"I don't think that being a strong person is about ignoring your emotions and fighting your feelings. Putting on a brave face doesn't mean you're a brave person. That's why everybody in my life knows everything that I'm going through. I can't hide anything from them. People need to realise that being open isn't the same as being weak."

- Taylor Swift

Friday, June 28, 2013

speak now #9: 'like colour bursting onto a world of black and white'

Now Playing: How It Ends by DeVotchKa (no longer shall you need, you always wanted to believe, just ask and you'll receive beyond your wildest dreams)

Solomon*: UWA student. Atheist. Gay Cismale. Shameless Nerd. Bookworm. Wearer of Bow Ties. 

Can you tell us a bit about yourself, Solomon?

Hmm. Well. I'm eighteen years old but people often think I look older because of the facial hair. I'm cismale and gay and read The Backlot (formerly AfterElton) and the Huffington Post Gay Voices site and a few other things regularly. I like reading a lot and I'm especially happy when I get to do it often. Books, I mean. And short stories, and poems.

What is your opinion on attitudes towards homosexuality and GSD individuals in our society?

Do you mean in Australia, or in Western society, or globally?

Let's stick to Australia.

Hmmm, okay. Well, if I may begin with an anecdote?

Sure :)

Well, I was reading a very brief article on the Senate debate about recognising same-sex marriages performed abroad, and there were some quotes from certain senators who said some very unkind things; such as the Shadow Attorney-General George Brandis, for example, who attacked both the bill and Greens Senator Sarah Hansen-Young quite viciously.

And Cory Bernardi's lovely enlightened view on gays and bestiality?

Eurgh, Bernardi. What really gets me about him is how he's all up in arms about how polygamy is somehow a bad thing. I mean, bestiality I can understand, because animals probably can't give the informed consent that I think is a rather good thing to have with sex. But I can't see the problem with consensual polygamy where all the partners agree. Then again, I don't see the problem with consensual incest either.

I know the sex positive movement in general is opposed to polygyny but not to polyamory, because of the child brides and institutionalised sexual assault and all that baggage associated with polygyny. And I guess incest has all the problems of abuse with authority, especially with inter-generational relationships - I think Game of Thrones has established that incest creates people who are pretty looney tunes (*cough* JOFFREY). 

I understand precisely what you mean. About the polygamy-and-incest thing, though...I think it all really depends on that issue of consent. If people aren't consenting or aren't able to, then there's so much scope for abuse. Just like with so many other things. Lack of consent can lead to people being very hurt, and that makes me truly sad. But if people know what they're doing then...they know what they're doing.

What do you think about the discrepancy between the current political climate surrounding GSD issues and actual public opinion? 

If you read some of the senators' comments, there's some fairly idiotic stuff about putting it to a referendum, as though changing the Constitution is the right way to do this. But then again, there are some comments - attributed to a Liberal senator! - which are saying that since around 1 in 200 people are intersex or otherwise not cisgender, we need to get beyond the gender binary. Which, in her view, was a reason why a constitutional amendment was really not a good idea. It got me thinking how far we've come and how far we have to go; on things like gender binary, for example, and asexuality and polygamy and other things that people have been doing and talking about, and for which they have been working towards an equitable solution, for thousands and thousands of years. It's kind of thrilling knowing that I could be at the point where it all starts to become recognised and accepted and enjoyed for what it is - a very pleasurable part of human experience. As long as everyone is consenting, of course.

Have really come that far, though? There are lots of cultures that recognise various third genders, for example, and Australia is really lagging on this freaking gay marriage issue.

Hmm. Well, if I may express it mathematically, I feel that the world today is close to the central point in a sigmoid or a Gompertz curve. What I mean is, we could be closing in on a point where things start to happen very quickly on this issue. I mean, this year same-sex marriage has been legalised in Uruguay, New Zealand, France and a little bit in Brazil, as well as in a few US states. ENDA is sitting in the US Congress again and the Supreme Court is due to make a ruling on two very big GSD rights issues at the end of the week. Meanwhile Canada is figuring out how to make same-sex divorces work, and the UK is getting close to realising same-sex marriage as well.

Meanwhile in Australia: people still seem to think that fucking someone of the same gender and fucking a donkey is the same thing. 

Alas. And of course GSD rights all go far, far beyond the same-sex marriage issue. But we could be at a point where thinking about it becomes a natural thing to do. If we are approaching a turning point, then there's a possibility that I'm thinking of the wrong type of curve - it could be a parabola that curves up and then just curves straight back down again. Look at Russia, for example, or Nigeria or Uganda; the Ugandan view on GSD rights makes me sick, I have to say.

Could you discuss growing up as a gay person, coming out, bullying...?

Well it's funny when I think about my childhood, really, in that I see all these signs pointing to me being gay - but they're obviously much clearer in hindsight. At the time, they were just part of living, and it's not like I'd ever gone through childhood before to compare it to. So there are a few things, some very early crushes and predilections and things, that showed up quite early on - say, when I was ten or eleven and still fairly unsure about what sexuality was. Or rather, I knew what it was but I had an at best vague idea of how it related to me. Then I went to high school and fell in love with someone who I first saw in my maths class, and...well, there's a phrase someone used in the biography of the gay cryptographer Alan Turing, who was quite a fascinating chap and who fell in love with his best friend at school; the author described it as being like colour bursting onto a world of black and white. And it was a little like that for me, in that I went from being black and white to rainbow-coloured, as it were - not necessarily in a burst, but more of a fade in. But that did a few things, namely 1) show me that gay attraction was not necessarily a bad thing (some days it was good; some days it was really, really bad); 2) it showed me that sexual attraction is both quite fun and really, really fucked up, and 3) it allowed me to make sense of myself, I suppose, for the first time. But yeah, I had a fairly painful unrequited love throughout high school, so to be honest it was a bit of a relief to get out just for that reason.

