Guest Writer for The Star Observer

In October 2017 I was asked to be a guest writer for Sydney based LGBTQI+ news outlet, The Star Observer. 

Click here to read the column on the Star Observer website, or just see below.

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DEAR MARGARET COURT: CUT AUSSIE FARMERS SOME SLACK

Dear Margaret Court: “the farmers” aren’t who you think they are.

I was recently at a friend’s 21st birthday party when I ran into a guy I went to school with, who now identifies as queer.

I thought, ‘Great, now we have something in common – being queer in the country and how hard that is. If I get stuck for conversation, I can talk to him about that.’

However, after we started to chat, I found out that our experiences had been completely different. As a young queer boy in the country, he had been totally chilled about it, while I was petrified.

He didn’t care who knew, while I had been paranoid. And he had stood up to the homophobia he had experienced, whereas I would have run a mile.

It’s only now after having lived in Sydney for three years that I’ve become comfortable enough to express myself – but even then, when I go back home to Bogan Gate in Central West NSW, I often find myself putting my hands in my pockets so no-one can see my painted nails.

I was totally in awe of the fact that my old schoolmate was able to live so freely and confidently while still living in a rural area.

I thought, how is that possible? Why didn’t he have the same experiences as I did?

I looked back and thought about it, and truly, I don’t have any scarring memories that spring to mind. I was an exuberant little shit who blasted Kylie Minogue songs on the reg.

When other boys were kicking footballs and playing with toy trucks, I was playing with Bratz dolls, wearing tutus and begging my sister to let me do her hair.

For the record, I recognise that not all queer people are gender non-conforming and it’s absolutely possible for a male to like ‘girly’ stuff and still be straight.

But in my case, the stereotype was completely accurate. I was FLAMBO AF and have turned out QUEER AF.

I don’t for a second think this makes me special or different – we’ve all heard the narrative a million times. But where I do consider myself extremely lucky is that I never had an adult tell me I couldn’t do those things or be who I wanted to be.

Not my parents, my grandparents, aunts and uncles, family friends, or neighbours. And yet, even though I was raised in a completely supportive environment, I was still petrified about coming out.

Why? I truly believe it’s because other people put those doubts in my head.

The question I get asked most about my childhood is: “What was it like being gay in Bogan Gate? Must’ve been awful.”

And I get it – rural areas have a reputation for being more homophobic than metropolitan areas. There’s plenty of data to back this up and I’m not for a second trying to dismiss that, nor other people’s experiences.

I’m not about to say “country people aren’t homophobic because they haven’t been to me.”

I’m not that naive. I realise my luck in having kick-ass parents and a solid support network.

Rather, the reason I’m writing this is to urge Australia not to underestimate rural people’s capacity to be accepting and open-minded. It saddens me that farmers are often written off as bigots by default.

Many of you would remember back in May when tennis ‘legend’ Margaret Court wrote an open letter saying she wouldn’t fly with Qantas after they publicly backed marriage equality. Naturally, she copped a lot of backlash.

Appearing in a television interview, Margaret highlighted the everyday people she believed were against marriage equality, saying: “There are many people out there, normal people, farmers, mums, and dads…”

It didn’t end there.

“We do have a view and we’ve not been allowed to say why we really believe that marriage is between a man and a woman,” she said. “Many non-Christians agree with me, the farmers, just ordinary people.”

The farmers, the farmers, the farmers… she kept going on about them.

I want to know, who does Margaret Court think farmers are?

Is she referring to the same farmers that would ask McDonald’s to swap my boys toy for a girls toy?

The same farmers that drove seven hours to take me to see Lady Gaga live? The same farmers that wouldn’t push any further when I refused to help with sheep work, lest I ruin my nails? Soz Margaret, try again sweetie.

Also, why does she keep grouping “the farmers” in with ordinary people?

Approximately 80 per cent of the Australian population live within 50 kilometres of a coastline. Farmers are practically a minority in their own right.

Margaret Court thinks she’s sticking up for everyday Aussie battlers (chucking a Tracy Grimshaw, if you will) but she’s achieving the opposite.

My parents, for one, find it offensive that she’s implied that all farmers are narrow-minded conservatives.

I’m sure I don’t need to explain to you that Margaret Court is problematic as heck. Country people are not who she depicts them to be.

Aside from their penchant for unflattering workwear and general tolerance of dirt, they’re everything I aspire to be.

They’re grounded, friendly, resilient, trustworthy, willing to help each other out, and they sure as hell don’t care about the amount of Instagram likes they get.

Country people are the most decent humans you’ll ever meet. And sure, there are homophobes in the country, but unfortunately, they’re everywhere.

So please, do not buy into the stereotype.

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Digital Commercial Content Producer, ARN

When I first began working full time at the Australian Radio Network (ARN) in July 2017, I was the Digital Commercial Content Producer. I fulfilled all digital components of advertising campaigns across the KIIS and Pure Gold Networks nationally.

Here’s an example of a video I produced in that time.

 

I also build web pages and wrote sponsored editorial content across the network. See here for an example of an article I published as part of a campaign with HypoxiAUSSIE MUM TRANSFORMS HER BODY BEFORE DAUGHTER’S 21ST

Jo and Lehmo, Gold 104.3

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In May of 2017, I was asked to fill in as the digital producer for Gold 104.3’s breakfast show in Melbourne, Jo & Lehmo.

