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Collective experiment

As queers our bodies are known to be particularly vulnerable: to disease, shame, violence, self-doubt and ostracization.

Indeed abuse, or the experience of abuse – both social and physical – could be considered constitutive of queer subjectivity.

For such subjects, experimentation is not some idle game but can emerge as a necessity – however steeped such experiments may be in risks and danger.

Despite such risks, testing out new ways of feeling the world can come to seem necessary if one wants to survive, if we want to make worlds and lives for ourselves that feel worth living

These experiments work better, their dangers maybe mitigated, when we find ways of conducting them safely and openly. That’s why so many work so hard to build and sustain collective arenas  of care, play, disclosure, support, curiosity, adventure and scandalous pedagogy.

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TRUMBLE DOWN UNDER

*SEVERE WEATHER WARNING*

REPORT:

Dangerous weather is expected across Australia over the coming weeks and months.

The synoptic chart reveals a high pressure system stretching right across the nation, which is likely to be exacerbated by the massive cold front now bearing down from the North, which first consolidated over the Russian continent, before spreading east to cause chaos in China, intensifying the currents already chilling much of the South/East Asian region.

Experts agree the collision of these weather systems is likely to produce even more extreme conditions in the region, with a heightened risk of flash floods, droughts,  severe heat,  bushfires, water shortages, white supremacism,  smog, border policing,gendered violence, violent nationalism, cruel seas, pollution and even tornadoes in some parts of the country.

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The Turnbull government has kept itself busy reassuring citizens not to be alarmed.   “Keeping calm is the only decent thing to do, if you want to be consistent with Australian values” a number of senior ministers repeated. The LNP Cabinet announced it would be splendid if everyone would quit their carping, isolate themselves from corrupting influences, get on with preserving our way of life, and do whatever it takes to make themselves feel relaxed and comfortable like normal citizens.

Emergency services throughout Oz are remaining on high alert however. “We are simply not prepared for some of the radical weather events anticipated,” one national security adviser revealed. “Tornadoes are a source of particular concern: they have been known to jettison whole families from remote communities dependent on rural subsistence and religious fundamentalism, only to dump them right in the middle of Emerald City without any of the usual extreme vetting procedures ”

“This is no time for complacency or polite diplomacy ” insisted a volunteer aid-worker who has been tracking changes in the Australian atmosphere and global political climate  since Pauline Hanson’s maiden speech to parliament over two decades ago.  “If the Turnbull government thinks this will all be plain-sailing and can’t grasp the fact that we are facing an emergency of global proportions involving the potential for large-scale atrocity, all I can say is, tell him he’s dreaming!”

Meanwhile, satellite pictures have revealed an unusual, disturbing but undeniably breathtaking promontory that appears to be thrusting its way out of Australia’s subcontinental bedrock. The structure has assumed the form of an enormous cock–up  just right of the centre of our nation’s heartland. Experts attribute this remarkable protuberance to the weather conditions prevailing of late in the Canberra region, where hot blustery winds have exacerbated the capital’s suffocating climate, rather than dispelling it, as some had hoped.  These oppressive conditions are expected to endure unless something extraordinary happens, and are set to expand beyond the capital to engulf entire regions well beyond Australia’s territorial waters.

Some are impressed by the sheer magnitude of this unprecedented national swelling, while others evidently find it stifling and repulsive.  But most ordinary Australians are indifferent to what has come to be known affectionately in some circles as Trumble Tower, citing it as another reason to stay indoors, since the very idea of kicking up a fuss,  carrying a placard,  collective organising and principled action is likely to upset the horses and besides, it all just seems like too much effort, eh?

The most alarming thing about Trumble Tower – the edifice at the centre of these climactic developments – is that the dickheads who saw it coming and likely approved of its development tend to be among the first to ignore its magnitude or dismiss its significance. Many are simply refusing to acknowledge its existence, while others regard it as an act of god, a scientific conspiracy, a natural wonder, a false idol, or a divine sign  about moral turpitude. (When uttered by informants, these conflicting explanations tend not to be mutually exclusive). Meanwhile,  Australia’s Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce is blaming China for everything.

