Why ScoMo's First Few Weeks In Office Have Me Worried
A couple of weekends ago I went to the Opera House to watch an event called Queerstories.
It’s a regular and always expanding storytelling night that features a wonderful array of LGBTQI+ people telling diverse stories that span the queer universe.
As a queer person, there is something so special about attending one of these events. There are very few occasions in life where you can sit in a room and know that you are in the majority. It’s infrequent that you are sure you can relax, to feel you don’t need to be on edge, anticipating that someone might say or do something that could ruin your night.
It is a place where we get to tell our stories, bond over experiences, to share parts of us in a way that we can’t elsewhere. I’ve seen telling a story at one of the nights described as “delivering a love letter to the community”, and I think that’s right. The entire event is a love letter to our community, from our community.
At the end of this particular Queerstories, one of the storytellers, Mama Alto, took to the microphone. By her own description, Mama Alto is a “gender transcendent diva, cabaret artiste, jazz singer & community activist. She is a non-binary trans femme person of colour who works with the radical potential of storytelling, strength in softness & power in vulnerability.”
Her voice is completely unique, true, and beautiful, and it pierced through the night as she began to sing Somewhere Over the Rainbow to an enraptured crowd.
I’m not an overly emotive person, and I wasn’t feeling particularly emotional when she began singing. But all of a sudden I felt tears welling in my eyes, and my chest tightening. I couldn’t figure out why I was having this physical response, even though her song was obviously lovely. Then I remembered. The last time I had seen Mama Alto perform was last October in Redfern, in a small arts space called 107 Projects. I sat amongst a crowd of my people then, too. Except that time, it was smack bang in the middle of the marriage equality postal survey.
One of main principles behind Queerstories, from creator Maeve Marsden, is that LGBTQ+ people have a lot more to talk about than just coming out or getting married, and I agree. But the emotions in that room weren’t related to achieving marriage equality. They were about surviving. That night, Mama Alto sang to a room full of bruised and battered people, a crowd of people brimming with anxiety, sadness, and fear for our community.
She had us close our eyes and hum along with her, telling us that anytime we were scared, or upset, to close our eyes and hum, remembering this moment, remembering how we are surrounded and held by our powerful community.
That night, with just about everyone else, I bawled my eyes out. It was a much-needed release after weeks of feeling tension in every part of our bodies, feeling under attack by the media, our government, and our country.
So, when Mama Alto sang at the Opera House, my body reacted viscerally. But my reaction wasn’t just the memory of the last time she had sung and how I felt then; it was also the reality of our current situation, and how I feel now.
Almost directly after becoming Prime Minister, Scott Morrison came out swinging against us. In the two weeks after taking the top job, he publicly agreed that a school program teaching students about bisexuality makes his “skin curl”, he said that gay conversion therapy has nothing to do with him, and is acceptable as long as they aren’t breaking any laws, and called for the end to “gender whisperers”, otherwise known as teachers who support trans students. On top of that, since then, he has insistently and consistently reiterated that he wants to change discrimination laws to further protect religious freedoms.
These may seem to be small and insignificant moments, but the fear that your government may not be on your side, and that the people in charge may be out to make your life worse – that’s not a hypothetical for us. Many of us celebrated the same sex marriage win on November 15th last year, a victory that came after decades of marginalisation; but we weren’t fooled into thinking it was the end of our fight.
We hugged and cried together, but don’t think it made us feel completely safe. Don’t think we didn’t take note of the almost 40 percent of the country that were inspired to carry their homophobia in their hands and place it into a post box. Don’t think we haven’t noticed every time a newspaper has run a spiteful and hate-filled campaign against “PC Culture” simply because we’ve agitated for trans and non-binary people to be treated with respect.
And know that we see what is happening when our Prime Minister comes out dogwhistling, using our community to score points as his first order of business in office.
But we are ready, just like we have always been ready, to fight for ourselves, and each other. And we hope you are ready too.