Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Extreme Sports Abject

In "The Object Stares Back" James Elkins included reproductions of the images that horrified Bataille- showing a women in late 19th century china being flayed alive - and he wrote that only a masochist would stare at such images longer than a few moments.

Hands up.

My copy of Elkins book is paperback on cheap newsprint so the grainy photos look even grainier - which kind of makes them compelling - because what they depict is so gruesome - and unbelievable - a person turning into meat ............

I've just had breakfast (taro bun and coffee) - why am I writing this?

I experienced similar levels of fascinated horror in Hanoi. I was buying yellow plastic handled knives (highly recommended - they have a round broad blade but are sharp and great for uncoordinated left handers) at the markets and looked across and saw what looked like red glazed piglets (Like ducks in the windows of Chinese BBQ restaurants) but weren't. I keep staring, mouth agape into the red fried features of what I usually 'read' as the expressive face of a sentient being - until a moped nearly ran me over and I had to move on.

Here I'm exposing and admitting my own very narrow cultural specificity of affective responses. A dead duck laquered on a plate doesn't worry me, nor does seing the feathered head of a plucked chicken on sale at the french markets. I even think I'm going to a hungi on a weekend. I do find dead fish uncanny but it doesn't put me off judging them as meat (I want FIRM CLEAR EYES please!). the dog thing is recent too. Somehow when I hit 30 - I became a thirty something lesbian, with a thickening waist and a penchant for pooches. Weird eh?

Anyway - this is slightly off track - I was wanting to write about really full on images - largely inspired by Judith Butler's talk on Saturday. I was thinking of my own perversely ex-catholic moral outrage which delights in certain forms of pain. I remember 15 years ago seeing the images of Lucia Vergara - a chilean activist who had been tortured to death. These images circulated in that very catholic country and amongst its exiles - in slim gestetnered (now there's a word from the seventies) volumes filled with revolutionary tracts. Such things are a very very narrow departure from freaky religious paintings of martyrs - St. Sebastian with the arrows, that virgin with her tits on a plate, and that bloody guru of torture - Jesus . Such images are compelling and in drawing the fascinated stare - are meant to inspire a flurry of totally inarticulable feelings: fascination, curiosity, horror, terror, even desire. (Looking at transgressive/forbidden stuff is always a little bit sexy). This weird mixture of emotions - and I'm thinking of the blood rushing through me as a kid especially - are framed by and channeled through the instructive text which almost always accompanies such images. Catholic matyrs - got viewed in a church with the background of some ranting priest. "Hell and fire awaits you if you don't repent! Others have suffered so you can be free!" et cetera. My kneecaps still haven't recovered from splinters and chillblains from morning mass at subzero temperatures so I never really bought the whole freedom bit.......... but seriously politically aware and passionate - horrible images of torture and brutality incite my righteous rage - and fuel our continued weary battles against the behemoth of sanctioned state shit that is err....... the world? , well the news anyway.

I don't often receive the news. I threw out the telly a few years ago, and only sporadicaly listen to the radio. As much as I love the feel of newsprint on my fingers as my bleary eyes take in the daily fodder - I have tried to eschew the Herald - largely because it is filled with mindnumbing soul destroying toxic garbage. I read daily the headlines of a number of international papers when I check my email and supplement this by questions to my avidly news consuming mother once a week. Mum is a current affairs junkie (Mercifully only ABC, SBS and Fairfax) but still has trouble remembering the major news stories of the week. She cites early alzheimers - but I reckon its overload. Stupidity is contagious - so I try to limit my own contact........

Anyway this is a long winded way of saying that it was only recently that I copped a newspaper image of the scary human images from Abu Ghraib. (in January this year) Yes I knew of the torture (the net, word of mouth), yes I'd seen some of the images (largely in street and 'political' art/interventions), but this was the first time -I'd been confronted wiht the banality of a 4cm square photo on newsprint - surrounded by text and ads for flat screen TV's. Golly. Where was the instructive uplifting sermon? The picture was used to indicate an article on Private England and scary whatsiface- the posing torturers who'd been charged, trialled and convicted for their offences. The picture showed the two of them grinning luridly over the carrion mass of their victims, and I enjoyed gloating into the ..... damn - why dont' they have dots on newsprint images anymore?

