GREETINGS FROM THE NEWCASTLE SOLUTION

img-newcastle25I grew up in Newy. And to be frank, I hated the fucking place. I mean, what’s not to love about half a million parochial, piss-head bogans living by the sea, right? Answer: lots. The minute I finished high school, I packed my bags, looked out to that harbour-side city skyline – one so perfectly defined by a tacky observation tower in the shape of a giant cock – sighed with relief, and uttered words I don’t recall exactly, but that went something along the lines of “Rot in hell, you bunch of half-wit, inbred fucks.”

“You’ll be back,” my mother would roll her eyes – quite offended, I suppose, by the implication that she was one such half-wit inbred fuck.

And you know what? She was right. But before that, I would end up in Sydney – kind of like my Emerald City (in that Fag Trapped In Kansas kind of a way) – finding solace in the nightclubs of the inner city districts where the piss-head bogans could no longer hurt us, and where all the people who for whatever reason had not belonged, finally did. It was a kind of love – the love we had been missing, and which any human instinctively searches for. And I will remember sitting on the pavement of William St, feeling that belonging as the sky began to lighten with the coming dawn, til the day I die.

Do I still go out and dance til the sun comes up? Very rarely. Now, I’m a functioning corporate wanker who wakes at dawn, and who, just last week, decided he might start jogging in the soft morning light that once signified his bedtime. But I will never renounce those years I spent in the nightlife of Sydney; and whatever parts of it I may cringe at (as anyone does, remembering the obliviousness of their youth), I would never deny any young, oblivious misfit their right to belong in those darkened spaces. I am thankful I experienced such a freedom. And, this week, those like myself are left to feel thankful we had the freedom to experience it in the first place.

There is a major difference, however, between myself and the thousands of club kids (whether youngin’s in their prime, or oldies acting on what are essentially now memories) who are angrily posting away on facebook. My personal experience of the new laws being imposed – not only upon the thousands of people who value the nightlife, but the hundreds of workers of the industry it essentially is – extends to an experience I know about firsthand, because I’m experiencing it today. Only a few weeks ago, I moved back to Newcastle. I live in the very epicenter of the district reshaped by The Newcastle Solution. And I like it.

I was still the young club kid when I first returned for a reunion stint with what, at the time, was really still the Steel City (now it’s the Coal and Wheat City – which just doesn’t really have the same ring to it), between 2002 and 2007. The Newcastle club scene was small in comparison to the theme-park of clubland that Sydney has always been; but it certainly existed, and I quickly became a fixture of it – both on the dancefloor and on the decks. I returned to study at the university here, and the friends I made on the few decent local dancefloors (along with the money I made playing records to them – considerably more than austudy) defined my experience of the place as a mid to late 20-something. Today, of course, many of those nightclubs are gone (like the infamous Mercury Hotel) – or at least are shadows of their former selves (like the fading Brewery), or have been forced to transform back into the classic pubs they previously were (such as The Clarendon). There are casualties of lockout laws, there’s no getting around it. It’s no coincidence that the only club I played at outside the Solution Zone is still going strong.

But the violence and abuse I encountered in and around these clubs was so pervasive, in the end I simply normalised it and learned to navigate it for my own safety. To play my 3am to 5am set at the Mercury (a gig that legally couldn’t exist, today), I would spend a good $30 of my fee catching cabs to and from the venue; because getting to the top end of town, alone, at those hours, was just too dangerous. I’d been pushed, and shoved, and yelled at, and saved by a variety of sliding doors, too many times not to know the odds. It was not a paranoid fear conjured by media and opportunistic politicians. It was a reality – one that, if anything, felt ignored – even condoned – by the good ol’ patriarchal Novacastrian culture. And it was sadly accepted by the decent people, like those I knew and danced beside, who didn’t seem to think it was out of the ordinary – I suppose because if you’d lived your life in Newy, it wasn’t. It was all around us. And it happened, to various degrees, to nearly all of us.

