Tagged: melbourne

Dion, Lecturer, Melbourne, Australia

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
Dion, in his own words: “I don’t have a manifesto about being gay, although I have devoted a lot of my adult life to thinking about the meanings of sexuality. I’m a gender and sexuality studies academic, or, at least, I’m trying to become established as one. I wrote a dissertation about HIV/AIDS and gay men, and I guess in many ways that whole project, which is getting published as a book soon, is essentially about what it means to be gay, and about denaturalizing some of those meanings. I write a queer column for an Australian literary journal called The Lifted Brow, and increasingly I get asked to write and speak about queer topics. So considering so much of my career has been given over to reading and writing about the meanings of sexuality, I suppose being queer to me means a lot of questioning and thinking about (and maybe sometimes over thinking!) the meanings of sex and sexuality. Sounds fun doesn’t it?

I prefer ‘queer’ more than ‘gay.’ On the surface I look like a lot of the things that are associated with the label ‘gay’: I’m able-bodied and cis-gendered; I live in a city, in a rich, privileged country in the developed world; I’m overeducated and I spend my spare money on cocktails and haircuts; I have sex and relationships with men. That’s stereotypically white gay men stuff I suppose. But ‘queer’ is a better fit with my politics and with how I feel about sexuality. It’s a better description of the people in my life and the affinities I have with them. It’s also a more honest description of what I did sexually during my teen years and early twenties, and it doesn’t write that stuff off as ‘before I was gay.’ I think ‘queer’ provides a better and more progressive account of the politics of sexuality and intimacy than ‘gay’ does, although I don’t really mind if other people use that term to describe me. Part of being queer for me means trying not to take my own or anyone else’s sexuality for granted; trying not to fall back on assumptions about what is normal.

Like being anything, being queer can be a source of frustration because everyone has assumptions about what that means. You have to situate your own desires and sex practices and life choices – your own story – in relation to those assumptions, even if the complexity and messiness of your inner and intimate life diverges from them. These days, for example, many Australians assume that all gay people want gay marriage recognized and that they themselves probably want to get married, and that gay marriage is an issue they want to talk to about. I don’t care about gay marriage or want it for myself, and the effort it takes to account for that to people is tiring sometimes. On the other hand, I’m pretty aware of how privileged that complaint is when people in my own community and around the world are persecuted daily for their sexual difference.

One way or another, queer people are always asked to explain themselves. Straight people don’t get asked that question: ‘What does being straight mean to you?’

My academic career is a constant stream of success and unsuccess. Something gets published, something gets knocked back; some promising contract work opportunity arises, but the certainty of a permanent job remains elusive. It’s always been like that: big achievements occasionally and lots of everyday failure in between. Maybe all careers are like that? A volatile, checkered story.

I went to uni on a scholarship after scoring one of the top high school grades in my state. I’d been a bookish teenager but also a somewhat undisciplined one, so that was a success nobody was quite expecting, least of all me. I loved being a student, studying literature and talking about politics, but in the background I think that big early achievement set a kind of unbeatable standard. When I started a PhD on another scholarship in my early twenties I became very depressed and couldn’t get out of bed. Eventually I worked out how to do it, and seven years later I finished it and now I am turning it into a book. That feels like success. But, on the other hand, I haven’t been able to turn that into a job… yet.

My coming out story is an ‘out and in and out’ one, although I’ve always maintained it was more of a sexually fluid narrative, rather than a coming out and going back in.

I was in high school secretly dating an older guy who was in his final year at another school. I lived at home with my parents in a southern part of Melbourne and would sneak off on the tram to visit him in the north. I was closeted and he was very emphatically out. I think it probably frustrated him that I was keeping the relationship a secret, but he persisted patiently with me.

Eventually my parents cottoned on to my dissapearings. I was doing a fair bit of lying to them about where I was at that time, and probably a whole lot of other things. One night I was at my boyfriend’s house and my parents called me there. To this day I still don’t know how they got his number or how they figured out where I was. He took me home, where my parents were fighting bitterly. They were themselves on the threshold of their own relationship breakdown, so it was an unsettled time for everyone. That night, I couldn’t get to sleep. I felt like a coward for not coming out, and I was worried I would lose my boyfriend if I continued to keep him a secret, so I woke my parents up at 4am to tell them I was gay.

It was a pretty angsty, melodramatic coming out scene! Strangely though I stopped seeing the guy after that, and later that year, after the trauma of coming out died down, I fell head over heels for a new girl at my high school, and we started dating and sleeping with each other. When we finished high school, she went overseas for a year, during which time I missed her and pined for her – and also for my first boyfriend. There’s a label people use for that: ‘confused.’ But I also remember thinking about how I wanted them both, but that somehow a choice had to be made.

At the end of the year I met my high school sweetheart in Europe and we went travelling together and spent a month disagreeing and fighting and having angry sex. After that I came home and thought: I am totally into boys now. Eventually, when I found a new boyfriend and decided I wanted to take him home to my mother I felt as if I had to come out to her again, since my last relationship had been with a woman. It was pretty un-cataclysmic this one. I told my mum ‘I’m seeing someone, his name is…’ and she asked, ‘Is he Jewish?’

