“Do ya too?”

It’s been a while, sorry! And it’s the weekend. I save the weekend for happy & creative stuff, so here’s a song I wrote in 2005 that I’ve never shared before. It’s called Do Ya Too?

For all those times I used to
stand around waiting,
For all the things I ever
gave to you.
For all those nights I used to
lie awake, faking,
I don’t know just what to
say to you.

When I remember you
and all the things you’d do
I have to say it’s true
that I
never had feelings for you.

Well I guess it’s been a year now,
and every now and then I think of you.
I don’t remember any good times,
but I guess there must have been a few.

When I remember you
and all the things you’d do
I hate to say it’s true
that I
know I had feelings for you.

Now I remember you
and all the things you do
I have to say it’s true
that I,
I still have feelings for you.
And I’ve
never seen nothing like you.


That ‘straight queer’ bullshit

I added some thoughts to Sonya’s. Apologies for ugly formatting, Sonya’s words don’t deserve careful attention to things like aesthetics. John.

A friend recently used the term “straight queer” to describe someone who is very involved in LGBTQ activism but identifies as straight.Sounds like a double-barreled insult to me; ally is the usual term, and even then, we’re very careful how we use it.I fell in love with this term immediately.I bet you did. It allowed you to completely invade our space.

Although I dislike the word “queer” itself (I don’t agree with reclamation) just a thought – you don’t get to decide what words we use to describe ourselves, and why we use them I absolutely love what it stands for. I bet you don’t know what it stands for. It shows that sexuality is not something we can pin down, nor that we should be trying to. That’s not what it stands for.

The ever-growing LGBTQQA alphabet soup wow, “alphabet soup” is a term used by people who aim to mock inclusivity, so way to show that you’re one of them is a testament to the fact that sexuality and gender identity are very complex things specific to the individual. I personally identify as queer because I don’t want to categorize my sexuality in a society that is obsessed with clearly labeling it. Actually our society is obsessed with labeling genders and sexualities that are not cishet. Your identity is the default, so even when you remove all labels, you are still not queer. Sorry to burst your bubble.

The term “queer” disrupts how we think about sexuality it doesn’t, it’s been used for decades to other us and we’re now using it to strengthen our own identity. The only disruption it caused was to our cause. and “straight queer” builds upon this disruption in the sense that it tries to destroy our identities, yes, you are right. It destabilizes what we believe about the LGBTQ community well, it destabalizes the LGBTQ community, but maybe not what you believe about it; most notably that LGBTQ and straight are mutually exclusive you’re talking about heterosexual trans people here, right?. Queer includes straight it doesn’t . Straight is queer too. It isn’t . Sexuality is a big melting pot that doesn’t need, nor functions well with labels. We need labels because they give meaning and reality to our identity. Shoving us in your melting pot labeled “OTHER” is not helpful. At all.

Some might argue that it’s not fair to allow people with all the societal privilege of straightness to identify under the LGBTQ umbrella and thereby enter LGBTQ space. You can identify however you want, but stay the fuck out of our safe spaces with this attitude. I disagree. You don’t get to disagree. We are living in a time when “the closet” is becoming more and more obsolete frankly, it’s feeling more and more necessary right now and the LGBTQ community is slowly becoming a part of “mainstream” society but only because of people like you invading our spaces and trying to destroy our sense of community from within. There is less of a need for exclusively LGBTQ space there is ALWAYS a need for safe spaces. Additionally, queer activism is at a point where we are working to normalize a variety of sexualities you basically know zero about queer activism. Calling in to question the normalcy of “heterosexuality”, the way the term “straight queer” inevitably does, is a surefire way to destabilize the association between heterosexuality and normalcy. It doesn’t though, it just allows you to believe that you have removed yourself from the group that oppresses us, and allows you to believe that the acts of oppression you are carrying out are actually you being oppressed. With this attitude, I repeat: stay the fuck out of our spaces.

Although I believe “straight” can be a part of “queer”, I don’t believe every single person now falls under the LGBTQ umbrella. Correct I wouldn’t feel comfortable calling people like Paul Ryan or Glenn Beck “straight queer”. Good. On the other side of the spectrum, I also don’t believe that one needs to engage in LGBTQ activism in order to “prove” themselves to the LGBTQ community. Correct. But really, I shouldn’t be picking and choosing who is “straight queer”. Including yourself, tbh. No identity label – gay, queer, straight – should be slapped onto any person. Correct. People should be able to embrace the term “straight queer” themselves – whatever their reasons may be. Stay. The. Fuck. Out. Of. Our. Safe. Spaces.



Tamal is gay and our response is harmful

In an interview with Radio Times magazine this week, Great British Bake Off contestant Tamal Ray was asked about his relationship status and responded “I wouldn’t have a girlfriend; I would have a boyfriend, but I’m single at the moment”. It’s been described as him “coming out” (Attitude, Passport), or a “revelation” (Daily Mail, Digital Spy) – but it’s neither of these things, and it has been met with a response of dismay and disappointment from the straight women of twitter, contrasted nicely with a good deal of excitement from The Gays Of Twitter.

It’s all got me rather irritated.

All of the response – from the reporting of the interview, to the tweets from, well, everybody is indicative of a society that views heterosexuality as a default. We’re assumed straight until we specify otherwise [I’ve written about this before and how I’m not putting up with it any longer] and even our friends who otherwise oppose homophobia still view sexuality not established as meaning heterosexual. Heterosexual is default, so unknown means straight, not specified means straight, anything other than a widely announced public coming out means straight. We have to stop doing this.

We also have to stop referring to incidents of people making comments that indicate that they are not straight as “coming out” or “revelations”. In the case of Tamal, this appears to be him simply correcting an interviewer who mistakenly assumed he was straight, but it happens all the time – people correcting lazy interviewers or making comments to colleagues are referred to as coming out. This sucks because it puts the onus on us to be clear about our sexualities and to comply with society’s rule of Straight As Default. But even worse, because it shames us. It furthers the idea that when society doesn’t know details about us (mostly that we’re queer), it means we’ve been hiding it – but this is usually just not the case. With Tamal, but also with almost every other celebrity who is known to be queer, we haven’t seen a change of status (despite how it’s reported); we just have some new information. And we have to stop believing that we are entitled to this information. We are not entitled to this information.

But we are also not entitled to other people’s bodies, their affection, their love, and their attention – and that’s what I say to the straight women of Twitter who have expressed disappointment or heartbreak over finding out that Tamal is not straight.

Firstly, he was never available to you anyway. Same with Ricky Martin, Lance Bass, Neil Patrick Harris, the list goes on. They were never available to you – not just because of their celebrity status, but because they were gay before you knew. You haven’t “lost” anything except, perhaps, your sense of entitlement. And because your sense of entitlement instills within you an expectation for us to disclose our availability (or lack of) at our earliest opportunity, you feel disappointment when that entitlement is taken away.

Secondly, please stop making public announcements of your disappointment. What you are saying is that being gay is a bad thing. Maybe you don’t hold this belief more generally, but even when you express disappointment about a specific person being gay for a specific personal reason, you are coming from a position of regarding being gay as being a bad thing. So please stop that.

But think also about the people who read and hear your announcements of disappointment. Young queer people who are establishing their identities and how they want to present themselves. Do they care about your own personal celebrity crushes? No. But what they do hear is that you value people less if they’re not straight. That you cannot celebrate their lives unless they are straight. That their being queer will be regarded by some – maybe including you – as a disappointment. So please stop doing this.

There has been mentioned a contrast with gay and bisexual men expressing excitement or joy each time they discover a beloved celebrity is gay or bi or anything other than straight – but it really isn’t the same thing. Part of the excitement comes from the pleasure representation brings. Seeing ourselves represented in the world of celebrity brings validation and a sense of positivity. (It’s true for other underrepresented groups, but I’m not in a position to speak for those.) Having role models to in positions we can aspire to really does bring excitement.

But I shouldn’t shy away from the fact that some of this excitement does come from a sense of entitlement. We see celebrities who are known publicly to be gay or bisexual as (newly) sexually available to us, and we now feel entitled to their bodies and their affection. It seems odd that we appear to be contributing to the very system that tries to keep us down, but we must remember that we grew up in the same heteronormative society that everybody else did. We are not removed from that and our responses are influenced by that. We have homophobia built into us the same as everybody else does. It’s no different because we’re queer.

I suppose personal responses to finding out high-profile people are queer may seem little things that are mostly inconsequential, but they’re not. They come from, and further society’s insistence that heterosexuality is default. They come from and cement heteronormativity, and that is so much more harmful than we realize.

Five tips for top tea

Tea is wonderful! Here are my five tips for the perfect brew:

1. It’s all in the water

Quite literally! Look after the water you use and the water will look after your tea. Famous tea drinker The Queen pays particular attention to her tea water – according to ABC News she used to travel with a case of Malvern water specifically for making tea until the brand was discontinued in 2010.

Tap water is fine though (unless you live in Adelaide I’ve heard), but filtering it will make it better. But the two golden rules: it must be boiling (you cannot get a decent cup of tea on a plane because the water boils at such a low temperature) and you must never use re-boiled water.

2. Give your tea room to move

If you want the perfect cup of tea, you need to give it space – that means using a teapot and loose leaf tea, even if you’re making tea for one. This will allow the molecules to move about as much as they possibly can, and the result is a better flavor.

3. Timing is key

If, against all my advice, you choose to make tea in a mug with a teabag, give the tea time to develop. For English Breakfast Tea that means letting it brew for three to five minutes: a thirty-second dip in and out is just not good enough. For those who like a stronga cuppa, don’t be tempted to leave the tea to brew for longer; it will become bitter. Simply use more tea!

4. The question of milk

Some teas really don’t work well with milk – Earl Grey being one of them. But since this post is primarily about English Breakfast Tea, adding milk is an excellent idea. Add the milk to the tea, not the other way round. My recommendation would be to use skimmed milk, as the fat in whole milk does not work all that well with tea.