One night, even within the fifteen minute window waiting for my cab home, I was grabbed by the throat by a drunk piss-head – his grip so hard, I would wake bruised by it. Thankfully, he was so drunk, that grip never went any further; a second later, he was distracted, let me go, and moved on – probably til he grabbed some poor bastard who wasn’t so lucky.

There were countless other near misses for me – I could randomly pick any one of dozens. Though I often laugh, all these years later, about the night at The Brewery when, half way through my DJ set, I was approached by a bogan in a Newcastle Knights jersey who somewhat aggressively asked “What’s this shit? Haven’t you got anything with words in it?”, at the time, it wasn’t the slightest bit funny. It was particularly unfunny, once he’d held up his empty glass, and threatened to smash it and stab me in the face with it, if I didn’t play something more to his taste.

He didn’t – I was the DJ, and I had him thrown out. But again, I had been lucky, and I knew far too many weren’t. I personally knew of one “King Hit” (now recast as the “Coward Punch”) that resulted in death, and of countless hospitalisations for all sorts of rather severe assault injuries. And I’d witnessed countless strangers carried out of bars, covered in blood. The Newcastle nightlife was not like Sydney’s. It felt nothing like freedom.

420x576-cAnd it’s important to remember that none of it was new. Not only was Newcastle a violent place in the years when I grew up here (and so too, the years before that) – it was much, much worse. None of what I experienced as a 20-something Newy DJ dude comes anywhere near its horrific history of testosterone and alcohol that stretches back to its origins – clubs like the brutal Jolly Roger, and of course the infamous Star Hotel (so famous for its classic ‘Strayan violence, Cold Chisel wrote a beloved national rock anthem about it). The Star Hotel, we should apply logic and recall, was a 4000-strong drunken riot that erupted in the Newcastle nightlife because the patrons were told the pub had finally been closed and they were to go home. So, you know, perspective and whatnot.

In this way, the contemplation of the Newcastle Solution, and now the potential Sydney Solution, presents a difficult confound, because one man’s Draconian Police State is another man’s Enlightenment. Did we here in Newy really exist, all those years ago, in a culture where not only did the Star Hotel riot happen, but in which it became strangely revered, in a better state of freedom which we have had taken from us by today’s oppressors? Or have we become a better society which no longer tolerates the oppression of male violence to the same extent? Where do we draw the line on the line Newcastle drew a few years ago?

I confess I can’t quite yet decide on the answer. But I do know that by the time I finally left Newcastle and returned to Sydney at the end of 2007, I’d by then stopped DJ’ing and clubbing in the city, and lived with my partner in an apartment across the road from the volatile Mercury Hotel area; and that on weekends, we’d make sure we had bought our cigarettes by nightfall, to avoid walking three blocks to the convenience store, once the Newy Boys had come out. I would hear packs of them, outside my window, grunting and yelling, trying to rip street signs out of the ground (hear those alphas ROAR!), and think; “My God, these people shouldn’t be allowed out”.

And I know that five weeks ago, I returned, much older, to live in an apartment not too far from that place, to find that even though they can’t technically be stopped from going out, they have now been robbed of the places they would go out to. As a result, the city is unrecognisable. I love it. The first weekend I was here, I ran out of cigarettes, and instinctively thought, “Well, I shouldn’t go out now and buy them – it’s midnight. I could be bashed.” But after a good hour of deliberation, my addiction got the better of me, and out I went – cautiously and, to be honest, slightly afraid – to walk two blocks to the 7/11 at the start of Newcastle Mall (a place we wouldn’t dare walk into alone at night, years ago). And when I arrived there, I found the darnest thing… nobody. The mall was empty. On the opposite corner, where once the abhorrent club, Frostbites, would entertain a bunch of horrible young men intimidating each other as they tried to fuck horrible young women, I found instead a handful of skinny late-teen twinks. Frostbites was now a gay bar called Unity. Years ago, at the local gay bar that existed in the red-light district just out of the city precinct, patrons would line up at the door upon leaving, and be escorted to their cars by security (poofter bashing in the dim-lit streets around the bar was a local “sport” for drunken Newy lads on a night out). And here I was, in 2014. I stood there, with my mouth open, in the middle of the fucking mall, comprehending what had happened. And a few seconds later, I smiled. I mean, look at those skinny little twinks! In Newcastle. On a weekend. At midnight. At the fucking mall.

