Jul 15

I used to be able to hear my footsteps when I walked. Now, as I step off the train I can hear the churnning of its motors and the beep-beep of the doors closing. Lots of whooshing as it pulls out of the station to the next stop.

I whip out my phone to check when the next bus is. Sixteen minutes. It’s only a twenty minute walk home, so I’ll do that.

As I start up High Street I become aware of the noise around me. It’s busy peak hour and I spend my walk listening to the sounds around me. The noise of the traffic is overwhelming. Squeaky brakes, noisy engines, motorbikes, truck, buses. All in a hurry to get home.

What a noisy environment we now live in.

I can’t hear the birds settling down for the night, or the kids talking across the road. No low hum of music coming from the houses or even the dribbling of a basketball. Just traffic.

I turn off the High Street and into the quiet little avenue that will take me home. The traffic noise fades into the background. A couple of cars drive past, a lot quieter now on the suburban street.

I hear the faint sound of shouting and the clack of hockey sticks as it hits the ball. As I walk closer to the hockey field and away from the main road the noise becomes more background. I hear the scuffing of shoes as a woman walks past with her dog, I notice that the sound of my own footfall is still inaudible, but the noise from the hockey fields now includes the blowing of whistles, the shuffling of feet and the sound of clapping.

Only a short walk up the driveway now. I hear my keys clink as I take them out of my pocket and a few metres from the door I hear my footsteps.

Sep 08

The white tablecloth starts pristine, covering and protecting the tabletop. The family gathers around it to drink and eat. Breadcrumbs spread around as the loaf is cut and they gently coached into little piles to be swept away.

Main course and the cloth endures a splash of water, a piece of chicken skin and a sneaky wipe of a greasy palm.

The family ebbs and flows as does the conversation, cryptocurrency, prime ministers, weather. They all ebb and flow around the table. The main course is done, and the table arises, some head off to the TV for the Friday night footy match, others to the kitchen to deal with the remnants of the meal, stragglers sit around as the table is cleared, glasses removed, plates and cutlery stacked and carried off the kitchen.

There’s a respectable time before the final course appears. The time between sittings is not something that can be solved with a mathematical formula. It must wait until the newspapers have been flicked through, mobile phones have been checked and new apps downloaded. The kettle boils, coffee is brewed, tea-bags are dangled, and a fruitcake, a crumble and choc chip biscuits appear. Nobody needs to be called; the family knows that the magic sweet spot of dessert has arrived. As the crumble is put into bowls and passed around, milk and sugar added to the hot drinks a packet of Tim Tams appear on the table.

There’s only five left. Tim Tams come in a packet of 11, not 12, not 10. 11. The outer packaging is stripped and the five tempting biscuits sit on one end of the inner hull. Tempting those around the table.

The final ritual of the evening begins. Light-hearted chat while eating the sweet treats.

Then there’s one left.

The lone Tim Tam has the gaze of the table. Silence as all eyes are upon it. Who will break the convention and eat it?

Then the question and the offers.
“Are you going to eat it?”
“You have the last one.”
“That has your name on it.”

The final call is the forlorn question, “What’s so important about that Tim Tam?”

Then like a cold, soggy tea-bag the Tim Tam is forgotten.

The table breaks, everything is whisked away. Good nights are said, kisses exchanged. Lights dimmed.

All that’s left is a few crumbs, a couple of spills and the lone Tim Tam on the white tablecloth.

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Aug 31

There is no doubt in my mind that bullies and people who intimidate abound in Australia. It would seem that this is the case in the Australian parliament where Julia Banks, my local member resigned with these stinging words:

They know that I will always call out bad behaviour and will not tolerate any form of bullying or intimidation. I have experienced this both from within my own party and from the Labor Party.

The scourge of cultural and gender bias, bullying and intimidation continues against women in politics, the media, and across businesses. In anticipating my critics saying I’m “playing the gender card” – I say this. Women have suffered in silence for too long and in this last twelve months the world has seen many courageous women speak out.

Here we are presented with a worldview from Julia that clearly says she is a victim of bullying and intimidation in her job. She goes on to say that there is still a cultural and gender bias with politics.

She says that women have suffered in silence way too long.

Support has been plentiful for her position. Kelly O’Dwyer, Sarah Hanson Young among them.

However, others continue to down-play the behaviour. Something that I’ve seen many times. When those of us in the GLBTIQ community say that we are subjected to bullying and intimidation the response from some quarters is to downplay it and tell us that we’re not that badly off, that we need to toughen up.

The missing value here is those that deny the situation haven’t taken proper stock. If someone says that they’re the subject of a bully, then we need to listen to them.