5. Make an occasion

Sometimes tea is all about the occasion, and none of the rules apply. The best tea I ever had was out of a flask in a pop-up storm shelter when we were stranded in bad weather in the North York Moors. We broke all the rules – it wasn’t hot (it was warm-ish), it was stewed, and we added powdered milk. But the situation made it the perfect cup of tea – an escape with friends. Sometimes tea exists just to facilitate an occasion – don’t fuss over the tea at the expense of the experience.


My favorite TV show at the moment is The Great British Bake-Off. It’s a celebration of home baking, a celebration of tradition, and a celebration of Britishness. Only, well, it isn’t. It’s presented as something that is uniquely or quintessentially British, but aside from the people who are actually in the show, there’s nothing in it that is particularly British. And in many cases, quite the reverse.

In the first episode of this series, the contestants were asked to produce a showstopping version of a British classic from the 1970s – the kitsch classic Black Forest Gateau. Surely anybody who grew up in Britain (me included) recognizes Black Forest Gateau as a cake that is classic British cuisine, which is bizarre given that (as Christian points out), it’s very much a German cake.

This led to more discussion on the use of the word British tacked on to seemingly everything to give things an air of respectability or superiority. So at the supermarket, we’re presented with The Great British Sausage to cook on the Great British Barbecue, which would normally happen in the middle of the British Summer. Like what should simply be the Great Bake-Off, there is nothing inherently British about any of these things, but it seems that in Britain, unless you can stick “The Great British…” in front of something, that thing is worthless.

What caught my curiosity was that until Christian pointed it out I had never noticed it. Now, of course, it irritates the hell out of me, but before that I didn’t even realize it was there. Even curiouser, I didn’t notice that the British do it despite the fact that after moving to Australia I noticed instantly that people in Australia do the exact same thing and it annoys me intensely. It’s alienating and screams of this awful superiority complex that nationalism encourages.

Politicians talk about all Australians (but never all people), the post office is branded Australia Post, the supermarket Woolworths changed its slogan in 2012 from simply The Fresh Food People to Australia’s Fresh Food People. And I noticed all of this, and still thought that we didn’t do that in Britain.

It’s related, I think, to banal nationalism, but it’s not exactly the same thing. During the discussion, Matthew Smith coined the word jingonym – a portmanteau of jingoism and demonym, and I think that captures the concept perfectly. Demonyms that are added to things to assert some national superiority. There’s nothing British about summer in Britain any more than there is anything French about summer in France. The weather isn’t somehow warmer because it’s British, there’s not somehow less chance of rain in June because of Britain. It’s absurd, yet we do it without noticing.

It’s not exclusive to Britain – as I mentioned Australians do it, and Americans are notorious for it – my example here would be the Americans With Disabilities Act – a very important piece of legislation, but one whose name exerts the importance of it being applied to American people only. But I wonder if it is exclusive to the English language (surely not, but I can’t be sure) – another tweet from Christian points out that there’s certainly no such thing as the Great German Summer.

What do we do? Stop attributing value to a nation for the sake of it? I think we should do that, but that’s a hard sell. But I think it could be worth it – let’s try to enjoy things whether they’re Great and British or delicious and from Baden-Württemberg, masquerading as 70s British kitsch.

Five Resume Tips

I don’t claim to be an expert on resumes or recruitment, but I do read a fair few resumes, and I have to say I see a lot of, erm, interesting resumes. Some are interesting in a good way, catch my attention and make me want to read more, but some are painful to read. I used to feel I had some sort of duty to give each one I read equal attention, and to read it whether or not it grabbed me, but nowadays I’m quite happy for my advice to be “don’t hire this person” based on the briefest scan of a poorly constructed resume.

Here are my five tips to get your resume onto my maybe pile.

Ignore resume advice

The internet is full of advice on how to produce the perfect resume (this post is no exception), and most of it is absolute bollocks. Your TAFE course likely includes being taught how to write the perfect resume. Your careers centre at high school or uni will give you endless tips on resume-writing. None of these people have a clue. Why? Because they don’t hire people. People who hire people, people who read resumes – they know what they want to see in a resume. And they are literally the only people you want to listen to.

The golden rule on resume advice: do not listen to any advice from anyone who is not involved in hiring people. Anyone else will give you bullshit advice about fonts, making your resume stand out, being quirky, including buzz words, summarizing your character. Ignore all of it. People who actually read resumes (and read them for the purpose of finding candidates to interview) will tell you what they want to see in a resume, and since that is the sort of person who you’ll be sending your resume to, they’re the people you should be taking advice from.

Include signposts

I am very lucky: I don’t read resumes on a daily basis, and I whenever I do read resumes it’s rare that I have more than four or five to get through at once. But chances are wherever you send your resume, it will be in a pile of about ninety. The first time I read your resume, I probably have around fifteen seconds to spend on it, so it’s very important I don’t spend those fifteen seconds aimlessly searching for the information I am looking for.

The way to make sure that doesn’t happen is to make your resume look as standard as possible. It should be plain, and (for want of a better word) visually boring. And the most important part of the “standard look” resume is signposts. Guide me through it. I want to know what your experience it – show me, and in a way I can find it at a glance. I want to know where you work now – make sure I can see it instantly. Any super-important skills? Signpost them.

Your resume should stand out, but not because of a quirky design, but because of outstanding achievement that stands out because I can see it at a glance.

Don’t lie

Don’t lie. At all. Don’t be misleading. If it’s “technically true”, it probably counts as a lie. If you’ve worked somewhere for ten months, you haven’t worked there for a year.

The reasons are fairly straightforward: you’ll get caught (or if you don’t, you’ll spend months or years worrying about getting caught), or you’ll end up in a job that’s just not suitable for you so you’ll hate it.

In short: don’t lie. Sell yourself, but make sure that your resume is a true, fair, and accurate representation of your experience and achievements.

Talk shop

Your resume is a business document, and it’s a marketing tool. When I’m reading your resume, I’m looking for how well you will fit into the business. So I care about how well you have fitted into other businesses. I don’t care about your personal life (and that includes your hobbies). I don’t care about your family, what books you have read, what you watch on TV.

I promise, I assume you have a personal life. I promise I understand that it’s important to have a work/life balance, and I promise that I understand you agree. I promise that I understand that when you finish work you don’t stop existing. And I also promise that if your after-work activities involve nothing but sitting on the lounge with your cat, eating Doritos and watching reality TV, I’m okay with that – I’m only – only – only interested in what you will achieve at work.

(That’s not to say if you, for example, look after the finances and budget for your church as a hobby you shouldn’t include it, because that is something I want to know.)

Your opinion is irrelevant

The number one thing I will definitely ignore on your resume is any opinion you offer of yourself. Examples include good attention to detail, excellent communication skills, or great team player. You are using this document to sell yourself so of course you are think you are all of these things. So seriously, tell me about your achievements and let me decide whether that is indicative your communication skills or your attention to detail.

Read your resume again, and for every single statement ask yourself “is this a factual example of something I have achieved or is it a quality I am claiming to have”. If it’s the latter, replace it with the former or delete it altogether,

Your resume is a marketing tool, but it’s also a business document. Keep it relevant, keep it business-like, and keep it true. Your resume should stand out, but not because of gimmicks, but because of factual achievements that easy for the reader to find.

Good luck!

Any thoughts? Let me know in the comments! Any resume faux pas, or things you’ve seen that you loved? Let me know!

This is what the fuck just happened in Australia

I’m fairly sure a lot of people who have half an eye on world events and international current affairs are wondering what the fuck happened in Australia yesterday and today. So here’s a two minute primer.

Why you’re confused

Almost without any warning at all, Australia got a new prime minister. There was no prime-ministerial death, no public election, no campaigning, just all of a sudden, boom, “In international news, Australia has a new prime minister for some reason”. There was a flurry of activity on twitter (read: twitter fucking blew up) and, and, and, something happened.

What happened: a brief timeline

Yesterday morning it was business as usual in Canberra. Government ministers were doing their obligatory popping up in various places around the country. At one of these pop-ups the Prime Minister was asked about a potential leadership challenge, which he dismissed as gossip and “Canberra games”. Other ministers were asked about the same thing, they all said it was nonsense.

During Question Time in parliament between 2pm and 3pm, the Leader of the Opposition asked a question implying that the Prime Minister did not enjoy the support of his party (the Liberals).

After Question Time the Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, went for a meeting with the Prime Minister. Shortly afterwards the Deputy Leader of the Liberals went for a meeting with him.

At four o’clock Malcolm Turnbull held a press conference and announced he was challenging the Prime Minister for the leadership of the Liberal Party.

Just before seven o’clock, the Prime Minister announced there would be a Liberal party room meeting where an election for the positions of Leader and Deputy Leader would be held. He confirmed he would be a candidate for Leader.

Just after nine o’clock this meeting started, and shortly afterwards it was announced that Malcolm Turnbull had won the election and was now the leader of the Liberal party (and so would by virtue of being the leader of the majority party in parliament become Prime Minister).

The Prime Minister disappeared for fourteen hoursbut turned up at 12:30 this afternoon and gave one of the most ridiculous concession speeches in the history of political defeats, in which he blamed the media for his demise (despite News Limited giving him wall-to-wall support, and Fairfax’s negative coverage being lacklustre at best).

Just after one o’clock this afternoon, Malcolm Turnbull was sworn in as Prime Minister.

I should note there’s been instability for the last 18 months, and this has only intensified since there was a failed “spill” motion in February, so this didn’t come totally without warning. We were expecting one some time soon-ish, but this snap challenge took us all off-guard.

The language of love

There’s a guy in my life. We sit next to each other and watch TV. We share a house, share a bed. We share some of our money. We’re invited to parties together. Sometimes we fuck.  We report each other’s incomes on our tax returns. We reported every last detail of our relationship to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship so that I could come and live here.