They’re free. And the Newcastle Solution has given them that freedom.

But it’s not just the twinks at Unity. It’s basically anyone other than the young white male fuckwits these places become, through a kind of social terrorism, the territory of. Women are also more free. The problem with the current debate centered around Bazza’s adaptation of the laws is that they play into a ludicrously simplistic media narrative (turned public paranoia) around single punch assaults; but these alcohol hot spots are male dominated areas and, as usual, we focus on male-to-male violence (poor innocent budding lads’ lives stolen by deadbeat thug lads, etc) at the expense of noting that women are also their victims. It is no coincidence that gender splits are always vastly disproportionate in this kind of nightlife – only an idiot would suggest otherwise of Kings Cross, and it was the same here in Newcastle. Many women stay away for a very good reason. And I’ve found it odd, over the past couple of weeks, to see women walking around Newcastle at night, by themselves. A female friend of mine who also grew up here recently visited me, and we walked past the local Civic Park where, in her teen years, two of her classmates were raped. Understandably, this place triggers all sorts of things – but this summer, she looked at what is now a place disconnected to the things that past triggers. Because it is finally Newcastle’s past, too. If they were teenagers now, there’s a good chance their lives would not have been destroyed in the way they were – Civic Park is yet another place you once wouldn’t have dared walk into, that is now pretty harmless.

Older demographics are also out and about – the city no longer a playground for the brutal brand of young and “virile”. Countless upmarket wine bars with midnight licenses have sprung up, catering to their needs. They don’t mind the closing times – they don’t turn into pumpkins, needless to say. And there’s a range of new bars filled with young people who aren’t complete jerks, because they can go out without worrying about being attacked by young people who are.

But it’s also more than just the pubs and clubs. Restaurants where patrons don’t have to fear dodging drunks on their way out to the car have now flourished. The once doomed cinema, originally opposite what was one of the city’s most violent bars, has changed hands and managed to survive. The bar has closed. Patrons happily exit late night movie sessions, no longer wondering if they will be assaulted.

Some of the other bars belonging to the scary world of Old Newcastle are on their last legs, but trying desperately to shake their baggage to survive – forced to find new identities that exist outside of violent piss-fests. And sure, only some will succeed. The Crown & Anchor’s transition to gay club has extended its life; but the infamous Brewery, once the most successful nightspot in town, is finding transformation more difficult, and is now thought to be near its end.

But even if these struggling bars don’t make it with their current reincarnations and owners, in the end, they will be reborn – if not as pubs, then as something else. For every business’ death in Newcastle, several seeds spring to life. Add to this, the revival of real estate, as the area becomes attractive to a market who once wouldn’t weather it like I used to do – which has then led to more local businesses catering to the changing and increasing area demographics. It’s not just the same place minus late night pubs and clubs. It transformed everything – the psychological and the physical transformation symbiotic. There is an optimism in the air. You can feel it. It’s nice. It’s amazing what freedom did to Newcastle.

And if you can’t come here and see it for yourself – or you never experienced what it was like beforehand to appreciate how profound the change has been, then see it instead in the statistics. Since introducing The Newcastle Solution, the number of licensed venues in the area has risen 25%. Best of all, drunken assaults have dropped over 30%. And in a city with the levels of violence Newcastle has always suffered from, that translates to literally hundreds of innocent people being spared violence perpetrated against them. But sure, the 30 odd club kids who used to dance til dawn no longer can do so.

