Right Here, Right Now

Incredibly talented and immensely creative, Josh Belperio is someone I’m privilaged to have seen perform. Despite this show being raw and a little unpolished that only serves to highlight his creativity and ability to improvise on stage.

Having attended Belperio’s show 30,000 Notes last year, I was keen to find out more about this introspective individual. Having produced such an emotive show, I was keen to see one of his more comical shows with Scarred for Life. Instead, shortly before the launch of Fringe, I discovered that Belperio was taking a different route again, turning away from his previous two introspective shows to produce something a little more off-beat. Something to showcase his anger at everything that has occurred across our recent and quite devastating summer. This made me even more intrigued to know what Belperio has been up to and just what kind of show he would produce.

Going to Holden Street Theatres in the evening just after the sun has set is quite a special experience, one I aim to have at least once throughout the Fringe season. With a number of shows on simultaneously, there’s always a vibe of quite anticipation waiting.

We were led into a room much smaller than I’d expected where we found Belperio waiting beside a keyboard with the calm enthusiasm of an experienced performer. Since the previous year where he was presenting his notes and those left behind by his beloved Nonna, Belperio’s character had undergone a transformation. The clean-cut man of yesteryear replaced by someone clear in his rebellion.

Belperio started the show discussing the recent bush-fire crisis in song, moving on to his criticism of PM Scott Morrison (which is available to watch online here), and discussing the link between the bush-fire crisis and how LGBTQIA+ rights have been challenged by the religious discrimination bill.

The show itself was engrossing, breath-taking, even awe-inspiring. Belperio had homed in on his anger in the last few months, distilling it into something resembling cabaret but also a little more. Raw and, in places, improvised, this performance was both authentic and compelling .

While certainly presenting a relevant show, Belperio opens the discussion with his audience about the current political climate and the issues with media scapegoating the LGBTQIA+ community as a way to avoid climate action. It should be a time for us to come together to work on a solution; however, Morrison seems set on creating further division at a time when time is running out.

Drawing in new information to the discussion daily, Belperio’s improvisation for this show is impressive. Part cabaret, part honest discussion, this is a show you need to see to fully grasp. I would highly recommend seeing Belperio perform. He is such a talented person and I look forward to watching his career progress.

5 / 5 stars


 

Words by Kayla Gaskell

Right Here, Right Now is playing at Holden Street Theatres until February 28

For more information and to purchase tickets, click here

Review: Booksmart

Booksmart follows Molly and Amy, best friends on the cusp of graduating high school, who realise they’ve almost completely let the high school party experience pass them by. The night before graduation they have two goals: 1) go to a rager hosted by one of their classmates and 2) get Amy to kiss the girl she’s been crushing on.

 
Booksmart is a ridiculous, fun, smart romp reminiscent of Superbad and its kin. The tropes are familiar: an awkward nerd with a crush and a highly-strung future leader with no time for dating, go out and make a set of poorly planned decisions and things go awry very quickly. Unlike its predecessors, Booksmart doesn’t have hyper-masculine, dirty boy humour, despite sex being an important component of Amy’s character development. It felt revolutionary to watch this kind of film without endless dick imagery or stupid dildo jokes. The topic of female masturbation is broached, but it’s done in a sensitive and funny way, without the meanness or sense of shame of other comedies like this. Female friendship is a cornerstone of the film and much of the driving force behind its comedy. The film goes out to break much of the stereotypes surrounding female friendships: Molly and Amy are sex-positive (there’s a scene where the two of them watch lesbian porn in the back of a Lyft that made me laugh and cringe in equal measure), they care about each other, and most importantly the emotional crux of the film, their big fight, is not about a boy they’re both trying to sleep with.

 
I enjoyed Molly as a character and her growth was both funny and heartwarming, but seeing a character like Amy is breath of fresh air. Amy is an out lesbian who is crushing on a girl she’s not sure is interested in other girls. It was so nice to see a queer character who was not struggling with her sexuality and her own identity but with the very teenage experience of having a crush on someone. There was also a sex scene between Amy and another girl that wasn’t hypersexualised but awkward and kind of sweet and very funny. Amy is the kind of lesbian storytelling we need more of – her queerness isn’t ignored but it’s also not the only aspect of her personality.

