Trigger Warning: There is a part of this story which may trigger people with depression and suicide ideation. If this is you, please read with caution.
“If you’re a capitalist in your 20s you’ve got no heart, and if you’re a socialist in your 30s you’ve got no brain” an ex-boyfriend once quoted to me as a joke.
If you’ve read some of my blogs, you’ve no doubt gathered that life has had it’s fair share of challenges for me growing up. Some people have it worse, but I’ve had challenges, nonetheless.
When I arrived at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in 2001 I had almost no friends. My only friend was an aloof Christian who was taking a very different path and soon our worlds grew wildly apart. For the first 8 months I had a girlfriend. She was wonderful. I loved her for two reasons. She had accepted me announcing to her that I was bisexual, just two weeks into our relationship, and quite frankly she was also an amazing human. From a position of freedom and relative anonymity, I approached a room at UNSW called a Queer Space. I did so with my best friend at the time, a girl I had met in a lecture that also identified as bisexual.
Lonely and terribly insecure, I glued myself to any guy there that spoke to me. This alienated me even more, as the clingy behaviour scared guys away.
I had to fit in. I did not want a repeat of high school. The people in the Queer Space seemed to campaign about social justice issues. Having just emerged from homophobic bullying in high school, this was something I could get on board with. I offered to help, because everyone loves people who help out right?
I once heard a motivational speaker say that nobody is going to give you the stage, you have to take it.
By 2002, I was single, out of the closet and trying a different degree. I was elected uncontested, to Sexuality Officer at the College of Fine Arts (COFA) in Sydney. I was loud and deliberately provocative. I would put erotic pictures up around campus of two men or two women kissing. It was wild. I was bold too. I wasn’t afraid to offend if I felt it was justified. I remember putting a poster up that said ‘Around the world people are killed for being queer. In Australia we make them kill themselves.’
By 2003 I was a university drop out but my activism didn’t stop. I got involved in queer youth initiatives. We would put on events for LGBTQI youth like dance parties, fundraisers and art exhibitions. I would help out wherever I could in the community too. I volunteered with groups like Twenty 10, ACON, Sydney Pride Centre and Mardi Gras. My life had purpose and I was part of something bigger.
Things at home were less fabulous. They were turbulent. I would rant and rave about human rights, feminism and racism to my dad. I had a tremendous sympathy for people who were oppressed and I opposed my dad on his swinging vote for the Liberal Party, Australia’s dominant right-wing political party. He called me a radical. I guess preaching things like ‘gender is a construct’ to a white male Boomer was a bit naive and idealistic.
I stayed silent about something else in my life. A boyfriend at the time used to physically abuse me. Chokes, elbows to the back of the head, and emotional blackmail. This deepened my political conviction. My mum had silenced anything in my life that was gay (read more in ‘My Coming Out Story’), so I took on the perspective that queer struggles were silent ones.
In 2005 I returned to University where I would complete my first degree. I also stepped back into the role of Queer Officer (a similar role to the Sexuality Officer at COFA) twice, coordinating events like Pride Week and regular meetings in the Queer Space.
Focusing on my studies this time though, my life slowly deviated from an active role in student politics, but transitions are never smooth and the degree took a year longer than expected.
By graduation in 2009, I was fairly removed from Queer Politics and focused on my close friendships, enjoying the sparkle of Oxford Street’s bars and clubs.
Nonetheless, I would continue to vote with a left-wing conscience. Truth be told, I didn’t understand much at all about economics. I simply knew that the Liberal Party vocally opposed gay rights, were comprised mostly of old white men, and would attract voters from affluent and conservative Australians. I voted to keep that kind of party out.
I don’t think I’m wrong though. I vote with my conscience. My experiences have taught me what it’s like when bigots hurt others, when affluent people dismiss poorer people as not trying hard enough. I know what it’s like to be silenced, told to shut up, or what it’s like to be told that I’m a freak.
I cannot stand racism because it treats people like freaks. I cannot stand the dismissal of poorer people because it lacks compassion. I hate being told to shut up because I once suffered so much abuse in silence.
So you’ll have to excuse me when I get angry at all of those things. When I don’t find your bigotry funny. When racism isn’t just a joke or if I debate privilege with you. I’m left-wing and I have a brain. But it’s the right-wing party which used Australian taxes for a non-binding national debate on my human right to marry who I love. It’s right-wing parties that elect idiots like Donald Trump.
The popular idea out there is that left-wing political views are irresponsible, idealistic and unfeasible. But progressive politics can be hugely successful. We love you Jacinda Ardern. Thank you for blowing the myth that good leaders have to commit necessary evils. Not gonna lie. Its awesome that she’s a woman too!
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Note: If you are in Australia and having thoughts of suicide or are struggling with mental health, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For my American readers, please call 1-800-273-8255.
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