The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby is partnering with Green Door Theatre Company and KXT bAKEHOUSE on the Sydney premiere of Irish writer John O’Donovan’s If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You.
Lauren Foy, the former co-convenor of the Lobby, reflects on our current social context, what work there is to do for LGBTQI equality, and theatre director Warwick Doddrell speaks to how this context has dictated the necessity of staging this work.
Many thought after the marriage survey and law change last year that “all the big stuff is done”. Well, that survey frankly showed us there’s still so much left to do. The reason we’re still here and fighting is because there are two kinds of equality in 2019 Australia. There’s legal equality. And then there’s social equality. And that gap just simply isn’t good enough.
We all innately grasp the difference. In 2017 we took one step forward to achieve legal equality in relation to marriage. But the process we were forced through was a major regression when it comes to social equality – actually, an historic regression for our nation.
And you know what? We think all Australians can sense the difference, too. It’s an affront to our national values. Let’s face it, the public marriage survey was not just about marriage. It was a vote on our worth and our lives. And Australians overwhelmingly said yes to us, for us. They said yes to equality in-globo for LGBTQI Australians.
How can we be sure? Witness the response when the Prime Minister said last month “it’s already the law” that LGBTQI students and teachers can be kicked out of schools. So many across the country were shocked and appalled to learn this. Polling soon confirmed it: three quarters of Australians want discrimination against LGBTQI teachers and students removed.
This shows us that we are still yet to secure legal equality. But it also shows that the wish of Australians last year to grant us true social equality continues to stand in contrast to what our politicians are offering us – and what some of us are experiencing in our communities and daily lives.
Legal equality without the social change offers us the insult of formal equivalency without the true substance and meaning of being treated as equals.
All of us have a right to full participation in society. But how many of us still feel afraid to hold our partner’s hand walking down the street somewhere in Australia today?
When the UK government asked questions like this in a major national survey last year, they were flooded with responses. Over 100,000 people completed their survey. In fact, it turned out to be the biggest survey of its kind in the world. With indulgence I will quote the UK Conservative Government Minister’s response to that survey report:
“Despite many years of legal advances, we know that LGBT people continue to face significant barriers to full participation in public life.
One statistic alone speaks volumes. Two-thirds of respondents said they had avoided holding their same-sex partner’s hand in public for fear of a negative reaction. Holding hands with someone you love should be one of the simplest things in the world; not a source of fear or hesitation. There were difficult findings in other areas, such as safety, health, education and employment. We have more work to do.”
That is true here, too. We have more work to do.
It also shows that achieving social equality, just like legal equality, must be led. We must persevere with our quiet conversations with friends and family, and with megaphone diplomacy on the streets … and it must be led by all our community leaders and representatives. We deserve nothing less.
LGBTQI advocacy will continue to exist until we secure full equality. LGBTQI advocates will continue to work with ally organisations to do this, especially with bisexual, trans and gender diverse, intersex and queer people. No one will be left behind. And as LGBTQI Australians, we will advocate with renewed pride because we know that Australians see this for what it is. Australians sense we’re yet to be treated as equals. And they are calling bullshit on it.
All of us have a role in reminding Australians, and our leaders, that we’re not finished yet. All of us deserve to live a full, proud and open life as an LGBTQI Australian.
John O’Donovan’s timely piece is bracingly contemporary, offering a snapshot of under-represented queer misfits, life after marriage equality, and the challenges that still exist. While set in Ireland, the play connects with a global audience. It is bitingly funny, heart-warming and tragic. It also reflects on a period in Ireland’s history markedly similar to our own, one year out from the same-sex marriage vote.
The play is an intimate and personal reflection on how society has changed since marriage equality in Ireland, where characters continue to face their own challenges towards acceptance. It’s a coming-of-age story, as these two characters navigate their own queer identities, both in relation to the world around them, and through their own self-perception.
Central to the play are universal questions of identity, and what makes someone worthy of love. On an individual level, we’ve all had those moments in our life when we feel we don’t deserve love, or when the world has told us that we don’t. This is a powerful human experience, which was particularly palpable during the Australian plebiscite.
As Lauren highlights, the vote posed the question on a national scale: “Who is worthy of love?”
This was a time in which being gay, regardless of your other qualities, pursuits or achievements, made you unworthy of being legally recognised for your love. O’Donovan’s play expresses the pain and confusion of the internal struggle of discovering one’s queer identity, and how the world continues to influence, and in some cases, dictate how queer people identify themselves.
The multiplicity of queer experience is important here. One thing we all learned, saw and celebrated through the plebiscite, was the multiplicity of queer people in Sydney – from all backgrounds, professions and walks of life. John O’Donovan’s work presents an often unrepresented image of queerness and details a specific, complicated web of social inequality.
Taking place in rural Ireland, the characters are firmly working class, and Casey is a man of colour; it is this intersectionality that creates the tightly woven status quo which the characters struggle with, a struggle far beyond the sum of their parts. It’s this unique combination of circumstances which has resulted in the detailed, tangled social world around them which influences their sense of identity, very different from my own experience and from what I feel is often shown on the Australian stage.
This is what made O’Donovan’s play utterly essential for me to tell. I was humbled by the vivid, vice-like trap the characters set for themselves, in an effort to be safe.
Capturing the specificities of the Irish working class background of these characters was central to portraying the uniqueness of their situation, and consulting with members of the queerish community here in Sydney and to hear their own stories was a very grounding experience which brought great detail, and depth to the show.
We are humbled, and so grateful for their candid discussion and generosity in support of this story.
The unique circumstances of the play invites all of us to consider fighting for love, and urges unique individual expression of identity. Join us for the season.
Join Green Door Theatre Company on the 15th of February for a post show panel with the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, on securing social equality for LGBTQI Australians.