Who I’d like to meet: Benjamin Law

A fan of all things Benjamin Law, editor Ryan Auberson-Walsh looks back at the time he’s come to know one of Australia’s great modern writers.
 

A practically walking Encyclopaedia, one would mistake Benjamin Law for a professor in literature with a few several degrees under his belt, or as somebody who earned a doctorate while they were still a hormonal teenager facing the now defunct School Certificate.

This is one of those people whose mischievous word play and wicked wit can inspire millions – though I feel honoured to be one of the few who follows his work as if each article was a new episode of Game of Thrones.

Benjamin Law is brilliant for a number of reasons, and I first came across his talents in my own edition of the Bible: Frankie; “a national bi-monthly based in Australia, aimed at women (and men) looking for a magazine that’s as smart, funny, sarcastic, friendly, cute, rude, arty, curious and caring as they are.” Following a few (perhaps too many) years coveting every new issue, I was delighted to discover that my bible followed in the footsteps of many conservative Bible-beltians of Kansas and had offspring at a relatively young age – along came The Smith Journal, and with it, more commentaries from Mr Law.

FrankieSmith Journal

An accomplished Brisbane-based freelance author, he’s previously appeared on ABC’s Q&A opposite one of the most idolised of all femme angels, and one of his own idols, Germaine Greer. It was there I was able to put a face to the name – and although I previously enjoyed the mystery of not knowing the full identity of one of my favourite youthful writers, it became a blessing – it was absolutely wonderful knowing I didn’t care at all what he looked like.

Law also wrote a book containing a number of personal essays that he worked into The Family Law, published back in 2011. Eventually I discovered even more to Benjamin than I had previously known – that he too was a gay man – and it was really here in a 2011 article ofFrankie that I fell back in love with his work/him (albeit, it was a delayed reaction due to the slow delivery to my doorstep in Deutschland during exchange). I started hearing real world opinions on marriage equality and natural gay relationships that actually last. Last year he released another book, to wide acclaim, aptly titled Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East, and in it he delves into growing up gay outside of Australia’s sun-kissed borders.

The Family LawGaysia

His latest book inspired me more than you all think – I’m off on my own little journey of discovery, or self-discovery, or whatever it is you want to call it, but I’ll always know that it’ll be the time of my life in a foreign land that’ll simply be an ode to Benjamin Law.

Now are those points above reason enough for you to want to meet this genius? Well, a selection of his wondrous works can be discovered on his website. And it’s there that you too may very well fall in law, no, love.

 
This article was written for Querelle. It can be viewed here.

Under the STD – Crabs

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I’m a Cancerian. My star sign is a crab – which makes me an emotional, yet delightfully cookable* crustacean of the deep. It also means that it’s spectacularly fitting that my very first STD as a self-proclaimed promiscuous poof was pubic lice. Better known as, and we’ll say it once more for good luck, crabs.

Not some classy infection or venereal disease that one can reflect on with great shame, but something that we all like to sweep under the rug. And so it also seems, store within our pubic region and share with the entirety of Sydney’s queer populace.

Thank you to whoever blessed me with this joyful gift. I’ll have you know that I got rid of them almost immediately. I’ll also have you know that treating them with an alcohol-based cream that is not only meant to burn the suckers right off your body, but also burn four layers of your epidermis with it is not a successful treatment – at least on attempt one.

Pursuing the use of a second slather of cream the following day is also to no avail – it just shreds off the last remaining flakes of your fifth layer of skin that are more delicate than Queen Lizzy II’s silk gloves.

According to ‘trustworthy’ websites getridofthings.com and WikiHow, the best way to get rid of Phthirius Pubis is to douse them in petrol apply a shampoo or topical ointment that contains the three main active ingredients permethrin, lindane and malathion. The key note here is that you’re meant to follow the instructions to a tea – that may have been where I personally screwed up. NB: read the damn bottle.

Wash bedding/linen, any clothing and don’t have sex. These are three demands that a 20-year-old is often not willing to follow up on. But alas, Dr. Google insisted that I listen to her wise words (Google is an all-knowing she-goddess in my head, as opposed to a multi-billion dollar tech empire based in Silicon Valley).

