The Camp Vamp: Katrina Fox

Commentary on GLBTIQ issues, social justice and some of life's quirks.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Mardi Gras Parade 2010

After the whole Mardi Gras debacle (check out in the GLBSGDQ section for details), my partner Tracie and I met up with Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) on their marriage equality float as they’d invited excluded groups to join them and despite being told by Mardi Gras that no ‘unauthorised material’ must be displayed, CAAH encouraged people to display just such material.

We went into the section where you wait until it’s time to set off. There were a couple of other animal libbers but T and I had our big placards, so they targeted us. One side of our placards said ‘Animal lib for marriage equality’ (as a courtesy to CAAH), the other side said ‘Free the battery hens’ (as a up yours to Mardi Gras and to help the chickens!).

A female official came up and said according to her list it was a marriage equality float and we may not be able to have our placards. Tracie told her the placards would be in the parade but that she was welcome to get Michael Rolik the CEO of Mardi Gras to come down and try to take the placards away himself. Rachel Evans from CAAH was lovely and explained to the official that animal libbers had been invited to take part in the float, so off the official went to get someone else.

A bit later on a male official came back with the female official and I recorded the whole thing on my iPhone. He said the placards had nothing to do with CAAH’s float that they originally booked. Rachel explained that they’d invited excluded groups and that one side of the placard referred to marriage equality. He asked who the animal libbers were and Rachel told him my name.

He said the command may come down that we’d have to give up the placards or leave the parade and not be allowed to march. I said ‘So you’re going to physically remove us?’ and he said ‘No, you’ll be asked to leave’ and I said, ‘We won’t leave voluntarily so are you going to physically remove us?’ He said he’d have to refer to a more ‘senior level’.

Anyway the upshot is that nothing else happened after that and we marched. We had our large placards on a really long pole which we twirled around to show both messages.

It was a wise decision by MG to let us march though, as we planned to jump the fence at Taylor Square and hijack the media if they didn’t. We were so up for it (and we’ve scaled higher fences than the piddly things they have around the parade!).

The good thing was a lot of people in the parade area were really nice and said they were so glad we’d got in to march and weren’t happy with MG’s decision to exclude AL. At Taylor Square, I got the placard in front of the TV cameras but of course when we skipped through the coverage on Arena (which we recorded), it was a sanitised version of the parade and we’d been cut out! As Foxtel is a sponsor of MG, they’d have been told not to screen anything controversial.

So, a small victory in that we got to march with a ‘free the battery hens’ placard each for people watching the parade live, and gave MG something to think about. Let's see what comes of the community consultation they have planned.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Don't judge women by their covers (Caster Semenya)

Published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 September 09

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the bearded lady was a staple attraction of travelling human freak shows. But while these sideshows may have declined in popularity, a bearded woman - or any woman who exhibits masculine traits - is still a social aberration.

Take South African athlete Caster Semenya, who has become a modern-day curiosity. After winning the women's 800 metres at the World Championships in Athletics in Berlin last month, fellow athletes questioned her biological sex. Was she a woman? The International Association of Athletics' Federations ordered a series of tests.

Recent media reports allege these reveal that Semenya possesses both male and female sex characteristics.

She's a young woman with a possible intersex condition who produces a higher level of testosterone than so-called ''normal'' women. For this, she has suffered the indignity of having her core identity challenged.

In an attempt to prove she is "all woman", the South African magazine You decked her out in heels and make-up and put her on its cover. The African National Congress MP Winnie Madikizela-Mandela slammed the publication for "making a spectacle" of Semenya and turning her into a "caricature". She is right.

Semenya's makeover reinforces our narrow-minded view of what a woman is - or should be. The message, ingrained in society, is: if you don't adopt the trappings associated with conventional femininity, you're not a ''real'' woman.

This notion leaves every woman who finds long hair, lipstick and a pair of 13-centimetre Manolo Blahniks to be about as useful as a fork to eat soup feeling like a failure, or even a traitor to her gender.

The emphasis on a woman's attractiveness or femininity means talent is often overlooked. Semenya is a case in point. Another example of this is the furore at Wimbledon earlier this year when it was reported higher-ranked female tennis players, including world No. 1 Serena Williams, were relegated to the outer courts while ''prettier'' players were favoured for the centre court.

