We Shall Overcome

"We Shall Overcome" button

“We Shall Overcome” button

I didn’t think that I would get quite as emotional as I did when I visited the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, USA. My heritage is not African-American, I have only lived in Australia. My experiences are vastly different to those of the African-American people, and I do not claim any authority or judgement of their struggles, but the sheer tragedy cut me through. It echoed what I had learned of the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Australia. It highlighted the current human rights issues we face, including refugees and people living under oppressive authorities.

The museum started with a bag search and a metal detector: this is the site where Dr Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. The days of domestic hate crimes are not long past and the majority of the crowd were African-American. What would it be like to be one of the staff (African-American) at the museum? To be reminded of their tragic history at work, only to step out into a world where #blacklivesmatter is a burning issue. But I saw a certain strength and positivity in the African-American staff.

Racial segregation still existed in the 1960s in the USA. That’s within the lifetime of my father. He would have been 24 years old when Dr Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated. The revelation that this is contemporary history shifted my world view. Considering that the generation that experienced segregation still lives, how much has our society and authorities really changed in such a short amount of time? What is the effect of the intergenerational trauma? My father told me, when he was younger and travelled in rural Australia, the pubs were displayed signs that they don’t serve Aboriginal people. When his father, my grandfather, was young, Chinese-Australians were not allowed to sit in the seats in the cinema; they were forced to sit on the ground. The new Chinese migrants, in Australia and San Fransisco, were treated as 2nd class humans and institutional racism was perpetuated by government policies like the White Australia Policy and the Chinese Exclusion Act 1882 (USA).

As I walked through the museum, the mood changed to one of defiance and perseverance. The speeches of Dr King rang through the room, footage of sit-ins ran on the walls and “We Shall Overcome” repeated in the next room (lyrics scrolled on the screen and visitors were encouraged to sing along). Stories of how the African-American community protested with direct non-violent action were shown. I discovered stories of how non-African Americans came together to support the Civil Rights Movement. The deplorable story of Viola Liuzzo’s death. But I found a gem that touched my story:

Displayed at the National Civil Rights Museum at Memphis, Tennessee, USA.

Displayed at the National Civil Rights Museum at Memphis, Tennessee, USA.

The Women’s and LGBTI movements also supported the African-American Civil Rights Movement. Though, all these “movements” still need to progress further to equality. The current environment is better for the LGBTI community. Young LGBTI people face less harassment than prior generations, and same-sex marriage becomes legal in more countries. Yet harsh laws for homosexuals still exist in the world, gay men get thrown off buildings by ISIL, and, the Australian government sends refugees escaping persecution to detention in countries that criminalise homosexuality.

Despite all the shit that still occurs, I am filled with a bittersweet hope. I see how far the Civil Rights Movement has come in the last 60 years. I see how far the LGBTI rights movement has come in the last 45 years, within my lifetime. The common threads in these stories come together like in a quilt, perpetuating compassion and empathy. There still is a long road ahead, but as share our stories in this connected world, I understand a little more of the experiences of a Syrian refugee child, Rosa Parks, Harvey Milk, or a descendant of member of the Stolen Generation. I am also a we.


This is not my usual subject matter. I’m not a political historian, just an ordinary person. Thanks for your patience, this post was an impromptu one, and I tried to be respectful to all groups whilst maintaining my own perspective and not self-censoring for the sake of political correctness. I hope that I did do that, it is not my intent to disrespect.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Dawson’s Creek and Gay Male Representation in Media

I loved the US TV show Dawson’s Creek. It really was overly dramatic teenage tripe (read: that made me love the show even more), but 15 years ago, in the Season 3 finale, it showed primetime television’s first passionate kiss between 2 men. Even though it was a secondary plot arc in the series, this event had a huge impact on me, and solidified Dawson’s Creek as a seminal series of my adolescence. (Is there a pun there? Totally unintended.)

Between the ages of 15-18, the television series accompanied me through some emotionally turbulent, and even traumatic times. I had realised that I was attracted to men; I attended an all boys high school; I was closeted, having only come out to 3 people (1 of which was traumatic); I was marginalised for the perception of being gay. I don’t know if it was bullying, but it was continuous. Throw in the adolescent mood swings, hormones, and budding attraction to some classmates, and I got lonely teenage years.

Continue reading

What Is It To Be A Non-Practising *Insert Identity Here*?

Happy Mardi Gras!

I’m giving fair warning: this post may get a bit heavy and is NOT a post about being so-called “ex-gay”. Also, personally, I prefer the label/identity “same-sex attracted” rather than “gay”, but in this post I am using the term “gay” for ease.


If a rainbow zebra loses its stripes, is it still a zebra, or is it just a horse?

For me, this is not a rhetorical question, though it seems like it should be. And it is making me feel anxious and my mood low. The Mardi Gras Festival and Parade is on in Sydney right now. I usually (and think that I should) feel PRIDE in my own difference, PRIDE in being a part of the LGBTQI+ community. But I feel like I’ve lost my rainbow stripes, my gay cred, my membership expired from lack of use.

Maybe a false assumption, but a huge part of gay identity is a sexual identity: being or wanting to be in a gay relationship, having or wanting to have gay sex. My body doesn’t demand another’s sexual touch, doesn’t crave and search for opportunities for sex. Fear obscures my desire of being in an emotional gay relationship. And this situation is not new. It has been many moons since I have acted on a sexual impulse.

Walking through the Fair Day event, through sun, glitter, rainbows and skin, I did not feel a part of the community. I felt alone and apart. Projections I’m sure, but I saw the normal social practice of people wanting and creating intimate emotional relationships. I sensed in others the want to get laid. I remember a time that I did want gay stuff, so I’m not asexual, but that spark of desire has gone missing. The crucial aspect to my gayness, my gay identity, is gone.

Continue reading

Misogyny and gay men … something smells fishy.

In the past 2 weeks, there has been some interesting, albeit sometimes alarming, “discussion” on various sites of the relationship that gay men have with misogyny. It all started with TV celeb Rose McGowan, famous for her role in late 90’s series Charmed and a podcast hosted by the usually controversial writer, Bret Easton Ellis. In response to McGowan’s comments, Patrick Strudwick wrote this op-ed in The Guardian and there was this article on pinknews.co.uk.

As an early 30s same-sex attracted man, I grew up watching Charmed. From ’98, when the show first came out (pun intended), were formative years when I craved some semblance of my story in the media. Even though Buffy holds a bigger place in my heart, Charmed was the story of three seemingly normal young sisters who discover they have special powers which make them different, and which they had to keep secret. We followed the sisters as their frayed relationship became one of solidarity as their powers grew. Basically, an allegory for the story of my/any queer kid just discovering their difference and feels threatened by coming out.

Continue reading