Anyway I took my gloating onto the net and did a google search - so I could enjoy gloating into the pixels - trying to locate the minute crevices where pure evil could be located. In his sunglasses? In her haircut? In their green gloved thumbs giving the "Going Great!" salute? In their desert grey camouflage pants? In their boots? In the crevices of their teeth? their nostrils? I spent half a day - downloading all the abu-ghraib images I could, zooming in close and peering intently at these ghouls of grinning torturers. Evil has a face! and it smiles for the camera! How convenient for me! I went further and did B&W prints of some of the images - and blew them up on the photocopier. Do I seem insane? I took the photocopied images into my studio and then gridded up canvases - to paint copies of the photocopies - all in my most hated colours of beige, teal, grey. Because I am a painter - I can admit to such freaky indulgence. a philosopher would have more difficulty. Visual artists by deinifition are mean to immerse ourselves in visual phenomena and if something we look at provokes a strong reaction then all the more reason to keep looking at it. The subdued colour range of the paintings give them a tasteful aspect - which when juxtaposed with some suitably ironic advertising slogans of deathtech inc. (General Electric: Imagination at Work) provided an attractive and compelling cultural product. I know this coz one got sold in a gallery early this year.

Feeling Queazy? Evil is Banal isn't it? Even my lucid rage can be subsumed into a cultural production industry, the products of my horror can be commodified and sold. Rest assured - I didn't spend the sales money on lollies - it all went to charity - something worthy - and the buyer could feel assured at their aquisition of an image which would display their own care, concern and cutlural connossiership. You gotta love capitalism - all affective paths smoothed by continuous ooze of lucre - we can all buy, sell, be bought. If it weren't for the big K - those images wouldn't have been taken with a handy digicam, or posted in an ad-bannered email message back home to the family PC, or taken out and blasted across Newsweek to boost its sales, or stuck on the edition of the herald which I then bought - and I wouldn't have seen them. Just to implicate myself further in the murky waters of beige - if a prominent commerical gallery ahdnn't been doing a charity show of political plaquards - thus giving me a chance to stick my fairly unknwon work on its walls - then my image wouldn't have been resolved so quickly - or even if it had - it would be sitting in my studio, gathering dust with the other paintings.

As for the other paintings - they are still in my studio, as unfinished acrylic sketches on canvas. I haven't brought myself to finish them - althought I've got some shows coming up and need more work. But they are ....... erky - and I wonder what type of freak would want to buy this sort of image? some one out to assuage their own feelings of guilt? someone who likes the beige and thinks it will match their couch? I had a plan of showing them with some trasnciptions of Rubens "Massacre of the Innocents" and Goya's etchings on war - but then the Rubens trasciription took over my life and my studio and is now this behemoth resembling a kind of Peter Booth scene in Flouro Pink. It kind of drowns out anything near it. Oh God.


I have just had a week with the flu.
Its a great moment to dwell on all things gross like the snot that pulled form my nose that made me feel like Arlene's Board Game "Gooey Loui". A veritbale snake of blu-tack right on George Street too. Yum Yum

Now that you're feeling queasy non francophones can brace yourselves for the translated version of that long poem in frenhc that I posted a few weeks ago. Its by Lautreamont aka Isador Ducasse aka the umbrella dude from the surrealists (they got the umbrella sewing machine line from him).
Really, I haven't read anything weider than that poem. - so check out this bit below.