Craig Kelly MP missed the mark when he said her resignation is the wrong thing to do and that she should “roll with the punches in this game”.

Roll with the punches? Such a violent, graphic image. Why should the game require punches at all? After all, this isn’t a game; it’s real life. This is her real job. I’d suggest that approaches like Kelly’s are the issue. Rather than check his behaviour, he tells her she’s wrong and to toughen up.

The Guardian in their article says this:

Former Liberal minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells and the president of the federal women’s committee, Helen Kroger, both said on Thursday that claims should be properly investigated. But Kroger said she didn’t believe there was a bullying culture and Fierravanti-Wells appeared to blame Malcolm Turnbull.

There should be no ‘but’. The conversation needed to stop at ‘properly investigated’.

For Helen Kroger to suggest that there isn’t a culture of bullying is to turn a blind eye to the issues. Craig Kelly more or less acknowledges the problem, Helen Kroger ignores it. That’s her way of dealing with it. Concetta Fierravanti-Wells won’t admit it as a problem, and if it is would instead point at someone else and say ‘look over there’.

We have seen outright lying, sexism, misogyny and now bullying and intimidation.

This is no way to run a country. It’s not good enough to ‘investigate’. If our newly and temporary Prime Minister had any sense, he’d launch a special envoy for bullying and intimidation prevention, throw some money at it, set appropriate standards and change the constitution to allow the dismissal of any MP that breaches the standards.

Because that’s what would happen to anyone else who behaved in a deplorable way.

To bully or intimidate anyone is unacceptable.

 

Aug 30

My first bank account was with the State Bank of Victoria. I opened it when I was in Prep in 1969.  Here it is, in Gray Street, Hamilton.  On the right of the photo.

The SBV was bought by the Commonwealth Bank in 1990.

Today I walked into the Commonwealth Bank in Cheltenham and closed 2 accounts, thereby ending my long association with the bank.

The branch is your modern looking bank.  All gleaming and welcoming.  There’s a little foyer where the ATMs are and a concierge desk with two computer screens and a smiling face of a very nice man asking if he could help me.  Above him is the current bank promotion, the Dollarmites Club.  I signed my kids up for Dollarmites when they were in school.  It was how I was introduced to banking, taking my passbook along to school on banking day and depositing 20 cents.  Some at the Commonwealth Bank used the Dollarmites system to gain personal financial advantage.

The staff were very helpful, the process took longer than necessary I thought. The nice man asked me what I was going to do with my mortgage, I snorted and said I didn’t have one!

Anyway, he asked where I was moving my banking. Bank Australia I said. He then told me that he has only ever seen one branch for them, and he’s lucky to have seen one. Bank Australia has few branches, they use online and Australia Post. In fact, this was the first time in some years that I’d actually walked into a branch to conduct business.

At the end of the process, he looked at his screen and looked at me and remarked that I’d been with the bank for 33 years. Longer, I replied, I was also with the State Bank. He then asked the burning question, “Why are you leaving after all this time?”

The reasons are complex, and for some strange brain functioning on my part, it really is something that should have happened years ago.

Australians rarely change banks. Probably because it’s just too hard. It is quite the process. I needed to firstly open a new account at a new bank and then move each of my direct debits, automatic payments and various payment methods to the new bank.

My children and I all had Commonwealth Bank accounts, this was to allow the quick transfer of money. I’ve often said that the only time I hear from my children is when they want money.

These days with the introduction of PayID transferring money between banks happens within minutes. The old days, you know, a couple of months ago, saw your money disappear from your account and be caught up in some holding pattern before landing in another banks account.

The real clincher for me, however, was the banking royal commission.

This is what I told my new teller friend. I wanted a bank that had some ethical standards, who saw me as a member and not simply an account holder.

The Commonwealth Bank has been embroiled in scandal after scandal.  Each of the big banks has been.  They continue to reap the rewards of huge profits despite their proven fraudulent behaviour.

Bank Australia is the place to be for now.

In all my years at the Commonwealth, they have never given regard to my loyalty.  Without question, I fronted up to them for personal loans, a housing loan, credit cards, savings accounts and so on.  The most I ever got out of them was an unattractive interest rate and a computer mouse.

Yes, they once sent me a mouse for being a loyal customer.  Back in the 2000s.  I wrote to them and said I’d prefer money in the bank next time they wanted to reward my loyalty.  I never got a response.

So, the loyalty has been one way.  Action needed!  So, off I went.

What’s holding you back?

Mar 30

Bare The Musical is an emotional roller coaster that will have you gasping for breath as you journey with a bunch of teenagers making the transition from adolescence to adulthood.

