A session at the recent Perth Writer’s Festival kicked off the day, and as I’d arrived early to get good parking, I made myself comfortable on a bean bag in the Auditorium while waiting. It’s a Queer World opened avenues in my thinking I’d either not known or reminded me of aspects I’d encountered over the years.
Following are some points I took away from the session in which Robin Little led the discussion with Benjamin Law, Madison Moore, Ursula Martinez.
Panel for It’s a Queer World
A broad discussion on definitions
1. Over time, the word ‘queer’ has been variously defined. Regardless of definition, it is still a term that is hurtful and painful for some. With HIV and Aids in the 1980s, queer took on a further level of meaning, becoming more pathological.
2. Queer and gay are not synonymous According to the panel, gay has more to do with white masculinity. It was noted, however, gay and queer are shape-shifting words and may well find new connotations in the future.
3. Members of the bi-sexual community may be considered exclusive or may be excluded from a community they were previously accepted in due to their shifting sexuality.
The Queer community is marginalised by society: people meet in nightclubs, houses and venues that are not always ‘mappable’; for example, a late night performance somewhere; ‘Duckie’ in London, and parties.
It is becoming easier to find Queer community connections through television, pop culture and magazines. These avenues reach the younger generation. The internet is also an important means of connection for the gay and queer communities and for individuals. Dialogue is happening.
Ways of connecting include –
– The “XY” magazine (Apparently, this #1 print gay men’s magazine was re-established in 2016.
– Mardi Gras are more accepting and open today than in the past.
– Celebrating ‘fabulousness’ – defined by Ursula Martinez as ‘seizing the space you are not given.’ For example, using social media like Instagram to post selfies in clothing that proclaim fabulousness.
– Voguing – dance that celebrates through movements and story. Vogue Balls are currently popular. I learnt more about the origins and current dance movements in voguing in Janet Upadhye’s article in Huffingpost, Vogue: Not Madonna’s dance.
The Safe School Scandal of 2017 was mentioned by Benjamin Law who wrote an essay addressing this topic.
Law is currently writing a teen comedy through which he aims to make difficult subjects approachable.
Ruth Little mentioned the Yes manifesto. I interpret this to mean saying ‘yes’ to being who you are.
Fabulousness is the moment you choose to be you, according to Madison Moore. It is giving up on norms and choosing to be yourself at last; it is a way of being.
PTSD – being ‘shouted out’ in negative ways for who you can create deep distress. One of many possible examples where this may happen is the simple exercises of getting a sandwich for lunch. An individual may be verbally abused.
Wrapping up the session, each person suggested ways of celebrating
Madison Moore – Celebrating Queer and Fabulousness at the same time can bring joy through fantasy. Dressing up, partying, fun times.
Benjamin Law – Gay Mardi Gras is now a much more comfortable zone with increased openness.
Ursula Martinez – Finding places where the community meets, like Duckie, in London.
And, channelling Queer hurt into something useful – a call to action which is possibly applicable to anyone who has been hurt.
From the platform of speakers, I heard bravery, openness, and ownership. I acknowledged afresh the fringe that the Queer community continues to be pushed into, despite much change in recent years. From such occasions and conversations as this one, at the Festival, I see and hear a frank and open discussion that enables the wider community to better understand those within communities, in a complex, Queer world.
Perth Writers Festival