Also a slap across the face from the kind soul who left my genitals feeling somewhat abused and, at the time of infestation, underused, is the timeliness of a little Guardian article that went global the week of my misery. Its theme? That medical researchers had proposed the theory that pubic lice were almost extinct, and that the date of their apparent downfall could be traced back to a single episode of Sex & the City in which one of the four women receives a spicy Brazilian wax.

Dr Kun Sen Chen of the British Association of Dermatologists, or BAD for short, addressed the association’s theory.

“Pubic hair removal has been practised by humans for thousands of years, by cultures from all over the world, including the ancient Egyptians. However, until recently, with the rise of truly global mass media, pubic lice have been able to weather changing cultural attitudes to body hair,” he said.

“In popularising hair removal, Carrie Bradshaw and co have contributed to ridding humanity of a pest that has plagued humans for millions of years. Sadly there isn’t an Emmy for that.”

With a gag and well-timed appearance on my Twitter Feed, his wise words deserve an award of their own. Perhaps the Nobel Prize for Ironic timing in the life of Ryan? An apt title, I must say. But nowhere near as apt as one particular approach to making sure the one-millimetre demons leave you alone for good.

What I might suggest then? Hacking at your pubes as if you’re the next Edward Scissorhands, using any sharp objects around, chainsaws included. Just make sure that you’ve got a steady hand and the eye of a hawk.

There’s no way that singing along to Little Mermaid ballads and belting out ‘Under the Sea’ in front of your bedroom mirror will inspire these little buggers to leap off your body in joy and piss off back to the shithole of an STD sea that they came from.

Word of advice? Go all Pope Francis and choose abstinence. It’s the only way those little critters will stay down.

Play safe kids.

*Fuck off autocorrect, it’s now a word.

This article was written for Vada Magazine. It can be viewed here.

Australia Losing the Equal Marriage Race

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If marriage equality in English-speaking nations were a horse race, Australia would be coming up the rear. A complete non-shock to Aussies far and wide, the sunburnt land that birthed queer pride through the reinvigoration of ABBA and the desert march of three drag queens into the 1990s outback, is now faced with an ongoing battle towards achieving equality on the simple grounds of love.

As England and Wales celebrate their very recent victory in the House of Lords of becoming the 16th and 17th countries to allow same-sex marriage respectively, many of the world’s great economic powerhouses and cultural icons are fighting their own fight for their citizens to wed the one they love, regardless of gender.

Down Under, personalities have begun clashing with politics and the nation’s leaders are yet to follow suit with fellow antipodeans, New Zealand, and vote for change to the Marriage Act.

Dating back just less than ten years to May 2004, then Attorney-General Philip Ruddock altered the future of gay and lesbian Australians when he introduced a bill to amend the marriage act so as to define the union strictly between a man and a woman.

It was then in that windy Autumn that Australia’s race to marriage equality was pushed to the back of the starting gate and forced to leave other progressive nations to bolt on forward.

Zooming into the present, our wild brumby of a horse remains just as untamed as the day we caught her, and is still too stubborn to take any real leaps and bounds in the right direction, preferring that arguably more conservative countries step forward to claim their participant’s ribbons.

A more malicious slap across the face than seeing a ditzy bride cluck around at her hen night in a gay club, the sunny sister of Britain is widely known for her lavish pride festivals – Can you really tell me you’ve never heard of, or wanted to attend Sydney Mardi Gras and march along a strip so colourful and glitter-filled streets so that you wake up the next morning looking like a rainbow unicorn piñata?

New South Welshmen and women aren’t the only Aussies who take great joy in celebrating their diversity with the world. But year in, year out as we slip behind in the rankings, we become more of a one-trick show pony, with less pizzazz and glamour as our wild scrubland spirit is slowly broken.

Every time the clock rolls around for another Mardi Gras season, Sydneysiders and their nationwide counterparts roll into town to share something special – and it isn’t the alphabet soup of STD’s that Google insists actually exist. It’s a common goal. One that we’re all certain is attainable within the next year… No, the next three. There’s one person standing in our way, and it isn’t the current prime minister.

Leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott, has a steady backing of constituents following the other major party’s recent ousting of Julia Gillard and reeling in Kevin Rudd (also known as Kevin ’07) again.

A simple mention of the name Abbott is enough to visibly see spines shiver and tears of upmost hate fill someone’s eyes.