But I don’t know what to call him.

It’s a strange thing, not having a go-to word for that person; I think it comes from a few places:

Heteronormativity means that unless I make it explicitly clear, most of society will assume that the person I’m talking about is a woman. Sometimes this will be because, well, society just assumes people are straight, but bizarrely this will often be out of some strange, misguided ‘politeness’ where, based on gay stereotypes, they’ll assume I’m gay but pretend to assume my [whatever we want to call them] is a woman so as not to offend me.

(To be clear: this offends me.)

Internalised homophobia contributes to this dilemma in a huge way too. And it is, in a way, working with heteronormativity but in the opposite direction. Not always, but sometimes, I feel the desire to hide, and to keep the gender of him as ambiguous as possible. It’s absurd, and as I’ve discussed before I’m very much “out”, and it is a very rare thing that I feel a need to actually hide my sexual orientation out of fears for personal safety etc.

Put these two things together, and combine them with a desire for honesty as well as warmth, and I’m left with essentially zero good choices for what that guy actually is.

Partner is the one people like to use to sound inoffensive, and whilst it doesn’t necessarily offend me, it does make me want to vomit. It’s so sterile and bland, makes our relationship sound like a business arrangement, transactional. It is totally unrepresentative of a relationship based on love and mutual admiration.

Lover. Fuck off.

Spouse crops up on forms and official documents. The Immigration Department uses spouse and I don’t like it at all. Partly because it’s incorrect (yes, de facto spouse is correct I suppose, Border Force), but we’re not married, we have decided not to get married, and we don’t like the idea of marriage. Our relationship looks a little bit like a marriage, at least from the outside, but that is certainly not what it is. (I also really dislike the word, aesthetically.)

Husband is a word I sometimes use to piss people off, but mostly I don’t like it. Again, it’s too marriagey for my taste, and if I’m honest it makes me feel subordinate.

I sometimes use Other Half but I don’t like it all that much. It implies that people are not complete unless they’re in a relationship (and note the “half” – it could never be “he’s one of my other thirds”, which is another reason – even though I personally am not polyamorous – I dislike it). It’s slightly better than Better Half though, which makes me see red.

Related is Significant Other, which I suppose isn’t too bad, but it feels a bit glib. He’s more than just “significant”, but like other half, I feel it does downplay the significance of myself in my own life.

I used to dislike Boyfriend intensely. It seemed okay for young people, or people who hadn’t been in the relationship for a very long time, but for a co-habiting couple in a stable, long-term relationship, it always sounded a little immature. My feelings on that have changed a little now. Using boyfriend feels like a rejection of societal norms. It feels like an acknowledgement that marriage is not some ideal or a goal to aim for. And I like that it pisses some people off or confuses them (as I’ve said before, I’m over caring whether people are confused or not).

Still I don’t call him my boyfriend nearly as often as I’d like. Maybe it’s a feeling that I ought to hide something about him, maybe it’s a desire to be taken seriously. It’s all indicative of an urgent need to unlearn all this rubbish that surrounds relationships and society’s ideals when it comes to talking about them. But I’m working on it.

I’d be interested to know what words you like, dislike, use and avoid. Let me know in the comments or in a tweet!

Something for the weekend: Idiom

This week I decided to go back to school. Not full time or anything like that, but a twice-weekly evening class to improve my German. I learnt German at high school and started a university course in German (why I didn’t finish it is a whole other story), but I haven’t spoken German in about ten years, so I have forgotten a lot. Coupled with my never-ending difficulty in meeting new people, my frustration at no longer having any real fluency in a language I love inspired me to take some action.

I have taken the placement test, and term starts next month. It’s a little bit exciting, but a certain apprehension last night:

Idioms are phrases or expressions that have figurative meanings, and they’re usually specific to the source language, that is translated word-for-word into another language leaves the phrase either meaningless or (perhaps worse) with a literal meaning that is something other than intended. An example in English is I’ve got butterflies in my stomach. To a native English speaker the meaning is clear: it means you’re nervous or anxious, but what it doesn’t mean is that you actually have butterflies in your belly. And translated into most other languages the meaning is unclear: you have to use a phrase with a different literal meaning to convey the same figurative meaning. In Chinese, for example, you would say that your heart is beating as hard as a deer bumping into a tree. Perhaps you could guess the meaning, but it doesn’t really make sense. One of the most curious things about idioms is that often, as a native speaker, you don’t notice them until you start learning another language, or someone who is not a native speaker points them out. And oftentimes they are very difficult to explain. Christian asked:

The meaning of love child is wrapped up in culture and subtlety, almost irony, and it’s very hard to convey the exact meaning of the phrase. Wiktionary defines it as a child born as a result of a romantic liaison between unmarried partners, but the phrase itself is supposed to draw attention to the infidelity: the essence of the phrase is difficult to translate, or even to explain in English. The fascinating topic of idiom was expanded on last night in a discussion with Dave, who studies Auslan (Australian Sign Language) and should soon be an interpreter. I asked

And the answer was basically some do, some don’t and yes. For instance I was able to make a good guess of how to sign it went over my head (meaning it was too confusing for me to understand or often used to indicate that what was just said appeared to be an in-joke that the speaker was not in on), but Dave explained that there are examples of phrases that are idiomatic in English and Auslan, but rely on different figurative language:

In short, idioms fascinate me, and the best way, I think, to discuss them is just to give examples and to explore them. But back to my original worry. Ich bin nicht von gestern might be translated for the Australian learner as I didn’t come down in the last shower. And as a boy from urban Yorkshire, neither one of those phrases is part of my native tongue!

Cheaper public transport please

I talk about public transport a fair bit, and I love public transport. There are plenty of annoyances, of course, but I love the concept of buses, trains and ferries, and mostly I love them in practice. I hate sitting in traffic in the car, I like to be able to sit back and relax when commuting, and (perhaps most significantly) I like drinking alcohol, so a public chauffeur is necessary!

What I am generally less thrilled about is paying fares. Not because I don’t want to pay for transport at all, but because, to me, it seems to go against the ethos of public transport. So I offer my preferred solutions.

[Note: I am enormously in favor of publicly-owned public transport, so my ideas really only work with government-owned and -operated networks.]

Public transport that is free at the point of use

Free. Free buses, free trains. You want to go into town? Get on the bus. It’s free. Going to work? Jump on the train: nothing to pay. Easy. Of course public transport would still need to be funded, but I prefer the idea of everyone paying through the tax system.

I hear grumbling from drivers already. “Why should I pay if I don’t use it?” Firstly, of course, because good public transport is good for society as a whole, even if it doesn’t benefit you as an individual. But also, just because you are not physically sitting on a train doesn’t mean you are not using it. Really good public transport systems that lots pf people use do benefit drivers, mainly in the way of fewer cars on the roads. They’re also really useful when your car breaks down. Or, yes, when you’re drunk.

My instinct would be to restrict free public transport to local and commuter trains and buses, with fares remaining on intercity services, but I can’t really explain why.

However I am aware that totally free public transport is a difficult idea to push, so if we are continuing to pay fares:

Cut-price peak-time travel

At first thought, it goes against all logic. Everyone wants to travel at rush hour, so peak-time travel is premium travel, and people should pay more. Of course!


There are two main reasons for premium pricing: either you want to discourage people from using the service at a particular time or you realize you can make a tidy buck by charging more for a service when more people want to use it. I hope it’s clear that I don’t want to be discouraging people from using public transport – ever – and I think that cashing in on people using services at particular times is pretty shady behavior.

I’m, again, assuming a state-owned public transport network, but really we want to be encouraging more people to use public transport at peak times. Again, fewer cars on the roads etc. I’d rather see people going to work on the bus or the train rather than driving in. So to me it is nonsensical to put fares up at precisely the time we want more people to use the service. In my world, rush-hour would be the cheapest time to use public transport.

Given the world we live in, I don’t expect either of these things anytime soon, but it’s nice to dream.

Migrant is not a dirty word

Images of drowned children are horrible to look at. Images of people fleeing war, desperate, scared. It’s painful to look at. And ever more of us want to do something about it. We want to help, and we want to welcome these people – to offer safety.

But on the condition that they are refugees.

It’s certainly not a condition I would impose. I’ve seen countless Facebook posts and tweets reminding us that these people fleeing Syria are refugees and not migrants. And while it’s true that these people are refugees (and really we should use that term – certainly from a legal perspective refugees are entitled to protections that are not offered to migrants), we’re talking as though migrant is a dirty word, as though migration is a shameful thing.

But migration is not a shameful thing. Migration is a good thing, and migration is a human thing. People move about, across all areas and for so many different reasons. Nomadic tribes, family migration, study abroad – and, of course, fleeing war and political persecution. People cross borders, and there is no “invalid” reason.

During the last few weeks, the people who I have seen correcting “migrant” to “refugee” have left me wondering – what if they weren’t refugees? Would we support letting them drown? Would their dead children not matter? Could we justify the cruel and inhumane treatment we are seeing? It saddens me to think how some of us would answer.

Seeking a better life is not a crime. Seeking a better life should not be punishable. We’re not the gatekeepers of The Good Life, and it’s not for us to decide who deserves a better life, and whose life isn’t quite bad enough already. Most of us live where we do by coincidence and circumstance, and that’s no basis to deny others the privileges we enjoy.

I support all forms of migration, and all reasons for migration. Right now there is a crisis in the Mediterranean, with people fleeing war. We urgently need to help them. But because they need help; not because they’re “not migrants”.

Note: for the sake of full clarity, those who seek to smear refugees, and use the term migrant as a slur disgust me. There are people who need our help urgently, and we must help them, urgently. It’s clear that the Syrian refugees in the news right now are not economic migrants, but really – so what if they were.