Homophobia, of course, plays its part in society's revilement of women who don't conform to gender stereotypes. Legendary tennis stars such as Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova no doubt lost sponsorships because they were gay. But it's likely their physical appearance played a part.

If Maria Sharapova suddenly declared membership of the Sapphic sisterhood, it's unlikely she'd lose sponsors. Rather than cries of ''She's not a real woman'', we'd likely hear ''Can we watch?'' Lesbians - along with all other women - are acceptable to mainstream society if they're considered ''feminine'' enough. MTV's Ruby Rose is snapped by the paparazzi every day ''despite'' being a lesbian, because she's ''hot''.

But regardless of who they're sleeping with, successful sportswomen, businesswomen and female politicians all cop flack for looking or behaving in ways considered ''unfeminine''.

The idea of a ''butch'' woman who dares to reject feminine accoutrements and a passiveness generally associated with her gender sends tidal waves of fear thundering through the patriarchal psyche. It's time for the freak show to end. It's time to stop demonising women who don't conform to conventional feminine ideals.

The irony is that if a woman wears too little make-up, she's not a real woman, but if she wears too much, she's compared with a drag queen - that is, a man - albeit one who has taken femininity to the extreme. Talk about a rock and a hard place.

This isn't an argument against femininity itself. Many women, including me, revel in putting on a pretty frock, painting our faces and wrecking our spines by teetering around in fabulous stilettos. But that doesn't make us ''women'', any more than short hair and jackboots make a man.

Rigid gender stereotypes of women as feminine and men as masculine do a disservice to us all, as we struggle to live up to a particular image and are stigmatised if we don't.

No good can come of sending the message to young girls that, regardless of how intelligent or talented you are, your real worth is in how pretty you're considered to be. Or if you're not genetically ''blessed'' with acceptable standards of beauty, you'll be judged on how much effort you're prepared to put in to achieve a conventional feminine appearance - to ''make the best'' of yourself.

We need to shift our mindsets to allow for diversity in physical attributes and gender expression. So when sportswomen like Semenya come along, we can appreciate their exceptional talent instead of harping on about their appearance.

There has been much debate about whether Semenya is a woman, but the more important issue is to examine why she - and any other woman - has to have a makeover to prove it.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Writers, bloggers & associate editors wanted for new online site

Hi folks

I’m launching a new online magazine/portal for news, features and commentary that you’re unlikely to find in mainstream media. It will feature the following categories:

• Feminism & pop culture
• Media & technology
• Social justice
• Health
• Arts
• Book, DVD and music reviews

It’s aimed at anyone who’s looking for smart, incisive, informative pieces and we will build links with other sites that have a similar ethos. While the editor-in-chief is based in Sydney, Australia, the intended audience is both local and global, and associate editors will be based all over.

Voluntary positions

I’m initially doing this project for the love of it and I’m looking for contributors and associate editors who’d like to come on board.

I will say upfront that no one is getting paid, including me. I’m paying for the site maintenance and for images and will be writing pieces for the site outside my paid editorial work.


I’m not going to ask anyone to spend time researching and writing articles specifically for this site (unless they want to – such as journalism students looking for experience in building up their portfolio and getting feedback on their articles from an experienced journalist and editor).

What I am looking at doing is building up a team of writers who already have their own blogs and are posting some great stuff to them and offering them another platform to put selected pieces onto to reach another set of readers. The same goes for professional journalists who may have placed certain pieces with other media and would be willing for them to appear on the new site to gain another audience for their work.

Your bio will appear at the end of each of your articles, and of course a link to your website or blog. The idea is to create a community of people who want to engage in conversations about content in each of the above categories; share information that you may not otherwise be exposed to; and gain more audiences for your work.

The aim is to feature articles by a mixture of professional journalists, bloggers and talented emerging writers. Contributors can be based anywhere in the world.

Videos, podcasts and photography also welcome.

Associate editors

Associate editors, in addition to posting their own pieces, will also bring other writers to the site. So, it’s a case of searching the net for good writers on particular subjects eg an associate editor for feminism & pop culture would seek out talented and interesting writers in this field and liaise with them to post their articles to this site.

