out for australia: 30 under 30

Author: Billie Buxton

Out for Australia is the largest LGBTQIA+ organisation for students and young professionals in the country, providing you with visible role models and career mentors to help you thrive in your chosen industry.

We are also here to support you through our mentoring program, events, and workshops, which highlight LGBTQIA+ leaders who champion diversity and inclusion, and help you bring your most authentic self to your studies and your career.

Our 30 Under 30 Awards nominations are currently open for 2020, to recognise 30 unsung LGBTQIA+ heroes around Australia. The ‘Student of the Year’ category will recognise exceptional academic, extracurricular, and/or community involvement by a current tertiary or TAFE student.

If this is you or someone you know, get nominating by heading to the ‘Events’ section on our website!

Head to Out for Australia’s Facebook page for more information about who we are and how you can get involved – and to find out more about the free events we have coming up!

a sensation of him

Author: Rory Sorenson

*

Teach me your secret so I can see

the way you listen to your world.

Can I give you something broken?

Would you fix it

or remake it

or just let me be?

*

We spoke once in a dream you had

I forgot what you said when I asked you to

give me a truth.

I kissed the question

to your hand,

and held its echo to my ear.

*

You should know

I think

A part of you

will always be inside me.

(Or maybe me in you).

*

Describe your favourite sound to me.

And why it looks that way.

I found a story for you to whisper,

or roar,

or both.

Just keep it hidden in your lungs.

*

Because salvation found me early,

—being baptised by your tongue—

you must carry my misdeeds from now.

But you will be my burden

when I am

fluent in speaking you.

*

I’ll let you close enough

to love me if you promise that

it’s only pretend.

And you can leave

now please.

*

Take my feet

into your hands,

and press me to the ground.

When it storms, I

smell you in the rain.

(Have you ever tasted lightning?)

It reminds me of your scent

when we first met for the last time.

*

I’d missed you for eternity

when I heard you hiding moments

in tomorrow.

You sing in your sleep

sometimes

when you think no one can hear your breath.

*

Let me act like

this is our final night together.

I’ll return.

Promise.

Just give me something for my journey,

so I can hold on to my home—

Your calloused hand.

Before I go,

I’ll leave you with

the map your eyes traced

on my skin.

You could find your way to me.

Or not.

*

When I’ve waited forever to feel you

Beautiful Man,

what’s a few more moments apart?

*

Featured image courtesy of Mona Khaleghi via Unsplash

a love like you and me

Author: Daniela Abriola

I really shouldn’t have let my best friend set me up on a blind date.

They never work out well. Not even in movies. If it can’t even work for fictional characters, why would it work for me?

I don’t mind that I’m single, but my friends do. Just because they all have someone, doesn’t mean I need someone.

Life doesn’t have to be like a Taylor Swift song, dancing with your soulmate in the kitchen with nothing but the light from a refrigerator. It isn’t my kind of life. I’m fine on my own.

But no one can shield themselves from Ava. When she sets her mind to something, she doesn’t stop till she gets what she wants.

‘Rhys,’ she said. ‘I just want you to be happy.’

I wish I could believe her. I’m sure, deep down, she does want that for me. But I know that she’s tired of organising couples’ events and having me tag along. Sure, she tells me she doesn’t mind, but her constant murmurs of ‘oh, Rhys, I guess you can come too,’ tell me otherwise.

So here I am, sitting at a table in a small restaurant downtown that’s way too classy to be something I can afford. The number of forks place across the table is enough to make me feel inferior to everyone here. Why would I I let my date pick this restaurant for me?

I don’t know what this mystery girl looks like at all. Ava was so excited that I had (reluctantly) agreed to go on a date with her ‘super-hot friend from yoga class’, that she forgot to mentionany actual details. Apparently, she is ‘just my type’, but I’m 21-years-old, and I’ve been single for all of them. I don’t even know what my type is. Ava was persistent, however.

‘You’ll like her, trust me.’

Something about that phrase made me not want to trust her. But I promised.