 
The only criticism I have of this film is the relationship between Ms Fine, the girl’s teacher, and a student who has repeated the seventh grade three times. Technically the student was twenty and of legal age and Ms. Fine was a young teacher, but the relationship still sat wrongly on what was otherwise a sharply feminist film. Reducing a comedy actor Jessica Williams, who played Miss Fine, to a lonely teacher who sleeps with a student seems like a waste of talent and opportunity.

 
I really enjoyed this film and I’d recommend it to anyone. Hopefully it’s the first of many female-led coming-of-age movies.

 


Words by Riana Kinlough

5 stars

#MeToo: Stories from the Australian movement

#MeToo: Stories from the Australian movement

Edited by Natalie Kon-yu, Christie Nieman, Maggie Scott and Miriam Sved
Picador Australia


In the wake of the #MeToo movement in 2017, editors Natalie Kon-yu, Christie Nieman, Maggie Scott and Miriam Sved have pulled together a collection of poetry, fiction and essays placing issues of sexual violence and harassment in an Australian context. This incredibly timely and hard-hitting collection is a must-read for Australians of every sex and gender. While many of the personal stories in this anthology can be confronting and visceral in their discussions of sexual harassment and abuse, they serve as a vital testament to the importance of opening up nuanced and often hard-to-have conversations about the issues facing women, non-binary and transgender people in Australia.

One of the things this anthology does best is its ability to bring together works from a diverse range of voices, providing a truly intersectional perspective on sexual violence and harassment in Australia. This includes stories from women of colour, immigrant women, LGBTQIA+ people and women with disabilities. This intersectionality is made all the more important when you consider the often over-bearing whiteness of mainstream feminism. For many women of marginalised backgrounds the ability to speak out, to share a #MeToo story must be weighed up against the risks of financial, social and personal repercussions.

With this in mind, some absolute must-read pieces in this collection are: Eugenia Flynn’s discussion of Aboriginal women and gendered violence, Carly Findlay’s piece on sexual harassment and accountability within disability and activist communities, Rebecca Lim’s ‘#MeToo and the Marginalised’ and Kaya Wilson’s piece about the transgender perspective of gendered violence and  harassment.

Something many of these stories have in common is the complexities involved in speaking out when you belong to a marginalised group. As Eugenia Flynn notes, ‘It is the #MeToo movement not hearing all the times that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women did not speak out, for fear of further stereotyping our men’. Multi-layered identities, in which women belong to multiple groups facing unique issues, make navigating the #MeToo movement much harder.

What the stories in this anthology do is remind us all of the voices left out of movements like #MeToo and the need for all of us to listen to, and support, the women and people whose voices cannot be as readily shared without an awareness and understanding of intersectionality. It’s for this reason that this book is so vital, and why I recommend it to all adult readers. We all have a lot to learn about one another and about gendered violence and harassment. This book is an important step forward for these discussions.

 

5/5 stars

#MeToo is available to purchase here and through any good book store.


Words by Lisandra Linde

Racing the Sun

44330028Reading Racing the Sun by J.R. Koop was like taking a deep breath of fresh air. Set in a Southern Asian inspired fantasy kingdom and with a queer love story at the centre, this Young Adult work is bright against its heavily heteronormative, and predominately Western-based peers. After the soul is stolen out of her secret lover’s chest by a sorceress bent on resurrecting the Ashen God, Rahat must race through the dangerous jungle to save both her lover and her kingdom.

Koop’s writing flows easily and is very fun to read. Her characters and their relationships, especially between family members, are engaging and well-formed. The passages with the faerie, Qaidra, were some of the book’s best they provided much of the lore and world-building background for the work. Qaidra is a being that has suffered and the glimpses into her past were sharply drawn and helped flesh out the faerie into a strikingly memorable figure. That said, I do think the world of Abrecan  could have done with a little more world-building in terms of the lore of the Gods and the significance of the faerie Rapture; at times it felt as though the author expected you to be privy to the inner workings of the world without the full breadth of that insider knowledge quite making it to the page. However, the world-building that was present was rich and interesting – Koop clearly has a vivid, active imagination and lots of love for the things she creates.

