On Ian Thorpe and the “who cares” of coming out

My Dad says he didn’t really date much in his teens. He was shy around girls, so he kept himself busy by spending his nights working in bars, his evenings and weekends playing rugby union and his days sleeping — or occasionally making an appearance at school/uni. He got together with his first serious girlfriend — my mum — when he was 20.

Dad’s best mate was a tall, good looking guy named Graham. They met at uni and soon they were working together as silver service waiters, serving the shonky businessmen and crooked cops who dined in such establishments in pre-Fitzgerald Inquiry Brisbane.

I grew up hearing stories from my parents about all the good times they had with Graham. That camping trip on Moreton Island when Mum calmly killed a snake with a shovel after dad and Graham ran away, squealing. Wild parties in their Paddington share house. Dad and Graham graduating from uni during a recession and spending the day swimming in the pool and watching the Don Lane show at my mum’s mother’s Fig Tree Pocket house, because they couldn’t get jobs.

Graham was gay, or “camp”, as my Dad puts it, and very much in the closet. Both of my parents had openly gay friends (as much as anyone was open about being gay in Brisbane in the late 70s/early 80s), and in the way that some straight people can be, were completely mystified as to why Graham kept trying to pick up girls he clearly wasn’t sexually interested in. THEY could see that Graham was gay, they told themselves, so why wouldn’t HE just admit it and move on?

Mum and Dad announced their engagement after four years of dating. Graham cut off all contact with them soon afterwards — ignoring their calls and refusing to answer the door when they’d stop by his house. They were devastated, and beat themselves up about the end of the friendship. What had they done to drive him away?

25 years after the fact, Mum says it’s clear what happened.

“It wasn’t a big deal to us if he was gay, but it was a big deal to him. We should’ve seen that and been kinder, rather than thinking that if we didn’t care, then he shouldn’t care either.”

Mum told me this story when I was in high school, and I ignored the advice she was trying to give me, as all petulant teens do. Life was different now to when my parents were young, I told myself. I mean, this was the early 2000s —“Queer Eye For The Straight Guy” was a top-rating TV show!

A few years later, when I was 18, I was walking home from a party with my housemate Rob when he tearily told me he was gay.

“Rob, I always thought you were gay,” I said cheerfully.

“I mean, we became friends in Grade 9 because we were the only people we knew who loved Tori Amos! Straight dudes don’t like Tori Amos. Plus you were so much fun to go to the formal with because you were so well-dressed and you weren’t trying to hit on me.”

I thought this observation would cheer him up, but much like my parents with Graham 25 years earlier, I’d completely negated Rob’s feelings by steamrollering over them with examples of how smart and perceptive I thought I was. He was embarrassed and livid, and I walked the rest of the way home alone after he stormed off ahead of me.

For years people have been speculating about Ian Thorpe’s sexuality, and now he’s publicly confirmed that yes, he is gay. It’s tempting to fire off witty bon mots like “Thorpey’s gay — in other news water is wet and the Pope’s Catholic”, or try to give the impression you’re above celebrity gossip by saying things like “who even cares if he’s gay”.

The fact is that people do care, and most importantly, he cares. In a culture where sexuality is simultaneously hi-jacked by people trying to sell you things and hidden under layers of taboos, it does take courage for someone to be public and authentic about who they are — no matter what that may mean.

May in photos.

April in photos:

Why I’m not coming to the MCA Zine Fair after all

I made the wrong call.

A few months ago, I decided to table at the MCA Zine Fair, rather than the Other Worlds Zine Fair, which good friends of mine organised in protest against the MCA one due to the MCA’s links with Transfield, which operates the immigration detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island.

I did this for a number of reasons — partially because Transfield’s links with the MCA are tangential rather than overt — but mostly because I believed the MCA Zine Fair gave my zine a bigger platform to reach more people This may be true, but it’s a shitty reason. I stuck by my decision, even after MCA staff tried to screw me around by sneakily raising the entry fee. This evening I realised I hadn’t heard from the staff about venue access or tabling maps despite paying my (inflated) entry fee on time. It turns out they’d overlooked this and there is therefore no official space for me at this year’s MCA Zine Fair on Sunday.

I could still go to Sydney, but I’m already fragile and sleep deprived from a huge week. Getting four hours sleep and catching a red eye flight is not so appealing when the main reason I was even going to Sydney is no longer an option. Instead, I’m going to stay in Melbourne, sit in a corner and think about what I’ve done.

My big fat ego got in the way of what zines are about. They’re about standing up against cruelty and de-humanization carried out by governments, corporations and bureaucracies. They’re not about “growing a fanbase” or “winning an audience”. I fucked up.

So, now, two things:

1. Please please PLEASE see my friends at the Other Worlds Zine Fair this Sunday. They – unlike this stupid idiot right here – are doing this zine thing for the right reasons and wouldn’t forget a stallholder.

2. I’m putting the ten Collected Works box sets up on my online store. All the proceeds (minus paypal fees and postage) will go straight to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC). It’s the least I can do.

Zine readers and fellow zine makers — forgive me for being an egotistical fuckwit. There’s one of them in all of us.

Shame-faced apologies,

Sophie.

Tip for young players.

I’ve come into contact with a lot of new/baby journalists this week in the form of interns and fresh grads.

I’m hardly a veteran myself, but If I had one piece of advice, I’d tell them to quit being apologetic in interviews. Just ask the question, listen to the answer and then ask an appropriate follow-up question based on said answer. Don’t preface it with “sorry to bother you” or a nervous giggle (the female intern/grads are the worst for this). Go in for the kill. You might feel like you have no fucking idea what you’re doing, but here’s the thing: nobody really does. Fake it til you make it etc etc. I’m glad I had lots of mentors/producers/news directors in my jobs as well as the teaching staff at my uni to get me keeping good habits early on.

Anyway, there’s my blunt inspiration for the week. My friend Sarah Jansen turned into a suitably hideous motivational/inspirational graphic for you to share on your social media profiles.

sunsetquote

March in photos.

 

February in photos.

Photos taken using an iPhone 5s and the VSCOcam app. I’m a little bit in love with it – you can follow my VSCO profile here.

January in photos.

A mix of photos taken with an Ilford XP2 disposable camera and an iPhone5S processed by the VSCOCam app.