This is the man who, in 2013, will not vow to remove his conservative Christian agenda from his voting standards and look at all Australians as equal. For a man that has a well-known lesbian politician sister and daughters who wish to see him change his stance on same-sex unions, he’s not budging – and if you’re to do an internet search of ‘Tony Abbott in budgie smugglers’ you’ll understand how this man can permanently scar you.

Known as the Mad Monk, he’ll be facing good ol’ Kevin 07’ in a federal election sometime within the next year. It is there that our fight truly begins. Only a few months ago, prior to his reinstatement as PM, Rudd announced that despite his previously conflicted views on same-sex unions because of his Christian upbringing, he has come to understand the importance of recognising all Aussies in the union of marriage.

For those of us on the opposite side of the world, perhaps now you can all understand our dilemma. Be ruled by a man who lacks the competence of realising this is a secular nation, or vote for a man in charge of a political party with as much stability as a one-thousand-year-old rope footbridge in the mountains of Peru.

Until Abbott gives up his conservative agenda and allows a conscience vote on the issue, we can only hope that we might have a fighting chance with the rope footbridge party. At least Rudd has the backup plan of a referendum.

As we all know when it comes to the cricket pitch or rugby field, Australia’s a sore loser. Perhaps it best we give the horse, and by horse we mean Mr. Abbott, a bigger kick in the side if the green and gold jockey is to ever gallop over the equality finish line.

This article was written for Vada Magazine. It can be viewed here.

Alternagays will rule the world

Feel like you’re out of the loop? You’re not alone. Here’s the anti-scene queen (Ryan Auberson-Walsh)’s guide to being an Alternagay.

Being a sexy member of Sydney’s gay community was once a personal lifelong aspiration. Though as reality began to set in towards the end of high school, it seems my path of becoming the ultimate chiselled social butterfly disappeared completely in favour of fate dealing me some rather alternative playing cards.

Forever more I shall be known as an alternagay. And this little guide here is what will certainly prove the easiest of steps to becoming the man of your dreams. Or nightmares – it just depends on how big and carefree you look in the mirror.

Step One – Avoid Oxford St, head to Newtown

At least don’t step foot on the southern side unless you’re hitting up Hungry Jacks at three in the morning after a night at one of the many (much better) mixed venues. For the simple reason that it’s where you’ll feel the uneasiest for being an outcast and not looking the same for having a “perfect” body that was shaped with steroids and copious amounts of sweaty butt fucking. Prepare to cry at the sight of ARQ.

Step Two – Don’t do drugs

Perhaps this is where I should be clearer. Don’t do anything but marijuana or alcohol. Whilst ingesting, laugh at the sights of all the drunken and doped up fools around you. If in doubt on what you’re allowed to drink, put yourself in the shoes of a fifty-year-old divorcee and shot it, fill it with bourbon/whisky or drink it straight – oh, the irony in that remark.

Step Three – Refuse the urge to diet; eat well

Eat anything with vegetables or that’s labelled vegetarian/vegan – this is the most authentic means of digesting food from the alternagay diet. If you must eat meat, make sure it’s hearty and heavy enough so you can still feel a pulse within the carcass on your dinner plate.

Step Four – Throw away your gym membership

Hubba bubba, I’ve got a lot of chubba. There’s something key to being different from the crowd here, and that’s to not fuss over the amount of protein in your diet and to spend more than two hours per day working on your abs, biceps and gluteus maximus. You are just the way you are and you need to be calm, cool and content with how you are naturally. The only exercise one should need is walking to the nearest Bottle-O or bus stop (catching public transport is ideal in portraying the life of a homosexual hippie).

Tattoos make an excellent addition to the alternagay look.

Step Five – Pierce and tattoo every naked orifice on your body

With the exception of your tongue or either eyebrow, the rest of your skin should be a tapestry of tattoos and piercings that truly embellishes the queerness within. An expressive form, they place the alternative appeal of an anti-scene queen on a pedestal for all the gays to admire – or mock. I’m still not sure what’s behind all those pearly white smiles.

Step Six – Don’t shave or wax

Don’t bother too much with the grooming process. Dress for comfort as opposed to style. Opt for bagginess over tight-fitting tanks and don’t consider shaving or waxing any part of your beautiful body to please another soul. If you’re at the top of the alternagay pyramid you’d be lucky enough to have a braidable beard.