The politics of this novel – Rahat and Iliyah, her lover, are both of the ruling class but cannot be together: instead Rahat is promised to Iliyah’s brother to unite their kingdom – add tension to the plot and a desperation to Rahat that endears her to her readers. Although, again, I would have benefitted from a tiny bit more of an explanation about the things that prevent Rahat and the girl she loves from being together, especially given the reason for their separation – Iliyah’s service to a God as a dream weaver – proves to be easily dismissed at the end by the powers that be.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which felt like a good mix of Neil Gaimen, Garth Nix, and Audrey Coulthurst. There’s lots to love in Racing the Sun: the rich world of Abrecan; the sweet love story; the love and encouragement between family members; the unusual range of creatures and beasts (I loved the mechanical horses, they were my absolute favourites); the adventure. This novel is a refreshing addition to the YA genre, and I am excited to see what Koop produces next.

Four Stars.


 

Words by Riana Kinlough

Ambispectrous

Eliza Thomas doesn’t even need to introduce herself for you to be able to see the eccentricity and uniqueness in her. You’ll feel immediately at home with the friendliness and relatability of the stories that she tells. Being on three different spectrums, Eliza Thomas is fully qualified to talk about all the things. She’ll tell you all about the great adventures of being autistic, having to encounter doctors who tell her that she isn’t narcoleptic (even though she is very narcoleptic), and if you’re lucky, she’ll tell you how she ‘caught’ the gay.

Ambispectrous caters for people of all mental shapes and sizes. Set in the Ballroom on North Terrace, there’s a choice of elegant seating or a pillow fort for those who would feel more comfortable amongst blankets. Eliza will introduce you to her thoughts, giving the audience a sneak peek into the deep, dark abyss that is the inner workings of her brain.


The show 
Ambispectrous is undoubtedly the best comedy performance that I’ve seen so far at the Fringe Festival, and if I could, I would see it again and again. The 6pm show time and 45-minute running time allows for an early night or the opportunity to see any other Fringe shows afterwards. For anyone who feels comfortable with sexual references and a bit a swearing, this show is a must see.

Absolutely amazing. Five stars from me!


Words by Sarah Ingham

You can find more information on Ambispectrous and buy tickets here.

 

‘Dinner Night.’- By Taeghan Buggy

Frida eyed the instant coffee on the counter with distaste. She’d chosen it especially just to make her lover laugh.

‘Eugh, instant coffee? Tastes like death,’ Death would say, and then they would waggle their eyebrows suggestively until both they and Frida broke into giggles that turned into kisses.

But Frida didn’t feel like kissing right now.

It was her mistake, honestly. She should know better than to look at her clients and make an emotional connection with them. Her job was to toss them, mind and soul, into the void and then leave them; their bodies held somewhere between a shout and a sigh. It wasn’t for her to know if they lived, returning from the void with something more or something less to them, or died. But she’d pitied the last one. She’d liked him even. Her payment for that job had been the instant coffee, the only thing she’d wanted from his apartment. He’d been twenty-two and had felt worn at the edges like an old pair of blue jeans.

But clients died, like he had died, and when you were dating Death, inevitable consequences ended up messily personal.

Frida prodded at the pesto pasta she’d made for dinner. The fork was unenthusiastic in her hands. Pasta tubes flopped over each other in the bowl.

Sometimes she hated being able to see in sundersaatum; the hidden wave of colour on the light spectrum. If she couldn’t see the world through that weird twist of dark-light, she wouldn’t have her job. She wouldn’t have this life where she alone could see the connections that anchored minds and souls to bodies and be able manipulate them. She wouldn’t be able to sever those threads.

Then again, if she couldn’t see in sundersaatum then she never would have fallen in love. She’d never have spent her nights tucked up against Death’s sure, steady, self.

Frida didn’t hear the rattle of keys as Death let themselves into the apartment. The clomping of their work boots on the floorboards was, however, unmissable.

‘Evening lover,’ Death said with a smile that faded as soon as they saw Frida’s expression.

‘Hey, Dee.’ Frida tried to summon a smile but couldn’t. She could barely look her lover in the eye.

Today Death looked like a woman in her thirties; short hair and strong hands. They looked like the kind of person who’d do what needed to be done. Death always did what needed to be done. Death tucked a hand into the pocket of their coveralls, shoulders slumping as they said, ‘This is about that soul of yours today.’

‘Not mine,’ Frida refuted immediately. Sure, she’d split them from their earthy cases, tossed them into the void they’d asked for so badly, and then left – but they weren’t her souls. She couldn’t think of them like that. She prodded the pasta again. It was now lukewarm.