That’s not to say I am blind to the socio-philosophical dilemmas in this kind of “solution”, and not to say that I am using my personal experience of the transformation of Newcastle to trumpet the proposed Sydney Solution. Far from it. I would, however, say that there are stark differences to be sighted between the two areas, and likewise some similarities – and both should be seriously considered, if one is to truly grasp what is wonderful, or what is horrible, or perhaps some strange mix of both. Much, much more is to be sacrificed in Sydney – including any remains of the kind of world I found my freedom in there, as a 21 year old. And to compare the two places in terms of their geo-cultural complexities (or, in the case of Newcastle, a relatively simplistic mono-cultural area confined to a compartmentalised peninsula) is ludicrous. The public want Bazza to “do the same thing to Sydney”, but it won’t have the same results – because, hello, Sydney is not the same place. Perhaps the NSW media would like to report more on Melbourne which, in the same week, dumped its similar, recently introduced laws, as a result of increased violence during the lockout period?

Yet perhaps the difference between the program’s success in Newcastle and failure in Melbourne is that the Melbourne trial, like the proposed Sydney Solution, is only one element of the Newcastle package – something I’m finding many “out of towners” (as we call you lot, here) don’t realise. I’d suggest a powerful factor of the Newcastle Solution was not only that they forced people to stop drinking earlier, but the introduction of ID scanners for problem pubs. In the Solution Zone, every partier is required to have their ID scanned for entry into any potentially problematic venue. This ID is attached to a database that gives the venues themselves a level of legal control (in order to address the problems much earlier than when they escalate to a higher level where police are brought in). If for any reason a club throws a patron out, the incident is recorded on the database. There are no strikes – from that moment, you’re banned from the designated venues. If you try to get in anywhere else, it shows up the minute your card is scanned, and you’re told to fuck off. It works for obvious reasons. It penalises those who are in the wrong, without impacting those who are playing fair – pinpointing them, and not just making them go to bed earlier, but blocking them out of the picture, altogether. And I’d feel much more comfortable – in fact, completely comfortable – if Sydney were to implement this element of it, instead. But, of course, it’s much simpler and cheaper for Bazza to tell venues to close earlier, and hold a press conference announcing that he did what the people wanted.

What those opposing the Sydney Solution are failing to do in response to Bazza is offer an alternative, better solution. They must – must – do this. The public want action. And to be fair, they’re entitled to it. In my last stint in Sydney, I wouldn’t step foot anywhere near the Cross – a place I once enjoyed many a long night in, but which has deteriorated into nothing like what it used to be, and pulsates with an aggression that reminds me far too much of Old Newcastle. It’s vile. I’ve seen countless acts of violence on the streets there, and I’ve nothing against it being curbed. There has to be a way for the area to get its freedom back – without killing it for everyone with the legal equivalent to antibiotics. That’s the major difference to Newcastle, and that’s what is missing here. But Kings Cross is fucked, and something needs to give, and it’s high time the club scene admitted it. Yes, the public have latched onto two particular kinds of incidents because of their media narrative potency; but they do remain symbolic of a greater problem, and it’s deceptive to pretend otherwise. It’s not an unreasonable thing for the public to want innocent people protected from aimless, drug fueled violence. They’re just getting a dud response that they’re too worked up and ignorant to see is a dud.

Whatever happens, a change for the Sydney culture is inevitable. And if the proposed laws go ahead, I will certainly be sorry to visit my once beloved Emerald City – a place so dear to my heart in a way that is so intrinsically linked to its nightlife – to see the impact of such transparent political trumpeting upon a world that has done nothing to deserve its own demise, and that means so very much to so many people. Of course, those people are angry, and hurt, and – without exaggeration for those who find their identity and freedom in it, as I did when I was younger – probably a little frightened. For who are they to be now? And wherever will they be free?

If you ever want a break from it, you’ll know where to find me. It’s better here than you probably think.

