Spend your entire life in Queensland, and you know a bogan when you see one. All my family needed to do was drive 30 minutes in any direction and we’d hear the banjos from Deliverance, and smell roadkill cooking on incinerated garbage. The further you drove on, the less teeth you’d see. You’d encounter Caucasian people whose first language was English, yet were impossible to understand. “Ows it garn?” they’d ask. Then, seeing we were Asian and speaking English: “Youse Strain, eh? Liall be.” The men wore their shorts high; the women wore their breasts low. They were bogans.
As a young, well-spoken homosexual, I tried to avoid these types of people as much as possible. Bogans were into sports, cars and alcohol, while folks like me were into sheet music, practising woodwind instruments and drinking oolong tea. In the social ecosystem, gays and bogans were like natural enemies: bogans were mutant sharks, and I was like a dugong, or something more gender-ambiguous. A seahorse, maybe. Whatever: we were lucky to have clear visual cues to distinguish one from the other. Bogans wore Stubbies that threatened to show scrotum; people like me wore ironed trousers.
But as time’s gone on, the lines between the two species have become blurred. It’s gotten to the point where my boyfriend and I have started playing a game called Bogan or Gay. Like the name suggests, we walk down the road, and when any man walks by, we take bets on whether they’re a redneck or a homosexual. Because the world has changed out there. You can’t rely on old stereotypes to navigate your gaydar. Now, gay men lift weights, drive their boyfriend’s utes and vote conservative, while blue-collared brickies get asymmetrical haircuts on the weekend and listen to Nova in the Mazdas they share with their “partner”.
Take my brother, the most heterosexual male you will ever encounter. You couldn’t get a more dissimilar person to me. He’s got muscles and his job involves numbers. And while I’m the gay sibling, I’m the one you’ll find at gigs surrounded by bearded men in flannel with their girlfriends. In the meantime, my brother’s the one zipping along in his hatchback humming along to Mika and Kylie.
The gay-bogan crossover isn’t exactly new. For years, the US men’s magazine Details published a two-page picture spread under the headline “Gay or [blank]?” One issue featured “Gay or Cowboy?” and another was “Gay or Best Friend?” The concept was the same: they’d all would dig into all the innuendo that came with those stereotypes. The most controversial was, of course, their spread called “Gay or Asian”, which I’m sure was targeting me. But for all the offence it caused people, all those articles showed was how anyone—or anything—could be construed as gay. Because what is gay nowadays? Here’s a pop quiz: bodybuilding protein shakes. Gay or bogan? It’s difficult to tell.
Bogans, of course, have been taking fashion cues from homos long before Queer Eye. The tradition can be seen at every music festivals where bogans wear singlets and male jewellery? We started that. But it works both ways, and homosexuals have always subverted straight culture in the dirtiest ways possible. Ever noticed how all gay porn takes their cues from bogan setting? The locker rooms; the gyms; the military? And you thought joining the army was the straightest thing possible? Joke’s on you! According to the movies I’ve seen, you’re about to be pounded in the arse!
The thing is, we are all bogans. There are rich bogans (CUBS, or cashed up bogans), gay bogans (homobogans), lady bogans (she-bogans) and Indigenous bogans (Abogans). Because when you think about it, what are we even talking about when we call someone a ‘bogan’ nowadays? If being a bogan’s about low income, then most of my friends with degrees in arts and media—who live on measley rates—are bogans. If bogans are defined by wearing football shorts so high you can glimpse scrotum, then most gays nowadays are bogans too. Hell, I work from home in my underwear. And if that isn’t the behaviour of a bogan, I don’t know what is.