australia said yes, what now?
Five queer Australians reflect on the politically tumultuous months that were, and look toward the future.
Oscar & Lia
An approximate picture of this office on the morning of November 15th: a few dozen people sitting at their desks, battling against their guts or their hearts or that spot at the base of their brains, which were doing strange, painful, anxious things as the radio played over the office speakers, loud. We all listened to the voice of David Kalisch, an Australian statistician tasked with delivering the nation’s answer to the question, Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry? Actually, at that point, he was just preparing to share the answer. We were really listening to the preamble, which was a particular kind of agonising. You know, the kind you only experience when you're waiting to find out if your country "cares" about things like "human" "rights." That sort of agonising. You don't feel it too often.
Here’s a question you might have asked yourself: Has anything ever been conceived of, and subsequently executed, so badly? Is this some sort of record? Yes. It has been shortlisted for this award: "Most Consecutive Terrible Choices." Wait, this one too: "Literally the Wrong Choice, Always, At Every Individual Fork in The Road, A Wrong Turn."
In the end, good still prevailed. And if the win still tasted a bit like a loss, that is probably because all battles are exhausting, especially the ones you know you shouldn’t have to be fighting in the first place. In Sydney, stylist Kurt Johnson gathered his queer family and asked them to take stock of then, now, and the future of queer Australia.
Cloudy Rhodes, 24, Virgo
Who’s your LGBTQIA icon? Ellen lol no, Jorden Bikham, my Instagram icon. What was your experience of the voting period? I hated it: my rights were being decided for me by people who had never met me, based on opinions of queer people in general. It shouldn't have been up for discussion, like every time I got into an Uber I’d be wondering if they were on my side or not. Tell us a little bit about where you were when the results were announced. My girlfriend and I were walking through Kings Cross and we walked into a random bar as they announced it. We both cried and were obviously the only queers there, it was pretty cute. How has the 61.6% YES vote affected you since the results were announced? Deeply. I've known that my girlfriend will one day be my wife since the day I met her, the fact that we will be able to marry in Australia changes everything. What’s the most exciting thing about Australia’s rainbow future? Young queers kids feeling safe, accepted and like they can have a family.
Liam, 20, Pisces
Who’s your LGBTQIA icon? I'd have to say David Bowie. He pushed the lines of gender and he was kind of a flamboyant middle finger to conformity, I think even without his music, he really led the way for the misfits of the world. That's something I've always identified with. Also a shout out to local queen, Fran Giapanni, who has always inspired me through her comedy to not take life so seriously. Everything in life can be so intense sometimes, but she's always been able to remind me to just point and laugh at it. What was your experience of the voting period? I found the voting period a bit ridiculous, just in the sense of what was thrown around on news outlets and ads. It didn't effect my day-to-day life until after the vote — I had received relatively frequent abuse, but you've kinda just got to put on a brave face and power through it. Tell us a little bit about where you were when the results were announced. I was at work. It was such a huge relief in all honesty, I felt such a feeling of jubilation. Being around all my 'straight' co-workers, it was hard to convey to a lot of them how much it meant. How has the 61.6% YES vote affected you since the results were announced? Honestly it's been amazing overall, I feel like I'm seeing more queer people holding hands — even I feel more comfortable with holding hands in public. I think I've also had more straight and cis people approaching me, congratulating me, and telling me how brave they think many of us queer people are. That's truly exciting. What’s the most exciting thing about Australia’s rainbow future? I'm excited for all the young queers of Australia to grow up in a space where they can be themselves and I hope they see that they don't need to display some kind of internalised homophobia to feel accepted by mainstream Australian culture. I also hope for an investment into other issues such as trans rights, and consideration of the hardships many queer people experience overseas.
Oscar Bannan, 19, Cancer
Who’s your LGBTQIA icon? I’ve got the biggest crush on Robert Mapplethorpe at the moment. Like, what a beautiful man. Heavily inspired by his work, demeanour and legacy at the moment. What was your experience of the voting period? As a New Zealander, I found the whole situation a little surreal. I was really surprised that Australia hadn’t already legalised same sex marriage! What surprised me even more was that it involved a voting process. To me, the vote was an unnecessary step for Australia. Marriage equality should be perceived as a human right, y’know? Tell us a little bit about where you were when the results were announced. I was at work back home in NZ and a colleague told me. I was obviously thrilled, but the excitement was pretty diluted as it seemed like the obvious result. I was confidently expecting a majority Yes vote, and I don’t think I was being too optimistic. Like, it’s 2017, haha. How has the 61.6% YES vote affected you since the results were announced?It feels like another significant step for the LGBTQIA community, and a milestone for equality. The majority Yes vote is so encouraging and warm as a member of the LGBTQIA community. It’s a feeling that words can’t really do justice. What’s the most exciting thing about Australia’s rainbow future? It’s a massive step in the direction of an ideal future. It’s suuuper exciting that we’re experiencing such colossal growth in our lifetime. We’re so lucky to be witnesses of this change, and that we have the power to make these changes a reality.
Brooke Greentree, 29, Leo
Who’s your LGBTQIA icon? It’s been a good decade since I’ve had a LGBTQIA icon, but I grew up obsessing over lesbian musicians like Tegan and Sara, and of course many of the cast of The L Word. These days the icons are everywhere: on the news, encouraging friends, people marching a LGBTQIA parade or fighting for the direction we’re heading in! What was your experience of the voting period?Mostly positive, those around me were all very openly supportive. But I definitely couldn’t ignore the very backwards No voters and campaigners. Tell us a little bit about where you were when the results were announced. I was on my way to work on the bus. I used my phone to live stream the announcement. As soon as it came through I started getting messages from my girlfriend and family, it was extremely emotional! How has the 61.6% YES vote affected you since the results were announced? I can feel such ease now. I always knew I wanted to be married one way or another, but it’s those who have been in decade long partnerships, this is for them. What’s the most exciting thing about Australia’s rainbow future? The kids of today growing up and never questioning themselves, I’m excited to see the world (slowly) stop dividing us all by sexuality!
Evan, 26, Libra
Who’s your LGBTQIA icon? Dennis Rodman. What was your experience of the voting period? I think any time you’re debating equal rights, the worst in both sides tend to come out. There’s the people who get so frustrated because human equality is obviously a no brainer, and then are those that just don’t get it. I attempted to stay out of the debating... people who choose to deliberately remain intolerant can’t be educated. Tell us a little bit about where you were when the results were announced and your reaction. I was at work and very excited, a little part of me had the faith in humanity to expect a Yes vote. How has the 61.6% YES vote affected you since the results were announced? It hasn’t changed the way I live my life, but I hope it inspires some to live their life more freely and others to accept what they may not understand. What’s the most exciting thing about Australia’s rainbow future? In a world that seems to be regressing, every so often we get a glimmer of hope and a reminder that we do have the power to enact change.
Photography Levon Baird @ Company1
Creative direction Kurt Johnson @ Debut
Hair Kyye Reed
Makeup Joel Babicci @ Company1
Liam @ Debut, Oscar @ N Management, Evan Betts, Cloudy Rhodes, Brooke Greentree