How we value friendship, and how Facebook has changed that

I think quite a lot about friendship. I moved halfway across the world when I was in my late 20s (which, I hasten to add, was not that long ago!) to set up home with my boyfriend. It’s a stable, monogamous relationship, but the consequence of that is that it’s fairly challenging to meet new friends – and I mean friends in the sense of genuine friendship, rather than just people I know. So I really love living in the time of Twitter and Facebook, meeting people online and making real, genuine connections with people.

Having the majority of my friends being “online” friends often leaves me thinking about friends I have had in the past. People who I became friends with by meeting them in real life (IRL*), but people I’ve lost contact with. I’ve had the most wonderful friendships with people – and had experiences that made me think “we’ll be friends forever”. Almost all of these friendships have ended because of circumstance. I moved away, or they moved away, or one or the other of us changed jobs, or we just happened to meet at a convention and spent the whole weekend together, but the convention ended and so did the friendship. Some I have as Facebook friends, but the majority of those friends have simply passed into memory.

I get a little frustrated how the internet – and Facebook in particular – has messed with the way people maintain friendships. And importantly, the way friendships end.

Something that I think is hard to accept is the idea that all friendships are temporary – but it’s an important idea that I agree with. Too often I think we measure the success of  a relationship or friendship by it not ending, and we value friendships based on how long the lasted, but I reject this. I say we should value a friendship based on how much we enjoyed the experience while it lasted.

Facebook (and social media in general, but for me it’s mainly Facebook) is ruining this because now we have the ability to add friends to a database and access them whenever we like. We now have this idea that a friend isn’t really a true friend unless we are connected with them for life. It’s for this reason I’m very unsure about Facebook, and maintaining Facebook friendships. I feel that some – maybe most – friendships are meant to me temporary: that it’s not the longevity of the friendship that counts, but the feeling of having a friend.

I look at my friends list on Facebook (it’s small, just 74 names), but also think about the friends I have had IRL in the past who are not on that list, people who I had terribly good – albeit temporary – friendships with. While I love that Facebook and the internet allows us to stay in touch with people we’d like to, when we fall out of touch with people it’s not because we were not good friends, it’s because real friendship and what Facebook would have us believe is friendship are two different things.

* as it happens, I do count the friendships I have with people I only know online as “real life” friendships too, but online vs IRL seems to be a distinction we make, so I use it here for ease of understanding.

Marriage Terminology

Since this debate on marriage and same-sex couples isn’t going away any time soon, I expect in the coming year or so I’ll be writing a fair bit about it. There isn’t a particular term I stick with when talking about it, which I understand can be confusing. But here are my thoughts on some of the more common terms used when discussing this matter.

I should mention that I don’t think any of them is ideal, which is perhaps why I chop and change, and switch about when writing. Sometimes I deliberately use one or another, but really they’re all pretty crap.

Marriage equality / equal marriage

I’ll start with the “big” one, and the one which seems to have been adopted as the “right” one. I hate it. I hate hate hate it. Not that I’m opposed to equality, of course (although I should say here that since I learned about the concept of liberation I’ve been forever giving equality activists massive side-eye), but because mostly proponents of changes to marriage legislation don’t actually advocate equality; rather just an extension of privilege.

Many view forms of marriage that include same-sex couples, but exclude trans people as unproblematic. That’s not equality. Many advocate restricting marriage to gender-binary people, and that’s not equality either. Almost all are happy restricting marriage to monogamous couples. Again, not equality. Most completely reject the notion that marriage itself is an institution based on inequality, both within a marriage, and as part of a society that affords privileges to married people that are not afforded to unmarried people. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe that’s how we’ve decided to run our society. Maybe it’s the only administrative solution to society circa 2015. All of that may be true, but it’s not equality.

I hardly use the term marriage equality (except in tags!), and it infuriates me when people use it blindly as though equality is something that can be achieved very easily with these sort of band-aid solutions, ignoring all the inequality and injustice that is ignored or even caused by marriage and extending marriage.

Equality is not brought about just by saying the word.

Gay marriage

Gay marriage is so problematic, but it’s the one I tend to use most, and perhaps for that reason. It’s a term that doesn’t pretend to be inclusive, or equal, or fully descriptive. That said, I don’t really like the way it aligns itself so neatly with the very real idea that gay marriage activism is almost exclusively in the realm of middle-class gay white cis men.

The term is becoming ever less acceptable, and I think (hope!) that reflects a growing realization that not all (and in fact most) people who are not heterosexual are not gay. A marriage between two bisexual women, for instance, would not accurately be described as a “gay marriage”. Neither would a marriage between, say, a heterosexual trans man (whose legally registered gender was inaccurate) and a cis woman, even though current marriage legislation excludes them.

The term excludes so many people, but it knows it does. Perhaps I shouldn’t use it, but I do – not because I think it’s in any way adequate, but because in a group of terms that are all inadequate, this one is the most inadequate.

Same-sex marriage

Same-sex marriage is a term that feels so clinical to me and I don’t really like it. Perhaps it’s the most accurate, but similar to what I mentioned above, it relies heavily on cis, binary norms. It’s exclusionary, but selectively so. Many relationships that are excluded from marriage now, but would be included in any proposed changes to the Marriage Act are not “same sex” relationships. And more so than gay marriage this is a term that people use to sneakily exclude people – and as usual it’s the people who most need inclusivity.

Marriage. Just marriage.

One day, perhaps, we’ll have marriage that includes everyone, and a society where unmarried people are not discriminated against. One day we will be able to talk about marriage, and not have to specify that we’re not just talking about marriage between cishet two-people couples. One day there won’t be a distinction between man-woman marriages and other types of marriage. Unfortunately today is not that day. Where inequality exists, we have to be able to name it, but while inequality exists we can’t just say marriage without a qualifier and be understood.

Language is wholly inadequate when discussing inequality, and especially when trying to reconcile the way people actually live with an institution associated with tradition, bigotry and administration. I can’t think of any term that is adequate for talking about extending marriage to all relationships that doesn’t exclude people or lie about its intentions in some way.

7-Eleven, [not] Subway and Bill Shorten’s misdirected concern

Following the other day’s revelation that 7-Eleven has been systematically underpaying and generally exploiting employees (mostly those employees who are temporary residents in Australia and on student/limited work visas), Bill Shorten made this comment:

We’ve all been appalled and disgusted by the scenes at Subway, thousands of people are being ripped off.

A dreadful mistake, commenting on Subway (who I’m sure have a wonderful track record on fair employment), when actually 7-Eleven is the subject of this scandal. But although this comment was called out by Mark Di Stefano , and this was the part he apologized for, it is another comment he made that made me sad and frustrated:

We want to make sure that we don’t see people coming here on visas being exploited and undercutting Australian jobs. [emphasis mine]

Exploitative work is bad, and it’s always bad. But this suggestion that the worst result of foreign workers being exploited is that Australian workers may in turn be exploited is insular and jingoistic. The argument that foreign workers undercut Australian workers is a favorite of racists. “They come over here, taking our jobs …” It’s rooted in the idea that people consent to being exploited in order to secure a job that would otherwise be filled by someone who would refuse to be exploited.

It’s racism and xenophobia. It’s victim blaming. And so transferring your concern to hypothetical potential Australian victims of exploitative work, when actual real people are being exploited is shameful.

The problem is that employers systematically exploit foreign workers where they would simply not exploit Australian workers. These employers know that temporary residents with limited work visas don’t have easy access to fair work resources. They’re not likely to join – or even want to join – unions. They’re not likely to seek advice when they are being exploited. And after some months or a small number of years, they are likely to go away and never pose a risk of exposure. They don’t “undercut” Australian jobs, because these exploitative positions are just not available for Australian workers. And most importantly, foreign workers whose employers exploit them in these abusive ways are not responsible in any way for any undesirable working conditions that Australian – or any other – workers face.

Bill Shorten should be appalled and disgusted by the way the actual people whose employers have actually abused and exploited them, rather than directing his disgust towards hypothetical Australians who he’d prefer as more ideal victims to be concerned about. Condemn abusive employment because it’s bad, not because it could happen to us.

He should care because it’s worth caring about, not just because it could be worth caring about.

Prepaid Welfare Cards, Drugs, Alcohol, and Fish & Chips

Talk of paying welfare benefits via pre-paid cards comes up again and again. The idea is to ensure that welfare recipients spend their money on “essentials” rather than drugs, alcohol and gambling. I hate the idea.

I think back to when I was claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) in the UK, maybe ten years ago. Money was very, very tight, but I still liked to have fish and chips on a Friday night and a couple of pints in the pub. To me, that was essential: some enjoyment in life, rather than simply meaninglessly existing was essential – essential to my sanity. So for some people it’s fish and chips and a pint in the pub. For some it’s a joint at the weekend, or perhaps playing the pokies, or going out to a nightclub every now and then and doing tequila shots and maybe a couple of pills. For some it’s scraping together whatever money they can to buy some low-quality heroin because it’s a fucking mammoth addiction that the fucking health service is too underfunded to help them with in any way. But whatever, different people have different essentials, but for everyone it is essential for their life to mean something, and not simply to exist.

I think part of the problem is people who have never claimed benefits making decisions on – and passing comment on – welfare policy without consideration of the experiences of the people it affects. For all people, leisure and entertainment are essentials. Yes, not needed for basic survival, but essential nonetheless. To suggest that the poorest in society deserve nothing but survival is unfair and extremely misguided. It’s cruel and unjust. For many, a period claiming welfare benefits comes either after or before a long period in work, paying tax and contributing in a full way to society. If it’s taxpayers’ money it is then by definition their money. They are, were, or will be taxpayers. There are a small minority – a tiny minority – who are chronic welfare recipients (and it really is a tiny minority, despite perceptions caused by media focus). Some consider that to be problematic (I don’t) and something that should be punished. I disagree even there, but either way we have to let that go – otherwise we are punishing the majority simply out of spite.