We join a group of students in their final year at a Catholic boarding school, making preparations for the end-of-year play, Romeo and Juliet.

The storyline cleverly integrates the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet into the lives of the students. We can see parallels between the two as the story moves along.

It’s a compelling tale, one that we have heard and seen so many times. It’s a typical story about teenage angst. The tension between the boys and the girls, the competition between friends, the need to fit in and conform, the adolescent awkwardness and the overarching influence of religion in their lives.

The tension is palpable as the students ready for their performance. Underlying that tension is the battle with sexuality and the church. Our hero, Peter isn’t really struggling with his sexuality, he knows he is gay. His struggle is with how to tell his mother, how to reconcile his feelings with a church that tells him he is a sinner and most importantly how to get his boyfriend, Jason out of the closet.

It’s a potentially horrid time in the life of a young gay man. I know, I’ve been there. In a Catholic school, surrounded by boys who mock, tease and torment anyone who shows a hint of being gay. This musical gets that uncertainty, and the deep-seated fear of being different, right.

The love between Peter and Jason is innocent and sweet. It’s the sort of forbidden love that you know is just waiting to blossom. The actors portray a deep emotional connection with each other as they take us along on their love story of trust, betrayal and redemption.

The storyline drew me in, the world around me disappeared, even the uncomfortable seat of Chapel Off Chapel didn’t distract me as I laughed and cried with the performers.

And cry I did. I cried as I listened to Peter reach out to his mother, told him how alone he felt, how much he needed her and she denied him that.

I cried as Jason tried to sort out his life in the confessional. As he desperately tried to reconcile his faith with his sexuality and came up bare.

I cried as the final song played, the raw tragedy of a young life lost and the grieving of his friends.

I sat stunned as the final moments rolled in and I understood the complicit nature of the church in the death. How the last number No Voice echoed the injustice of a rigid Catholic system that is hellbent on keeping its magisterium intact.

As the lights blinked out, I gasped and covered my mouth in shock at the symbolism in front of me.

All through the play, I saw the potential of suicide. These young people were in desperate times. Whether it’s the unexpected pregnancy, the slut-shaming, the body-shaming or the rejection of love, the possibility of suicide was there.

The acting was outstanding. It seemed that I was watching their real lives play out in front of me. They really did take me along for the journey. I felt the joy, the angst, the fear and the sorrow.

The singing was superb, from the opening number Epiphany in the chapel, to the lament of Best Kept Secret and the hilarious God Don’t Make No Trash, it told the story of the rich and deep lives of this group of youngsters.

Overall the play has an anti-catholic feel to it. A couple of numbers balance that a little. It’s pretty clear that the priest carries the churches line and the nun is far more accepting. Mostly it seems like an accurate reflection of where the church currently sits in relation to sexuality.  I can see how you might squirm a bit if you are Catholic and believe in god.  As a social statement, there is an undertone of ridicule and an attempt to hold the church to account.  The cry of Are You There? as the students seek answers to their prayers says it all about the futile nature of needing divine intervention in your life.

Make no mistake though, the message is clear. That teenage angst puts these kids on the edge of oblivion. The pressure to conform is real. Sure, it’s not unusual for any of us to have our hearts broken, and our first loves disappoint. When you’re already vulnerable, however, it’s vital and incumbent on the adults to have empathy, and more importantly, take on the role of mentor and friend to help guide the next generation into happy, healthy lives.

Chapel off Chapel is an ideal venue for this musical.  You’re sitting in an old church decked out with its stained glass window.  The lighting is stunning and the soundtrack performed by a live ensemble makes the show.

Bare, The Musical is on at Chapel off Chapel until April 15th, 2018.

Mar 02

I’m sitting high up above the earth, flying towards Sydney. Michael is beside me, and a woman on the other side by the window. She has proper travel etiquette, not engaging with me at all for the duration. I really struggle with small talk.

I’m relaxed, have my tablet open, connected to the WiFi watching a program about comedy. I had never given any thought to women in comedy, and I’m somewhat taken aback by the notion that women have fought hard to overcome misogyny and discrimination in the comedy field. This is a revelation to me. Upon reflection, of course, I can see my error. Women have been the subject of jokes, making fun of them, suggesting that they are stupid, all for a couple of laughs. It’s been a long hard road for acceptance.

Planes are strange things, they hurl through the air at high speed and then somehow land, and generally speaking nobody dies.

The worst part of flying, I think, is just before landing. As the ‘Fasten Seatbelts’ sign comes on the aircraft starts its descent. You already know that you have no right to be up here where only clouds and birds belong, you also know that coming in contact with the ground in an uncontrolled fashion will be detrimental to your health. Even though you may understand that aeroplanes land without incident on a regular basis, there is nothing that prepares you for the insane reaction that your body has as you start going down.

