This is the first post in series of the Christmas Island trip.
After I had endured the relatively easy check-in process at the boarding gate in Kingsford Smith, after going through the security checks and having of all things, my aerosol dry shampoo (yes, I was baffled that shampoo could be dry too) checked for national security reasons I was off. Well not really, I had one other thing to do before I flew out, I had to call mum. She noticed that something was up “Are you nervous? I can hear it in your voice”, I brushed that off as the jitters of waiting in a queue for a terribly tasting but relatively inexpensive sausage roll, with sauce of course because this is Australia.
But I was nervous over the phone, and writing this in the plane now sitting next to an avid beach going Western Australian and two very sleepy Korean tourists, I am still nervous, why you may ask? Because my eventual holiday destination will see me arrive in Christmas Island. Of course it’s a strange place to go for a holiday in but then again is the Aztec sacrificial ziggurats in Cuzco. I chose Christmas Island in a similar way a refugee has chosen it as a desired destination except I am covering the trip in reverse, and in case I end in Jakarta due to the festive monsoon season, with a passport. I chose to go to Australia’s most North-Westerly territory, the home of the most isolated set of traffic lights in the world and the location of sexually charged red crabs because my family are there.
I have the option, an albeit costly one, to visit Christmas Island, not for work or for necessity but rather for a holiday. I picked myself up a book to read (The Psychopath Test, Jon Ronson),
I went on a hunt for illusive ‘Reef Shoes’ that began with my original googling of what one was after seeing it suggested on an Australian Government website and I too have two pairs of boardies and one of thongs just in case I do t look like I’m holidaying enough.
This is a far cry from those conditions written about in the New York Times or shown on SBS’s ‘Go Back To Where You Came From’. I have it lucky, those on the other side of the SERCO run detention ‘camps’ on the island itself don’t, why is this so? Because of the way we treat them as shoplifters of our sovereignty, successive governments made decisions to lock people up on an outpost so far flung that it only has one ATM and no Optus reception, every day necessities that hipsters using the Commonwealth Bank’s Kaching App and Paypass will see themselves pay glorious bank fees or run dry like the Greek economy.
For the last two months I have had these flights and this trip booked, when friends and family have enquired into where I was spending my Christmas holidays I hastily replied with “Christmas Island” to their amazement and after a common follow up question of “How, by boat?” they were often opened up to the fact that it is a place where people can go, not that many people do go but they can, and by plane.
Having defended the honor of the Stanhope administered guano island I now intend to visit, with butterflies in my stomach and a Pictionary game in toe. And Mum, it’ll be fine, I’m a plane person.
This post was inspired by my watching of the film referred to, it reduced me to tears. I wanted to tell someone’s story so I asked Azi and she was more than willing to write it.
The other night I was watching ‘Growing Up Gayby’ with my mum and within the first minute I was finishing Maya Newell’s sentences. I expected this was because I was watching it with one of my two mums. Yes, I have two mothers, and yes, they are lesbians.
My name is Azi, I’m 15 and I have a little sister and big brother. My mums have been married in the eyes of their friends and family for what will be 20 years in January. Now if I told you about the specifics of my family you may need a diagram and several hours, so all you need to know is that I am not genetically related to either of my siblings, one of my mums gave birth to me and none of that matters because love makes a family.
Being a Gayby has been great. I have two amazing parents and have never missed out on anything, we have even attended the Mardi-Gras way more often than ‘regular’ families. Though I’m sure nearly every gayby kid would agree you get a lot of questions that lead to a lot of awkward pauses (and often vice versa) but something that we don’t all agree on is how we feel about them. The most common questions I get are:
a. Well your parents are gay so does that mean…?
b. How do you tell the difference?
c. Do you wish you had a dad?
d. Yes, but which one is your real mum?
e. Are you going to track down your donor?