When I was claiming JSA, the money I received was mine. I didn’t need permission for how to spend it. I needed serious and meticulous budgeting skills, but the money was mine, and mine to spend as I pleased. Often I spent the money on alcohol. Sometimes on drugs. Sometimes existence was painfully hard, and balls to anyone who would have denied me a little pleasure and a little entertainment.

Welfare is not a “lifeline to survive” – it’s a package to ensure that people who find themselves in financially impossible situations are able to maintain a decent and dignified quality of life. By denying those people all but the bare minimum to survive as living organisms, you would deny them dignity and the freedom to exist as humans and valued members of a functioning society. Welfare is there to prevent that – not cause it.

Three times I didn’t have sex

I was going to write something about anxiety and social anxiety, and about how I have real difficulty telling people that I like them. But then that led me to thinking about a time I told someone another emotion that they made me feel, and that ended strangely, and then I thought about some other relationships that were just strange and never really went anywhere, so I thought it would be more fun to tell a couple of stories about hook-ups that just didn’t happen.

2002, October probably I was a fresh-faced student, living by myself in a room in student flats, having left home about a month before. There was this guy who lived in another flat in the same complex, and I developed a bit of a crush on him (goodness knows why, I am horrified at the thought now, years later). We became friends, and we’d go out a fair bit, clubbing, drinking. One night after we walked home together (we usually did), we stopped outside his block, and he asked if I’d like to come up to his flat for coffee or something. At the risk of over-explaining, I didn’t take this as an invitation to actually drink coffee. I was wrong. We got up to the flat and he put the kettle on, and he asked if I wanted tea or coffee. I said coffee, but then he said that he didn’t have any coffee and was tea alright? I’m not sure exactly at what point I realised that this was not going to go anywhere ever, but I definitely knew by the time, after I had said that yes tea would be okay, he went over to the other side of the kitchen, took a used teabag which had been drying out on the radiator, and made me a cup of tea with it.

2008, February-ish I think a short one! This was after a long-term relationship had ended, and I was out with friends. And friends had other friends and one of them was this guy, and we were hanging out together at the club. And I really fancied him. On the way out he asked if I wanted to share a taxi, and I said yes but could we go back to his (I never had this sort of courage when sober!). He said yes that sounded like a good idea (I remember those words) and he got in the taxi, but I said wait! and that I wanted a burger from the dodgy burger van that was outside the club. So I went to get a burger and I got him one too and made him eat it. We held hands in the taxi back to his, and then we both fell asleep. I’m sure we had other intentions, but nothing came of that.

2009, January I think I was on a ship in the Caribbean and I was in the crew bar with this guy who I had had a crush on, like, forever (4 months), and somehow I found myself in his cabin. We ended up on his bed in a state of semi-undress. He had the bottom bunk. I went to kiss him, but he said no, he doesn’t kiss. Then he put his hand on my chest and pushed me up, pinning me against the underneath of the top bunk and held me there. He let me down and then we chatted for a bit and then I went back to my cabin. About a week later he asked why I had been avoiding him – I said that I hadn’t been, but honestly he had frightened me. After he left the ship a few months later I was talking to one of his friends in the disco who told me that he’d left me alone after that because he’d frightened me, but he really didn’t want to.

In conclusion, I quite like the stability of being in a relationship.

The Thought of a Plebiscite is Truly Scary

As I say at the start of most of these posts, I’m not really a huge advocate of gay marriage, but on balance, I slightly support it. I have written previously about the reasons, and this post is not an argument for or against marriage, rather some musings on the process.

I think it should be fairly clear to everybody that same-sex marriage in Australia is an inevitability. There is no “if”; it’s all about “when”. With large parts of Europe (including most recently Ireland), most of North America, South Africa, Israel and New Zealand all recognizing same-sex marriage, it is inconceivable that Australia will not see it sometime in the near future, despite resistance.

What is now happening is fairly tedious discussion of the process of bringing this about, with the main options being a parliamentary vote and a public vote. And the prospect of a public vote is frightening and offensive.

Frightening because we will be subjected to months of a hurtful and damaging campaign against same-sex marriage. We won’t, of course, hear from queer people for whom marriage represents further oppression and control; rather we’ll hear homophobes attacking our lives, our families and our right to exist. We see this already when there isn’t a vote looming; we will see it tenfold if any plebiscite goes ahead. And these campaigns won’t just be upsetting to us; they won’t just be hugely damaging to our mental health; they’ll rile up homophobes and recruit undecideds, risking our physical safety. We can avoid this and weshould avoid this, but it seems to be government policy that we be subjected to this.

Offensive because we’re being told that we require consent from mainstream society to live our lives how we choose, and to express ourselves the way we choose. Because we’re being told that an administrative change to three words in a piece of legislation is a major upheaval of society, and that we’re to blame. Because our very dignity is deemed suitable to be decided on by the largely disinterested electorate.

Federal MPs will have an opportunity to end this, to protect us from the harm we face by this ongoing campaign – even if they disagree. Will they put our health, our safety, and our dignity before their own careers? Our fight will never end until we win – even if parliament says no; even if the public says no – so I beg them: end this swiftly. End this now.

Another reason I’m on the YES side

I’m in the process of writing something a bit longer on gay marriage/same-sex-marriage (or what you will). I’m not really an advocate of marriage at all (gay or otherwise), but I was just reminded of something which highlights a reason I support amending the Marriage Act to include same-sex couples: a quick story I’d like to share.

About a week before the last federal election in 2013 I was in the break room at work having lunch, and generally minding my own business. A colleage was also there having lunch with her manager (the manager is no longer with us). She said told him she was unsure of how to vote, and if he had any advice. Her dilemma was partly based on a conflict between her support for certain LNP policies and her support for same-sex marriage.

The manager’s (pretty blunt) response was that she should vote Liberal, saying that “if gays want to get married, they can go to New Zealand”.

Like I say, I’m not a huge advocate of gay marriage, but I don’t ever want to have to overhear anything like that again. There are lots of reasons I’m on the “yes” side, and not wanting to be told to fuck off to NZ is one of them.

Jurassic Park II

In preparation for going to see Jurassic World tonight, we watched Jurassic Park II (or really The Lost World, but nobody calls it that) last night.

In short it was really awful.

I don’t think I’ve seen it again since I saw it at the cinema when it was released. I was a child then, and I remember having enjoyed it. But revisiting it was not really that good an experience.

  • The story just isn’t compelling. SInce it’s based on a novel, I get that that isn’t necessarily the filmmakers’ fault, but it still wan’t a good movie.
  • Lots of cheesy lines, and episodes of seemingly-deliberate bad acting. Worked in the first one; not so much here.
  • Much of the movie relied on depictions of awful cruelty to animals. Yes, they are fictional, brought back after millions of years of extinction, not in any way real, but they are presented as real animals; not monsters. And in fact the premise of the movie is a group of scientists going to observe these animals in their natural habitat, and then, of course, being disturbed by a hunt. In particular the scene of the young Tyrannosaur being chained down and used as bait to lure its mother to her intended slaughter was distressing.
  • The ‘dinosaur loose in San Diego’ was absurd to the point of not being enjoyable, and the scene with the Japanese businessmen running in fear was just racist tbh

However a couple of positives:

  • It’s an old-ish movie, and I really enjoyed the absence of green screen. The sets were all real, the special effects were all old-school. It fely really good watching that.
  • Jeff Goldblum has really long legs, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I didn’t enjoy watching those.
  • I liked the images of humans being completely incapable of survival.

Overall: a pretty awful movie. I have higher hopes for Jurassic World tonight. I may report back, I may not.

On Joe Hockey’s Comments

“The starting point for a first home buyer is to get a good job that pays good money”

Joe Hockey, 9 June 2015

I guess, technically, he’s correct. That is the starting point.

Of course, it’s still a deeply insulting thing to say. It shows a complete lack of compassion or understanding about our situations, and the time we live in. This is not the 50s, or the 60s, or even the 80s when having a good job – well anyjob – was all you needed to be able to afford to buy a home. This is 2015, a world where the bulk of property in our cities is owned by baby boomers and private landlords. Even with good jobs, we are locked out

We live in a society obsessed with house prices, and we see growth in the property market (that is, houses becoming more expensive) as a good thing. Government policy is designed to ensure that house prices continue to rise, and anyone who owns property, especially mortgaged property, needs the value of their home to increase over time. Sadly, even with good jobs, our wages are not increasing at the same rate, so homes are becoming increasingly unaffordable. Even with good jobs, we are locked out.

But perhaps what is most insulting about this statement is the sentiment behind it. I live with my partner in a rented two-bedroom unit in Sydney’s Inner West. We can comfortably afford the rent. This suburb suits our lifestyle; we have good public transport links to the city, and I can easily get to work by car. We can afford to live in this suburb. I’ll repeat, because it’s important:

We can afford to live in this suburb.

What we cannot afford to do is own a home in this suburb. There are other suburbs where we almost certainly could afford to buy a home, but we don’t live in other suburbs; we live in this one. So much of the property market revolves around rental – creating suburbs where middle-income families can afford to live (but not buy), funding our landlords. Even with good jobs, we’re locked out: locked out of our own suburbs. It’s the opposite of trickle-down economics; it’s a system designed to have money flowing upwards, and lock us out in the process.

Joe Hockey’s right: having a good job is the starting point, but as long as we’re locked out by astronomical house prices, by such short supply of homes and by our landlords, we will never get off the starting blocks.

A Piece that isn’t about Male Feminists

Thanks to an interesting piece in the Sydney Morning Herald by Bianca Hall and an excellent piece in Spook Magazine by Kate Iselin the subject of male feminists has been the topic en vogue this long weekend. To be perfectly honest I’m sick of hearing about self-identified male feminists, even sicker of hearing from self-identified male feminists, and frankly disappointed that self-identified male feminists have been trying so desperately to dominate that respected feminists have had to take time out from writing about making things better for women to write pieces asking men to back off a little.