Ah, unrequited love. I think everyone can sympathise with that. 

Oh, of course, but as I had unrequited love *plus* the realising-I-was-gay thing at the same time and for the same reason, I feel I may have had it a little worse than most. Then again, I'm certain that there are many, many people who had it far worse than me. I came out to my mum when I was in Year 11; she took it very well, I have to say. I'm not sure how well she understands the whole gay thing, but I'm pretty sure I can rely on her. By that time a few of my closest friends knew. Then again, the reason I had friends who were so close was precisely because I had come out to them, and that kind of helped, in a way. My sisters are younger than me and I only came out to them last year, the day before my birthday. I decided I didn't want to turn eighteen and become an adult without them knowing. So I think it's fair to say that I began my adulthood being out to all the people who really matter to me.

Better than me, most people don't even think bi is a thing. 

Damn bisexual erasure.

Have you had any issues with bullying about sexuality or gender?  

Not really. Gender is a non-starter, since male privilege is a thing. But people at high school didn't really know about me being gay. It kind of progressed to rumour status by the end of year 12, but by that point people had more pressing things to worry about.

But then this is always the pressure to conform to super-macho capital-M MASCULINITY. 

I suppose the thing is, I've never been super-macho. I've been a nerd from a very young age and I love it, of course. But machismo has always struck me as a little ugly at the best of times, and downright repellent at worst. And then, of course, I arrived at UWA, which I've always found to be a very tolerant and comforting environment.

I think there is a kind of fallacy amongst men that they have to be super macho and they have the right to pick on other men who aren't super macho. And seriously, I think lynx deodorant was designed so that women could clearly identify asshats :P

Um. Er. I use Lynx.

BAHAHA. Well. Don't?

Oh sweetie, I can't be bothered thinking about which deodorant to buy. Not that responsible consumption isn't a thing, it's just way down on my list of things to think about.

It's more like those guys who just spend hours standing there topless and spraying themselves with lynx and they're like HEY BABY DO YOU LIKE MY ABS AND ALSO I SMELL LIKE AN ENTIRE CAN OF PRESSURISED CARCINOGENS DO YOU LOVE ME NOW????

Yeah, I don't go in for any of that. The abs or the women or the toplessness. Anyway, I don't necessarily turn down the designation of 'asshat'; although personally I prefer the term 'dickhead'. Perhaps it's just because I've never found buttocks very interesting.

My current favourite is 'fuckwit'.

That's also quite appropriate. I read a book once where the main character's partner calls him a cunt rag while drunk, and the main character responds 'A tampon? I'm a tampon for not letting you drive?' Possibly relevant. May I turn this interview around and ask you a question for a moment here?


How much do you spend on tampons a month?

Hmm. Geez. I really don't know. Well, I don't use tampons to start with. A box of pads is about seven dollars and you go through about two boxes a month. But all sanitary products are taxed as luxury goods, which is a bitch.

Hence the Axe the Tampon Tax Campaign.

Yeah. There are other options too, which are more cost effective, and also much more stigmatised. Actually, menstruation as a whole is stigmatised. Something you will never have to deal with, my dear. 

Hence my curiosity. Back to you as the interviewer :)

What is the weirdest myth or misconception you've heard about gay people?

I suppose for me the one that springs to mind is the idea that all gay men are massively promiscuous. I mean, I'm gay, and very happy about it, and having sex with nobody at all. And I'm not sure how I'd deal with being promiscuous emotionally or health-wise, so it's certainly not something I'm just drawn to because I'm gay. On the contrary, it's something I've thought carefully about. And will probably continue to think  carefully about up until the point where it actually becomes an option.

My sex education was pretty cissexist and didn't really cover homosexuality and stuff. Can you talk about your experience with sex education at school in the context of your sexual orientation?

Ooh. Well, I have to say, sex education at school was at best pretty uninteresting. I mean, the most interesting thing that happened was that we sat in a circle one time and read out all the stages of a man and a woman having vaginal intercourse. Other than that it didn't really teach me much; I mean, I've learned a lot more about sex, including safer sex, from Wikipedia than I ever did from school. The nice thing about Wikipedia is that it's all factual, it doesn't judge you, and if you ever feel awkward you can always delete your browser history.

Did sex education feel judgemental or not factual?

Probably not. In terms of time spent though, it was probably almost useless. I don't think it gave me any information that was remotely related to non-heterosexuality. The best sex education class I've ever heard about is one in Kazuo Ishiguro's novel 'Never Let Me Go'. From the way he describes it, it actually sounded kind of useful.

I think it is really important for this project to accurately purvey the diversity of human sexuality through different perspectives from people of all sexes, genders, expressions and orientations. GSD, a term that we have used throughout this interview, is Solomon's preferred term for non-binary individuals and means 'Gender and Sexual Diversities'. Solomon is a friend of mine from university who has kindly done volunteered to do this interview, plus we have a guest article in the pipeline. Solomon has asked for his identity to be protected and so we're using my nickname for him, which is an in-joke and something of an atheist mockery of religious arguments against gay marriage. If you would like to be interviewed/interview me and/or write a guest article, please contact me! Stay tuned and stay beautiful! 

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