Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Moving On

I’ve had some time away from blogging as I’ve moved to Melbourne and not been online much. Through the three and a bit years I spent in Sydney, some part of me was always somewhat critical, somewhat held back, as the cultural differences between Adelaide, where I grew up and Sydney were often too stark. Although being a very out, extremely visible sex worker in a small place like Adelaide was eventually draining and the smallness of the queer scene meant fringe groups and minority queers were isolated; moving to Sydney made me appreciate so many things about the city-of-white-picket-fences-and-a-scarily-large-amount-of-churches-without-even-archetural-justification that I had left.

While I loved so many things about Sydney – Gurlesque and SLIT Magazine, that femme dykes were visible and that in some queer community spaces, being a whore was no big deal, the persistent lack of etiquette of the too-large-too-fast-and-too-easily-distracted-big city never stopped rankling with me. From the first few months when I was constantly blown away by people repeatedly bumping into others on footpaths, and never apologising, through to people’s crap behaviour within queer and alterna networks, including bullying and harassment, general online crap behaviour and high school mean girls behaviours in venues. For me, this was neatly summed up in a story I heard from a friend a few weeks before I left town, of a woman in the punk scene who broke up with her girlfriend, only to find that the ex had dealt with her post-break up feelings by producing a zine that spewed hatred and negativity at the woman, and distributed it at every gig she went to. The second aspect of this story is that no one ever seemed to challenge the embittered ex on her crap behaviour, and were happy to get their copy of the zine, for all the juicy details. I don’t pretend that this kind of behaviour is an exclusively Sydney phenomena, but that it can be easier to get away with things in a bigger city. I guess even though I hated that everyone always knows your business in a smaller city, that because in Adelaide everyone pretty much knows everyone, or at least only one degree of separation, that I felt that people didn’t try to fuck each other over quite so overtly.

Either way, I’m hoping that Melbourne will be a happy medium. So far I’ve been overjoyed at seeing manners displayed on a daily basis in my travels, but with the things I enjoy about bigger cities: butch-femme, trans and gender queer communities happening and putting on events, large ethnic and cultural communities coexisting and doing their own thing, and lots and lots of options for places to go and things to see.

My time so far has been spent getting lost, then finding my way back to somewhere I know (my technique for learning about new cities and new computer programs alike), learning about the local public transport quirks and finding my way in a new sex industry, governed by different laws.

The other day on the train I put together the reason I think I have experienced more weirdness from random strangers than usual. The person I am involved with is a transman and is at that stage of transition where he is passing a significant amount of the time, but passing as a teenage guy. So while I’ve long been used to getting filthy looks by elderly women, it’s usually when I have tattoos on display, or when I’m wearing something low cut or short, lately I’ve been dressed for a Melbourne winter, with nothing but my face and hands visible. The penny finally dropped, and I became aware that he is occasionally mistaken for a 16 year old, whereas I am far from looking like a teenager – so when we are behaving in amorous ways, it can confront some social mores, to say the least. As someone who is used to being involved with significantly older partners, it was an odd feeling to be pegged as a dirty old woman preying on a teenage boy…. Good thing I have a sense of humour, a healthy ego and that I celebrate each year further away from the tumultuousness and instability of my 20s. I just hope no one reports me to DOCS!