Associate editors will also have the opportunity to post articles to the site (if they choose to), to gain experience using a web content management system (Joomla), which is useful if you apply for paid web editor positions.

Who am I?

I’m a journalist with 12 years experience as a news and features writer, sub-editor and editor on a range of consumer, trade, community and public sector magazines in London, the US and Sydney, Australia. My articles have appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald, YEN, Slimming & Health, Time Out London, Natural Health & Vegetarian Life, B&T, Nexus, and many more. I have written extensively for the GLBTIQ press, including a year as the launch editor of Cherrie magazine in Australia, news and features writer for SX and contributor to international lesbian magazines Diva and Curve. I’m also the editor of several books on topics as diverse as sex and gender diversity, hypnosis and self-help.

Why am I doing this project?

I’m doing this project because I know there is so much information out there that never sees the light of day in the majority of mainstream media, including niche and so-called alternative media, due to commercial concerns. Stories don’t make it into publications because they “may upset an advertiser”. Other “stories” are blatant advertorial puff sat alongside the latest celebrity gossip or lifestyle fluff.

What I’m looking to provide with this new site is:

• Intelligent commentary on a range of issues

• News and features on global and social issues, offering information that is scarce in other forms of media

• Interviews with smart thinkers and creators

• Books, DVDs and music that aspire to make a difference

• Arts coverage featuring innovative creatives from across the globe

• Ethical writing with an unapologetic social justice bent

Why an online portal?

Well, for one, it’s cheaper than print! But more importantly, online allows for interaction. There is much talk of the ‘future of journalism’ and where it’s headed. But one thing is for sure: People want to be part of the conversation, not just talked at, and as mentioned earlier, the aim of this site is to initiate conversations.

Still interested?

So if…

• You already have a blog and write about things that fall into the above categories and would be happy for some of your pieces to appear on the new site or

• You’re an emerging writer or journalism student looking to build your portfolio or

• You’re a professional journalist who has either placed an article with other niche media outlets and would be happy for it to appear on the new site, or have something that you feel is important but can’t place in mainstream media or

• You’d like to be an associate editor for one or more of the above sections…

Please email me at

Please include either writing samples or links to your blog.

When is it all happening?

I’m aiming to launch the site in November, so please spread the word and forward this message among your friends, work colleagues, networks, e-lists, e-groups, writing groups, Myspace, Twitter and Facebook friends who you think may be interested in writing for the new site or being an associate editor.

How often will articles be posted?

After the first set of articles is posted (the first ‘issue’ if you like), they will remain there for a month while the site is promoted, to allow people to get a feel for it. After that, the majority of pieces will probably be posted monthly, but with occasional pieces that are time-sensitive posted instantly and marketed on social media sites to alert people to them. If enough associate editors come on board, articles will be posted and promoted more frequently.

Looking forward to hearing back from you.

Thank you! :)

Katrina Fox

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Straight and Narrow

This is my article that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age (state newspapers for Sydney and Melbourne, Australia respectively) on Friday 27 Feb, 2009:

My name is Katrina Fox and I am a homosexual. As is the case with Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous, that admission is apparently the first step in my journey to become straight - according to Living Waters, an international ministry that offers courses to help people who suffer from a range of sexual problems or "brokenness", including same-sex attraction.

It's 9.30am on Saturday morning and I'm waiting for Living Waters' one-day Grace and Sexuality Conference at the Wesley Mission in Sydney to start. There's around 60 of us in attendance, old and young, from a range of ethnic backgrounds and my gaydar has honed in on a few fellow queers.Boxes of tissues have been set out around the room by the organisers, presumably in anticipation of an outpouring of emotion.

They're not disappointed as the band takes its place on stage and the head of the ministry, Ron Brookman, leads the audience in song and prayer.Smiles turn to tears as it gets too much for several people and they break down sobbing. It's not unlike a Kylie or k.d. lang concert.Brookman, according to the conference brochure, has been "transformed from homosexuality" and leads the Living Waters ministry from its headquarters in Ramsgate with his wife Ruth.

