Being queer is a big part of who I am. So is being a father, a friend, a brother and a son. I identify as being a passionate advocate on a range of issues, including the environment and those living beyond our extremely privileged national borders in particular. I speak my mind, for better and worse.
I grew up in a single parent family and enjoy a good life filled with meaning, love, drama, amazing people and my fair share of highs and lows. I would step in front of a bus to save any of the people I care about.
I’m more femme than butch, of European background, big, and hairy – I can grow a beard like nobody’s business. I like to think I’m reasonably smart, respectful of others, drawn to interesting people who challenge and inspire me – and have a decent sense of humour, even if it gets me into trouble. I play basketball and spend far too much time on Facebook.
I only really started to get a handle on my sexual orientation and gender identity in my mid-to-late 20s and still feel I’m living fluidly on a spectrum rather than in a box.
Even the word ‘bisexual’ feels wrong and so far ‘queer’ is the closest I’ve found to a word that describes me at all accurately. I have questioned my gender identity and experienced bullying and harassment. I have spent the last twelve years in a relationship with a queer woman I love with all my heart.
Like all of us, being gay, bi, lesbian, trans, intersex, queer, questioning or however else we think of ourselves is not all we are yet it is often an extremely significant part of a complex whole.
However, for many of us, it is our sexual orientation and/or gender identity that brings us into harm’s way as we go about our lives. Because of who we are we face regular harassment, discrimination, abuse, judgement and violence in our daily lives and local communities.
The result is serious physical and psychological harm, particularly those who are more vulnerable due to youth, health issues, social/physical isolation, increased exposure to homophobic institutions and a variety of other factors.
This harm is inflicted in places we all share and have a right to feel safe in – schools, workplaces, sports, public places, cafes/restaurants, religious organisations, social services, health settings and in our own homes. We see high profile people using the media, political office and the internet to espouse their harmful views every week of the year.
It is completely unacceptable that we can’t live our lives without being subjected to direct or indirect harm of this kind. It is actually a public health issue – and in many areas, a public health crisis – that has not yet been properly addressed – or even fully recognised by health authorities and providers who are failing their duty of care.
Living in this homophobic ‘atmosphere’ is like breathing second hand smoke. It is certainly bad for your health.
Many of us face this harm on multiple fronts when racism, ableism, misogyny, socio-economic status and other aspects of our identity are combined with homophobia, transphobia and/or biphobia.
The consequences are physical and mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide. Homophobia kills.
My ‘queer agenda’ is as uncompromising as it is pragmatic. I believe the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time, but that you do need to be focused on eating the whole elephant – eventually. As a vegetarian that is a slightly uncomfortable metaphor, but you get my point.
We must accept nothing short of 100% equality, but we should also recognise that we are attempting a monumental task in dismantling thousands of years of legal, institutional and cultural prejudice, violence and hatred and replacing it with a new world order where who we love and how we express ourselves is as irrelevant as the colour of our eyes.
To be successful we need passionate and strategic queer activists and ten times that number of strong straight allies. We need to remove every skerrick of legal discrimination from the statute books and from the policies of all private and public institutions. Marriage equality, same-sex adoption and religious exemptions to anti-discrimination laws are obvious examples of unfinished business here.
We need to replace these harmful instruments with positive and inclusionary measures combined with serious penalties for those who harm their fellow citizens through prejudice. There is no room for homophobia – ever or anywhere.
We then need to go even further and start educating and challenging the whole community – with an emphasis on those living outside our inner-urban queer-friendly enclaves – in both the beauty of a society where everyone is welcome and the harm that prejudice does, even where it is expressed verbally or through oppressive cultural environments that force people to hide their true selves.
My agenda is to dismantle the things that persecute and exclude us, replace them with things that welcome and celebrate us – and then move beyond both of these transitional phases to reach a place where sexual orientation and gender identity simply don’t matter anymore.
I want who I love and how I express my gender identity to be irrelevant.
Now, this doesn’t mean invisibility, far from it. It means we are completely visible, loud and proud, but not because we are fighting for our place at the table – but because we are just being ourselves in all our combined, diverse and amazing queer glory! With nothing to prove to nobody.
And to be honest, since having a son almost two years ago, this has all become so much more urgent to me. I have no idea whether Rupert will be gay, bi, straight, trans, queer or something else.
I do know my love and support for Ru will be no different – and his place in the community should be no different either. It is irrelevant to his value as a person and as a member of the community.
On the deepest most personal level, my queer agenda really boils down to creating a community where all our children, brothers, sisters, mums, dads, partners, friends and lovers can be safe from harm and free to be themselves in public and private without even having to think about it.