that’d get us all there safe and dry.

Now, let me recast that analogy into reality for you. The shops represent marriage equality. The rain is homophobia, transphobia, anti-queer sentiment of all stripes. The car is Parliament. You’re telling us to suck up the prejudice while it’s happening, basically because nothing good ever happened for people who didn’t put up with some shit while they fought for the good. But we’re reminding you in return that you are a Member of Parliament, that you have the power to get us to marriage equality by getting into Parliament and doing it for all of us in order to help keep us clear of the campaign of bigotry. Because the cold here stands for something, too. It stands for mental illness. For some of us it will be transient – a period of depression, anxiety, insecurity, Weltschmerz, that will pass soon enough – but just as a cold may develop into pneumonia and death for the vulnerable, so too will the mental health issues triggered and worsened by plebiscite campaigning develop into self-harm for some poor closeted trans girl who needed to feel something from her body other than shame and discomfort, into suicide for some self-doubting young gay man who was called faggot once too often and couldn’t take the pain any more.

People will be harmed because of this plebiscite, and you have the power to stop that harm, but refuse. You just don’t get – and I’m saying this as a queer person to whom marriage equality is of course a hugely important issue – that actually, this fight is now even bigger than marriage equality. The fight against this plebiscite is about making you, as members of the Government, recognise that even by offering this compromise you are implicitly stating your beliefs that we are lesser citizens, that we do not deserve equality, that you do not believe our rights sufficiently important to proactively move to address this deficiency in law of the country you swore to serve faithfully, that you will only be dragged to the issue of marriage equality kicking and screaming and crying rainbow murder all the way even despite the harm that your proposed compromise will likely cause.

For that reason, I will not take your veiled “BUT WE’RE GIVING YOU A PLEBISCITE, WHY AREN’T YOU HAPPY TO FIGHT FOR IT?”. I sneer with disgust at your restatement of “the seductive lie that it is better to wait for the fundamental right of equality before the law, than fight for it“, when the ones who are causing the battle to be so difficult are largely you yourselves, the ones in Government. I wave my designated-other-than-I-identify private parts in the general direction of your false equivalence between the Irish referendum (which was binding in Irish law, and you should know that I noticed your cunning omission of any mention of the word referendum when drawing the Irish parallel) and your proposed plebiscite (which is explicitly not binding in Australian law). Indeed, one of the lead campaigners from that very referendum you claim to have been such a rousing success, Grainne Healy, has come out – so to speak – to warn your Coalition Government that the prelude to the Irish referendum was “brutal”, “hurtful”, “upsetting”, “hateful” (her words, not mine) and urge a plebiscite to be avoided if at all possible. And what’s more, this fact was reported just days ago in the very same newspaper you composed your rotten little apologia for. The call to avoid a costly and likely injurious plebiscite is based entirely on this concept that you yourself regurgitate without seeming to have digested any of:

“One of the biggest problems facing LGBTI people, particularly those who are not “out” is the fear of marginalisation. As a result they internalise their fear and doubt their legitimacy in the world. I know that doubt is redoubled when others fail to stand up in defence of those who can’t speak up for themselves.”

By forcing the decision back onto the populace, our fears of marginalisation are being realised. YOU are marginalising us. You are exactly failing to stand up in defence of those of us who can’t speak up for ourselves. You are refusing to play your elected roles as our representatives in Parliament, one of this country’s highest instruments of legislation, on a matter in which our rights to be considered and treated equally under the law you were elected to control are at stake. And to be frank, as a gay man you should know better than to throw in your lot with this refusal, because you are throwing yourself, and your fiancé for that matter, out into the path of bigotry as well when both of you could just get in the fucking car and prevent yourself getting wet too.

Finally – you want us to fight for the type of country we want? Let me tell you the type of country I want. I want a country where the Government is not afraid to change an unpopular policy after listening to an overwhelming and still escalating cry from the populace. I want a country where the wafer-thin majority by which the Coalition holds government is not the most important thing to those in the leadership hierarchy. I want a country that learns from its past, that learns from experiences with the rights of women and Indigenous people and disabled people and refugees and wants to improve the way it works for people in minorities too small to be able to command political respect. And I want a country where the governing party is not so paralysed, cloven in two along ideological lines, that they can’t see that a denial of equality to queer people in this manner belongs to a time long past, a time we should be proud to have moved on from rather than ashamed that we have stagnated in.

And yes, I’ll fight for that kind of country. I’ll be damned if I don’t fight until the very last, and against you and everyone else in your smug, self-important party if needs be, in order to make sure that that’s what we get. Because this is far bigger now than just about getting marriage equality. This is not just about what you give us, but how you give it. This is about true equality of all citizens in the eyes, and more importantly, the heart, of the Government – and right now, you and your party are making it eminently clear that your collective heart is so shrivelled and petrified that you care not a whit for such petty things as civil and human rights, and are more focused on just getting to have your go at making childish brrm-brrm noises behind the steering wheel while the rest of us get sick in the rain.

Fuck you, and fuck your selfish and short-sighted betrayal of the queer community you claim to represent.