"I was living a double life as a pastor and immersed in the homosexual scene in Darlinghurst," he tells us. "I know what it is to live in utter brokenness and shame."Brookman goes on to explain that God's image can only be displayed on earth when male and female come together in sexual union within the context of monogamous heterosexual marriage. Anything outside is a sin."Desire is powerful, which is why God has given boundaries," he asserts. "If boundaries were kept there would be no such thing as sexually transmitted diseases … there is no such thing as casual sex … the power of intimacy and sex is a foreshadow of what awaits us in heaven."Homosexuality is a "handicap" but healing our "brokenness" is as simple as "yielding our lives to Jesus", he adds.

Although it wasn't easy, Brookman says he has turned his back on the "homosexual lifestyle", but admits it is a struggle every day.After a talk by Ruth Brookman on how she forgave her husband's sexual indiscretions with other men and they now live happily as a heterosexual couple, it's lunchtime. And I'm still gay.

After lunch the conference delegates break off to take part in a workshop of their choice. Naturally I pick the one on homosexuality, led by Ian Lind, who founded Living Waters in Australia 30 years ago. Before becoming a Christian, Lind was part of the gay scene in Sydney for 10 years. For him, the two are mutually exclusive. "There is no such thing as a gay Christian," he proclaims."I don't believe you can sit in church as a gay person. I chose homosexuality like others choose drugs or alcohol. When I gave myself to the Lord, I turned my back on my lifestyle so I was no longer gay. I am still attracted to men, but I never went back to that lifestyle or gave in to my feelings.

"The workshop has drawn around 20 people. One couple is concerned about their son who came out as gay a year ago. "It's there in your upbringing," Lind asserts."If our mothers nurtured us and our fathers spent time with us, we wouldn't have those issues."

Discussion ensues about whether a person is "born gay".While Lind is adamant this is not the case - despite various research studies identifying biological factors such as prenatal hormones and brain structure that may be related to sexual orientation - others in the room argue it doesn't matter if people are born gay. "As Christians we shouldn't be worried about this," says one participant. "You can still be redeemed and choose to live a pure life.

"You've probably realised by now I have no intention of yielding my life to Jesus or repenting my "sin". Unlike many people who come to organisations such as Living Waters, I don't struggle with being a dyke. I live with my girlfriend of 15 years, a gorgeous, passionate and talented therapist who's blessed with amazing cheekbones, and when I stare at a photo of Debbie Harry, shame is the last thing I'm feeling.

But for those who leave ex-gay programs, unsuccessful in their quest to become straight, depression and suicide are common, according to Anthony Venn-Brown, a former Assemblies of God preacher, author of A Life of Unlearning and leader of the Freedom 2 B[e] organisation that offers support to gay and lesbian Christians. Venn-Brown went through several ex-gay programs before embracing his homosexuality and is adamant such programs don't work. "You can't recover from your sexual orientation," he says."You can deny and suppress it but you can't change it. Trying to be someone I wasn't caused great stress, a sense of failure and shame that eventually led to depression."

Brookman and Lind say they are now heterosexual, despite still finding men sexually attractive, and couldn't be happier. Living Waters runs a 30-week course for people "struggling with same-sex attraction" although both men admit it's often necessary for a person to complete the course three or four times to really "get it".

In an interview a few days after the conference, Brookman was keen to point out that Living Waters "goes to great pains not to condemn people in homosexuality or any other form of sexual brokenness, but seeks to reach out with compassion to those who are ill at ease with their sexuality".

It's true that at that no time during the conference did anyone express outright hatred towards gay or lesbian people, but references to Satan and "the enemy" in the context of discussing the "sin" of homosexuality hardly empower us. Spending the day with people who continually reinforced the message that a core part of my identity is "broken" or a "handicap" or an addiction to be overcome didn't exactly fill me with joy. The musical parts of the day were the best. I'm partial to a nice uplifting singalong but instead of suppressing my sexuality while revering a male deity, I'll take dancing naked at Coogee women's pool with a bunch of hot sheilas chanting "We All Come From The Goddess" any day. Or the Mardi Gras Parade.
Because I'm still gay.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Polite conversation is so last-century

After trying to resist the lure of social networking sites such as Myspace and Facebook, I've caved in and acquired several 'friends' on both, but quite what we're supposed to do now, I don't know. I've never liked that initial polite conversation stuff you have to do with new people: 'Nice weather, isnt' it?', 'So, what do you do?'