In a doorstep statement delivered outside his exclusive Eastern Suburbs Sydney residence, the Prime Minister explained that it is sometimes hard to see past the army of lawn sprinklers on Parliament Hill to work out what is going on in the world, let alone figure out how best to respond to it.  Those sturdy old sprinklers work very hard, day and night, seven days a week, Turnbull reminded us, to make the Seat of National Government look fancy and trim as a high-end Country Club. A worthwhile cause, and nothing to sniff at, he insisted.

Sources close to Turnbull confirm he isn’t at all worried by current developments; certainly they aren’t the sort of thing that is likely to keep him up at night.  If the deal with Trump falls through, he will start working on that old softie Angela Merkel to find somewhere to dump his asylum-seeking desperadoes.

When pressed about the escalating conflict and growing tensions at home, Turnbull kept his calm.  “I have an Anglo passport. Unlike those poor suckers on Manus Island and Nauru, I can travel wherever I want, whenever I want, providing I make a brief stopover in Panama”. Ultimately, Turnbull said he felt relaxed as ever about the state of current affairs in the world.  “I’m feeling quite comfortable, to be honest,” he smiled, “After all, Parliament House has air conditioning”.

JUANITA: {gulps}  “Thanks for that, Malcolm …

……..That’s all we have time for tonight”

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@quitgrindr : constituting wholesome, respectable gays, bit by bit, every day…

Well, I’m devastated to discover that @quitgrindr on Instagram has blocked me!
Was it something I said?? 😱 or, heaven forbid, *did*??
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Luckily I managed to screen cap a few of my personal favourites from among its many, nasty little gems:
Do visit @quitgrindr on Instagram some time if you want a good belly laugh. I can guarantee hours of hilarity 😝
And remember:
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#homonormativemuch ??

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Filed under Devices and technology, Erogenous zones, Masculinities, Online meeting sites, Police, Sexual practice, Uncategorized

UnDEAD!

undeadIn the abysmal UK documentary Chemsex (2015), there’s a horrible moment where one gay man describes his peers who use drugs for sex as “the walking dead.” Let’s think about this derogatory imagery for a moment. What should we make of this abject figure, the queer zombie?

The walking dead are beings whose claim on life is so tenuous and wrong and desperate they’re regarded as a monstrous affront and threat to the living order. In fact, this characterisation of drug users is a well-trodden stereotype appearing in multiple sites, from judicial discourse to popular culture.  Effectively, it demonises people who use drugs by suggesting their lives are unnatural and not worth living.  It’s a callous and demoralising insinuation that is destructive of lives and hopes for the future.

Last weekend, Unharm‘s Queer Contingent decided to bite this bullet hard, and threw an outrageous party to celebrate sexy demons, queer community, the growing movement around drug use, and killer dress-ups. Held on the weekend of the Day of the Dead, UnDEAD brazenly embraced the figure of the zombie, inhabiting it playfully and irreverently, to throw this configuration of abuse back in the faces of those who project it so vomitously. A perverse and confronting strategy, perhaps – not everyone’s cup of tea – but the sort of manoeuvre that has long been critical for queer thinking and queer survival.

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This wasn’t “just a party”, it was serious fun. UnDEAD aimed to pay homage to the role queer parties have played in promoting vital practices for wellbeing: lively communities; cultures of care; and the invention of forms of safety that respect the transformative powers of pleasure.

The gay club scene in Sydney helped build the communities that responded so effectively to HIV and which have continued to devise inventive ways of looking after each other. Queer parties have sparked initiatives encouraging the safer use of substances like MDMA and GHB and led to the development of new ways of taking care of people in party environments.

These spaces and the communities they helped forge have come under pressure lately from lockout laws and a longer history of harassment through drug detection operations. The onslaught is intensifying at a time when more and more people are beginning to realise ‘we can’t arrest our way out of’ drug-related problems, and that communities (rather than law enforcement) are the most effective way forward.

Queer communities have been breaking new ground in this domain, but bad laws and aggressive enforcement are blocking progress, and have the added effect of chipping away at the bonding possibilities that have been so significant within queer party culture and been the basis for care strategies.

UnDEAD was the brainchild of Fiona McGregor; who put the party on with the help of comrades from the Unharm Queer Contingent, their mates and supporters. Legendary Sydney queer DJs Ben Drayton, Steve Sonius, DJ Gemma and HipHopHoe electrified the dance floor with killer beats and sounds. Partygoers were also treated to deadly performances from iconic queer performers  Glitta Supernova, Willow Darling and Matthew Stegh, who brought the house down.