I am filthy
Fleas gnaw at me.
When pigs see me, they vomit.
The scabs and scars of leprosy scale my skin, covered in a yellowing pus.
I know not the water of rivers or the dew of clouds
On my neck, an enormous fungal growth spreads its stalky clusters like mushrooms in compost,
Resting on a makeshift seat, I haven't moved in four centuries.
My feet have taken root in the ground and form a sort of living vegetaion running up to my stocmach.
Composed of ignoble parasites this growth is not quite vegetable, but is no longer flesh.
And yet my heart beats.
But how wold it beat if not for the bare nourishment of the pestilential fumes and exhalations of my cadaver? (I can no longer call it a body)
Under my left armpit a family of toads has taken up residence.
Each time one of them moves it tickles me.
Take care one of them doesn't escape.
They can use their mouth to scratch at the inside of your ear and enter your brain.
Under my right armpit a chameleon, in perpetual chase of the toads, awaits, so as not to die of hunger. Everyone needs to live.
When they tire of their games with each other these creatures can find nothing better than to annoy me and suck the delicate grease which covers my scabs. I'm getting used to it.
An evil snake has devoured my penis and occupies its place.
This infamous creature has made me a eunuch.
Oh! If only I could have defended myself with my paralysed arms!
But I rather fear they have turned into logs.
It is evident that blood no longer comes to show its redness in these parts.
Two little hedgehogs refusing to grow have taken the inside of my testicles
And thrown them to a dog, which didn't refuse.
They have lodged themselves within the carefully washed skin of my scrotum.
My anus has been intercepted by a crab.
Encouraged by my inertia it guards the entrance with its pincers and causes me quite a bit of pain!
Two man of war jelly fish, traversing the seas, were drawn by a hope that was not in vain.
They regarded attentively the two fleshy parts which form the human posterior and then firmly attached themselves to the convex orbs.
form is now being crushed by the constant pressure of suction and the two morsels of flesh have almost entirely dissappeared.
Meanwhile two monsters have emerged from the region of viscosity that is equalled in colour, fomr and ferocity.
Don't speak of my spine since it is a double edged sword.
You want to know how it found itself verticaly implanted in my kidneys?
Myself I don't recall clearly.............

bon nuit!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Queer Eyes

Its my brothers birthday today.

I'd hoped to write somehting deep and prfound to mark the occasion. But I've had the flue. I've pulled an astonishing amount of snot out of my head in the past week. I'd hoped not to move this weekend but yesterday dragged my sorry arse and snotty nose out of bed to go into the city. I'd booked a ticket ages ago to go hear Judith Butler at Angel Place. So in the middle of Sydney - around the corner from the grey corporate blandness of martin place - I walked into an oasis of dykedom. Wow! bookish lesbians everywhere! plus those nice slender bespectacled men one sees at Gleebooks, or in gender studies seminars. Eye candy, eye candy gaydar felt happy as I chatted with various people from now, from before, from later on.....

It is important to make such facile observations - coz Judith Butler is famous for describing sexual categories in terms of iterability (no not iritability - but what could be culturally 'read'), and perfomrativity. Butler's theories threw out the essentialist leanings of idenity politics and ascribed queerness to a function of Gaydars. (How to pass, how not to pass etc.). I'm being atrociously facile - because I'm trying to situate her theories in the context of a social history which I'm going to try to succinctly outline below.

About 15 years ago when I had just started uni, lesbians were a distinct subset on the fringes of the women's colective. There were a few glorious tall types like Catriona McKenzie who sailed above everyones as a supremely cool editor of Tharunka. She didn't need any coming out groups, women's collectives and refused any positions of token lesbian. Then there were the other official lesbians, clad in lavender headscarves, or lots of denim, or like one chick in "women and philosophy" clad in black jeans,white sandshoes, femininst t-shirts and thick glasses, and shyly peculating if or lecturer was gay or not. the women's collective had sepcial books for members who htought they might be coming out. Like Radclyffe Hall's "the well of loneliness". Lesbians were a subset of feminism, another minority, who needed dental dams. No wonder I was straight.

Then suddenly in the mid nineties something exciting happened. women's collectives were boosted by the famous third wave of feminism, and people started talking about "Queer". Queer involved Dykes, Poofs and Trannys. Queers used slang to neame themselves. Queers wore better clothes than most student activists (I *still* see girls with long hair, loose t-shirts and long indian skirts coming out of the SRC), listened to better music and had a lot more fun. It seemed that queer came out of or merged with the rave scene. this was different to big post rat parties which were largely a lycra gayboy phenomenon (everyone looked like a flouro condom full of wallnuts). People wore more vintage clothes, flares, ties, tie dyed underwear, tie died hair, crazy bodiy peircings and lots of fluff. Boys wore dresses, and dykes wore lipstick. Oh blush and twitter my twat was on fire! I was a straight settled science student and a serious long haired loose lavender t-shirted, indian skirted capital f feminist so I saw most of this from the sidelines. Damn waste I reckon but, like many of the 'straight' womens' collective members -I did eventually cut my hair and come out of the closet - confused and nervous as a debutant around so many fishnets and fake fur coats.