‘Frida, you can’t keep doing this.’ Death said, running a hand through their silvery crop of hair in a way that spoke of frustration. It wasn’t the first time Frida had brought it up and guilt spiked in her stomach. ‘We work the wrong jobs to make it personal.’

‘I know, I know, and I’m sorry. It’s just- I pitied him, Dee. I liked him.’ Frida sighed, ‘It’s just… hard sometimes.

Death went very still.

‘But, not too hard, right?’ Death said carefully.

Frida winced immediately, rushing over to take Death’s hands and squeezing them tight. ‘Dee no, of course not, not like that, no.’

She could just kick herself. Death had a fragile history with commitment. Many flirted with them, but not many actually wanted to stick around. Oh sure, Death kept everyone eventually, but they also lost them in the end.

‘It’s just been a hard week,’ Frida confessed. Misery swelled as she said, ‘I found a message from my mother, she doesn’t know why I don’t come to visit for the holidays anymore.’

Her voice trembled, and tears threatened. It was too hard seeing her family and knowing what she knew now.

‘Oh honey,’ Death said, immediately pulling her into a hug. Frida relaxed into it. Death gave the best hugs. It always felt like they’d never let her go no matter what.

Death ran a thumb under Frida’s eyes, gently wiping away the tears.

‘Okay lover, that pasta’s cold and I think we both deserve some comfort food. Why don’t you settle on the couch and go I’ll order takeout, hey? Sound good?’

Frida nodded into Death’s chest and Death tilted her chin up to press a soft kiss to her lips. About to pull back, Frida’s little job-payment caught Death’s eye. A glimmer of dirty humour grew on the corners of their lips.

‘Is that… instant coffee?’ Death’s disgust was betrayed by the smile they couldn’t quite hide as they said, ‘You know it tastes like Death, right?’

 


Words by Taeghan Buggy

tiggyTaeghan Buggy is a writer, a poet, and a performer. Her work tends towards emotional gut punches and dangerous words. Taeghan’s immersion within ‘Arts Culture’ includes the New Wave Audio Theatre project, Flinders’ Speakeasy Creative Readings, and Adelaide’s open-mic poetry scene. You can find Taeghan on Twitter.

Big Rough Stones

Big Rough Stones

Margaret Merrilees

Wakefield Press 2018


An awe-inspiring testament to the feminist movement in Australia, particularly South Australia and Victoria during the 1970s and 80s, Big Rough Stones follows the women of a collective throughout their lives together.

Focused on one particularly fiery lesbian, Ro, the novel looks back on her life, her achievements, her failures, and her relationships while firmly establishing her opinions—both those she put on and those she kept to herself. Ro spent her life pioneering to be a loud and proud lesbian who didn’t conform to the patriarchal power structures that guided and continue to guide the lives of a number of women.

Ro is dying, and in dying she wants to realise her dream of becoming a writer, even if she might have left it too late. She’s always wanted to write about her experiences being a lesbian and being involved in a number of protests and rallies. While she laments her writing dreams, she also looks back on her life, giving the audience glimpses into her past, in a natural and sometimes non-chronological order.

While the novel revolves around the character of Ro, we also get to know her friends and ex-lovers, in particular the love of her life, Gerry. Gerry is a country woman, self-sufficient and alone in the Victorian farmlands, living where there would have once been a dairy farm. She is stoic and capable, and somehow taken by Ro, who is very much loud, obnoxious and opinionated (even when contradicting herself).

The book works retrospectively, separated into four parts titled: “Now”, “A While Ago”, “A Long Time Ago”, before returning to “Now”. This shows how times have changed, how ideas from Ro’s youth have continued to inform her thinking, and how her opinions have changed as she grew older.

It was wonderful to read such a powerful, loud, book by a South Australian author and see familiar places such as Adelaide, Kingston and Grange. To hear about women living together, helping one another, and fighting for what they believe in. It was fascinating to hear about the protests, rallies, picnics, and meetings that would have contributed to the transformation of everyday life for women in Australia today.

Margaret Merrilees debut novel The First Week won the Wakefield Press Unpublished Manuscript Award in 2013. Fables of the Queer and Familiar was published in 2014 and was also broadcast around Australia as a radio serial.


