Late Night Conversations With Daughters
19th June 2015
Last night, tucked up on the couch with my hot-water-bottle and my cup of tea, I watched the amazing documentary Between A Frock And A Hard Place, which explores the making of Stephan Elliot’s seminal film Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert. It locates the film in a social time when the AIDS crisis was decimating the gay community, the gay rights movement was really gaining traction and the bravest people in this era of gay hate-crime and general lack of understanding were the drag queens.
I remember coming of age in the late eighties, when the bright and flamboyant land of Oxford Street felt like everything I couldn’t find in my all-girls Catholic high school. I remember RAT parties and epically wild dance floors and drag shows at the Albury Hotel . Beautiful boys and amazing costumes.
After the film there was a superb special edition of Q & A, a panel show here in Australia which pits our brightest minds against each other on questions of the day. Halfway through, my insomniac eight year old pottered out. ‘I can’t sleeeeeep,’ she told me, with the usual nine vowels.
I let her tuck up and watch with me, and there unfolded one of those lovely parenting moments, where Peanut listened to articulate and heartfelt debate about gay rights and marriage equality, trying to make sense of the language and the content. ‘What’s transgender?’ she asked.
I talked with her about what it would be like for her to be exactly as she is now, but told by everyone around her that she was a boy. That she had to play with the boys, and use their toilet, and wear their clothes. That she might go along with it for a long time, but feel unhappy on the inside, and like nobody really understood her. And that maybe at some point she would decide that she couldn’t pretend any more, that she had to dress like a girl, and call herself a girls name, and tell people who she really was.
Then, people might be mean to her about it, because people are often scared of what they don’t understand. And that’s why transgender people have to be so brave, and we should have huge respect for the everyday struggle they have face just to live their lives.
She nodded. She asked a few more questions and I answered them. We shared the hot-water bottle. She told me who she secretly thought was the cutest boy at school (I’ll never tell! But I approve.)
It was a beautiful moment with my biggest girl, and if you have kids interested in the issue, or you’d like a way to open up that conversation, you can find the program here (non-Australian readers might need a workaround to view this).
I wouldn’t advise watching the documentary Between A Frock And A Hard Place with young kids, because there is a significant exploration of the gay-bashing crimes of the eighties, but you can find it here.
Also, I recently loved this excellent podcast from Rear Window on the history of marriage equality.
Finally, a thoughtful short film about gender fluidity called Break Free by the wonderful Ruby Rose, who’s really having a moment right now. Turning the the straight ladies gay all over the place!
Happy weekending my friends, wherever you are are and whoever you love.