So Butler's seminal (love that word) writings on performativity, passing and postsubjective philosophy -published in the early 1990's, became idenitified with a zeitgeist where queerness, campness, performing, play, ambiguity and general raunchiness was hip as hell. Her own provocations, within the rubrics of (post) femininst philosophy and queer theory, have largely obscured some of the more subtle and politically imperative work she has done on subjectivity, race and imperialism. I knew of Butler, knew the key words, but only really read her closely when writing my honours these 2 years ago. There's a line, from the intro of Bodies that Matter, whihc I've added to my Walter Benjamin Aphorisms as a kind of daily meditation, often repeated to myself. "the task will be to consider this threat and disruption not as a permanent contestation of social norms condemned to the pathos of perpetual fialure, but rather as a critical resource in the struggle to re articulate the very terms of symbolic legitimacy and intellgibility"

OK it probably comes across as a bit convoluted and maybe the cut and paste has made her sound like Vladimir Illyich - (wot is to be done? the task must be!). Sorry Judith, sorry everyone else. What I love in this quote is her sincerity, and the imperative tone to reclaiming what is excluded, derided, ridiculed as socially abject as a source of power. This is very derridean (there is power in the margins, power in the frame, power in the hands of the working man..... ershitt that didn't quite work did it?) And really it is about much more than claiming some sort of transgressive power to trashy queens and sad lesbian eunuchs, but of emphasising the potency of those who are excluded by dominant social discourses- and showing that dominant social disocurses are constructed in order to contain and exclude those beings it describes as abject. I like this because of an inherent democracy at its heart. It opens its arms to dags, fashion failures, social losers and other dregs of humanity amongst which i so often count myself (Many years in dole queues - kinda keeps a person humble and grumpy). I'll try to talk more about this later.

According to pop-academic folklore one of Butler's most provocative statements was her refusal to identify as a lesbian, lesbian theorist. Apparently she insisted on retaining a stated idenity as 'fluid' even into such times where such a term implied sleazy freaks on exstacy trying to pull owmen into threeseomes with their girlfriends......... So I was intrigued to finally see her in the flesh. Would she be ubercool? glamourous? seductive and smooth as sandra bernhardt?, or as ernestm compelling and contained (and poorly coiffured) as Liz Grosz?

On Saturday, Butler sprited up the stairs to the podium, a slight figure clad in black. She struck me looking like on of the petite but dignified grey haired dykes I've seen at the Paris Lesbian Film Festivals, or occasionally in Sydney. Pants, Boots, some sort of top. Appropriately neutered for a philosopher, not femme nor butch, and with the requisite floppy but neat short grey hair. Not fashionable, but not out of fashion. It's wrong of me to pay so much attention to describing the clothes and phsyical appearance of a woman, instead of her words, but I've had access to the words and I was there largely to see how they melded with the physical presence of the writer. Also to my sheer delight (tragic drooling dyke), everything in her body language is iterably , panty wettingly sapphic. Sheer bliss! the leaning on the table, quizzical hand gestures, coy smirks, wry humour, occasional strides forwards and backwards. this was more salient in the questions and answers with the audience, but sustained throughout her paper. A physical presence that is slightly masculine, almost mimicking the classic charismatic professor stereotype, but retaining something that is profoundly not masculine, and yet not the fluttering femininity of gushes and giggles. Professor Butler has expended far more eloquence on this subject than I could ever hope to, so I guess she is acutely aware of that jene sais quoi of female presence. Latinos call a woman who is too female (not too feminine) "embra" but even this is perjorative and doesn't come near to describing what it is what we are when we are.......it.

I have worked on my own lesbotic iterability in the past ten years since I abandoned any committment to heterosexuality. Cutting my hair and buying a leather jacket was not enough. Anyone will tell you that beady eyed baby dykes aren't much of a turn on. There is something in the desperation implied by an imploring stare that doesn't seem to work for women. It does work for men, curiously enough. (Low cut tops and imploring stares, battered by fluttering eyelashes - believe me it worked for me and can work for you too). Fortunately my eyes are mostly shielded by glasses, so any askance glances are reined in - but I remember when I met Anna - it was how her eyes looked inwards, rather than implored me that really seduced me. And weirdly enough - about the time that I started liking dogs and my waist thickened I finally started to get "the look" from other dykes.

What happened? I wet myself with joy!