So I’m not going to be writing about male feminists today. What I am doing, however, is issuing a call to men who would like to be feminists but keep forgetting that women make quite good feminists actually to think about trying to help clean up our side of society a little.

[Aside: quite a bit of this, I realise, is going to be pretty cisnormative, and for that I apologize. Binary gender norms are crappy and really are part of the problem, but really it’s cis men that seem to be a major part of the problem, so that’s kind of the problem I want to see addressed.]

It would be good, wouldn’t it, if instead of trying to be feminists, we gave a bit of respectability to men’s rights activism. Tidied things up there a bit. At the moment the MRA world is a hotbed of misogyny and racism, so let’s tear that down and see if we can re-brand. Let’s give a voice to men who were sexually abused as children and who (as I was distraught to have to read today) wait, on average, twenty-three years before they feel able to speak up about it. Let’s work on making that history; creating a world where men have the voice to speak about abuse they faced as children so we can do something about that abuse.

Let’s talk about how we can create spaces for men that include trans men. Because, let’s face it, cis men are really not good at welcoming trans men into our spaces. Let’s turn organisations like Fathers 4 Justice into groups that advocate helping trans men who are fathers embrace fatherhood instead of trying to screw over women who have had the misfortune of being impregnated by us.

Let’s work on truly eradicating homophobia from sport – because homophobia in sport, and definitely in men’s sport – is a problem. Queer men are denied at every stage the opportunity to be the best at what they do, either as a result of direct abuse, or as the result of a toxic environment that tries so desperately to exclude us that we shy away in compliance.

In short, let’s work on making men better. Let’s fix ourselves. Let’s make the male voice not the one that silences women, but the one that gently speaks for fairness and respect from ourselves. Perhaps if we can put our own house in order we can make the world a better place without needing to declare ourselves feminists to try to look good. Maybe we can create a world we can look good by declaring ourselves men.

Update: MRA is certainly not a term I would even embrace or even attempt to reclaim. As @swearyanthony points out “MRA in its current form is utterly unsaveable, and the term is tainted beyond usefulness”, and I completely agree. I just like the juxtaposition of current Men’s Rights Activism with the idea of men who really need some activism. JA

Today I like marriage, but not the Bill

Followers will probably know I’m not necessarily the biggest advocate of marriage there is. I’m generally deeply suspicious of the institution, and what it aims to achieve; more often than otherwise I write about same-sex marriage as the opposite of LGB liberation. Followers, however, may also know that I often experience changes of mind, and my opinions on any particular subject can change at the drop of a hat.

As it turns out, today is one of those days. I’m feeling good about marriage, and have it down, with all its drawbacks, as a fairly positive thing. I would say this is the result of having listened to people who are married (in various configurations), as well as people who have less favorable views on marriage.

I also feel that I may sometimes be a downer on people’s individual marriages, and for that I am deeply sorry. For all my mind changes I am consistent in my belief that we shouldn’t judge other people’s relationships or tell them how to live their lives, and to my friends who are married, I do agree with you that you made a genuine choice to enter into your marriages freely; you have not been duped or coerced into a harmful situation. And I also say congratulations.

My friends Adrian and Charlie got married at the weekend (in the UK), and I think it is wonderful. (I also admit that in 2008 I spent many months pursuing Charlie romantically – to no avail, of course – so I did have an “it should have been me” moment.) There’s is a marriage that they have planned for many years, it is based simply on love and commitment, and they wanted to have the nation to which they belong recognize, celebrate and share in that commitment.

Jason and Adam are another couple of friends of mine who are married in the UK. They had a civil partnership, and they chose to convert it into a marriage. No additional rights, no additional duties, but they just wanted to use the word ‘married’, and be correct in every sense. I still cannot get over how completely in love these two guys are. And I know Adam in particular loves being married, and gains a great deal of value in being married.

I have friends who are married primarily for immigration reasons. They are in relationships for love, but although they don’t necessarily believe in marriage, they married for (for want of a better word) convenience. Could they divorce following the grant of a permanent visa? Of course! Will they? I doubt it.

I speak about how marriage excludes polyamorous people, but I have friends who are poly and married. And for no other reason than that they wanted to marry. (And as an aside one particular wedding I was invited to was without a doubt one of the best and most fun days of my life, and it was wonderful to share in the celebration of love, commitment and the formal formation of a family.)

I also recognize that we do live in the society that we actually live in, and marriage is a crucial part of that. One of the major components of our society is the family – and in particular the nuclear family – and that, traditionally is based on marriage. Much though I stand for liberation, and smashing the oppressive nature of society, I’m not so foolish as to think that in a generation, or in my lifetime even, we can tear away one of the traditional building blocks of our society. And marriage is indeed one of those. It is how we form families, join families and recognize families. Of course there are other types of family, but many, many of our families really are based on marriage. And destroying marriage would mean destroying some of the most wonderful families we see in our society.

I should also mention the many protections marriage offers. (And of course, I believe these protections should be offered to all families and relationships without the need for marriage but, again, we live in the world that we live in, so let’s celebrate the protection. For now at least.) Marriage protects us when relationships break down, it protects us from being shut out of our own lives, and it protects us from being completely removed from our own families. Marriage protects us from any oversights we may otherwise make in the total formation of a family – boxes we may otherwise have forgotten to tick giving our spouses permission to make decisions on our behalf when we are incapacitated, or giving our spouses the opportunity to receive the support we wish them to receive when we are gone. Marriage makes that automatic.

So today I am feeling good about marriage, and feeling good about the prospect of people in same-sex (or anything other than man/woman) relationships being able to enter into a marriage which is recognized and celebrated by the state.

What I am not impressed by, however, is what I have seen today and what I will see on June 18th. Political parties, and individual politicians using our relationships for their own political gain. Today Labor introduced a bill into the House of Representatives in the hope of bringing about same-sex marriage in Australia. It sounds like a good thing, but this bill was penned by two or three people maybe, acting alone following Ireland’s referendum on the same subject. It’s a snap response, and the type of response that Labor is using to show that They Are Doing Something. Sadly what they have not done is entered into any detailed consultation with the LGB community, asked us what we want, and responded according to that. Their response has been political gameplay, to try to push the government into a corner. Many of us feel that Labor is doing thisfor us rather than with us, and we are rightly offended.

Same-sex marriage is inevitable, but it needs to come from us, from the LGB community. There needs to be a process of consultation, of discussion and of listening to all ideas before we proceed – to make sure that we get it right. Not just nearly right, but completely right. For instance, are we happy that ministers or religion can exempt themselves from marrying us? Is that a concession that we are willing to make? Labor seems to think it is, but has anyone asked us?

As Tanya Plibersek likes to say, it is time, and really it’s long overdue. But that doesn’t mean we should rush this. It doesn’t mean we should get this done as soon a possible. We should be aiming to get this right. Tony Abbott was close when he said Parliament should own this. But I’d go further than that – we, the LGB community, should own this. We should start it, finish it, and be completely involved along the way, with politicians acting on our advice and instruction, not acting on their beliefs of what our best interests are.

Today I support marriage, but not any form of marriage that is offered. Only the form of marriage that is right.

Names of friends changed, but they probably know who they are. LGB not LGBT or any other acronym because I’m not in a position to speak about how this may affect trans or other LGBTQIA+ people, not because I want to exclude anyone. Labor because they have introduced this bill today, but later this month these thoughts will also apply to the Greens and later this year the Liberal Democrats.)

On why gay marriage advocates see us as the enemy

An ask.fm correspondent asks:

Why do you think those within the gay community who oppose same-sex marriage aren’t allowed to speak without being shouted down or made to feel like a traitor? I confess to being ‘meh’ on the subject but 2 of my uni lecturers (both gay) are very much against it & make extremely valid points.

It does seem strange that there are people in the LGB+ community who oppose gay marriage, at least at first, but we do exist, and most of us have gay rights very much at the center of everything we stand for. However, we do realize that we are very much in the minority. Many of oppose gay marriage because they see it as assimilation into a heteronormative society, which is seen as negative. Others see gay marriage as an an erosion of our rights rather than an advancement, and some simply view the attention the issue gets as erasing other far more important issues, which is harmful.

Still, mainstream proponents of gay marriage perhaps do see us as ‘traitors’, or at least as the enemy. Again it seems strange, given that both sides ultimately are fighting for LGB rights, but I think that there are a few reasons that this would be the case.

Perhaps, most importantly, it is because mainstream society, as well as gay marriage proponents, view marriage as a right – a civil right, a human right, whatever – but either way they see marriage as something that people (should) have a right to access, so in turn, allowing same-sex couples to marry within the law would be an advancement of LGB rights. Naturally this leads to the assumption that opposing gay marriage means opposing LGB rights. Of course many of us do not view marriage as a right – rather as a social responsibility or duty, and we demand our rights without the requirement to marry in order to access them.

Similarly many argue that opposing society’s accepted ways of accessing our rights means that we will never get those rights – and in that way it’s easy to see why opposing gay marriage is seen as an attempt to block LGB rights.

The homophobes of this world have also managed to turn the issue of gay marriage into what is now very much a two-sided issue: gay marriage versus homophobia. And it should be said that the majority of people who oppose gay marriage do so from a position of homophobia – they don’t just oppose legal recognition and protection of our relationships, they oppose our relationships altogether. So when those of us who are part of the LGB+ community oppose gay marriage (for our own positive reasons), we are seen as siding with the enemy. It’s not the case, however. Homophobes are our common enemy, but because we want the same initial outcome (followed then, of course, by very different changes to society), we’re also viewed as the enemy. And of course, given that this has been turned into a two-sided issue, we are put on the same side as homophobes.