That one always bugs me - what do I do when and which piece of information is more interesting to you? That I sub-edit and proof pages for various magazines, or spend at least an hour most Sunday mornings imagining slightly kinky fantasies set in downtown New York involving women wearing glitter eyeshadow? I also speak in a strange tongue when addressing my cat, with made-up words of affection such as 'choochy woochy ooboobooboochickitapussicatus'; shuffle my feet from side to side while singing the lyrics to Dr Hook's 'Who the Fuck is Alice?' to myself while waiting at traffic lights; and create my own social message T-shirts proclaiming such things as 'lesbian vegans will save the world' using an inkjet printer, special paper and an iron.

Being defined by your job gives an extremely limited picture of a person. The only time I've been truly interested in or impressed by someone's job and keen to know more is when I met a female Israeli fighter pilot a few years ago at a party in London hosted by a gorgeous old dominatrix called Kate who, at only four-feet five inches in height, somehow got away with manoeuvring a large four-wheel-drive jeep through the city for 30 years while completely shitfaced on marijuana and not crash, even once.

Then there's the whole 'Where are you from?' I know it's customary to reply with your city or country of birth, but aren't you so tempted to come back with 'My mother's vagina' every now and then, just to mix it up a bit and make the conversation less predictable? 'How are you?' has to be the most bland, not to mention dishonest, polite conversation opener since it's guaranteed to elicit a lie. We're like robots programmed with a small selection of acceptable standard answers, namely 'good', 'very well', 'great' or 'fine'. At least the last one as an acronym is more likely to offer some vestige of truth: F**ked-up Insecure Neurotic Emotional. I propose replacing the preposition now and then, again just to mix it up a bit - for example, 'Why are you?' should be enough to induce psychological meltdown in your acquaintance and provide you with a few moments of amusement while they struggle with philosophical paradigms to try and come up with an answer.

I suppose I'd better get the ball rolling with my new Myspace and Facebook 'friends'. You never know, one of them might also enjoy imagining slightly kinky fantasies set in downtown New York involving women wearing glitter eyeshadow, and we can bond.

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Girls kissing girls is a good thing, whatever the reason

According to a survey by internet portal Lycos, most British men aren’t bothered if their female partners indulge in lesbian affairs. While 30 per cent found it “a bit odd”, 61 per cent said it is “not a problem”. It would be nice to think that the 21st century has given rise to a whole new breed of enlightened blokes, who are totally cool and comfortable with women’s sexuality and no longer see lesbianism as a threat to their masculinity. But I suspect it’s more to do with the popularity of online porn involving two or more chicks and with the current trend of straight girls kissing or snogging other straight girls, not for their own pleasure, but to please straight guys.

Young women are more inclined to indulge in these 'faux' Sapphic fumblings, with the trend happening mostly on college campuses and night-clubs. Any touching, sucking or poking of any sexual organs below the mouth, however, is strictly forbidden. “The impulse [to go further than kissing] is there, and some girls do it, but respectable girls who kiss girls don’t,” says ‘Julie’ in an article on the subject on in 2006. Whether this trend is a good or bad thing continues to be hotly debated in the media. Some argue it’s an expression of girls’ sexuality and therefore valid and empowering. Others believe it degrades ‘real’ lesbians because of participants’ insistence that they are absolutely not gay, not even bisexual, as if gay or bi is something bad.

All I know is, I wish this trend had been in place when I was in my teens. If my cousin Alan had asked me to snog a cute girl in my class to turn him on, instead of having to suck his face off at the end of our first (and last) date, I’d have been in my element. If Alison Stewart, the gorgeous blonde Debbie Harry lookalike at high school had solicited me for a bit of lip action and dirty dancing in order to help her snare a lad she had her eye on, I would have been most happy to oblige – after all, that’s what sisterhood is all about, right?