Ahem. What happened? Staring is an interesting thing. Sapphic iterability is largely conveyed through a language of glances, which bespeak interest, appeal, respect, attitude, desire, fear. gosh oh gosh, these words ain't enough at all. Its about holding your body - not like there's a pole up your arse either, but the butch dyke swagger is definitely cute as hell - if overtly tragic. In any case about the time I was able to presence myself as genuine sapphic product - I was also working about thirty hours a week as a life model. And I had long hair. No I wasn't femme, as such - and usually stalked the streets in french army pants, boots, beany and a security jacket. Plus on modelling days I was usually wearing my contact lenses. But I don't think it was the butch garb that did it. I think that spending 4 days a week naked, being paid to do yoga or to meditate while people stared at me for hours and hours - gave me the habit of having an internal sense of my physical presence, and also a comfort with meeting the gaze of others. My gaze back -in a life class is usually calm, curious but also calculated to be non threatening. (Oh shit - I betta go work on that chapter on the taboos surrounding the models gaze.....). I reckon I just took this habit into my clad realm of the street. So women, confronted by a calm steady gaze respond in different ways. Dykes either smile or do the microsecond flirty look away thing (Oh god I love it). SOme straight women meet my eyes, then blush and look away, others look back and smile. There's a whole lot more going on than sexual attraction/repulsion but other codes of psychological dominance, social identification, and heaps of other stuff. right now, my back and shoulders have just reminded me that I should stand up and stop typing. So I'll continue this later.

While gazing at Butler, I took notes, did a few cartoons and also recorded her thick noyyoik accent. She sounds like Carl Sagan on my recording. Oh Well. I'd borught a book to sign! (Undoing Gender) but felt too shy to go an apporach her. So I retired to cozy pub au coin to have a Latin Quarter moment with other postgrads......It was shortlived. Scurrying thorugh windtunnels to board a bus - a car blared past. A guy with a US flag bandanna stuck out is head and yelled out "THERE'S A PARTY IN HERE AND IT SMELLS LIKE SEMEN!!!!!" The skaters on stone steps of martin place ignored him, and I tried to hide my nausea.

Friday, June 03, 2005

The Vale of the Shallow

In case you ahdn't noticed, I have a bit off a problem wiht ivoluntary spoonerisms.

My hysterical self is convinced this is a sign of major neurophysiological decline but It's probably standard slobby hypochondria. I'm a crap typist. sorry

I alos reckon (check this for gratuitous self aggrandising sophism) that typing shoud be gestural - and typos give a pienc eof dry CRT text a kind of inflextive wuality. Readers can tell how passionate, rushed underslept or manic I am by the quantities of typos. Hell there's gotta be more than *this is impoortant* and THIS IS IMPORTANT styles of inflexive asciii (vintage reference eh?)

I reckon Artaud would have had lots atypos in his emails

I reckon proust - oh fuck -
silence while mind boggles........
still dunno.

I can READ my accent when I type in french. Je suis anglophone, je suis un plouc veritable, et parfois tres con. Je suis sale.

can't you? probably coz I don't use any of the french typologised accents.........

anwya back to the point. the vale of the shallow, the shade of the valley, the dale of the shalley of veth.
errr, trying to make lite of heavy shit.

today is the one year anniversary of Pred's death at 2am.

I've still got Stacy's text message from june 1st on my phone "Thx heaps! more stuff is fucking up but got ng tube in so he's feeling more positive" I hold onto it - coz it reminds me of the excruciating closeness of emotions around dying, mad desperate hope are mixed with despair. fuck, he died slowly painfully horribly and monstrously. Getting an ng tube in was about the highlight of his 34th year ........ should I write about this even?

Fuck I hate hospitals - and they are full of people dying or people visiting people dying - huge edifices of agony and hell. And they are either berrima greeen pastel or bloody beige.

Pred's blog described his death (and life) far better than I could.


And the indymedia site was a really lovely community space for so many eulogies and tributes. I fell in love wiht the net at that point.



so it seems a bit silly for me to try to give any sort of definitive post mortem on what his death meant.

Lots of people were really upset by it and lots of people really miss him still - he seeme dlike someone who was so increadibly alive that it made no sense that he died.

I don't think death makes any sense to anyone - at least not here in skippy land (post industrial white skinned ex-eurotrash like me).

I'm trying to see if I am able to form words about my own families grief. Mum and I had a teary phone call last night.

for those of you who don't know my borther collapsed in one of those "accidental suicides" that offer athsmatics an easy way out of the mortal shackles..........

