My girlfriend puts two YES stickers and a YES poster on the door of her shared office at uni one day, and the next day discovers that they’ve been torn down. She gets eleven posters, and plasters them all over both of the office doors, and every day, as she treads up the stairs with the doors in sight, she counts them.
Last night, waiting for food at a train station, a thick, tall, tattooed, white man staggered over to a younger, slimmer, white man with an undercut and the rest of his hair pulled back into a tight, small bun.
“Your hair’s gay.” The slimmer man smiles carefully.
“I don’t mean gay gay, it’s just… gay you know?”
He walks over to the counter, takes a handful of white and yellow striped straws, and throws them onto the ground. Orders a drink.
“That’s a gay haircut man.”
I think about that ad from New Zealand with the meat pie, and imagine myself not standing silently, a careful eye on all of it, my back cold against a tiled wall, but instead walking over to him, asking,
“Is that guy’s haircut a man who loves another man? Because if it’s not, then his haircut isn’t gay.” But I don’t. I get my food when my name is called. The thick man forgets about the haircut. The slim man grins at his girlfriend. I head down the escalator and onto the screaming train.
I have been wanting to put a ‘please don’t post no campaign material here’ sticker on my letterbox for weeks, but haven’t felt strong enough to come home and find it torn down. You were here this week though, and told me you’d taken one for home, and as we are walking out the door I take one from the stack and peel off the backing in three parts, and stick it on my letterbox.
“Fuck it,” I say.
“That’s the way, my boy,” you reply.
We get into the car and you lean over from the driver’s seat to kiss me, one hand around the back of my neck. Your lips. The way we melt each into the other, like our skins are permeable; we sink in.
We drive to Northland so that I can buy myself some clothes for work. Most of my clothes are old, some are falling apart. At work I keep being mistaken for a postgraduate (flanny shirt, jeans, boots). I’ve tried to take myself shopping before, but I don’t know what I like. Occasionally I linger outside the doors of menswear shops and wonder what it would feel like to walk in, be greeted, to know what I want.
We walk in to one of the big shops in Northland and head towards menswear. Within five minutes someone is helping us. Eyebrows are unraised, smile genuine. Suddenly I’m in a scene from Paris is Burning, queens vogueing in business suits while someone blares into the mic,
Executive REALNESS darling!
And you are a menswear genius. You know about shirts being measured by the width of necks. That a spotted tie shouldn’t be put with a spotted shirt. Strange, small rules about how to wear things. There is cardboard hiding under the collar. The top button of a shirt should be done up. This is the best brand for big sizes. This is how you hitch your pants up at the inner thigh and crotch before you sit down. You push me against the wall. Your lips.
In the dressing room you tell me what goes with what, and each time I put on another combination my hands go into my pockets. I pose in front of the full-length mirror. At one point I feel so good I start dancing. There is a woman called Desdemona who helps us. She takes away shirts that are the wrong colour, ties that are too expensive. She looks bemused but she is also kind and good-natured.
We find a suit. Navy blue with a wide pin stripe. Three shirts. Two ties. A pair of black pants. A pair of the pointiest shoes I’ve ever owned.
I remember: being in a dressing room at Target. I was 12 and the school skirt I was trying on didn’t fit me. My mother pulled me over to her and took it off. The red dot in the circle watching me, the shame of clothes that should fit that didn’t.
I remember: trying to find something to wear to my school formal. A dress. Trying on dresses, the smell of new fabric an invasion, tags scratching the top of my neck. Everything feeling wrong.
I ended up going in a borrowed suit (brown, thin white stripes) with my girlfriend (who pretended she wasn’t my girlfriend). Someone came up to me and said,
“I don’t care what anyone else says, I think you look great.”
I remember: wanting to fit in – to clothes, to school, to small tight spots where I would feel held.
I remember: being taken to be measured for my first bra. The feel of the tape measure against my bare, new, breasts.
I remember: finding you.
We are in the dressing room and I am looking at myself in the full-length mirror. I have two mirrors at home: one in the bathroom that shows me from my neck up, and one in the bedroom that shows me my torso. There is nowhere in my house where I can see the all of me. So in the dressing room I look, and I see a person in beautiful blue suit, with a green checked shirt, and a greenblue and white striped tie. We kiss. Your lips. I see a person grinning. I see you behind that person, adjusting his collar.
Desdemona knocks on the door and asks if we need anything else. We don’t. We gather up the clothes we’re taking with us and pay and head home. When we get there, to my flaking weatherboard with the wooden fence streaked from nail and rivet rust, the sticker is still there. Inside the back door you hold me against the wall. Your lips; the way they find mine. The gentle open and close, touch of tongues, bodies trying to kiss the way our lips and tongues do.
You ask me about the rainbow coins: if you can see them, how they were made. When I got back from Ballarat with the coins I gave one to Zach and one to Benji, and now they are lost inside small pockets, hidden in quiet special places that means they might never be found again. I contact the person who gave them to me, who says that a friend of a mutual friend makes them. I contact the mutual friend, who puts me in touch with the person who sits quietly, painting the edges of 50 cent pieces in rainbows, so that he can feed them to shops, to be found, to be treasure, to be held.
Today, there are still eleven posters on my girlfriend’s door. The sticker with its rainbow heart has stayed on my letterbox. But on Facebook, one friend was verbally abused by a group of eleven-year-olds on razor scooters and bikes. The other by a ten-year-old child playing on the swings with his father nearby. When she went to talk to the father he said,
“He’s allowed to have an opinion.”
Verbal abuse is not an opinion. Using language to pull down the people around you is not an opinion. Teaching children to hate (and to act on that hatred) has been used in warfare for centuries, and according to Child Soldiers International, there are at least fourteen countries that put guns in small hands and force small bodies into the fight. We are not at war. But we’re not at peace either. Because it’s like this: any LGBTIQ person I know is on high alert right now. We’re keeping an eye out. Jumping if someone we don’t know comes too close to our bodies too quickly. We’re checking for stickers on letterboxes. Counting posters on doors. Checking for danger. Hoping for calm.
How to Make Your Own Rainbow Coins
- Get a stack of fifty-cent coins, line them up, and spray them.
- It’s easier to manage the coins if they’re taped together in blocks.
- Give the coins a quick wipe with an alcohol-based cleaning product to get the grease off the edges before spray painting.
- You could use flashing to mask the coins.
- Make smooth, even passes with the spray can.
- Don’t try to spray too much paint on at once.
- If you don’t get good coverage, wait for 15 seconds, then do another pass.
- It takes time for the paint to dry, but the artists who are making these (and who wish to remain anonymous) found they could do three colours, wait half and hour, then turn them over and do the other three colours.
Quinn Eades is a trans and queer researcher, writer, and award-winning poet who lectures at La Trobe University. He is the author of all the beginnings: a queer autobiography of the body, and Rallying, and is currently working on a book-length collection of fragments written from the transitioning body, titled Transpositions.