These honestly don’t offend me, though I wish that our society was a place where these questions didn’t have to be asked. But the reality is that I would rather just answer people’s questions and help them to understand rather than have their lives filled with continuing assumptions about kids with gay parents. I think most aren’t trying to offend, they have just never met anyone like me and are genuinely curious.
So the answer to those questions are:
a. No, having gay parents does not make you gay in the same way that having straight parents does not make you straight. It’s a one in ten chance for everyone regardless of upbringing.
b. Telling the difference is easy, they look different and are completely separate people (der) but I call one Mumma Mel and one Mummy Terry. It sounds juvenile but its functional.
c. No, I do not wish I had a dad, I don’t know what having one is like so how could I possibly know, and I have the best parents in the world, so why would I change that.
d. The ‘who is your real mum’ question is the one that used to make me very upset (especially when I was younger) because they are both completely and equally my real mums. What they are trying to ask is ‘who is your biological mum’, but didn’t know the right words to use. Once I realised this I became less defensive and developed my standard answer of “they are both my real mums but I came out of Mel”.
e. And finally, No, I don’t want to track down my donor and never will, when I was little I always wondered, but then again I wondered about everything.
I’ve developed a standard answer for almost every question I am asked, because I have had to answer them all a thousand times from when I was in preschool to now. I have become better at answering them, and slowly but surely the people around me have grown up knowing and developing their brains so the explanation time has got shorter the older I get. I used to make up elaborate stories in the back of my mind that I was secretly of royal blood (I have red hair like Prince Harry) and had a kingdom that I wasn’t aware of, but now I think about it, that was probably brought on more by my watching of The Princess Diaries rather than not knowing who my donor was. I have now grown up, out of Princess Diaries and realised that I have it pretty damn good and wouldn’t mess with that in million years.
I live on the North Coast in a small seaside town near Byron Bay. My parents moved here when I was one because they loved the accepting community atmosphere and didn’t want to raise kids in rural New South Wales. Grafton (where I was born) was a notoriously homophobic town, and I’m so glad they did. I have been able to grow up in a place where my family and I are accepted, yes there are some people who aren’t exactly supportive and that’s true of any place, but I have so many loving people around me and the freedom to live with the ‘those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind’ mentality. Even in this place where we are so accepted, homophobia is so deeply rooted in the normality of society that it is part of everyday life. One of my pet hates is, ‘that’s so gay’ is said so frequently that everyone seems to forget it’s offensive. Gay is not a synonym for shitty, if you want to say something is shitty say it’s shitty. Gay is one of those words that is often used in a negative context which makes me feel really uncomfortable. The same goes for faggot, fag, dyke, queer etc. which gives me that kind of physically sick feeling you get when someone says something really, really bad. I know it happens to a lot of people with the utterance of the C-word or racism, and that is what it feels like when people say ‘that’s so gay’ to me. I often have the pleasure of picking up people up on it, and rolling out my pre-prepared mini lecture on why its offensive, and every time the line “but I don’t have a problem with gay people” comes out. Saying ‘that’s so gay’ is homophobic even if you like gay people. The same can be said for those using the N-word, it is still racist even if you have no problem with black people. If you don’t have a problem with gay people then don’t say it.
So I’ve done a fairly thorough job of flying the rainbow flag of pros for gaybies but I would be lying if I said there weren’t some logistical issues with having two mums. Most of these however turn into hilarious stories. If you see the picture you will see that both my mums look completely different, granted they both have short hair but it continues to baffle us (the kids) how people can get them so mixed up. Countless people have thought that they are actually just one person which occasionally works in their favour, like they can share one gym membership and no one notices. As my siblings make new friends and bring them home they each have a different system. The two most common are the number system where Mel is 1 and Terry is 2 and they get referred to as “mum 1” and “mum 2”. How one can remember each assigned number but not their names, I have no idea but apparently it helps. Though my personal favourite is ‘Telmel’ where they both share their names and so you can’t get it wrong. Another thing is notes at school. It is quite funny when the teachers try to pull you up on forgeries because your mother’s signature from last week doesn’t match this week’s, or you have to explain that yes, you really did mean to put two mums in your Indonesian assignment of your family. There are only two minor issues we are yet to work out. The first – when I was born my parents relationship wasn’t recognised so I only have one mum on my birth certificate – and the second only occurs once a month.