(I nearly followed him tonight -when I unwittingly scoffed some almond laced cake on the graduation lawn and then realised I'd lost my ventolin.........decided that hanging out in the postgrad centre under air conditioning for a few hours would be the best thing)

for me - My brother Rod's death changed my life forever and completely. I have a photo of me taken on the day before I found out he'd died and I really feel like (appalling cliche) it is of a different person - the old mayhem, who vanished when Rod died.

I wonder if other siblings feel this intensely when they lose a brother or a sister. I'm still amazed by the depth of pain I felt and still feel. It's a deep visceral pain now, that throbs occasionally. I get tears in my eyes and a hollow stomach and horrible prickly feelings along my arms. My mum says that after her sister died she cried herself to sleep every single night - until the night I was born (ahhhhhhh!) when she got extreme sports post natal depression!

People don't really talk about death. I'm really into talking cures; I've done coming out workshops, CR workshops, lots and lots of self help workshops and I also had weekly therapy for 4 years - but I'm yet to find a space where death and grieving can be talked about so freely as - sexuality, (OK fair enough), illness, addiction or even childhood sexual abuse. I could toss off at this point about Baudrillard's ideas of Death being the great and only unexchangeable thing under contemporary capitalism. It is taboo because it cannot be exchanged - and so cannot be rationalised or even conceived. The process of describing something is invariably the first point at which it can be appropriated and modified into a unit of cultural or social exchange....... (can you imagine the next identity politics based on the grievers!!! the last untapped market for fashion! the black dollar could be bigger than the pink dollar!!!!). Death and grieving have been commodified certainly (hohoh remember Waughs the loved one - and think of the catholic church - its an entire religious emire built on the explicit fetishizing of death)

bud sad ai't sexy - well not yet anyway.

Speaking of cahtolicism, I have a terrible confession.

I am responsible for Pred's death.

Firslty lets get this straight. Bertrand Russle and Jean Paul Sartre got it wrong, John Donne got it right. God is a humourless vengeful arsehole who has made George Pell, pope arsehole and Peter Jensen in his own image. We are all fucked. Heaven is full of Christians, and the best we can hope for is eternal damnation so we can avoid all the smug arseholes in heaven. dante is preparing me for the inevitable. Sor are sydney summers.

the second factor is that Fuji had his 33rd birthday party in late november 2002. It was the first 33rd birthday party of my cohort of friends and in filipino tradition, poeple dress themselves up as a crucified christ at easter.

fuji picked a Jesus theme for his birthday.

I was going through a big virgin mary obsession - coz I reckon she is the patron saint of lesbian pregnancies and I love that colour of her veil in most churches. so I begged pred to dress up as jesus on the cross and I dressed up as the virgin mary. I'd just finished my thesis and anna was overseas and I wanted to get really drunk.

so I persuaded Pred to walk donw king street and mos tof Camden street wearing a crucifix and aloin cloth a while carrying a long neck of guinness. he loked great. The party was really fun.

I'm afraid god was not amused. Pred found his tumour a week later. the rest is history.

do I really believe this? I dunno.

Preds funeral service made me hate the catholic church with a really fierce passion. the cats bum kitch small minded patronising smugness was out in full force at oatley. It was so different to Pauls service which was open, warm, tender honest and funny. At pred's funeral I saw the church treating hist deaht as a shallow excuse to prolsetyse and claim his death as a victory for their rahter abhorent view of jesus. I wanted to scream! the funeral didn't even allow space for tears!

this brought back another painful part of my own experience of tykedom - whihc is the ban on crying. Ym mum dind't want me to cry at my brother's funeral. Most country poeple don't cry at funerals - you're meant to hold yourself still and dignified. We are allowed to laugh, this is the purpose of the wake. It is the sanctioned space to get drunk and make jokes about the deceased and laugh out all the screaming sobs that are bottled up inside. Being me - i insiste don the right to silently let tears stream donw my cheeks dring the mass - but smy school friends still said later I was doing the perfect jane austen act and it was painful to watch.

what is the perfect jane austen act? this is the point where I reveal that I have a different persona when I go to chez familia. People know I'm gay, so I'm not in the closet but. I wear diffeerent clothes, like skirts and pants (because jeans are for sluts) and usually one of those broad brimmed chemist shop hats, and a nice blouse, and maybe even a scarf. the perfect Jane Austen act involves serving cups of tea and being really polite and pleasant and having a high voice and no opinions and spending most of the time in the kitchen, washing up. Most of my family are scarey national party voters so I don't know how to talk to them and would prefer them to think that I'm such shy retiring type........... now pick your jaws up from the floor and continue reading.