AN OPEN LETTER TO MILEY CYRUS RE: YOUR TWEET IN RESPONSE TO SINEAD’S OPEN LETTER

Yo. Miley. It’s me. AD. I know your hell busy with your upcoming SNL gig and all, and if you can’t tweet your response to this til sometime next week, I’ll totally understand. But something has been nagging me, all day. And I hate to say it, little darlin’, but it’s you.

It sux because, until I woke up to the latest Miley Cyrus Shitstorm™ (otherwise known as Miley vs Sinead™), I have defended you vehemently on a multitude of social media platforms, during all the previous ones. Sure, I thought your VMA awards thing was kinda tacky, and your performance profoundly unsexy. But you know, I’m basically old – I’m one of those 30-something fags who gets upset about Lady Gaga re-selling Madonna to teenagers (yeah, I know – but c’mon, she does). Still, while my comrades this time hissed about how much more transgressive – and, let’s not forget, artistic – the Sex Book was in comparison to your vaguely manic tongue routine and foam finger rubbish, I stood back and decided not to join them in this crucifixion of yet another young contemporary pop diva who isn’t half of what Madge used to be.

I did that because I remember being a teenager, and I remember what the adults were saying about Madonna. They were saying to my generation pretty much what my generation are saying to yours now. We were told that Madonna wasn’t really an artist, but just a slut who had to use her body to move her shitty product – and that we didn’t know what real art was, because we were too young and caught on the wrong end of the incremental cultural decline of western civilisation or whatever. I told those people to go fuck themselves. And of course, it made me love Madonna even more, because it meant that she, like me, was just a misunderstood outcast – and if teenage pop obsession isn’t about vicarious projection, then what the fuck is it? Miley, your fans love you more for every bullet you take from those of my generation who forget they were once no different to yours. And in all the firing of all those bullets, I chose not to forget those similarities. Much to the horror of many of my wanky intellectual friends, I became a Miley Defender.

As part of this defending, I also took great issue with the usual double standard of slut-shaming versus stud-crowning, and I was quite pleased to read your Rolling Stone interview where you noted the difference in reception to your bent over body in comparison to that of Robin Thicke, thrusting his from behind as he sang his horrid song about pulling women’s hair while he fucks the shit out of them. Even Robin’s mother, in an interview I’m sure Freud would’ve had a field day with, came out to defend her son, the supposed angel, yet crucify you, The Slut. Vomit.

Okay, so then you put out your Wrecking Ball video. I confess it was at this point that I found it a little more challenging to be a Miley Defender; primarily because I know way too much about Terry Richardson – the self-declared “pervert” who has a long history of helping the careers of young models who’ll suck his flaccid (but apparently quite large) cock, and the man whose gaze you unwisely chose to create your supposed “art”. It would have been art if maybe you had only the Sinead-inspired close-ups, or even alongside you swinging naked on the wrecking ball. But the licking the sledge hammer thing? Yeah. That’s not really art, darling, c’mon. That’s sleaze. And okay, I do recall Madonna sucking off a hand puppet – but that was for a song about being a sado-masochistic dominatrix, while yours is an emotional ballad about heart-ache. “I’m sad, I screwed this relationship up, I’ll never forget you, and hey, watch me give this hardware a blow job”? You can tell us it’s some sort of emotional metaphor all you like, but really, it’s just pop culture shock porn – and you’re doing some seriously good molly if you’ve convinced yourself otherwise.

madonna_sexAnd still. You know what I did? I remembered one day when I was sitting in my art class, at sixteen years of age, drawing this image from Madonna’s Sex book. My art teacher, doing his judgemental rounds of the classroom, finally arrived at my desk. He was not impressed.

“That’s pornography,” he damned.

“No, it’s not,” I sighed, “it’s art.”

“Oh, really?” he scoffed. “And what is this art saying?”