3/5 Stars

Big Rough Stones is available for purchase from Wakefield press here.


Words by Kayla Gaskell

Love, Simon

Greg Berlanti’s film Love, Simon is a heart-warming, coming-of-age tale that teaches us three important lessons: self-acceptance, general acceptance and that when you talk to someone nice online, they aren’t always a Catfish.

 

In all seriousness, this film – particularly in our post-Plebiscite Australia which left many people in the LGBT community feeling alienated – is a necessary, affirmative antidote. The plot follows Simon Spier (Nick Robinson), a closeted gay teenager who, after seeing an anonymous coming-out post on his high school’s gossip page, impulsively begins an e-mail correspondence with the writer who goes by “Blue”. However, their growing friendship (and Simon’s secret) are soon threatened after he leaves his e-mail open on a public computer and finds himself being blackmailed by fellow drama student Martin (Logan Miller) who wants to date his friend Abby (Alexandra Shipp). What follows are a set of hilarious, awkward and tense events as Simon struggles to keep his secret and act like Cupid with his friend’s love lives, all the while attempting to discover who Blue is.

 

The film (and for the record, the book) avoids the melodramatic tropes that are usually expected from the young adult genre. The anxieties of coming out, even while being sure that you’ll be accepted by your friends and family, are addressed alongside the strong message that only the person coming out has the right to determine when and how they do it. To allay your unspoken fears: no, this film does not go the pot-holed John Green route and suddenly have a character die with an unlit cigarette in their mouth – it has some heart-breaking moments but ultimately keeps a tone of warmth. No character is necessarily a “side” character – each possesses their own quiet complexities. His best friends Leah (portrayed by 13 Reasons Why’s Katherine Langford), Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) and Abby are very likeable and we find ourselves wanting a deeper glimpse into their lives and thoughts. Even Martin has a heart of gold and genuine adoration for Simon and his friends (if there was such a thing as wholesome blackmailing, he has found it). I must also mention Natasha Rothwell’s performance as the drama teacher Ms. Albright who is guaranteed to make you howl with laughter.

 

What separates it also establishes this film as a future classic is the underlying mystery: who the hell is Blue? You will be spending the entire film as Simon does: seeing a potential Blue in any male who interacts with him. It is hilariously akin to how we fantasise about crushes; usually over the most minimal interaction possible. This worker at the café smiled at me while handing me my change – so I guess he’s the love of my life then. We naturally become so invested in this mystery that every time Simon finds out a guy isn’t Blue, we feel the same spear of disappointment being thrust through our hearts. I know what you really want: to know if there is a great pay-off to this mystery? To which I will reply, rather pettily, that if I had to suffer with not knowing then so do you.

 

There are people who will disregard this as a “gay movie” but this is a film which anyone can relate to. The universal messages of self-acceptance, friendship and awareness that people are struggling with things you don’t know about are always relevant – and necessary. And even though this film does centre upon a young man accepting his sexuality; this is ultimately a film about friendship and love. It is an important film that a lot of young people will take comfort in who find themselves relating to Simon’s situation.

 

If a film can make an ice-hearted cynic like myself write such syrupy tripe like “friendship and love” – well then you best be sure it is a damn good movie.

 

Love,

Well at the very least: Tolerance,

Me

 


Words by Jordan Early.

 

PO PO MO CO: Nosfer-Arse-Tu

PoPoMoCo’s Nosfer-Arse-Tu is a rollicking, fabulous force of queer ass (pun intended) pantomime. The show is presented by an upcoming queer-clown group known for this very particular brand of off the wall, yet socially acute, humour. Nosfer-Arse-Tu is a not-so-classical retelling of ‘man goes on a journey and winds up at a dark and mysterious castle’. Narrated by naughty-nurse Regina (rhymes with vagina), the Doctor protagonist is on a ‘frivolous homosexual adventure’ and is followed by his wife who’s bored of waiting at home.

A cast of strange and creepy characters support the story, not the least of whom consist of an actual face for a vagina complete with disco-ball clitoris – the appearance of whom was one of the funniest parts of the show. The face-vagina is not the only animated body part; the ‘arse’ of Nosfer-Arse-Tu comes into play. I can honestly say that I’ve never seen such a well animated arse only using giant googly eyes, a pair of plastic lips, and some hands. The sheer farce of it was side-splitting.

