I who may well be...

Musings from the perspective of a human being who may well be not locatable completely within the usual categories of male or female or gay or straight or transsexual or intersexed or exploiter or exploited or supplier or consumer or performer or spectator.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Survivors of Fatal Escape Suffer More Horror from Immigration Police

On Saturday I met the two guys who survived a month in a ship hold with fifteen days worth of water and the two dead bodies of their friends. Four desperate young men swum out one night across a bay in Morocco, so desperate they were willing to risk just throwing themselves blindly into a hold filled with phosphate, and hope that their meagre water supply would last till their expected port somewhere in Europe. A month of harsh seas and rain later, half way around the world, in the calmer seas just off Perth, Western Australia, the crew finally heard the weak taps of the one guy left conscious.

You might have heard of these guys when the media first broke their story. Bit bigger that a mere week down a mine, isn't it? Bet those guys have a big media deal sown up, huh, a month with two dead bodies, with nothing to drink but their own urine, and no idea if they'd ever survive, a real story of amazing courage, sacrificing everything to have a chance at life away from the corrupt military they were fleeing. Ah, but Eddie can't get to them yet.

They've been in detention over a year now.

They survived all the unforseeable horror of their escape, only to be caught in the mundane horror of mandatory detention.

Our immigration department checked to see if the men were in any danger in Morocco, and the Moroccan authorities said, no, not all, no corruption here, no, no, we're all lovely government and nice militia. Our offiicials took their word for it, over the testimony and evidence of the young men who risked everything to escape ill treatment from the corrupt military, one deserting, one assaulted trying to escape enlistment.

Their claim for asylum was rejected, and they rot in Immigration Detention along with every other poor unfortunate innocent, for no crime and with no release date, doped up with the standard psych meds issued by Global Solutions Limited.

After the publicity of their discovery in the tragic circumstances of the ship hold, their lives are even more in danger from angry military authoritarians in Morocco. The Minister for Immigration could grant them asylum now, especially given the bizarre circumstances escalating their tragic situation.

Call somebody.

Do something.

Write to
Senator Amanda Vanstone

Suite MP49
Minister for Immigration and Multiculural Affairs
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Send care of
SCALES Community Legal Advice Centre
Ground Floor,
Lotteries House
Civic Boulevarde
Rockingham WA 6168

Crumbs, man, is that all they got, nothing personal, I'm sure the Legal Advice people are a great bunch of people, but the Centre is probably just some under-resourced well-overstretched free legal aid service in Perth, man; That's all those poor guys have got. Except me.

And now, you.

Say something.

I can't leave their names on the internet, but she'll know who the two Morroccan survivors of the four Morrocan stowaways are. If you need their names, send me an email. But spread the story. It is so tragically bizarre, and typical in the level of bizarreness caused by our insane border policies, and by "our" I mean all of this human society we are all part of, that's made of us, ulitmately, so what's with all the facist borders man?


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Big Visit to Villawood this Sat leave Central 12:15

A contingent of people to visit the people held prisoner by the private company Global Solutions on behalf of the Department of Immigration and Mutlicultual Atrocities is happening this Saturday, September 23. We're leaving Sydney/Central at 12:15, to arrive at Villawood after 1pm. If you're late, you can catch the next train (to Leightonfield) and meet us after 2pm.

Bring photo ID, and be prepared for a security clothes/body search, surrendering your dignity to the authorities, and the countless petty mindless cruelties of authoritarian mandatoy detention, because YOU get to walk back out again in a few hours, and it's the least you can do against this cruelty being prepetuated in the name of US, the people of Australia.

If you want to bring in food or cigarettes, these must be in unopened store-sealed condition.

Come on, resistance to oppression is not just chanting anti-Howard slogans and theorising about post-colonial exploitation. Here's a real grass roots response, assistance you can give to real people locked up by the Authoritarians and Profiteers, meaningful support for real humans. Without you and me, they may have no friends in this country (outside the concentration camps) at all.

Here's an article about refugees and detention from my good friend and staunch activisit, Farida Iqbal:

Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender and Intersex Refugees in Australia
Farida Iqbal

On the 23rd of September activists from Community Action Against Homophobia and the NSW Queer Students Network will visit LGBTI refugees in Villawood detention centre. The LGBTI protest movement has been active in building the movement for refugee rights for several years. Pro-refugee floats have been organised in the Sydney Mardi Gras and the Perth Pride parade. "Queer blocs" have been organised for several refugee rights protests, including a twenty-strong queer contingent at the Easter convergence at Villawood detention centre earlier this year.

Many LGBTI refugees have experienced bashings, torture, sexual assault or imprisonment as punishment for their sexuality or gender identity. Seventy-seven countries around the world carry legal penalties for homosexuality. In some countries this includes the death penalty. Right-wing puppet regimes brought to power as a result of US intervention in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan are often particularly harsh in their treatment of LGBTI people.

LGBTI refugees not only flee from government persecution, but also from their families and religious right-wing vigilante groups. State repression encourages "grass roots" homophobia to flourish, and LGBTI people cannot seek the assistance of the police when homosexuality or transgenderism are illegal. Often, the police are just as brutal in their treatment of LGBTI people as vigilante groups are.