“It’s an existential metaphor for love for the self – a defiance of traditional porn, and a challenging of the patriarch who want a woman’s sexuality to be defined by needing men to pleasure them – which this image renounces by Madonna giving herself her own sexual pleasure with her own reflection. This is a threatening and provocative work on a multitude of layers. And you’re, like, 40-something and don’t get it.”

“I’m 30-something,” he assured me.

“Okay, well, whatever”, I rolled my eyes. “You’re a 30-something art teacher who doesn’t get art because of the puritanical conditioning of his religion. But this is how I choose to express myself, and you can’t stop me. I will not be oppressed.”

Miley_open_letterI returned from this memory and wondered if there was a sixteen year old Miley fan out there who was explaining to a square as fuck 30-something that in giving a blow job to a sledge hammer, Miley was painting a searing portrait of her counter-intuitive intertwining of romantic and sexual yearning with her ultimate will to destroy. I should add that I think that’s a pretty good one, and if you ever need a pseudo-intellectual justification of your pop porn, feel free to use it. But anyway, the point is I forgave you for giving that sledge hammer a blow job. Go on. Be young, and fool yourself that your shock tactics have some other meaning than the thrill and attention of pissing people off.

But today, everything changed.

Granted, when I first saw Sinead’s open letter popping up on my news feed, I had no trouble in balancing the fact that every point she made was valid, but that she was still missing the co-existing point everyone over the age of thirty seemed to be missing – the point of how ultimately stupid it is to expect to make even the slightest bit of impact with such an argument – either on you or your fans – and that, I don’t know, maybe that’s okay, and Sinead and the others, as I chose to do, should just accept what’s kinda off about elements of your success and let the Miley Fiasco™ play out. I mean, what did she honestly think you would do? Sit there at your computer, overcome with an epiphany that would you lead you to repent and, as she suggested, sack the Yes Men who are currently making you filthy rich (and themselves even richer) because, goddammit, you were going to take control and save your body for the man who loves you?! I mean, hello, LOLZ!

But neither was I anticipating what you did do. Miley Cyrus, today, you blew it. I mean, really. I know you’re the biggest popstar in the world, right now. I understand how the narcissism you’ve been raised on, as a child star of star parents, has culminated in something downright terrifying but probably inevitable. I’d already read yesterday about how you said God had put you on this Earth with a plan, and that the plan was unfolding, and you were now where your destiny had intended and all – and aside from being thoroughly vulgar, that’s actually, somewhat ironically, pretty fucking insane – and I did think, “Oh, dear. Here we go.”

But ridiculing an industry veteran and older woman’s mental health by posting her darkest moment and spitting at it – along with a double whammy punch at another poor girl who recently set fire to a driveway and is currently instituitonalised? I’m sorry, but the forgiveness thing about the sledge hammer is off the table. It’s not that you’re a slut. It’s that it turns out you’re a cruel, stupid little bitch who has officially been devoured by her own ego.

Send the message to your little fans that to be defiantly smutty is to be cool, all you like. But to diminish other women’s value on the basis of their mental health is vile. To send your fans the message that mental illness and distress is something to attack another human being on the basis of is utterly insidious. And the irony that you defend yourself against accusations of sexism, but then obliviously perpetrate the sexist and sadistic cry of “look, she’s insane!” is breath-taking. I mean, why is it only women this culture seems to be fascinated with the mental destruction and implosion of? Ever thought about that, darling?

And let’s get this straight: Sinead is right when she notes the irony of how, one day, you will probably be in a similar place. Unlike what many of your detractors are saying, it may not happen any time soon – you might not “burn out” on this high, as such. But whether you can handle the high or not, the point remains – one day, the high will be over. History tells us that’s a difficult process – especially for women (who, yes, are particularly disposable in the male money-machine of pop culture). Unless you’re Madonna. And I can’t believe it has finally come to this, but so be it…

Miley Cyrus, you are not Madonna.

Good luck with SNL. I’m sure your wrecking ball will continue to swing. But watch out, my dear. While it may be others you currently take down with it, one day, it may swing back to collect you.