Maybe most significantly, we should recognize that the fight for gay marriage to be recognized by the law has been a long, hard fight, and in Australia, that fight is so close to being won. So many people have been fighting, and they have every right to do so. They’ve been fighting for what they truly believe is the best outcome in terms of LGB+ rights. So it’s understandable that when, so close to the end of this long, hard fight, some of the people who they think they’ve been fighting for suddenly stand in opposition, they get a little upset. We know they think we’d benefit – we know that this is a belief that they hold so firmly. But we disagree.

Ultimately gay marriage advocates and LGB opponents of gay marriage want the same thing – the advancement of LGB+ rights, but we propose different ways of achieving that. One side through marriage, the other side without. However when LGB rights and gay marriage are viewed as synonymous, anti-marriage becomes the same enemy as homophobia.

Well Done Ireland BUT…

originally posted on tumblr

It looks like we’re going to see a “Yes” vote in Ireland’s referendum on same sex marriage. So a few thoughts.

  • I’m not going to make this about same-sex marriage. My thougts on that are available elsewhere.
  • The question was very nice actually, and doesn’t restrict marriage to same-sex or opposite-sex only couples (like Canberra’s attempt did, for instance).
  • It still restricts marriage to couples.
  • It still restricts marriage.
  • I worry a little that the gay rights movement may see this as a “final victory” in Ireland, when in reality it is a very small step in the general direction of the right direction. My hope is that this will signal that the Irish people are open to progressive policies in ALL areas, paving the way for advances in terms of the rights of unmarried LGB+ people, the rights of women (abortion, people?), and the rights of other people.
  • I worry that this will mean LGB+ people in Ireland will now have to marry to access rights they should bloody well have anyway.
  • I worry that other countries may use this result to support holding referenda on the same subject. Most people view marriage as a right (I don’t, but thoughts on that elsewhere), and holding referenda on the rights of minorities are disgusting. Ireland, by some miracle, got this one right, but the cost was our very identities being dragged through the dirt by the No campaign. I have at least one friend who was immensely distressed by the whole campaign, and I don’t ever want to see that again.
  • I hope that other countries see this as a reason not to hold referenda on any subject concerning people’s rights and liberties. If a nation which is viewed as conservative and religious as Ireland is overwhelmingly supports gay rights, then the rest of us should just embrace gay rights without the need for a vote.

We have a long way to go before we see equality. Not just LGB+ people enjoying the same liberties as straight people, but all people enjoying the freedom to go about their lives as they please. The result of this vote has shown that people generally are open to that, but we should view this as a minor victory. We live in a world where we still face oppression everywhere, and well-off gay people having their conformist relationships being recognized by the government in one of the world’s smallest nations does not change that very much. A little, but not much.

Update: another Irish friend points out that I don’t and can’t understand the cultural context, which is true. Whilst I say this is a minor victory, this is a very big deal in Ireland (and remains something I still can’t really understand properly, thanks to my upbringing in the UK). I certainly don’t intend to suggest this isn’t – or shouldn’t be – a huge cause for celebration in Ireland, but globally (and certainly with Australia looking on), it’s a cause for smiles rather than celebration. I hope I can still stand in solidarity with my Irish friends, and I hope they welcome me.

I’m Not Coming Out Any More

Note: this piece discusses my experiences. I’m making a huge assumption that some of those experiences might also apply to other people. Any references to LGB people (as opposed to LGBT+)are deliberately limited.

An ask.fm correspondent asks:

How old were you when you ‘came out’ to family/friends? Were you scared?

I’m pretty sure anyone who is openly gay or bisexual is on the receiving end of this question – or a variant thereof – from time to time. On the face of it it’s a fairly innocent question: “when did you first tell your family you were gay?”, and I actually don’t mind answering usually. Although I’m not going to do that here.

Innocent though it is, it’s also a very misguided question. It assumes that we have one grand “coming out”, that there are two states of being: secretly gay/bi and publically gay/bi, but also that we have some sort of duty to tell people details of our sexualities before actually living our lives in the open.

I often speak about “everyday” coming outs. Little events that happen almost daily where we reveal that we are not heterosexual – often when speaking about a partner (“what does she do?”). They are usually very mundane, and certainly not the grand events that the original question wants to know about. Because we don’t only come out once. We come out every single time we meet someone new, and we have to reveal our sexuality.

The more I think about it, the more I dislike it. And I’m not doing it any more.

The Closet is a wonderful invention designed by mainstream society to keep us in our place. We are deemed to be “in the closet” until or unless we announce our sexualities to the world. And always a focus on the announcement part. It’s not just a place for people who choose (for whatever reason) to hide their sexualities, it is for everyone who is gay or bisexual and who has not done mainstream society the courtesy of making clear their sexualities.

Grand or everyday or otherwise, I’m not making announcements any longer. I’m just living my life the way I want to live it, and people can work out for themselves what category they want to put me in. I wish I’d done that from the start, if I’m honest. Wish I’d just told my parents about my first boyfriend, instead of feeling like I had to pre-warn them by making it clear that I was gay first. I wish I had realised that The Closet doesn’t exist, that I didn’t have to come out of anything before I started living my life the way I wanted to.

It’s how society works: they won’t acknowledge you unless they have full disclosure from you first.

I’m not complying any more.

And to my ask.fm correspondent, I was 18, it was damned scary, and it needn’t have been.

follow me on twitter @supercroup

On Gay Men and Misogyny

I was asked on ask.fm:

I’ve recently ‘come out’ & have also moved from country NSW to Sydney. I’ve made an effort to connect with with the gay community via events/volunteering etc. I’ve met some great ppl but admit to being put off by, if not exactly misogyny, but a real dismissive/nasty attitude towards women, especially mothers, commonly referred to as ‘breeders’ by gay men?? I don’t get it & it makes me very uncomfortable. Is this common? Not sure if I shld be speaking up?

There is definitely a culture of misogyny in certain gay circles, and although our starting point always has to be “sexism is always unacceptable, and we should conduct ourselves as sexism is always unacceptable”, I think it is important to understand that apparent misogyny in gay “scene” culture doesn’t just come from male supremacy. As gay men we face our own oppression, very often from women who would treat us as accessories or pets, and from male supremacists who treat us as they treat women. Our response is often to present as hyper-masculine, and sadly this often involves targeting and hating women (and this is easy because society tells us we should be hating women anyway).

I do not in any way condone or excuse misogyny in gay men’s culture, but it certainly comes from a different place than your usual anti-women stuff. That said, we don’t fight oppression by becoming oppressors. Our own oppression does not validate any oppression that we become involved in.

Should you be speaking up? That’s up to you. The world would be a better place if every act of sexism was called out by men who don’t want to be a part of a male-supremacist culture, but as gay men we face oppression ourselves, and we rely on social networks for support and solidarity. Absolutely, if you feel safe doing so, speak up, try to make the world a better place, but remember that in gay culture, statements that sound disgustingly misogynistic are not necessarily coming from misogynists, but often from vulnerable, terrified men trying to project an image of strength and trying to fight back in a way that society tells them is acceptable. Speak up, call it out, create change, but be sensitive and supportive.

Marriage at First Sight: Why Your Objections are Bullshit and Offensive

originally posted on tumblr

I just don’t understand HOW it is offensive to gay people who want to get married.

I suppose I don’t understand because the marriage equality brigade usually uses the existence of bullshit marriages (like Britney Spears’s and Kim Kardashian’s) to support their argument that marriage isn’t “special” and they should be allowed access to it, but they’re now objecting to bullshit marriages because marriage is special and it should be respected. Like, pick one.

The argument just sounds very much like “We don’t like that we’re excluded from marriage. We want to be included, but we want to exclude the following people…”.  As is the usual course of argument with marriage equality (lol) advocates.

Five Reasons I’m voting Green on May 7th

originally posted on my tumblr in 2015. Sadly the Greens candidate wasn’t elected and he lost his deposit, but I still felt great that I didn’t contribute the awful outcome.


I’m a lifelong Labour voter, but I’ve decided to vote for the Green Party this election, and I have five good reasons for doing so:

Diverse and powerful opposition is important

It’s fair to say that on May 8th, the government will be either be the Tories or Labour, perhaps with a majority, perhaps in a minority government, perhaps in coalition. But either way, one party will be in government, and the other in opposition. And that isn’t good enough. For a government to be truly held accountable, the opposition needs to be diverse, full of novel and often competing ideas. With the traditional Lab-Con dichotomy that doesn’t happen, and we end up with a parliament with two sides, but where each side is broadly the same.

This year, in terms of government, the best we can hope for is a Labour win. But even that will be a dreary outcome. Labour’s policies on immigration, welfare, the economy, unions, just about everything are just disgusting. The Tories are worse. So this year I’m using my vote to try to secure an opposition worthy of the people the government will no-doubt screw over. Because of course I don’t expect to see the Greens in government, but if they can secure enough MPs to have a decent and powerful voice in opposition, maybe they can be a force for good.

The Greens will be able to form a government… one day

Changing times are not on the side of traditional politics. The Conservative party is losing relevance, Labour continue to self-harm, the Liberal Democrats pretty much signed their own death warrant in 2010, and the parties of the far right, despite a so-called surge in popularity, are failing to build enough momentum to really change things. But the Greens are emerging as the next party of the left, or the next progressive party, if you prefer. Over the next decade or two, they have the potential to become a major party, and I have no doubt that in the future, they will be a party of government. But to get there, they need support now. And they need enough of us to say “I support them”. Support can be infectious, and the more popular they are perceived to be be, the moe popular they will become.

Perhaps this year we can turn one MP into two or three. And in 2020 turn three into 10 or twelve. And in 2025 into fifty, a hundred. It sounds fantastical, but the potential is there. But it has to start now.

