Queer Boy’s Guide to: common street wildlife

1897_Parade_Illustrated_Gift_Book_cover_3128737358

Chances are if you venture out onto the street in your Gender Non-Normative Clothing, you will discover a world of reactions and expressions you’ve never encountered before. The ordinarily quiescent wildlife of Sydney undergoes a startling transformation in the presence of gender unicorns, developing odd quirks when spotting you in your outrageously cute dress or gender-ambiguous overalls.

While explanations for this phenomenon differ historically, recent scientific evidence suggests that visible deviation from the norm can radically alter neuronal pathways in cisgendered and heterosexual members of the population, thus “breaking their brain”. It’s important not to be alarmed by the bizarre behavior resulting from these mental short-circuits – indeed, the savvy binary-breaker will soon observe patterns emerging.

Here are a few of the common public archetypes you may stumble across while out smashing the patriarchy, and advice for safe observation of these curious beasts.

The Perpetually Confused

These eternally-puzzled creatures are readily identified by their deeply furrowed brows. When glimpsing a queer crusader, misfiring chemical producers in their skin emit large quantities of a hydrophilic substance known as conformisone.

Conformisone absorbs moisture rapidly from the forehead, drawing the skin tight into a distinctive “confused” expression, while simultaneously distending the skin around the eyes into a painful-looking squint. Due to shock, victims of burst conformisone production are often unable to look away from the individual who triggered the reaction, and have been known to walk into parked cars and fall down while their gaze is thus locked.

Remember, if a victim does fall over while staring at you, it’s acceptable to shake your head in disapproval and refuse to offer help, mostly because it’s their own dang fault.

The Repentant Catcaller

Repentant Catcallers tend to travel in groups and strike from the rear. Upon seeing you, a hot boss in sick floral leggings, from behind, these obnoxious males confuse you for someone remotely interested in them and utter the raucous, offensive cry they have mistakenly been taught attracts others of their species.

Despite your deliberate refusal to acknowledge them, these wretched creatures are riddled with entitlement and feelings of inadequacy and will usually only desist upon catching sight of your face. At this stage, they will groan in collective remorse and engage in desperate acts of performative gender in an attempt to absolve themselves of what they consider the gravest of crimes: openly expressing desire for an individual not among their customary prey.

Repentant Catcallers can be effectively dispatched with laughter, but be cautious. Their fragile egos are easily damaged, triggering inexplicably violent reactions.

The Unfazed

Studying this single-minded creature is nearly impossible thanks to its unerring ability to blatantly ignore anything and everything around it. Regardless of the circumstances, the Unfazed will advance with a quick yet measured pace along the sidewalk, skirting obstacles, disaster zones and queer high-heeled leg monsters alike with unfocused eyes and a blank, soulless expression.

Experimental evidence suggests that the Unfazed are always en route to a very important meeting. As such, these implacable creatures are best regarded as a force of nature, like snakes or the market value of smashed avocado: be aware, take care, and leave them to their own devices.

The Darter

Many a down-with-it queer jivemaster has mistaken a Darter for a human suffering a stroke. The physical signs are broadly the same: erratic head motions; small beads of sweat forming upon the brow; a frozen expression of helpless panic. Yet, with practice, Darters may be easily distinguished from those in need of urgent medical help.

When confronted with a potential Darter/stroke victim, conduct a quick checklist. Do their eyes flick restlessly towards you when you stare at them?Does their look of panic intensify if you shoot them a smile? Are they clutching at their left arm and having trouble speaking?

If you answered yes to either of the first two questions, they are probably a Darter, and can be safely ignored. If you answered yes to the last question, the person is experiencing a stroke and you should dial 000 or the local equivalent at once.


The above list of archetypes is representative, but by no means exhaustive. For the full list, look inside the July edition of The Queer Boy’s Guide, available at all good bookstores and also Amazon, which eventually will own everything including you.