Yours with rapidly decreasing faithfulness,

AD XO

“I DO, BUT WHY SHOULD I?” – MARRIAGE EQUALITY PART I : FREEDOM

 

“Baby?” asked my partner, a few years ago.

“Yes, Baby?” I acknowledged him, without taking my eyes from our new plasma.

“Do you wanna get married?”

“Oh, stop it,” I laughed, giving little credence to the charming, but often silly, things he said. “That’s a stupid question.”

“Why is it?”

“Because,” I sighed; “Obviously we can’t get married, so why does it matter?”

“But what if we could?” he asked, his tone catching my actual attention. There was something in his voice – something deeper and gentler than in the usual silly things he said. It made me turn from the movie I’d just torrented. That takes a lot. And after a moment of bathing in that attention, my gaze now his, he officially asked The Question.

“Would you marry me?”

The memory is still vivid, even all these years later. I remember the sunlight streaming in from the huge windows that looked out to the balcony of our old place; the way it fell across his face and turned his hazel hair golden. I remember how I was lying on the leather lounges we’d purchased in that mania that often grips couples in love on weekend trips to the Homemaker Supacentre. I remember the feeling of the remote control weighted in my hand. I remember all this because, as a testament to the transience of our subjectivity – and the way in which our emotions can persuade us to go to places we once would never have even considered – I lied there on that lounge, looking at his sunlit face, and felt something very odd.

“Yes,” I finally smiled; not a single part of my being wanting to resist it. “I’d marry you.”

This moment is really what millions of couples go through, all the time. To heterosexuals, it is the moment when marriage comes and changes their lives (for better or worse) – one of the big ticks on the checklist. It’s the drumroll, and the fireworks, and the intoxication that leads one to sincerely believe that the emotion they feel in that moment will not be transient. You’re arguably insane. But it means something dear to many people. We grew up conditioned with the fantasy – by our society, our family, our schools, our popular culture. People on TV got married. It was a big deal. It was a wonderful thing. And it was supposed to make you want it. That was the point. That’s what “tradition” – a strange concept that has been dragged, in all sorts of horrible ways, into the marriage debate – really “is”. Tradition is just people who have been conditioned, who then condition others, who will grow up to condition others, and so on. Tradition is a lovely way of saying “brainwashed”. And marriage is a central dream in the brainwashed social psyche. Everybody wants the kind of moment I had lying on the lounge, that day.

But for me – as for all the women and men like me – that moment is quickly diffused and becomes something else. It is, instead, a moment where our lives as the socially oppressed reach the boundaries of our oppression. We suddenly hit the wall this society has put up. Wrong way. Go Back. You’re not allowed here.

“Well, I would, too,” my partner smiled at me, like a boy in love.

“That’s nice,” I smiled back like a boy in love. And then, the limits came. “But unfortunately, we can’t,” I sighed. And, as one does to make oneself feel better, I shrugged; “But that’s okay. I mean, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. It’s just a silly social construct. Fuck that.”

“Yeah,” he laughed, somewhat half-heartedly. “I guess.”

But the point remained. All silly social constructs aside – the silliness of which I had genuinely believed in all my life – we both would have been married. On the other side of a sliding door was a very drastic change to the nature of our lives – a change that the heterosexual society and culture which we do, at the end of the day, grow up in, holds as a central facet of the human experience. And we can’t help but have the fantasy accompany being in love, because we were trained to associate them, too. But for us, there is only one way the sliding door will open if we dare to realise the fantasy. One is promptly reminded that one is not equal.

It’s wrong. That is wrong. That discrimination is no less wrong just because marriage happens to be completely fucking ridiculous.

It was probably about four years later, when I would arrive at a very different kind of day; packing up our terrace into boxes, with that love between us now a distant memory replaced by something hostile and toxic. My friend had come to help me clean. And she was trying to make me feel better, in however black a shade of comedy it was, when she laughed; “God, thank fuck you didn’t marry him! Remember?! You were going to marry him!”