And that’s the point the critics of girl-girl make-outs seem to be missing. All the analyses of how ‘degrading’ it might be for queer girls to see straight girls playing bi for male attention omit to point out that it’s the perfect opportunity for said queer girls to have a full-on lesbo make-out session with the straight girl crush of their dreams that they would otherwise have had no chance with and had to spend the summer mooning over their unrequited love and playing maudlin Karen Carpenter songs. Most of us have had and will continue to have to spend even just a little time in the closet in our youth – at least nowadays some of the rewards are a lot more substantial.

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LSD needs a makeover

The problems associated with crystal meth, particularly among the gay community, have been well documented, I thought I’d shift the focus onto mind-expanding substances such as LSD and ‘magic’ mushrooms. The last acid ‘epidemic’ occurred four decades ago in a haze of peace and love, and as far as I’m aware, no gay community in the world has ever been decimated by thousands of our kind shovelling inordinate amounts of special fungi down our gullets.

Various groups are doing their best to combat the crystal ‘problem’, putting forward ideas and strategies, ranging from hard-hitting campaigns with messages such as ‘meth = death’ to advice on how to take the drug safely and where to go for help if and when you need it. I’d like to propose another option: Employ the services of a top marketing firm to launch a multi-million dollar campaign to make acid and shrooms sexy, so they replace crystal as the substances of choice among queers. As has been done with disco, flares and Charlie’s Angels, psychedelics should be repackaged, glamorised and promoted as the ‘in-thing’ of the moment.

Let’s have a very quick look at the history and benefits of these two catalysts to opening the doors of perception, to see why this could work, not only to the advantage of the gay community but society as a whole. First off, psychedelic plants and their use in spiritual pursuits can be traced back to the beginnings of recorded history. In his 1993 book, Food of the Gods, author Terence McKenna offers a plausible hypothesis that homosapiens were in fact descended from psychedelic-using hominids, so we’d basically be going back to our roots. The successful use of LSD in psychotherapy, including overcoming addictions to other drugs, was widespread until the substance was made illegal in the 1960s. Unlike crystal, which turns you into a grumpy arsehole during the comedown, psychedelics offer the opportunity to be at one with the universe – a phenomenon known as ‘cosmic consciousness’ – returning gently to the recognisable dimension usually referred to as ‘reality’ with new insights about life, love and the nature of existence. Oh, and if you put The Wizard of Oz on while peaking, you may get the chance, as I did, to fly over the rainbow with Dorothy.

We need another Summer of Love. Let’s face it, if someone had dropped a tab or two into George W’s morning cuppa and sat him in the garden under a tree to commune with nature and allow his neural pathways to be reprogrammed, global warming would be on its way to being halted and war in Iraq could have been avoided. So, never mind ‘meth = death’, let’s hear ‘LSD = sexy’.

Disclaimer: This article, while calling for revolutionary tactics, is not intended to incite anyone to imbibe illegal substances. However, The Essential Psychedelic Guide by DM Turner is a good starting point on how to do it safely, for those who might have been considering it anyway. Peace ’n love, people.

We're not perfect - even when we're dead

I’m dying. I don’t know when or how I’ll finally kick it, but it’s one of the only guarantees in life; one of the few certainties that you can rely on. Each day, each hour, each second, our bodies decay and we edge another step closer to death. For some it has nothing to do with the ageing process; in fact a natural death from simple old age is rare now. So polluted is our environment, so messed up are our food systems, so excessive are our working hours and 24/7 high-stress society that we are often struck down with illnesses that can prove fatal, at quite young ages. Then there’s sudden death. Accident. Murder.

Where the latter two are concerned, chances are reports of your death may appear in state or national media - like the learner-driver who ploughs into a group of people at a bus-stop and kills them. It’s times like these that can turn your thoughts to how you might be remembered once you slip off the physical plane of existence. “She was the kindest, nicest little girl - the sweetest thing”, said the coach of the 14-year-old skating champion from Queensland who was killed in a ferry crash. “Beautiful”, "positive" and "talented" was how the fashion student victim of a bus crash in Kogarah was described. Without meaning any disrespect to these young people who lost their lives in such horrible ways, it does beg the question: Why do the sudden deaths of ugly, grumpy, miserable, bitchy people never get reported? How come it’s only the pretty, good-natured, happy and kind ones?

