Helen joined Young Labor in her teens and was quickly expelled from her Unity faction.
Helen studied in Philosophy and English Literature at Sydney University and was not expelled. Rather, she received a job offer from a radio station on the day of her final Patrick White exam and elected to quit two credits shy of graduation; a decision she occasionally regrets.
Quite possibly the first female breakfast announcer on Australian FM radio and certainly the most annoying, Helen spent her twenties talking to other people in their twenties or teens. She has Done Time as an arts broadcaster on ABC Local Radio.
Currently, Helen works with Citysearch as Cultural Correspondent. She contributes to opinion pieces on technology to The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, and ABC’s The Drum. Her humour column has appeared in The Big Issue since 2002. She contributes to The Australian Literary Review, Rolling Stone GQ, FHM, Rolling Stone and other outlets as a writer of arts, travel and culture content.
She is 41. Fuck.
Choose her first name and add the title of her domain if you’d care to contact Helen.
Viewed from the pavements of Darlinghurst, ampoule
homosexuality looks like the most colossal fun. But, it’s not all Bob Fosse hunks drenched in oceans of Reef Oil, you know. On days other than the Mardi Gras Parade, homosexuality can, in fact, be a fairly dreary state.
Between bigoted bureaucrats, unkind relatives and the possibility that one might be savagely beaten on the way to the shops, homosexuality can be a bit of a bore. And, it just got more annoying. As if a hundred years of oppression wasn’t enough, now we’re supposed to get married.
This Saturday, the principal theme of the Mardi Gras Parade will be marriage. And, for the life of me, I can’t think why.
At last count, 15 floats will take their cue from a withering institution. A matrimonial spectacular featuring Bride with Bride and Groom with Groom will be the centrepiece of the annual Long Mince. Apparently, marriage is now the ne plus ultra of the struggle. This is odd and strikes me as no more critical or apposite to the needs of homosexuals than the right of modern cyclists to ride a penny-farthing.
“Same-sex marriage is clearly the big issue that our community wants to say something about in this year’s Parade,” said organisers last month.
No good can come of this glitzy fight; save for it providing a good rationale for me to stay home on the sofa, throw things at the telegenic Ruby Rose and wonder, aloud and alone, when the popular theories of gay liberation dwindled so as to make a song by Lady GaGa seem like the Kinsey Report.
If we don’t count the company of the Christian Right, I’ll be abstaining from Mardi Gras and marriage by myself. The gays will not join me in considering that the idea of marriage is a bit naff; nor will anybody else. Suddenly, every progressive is banging on about marriage as though it is a breathtaking idea.
Like spinsters ready to receive a bouquet of dog-whistles, the left is lurching to revive the bloom to a wilted tradition. All of our Greens, many of our public thinkers and half of the nation’s most attractive performers have raced to declare their support for the right to be wed. Just like in the olden days.
Affirming gay marriage has become a progressive reflex and there is no scope for debate. Supporting same sex marriage is a compulsory gesture; rather like an objection to genetically modified food or a preference for buying organic. One simply cannot say that marriage, particularly the “gay” kind, is silly without being pelted by (conventionally grown) refuse.
But. At the risk of upsetting the international workers of the world and the biodynamic markets at which they shop, I just can’t get excited about the “right” to an institution that is predicated on some pretty whacko old nonsense.
Of course, we support the right of others to believe in whacko old nonsense.
Affianced gay Christians must take every risk they can to be wed by the myth of their choosing. Where marriage is a matter of faith, the faithful must take it up with their clerics. But, they’re taking it up with their legislators and no one can really tell me why.
It is largely understood that same-sex couples are discriminated against in law. This, largely, is no longer the case. In 2009, a suite of legislative changes recommended by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission were passed by the federal Labor government.
58 alterations, to real estate, superannuation and sundry other acts, were a great win; I thank the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby for the real and practical differences they’ve made to my own everyday and to the lives of others. There’s more to do but now, for example, the simple dignity of compassionate leave is extended to a bereaved same-sex partner.
This was a pressing civil equality issue. Getting hitched, multiply, expensively and blithely, is not.
This is not to suggest that the creation of long-term intimacy is anything short of wonderful. My own partnership of twelve years is my life’s central feat. Like all decent relationships, this has been sanctioned by the years, by difficulty and by love. It will never be sanctioned by compliance to the terms of a rickety institution.
But, “gay” has itself become a rickety institution. Wedded to the idea of weddings, military participation and cheering on “out” footballers, the visible gay culture retains all the radicalism of a radish.
Marriage equality is not a truly progressive struggle but an effort to privilege one kind of relationship, long-term and monogamous, above all others. I do wonder how is this going to play out; particularly for the many gay couples who have spent years finessing a feasible polygamy.
Gay and progressive communities are selling up and buying in to a market long since ruined. We are trading in a history rich in difference at the altar of absolute conformity. On Saturday night the new currency of achievement will be measured in a volume of faithful Bride and Groom.
And I’ll be throwing things at the telly.
My piece appeared in the print and online versions of the Sydney Morning Herald on March 3, 2011.