My bible, as a GLBTQ person, is Michael Bagemihl’s Biological Exuberance. It says: “reality is not just stranger than you imagine, it is weirder than you CAN imagine”. On Australian BC is a show about transgender people. It breaks my heart to watch the pain they go through, though to give them credit, they have taken the necessary steps in their life logically, intelligently, gracefully.
I’d just like to set out my own narrative as a tangent to their’s. As a 20’s year old gay man, in hostile environments, I was successfully convinced NOT ever to talk about my life as a gay man. I moved around in Kings Cross, a bohemian area where you felt a little freer to be yourself than elsewhere. Nonetheless, westie hoons in FJ Holdens would screech around the corners there, leaning out of windows, yelling “Poofter”. There was enough implied violence in their loudness. I was convinced to hide the fact that I was gay; convinced that I had successfully done so; in many situations people were admitting that they knew of my sexual identity; they were not always sympathetic; to have been more open would possibly have been uncomfortable all round; the abominable crime of buggery was after all still illegal.
I can’t tote up the situations which necessitated that I keep my identity hidden. When Dennis Altmann spoke at my campus, Macquarie University, I and my friends gathered to hear him; from the stage, he could hear us say to each other ” YOU!”; we were suddenly outing ourselves to each other. I remember the slimy talk that opened the evening event; it spoke of being gay in the worst terms, patronising, dismissive. However, once Altmann had rubbished the speakers before him, I felt a new world had opened up. I moved into different accomodation, with other gay friends; I began to live in a gay world.
Before that however, I was constantly asking myself if I presented an effeminate appearance to the world. Was my voice high, were my mannerisms obvious. OBVIOUS became an over-used word. I dressed as a hippie at the time, in bright colours and ethnically ambiguous fashions, so much of the internalised interrogation was superfluous.
Tonight, listening to young & adult trans gender folk, I can understand how isolated they would feel, being driven to express a complex personal identity. I can also imagine how easily though not faultlessly people around them might misunderstand & condemn. One FtoM trans person tried to get back with his mum; she rejected his overture saying “seeing you the way you are breaks my heart”. On her hospital deathbed my mum tried to get me to reject my gay life & move back to the city where most of my family lived, Brisbane. I was living further south in Sydney. “Bullshit” I thought.
These days, although I watch a lot of television, hopefully the better scripted shows, I find it unsatisfying. Tonight, there was a show about various regions in China. Sadly, the show had to focus on the dwindling numbers of wild Siberian tigers, and mentioned that farms had raised the magnificent beasts to be harvested for wild medicine. Will Blake, Wordsworth & Shelley had things to say about the inhumanity of their contemporary society. Apart from that item of exquisite cruelty, the show was a joy to watch; it seemed to exemplify god in the universe, not some idiotic hgumanoid person but a principle of justice & fairness. Bagemihl makes the point over & over; indigenous cultures celebrate queerness & strangeness in nature. When we manage to restrain our tendency to impose ridiculous religious principles, nature amazes, refreshes, cleanses us with its beauty. Bagemihl relates the story of a bird in the wild, observed as blended of such contradictory characteristics, that it could not be classified as male or female; however it was completely undistressed by its ambiguous composition, and went on to successfully mate with another of its species and to produce young. We should adopt Bagemihl’s book as an antidote to the falseness of human society; today’s lesson should be that people know their own minds, and left to their own devices will seek out their own reality.
Compare that non-judgemental reality, the book of nature, with my experience in a medical doctor’s surgery. I could tell from his name that he was probably fervently roman catholic; we mentioned religion but I said I no longer practised because of the decades long battle I, my brothers & primary school classmates had had with the catholic church to get a pedophile priest brought to justice. The doctor’s response was that Christ had known Judas’ nature when he picked him as a disciple. I was floored, gob-smacked. Was the doctor uttering yet another piece of typically catholic family fatalism? God knew it would happen; that made it alright? If anyone out there feels I have misinterpreted the doctor’s words, please write & correct my interpretation.
Meanwhile, intelligent, sensitive children are intent on living their self determined lives. I do hope that the constant , nay, lifelong injections of testosterone will not prove injurious. But all our realities involve such behaviour; mine certainly does.