Why is it that when we die, we suddenly achieve a kind of saintliness? Admittedly I’d like to think if I was extinguished via some kind of public catastrophe that my girlfriend would tell journalists what a loving, flamboyant, intelligent and caring person I was. It’s not far off the truth, but in all honesty, it would be equally fair of her to tell them that I’m also a moody, emotionally volatile harridan who bears a striking resemblance to Mad Bertha in the attic in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. In grief and shock we want to remember the best qualities of a loved one wrenched unexpectedly from our lives. But I don’t want to be a hypocrite, or not practise what I preach. So for the record, should I end my days in a way deemed worthy of reporting and a newspaper rings any of you up and asks what you thought of me, you have my permission to say that I was a crazy-arse lesbian with militant vegan ideologies that I never failed to impose on others at any given opportunity.

Just remember to add that I was also very pretty and had lovely hair.


Designer babies - yes please!

So a couple of gay men from Melbourne, Australia travelled to the US and allegedly spent around $130,000 to buy “designer twin boys”, according to various reports from News Limited publications. Apparently the couple are one of several gay couples taking advantage of California’s liberal IVF laws.

Prospective parents with enough cash can choose the sex of their baby, as well as specify a number of physical characteristics and the education level of egg donors. The Australian Family Association has complained that the move is nothing short of ‘trafficking in children’ while the gay dads have defended their right to start a family.

So, should queer couples have the right to buy made-to-order babies? Well, hell yeah – provided they adhere to strict guidelines. Only egg donors with the fashion sense of Björk, musical inclinations of Liza Minnelli and politics of Peter Tatchell should be considered. It goes without saying that they should be vegan (or at the very least, vegetarian), outspoken, passionate, no-nonsense sort of chicks, preferably with some kind of creative body art. A penchant for mind-expanding recreational drugs without the addictive personality is an optional but definite bonus. Radical free-thinkers who believe conformity is one of the roots of all evil get a big tick, while any donor exhibiting even the slightest sign of mediocrity or normalcy should be avoided at all costs.Well someone has to start a revolution, so it might as well be the queers.

Forget all this ‘we’re just like everyone else’ crap. They don’t want us to get married and have babies, so if you’re intent on doing it, do it with style. Stand out, be different, be defiant. Refuse to bring another boring brat into the world who’ll end up as a ‘suit’ in middle-management for some pharmaceutical giant or oil company, afraid to speak out against the destruction of the planet or the oppression of minority groups in case it compromises their career or cosy suburban lifestyle. Aim higher – do your utmost to produce a little Leigh Bowery or Emma Goldman. The world needs more Lydia Lunches and Boy Georges. It’s time for GLBTIQs who want kids to step up and turn the concept of family and child-rearing on its head. We need an army of freaks – proud, individual, ethical and of course totally fabulous human beings to hand this crazy world over to in the hope they’ll rediscover and implement the concepts of democracy and equality for all.

All well and good, you may say, but not everyone can afford $130,000 on high-tech reproductive systems. Fear not, a solution is at hand for the financially challenged: Ebaby. Visit to bid for a kid online. Choose from a large range of bubs including Smelly Babies, Automotive Babies, Sporty Babies or Babies That Sew. Celebrity Clone Babies are available for the shallower among us, while Satanic Babies are suited to those drawn to the dark. My personal favourite is the Bio-Engineered Government Destruction Machine Babies. Now that’s what I call progress.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Do it anyway

Last week saw the beautiful city of Sydney transformed into a military zone that could have come straight out of George Orwell’s 1984. Fences were erected and streets were cordoned off for the APEC summit. Big Brother was watching all (although apparently not looking too closely at the Chaser guys who pulled off a spectacular coup and made the Police Commissioner and his cronies look like the plonkers they are). In a stunning display of propaganda, John Howard and the boys in blue told the public not to blame the federal government or police for the inconvenient ‘security’ measures enforced to protect Bush and his 800-strong entourage from dissenting voices, but the ‘violent’ protestors who were expected to cause havoc on the streets. While this rhetoric has been exposed as the rubbish that it is, it still had the effect of terrorising a lot of people into not attending the big demonstration last Saturday.