It’s a combination of the drop in altitude and deceleration that is really scary. As the plane slows down you instinctively know that this is dangerous, it’s only speed that keeps you up here. Throw in a bit of turbulence, and even the most rational and sane amongst us will shit their pants.

The final insult is when the wheels do finally hit the ground. The engines scream in protest as they are thrown into reverse. You tense up, those fucking wheels are round, they roll, the struts they sit on the end of have suspension, and yet it feels like you are about to hit a brick wall.

At last a lovely voice says ‘Please remain seated until the aircraft comes to a complete stop’ and you give thanks to the science that means you are stopping in a controlled manner and not by having your feet shoved through your mouth. Now to get ready for the flight home.

Dec 15

I am utterly outraged by reports today that two Australian archbishops have dismissed out of hand the recommendation of the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse to remove the seal of confession in relation to sexual abuse.

Dennis Hart, Archbishop of Melbourne, and Anthony Fisher, Archbishop of Sydney have both dismissed calls to change the rules.
(https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/dec/15/royal-commission-final-report-australia-child-abuse”)

I tried when I was a kid to ‘confess my sin’ of being rude to a priest. (See my blog from 2012)

When asked what I meant, I said ‘with my brother’, he never followed it up to discover what that entailed.

I was sexually abused multiple times. Each and every time I confessed this because I thought it was me doing wrong.

An astute priest, you know, someone with some training, may have picked up on the abuse.

But what good would it have done with the make-believe ‘seal of confession’ that the church so loves?

If my confessor had have picked the abuse up, he could well have prevented further abuse happening to me by way of intervention. He could have prevented the abuse of other siblings.

Fisher said:

“Any proposal to stop the practice of confession in Australia would be a real hurt to all Catholics and Orthodox Christians.”

Children are the ones suffering the real hurt.  The Catholic church is hurting real children. The child who thinks they are the sinners, may well confess the sin and be met with the ‘pontifical secret’ barrier.

Hart and Fisher show by their words and actions that they have no interest in the well-being of children, they merely care about the right of the Catholic church to be beyond the reach of the law of the land.

They lack ethics and are morally bankrupt.

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Dec 08

This feels like the end of a long journey.

Marriage equality is now a reality, and very shortly my marriage to Michael becomes a legal reality in Australia.

It’s not a same-sex marriage; it’s not a gay marriage, it’s not a civil union, it is a marriage. In the eyes of the law of the land, we are equal.

Not everyone will see it that way, of course. To some being non-heterosexual is still an abomination, detestable, immoral. Those that think that fought hard to ensure that the status quo remained and at the very least, they should maintain their right to believe that about their fellow humans.

Of course, they are free to think that.

Yesterday I saw an extraordinary sight. The whole of the Australian House of Representatives moved to one side of the chamber to vote yes for marriage equality. Those that couldn’t bear to bring themselves to vote yes left the chamber and just 4 of them voted no.

What a moment.

I recall the last time a vote happened on the floor. It was 2012. The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard sat with the Opposition led by Tony Abbott to vote no. The division this time was very different.

We didn’t all make it to this point. Some of our community died waiting; some died because they couldn’t bear the strain. However, some of us did make it, and we can’t believe it.

So, yesterday with Tomas, my 23-year-old son, I sat in the State Library of Victoria watching the proceedings on my tablet. We had headphones plugged in and shared an earpiece. The day wore on. I’d sat there from 10.30 listening and watching and waiting for the magic words to be uttered.

It was a long time. I listened to many words of concern that somehow freedoms were about to disappear, somehow the ‘gay mafia’ would be coming after anyone who stood in our way of equality.

Then finally all the amendments and the delaying tactics were at an end. Not one single change was made to the bill. It was time for the final vote.

And there it was. I didn’t know what to think. I knew that I was happy and I knew that I wanted to be with my friends, those of us that have been on this journey. I knew I wanted Michael to share this moment.
I think I was in stunned silence. I packed up my things at the library and Tomas, and I made our way to The 86 Cabaret Bar, that’s where I was sure some of my friends would gather.

We got off the tram, right outside the bar, and sure enough, there was Antony and Ron. Anthony. Ali, Kirrily, Roxy, Chrissy, Menachem, .

We hugged.

We drank.

We looked at each other in disbelief.

I knew, however, that I was holding it in. I knew that I felt this great welling up of emotion deep within me. I needed Michael. He is the one person who I most wanted to see right now. We’d been in touch during the day chatting online, keeping up with the goings-on in Parliament. It was well after 6; he’d finished work and was on his way.

