What Is “Cool”?

Like most people, I’ve had some awful haircuts. Even now, just thinking back on some of them makes me feel such intense embarrassment that I physically spasm with shame. There were my monk-like shaves in primary school (not too bad, really), followed by my bowl-shaped undercut phase (getting worse), to the ill-advised Disney prince look: a combed, down-the-middle bum-part that dominated my high school years.

I might’ve been Chinese, but all I really wanted were the same haircuts that the cool white boys had. It’s only later that you look back and realise you can’t just transplant good haircuts between races and expect it to work. Think of those Caucasian women who get their hair tightly braided and beaded by Ghanaian hairdressers on holiday and you’ll get my point. On me, these white boy haircuts were less “Disney Prince”, and more “Merry Little Hermaphrodite from Feudal China”. I never really got the cred I assumed a cool haircut would afford me.

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When I Was 20-Something: Fran Kelly (interview)

I didn’t have the life story where I would settle down and have children in my 20s. So if you’re not doing that—which is one way a lot of women went—you’ve got to be on some other journey. So I was on this journey of taking the opportunities as they came.

In your 20s, you just have boundless energy. I never watched television in my 20s, I never went out to restaurants for dinner. I was on the move the whole time. I was singing in bands, I was tap-dancing, I was doing self-defence, I was organising rallies. I was taking everything in. I’d go dancing a couple of nights a week and work through the day when I finished studying. Continue reading

An Open Letter to the Straight Men of Australia

Dear Straight Men of the World,

We’re not so different, you and I. Even though I’m a card-carrying homosexual, I’m also fond of wearing flannel, drinking scotch and eating everything in sight. Like you, I thoroughly enjoy undergraduate jokes about poos, farts and foreskins, and I’ll always adore you for teaching me delightfully instructive phrases like, “Two in the pink, one in the stink,” and the simple-yet-effective, “Bash the gash.” In fact, one of my fondest memories is you at the sushi train, drunkenly teaching me how to finger-bang girls. (On a side note, I’ve shown my lesbian friends your technique. They say you’re doing it wrong.) Continue reading

Ode to Suburbia

Sing to me, suburbia of my childhood! Sing to me of Lorraine at Copperart and Yvonne at Chandlers! Sing to me of Barry at security and Garry at parking. Sing to me of pregnant-looking men eating chips bathed in gravy, and of actually-pregnant mothers checking dockets (to be safe) and shop-a-dockets (for two magical nights in Mooloolaba). Sing to me of Merril Bainbridge cassingles and of PAs that play Tina Arena’s Sorrento Moon on repeat. Sing to me of Muffin Break and Mathers, of Lowes and Bi-Lo. Sing to me, oh acne-ravaged Asian teenager working at Big W named Benjamin Law, even though you’re going through puberty and really shouldn’t sing at all. Sing it sweet, and sing it loud!

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When I Was 20-Something: Bob Brown (interview)

In the 1960s, I was studying medicine at Sydney University. The idea of making people healthy and happy always appealed to me, but I wasn’t all that keen on university. I was very shy. The other issue was I was gay. At that time, it was something no one spoke about, and police were busy arresting gay people by the hundreds. I remember one man—a radio announcer—being taken to jail, because he’d been seen kissing another man in a car. It was headline news, and there was much clicking of tongues and horror. It was absurd and repressive.

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Crikey: I’m Not Even Sure I Really Like Rainbows

This essay was originally written as part of Crikey’s Big Ideas series. You can read the other essays—by writers including Kate Holden, Sophie Cunningham, Mel Campbell, Marcus Westbury and Eva Cox—here.

Like typical guys, my boyfriend and I put off living together for as long as humanly possible. We both valued our private space, liked our time apart and enjoyed our respective sharehouses. But after experiencing some low points in sharehouse living — think fleas in the carpet and mushrooms growing out of the shower (my place); Canadian flatmates who didn’t use toilet paper (his place) — we decided to make a joint emergency exit. In the end, moving in together was as much about survival as anything else.

We ended up scoring an affordable, old apartment in Brisbane’s most gay-friendly suburb. It overlooked the river, and nearby, there was a floating walkway made up of a series of connecting pontoons. After dinner, we’d go for walks, recapping the day, talking inane sh-t, doing horrible impersonations of people we knew and cracking hideous jokes. The walks were intimate, but hand-holding was a rarity. My boyfriend always maintained he wasn’t the hand-holding type, and I maintained I didn’t really care. But looking back, our concerns probably lay elsewhere — like, say, trying to avoid getting the living shit bashed out of us.

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Dancing in the Dark

From the outside, the Snoezelen Room at the Gold Coast’s Mudgeeraba Special School (MSS) doesn’t look like much. The room’s padlocked entrance is almost creepy, resembling a fire exit that’s been bolted up. As she fiddles with the large master locks, head of curriculum Nicole Belous explains this actually used to be a garage. I think to myself that if I were a kid being led into this room, I’d probably be freaking out right now.

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Diversity: Everyone Benefits

This was originally delivered as a speech. I was asked to address the national conference for Family Relationships Services Australia (FRSA) at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) on Wednesday 3 November. You can read about the fallout from this speech here. This speech was subsequently published on Crikey.

Good evening. I’d like to begin the evening by respecfully acknowledging the traditional owners of this land on which we’re gather, both past and present, as it’s a great pleasure and honour to be speaking to you all here tonight. As you’re aware by now, the theme of this year’s FRSA conference is “Diversity: Everyone Benefits.” Bonnie Montgomery, the Communications Officer of FRSA, told me they were looking for someone to talk about—and represent—diversity. And so, they immediately reached for the nearest young Asian homosexual. Several minority groups, and only one stone.

Bonnie, well done. I hope I represent good value. Continue reading

Up Close and Personal, with Margaret Andrews

Something strange happened to me the other evening. I’m still not exactly sure why or how it happened—I’m still trying to unravel it all in my brain—but what I can confirm is Shadow Minister for Family Services Kevin Andrews doesn’t like me, and that his wife Margaret Andrews—a traditional marriage and pro-life advocate—likes me even less. To be precise, she thinks I’m “disgusting”. She told me this to my face, along with many other things, which I’ve recorded in loving detail below. Margaret, I’m not sure where we went wrong. For the record, I wish we could have been friends.

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Welcome to Ageing

Several months ago, my youngest sister threw a party. Back then, I didn’t know her friends too well, but it wasn’t long before my boyfriend and I got caught up in a conversation that was friendly and foul-mouthed in equal measure: our favourite kind of chat. We all started talking about our lives—their undergraduate studies; our daytime jobs—until I must have said something that made them look at us with suspicion.

“Wait a minute,” they said. “Exactly how old are you guys?” Slowly, we told them our ages—I’m turning 28 this year—which prompted something odd to happen. Everyone began to shriek. And by “shriek”, I mean that what came out of their mouths was truly awful: scandalised, wraith-like howls that you’d only make in the presence of Death. For the first time ever, we were the oldest people in the room. I’d hit my late 20s and was already a goddamned hag.

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