“Oooh, be careful” and “Don’t get arrested!” were among the responses I received when I said I was going to the APEC protest. “You’re going on the protest?” said one otherwise intelligent colleague, in an incredulous tone. I should have replied, “There are 21 world leaders in the CBD looking to exploit poorer countries and line their own coffers under the guise of ‘free trade’ – not ‘fair’ trade note – led by a man who invades countries for oil, who prizes profits over human lives and who, along with our own Prime Minister, refuses to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, instead coming up with an alternative agreement that has been slammed by environmental experts as ‘an empty gesture that may actually undermine efforts to halt global warming’. How come you’re not going to the protest?” – in an equally shocked manner.

Many people I spoke with had expressed disdain, even outrage, at the extreme security measures inflicted on the city – but few of them actually bothered to put their money where their mouths were and turn up to a rally whose issues stretch far beyond equal rights for same-sex couples. After all, what’s the point of tax breaks and other fiscal benefits if we’re bombed to smithereens by insurgents pissed off at our troops taking over their lands, or if the planet, under constant destruction by multi-national corporations possessed with the spirit of greed, stops sustaining and instead kills us?

I can understand people being concerned about their safety, but one of my favourite sayings is ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’. Kudos to the several thousand people who did bother to turn up on Saturday and march through the streets in support of peace and equality, despite the oppressive presence of 3,500 NSW police officers and 450 federal police, including snipers on rooftops (funny how ‘resources’ can stretch to this, but not a few extra coppers on Oxford Street at the weekends, eh?). For those of you who weren’t there, I have another saying: ‘All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing’. Mission accomplished.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Fat and Thin

The thing about opinion pieces is they will often induce a strong reaction in readers. Whether it’s Germaine Greer lambasting Steve Irwin in The Guardian or Jason Foster proffering his views on butch-femme gender roles in SX, some people are likely to take offence, even becoming incensed enough to contact as many magazines, newspapers, online media and other public forums as they possibly can to refute the writer’s comments.I’ve done this myself, especially on Fairfax or blogs where the original blogger has waffled on about how they believe humans need to eat meat and why vivisection is nothing to get excited about. I’ve gone through the gamut of emotions from extremely upset, deeply disappointed, to utterly furious. I’ve forwarded the articles to my friends and networks so they can experience the same flood of strong feelings and add their own comments. But while I may disagree vehemently with the writer of the original article, I don’t dispute their right to publish their views.

Now before anyone thinks this is a precursor to me wading into the butch-femme debate that has now made it into every GLBTIQ magazine in Sydney and beyond, thanks to Jason Foster, it’s not. I’m going to take up the perhaps equally controversial fat/thin dichotomy and ask: Why is rock chick Beth Ditto being held up to be such a role model for lesbians and even women in general, simply because of her body size?

The Gossip frontwoman was named the coolest woman on the planet by British music magazine NME; dyke magazines across the world have either featured her on their cover or are chasing her for that purpose; even Greer praised Ditto: “Her intention is to force acceptance of her body type, 5ft tall and 15 stone, and by this strategy to challenge the conventional imagery of women,” Greer said.

It all sounds well and good, but quite frankly it stinks of hypocrisy. On the one hand, we denounce the media’s and society’s pushing of thin as the ideal body shape for a woman to be, on the grounds that it’s ‘unhealthy’. Fair enough. So why go to the other extreme and champion fat? Because fat is just as unhealthy as thin. And before the Fat Pride people take aim at me, I’m not saying anyone shouldn’t be fat and proud of it.

But it’s nothing short of hypocritical to wave the political-correctness banner around by denigrating thinness as a ‘dangerous’ model for women to aspire to, inducing all manner of eating disorders, while celebrating fat and claiming it as a feminist issue, when both extremes pose health risks. Ditto may be cool for many reasons – a great voice, an awareness of queer theory and gender roles – but watching clips of her perform, she looks like she’s about to have a heart attack on stage. Good on her for wanting to break the conventional imagery of women. But 5ft and 15 stone is no more cause for celebration than 5ft and 4 stone.

Well, someone had to say it.