The show is quite pacey, and Nurse Regina keeps everything moving to naturally facilitate scene changes. Her dialogue with the audience ensures that they stay engaged even when some of jokes miss the mark and the audience was kept laughing to the brink of tears.

The show isn’t just funny. As my friend, who saw it with me, pointed out; Nosfer-Arse-Tu features some fantastically indulgent love for femme sexuality and beyond the jokes, it also makes a point of making “receptive” sexuality active rather than passive. The contrast between ‘women downs down for so long her fingers are pruney’ verses ‘man fall asleep straight after receiving pleasure’ was a complete crack-up to watch. LGBTQIA+ references abound throughout the show and the actors seem to delight in undermining heterosexual narrative norms.

This just a bloody-good-fun show to watch overall; audience engagement with the actors abounds, farce is the order of the day, and rude-and-naughty humour comes with every second line. If you’re here for a good time, but not necessarily a long time, be sure not to miss PoPoMoCo’s Nosfer-Arse-Tu.

 


Words by Taeghan Buggy

4 stars.

PO PO MO CO is playing at RAJOPOLIS at Raj House until March 18 (excluding Mondays). Tickets available here.

 

Our Giddy Aunts: Queer Readings of Mentors in Children’s Fantasy Fiction

With the recent revelation that Dumbledore, our favourite gay wizard, won’t be all that gay in the next Fantastic Beasts movie, I think it’s fair to say that the tide has finally turned; J. K. Rowling’s table-scrap representation is no longer enough. Readers are no longer satisfied with post publication declarations that an unaddressed, unimportant character might have been Jewish or something. This is not effective or accurate representation.

The thing we should keep in mind, however, is that J. K. Rowling wasn’t brave or unique in codifying Dumbledore’s queerness. She was just tapping into an unconscious trope that has been in children’s fantasy fiction since the very beginning.

Explicit queerness in children’s fiction is relatively new. The conscious and unconscious link of homosexuality and sex is an old and tough link to break, and is even tougher to get past a gatekeeping adult public. Children are not in charge of what gets published; adults are. It is these gatekeepers that are as capable as being whipped into a panic – like the one that saw the demise of the Safe Schools program – that decide whether or not queer characters see any representation in children’s fiction. Forgetting, of course, that children’s fiction is all about characters just like the bullied queer kids of real life. Children’s fiction is all about the ‘other’.

Children’s fantasy is filled with ‘others’, like Ged from Earthsea, Morrigan Crow from the Nevermoor series, or the inescapable example Harry Potter. Then there are those who might be completely of the ‘normal’, but find themselves feeling like ‘others’ because they’re in an entirely new world, such as the queer icon Dorothy in Oz, the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve from The Chronicles of Narnia, and the Alice of Alice in Wonderland.

It’s not uncommon for children to feel this way about themselves – approximately 1 in 4 children reported being bullied at school in 2009. This is particularly key for children who may be struggling with sexuality or gender, feeling different for a reason poorly explored in the fiction around them.

Even without bullying, growing up is difficult, and the process of changing from child into adult is a metamorphosis that overwhelms even the best of us. It is here that books become a key in figuring ourselves out through sympathy and empathy, relating our feelings of ‘otherness’ with those on the page.

These ‘others’ find themselves in places and situations that are impossible to the uninitiated. They require guidance and teaching to understand their otherness. In real life we have our parents to fulfil these roles. But it’s usually the case in fiction that these characters that give guidance don’t have the familial attachment of ‘parent’. They are the tertiary adults, who fulfil the role of parent without the prejudice and judgement that entails.

Perhaps it’s just that writers have bad relationships with their parents, but rarely – if ever – does the most important guidance required to see these characters through to the end of the narrative come from parents. It might be because the characters are orphans, or the parents are absent – both of these tropes are mainstays of the genre. Fiction for children lends itself well to wise older characters, because children’s fiction is filled with outsiders needing guidance, yet it seems that when parents are present, children don’t go on adventures.

Who does this leave? Teachers. Old women. Grandparents. Distant relatives. In many cultures, they all fall under the same word. It may have fallen out of fashion now, but that categorisation applies in English too – in short, we’re talking about aunts and uncles, informal or otherwise.

What better word is there for the adults that assume the role of parent in the absence of parent? There are honorary aunts and uncles abound in the real world. Why not in imagined worlds?