[Poem] 4 pillars

the_four_pillars_of_truth_by_haltenny-d46w8yn

Image credit HalTenny on DeviantArt.

always
shoot for the moon
even if you miss you’ll land among
the cold dead vacuum of space
where stars burn screaming

is asphyxiation my greatest fear
or society sucking my breath away
entombing it within four pillars
defined by negatives

1. values
your marriage, blasphemous
fem clothing disrespectful

2. growth
empty houses gather dust and interest
i’m sorry your payments were cancelled

3. truth
objection to objectiveness
i didn’t say that I never would
fake news

4. justice
welcome to your island getaway
Oz’s worst-kept secret
don’t drop your dignity on the way out

sequestered neath the surface
their scaly arms rub
flesh sloughing off in insincere waves

Rome went like this.
benevolence fell out of fashion with Aurelius
oh well
time still for smashed avo
on my toast

[Fiction/feminism] The Truthtellers

me at Vees house

I am a Truthteller: doomed to insinuate certain facts about the world with words and motion.

Sartorial truths are among the hardest of all. My existence in public spaces is mediated by ineluctable subtext draped across our perceptions like a shroud. It’s impossible for me just to be, save in those dark and dusty spaces where society’s tendrils have begun to rot: dank music halls with shitty speakers; my friend’s bedroom (where the rent’s gone up the owner grins unable to hide their glee at a housing bubble that will not burst); Newtown and dim indie theaters in cancerous symbiosis with more successful mainstream venues. The Truthtellers always have existed in the interstices, tolerated or not.

These interstices are cramped and overwhelming, packed already with the moldy human crusts society has thrown out with childish pique. Thoughtlessness is always far worse than intention.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about Ella Enchanted, that patriarchal wet dream of feminine subservience. Cursed at birth to always obey orders, no matter what they may be and no matter who has issued them, she is tugged through life by puppet strings dangled by a mother who only wants the best for her.

Always these orders are couched as what is best for us, but society’s real success is in its subcontracting out (what a triumph of capitalism!). Its manifesto is absorbed by osmosis into human immune cells guarding against invasion with homophobia, racism, intolerance. They repel attacks by Truthtellers that threaten to undermine the whole. It’s an allergic reaction, leaving the skin of our society red and swollen in self-destructive violence.

Humans pine for change only in abstractions.

To become a Truthteller is very easy. Simply undergo years of social conditioning and allow yourself to be molded into the ideal worker drone: anxiety-ridden; sleepless; always yearning for something better so long as that happiness can be purchased or stolen from someone else. Then wake up one morning and realize – naked and shivering before your mirror – that dressing yourself has become a political act, that leaving your house has become a political act, that your existence in a public space has become a political act against your own volition.

Cultivate a voracity for veracity. Wallow in it. Congratulations!

Safe spaces are a threat, not a luxury, and our society will not tolerate them. The upper-class white blood cells, aged as they are, must be allowed to wander where they will. Otherwise the Truthtellers will think themselves accepted and poison our society one mind at a time.

[Personal fiction] Tracheal burn

 

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Image credit: Fuck You by Kathe Burkhart (1984)

The jagged looks get stuck in your throat after a while. It’s the passive degradation as you’re walking down the street, keeping your head high and trying to hang on to the warm feelings you earned in the mirror that morning. Four different outfits and a thirty minute debate between two indistinguishable sweaters until finally you could see yourself and smile.

It’s not even about ‘passing’ anymore, that nebulous, fucked-up dream-mare of people looking at you and ticking enough gender checkboxes that they’re at least confused rather than outraged about you. Forget about hiding that strong jawline they love praising when you’re in your man-mode, the bland grey disguise you use to ward off judgement for a day, become just another invisible denim ghost wandering the street and fading into the background.

Wow! You’re telling me I can get this button-up shirt in three different shades of dark blue? I’m overwhelmed with the choice. Please, this is too much for my rational man-mind, leave the risque fashion choices to the women. It’s all too hard for me. Remember to avert your eyes as you pass the lingerie shop in case people catch you looking and draw the wrong or right conclusions. What kind of pervert are you?