I actually like a lot of their policies

As I said before I am disgusted by Labour’s awful policies, by the Tories’ attacks on the British public, by the Lib Dems’ shady behavior in this parliament, by UKIP’s blatant racism and fascism. While I can’t say I agree with the Greens on every policy, there is nothing that makes me shudder with worry, and many, many of their ideas fill me with joy.

Of course, their policies don’t make a lot of sense as a combined package right now, and if by some miracle they did hold a majority in parliament after this election, they would fall flat. But that doesn’t matter. What we need from an opposition is ideas and ideals, principles, intentions. We shouldn’t expect a party that will have fewer than five MPs to have a complete and cohesive plan for running the country. But we should expect them to have a complete and cohesive set of ideas that define who they are as a party. And that is exactly what they have.

I hope I can save their deposit

Because of the way the electoral system works, as an overseas voter I am destined to forever be on the electoral roll in the Tory heartland that is Haltemprice and Howden, an unusually affluent part of East Yorkshire that generally thinks it benefits from Tory logic. Wherever the new Green MPs come from, I know for certain that my vote will not have directly elected one of them. What my vote can do, however, is go a long way to ensuring they don’t lose their deposit in Haltemprice and Howden. And that, I believe, is a worthy use of a single vote. I’m voting for a candidate who I know cannot win, but I know too that my vote is not wasted.

I feel good about it

I’ve voted Labour my whole life. In 1997 when I was barely a teenager at school I had a vague understanding of politics and I felt an affiliation to the Labour party. But as time has gone on, I have felt progressively less good about voting Labour. And this year, I had no intention of voting Labour. But the thought of voting for the Green Party brings me a sense of happiness and contentment. I feel it is right. It feels good. So I’m doing it.

Internalised Homophobia

my latest blog post on six months in sydney included this aside:

Even as a student I would splurge on tea, buying only Tetley’s (quite the opposite of a prospective romantic partner I once had: all thought of romance was lost when I discovered he bought Asda Smart Price teabags, and dried them out on the radiator so he could re-use them!).

it took my a long time to work out how I was going to word that, mainly because i wanted to try to avoid giving any indication of the gender of this prospective romantic partner. i tried various ways of phrasing it, but they all sounded unnatural.

i’m angry at myself for re-wording it and re-wording it again, all to try to avoid using the word ‘he’. perhaps, i thought, if i avoid using a gendered pronoun readers might think it was a woman, and think i’m straight and continue reading. if i give any indication i’m gay, they’ll stop reading, and might send me hate mail.

honestly, that’s what was going through my mind. it’s ridiculous. i’m not in the closet; i’m one of these proud queer people, except i never actually want to tellanyone. it’s stupid. i love my gay life, i love my same-sex relationship. to put it bluntly, i love cock and i’m not ashamed to say it, but stirring inside is this fear of it, and an in-built feeling of shame.

it’s internalised homophobia of course. that’s society. it gets drummed into us from such an early age. usually not even deliberately. heterosexism does it. heteronormativity does it. not being able to find a news article about gay men’s mental health without an AIDS charity being quoted for no other reason than gay men = AIDS does it. still. in 2014. still.

so it’s hardly surprising that while i was writing that, my head was telling me that being gay is way worse than drying out teabags on a radiator, re-using them to make tea and serving it up to a potential fuck.

Opal FAQs: a critique

originally posted on my tumblr in 2014

i’ll start by making it clear that i think opal is a wonderful system. i like oyster in london, i hate paper tickets, i value convenience and speed. opal is all of that, and i would encourage anyone who uses public transport who would benefit from opal to get an opal card.

opal deserves aggressive and targeted promotion. it needs to be supported by an excellent advertising campaign, and it needs clear demonstration that opal is better and cheaper than paper tickets – including weekly, fortnightly, quarterly and annual tickets.

however what new and potential users need is information. information that is free from promotional “push”. information that allows people to decide, based on facts and not emotion, whether opal is right for them, as well as information that gives people a clear understanding of how to use opal, and how to make the system work for them rather than the other way round.

all of that said, i think mostly the communication of opal to potential and new users has been wonderful. the website is easy to use, full of easy to find information which, for the most part, is just that: information. i received my opal card today, and it came with a “starter pack” – a couple of leaflets with information and instructions of how to use the system.

one of these was frequently asked questions. this was the one place where i didn’t want to see marketing or promotion. i just wanted simple questions answered, without anyone trying to convince me how awesome opal is. and for the most part, that is what i found. but in quite a few of the passages, there was a worrying fusion of information and promotion.

so… i edited it! i got a black ball-point pen, and sat down with a cup of coffee, crossing out all the bits that provided zero information and instead were a cleverly disguised attempt to convince me that opal is really good (again, i am already convinced). and here it is, page-by-page:

first off, the front page. not a major issue, but a bug-bear of mine. faq’s are rarely that: frequently “asked” questions. they are simply frequently anticipatedquestions, and in this case, they are the questions that the opal people want to answer. they are a set of really good questions, but i’m sure there are some more, shall we say “challenging, questions that are asked frequently.

they’re sneaky on this page, and they’ve started by hiding the advertising as phrases, nested in informative sentences. i know already that opal is easy, convenient, and fast. it’s on all the posters. it’s on the website. in the faq’s i just want to know what the system is and how it works. tell me how it works and i’ll decide whether it is easy and convenient

in the fifth paragraph, they also set up themselves against the opposition: paper tickets. while a comparison with paper tickets is, later on at least, necessary, it is included here simply to suggest that paper tickets are bad, and that opal solves all the problems of paper tickets. this paragraph creates a conflict – one which doesn’t actually exist – and that is the key to marketing: creating a battle and then winning it.

there’s also discussion of “full potential” here, which suggests power and supremacy. again, this isn’t information; it’s setting up opal as something brilliant. (which, i add, it is.)

here is a nice picture of someone putting their opal card into their pocket (rather than their wallet), that i think is supposed to show that an opal card is small and easily fits into your pocket. opal cards are actually bigger and heavier than paper tickets, but that’s by the bypass.

here again, though, we have the battle of opal vs paper tickets. why paper tickets are even mentioned as part of “how do i use my opal card” is something i can’t work out: step one – don’t buy a paper ticket. but seriously, this is again to set up the conflict of opal vs paper tickets, and to make you think about how you use a paper ticket.

there’s a nice bit about auto top up here as well (another feature i really really love), but the promotional push is here too, along with rhyming rhetoric*, set and forget, which is neither informative, nor something to be recommended.

the really good stuff: the jargon trip, journey, and transfer are explained in a really good way.

here’s an interesting phrase: for the first time. it’s so convincing they’ve used it twice. for the first time is a really powerful phrase: it introduces something and presents it as revolutionary, rather than just new. it’s here to tell you that the system of the past is crap. the first time is something that will change your life. do you remember the first time you rode a bike? the first time you had sex? the first time you drove a car? the first time you heard billie jean by michael jackson? the first time you met your husband? now how about the first time you travelled by bus and the fare was based on the straight line distance travelled. this is them presenting what is a technical and really quite boring change as something revolutionary. sure, it’s exciting if you plan bus routes and design fare systems, but for the general public it’s not first time worthy.

the really good stuff: although they don’t go into much detail here about how fares are calculated, they do highlight that there is a difference between opal and paper tickets, they introduce concepts like fare bands and they say the fare is based on distance rather than sections. a less informative piece would have just said that the fare is calculated automatically, without giving any detail at all about how it is.

i’ll be honest, this page pissed me off. the fist question (on the right hand page) attempts to regulate behaviour, rather than providing information. telling me how to report my stolen opal card, or what to do if that happens is a good idea. telling me how important it is that i follow your guidelines and act immediatelyis not. it’s patronising.

the next two questions, however, are the ones that annoyed me. for a start, they’re the wrong questions. people who use periodical and/or weekly tickets are interested in how using opal will affect what they are used to, and it is here that a fair and objective comparison is necessary. but that’s not what we get. the whole thing reads like advertising, and like an attempt to convince me that paper tickets are crap and i should switch to opal. the facts and information are all actually there, to be fair, but the way it is presented and the style used is very persuasive.

if you go on holidays…you don’t pay is a phrase that is technically true, but it offers no information – it’s included to tell you that if you continue to use periodical tickets, you will be wasting your money. in the other pamphlet that came with the starter pack there were some actual fare comparisons, which would have been good here.

i crossed out the whole section, including the questions. there are much better ways to provide a comparison between opal and periodical tickets that are objective and informative. i won’t offer suggestions.

here we’ve got the simple and convenient line again. as before, informative writing would just tell me how it works, and allow me to decide if it is simple and convenient.

finally, there is a question about travelling anonymously. i am majorly impressed that this was included. it flags opal as not being private. every journey you make is recorded against your actual real name. you are being tracked every time you use public transport. for many people this is not an issue. for some, who want to be able to look back and see what journeys they make, and how much it costs, it is a significant advantage. but for some people it is a feature that is not desirable. lots of people want to travel anonymously, and it is good that this pamphlet explains how to do so. i’ve said that this should be in big letters and at the front, but i don’t really mean it. i just wanted to highlight the fact that it is there, and that it is commendable that it is.

i’ll finish by saying again that i love opal. it’s in its infancy at the moment, and as the roll-out progresses it will get better and better. i’m sure, in time, there will be ways to load periodical tickets onto an opal card, and that there will be single-use and/or anonymous opal cards. but for now, it is a system that i like. i like the way it is being communicated to new and potential users. there is heaps of information on how it works and how to use it. this document, however, contains promotional “push” when i don’t think it should. i hope that in future editions of the frequently asked questions it is just information that is presented, and that promotion and persuasion are left for the ads.

* i apologize for my use of alliterative association here, but i couldn’t resist.

** i don’t apologize for using an apostrophe in faq’s. it’s meant to be there and it belongs there. but this isn’t a discussion on apostrophes.