I was responsible for creating original show content in written and video form, as well as cultivating all online news & entertainment articles on Gold 104.3’s Facebook page.

Here is an example of a video I produced:

 

Click here to see an example of an article I wrote. (http://www.gold1043.com.au/shows/jo-lehmo/the-callers-that-will-give-jo-lehmo-nightmares/?q=7)

While I was working with ARN Melbourne, I was also asked to produce this announcement video for KIIS 101.1’s Chapel Street $100k Life Upgrade campaign.

The Thinkergirls, KIIS Network

ThinkergirlsOn multiple occasions throughout 2016 and 2017, I worked as the digital producer for The KIIS Network’s former National nights show, The Thinkergirls – hosted by Stacey June and Kristie Mercer.

During that time, I was responsible for creating content to reflect the on-air show in video or article form.

Here is an example of a video I edited. I had planned to record the entire segment, but the exchange at the start of the break was funny enough to stand on it’s own. Stace & Kristie were happy that I chose to reflect an unplanned, anecdotal moment that highlighted their natural chemistry.

As well as producing videos for The Thinkergirls’ own Facebook page, I also utilised the audience on KIIS 1065’s page.

 

Here are a couple of examples articles I wrote:

Feature article for SBS – First night on Oxford Street

The people I spoke to about my first journey to Sydney’s Oxford Street strip were unanimous that it is not the place it once was. When we first arrived at Taylor Square, my first observation was that the streets were far less crowded than I’d anticipated. Granted it was not even 10pm, but this little spring chicken was already feeling dozy. Cue wine.

I must admit, the nerves weren’t keeping themselves hidden. Despite being the city’s undisputed gay-bourhood, I still felt out of place. Generally speaking, I think the primary reason people go to clubs and hotels is to find themselves a hook-up. While I’m not saying that there is a single thing wrong with that, it’s not my style. Call me old fashioned in that sense.

SBSTo view the video in full, CLICK HERE.

Sitting down at the Oxford Hotel with my go-to order in hand (cheapest sauv-blanc on the menu, thanks), the place struck me as being surprisingly relaxed. Cosy, even. In fact, there was nothing extraordinarily “gay” about the place. You’d be forgiven for thinking it was just a “regular pub”, for lack of a better phrase. A couple of groups of friends having a casual night out, sitting around having a laugh and a few drinks. Nothing ground breaking, but nonetheless, nice.

Amidst the early onset of tipsiness, I noticed a man looking at me with quite a puzzled look on his face. I overheard him saying he recognised my face from somewhere, and naturally, it wasn’t until someone reminded him of my recent Bogan Gate Tour video that it clicked in his head who I was.

Perhaps alcohol was a major player in the piece, but he was oddly excited to be meeting me; something I hadn’t even thought to brace myself for that night. Despite reaching an audience of more than 3 million, I’d thought of the city as a separate, superior universe than my humble YouTube video could not possibly have reached. Crazy stuff.

We moved onto the Colombian Hotel, which had male pole dancers on show. I think it’s fair to liken them to lava lamps – you can’t help but stare. The Colombian had clearly cranked things up a notch on the wild front in comparison to the Oxford Hotel – too much, I dare say. Don’t get me wrong, everyone looked like they were having a grouse time, but I struggle to see the appeal of music that’s so loud you can’t converse with the person next to you. Again, call me old fashioned.

We moved onto the Stonewall Hotel, where the definite standout of the night was becoming acquainted with its drag queens. They are honestly the most under-appreciated performers around. You might think that you’re the most collected and self-assured version of yourself that you can be, but until you become a drag queen, you will never achieve peak levels of unapologetic confidence. Truly inspiring stuff. I even felt 10 times safer after drag queen Charisma Belle assured me that if anyone gave me trouble, I could set Aunty Charisma onto them. Bless ‘er heart.

Charisma called me up on stage during the drag show. That’s right, timid little me, on stage, in front of everyone, at a drag show. It sounded like a recipe for awkwardness and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted to seek the nearest sandpit to bury my head in. But guess what? It happened. And it was a hoot.

Charisma introduced me as the boy from Bogan Gate, which was met with lukewarm applause and a few raised eyebrows. But once the crowd was informed that it was my first time ever visiting Oxford Street, the applause really amped up. Everyone was keen to congratulate me on that milestone because they’d been there. They knew what it was like to feel like a fish out of water.

I can honestly say that everyone I spoke to was nothing but welcoming. Make no mistake, the crowd at the Stonewall were rowdy, but nobody was obnoxious. I was told I must’ve encountered the few diamonds in the rough because the gay scene isn’t notorious for being 100 per cent pleasant. But hey, I’m happy to take them at face value. I thought it was an amazingly fun and positive environment.

Overall, I was bloody surprised with how much I enjoyed the night. As someone who has no grounds for comparison, I was impressed. It did beg the question as to why Oxford Street is not as popular among young LGBTQI people as what it used to be. I may sound naive, but I have the theory that there’s less of a need to seek refuge in a “safe space” because now more than ever, everywhere is safe. Are LGBTQI folk now perfectly comfortable to express themselves outside of the gay-bourhood? I’d certainly like to think so.

 

Presenter: Patrick Abboud
Video/photography/editor: Daniel Hartley-Allen
Producer: Drew Sheldrick