This piece is a continuation of Quinn Eades' 'I Can't Stop Crying', which you can read here. The series will continue next week. Image by Ludovic Bertron, reproduced under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
I am wobbling all over the place. My neck and shoulder have been in a screaming spasm for the last week and nothing I do can take the pain away. I go to the osteo three times. I take pharmaceutical painkillers. I take other kinds of painkillers. Every night I go to bed limping and not being able to turn my head, and every morning I wake up worse, not better. I can’t stop playing a game on my phone that involves joining dots of the same colour so that they make a square. When the dots of the same colour make a square, all the other dots that are that colour disappear, which increases the likelihood of making another square. Some nights I go to bed and play for hours, phone plugged in, neck and back locked, and wait to feel tired, but I don’t, because I’m staring at a backlit screen trying to make squares out of dots of the same colour.
When I get sick of the dots game, I look at Facebook, and it is filled with outrage. The allies are tired and angry. They keep posting no campaign material and saying how upsetting it is. I find myself looking at my feed with one eye closed. I stop looking at my feed.
I travel to a festival in Canberra called Poetry on the Move. There are badges on sale and one of them is a small rainbow coloured one that has the words ‘I’m making a stanza’ on it. I buy it. I also buy a sepia coloured badge that has ‘This is not a poem’ on it. Then I remember that last week Benji said to me
“Mama, you’re a poem,” and I said
“No honey, I’m a poet,” and he threw his arms around my waist and said
“You’re a poet AND a poem!” and I told him to cuddle me hard enough to feel my guts squish and he did.
During the festival I give a paper on trans poetry and wanting to be a drag queen called Both And. A colleague asks me how I am and I tell her the truth: I’m not very good. She looks concerned and touches my shoulder. She tells me she’s sure the vote will come out as a yes.
What I don’t tell her: I’m not thinking about outcomes, and neither are my friends –we’re too busy guarding our own edges.
What I don’t tell her: the fabric of my world has changed.
What I don’t tell her: the illusion of acceptance has vanished.
What I don’t tell her: someone has torn down three YES posters that were wrapped around telegraph poles near the end of my street. They haven’t been removed completely – the top third of the posters remain so it’s clear they’ve been ripped.
I’m writing this at a pub in Coburg. Opposite me is the office of Greens Senator Janet Rice, and there is a small rainbow flag flying from the shopfront signage, as well as a YES poster on the door. I look up from my screen and see two white men walking down the street, t-shirts and jeans, baseball caps, and one of them suddenly leaps, and tries to pull the flag down. He misses and doesn’t try again, keeps walking after a single regretful twist of the neck. I stare at him as he walks away. I remember reading earlier today about a woman who came home to find the YES posters on her house defaced with ‘vote no to fags’ in thick black texta.
The YES poster on Janet Rice’s door is the same one that was in my local café’s window. It took me a week to ask the owner if he would mind having it up. What if he said no? Would I have to boycott? Would someone have a go at him about it? He’s always friendly to me (although I’ve been going there for nearly two years and he still can’t get my pronouns right) and to my boyfriend (whose pronouns he can’t get right either). Eventually I took the rainbow YES poster in with some blu tack and showed it to him and asked if I could put it up in his window and he said sure, as long as it didn’t leave marks in the glass. It was there for four days. Last weekend it disappeared. (Did someone tear it down? Deface it?) This morning the owner said to me,
“Just in case you were wondering, there’s no sinister reason why the poster isn’t there. It kept falling down and I got tired of putting it back up.”
He handed over my coffee and I walked into the raining afternoon.
I am wobbling all over the place and whenever someone asks me how I am I start leaking tears, but it was my birthday on the weekend and Benji went to the supermarket with my boyfriend and bought me a rainbow cake (white icing on the outside, you’ll never guess what’s inside Mama, you’ll never guess!). He decorated it with three different types of lolly (more rainbows). He drew me a picture full of ‘Happy Birthday!’ and ‘Mama!’ and ‘Benji!’ and in one corner, the word YES inside a green circle. When he gave it to me he came and sat on my lap and showed me the word. We had another gut-squishing cuddle.
A day later my boyfriend and I go to a queer night at a Brunswick pub. Betty Grumble is the first act. She comes out in a skin-tight onesie and huge curly hair. She dances to a song about love (all hip and lips) while the rest of us press up against the edge of the stage grinning and yelling. She keeps dancing, and as she lip-syncs, she undresses. We cheer each time she takes something else off. Eventually she’s naked. She turns to face us, bends over, and does a headstand. She grins as she spreads her legs spread wide, then reaches into herself to take hold of a white thread. She tugs, tugs, tugs. She pulls. Attached to the thread are rainbow flags. She pulls and the flags uncrumple and start to dry in the strobing air. We scream and clap and cheer while Tata Vega sings “get it up, get it up for love.” She leaves the stage and the music plays and we dance. We dance and it feels medicinal. A boy in black satin boxer shorts and leopard skin heels struts towards me. We dance. Two queens hold gloved hands and sip ciders. We dance. I find myself wishing I could spend the next six weeks in this pulsating room full of queer and trans folk, and that November the 15th could come and go with us barely noticing, because we were all too busy getting it up for love.
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.Quinn Eades is appearing in two events as part of The Festival of Questions at the Melbourne Town Hall on Sunday 15 October, presented by The Wheeler Centre and Melbourne Festival. Book now at wheelercentre.com.
Author photo by Jamie James, James Photographic Services.