You’ve got to capture what self-confidence you can, because it drains away constantly, like water through the old ratty rubber plug in your bath. Constant attrition on the street, from your social media feeds, from the voices echoing in your head when you’re at your lowest. Throw your sliding scale out the window – there’s good days and bad days, divided not by a drifting moon but insensitive comments that follow no discernible pattern. You are always vulnerable: you are only safe cuddled up with your best friend in their little upstairs living room, taking refuge from a world outside that’s voted against your identity.

The jagged looks get stuck in your throat, and they hurt. They rip you up, but inside, where nobody can see it and your smile can stay on your face. It’s tracheal burn of the worst variety, like choking on an olive pit. You are too big for yourself, and you bulge at the seams.

[Fiction] The Patri-Ark

south-park-warcraftThe ceiling fan creaks as its turgid blades spin half-heartedly. Gravity pulls close the stifling air, stretching it heavily across the sweat-ridden figure laid out upon the sofa like a corpse.

    “Grooover…” it moans, scrabbling feebly at pinstriped fabric. “How did it come to this?”

    The figure collapses again, spent, and silence settles once more upon the room. Save for the humble squeaking of the ceiling fan, all is still. It is curious, then, that the figure should have gone to such lengths to address an empty room; but who can know what thought flits through the head of that richly-dressed and languid form? Let us leave it to its ruminative huddling for the moment.

    The room which it inhabits is expensively appointed, outfitted with the sort of furnishings designed to impress rather than satisfy. The dark purple carpet is impractically soft; the leather armchairs so deep one could sink in and be lost forever; and along the wall beside medieval paintings stand proud oak bookcases lined with dusty tomes unread in this life or any other. There is wealth in this room, and taste – but the sort of taste arrived at by well-funded trial and error. Here is intimidation by furniture, status carved from stately trees. One does not visit this room – one is suffered to be entertained.

    “Grover…” comes the moan. “What happened to it all?”

    This time, the figure’s plea does not go unanswered. The tall oak door swings inwards noiselessly, allowing through a short, bald man clad all in black. A true gentleman’s gentleman, he does not so much enter the room as insinuate himself into it gently, treading upon the impossibly soft carpet bearing a silver tray. Upon the tray is perched a frothing stein and a plain white card, steepled carefully in the middle.

    “Master,” Grover says, “they have arrived.” Like the Red Sea before Moses, the fingers of the hand flung dramatically across the master’s face part slowly, and his rheumy eyes focus on the white card held before him. Then, the ancient orbs light up, glinting as they haven’t done for a year and more. The huddled figure struggles, bone-white soul patch wobbling on a weak, unsteady chin.

    “Well, don’t just stand there, Grover! Send them in! But help me up first.” Pillows propped; frothing tonic administered, the master reclines upright as Grover ushers in the three awaited men, who approach the settee with measured steps and respectfully bowed heads. Luxuriously maintained beards sprout forth in bushy abundance from their three unshaven necks.

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[Radio] Theatre challenging heteronormativity

telescope

Theatre has a long, proud tradition of challenging the dominant societal norms of its day, from The Marriage of Figaro during the French Revolution to Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.

One particular social issue which has come to the fore over the past few decades is that of gender. The traditional view of a binary system with men and women at opposite ends has come under scrutiny from all areas of society.

Charlie O’Grady is a trans playwright who has dealt with themes of gender before in his play Kaleidoscope. He has a new play showing this week and next that continues his exploration of gender and questioning of traditional views on the subject.

I spoke with Charlie about his upcoming play, Telescope. Check it out on 2

http://www.2ser.com/component/k2/item/22286-theatre-challenging-heteronormativity

[Podcast/feminism] Taboos around menstruation

Menstruacion by patheticpat

Menstruation is a perfectly natural bodily process. So why are we so squeamish whenever it’s brought up or even hinted at?

The taboos around menstruation stretch back to deep antiquity. Women engaging in sex during their period were thought to spawn monsters and the blood itself was believed to be able to cure leprosy.

I asked Carla Pascoe from the University of Melbourne where this social unease springs from.

Listen to it on 2SER, Soundcloud or through the embed below.