Out & About: Finding The Funny Side In Queer Identity
You often hear people refer to their sexuality as just a small part of them; one aspect of their broader construction of self. It’s not really like that for me – being queer is my sexuality, my political identity, and now, my jobs, my hobbies, my clothing. Being queer is all of me. But so is not taking myself too seriously.
It can be tiring being queer – political organising, constant concern over when and where to be out, coping with oppression, and understanding and empathising with the social and political positions of others. There’s often a lot going on. But it’s important to step back sometimes and be able to enjoy it, to laugh. Because while fighting for recognition and equal rights is a serious matter, you really have to laugh at such arbitrarily assigned social systems as those we live in today. When you step out of them, it’s really just ridiculous that you can be afforded fewer rights simply because of whom you choose to fuck.
But it’s not just the ridiculousness of it all that we can enjoy. When the #straightpride meme – “remember, you exist because your parents were straight” – was doing the rounds last week, a friend had a perfect response: “No – I exist because I have a community and visibility, which prevented my suicide.” A bleak message, but still – we can take pride, happiness and enjoyment from our community, the people we meet, the spaces we create, the performances we witness.
Queer performance is a great place to laugh – it needn’t always be depressing. I recently attended a talk that pointed out that a lot of LGBT people don’t like to watch many LGBT films, because the characters always end up dead or depressed. This is particularly true for trans popular culture narratives. When Boy Meets Girl was screened at the Mardi Gras Film Festival this year, it was the first time I’d seen a trans character in a rom-com – sure, parts of the film were hard and sad, but in the end (spoiler alert) she gets the guy and lives happily ever after. They laugh, they joke, it’s fun.
Drag queens have long been around to show us the lighter side of queer existence by parodying camp culture and extreme femininity. Because masculinity and femininity are again such arbitrary markers, sometimes all you can do is laugh at their nonsensical power. When I was five, I got a Polly Pocket castle from a friend for my birthday. The birthday card read, “We knew Lucy would prefer a cricket bat, but we thought this was more appropriate.” So, at five years old, I was being denied what I really wanted to do, in favour of something more appropriately and arbitrarily feminine. Isn’t that ridiculous?!
Of course, we can look at the sadness and problems in all these things, too. We can lament the very real issue of queer suicide in my friend’s response to #straightpride. We can look at my cricket bat story and feel sad for the child who was prevented from being their true self. But this denies us our power. For when I’m yelled at and abused on the street, yes, it’s frightening, but to me, it’s empowering to be able to laugh (not in their face, I’m too scared for that) at how sad that person’s life is that they feel the need to abuse others on the street. Laugh at the man who’s so insecure about his masculinity he can’t bear the sight of a man in a skirt. Laugh at the kid who looks you up and down and says, “But what is it?!” because our society is so fucked that even children are socialised into categorising people into male or female.
We have to be able to laugh, because otherwise it’s just too overwhelming.
One of my favourite queer parties (with a community that knows how to laugh at itself), Bad Dog, is hosting Bad Dog’s Unnatural Acts this Saturday July 25 at Marrickville Bowling Club. The night will feature music from Annabelle Gaspar, Steve Sonius, Bill Cotsis and Ben Drayton.Presale is sold out, however there should be some tickets available on the door at 10pm.
Also happening this weekend in that neck of the woods is Troppo Galaktika on Friday July 24 at The Red Rattler. It’s a big old queer party with DJs HipHopHoe, Yung Brujo, Tracksuitpants and Spiked Punch. There’ll also be performances, food and coffee cup readings.
Newtown Hotel faves Snapback will be doing something a little different next Wednesday July 29 (as well as their usual soiree I’m sure). The pub will be screening the National Press Club debate on marriage equality between people’s (read: lesbians’) hero Penny Wong and Cory Bernardi (who I won’t describe here because I have nothing nice to say). From midday, they’re encouraging you to throw popcorn at Bernardi. Sounds fun.