I cringed. It felt more humiliating than the Vanilla Ice cassingle I had earlier come across in an old box. Life is full of bizarre emotional states you can’t believe you genuinely experienced at the time. I once owned a Vanilla Ice cassingle. And during the period of approximately 2007 to 2009, I would have married someone. The shame.

The thing is, if you haven’t worked it out by now, the human mind, whatever sexuality it is, is a complex thing that has a habit of change. I returned to knowing better than to think marriage is actually important on its own terms. It really shouldn’t be, that’s the thing. It’s a silly social construct. It’s a vile patriarchal ritual about dominance, and possession; steeped in a lot of hocus pocus religion, and (how charming) the chess game of bloodline and social class. If it wasn’t for the conditioning that humans, as social creatures, find so very difficult to break, more people would see how vile marriage actually is.

But that should be our choice. It is for each person in this world to have whatever level of susceptibility to the construct of marriage they have at any given moment; whether you’re an anarchist who spits at it, or an eager aspirational who sees themselves as failed for not attaining it. And people have all sorts of connections, at all different times, to the whole spectrum in between. And that’s freedom. That’s their human right.

This is what marriage equality, at its most outer level, really is (alongside other powerful psychological implications we will discuss later). It’s not an endorsement or blanket subscription to marriage. It’s having the same intellectual and emotional choice to engage with that concept in the same way any heterosexual does – and it is just as much about having the freedom to despise marriage, as it is the freedom to espouse its virtues and join the club. It’s ultimately about not hitting that boundary of oppression, regardless of what lies on the other side of the boundary for an individual’s desires and beliefs. I should have been able to make the biggest mistake of my life. God knows enough heterosexuals get to.

In light of this, I don’t think that Julia Gillard’s unfortunate moment on the Opera House stage – one that marred an otherwise perfectly executed PR stunt of pseudo-intellectual pop culture – was the case of a necessarily faulty assessment of marriage itself. I, for one, agree with her in essence. Sure, just as it was so obvious for so much of Summers’ sycophantic puff piece, she was also being insincere. She shied away from marriage equality, as PM of this country, not because she’s an old school socialist feminist who felt she had to act on the flaws so obvious in the concept of marriage, but because she was politically cornered into doing so to appease the conservative Labor base and the right wing power players who made her PM in the first place. Hello. We’re not that stupid, darling. But I have no doubt that Julia Gillard, the woman who refuses to marry her beloved Tim because, fuck you, why should she, holds the view she expressed.

But she had no right to make that decision – the decision her personal, subjective opinion led her to make for herself – for others. Though her response to the boy was designed to be the consumer friendly auto-script, it was actually just as vile as the political truth it was trying to hide – the thought that a leader of a country would enforce projections of their own subjective experience on a specific portion of the population. She can’t push it on other heterosexuals, after all – she has only the right to operate in the realm of the freedom they share, to disagree. So, to then use her immense power to force it on another group of people altogether is grossly unfair, painfully condescending, and somewhat narcissistic. She upheld the murdering of our freedom. And all this, while promoting herself as saviour of an oppressed social group of her own? I mean, really. Please. Julia. Fuck off.

I don’t know if I will feel like I did that day, all those years ago, ever again. I remember it vividly enough that some of the joy of that moment seeps through, and I find myself thinking, “Well, I guess that would be nice, if it did.” But this is really just because it would mean that, in any repeat of that moment, I would be just as happy as the first time I conjured the construct I generally consider preposterous. And happiness is nice. And really, it was the straight world that made me construct that meaning – and really, what the hell does it matter if I ever get dumbed up by lurve enough to go against my smarter sensibilities or not? Let me. Let us. Let us do the same dumb shit you do. If your statistics are anything to go by, it will work for about 42 percent of us. And the rest can always get divorced. It’s not like the straight world, however holier than thou it may delusionally like to view itself as, didn’t condition us with an awful lot of that, too.