In her paper "Imagining otherness: Refugee claims on the basis of sexuality in Canada and Australia," legal academic Jenni Millbank examined 204 cases of refugees seeking asylum in Australia on the basis of homophobic persecution between 1994 and 2000. Out of these, 42 were lesbians, one was transsexual and the rest were gay men. These categories of "gay", "lesbian" and "transsexual" are not hard and fast, given that there are different conceptions of sexuality in different cultures, and that Millbank’s paper does not include data about bisexuals.

The Australian Refugee Review Tribunal has a record of harsh and unrealistic treatment of queer refugees. Millbank argues that the judgement Australian Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT) has been much harsher on LGBTI applicants than the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). Out of the 204 cases examined, 26% of gay men were accepted, and an appalling 7% of lesbians. The RRT has rejected LGBTI refugee claims in the past on the basis that refugees fleeing homophobic persecution could be safe in their home country if they were discreet about their sexuality. This trend has turned around since 2004, when the High Court overturned an RRT ruling that a gay couple from Bangladesh could safely return if they were discreet about their sexuality.

Yet this landmark decision has not resulted in an increase in successful sexuality- based refugee claims. The RRT continues to be just as harsh as it always has been, but for different reasons. To seek asylum in this country on the basis of homophobic persecution, refugees must prove that they are queer in court. This is an unreasonable expectation. It is not always something that can be easily proven, particularly if an asylum seeker has been isolated in the closet. It is often more difficult to prove for lesbians, because women tend to live less publicly than men. Being queer means different things in different cultures, and Refugee Review Tribunal case managers often demonstrate a very eurocentric understanding of what it means to be gay, lesbian, transgendered or bisexual.

The case of one Iranian man was rejected on the grounds that "the Tribunal was surprised to observe such a comprehensive inability on the Applicant’s part to identify any kind of emotion-stirring or dignity-arousing phenomena in the world around him". As examples of such "dignity arousing phenomena" the Tribunal suggested the asylum seeker could have mentioned Oscar Wilde, Alexander the Great, Andre Gide, Greco-Roman wrestling, Bette Midler, or Madonna (WAAG vs. MIMIA 2004). The RRT decision is insensitive not only because of the expectation that an Iranian man should cite such Western cultural references, but also because not all gays are interested in Greco-Roman wrestling or Madonna. This is not even in the case in the West. Further, closeted, traumatised people are often understandably not "out and proud" enough to give rousing speeches about gay pride in an intimidating legal setting.

Refugees sometimes hide their history of homophobic persecution and attempt to seek asylum on another basis because they sense that it is difficult to seek asylum on the basis of homophobic persecution in Australia. Yet the harsh treatment of LGBTI refugees is also a reflection of harsh treatment of refugees in general.

The outcomes of LGBTI refugee cases tend to differ on the basis of their country of origin, despite the assertion of the RRT that it judges claims on a case-by-case basis. Middle Eastern LGBTI refugees tend to have a higher success rate than Chinese LGBTI refugees. The RRT makes decisions based on the general level of homophobic persecution in the applicant’s country of origin. Yet the tribunal has a history of relying on unreliable, over-generalised anecdotal assertions about the circumstances of gays in particular countries. If the Spartacus gay travel guide says your country has plenty of gay cruising areas, beaches and nightclubs, the RRT reasons that this means your claim must be false. The tribunal has even used evidence based on the freedom and status of gay men to assess the claims of lesbian refugees. Yet there are often vast differences between the circumstances of gay men and lesbians.

Lesbian refugees tend to make less onshore claims than gay men. Women around the world tend to be poorer than men and find it more difficult to leave the country to make an onshore claim. The poor success rate of lesbian refugees is also a reflection of the Australian legal system’s attitude toward women. Homophobic violence against lesbian refugees has much in common with violence against women in general – it tends to occur in private rather than public spaces, and sexual assault is commonly used as a form of homophobic violence. Millbank identifies a strong trend of the RRT to dismiss the persecution of lesbians as "domestic" or "personal". In one 1999 case a lesbian from Bolivia had been harassed and sexually assaulted by men in her neighborhood after a male relative had "outed" her ‘because he hoped that if they all insulted and attacked her, she would change.’ The RRT decided that this persecution was "a purely private matter and is not ... for reasons of the Applicant’s membership of a particular social group of homosexuals." Rape and domestic violence are tacitly understood as normal by the Australian legal system.

Mandatory detention, a torturous existence, can be particularly isolating for queer refugees. Many find it impossible to meet other LGBTI people. There is no support service in Australia that caters specifically to the needs of LGBTI refugees. Religious groups that offer support to refugees often do not meet the needs of LGBTI clients. There is also a history of homophobic practices in Australian detention centres. In one instance a gay male couple in a long term relationship were detained in separate compounds because Australian Correctional Management did not recognise their relationship.

People who are refused asylum from the RRT get deported back to their country of origin. People have been deported back to countries where they potentially face the death penalty for homosexuality.

