Why city queers should go country
- Published: 16 January 2010
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City queers leave the metropolis for 09/10 holiday season, but should take home more than mosquito bites and fading hickeys – regional queers are streaks ahead when it comes to non-pretentious political analysis of our homophobic governments, writes Elena Jeffreys.
Gay main streets in big cities promote cloned ideals and pretentious homogenized lifestyles; work hard, play harder, dance to Kylie and don’t question the gaystream. Expensive, unattainable, and highly racialised - being a person of colour is ok as long as you are considered sexy and desirable – muscles are in and politics are mediocre.
Pretentious gay cultures are homogonised and served up in big western cities across the globe: London, New York, Madrid, Amsterdam, and Sydney.
However, look closely and you’ll find examples of alternaqueers redefining what it means to be GLB(SGD)QI/whore. This southern summer in regional New South Wales, annual holiday gatherings are a reminder to all city-dwellers that there is a big wide world of experiences, politics and radicalism in the regions and back-waters. The High and Dry festival, Peats Ridge, Tropical Fruits and more are take advantage of the weather and the desperation of city dwellers who want to get dirty during the summer break.
Tropical Fruits is an annual queer summer festival in Lismore, northern New South Wales, one of the many indispensable destinations for Australian east coast GLB(SGD)QI/whore deviants who have been working hard in the rat race every other week of the year and seek complete immersion into a holiday frenzy after the pressures of big-city living.
In 2009, in the weeks between Bah-Humbug and Where-Did-The-Year-Go, Lismore boasted an (inaugural) film festival, art exhibition, new year’s party, pool party and recovery party. Perhaps up to 9,000 made the trek and were not disappointed – smiles, sunburn, loud sex in tents and bare breasts in public spaces a testament to the festival’s success.
Spin-off camps, events, parties and road trips surround regional areas of any big festival. One that has grown in notoriety is its three-year life span spin-off from Tropical Fruits is Camp Camp, on a farming property overlooking the lights of Lismore, and just outside of Dunoon. The camp and farm house activities with a capacity of about 50 campers is a stark change of pace from city life; and a much needed foil to the noise of the Tropical Fruits parties.
The Queer Fruits Film Festival is also part of Tropical Fruits. And it was here that things got interesting at the end of 2009.
Renowned drag queen Vanessa Wagner opened the film festival by pushing mediocre memories of big-city queer corporate gay etiquette out one ear while stuffing a sizable reality check about GLB(SGD)QI/whore politics into the other.
“Pretty disgraceful that [Environment Minister] Penny Wong thinks that if we fart in the Vegemite jar and put it in the back of the cupboard everything will be alright with global warming. Time to sequester our politicians I say,” said Vanessa.
What was this? A queer event promoting environmentalism!? Anti-Labor Party statements by drag queens? The only time in the past five years I have heard the gaystream in Sydney speak about the Labor Party on microphones has been to give them an undeservingly good rimming… (‘good’ being the operative word).
The brain enema that was Vanessa’s manifesto for the evening was a reminder that sell-out elites of our gaystream world are self-appointed shallow personalities wearing their conservative closeness with homophobic governments on their sleeves – and in the words of Jennifer Connelly in The Labyrinth, to the cod-pieced and preened David Bowie – “You have no power over me.”
The gaystream can tell us what to wear, think, read and do, but motivated queers are critical and are making other realities and gay scenes outside the big cities. If regional queers can call government leaders homophobic and religiously-influenced meglamaniacs doing nothing good for our planet, hell, anyone can!
In early January 2010, as if by magic, the last vestiges of face paint, glitter and public displays of nudity disappear as city-dwelling GLBSGQTI/whores head back to urban environs and expensive bohemian suburbs of the pink and lavender belts, returning to nose-on-the-grindstone middle-class existences.
Was is it just about living out a countryside dream for a few weeks? The rolling hills, waterfalls, riot grrl music, vintage clothing, clean air, rain drops, native animals, hippies wearing very little, big afternoon naps and bigger vegan meals… all serve as reminders from small-town queers to the rest of us that big-end-of-town pretention is a façade that can be dropped and overcome – and that regional rhetoric is worth listening to.
Elena Jeffreys is a 35 year old Italian-Australian background queer dyke whore. Elena produces the Scarlet Alliance website, writing extensively about sex worker rights in Australia, Asia and the Pacific. She has been guest editor for LOTL, writes for Cherrie magazine, is a spokesperson for Scarlet Alliance, the Australian Sex Workers Association and has run for parliament and local council with the Australian Greens. Also published regularly by Intersections and the Journal of Australian Studies, Elena’s interests include sex worker migration and trafficking, queer politics, the HIV/AIDS sector, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights and feminism.