Step Seven – Don’t wear makeup

No need for foundation, eyeliner or cover up of any sort. Being wild and free is the best philosophy. So enjoy your natural age, and the delightful crevices on your skin. Each mark on your body has a story to tell.

Step Eight – Go West

Move to Parramatta. Or to Penrith. Essentially get as far away from Darlinghurst and the Eastern Suburbs without completely eliminating your existence amongst the gay community. Basically cross the Strathfield meridian and you’ll notice you’re in a dull, colourless void of glitter-free gayness. Out here you’d most likely be on the down low and not care to gossip amongst your friends about your latest hunk and the size of his John.

And finally, to complete the look, become an alcoholic for all the wrong reasons.

Tah dah! You’ve become a man-fucking heterosexual or Alternagay for short.

Enjoy days of being eyed up and down for your lack of personal care and I-don’t-give-a-shit-attitude. Your troubles concerning the scene will all slowly roll away – just as you will when wanting to move from the couch to the kitchen.

This article first appeared on SameSame.com.au followed by Querelle

The Motherf*cker with the Hat

Former altar boy Troy Harrison is a 33-year-old man who’s on a quest for blood and glory. Well, not literally. Though he is a tenacious actor on a noble mission to bring the stories of a Puerto Rican New Yorker to life on the Sydney stage.

Harrison is both an actor and on the production team of upcomingplay The Motherf*cker With the Hat. The show delves into the mind of former addict Jackie (Harrison) and his drink-loving high school sweetheart Veronica (Zoe Trilsbach) as they navigate their rekindled relationship under the guidance of sponsor Ralph D (John Atkinson).

Harrison himself describes it a little more poetically: “In a nutshell, the play’s about real people. It’s about fidelity. It’s about trust. It’s about relationships. It’s about moving your life forward and figuring out the things that are holding you back … in a very funny, abusive way”. And, we imagine it’s also about a hat that seems to fuck everything up.

The play is fresh from a six-time Tony-nominated stint in the Big Apple and is now being revived by newly created company Workhorse Theatre Co.. Harrison points out that although this performance might not have Chris Rock or Bobby Cannavale as the leading actors, it still pulls its weight.

“Obviously when you’vegot something on Broadway and something from an independent production house in Sydney, Australia, there are going to be differences. Most of it’s going to come from budget. There’s a lot of things that they were able to do that we just can’t,” Harrison tells Vertigo.

“We’ve done what we can to create a believable world for the audience, but there’s no real difference [compared to the original production]. The people on Broadway did the same thing as what we’re doing – just trying to find the truth in the characters and go on from there.”

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Ellen to star in Nemo sequel

Australia’s favourite out American talkshow star has confirmed that she’ll be returning to her role as a forgetful and loveable fish for the sequel to Finding Nemo.

Ellen DeGeneres will lend her voice for the sequel – to be titled Finding Dory – slated to hit the big screen in 2015 as the colourful Regal Tang that brought us laughs from the original 2003 film all about the mysterious lives of underwater creatures off Australia’s world-renowned eastern coastline.

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Uruguay set for marriage equality

The Uruguayan Senate yesterday passed legislation 23-8 that will mean the South American country is set to become the 15th in the world to legally endorse marriage equality.

The nation’s current law provides same-sex couples with the opportunity to attain a civil union, but the Senate has gone one step further after the bill was approved by the lower house in December last year. President José Mujica says he intends to sign the bill into law.

According to the Associated Press, the new legislation would also mean that any couple, regardless of sexual orientation, will be able to decide whose surname is used first when naming their children.

Uruguay will follow its neighbour Argentina to become the second country in Latin America that legally allows marriage equality nationwide (it’s only recognised in some regions of Brazil and Mexico).

Other countries that allow wedded unions between gay and lesbian couples include The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Denmark, and parts of the USA.

We still can’t help but think back to early 1995 and reminisce on a hilarious The Simpsons episode set in Australia where Homer pronounces the small South American country as “you are gay.” It seems the dim-witted Homer may have been onto something all along…

This article was originally published on 03/04/2013 on SameSame.com.au