there's all types of codes adhered to in the country, the dress is one. the lack of PDA (public dipslays of affection) is another. It took ages for anna to understand that at "home" we were NEVER to hold hands or kiss in public (for fear of having bullets shot through mums house later on) not having a car is pretty sus, but I get away with it. so being gay - means that everyone knows who I am and that I ahve a french female partner, but that we never act as a couple in public - boht of us act as pathetic nameless sexless servants - ie standard women. anywya - the priest at my brother's funeral was known in parlance as a former/closet celibate homosexual. he was really really lovely in the service - and despite the copper art decor of the Nambucca brinck veneer church - made me glad that the catholic church existed for one reason at least. I was also really glad to be able to go "home" and walk donw the street and bump inot people like my fmailies GP, or former classmates - who would know what I was going through and stop and give me a hug. As supportive as my friends were in sydney - the pace of sydney summer is hedonistic and allows little space for someone who is just ..... sad. Sad is an insult even! Most poeple cathc up at parties or spaces of celebration and "uppity" activity, everyone is realy busy - and so as supuportive as people want to be - ultimately it sint' easy - with someone who can't bear to go to parties, and is just as likely to aancel any arrangement like dinner, movies or a walk.

anyway - the nice part about sydney is that I never feel the need to "behave" or make up a host of respectable lies. the country also has this nasty side to the community concern. In relation to Rod, the questions in the country usually went "yeah, sad about roddy, how's ya Mum?" "How are You?" then "what did he really die of? was it an athsma attack or was he on drugs?". the subtextof this is - invovles a numberof unsaid questions, from the most obious "does he deserve my syumpathy or was he a scumbag junkie". this is not only a statement of prejudice - but also a test of alliances (Is he a member of my community?). the other aspect is directed at me "Are you going to tell me what I want to hear or are you going to say what I should hear? Drugs, depressions and sex all belong in the category of the unseen and unspoken. If I wish to identify myself as part of that community then I am obliged to retain this taboo and not mention drugs either, bt find some nice generalised euphemism. so that's what I do.

here is not that space so I can speak my truth. My brother never injected. He only smoked. the results of the toxicology report which we recieved at christmas found enormous amounts of alcohol and smaller but significant amounts of opiate derivatives in his system. We had no idea he was using anything, and I'd never known him to be that plastered on alchohol. It was an enormous shock. I still can't actually comprehend what happened, how an ambulance was called and didn't see that he'd collapsed, why he was alone, what time of day it was, etc. etc. I still can't comprehend why people die. when I saw his corpse - I refused to believ it was him, I couldn't believe it. I found it the most revoltingly abjec thting I'd ever seen. I guess a corpse is pure abjection - somehting derived from related to and yet profoundly, hideously other than a person. when after screaming, I studied the scars on his face wher eI'd scratched him as a feral toddler - I kind of understood - that his body was lying in front of me - and that he wasn't in it. But death? disappearance? Still don't compute. And so where is a person and what is a person. I kept some of his clothes - whihc I wear sometimes. I kept a sheet unwashed coz it has his smell on it - still after 5 years when he doens't exist! and i see his features in my hands, head and face, legs - and have decided not to change my surname..........

But I still grieve, and will probably continue to grieve for the rest of my life. Intellectually, philosophically, spiritally even I can justify this - it makes snese that life is formed out of death, that the immanence of death is what impells us - me to act and be in the world, but affectively - it just feels like pain and confusion. the nice thing, is that Rod's death taught me that I did love him, and that this sort of terrible overwhelmed state is what love actually is. I was pretty irritated by my brother for most of his life, so it has been a relief to realise that I did and do love him. this probably sounds pretty banal and it is actually. there ain't any cutting social commentary or intellectual critique here - largely because there isn't much space where this ever gets discusssed. also the witty intellectual engagement depends on a certain amount of affective distancing (at least in anglo traditions) but I wonder how many people reading this, how many epople who I know as firends, colleagues, students, activists, artists or whatever have been through grief? I know the sexual orientation and political affiliations of most peope I know - but not this part...... it's kind of interesting.