But most of all, UnDEAD was one of those thrilling events that demonstrates how inventive, playful, daring and caring our community can be. We were blown away by the creativity, guts and sheer nerve of all the queer souls who came out in the middle of the night to claim the dance floor and support the growing movement. Renowned photographer William Yang captured some of the magnificent creatures who graced our party – check out his pictures of the event here (further snaps from SXNews here). To summon the ghost of Oscar Wilde, let’s just say that reports of the death of Sydney queer culture are greatly exaggerated.

Unharm is a grassroots organisation that campaigns to make drug use as safe, positiveand ethical as possible. That includes changing laws, like the criminalisation of drug use, that make it harder for people to live well.

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The Unharm Queer Contingent formed in early 2016 and has gone from strength to strength this year, hosting a stall at Mardi Gras Fair Day; participating blocs in public rallies such as Reclaim the Streets and Keep Sydney Open; and convening community events such as Party safer and save our parties, Queer Chemistry, and a public screening of the documentary Rampant: How a City Stopped a Plague that brought key figures in the debate over Sydney nightlife together to discuss how to apply this local history to present controversies.

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The Unharm Queer Contingent wants to turn queer culture’s flair for wicked dance moves into something even more wicked – a dance/community generated movement. It’s happening right now, and it’s thrilling. Rise up, queer creatures of the night, and stake your claims! Let’s make a world where people aren’t criminalised for using drugs. Let’s get drug detection dogs out of our celebratory spaces, and pill testing happening at music festivals. Let’s work out better ways of looking after each other, whether friends or strangers, and put them into action.

If you want get involved, you can find out more by joining our online community discussion forum, or simply come along to our next event, to be determined.

Meanwhile, read this recently published review of some of the research literature on queer culture, drug use and sexual health to familiarise yourself with some of the facts, figures, issues and challenges that inform our work.

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Thinking with Pleasure

I’m off to Norway to give some workshops and a couple of talks about my research at the University of Oslo.  I’m excited to have the opportunity to meet researchers and students from the schools of public health and medical anthropology there.  I’ve organised the workshops around my work on pleasure, digital sex, HIV prevention and harm reduction – and I’ve attached the outline here: thinking-with-pleasure-norway-workshops.  It will be a great opportunity to workshop these pieces so I can pull them all together, as they’ll form the basis of the monograph I’m due to deliver by the end of the year: The Gay Science: Intimate Experiments with the Problem of HIV

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The Poppers Effect

imageSharif Mowlabaccus’s discussion of the UK Psychoactive Substances Bill and its implications for gay erotic lubricants

 

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Why William Yang’s “Friends of Dorothy” is a more important film than Neil Armfield’s “Holding the Man”

We watched the film version of William Yang’s “Friends of Dorothy” last night. While Neil Armfield’s recent film adaption of Tim Conigrave’s “Holding the Man” was beautifully acted, directed and conceived, and the two films are totally different in genre, I much prefer Yang’s account of that moment in history to the recent adaptations of “Holding the Man”.

Conigrave’s book and its adaptations certainly touch on the importance of community politics, festivity and subcultural life, (but very briefly, and less and less so in the stage and film iterations I might say). But as touching, moving and heart-wrenching as Holding the Man is, it is the sort of representation oriented around loving couples, family drama and romantic loss that today’s homonormative context wants and likes to tell itself.

Community politics and popular culture are all but jettisoned from the film version of Holding the Man … (though from memory there was at least a brief reference to the Mardi Gras party in the opening scene of the theatre production. Nothing like that survived the final cut of the film. One threeway in a sauna is the only reference to australia’s gay sexual subculture and it is framed diegetically as a distraction/problem).

There are loving couples, romance and loss in Yang’s “Friends of Dorothy” too, and Yang doest shy away from the personal significance of loving relationships between men in couples (thruples, etc). But what Yang captures that Holding the Man doesn’t is the collective creativity of a subculture, community and scene that made modern gay life in Sydney what it is, (or rather, was). More than any love story, that’s the account that needs remembering and passing on.

Tragic love stories are just that: tragic, tear-jerking, and beholden to a private version of intimacy that is ultimately a very small part of the story. There’s much more to be remembered about gay life in this town and much more to be said about what makes our history unique.

Holding the Man is an important story to remember, but let’s not forget what was dynamic and important and much more powerfully found among Friends of Dorothy

 

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