Growing up Queer in Australia edited by Benjamin Law

March 28, 20238 min read

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

I really enjoyed this collection of stories and experiences. The authenticity and vulnerability in some of these pieces were heart-wrenching, and in it so many of these authors find strength and resolve.

A powerful quote by M’ck McKeague “I used to think vulnerability was power’s antithesis. Now I see silence is. I’m still growing up as a queer person, still unlearning things I absorbed as a child,”  details this elegantly. It’s by the sharing of these stories, and seeing the world from another shoes that we can even begin to understand the world that queer people face. By writing these words down, and collating them we shrink the distance between the ‘unknown other’ and the human beings that unwittingly play that role.

Some of my favourite quotes are below

Bent Man Runnings by Steve Dow

The laughter is communal, and never at someone’s physical or other shortcomings. Here they cheer you on, even when you’re coming last. But I need to stop running now. I need to draw breath.

The Bent Bits Are the Best Bits by Jax Jacki Brown

I am exiled from my body. It will take years to come home.

I can’t disconnect my body with her. She calls me into it, slowly and gently. I catch glimpses of myself under her hands and under her mouth, and I am not ‘wrong’ or ‘strange’ but desired just as I am.

Healing is found in this moment. Healing from all the shame that was placed on me and my body by all the doctors and therapists who treated me as fundamentally ‘wrong’ and needing to be’fixed’, who tried to push me closer to some elusive idea of of ‘normal’, to unbend me, make me straighter. Those treatments were done to my body throughout my childhood in the name of ‘normalisation’ and my supposed ‘best interests’.

You can Take the Queer Out of the Country by M’ck McKeague

I used to think vulnerabiliy was power’s antithesis. Now I see silence is. I’m still growing up as a queer person, still unlearning things I absorbed as a child.

When Worlds Collide, Words Fail by Thinesh Thillainadarajah

As Audre Lorde says, if I don’t define myself for myself, I will be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.

But I am not going to apologise for being here. I am not going to apologise for existing.

LGBTI-Q&A Georgie Stone

If you don’t see gender, you’re also refusing to look at the transphobia that we face, and you’re refusing to acknowledge our gender identity as well.

LGBTI-Q&A Tony Ayres

Q: But if you’re saying some is unattractive solely on the basis of their race - in a sexual context or otherwise - that has to be fundamentally racist.

A: I agree with that. But I sort of feel like in a way we need to reframe the argument. Desire is racialised for some men. Not for all men but for some men. And there are cultural institutions that reinforce those things. And the more that we can try to break down those things - like even representations of what is attractive - the maybe the rigid barriers we put around race and desire will also start to become more porous. When I was growing up, even I had that feeling: ‘I don’t find other Asian men attractive.’ But that changes when I went on this long trip to China and found myself surrounded by other Asian men. They stopped being Asian men and they started just being men.

Living in the Fridge by Michael Farrell

Growing up non-heteronormative means growing up double. Growing up as what you’re not, as well as what you are. That sounds a bit essentialist, I know. Every secretive act of the past becomes an analogy for sexuality.

Kissing Brad Davis by Scott McKinnon

You can raise an entire nation of children on nothing but heterosexual imagery, and the result will still be a bunch of queer kids in there among that hetero-majority.

Floored by Nic Holas

We are expected to permit, forgive and make room for the behaviour of heterosexual, cisgendered Australian men. We are expected to understand that they aren’t to blame for how they are. We just rent space in the edges where they permit us to dwell, and when we try to stand up for ourselves, or other, we are just bony shoulders for them to shake.

Jack Jill and Me by Stephanie Convery

But I didn’t believe in spirits. And it wasn’t until later that it struck me how much of a dilemma that was.

If the body was all there was, and that body could change quite dramatically—hormone levels could be recalibrated, breasts removed, organs replaced with artificial parts — what did that mean for our understanding of what constituted a person? What, exactly, was it that I named when I spoke of myself? Or Jack, or my mother, or anyone? If I was no more or less than my body, did that make me more or less of a person depending on the kind of body I had, if parts of it were missing or fundamentally altered, whether by accident or through my own choices?

And what about my thoughts and feelings? Brain chemistry changes all the time, with or without the intervention of drugs, so what is the identifiable constant in any one person?

I remembered a philosopher once saying that the universe was a negotiable alliance of things. I couldn’t remember who the philosopher was, or where I heard them say it, but the proposition rang true: I am the aggregate of thousands of molecules, electrons that fire and fade, impulses and substances that process nutrients and expel waste, atoms that are absorbed and shed and replaced. Each one of us is the locus of a mass of material movement, a cluster of intricate physical relationships. This mass we identify as the body, the movement as thought and action: a collection of experiences that leaves marks and scars, interpreted and understood as narratives, as history; as a past, present and future. In Marxist theory, the word for it is dialectic: constant flow, constant change, development through movement and essential contradiction. I am simultaneously an individual and a system of processes: an identifiable thing, material in the world; and a cluster of perpetually moving, changing and developing entities.

You are a unique collection of experiences,’ I said finally to Jack that day. ‘You are memories and events and changes and processes, all bundled together. We used to call that Jill, but now we call it Jack.’

Angry Cleaning by Nathan Mills

At some point, much later, I think I realised that dad and I had been stuck on the same conveyor belt, slouching towards the masculine promised land. We had learnt the same rules, willingly or not, and had done our best to follow them. But something happened to me that probably happens to most out queer people—when queer kids become queer adults, when they stop praying to God at night to make them normal (Nope, still a homo, I’d think the next morning, before turning over to cry into my pillow), where everything sort of clicks, somewhere around eighteen, maybe; you step off the conveyor belt, abandon any idea that you will ever be the cool, apathetic straight boy you always wanted to be, and start to get on with living. In fact, something about the whole things becomes to unappealing.

So You Wanted Honesty … by Sue-Ann Post

The truly great thing about growing up a tomboy was that it didn’t place a question mark over your gender or assume a sexuality. There were just as many straight tomboys as there were lesbian ones. More importantly, it was a term that everyone ‘got’. I hope there is still room in this modern era for such an old-fashioned but incredibly useful term.

Trust Me (Tips for My Teenage Self) by Thomas Wilson-White

And often you will find yourself wondering where it’s all going, and what it all means. There won’t be a stretch of ocean on the entire east coast that you don’t search for answers, nor a pillowcase dry from the heavy tears, your shed, and in those times, I urge you to wrap your arms around yourself and breathe into the chaos of it all. Because time will pass, no matter how much you wish for it to remain static, and the ones you love will grow old, and they will leave you on this wretched earth without their late, and they’re loving poked and prods;  and when you’re stuck to the ceiling, Burny chilled from the injustice of being human, wishing you could find a place to scream and scream, until your throat resigns, just remember that the sun rises every morning, and it will warm your skin, and - I say this to make sure someone has said it for you - it will always get better. You will be okay. And when you finally see those you loved so deeply, whose best and worst you took to proudly build yourself, whose love defined this huge life of yours, in whatever way it happens, you’ll have such an almighty story to tell them. Trust me.

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