I desperately wanted to see him, so when he messaged me to say that he had arrived and parked the car, I went outside, onto the street to wait.

There he was, across the street, doing a little jog, although I’m not at all sure if that was to avoid the torrential downpour or to get to me quickly.

He pushed the buttons on the pedestrian crossing. We locked eyes with each other. Smiled.

I now moved towards him as he crossed the road and that pent-up emotion could be contained no longer. With him, in my arms, I gave him the biggest hug I could muster and began sobbing. I cried so much in his arms, uncontrollably.

It wasn’t just today’s anxiety and stress. There were 13 years of outpouring.

In August 2004 I stood next to a radio and listened as the Senate passed legislation to make marriage a discriminatory act. I felt a part of me die that day.

I’d only just come to terms with my sexuality. I was looking for acceptance. The greatest fear I had then was that of rejection. I had some friends I was out to, some I wasn’t. It was getting messy to keep the lines clear in my head.

Then the Howard Government, together with the Labor party amended the marriage act to exclude me specifically.

And now, that great wrong was undone.

The cost has been high.

My relationship with Michael was thrust to the front with the announcement of the plebiscite, then the postal survey. My mental health, already fragile, took another knock and I slipped into depression before I even knew it. My career suffered as I struggled to make sense of what was happening. I left my job to take the pressure off myself and to ensure that my workplace didn’t suffer because of my inability to function.

This is the real human cost of this whole process.

So, while our politicians congratulate themselves as they all gathered on the one side of the chamber, I’m here to tell you I won’t forgive you. Ever.

My life has been turned upside down. I have worn my heart on my sleeve. I’ve been out, gay and proud in an effort to right this gross wrong forced upon me, Michael and millions of other Australians.

I’ve marched, met, yelled, written letters, videos, audio, interviews, TV doco, news stories, podcasts and probably other ways of communicating how dreadful this has been.

To those who opposed this for vague religious reasons, you’re responsible. Instead of getting out of the way and letting a small section of society get on with their lives in a fair and reasonable manner, you made it about yourselves. As if you’re the victims. Now you want to be the oppressed.

There are apologies due from you. There are apologies due from our Parliament.

Now, I’m getting married. I will be able to say that Michael is my husband with no need to qualify that with ‘we got married in New Zealand in 2014’.

And, alas, it’s not over yet. We still can’t ease off as the defeated forces regroup and try to find a way to diminish the victory.

Thank you. I know lots of you from religious belief have been with me on the journey. Your willingness to support and love other people is outstanding. Thank you.

Thank you to the 6,800 members of our Facebook group, Second Class Australians. You guys are amazing, you’ve been on the journey, and it’s been rough.

Thanks to those of you that are my close friends. I needed you, and you were there.

Thanks to my family. In our way we have been there for each other.

Thank you to Michael. You are an amazing man. Together we did this. You are my activist, you are my lover, you are my man, you are my Mikey Bear, you are my husband.

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Sep 27

My posts of late have been videos about the marriage equality ‘vote’ here in Australia.

It really is a tough time for me right now.  I’ll never forgive the parliament of Australia, my government, for putting me through this ‘debate’.  It is completely unnecessary.

For me, this mess comes at a time when I’m trying to study, my daughter is preparing for her marriage, the mother of my children is at the sticky end of her long battle with cancer, I’m settling into a new house, my son is settling in a new life at uni, my husband is in full-on activist mode, the dog next door barks all day long, my savings are dwindling, my emotional well-being is at an all-time low.

So, pardon me while I take a big mind-fart and say fuck you.  Not you, the person over your shoulder who thinks I shouldn’t be allowed to get married for reasons that only they understand.

At this time my resilience is really low.  It’s easy to become hyper-sensitive to every little slight that floats across a social media feed.  I can feel the tension in the community.  We are all feeling it to some degree.

In all of this, I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

The colours of the rainbow so pretty in the sky, are also on the faces of people going by, I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do, they’re really saying I love you.

That’s my song.

Here’s a rendition that had tears running down my cheeks.

I will not stop fighting for my own personal human rights, and I will fight for the rights of those in the GLBTIQ community.  We are all human.

The world is wonderful.  I am a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars, I have a right to be here.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.

And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

(no, I haven’t rediscovered god.  I don’t conceive a god at all, I’m at peace with that, relax)

The world is wonderful.

I don’t do this alone.  Michael is beside me.  Caitlin and Tomas are there.  My family is right behind me.  My friends are supportive.

The reason the world is wonderful is because of love.  All these people love me for who I am.

Thank you.

You make the world wonderful.

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Sep 22

I started out to do another video.

Didn’t get far.

 

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