I will be revealing my name very soon. Keep tabs on it here: http://hasgreenat17changedhisnameyet.com/
Working on the Federal election in a booth out in Quakers Hill saw me meet a young American girl. We got chatting and she gradually revealed more about her story and of her journey from Seattle, Washington, a place teeming with electric cars and legalized marijuana, to the suburbs of Australia in order to follow and enhance her fellowship with Christ. I felt comfortable enough to share a conversation about why an attractive 23 year old chose to journey across the world and study Pentecostal pastoral leadership over an apple. Despite my questions about ‘EFTPOS machines running rampant across the venue’ and Pastor Brian being a bit dodgy, MJ invited me along to a Hillsong service. As I type this, I am getting ready to head out there. Off to a ‘Youth Centered’ fellowship service in Baulkham Hills.
As I do with most decisions, I informed my close friends and twitter followers. One of my best friends is closely associated with the group as she attends a school close by and she says lights, sounds and an evangelical rave have proliferated in the area. When she told me that she completed the Red Shield Appeal with members of the Church I was skeptical of their intentions considering that fundraising and income tithing is a big part of their organisation’s framework to begin with. I warned her off, but why? What was I afraid of on her behalf?
As I entered the venue the first thing that struck me was the awe inspiring 3,000+ auditorium filled to the brim with people enthusiastically singing along to the ‘Latin Night’s’ music. The singing was complete with all the toppings of obligatory hispanic stereotyping. Rain sticks, salsa dancing, maracas and even the Macarena all added to the lure of Spain and the subsequent trappings of the Evangelical and Pentecostal Church. The music was both in English and in Spanish as a result of the night’s theme (Another sister church was having an African Night, so presumedly African music too).
The stage was primed with ethnically diverse cast members both with equal age and gender representation. This looked to me like a successful PR move as the stage is filmed and broadcast to evangelical stations across the globe. It made the mood more friendly and covered up the cooky sinister undertones of the guy that suffered crucifixion. The drone of music, pacing around stage, shouting and mass prayer was straight out of Billy Graham’s crusades. And for good reason Billy was mentioned in the service.
Another notable oddity was the subject matter people were praying for, for example there were prayers from the congregation for entry into ADFA’s University, a new bike, VISA approval and a house sale. Any person that thinks God can guarantee their entry into the defence force must be fairly intertwined in that faith. As well as these prayers the room was filled with a young crowd, as explained by my host, it was a youth oriented service. However that didn’t explain why most of the crowd was white and why most people I met weren’t from Sydney, let alone Australia.
The sermons weren’t, the homily wasn’t and there was no eucharist or consecrated host. There were tales of monogamy that ran like the river Nile and Pastor Brian Huston showing happy snaps of his kids, and a Youtube clip of his granddaughter talking about farts. The beanie wearing parishioners were lapping it all up, rocking out, laughing and screaming in order to raise the roof, the only thing that came from the roof was crape paper and streamers courtesy of the glitter cannons.
This weekend coincidentally marked the return of one of the “Senior Preachers”, Brian’s good friend, Pat Mesiti, after a twelve year hiatus from selling Jesus. After it was revealed he’d been visiting prostitutes he was sacked, though the specific indiscretion was suppressed and I only found out about how he was ‘scared’ through a 10 year old article from the SMH (here). Pat was constantly referred to by his full name, always his full name. His mental health battle was publicly aired in his obscure interview with Brian and he was duly brought to tears as his daughter was in the audience with her new husband, hearing his story at the same time as 3,000 others.
There was no EFTPOS machines or ATMS, no $50 dollar notes in the collection plates. No talking in tongues or healing. Just lonely people, searching for connection and a community.
