The Decemberist Constantine and Constitution
It is positively the most wonderful time of the year here on the ranch. Why, we’ve already slaughtered three rare french hens and throttled that partridge that just would not gtfo of our pear orchard.
Storytelling has always been at the heart of the queer community. We have been sharing stories for centuries, creating our own histories, disrupting and reinventing conventional ideas about narrative, family, love and community in a world that, until recently, silenced or camouflaged our lived experiences. To this day, much of queer culture is whitewashed or, as I like to call it, gaystreamed: cleaned up, made palatable and normalised for a heterosexual audience.
There have been a couple of times in my life where I didn’t feel the joy of connection for years. I’m not going to go all Freudian but it’s definitely my mother’s fault: we’re both card-carrying members of the cuckoo club. Certified. Medicated. But (relatively) stable.
I could go on about mum for a whole hour (actually, there’s an idea for a cabaret show…) but tonight I’m telling some of my story. Specifically, the bit about depression (boring) and my addiction to crystal meth
‘Hey kids!’ That’s how a child greeted my boyfriend, Jim, and I on a beach at our two-year anniversary. I’m really not sure how old the child thought we were, and we were too confused to reply.
I thought I’d start with this anecdote because it accurately illustrates the low-level comedic events that constitute my life. It follows such other instances as a housemate and I lying to an old lady volunteering at an op-shop when she asked ‘So where do you boys go to school?’
As the acronym for the LGBT community grows and expands to become more inclusive and accepting, I can’t help but feel it doesn’t quite fit me, or for that matter, anyone whose ability differs even slightly from the norm.
Forgive my awkwardness. I fall into the grey areas of stupid labels. I look quite disabled, complete with the slight dribble, and an unbelievably sexy robotic voice (when I use an electronic device to communicate), but I don’t have other disability tropes: I don’t use a wheelchair, I am not deaf, nor do I have abnormal cognitive processes, well not more abnormal than the average.
I should have worn my clerical collar to tell this story. My beloved partner, Ali, was not a church person but she thought I looked sexy in a clerical collar.
I want to tell you part of my story as the Minister of the Pitt Street Uniting Church in the city from 1986 to 1988.
A few years ago I was invited to speak at a feminist congress in Costa Rica. Latin American feminists do these events well. There is a famous series of encuentros that bring together women from across the continent. There is a bit of ceremony, a bit of speechmaking, a lot of debate.
This congress was held in the ballroom of one of the capital’s upmarket hotels. One evening the distinguished guests became even more distinguished by having cocktails at the residence of the Spanish Ambassador.
As luck would have it, the day before I was due to file this piece I ended up the emergency room with my ten-year-old daughter. She was burning up, had stomach pains. The fever clocked in at forty degrees. They took pieces of her away for testing. They stuck needles in her. I sat by her bed and we put our heads very close to the TV remote’s speaker and from time to time, people came to make sure she was okay.
I’m sitting on a hilltop overlooking the ocean, wrapped in a blanket that smells of my mother. The blanket is made of wool, soft, not scratchy, and its multi-coloured fibres are floral and warm. I smell jasmine perfume and black tea, and the fragrance of just-dried washing: sunbeams are woven through the fabric.