Melbourne’s queer community is cosmopolitan and urban and gentrified. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect many queer Melbournians increasingly aspire to a house and kids and to a comfortable life in the suburbs. I guess it’s much like any other metropolis in the developed world: New York, Manchester, Amsterdam. Gay men are more visible than lesbians; poorer queers are invisible. I don’t know. People lead quite comfortable lives here. There isn’t so much of a gay or queer ‘scene’ as there are multiple scenes. I gather that’s the trend now in a lot of cities. I’ve made it sound pretty bleak, haven’t I? It’s a very cool city to be queer in. It’s just hard to describe why without using clichés like ‘vibrant’ and ‘diverse.’ It can be a very sexy city sometimes.

My advice to my younger self would be to stick with your art classes, go back to drama school and go on a date with the guy from the pie shop.”

Todd and Wade, Melbourne, Australia

photo by Kevin Truong
Todd (left) and Wade (right) photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
Todd (left) and Wade (right), photo by Kevin Truong
Todd (left) and Wade (right), photo by Kevin Truong

Steve, Masters Student/Activist, Melbourne, Australia

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

Steve, in his own words: “Being gay means I was lucky enough to be born homosexual, to be born into this community that has existed in every cave, village and city for as long as we have existed as humans. Being gay gives me a connection to people I’ve never met, gives me a connection to a rich history, but most importantly it gives me a community that I care and fight for.

Being gay gives me the freedom to choose my own destiny, to be free from so many of the shackles that society dictates to the majority, I thrive in my difference and I believe this makes our entire society richer.

I think I’m too young to call anything I’ve done a success, I’d run the risk of looking a little smug. Living overseas, graduating with first class honors from a top university are all successes, but I have so many other people that I owe for these successes, I wouldn’t be where I am now without the support of other people, so I don’t want to take all the credit for this.

Personally however I think my greatest success is my acceptance of who I am and the pride I now take in who I am. It’s a great challenge to overcome your insecurities, I’ve had many of them, and I continue to have them, but I’ve come to a point where I own my insecurities, and I’ve never been happier.

I like to say we’re always coming out, to a certain degree. We have to come out whether overtly or subconsciously to every person we interact with, our sexuality is such a huge influence on who we are as a person and what our place within society is. I’m sad to say there are certain times I have chosen not to come out in certain environments and keep cosy in a very glittery wardrobe. 
My ‘classic’ coming out was in two episodes, Mum first when I was 13 then Dad when I was 17. Mum’s first reaction was “never tell your father, I don’t know how he will react,” her reaction was one of fear, not of me and my sexuality but fear for how society will treat me. It’s so sad that parents of fags are genuinely afraid for their child because of how heterosexuals will treat them.

Dad’s first reaction was “I’m so proud of you, you’re an incredible young man and you will achieve great things” (I may be embellishing a bit, but it went something like that). My immediate response was to look at my Mum and say “ALL THIS TIME!!!” But I don’t hold a grudge, she knew no better, and unfortunately parents these days don’t know how to deal with their child coming out. The language around coming out is the same language as that of mourning, or the loss of a limb; “It’s okay, you’ll be the same person in my eyes,” “…well despite this, I still love you.” It’s like, really? Despite what? Despite the fact that your child has now joined the ranks of an incredible community, immediately making them more progressive, empathetic and happy, you’ll still love them? How condescending! There are schools of thought out there that homosexuality is the next step in human evolution, and with technological advancement the idea of heterosexuality for procreation will become null. So to the parents thinking it’s such a sad thing that your child has just evolved into an amazing little homo, shame on you, go bake them a rainbow cake immediately. Less of this “I suppose you’ll have to do” and more confetti at coming outs, please!

I’m an eternal optimist and have found my place in Melbourne’s LGBTIQ community during a period of relevant calm, though this will all change very soon with the inevitable introduction of marriage equality and the changing landscape in the response to the HIV epidemic. So my experience of the community lacks the nostalgia of ‘Club X’ and ‘Bar Y,’ which is so often the frame people view this question with. I have been so lucky to have discovered the community behind the bars (though ironically, it takes going to a bar to find these communities, I know, it’s like Inception). I had to find these opportunities myself, the volunteer work, learning from the old queens I respect so much, surrounding myself by likeminded people and running by my golden rule, “be infinitely kind,” and you will get infinite kindness in return.

I live in a Collingwood bubble, here in Melbourne that means I’m a “Northside gay” and I must have a beard. I’m very lucky that my local bar is one of the world’s longest-continuously running gay bars (The Laird, I highly recommend it) that is rich in history and in community to this day means that I have been well placed to develop a positive identity for myself and an experience of my community that is so positive. Every part of the LGBTIQ community has its stereotypes, for example The Laird is the quintessential hairy-chested, hypermasculine sometimes-leather bar. But nowhere else do I feel more comfortable vogueing it up on the dance floor and nowhere else do I feel so accepted for however I want to express myself. It sounds a bit silly, but in general about various scenes, it’s not about the beard, the six pack, the tan, the politics, it’s what you have inside that really counts, and people will see that and appreciate that. If they don’t, then you’re hanging around with the wrong people.

We have a diverse and rich queer scene here too, think boys, beards and heels, with a reputation for groundbreaking art and performance from Berlin to New York. This is Melbourne, we’re dirty, we lack pretense and glamour, we do ‘different’ and we’re all the more happy for it. Melbourne rocks.

(Advice to my younger self) Listen and learn. Everyone is smarter than you, everyone has something to contribute to you and you have the duty to take it on board and pass it on. I’ve learnt this now, but I wish I knew this when I was a pretentious teenager trying so hard to fit in. I’d say to myself, look at who you really are, stop pretending, stop trying, you’ll become yourself eventually so just stop wasting time trying to be someone else – once you do, you will never be happier.”