“They’re a cult by another name”. “They’re lead by a paedophile”. Statements like these and constant cries from friends not to become “converted” had all lead me to increase my interest in what the group offers. I have always wanted to see how the group operates, though I have always had that same urge when it comes to the operation of a Mosque, the Westboro Baptists or a full Orthodox Greek service. Why people believe isn’t of interest to me, it is the way in which they channel that belief that fascinates me.
Considering that I fasted all day on Saturday for Yom Kippur and will be attending a Roman Rite night mass on Tuesday my week has been a fairly religious one. Despite all efforts from any particular faith to convert or recruit me I proudly remain an Atheistic Cultural Jew. I accept the rights of all faiths to exist and practice and will also accept invitations for me to attend your service or faith gathering and objectively blog about that potential encounter too.
Some PHOTOS from the day.
I have all of 7 days of school attendance left. Winding down and getting ready to leave my formal education for this very last time. The next few weeks bring with them a big change and even bigger questions. Where to from here?
I have been politically active for a while now, the reason that you subscribe to this blog is probably for that very reason, to witness the growth of a politically engaged teenager filled with passion and drive for the political process and their respective political party. But with this gradual immersion into politics it has isolated me and distanced me over recent months.
I have been unable to fully place myself into a campaigning overdrive and for that I am sorry. I have however been plunged into my preparation for the HSC and the associated end of year parties with my school friends. I have been searching for companionship and I have been ready to make the next step. One of maturity and adulthood.
Though I have publicly chronicled my thoughts of depression, I have mainly battled a silent campaign with my thoughts this year. So much so that I needed to take a holiday to Melbourne just after my trial exams. I needed to get away, and though my holiday consisted of much fun with my cousin it also ended up becoming a working holiday. I met some great Melbournians that share my passion for social change and a sustainable future. I helped with Adam Bandt’s campaign and personally secured about 20 votes for Adam and the Greens.
I am 17, naturally prepared for a long future next to me. I have also come to terms with linking my name to my social media accounts and will announce that in the coming months.
After my election experience in Western Sydney as well as the time I spent in Melbourne and on social media I have a wealth of ideas to share in order to advance progressive causes and grassroots campaigning. That is if I chose to continue in a similar fashion to what I am doing now. After facing personal attacks about my campaigning style I am not sure if politics is the thing for me, though I have faced louder congratulatory messages for my enthusiasm and drive I think it’s best if I use the next few months as time to reflect and gather my thoughts on my path to the future.
Rape, murder, genital mutilation, kidnapping, torture, bashings, treats, blackmail.
Afghanistan, a warzone, the Afghani refugees that come here by boat or by planes are no different, they are often from the Hazara ethnic minority. People that are attacked just because of who they associate with or who their parents were. Sort of like killing somebody because they were Born in Ballarat not Bondi or raping someone in an AFL guernsey because they don’t like NRL. The Hazaras have been forced to flee their country because the police, courts and army personnel are filled with people from the same ethnic groups as the people attacking them. Sort of like, if a cop was your cousin and he pulled you over he would be nicer than someone you didn’t know. The Hazara people face daily public attacks and beatings, their kids are unable to walk to school and they are unable to achieve anything of self worth in their own country. This is why they sell everything and leave.
Find the rest of this post HERE
My Kings Cross life, I was heading off for a cycle but I needed to pick up a bike chain because I had lost the key to my one. Next minute some bloke comes up behind me and tells me it was his bike and that he’ll “break my neck” if I left with it. He then continued to tell me that it had been stolen and explained some of the modifications that he had placed on it. I quickly calmed that situation, reasserting my suspicion that it had been stolen (we found it dumped in our apartment block 3 months ago). I told him that he could have it (he looked like the type that went to the gym too much and was capable of following through on his ‘neck breaking’ threat).
In the end, he was reunited with his bike (if it wasn’t his, he will be in my situation and reunited with some random stolen bike). And I am now stuck with a bike helmet and a rail bus.
Love you Kings Cross.