There’s no sign of this ‘super-hot yoga friend’, and it’s fine. I’m fine. I got here early anyway.  But as the minutes tick by, the more restless I get.  I feel the endless need to fidget– if my hands were occupied then my anxiety would be gone, or at the very least, I could ignore it for a while. Well, that’s what I tell myself when I accidentally knock the pepper shaker all over the table. I wipe my hands on my jeans, trying to rid myself of the pepper grounds covering my skin. I wonder if maybe I am overdressed, but as I watch a couple walk into the restaurant, I realise that maybe I’m not dressed up enough. Either way, it’s too late to change my clothes now.

A slim figure moves from the corner of my vision and sits down on the chair in front of me. Her eyes are captivating. They’re  bright shade of emerald green. Jewels that seem so incomparable they make my heart skip a beat.

‘Hey,’ she says. ‘I’m Ashley.’

My phone screen lights up, alerting me that I’ve received a text. I check my phone discreetly.

From: Ava

How’s the date going?????????

Instinctively, I run my thumb across the silver ring on my middle finger, and I don’t stop until the cool metal band begins to settle me. Ava is desperate for this date to work. How can I tell her that Ashley is, despite first impressions, the most boring person I’ve ever met?

She spends the first ten minutes telling me about this ‘amazing’ juice cleanse she’s on. I don’t understand why she picked a restaurant for our date if she wasn’t going to eat anything, but I know better than to say anything.

In the next twenty minutes, she lectures me about the meat industry, telling me that I ‘really should go vegan’. There are a few choice words thrown in there – at one point she calls me a murderer for eating meat. Ashley spends so much time talking that I don’t get the chance to tell her I am, in fact, already vegan.

I can’t tell Ava that the date is worse than being on the Titanic. I’d rather be Jack, clinging on to that door for dear life, than have to listen to this girl tell me that ‘she doesn’t hate gay people’ she just wishes they ‘wouldn’t do it in front of her’. This would crush Ava. I mean, she is more invested in my love life than I am.

Ashley smiles. ‘This has been really fun.’

I try to keep a straight face. Fun for who?. This is the exact opposite of fun for me. But I don’t tell her that. Instead, I smile and nod my head.

‘Yeah.’

‘I’m just going to the bathroom,’ she says. I’m sure she also mentions something about freshly squeezed juice ‘going right through’ her, but at this point I’m too tired to care.

I must be more tired than I thought, because before I know it, she’s sitting across from me.

My first thought is, wow, that was fast. But when I see that it’s the waiter who seated me at my table, I stare at him questioningly.

‘I’m on my break right now. I thought you could use some saving,’ he says.

There’s no one else sitting at the table – it has to be me he’s talking to. But his words still catch me off guard.

‘Me?’

He pauses for a moment. ‘Yes, you.

‘Oh, I- uh, um,’ I stutter.

Yep, good one Rhys. That’s exactly how normal people speak.

‘It looked that bad?’ I ask. It sure felt bad.

‘I’ve seen many bad dates in my life, and that looked like one of them.’

He flashes me a smile, and oh. I realise that he’s gorgeous. He’s tall, with the softest brown eyes I’ve ever seen, and his hair is dark brown, with a sheen like parquetry flooring. That comparison isn’t entirely fair, actually. Parquetry flooring doesn’t move like this guy’s hair does, brushing softly around his face as he speaks. I’m trying not to stare, but honestly. He’s the most handsome guy I’ve ever seen.

‘Oh,’ I say. Oh? That’s the best you could come up with? Idiot.

He’s so hot, and my hands are sweating like never before.

It’s not a big deal. It’s fine.

Except it is. It’s a disaster, actually. Or possibly an epic shit-storm of a disaster, because how am I meant to tell Ava that I am more attracted to the waiter who had to explain what the different forks at my table were for, than I am her friend.

I haven’t considered that I might be gay, but I definitely couldn’t deny that sitting across from me is the hottest person I’ve ever seen. The more I think about it, the more the word gay makes sense to me.

‘Leon,’ he says, and I jump a little. I forgot that he’s still sitting in front of me. But he is, with his hand extended out for me to shake. 

I wonder if shaking hands is something that people still do, but then Leon laughs, and I realise I’ve said this out loud.

