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.

 

 

 

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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.

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Part 2 Another Marriage, but Why Aren’t I Happy? or, Heterosexual Privilege in Marriage

2 days ago I wrote this post Another Marriage, but Why Aren’t I Happy?. It was written hurriedly between attending a wedding ceremony and the reception. I tried to capture my down mood and anxiety at that moment. Now, though, it is 2 days after and after travelling interstate, I am back at home. I haven’t read all the comments on the original post, nor have I reread it. I can’t even remember all that I wrote.


For the most part, I did enjoy the reception party. I walked into the room; a reasonable sense of control of my negative emotions. Over 200 guests, all dressed up, milling around or sitting, having pleasant conversation. I weaved through the small groups of people, found my table at the front, and poured myself a glass of wine. I was aware of my chirpy facade. People asked me what I did after the ceremony. I said that I tried to nap and did some creative writing – not quite a lie.

The night did become more enjoyable the more free wine that I drank. Speeches were emotional and almost brought me to tears. I watched the faces of the bride and groom, raw with joy, as their loved ones expressed their happiness of the union. In that moment, I shared that joy. But now, I wonder, if I was to marry, what would be said on that day? Would my parents say a speech? What would they say? I know that I am catastrophising in my head; my self-doubt influences my imagination. But there was such strong emotional and cultural significance reflected in the speeches, like the marriage marked the next stage of their life journey, almost akin to rite of passage that made them more “complete”. I feel like I am lacking. Maybe a lot of single people feel this. Maybe I feel this because of my mood disorder. But I feel that, because I am same-sex attracted and want to fall in love with another man, this feeling is different to my peers. I can not experience this rite, this cultural institution, and will not be complete.  Continue reading

Another Marriage, but Why Aren’t I Happy?

Sitting, white hotel sheets crushed.

A pillow to the side; not for resting, but for holding.

Wait. Alone. Wait for the party to begin.

This bed is too big.


I write this post in the interim period between attending a wedding ceremony and attending the reception.


Today I attended another wedding. I have known the groom my whole life. Before his bride arrived, he was smiling and joking at the church. And when the couple were first announced as husband and wife, they both beamed in such a genuine way, that my heart ached.

I am was overwhelmed with happiness for the two people in front of me. They have found their best friend, and declared that. Though, for me, weddings are always a conflicting experience. On one hand, I have positive emotions for the 2 people, but on the other hand, I feel sadness that I don’t have someone to call my partner in life, and I also feel inferior, because I can’t get married.

LGBTQI rights have come a long way in Australia, but same-sex marriage is still a dream. These feelings of inferiority come from the reminder that my expression of love and intimacy can not be publicly declared to be recognised by the state. My expression of love is not as worthy as theirs. I in no way begrudge others from getting married, but every time I go to a wedding I feel sad.

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