The LGBTI protest movement has supported the refugee movement as a whole, not simply demanding freedom for queer refugees, but freedom for all refugees. LGBTI people and refugees have both been persecuted by the Howard government. Activists dubbed the 2004 same sex marriage ban a case of "queers overboard", recognising the same-sex marriage ban was a cynical electioneering tactic echoing the scaremongering that refugees threw their children overboard.

There are several LGBTI refugees who are free today because the broader community stood up for them. LGBTI refugees have benefited from their contact with LGBTI activists, refugee rights activists, and the queer community in Australia. This contact has meant they have been less isolated, and has assisted in the success of their cases. This is also testament to the persistence of the grass-roots refugee protest movement as a whole.

To get involved in the campaign to support LGBTI refugees contact:
Community Action Against Homophobia: Rachel Evans 0403 798 420, Simon Biber 0425 208 363, Norrie mAy Welby 0421 479 285
Queer Students Network: 0401 664 858



Millbank, J. 2000 Imagining otherness: Refugee claims on the basis of sexuality in Canada and Australia. Melbourne University Law Review, April 2002

"WAAG v MIMIA [2004]. HCATrans 475 (19 Nov. 2004)" High Court of Australia Transcripts. 2005. 17 Oct. 2005 .

Friday, September 01, 2006

Gooden Gone, Going On Good

So there I was running the self-pitying story about being unfuckable, when the seriousness of stories was brought fatally home.

Two Sundays ago, my friend Marc Gooden texted me indicating a high level of distress with the world. He was angry about the money “pissed against the wall” by the well-off at the World AIDS Conference in Canada, while he suffered in dire AIDS poverty with tragically inadequate support or services. He was angry about the stupidity of the general population. Well, that’s the way it is if you climb out of the delusions of the masses, if you look back, they look distressingly stupid and infuriatingly complicit in the destruction of their planet’s future, the wellbeing of themselves and their descendents, and their vindictive jealousy and relentless persecution of the sensitive, the creative, and the exotic or diverse.

I phoned him and talked him down from his rage and despair, and urged him to focus on some things that did not infuriate him. Someone else visited him in his home in country Victoria that Sunday night, left at 4am Monday morning, and Marc was found hanged dead later that day.

Now, the late visitor looks sus in these circumstances, but presuming the Police did their job right in ruling out foul play, Marc died because he was stuck in telling himself a very distressing story.

Yes, there are horrible things happening everywhere. Bombs subsidized by US taxes have flattened towns and killed mostly children and cows in Lebanon. The average child molester, the thirty eight year old heterosexual married man, is molesting the average victim, his twelve year old daughter. And millions of children are orphaned by AIDS because the money for AIDS Prevention is being wasted on junkets or counter-productive abstinence campaigns.

Who wouldn’t get suicidally depressed looking at nothing but the bad stuff?

Yet, there are also wondrous miracles happening everywhere. Every morning and night there’s a stunning sunset or sunrise in breathtakingly beautiful full colour panorama. A hardened crim is moved to tears by the fragile beauty of a newborn baby. A dance floor comes alive with a perfect blend of sound and light and movement and happy smiling people experiencing the joy of their shared humanity and their shared connection to the source of All.

I have a choice about the stories I tell myself. I can focus on the sad story of being too weird for normal guys to fancy (which is true), or on the happy story of physically manifesting the androgyny that underlies humanity (and indeed the Source of Creation), and thus appealing to those special folk who have evolved beyond the grey trappings of normative gender expectations. The more I shine, the more normals are blinded and shy away, and the more exotic and talented people are attracted to me. No offense to normals; they vote for Howard because its the best they can do, and I bear them no ill will, as I bear dogs no ill, but I don’t want to ever ever ever fuck them.

So, I’m unpartnered, but that’s because I choose to not settle for a Normal, and Angels are not just waiting on the shelf. They’re out there, some of them still too traumatized from the brutal Normals, but some of them notice me and maybe wink.

From a certain point of view, the world is perfect, and I am perfect, and I have all the love and everything else I need right now right now. If I focus on this, and appreciate the stunning beauty the Source Of All has created in me and my body and my talents and my dancing, I shine, irresistible to All that is Good and Joy and Love.

If I look at my lovelife like a scorecard, whine about the lack of any recent entries in my sexual history, and think of my chances in terms of how I appeal to Normals, I could end up as suicidally depressed as Mr Gooden.

No way, folks. Marc’s death was a wake-up call for me, and I’m not looking back, I’m taking no prisoners, I’m not compromising on second best, I’m not settling for less than a talented androgynous Angel deserves, and I’m here to do justice to Shiva, both male and female, dancing with one leg raised, the Dancer and the Dance.

I may still end up home alone, but it is because I choose to not settle for Normal, and I will sleep with a divinely beautiful soul and body, and nothing Normal will be allowed to bring me down!

I Shine with Joy and Love and Bliss and Endless Blooming Effervescence!

It’s a much better story, and it tells itself as I walk down the street and the worlds reads my walk and eyes and reflects the story back.

And let the Dead bury the Dead.