Shit.  

‘I’m Rhys,’ I awkwardly mumble.

‘You’re an interesting guy, Rhys,’ Leon smiles again.

Usually, I’d be a little offended by that. But the way he says it…it’s nothing less than endearing. Then he quickly looks me up and down. ‘And very good looking.’

There’s no doubt in my mind that this is inappropriate. This is his place of work, and my date will come back from the bathroom any minute now. But that doesn’t change the fact that I can’t feel my legs anymore, and my brain is not thinking in coherent sentences. He’s flirting with me, and I know for a fact that I’m grinning from ear to ear.

Maybe Leon senses that I’m having a hard time responding, because he doesn’t wait for me to make a complete fool of myself.

‘Well, Rhys,’ he says, stopping mid speech as his eyes travel to the bathrooms across the restaurant. Great. Ashley is walking back to the table.

In a matter of seconds, Leon pulls his notepad out from his apron and scrawls something down. ‘If your date is as bad as I think it is, you should call me. Hopefully, I can show you a better date than she did.’

Leon hands me the piece of paper with his number on it, and for the first time, I understand what all those Taylor Swift songs were about.

Featured image courtesy of Markus Spiske via Unsplash.

diversity moves in: queer players stake a claim in gamer territory

Author: Emily Spindler-Carruthers 

Originally published in the Swinburne Standard.

When hero Ellie battles through the cycle of revenge in post-apocalyptic PS4 game The Last Of Us Part II, she is supported by her girlfriend, Dina.

The two call each other pet names in passing as they cut paths through infected creatures, dance to records found in abandoned cities, and experience all the mundane highs and lows of a queer relationship against the backdrop of the ruins of human civilization.

When Naughty Dog launched the second instalment of The Last of Us series in June this year, it became one of very few positive and realistic depictions of queer characters in games.

Including a queer protagonist in a genre usually featuring straight males is certainly unprecedented, but Ellie is not the only character to demonstrate increased diversity within video game narratives.

Narratives allowing players a choice in love interests, regardless of gender, are also new to the genre – one such example is the Fire Emblem series. The newest game in the franchise, Three Houses, also asks players to “pick a form” rather than a gender, using neutral pronouns throughout.

Nik Pantis (they/them), a non-binary game developer from Melbourne, says this change is partly due to an increase in “consultation with queer people and LGBTQIA developers working on games”.

Nik adds that this wasn’t always the case, with games from the ’80s to early 2000s often heavily stereotyping LGBTQIA+ characters – if there were any at all – or casting them as the butt of jokes. Case in point: the stereotypical portrayal of gay men as overly flamboyant, promiscuous, side characters seen in the Grand Theft Auto Series.

Now, queer representation in gaming is steadily improving, due to reduced stigma surrounding the LGBTQIA+ community.

This increase in representation serves to temper, even slightly, the “toxic” nature of gamer culture, where homophobic, sexist and transphobic slurs have been commonplace.

Queer gamer Bert Conner (they/them) who grew up in a rural town with “old fashioned beliefs and views”, says inclusive media is “crucial in reminding queer people that they matter, are valid and aren’t the only ones out there.”

“More [queer] gamers now have the opportunity to play something … that they can connect with.”

Despite these positive steps forward, Nik and Bert agree there is still a long way to go when it comes to depictions of LGBTQIA+ people in gaming.

“Inclusion does not equal representation. We need the exploration of queer narratives and telling of queer stories,” Nik says.

Video game Tell Me Why, they add, does well at exploring a queer story within its medium, and serves as a prime example of the direction positive representation in games could continue to go in the future.

Tell Me Why features a heavy but well-done story of a trans man after he had transitioned … a story like this may help to educate some folks on the lived trans experience.”

It is clear that players are pushing for more authentic, inclusive storytelling in video games – and game developers are finally starting to listen.

Featured image courtesy of Jorge Franganillo, courtesy of Unsplash.

letters from emily

Author: Eli Thomas

“I wish I could play the ukulele…”

There was no explanation, no greeting. The letter, which had been tucked away in a box of childhood toys in a blank, unmarked envelope, didn’t start with a “hello, my name is…”. Nor did it need to.  I recognised the handwriting instantly.