The word ‘aunt’ or ‘uncle’ does not denote responsibility per se, but it does open the possibility of care. An aunt or an uncle is usually a temporary presence, but with opinions and power the same as any parent. In real life, as in fiction, an orphaned child might find themselves with an aunt or uncle.

The concept of gay aunts and uncles is not a particular new or interesting idea. It is a prevailing theory as to why homosexuality hasn’t been bred out of any population. In fiction, their presence mirrors the real world. If queer people exist to support the lives of children, then more than a few of the children supported in fiction get a little help from their queer aunts and uncles.

Children’s fiction is – for obvious reasons – devoid of sex. The only evidence that anyone has sex in the sanitised world of children’s fiction is the children themselves. This is not to say that the world of children’s fiction is devoid of sexuality – adults may be partnered, children may (and often do) have love interests, and male/female pairings are often implied by proximity.

If there’s any more egregious display of enforced sexuality, it’s in old fashioned children’s fiction. It creates love interests by convenience and proximity by pairing the nearest boy (of similar age) to the nearest girl. It’s not just something applied to the children in children’s fiction, either, but adult framed love isn’t integral to children’s fiction. Indeed, love interests aren’t key to children’s fiction at all. Alice, for example, had no need for love interests.

However, in a world where characters have enforced romantic inclinations, what happens where there is an absence of romance? What happens when a character that could easily have a heterosexual partnering – and has a convenient and proximate heterosexual partner – has none? Why are perfectly loveable characters single?

This happens frequently in children’s fiction because it’s not necessary to explore adult feelings. But adults reading children’s fiction can’t help but wonder about the inner lives of characters. Who does Dumbledore love?

The absence of relationships is as questionable as the presence of them, because for a long time, representation of any queer characters – happy ones, anyway – was illegal.

The absence of relationships isn’t the only evidence, of possible queerness. The circumstantial evidence is as varied as it is flimsy, but it’s no less flimsy than a knowing glance between two Valkyries in 2017’s Thor Ragnarok. Queer people have been forced to see representation where there’s questionable evidence and word of God for decades. Who would have known that Mrs. Danvers was apparently a lesbian without this handy Wikipedia article?

Fiction is filled with flamboyant bachelor uncles, and interesting albeit reserved bachelorette aunts. Flamboyance and extravagance are stereotypes now, but in previous years they could be seen as cultural markers. Dumbledore was extravagant and weird. What is flamboyant if not a bird that catches fire? Diana Wynne Jones’ Chrestomanci and Howl, though both textually heterosexual, were both flamboyant and extravagant in an era when the term metrosexual was uninvented. In the Nevermoor series from Jessica Townsend, we have the extravagant flouter of rules, Jupiter North. These are, of course, male stereotypes. The female stereotypes are little murkier.

The maiden aunt trope is one based in reality, and one that is replicated in many children’s narratives. When healthcare for women started becoming a Thing, so was Incredibly Deadly War, leaving many women widowed or without husband. How many of these women were happy to do without we will never know, but their presence has endured in fiction, even outside of the realm of children’s fiction. The Austen novels are nothing without their maiden aunts.

Of course, many of these women – in real life at least – lead unpartnered lives as wholesome heterosexuals. But there are innumerable queer women who would have found this arrangement invigorating, either because they preferred the same sex or preferred no partnership whatsoever. The maiden aunt could be seen as a miserable character, or they could just as easily be fulfilled and happy without a man.

Outsiders in their own worlds, they provide an anchor for ‘others’. These flamboyant uncles or interesting aunts provide a glimpse into the future for characters that are otherwise incapable of imagining a future as an ‘other’.

In real life, the adults we see as children are the adults we believe we can become. The most normal of which are usually our parents, and possibly our grandparents. If our families are large, we might see a deviation from the parental norm through our extended relatives – our aunts and uncle, our cousins and niblings, adults that don’t need to exist in a nuclear family unit to be happy and healthy adults.

When J. K. Rowling revealed that Dumbledore was gay in 2007, there was a short silence and then burst of applause at Carnegie Hall. Applause for representation? Or an acknowledgement of something that has always been there?


Words by Mark Tripodi

Mark is a writer and comedian. He is a host on Radio Adelaide’s Pride and Prejudice and The Range. He also hosts The Piecast.