            “…Or the guitar, but it feels too big in my lap and the strings are hard to push down. The ukulele is smaller and looks easier with less strings. I want to sit on my bed with sunlight coming through a gap in the curtain. It has to be nice, warm sunlight. I’ve seen videos of people doing it. The sun will hit half of my face as I play, and maybe I’ll even improvise some lyrics in a really soothing voice. I’ll be like a cool singer who can make anyone feel alright, maybe even myself. And I would wish to remain in that moment forever.”

Well, you can play the ukulele now, and still chase that aesthetic you were after. It is not as easy as you imagined, though. You have to keep adjusting the curtains, because the sun is not hitting your face right. Sometimes you spend all day waiting for light from the setting sun to fill the room, only to miss it and have to wait to try again. Other times it is simply too bright and hurts your eyes. It is definitely not as easy as you imagined, but you still find yourself trying. This was the reason you tried to learn the instrument. You wanted to recreate this moment for yourself. Sometimes you get it perfect and it feels amazing, even if you can’t sing as well as you hoped for. And sometimes, just sometimes, you do get to convince yourself that everything’s alright.

You still wish those good moments could last longer. That hasn’t changed.

            “I wish I could wear the cool clothes all the boys wear. I hate the dresses Mum gets for me. The guys have all the coolest jackets. I want to wear them, but I don’t want it to be “dress up.” I think Mum and Dad would get mad if I tried to wear Jude’s clothes outside.”

Oh, they did get mad. One day, you got so fed up with the girl’s school uniform, you put on Jude’s even though it was too big. You had the sleeves rolled right up and a belt trying its best to keep the pants up that kept tripping me. Mum and Dad didn’t let you leave the house like that, but now no one’s here to force you into a dress ever again! You get to wear all the cool boy clothes. Your closet is full of button-ups with unique patterns and jackets that make you feel like a badass. I’m sure you’d love it.

            “I wish I had the words to describe how I feel. Everyone says I’m a tomboy, but that doesn’t feel right. Should it feel right? I think I want it to feel right, then everything would be nice and simple.”

You found your identity in this new language you discovered, with a whole community standing behind the words you now use proudly. It took a while, but you figured it out. You’re not a tomboy, a daughter, a girl. It was a terrifying realisation to make, and hard to accept that you weren’t how everyone saw you. You had always known something was off, and this wasn’t the simple solution you were hoping for. But it became the best realisation of your life. You are a son. You are a boy. You are trans, and that language turned your life around.

            “I wish on the brightest star I see each night. Sometimes I think the stars are looking over aliens and their worlds, and since God is busy listening to every single person on earth, I talk to the stars instead. You probably think that’s stupid now, I don’t know, maybe they can help me, maybe they can take me away to their world. I wonder if there’s an alien like me out there, who understands what it’s like to be me. Maybe they ask the stars for the same wish.”

For a long time, you forgot the night sky existed. You gave up when you learnt the stars weren’t going to change anything. You so badly wanted to believe in wishes, or prayers, or miracles, in magic that wouldn’t rip your heart out the next day when nothing had changed. But now you have found the power of science and hormones and surgery, and it would feel wrong to not call it the magic you always wished for.

You still believe in aliens though, and maybe they do have Gods of their own. You no longer hope to be taken away to a faraway planet. You’ve found others like me on earth. You are no longer alone here. But trust me, if the opportunity to be abducted arises, you will not turn it down.

            “I wish I was me.”

You have always been you.

            “I wish I knew who me was.”

You will figure it out. And everything will make sense.

            “I wish that I’ll be happy when I’m you.”

A signed name had been scrawled onto that letter before being violently crossed out – first with a pen and then a sharpie, when it was clear the pen couldn’t erase it enough. I smiled slightly at your persistence. At my persistence. I was so certain something was wrong, even if I couldn’t explain why. But I now know who I am.

I picked up a pen from my desk, and gently, right next to my own scratched out mess, wrote down my name.

            Ethan.

Featured image courtesy of Jacek Smoter via Unsplash.