It’s been 40 years since the police and paddy-wagon brigade turned up to restore ‘civil order’ and incarcate the elders of our community. Over its many years of good health (not to mention the few scary years when we thought we might lose you), Mardi Gras remains a beacon for LGBTIQ+ community to gather and demonstrate.
‘Queerly Beloved’ is the latest offering from Melbourne’s celebrated diva, Mama Alto with Mr. Ginger (that’s me) on the piano. The show was developed by Mama Alto at the same time as last year’s dreaded ‘postal survey’, a time of great instability for our community. So far the national tour of Queerly Beloved has seen us perform at Feast in Nexus Arts Adelaide, sold out for Chapel Off Chapel’s Midsumma show in Melbourne and is about to grace the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
The costly and unnecessary postal survey/’plebiscite’ provided a legitimate avenue for hostile and nasty attacks designed to impede our inclusion in society. Not too far from the gay mecca of inner-city Darlinghurst or trendy inner-west where we will gather for this cabaret, many of the electorates in Western Sydney made it clear that marriage should not be made equal in the opinions of the majority in those areas.
However with the majority “yes” and subsequent acts of parliament, it certainly is a time for singing and celebration. Old friends in long term relationship who previously shunned marriage as heteronormative are now sitting down to ‘sort out’ the seating plan at their wedding reception. Feminist dykes (friends of mine) who having been together for decades overheard saying, ‘yes we’d be delighted to attend. No, no. We will never be married. Patriarchal oppressive claptrap. But we CAN’T WAIT for YOUR wedding.’
And it just wouldn’t be true if I didn’t say that I have just a slight twinge that after seven major and meaningful relationships, perhaps I have missed out on something, having never been related in the secure arms of matrimony.
In the aftermath of the marriage victory and as queer relationships everywhere are being (re)defined, (re)celebrated and in the spotlight, it’s easy to forget the damage wrecked by the ‘respectful debate’. Queerly Beloved takes the time to be remember, be together and draw strength from singing our songs.
Mama elaborates: “These songs – and this performance – are about expressing the complexities and contradictions of the queer experience. Vulnerability, but also resilience. Fear, but courage. Strength, but tenderness. Ultimately I wished to create something healing, empowering and heartfelt.”
Photography by Alexis Desaulniers-Lea
The songs chosen for Queerly Beloved are full of meaning. Sometimes meaning is revealed to the listener, with metaphors and clues which lead the queer listener to queer community. These are songs which have sustained us during the time when we were far apart, alone or under threat.
And our rights and our community remain under threat. You may have noticed there were many congratulations at the achievement of marriage equality. Rightly so. But at the same time the ‘Safe Schools’ program remains under sustained attack in two states.
These ideas of regrouping, showing care and finding our strength again shine powerfully through the show. In an act of love, Mama invites all those living quietly queer in electorates with a majority ‘no’ vote from the postal survey to come to see the show free of charge and for an evening be in the company of the community who love you for being queer.
Sold out at Midsumma, we are on the way to Mardi Gras. Queerly Beloved is your invitation to gather with community and share songs of queer empowerment. Protest may have given birth to parade and for this we celebrate 40 years of Mardi Gras. But we haven’t stopped fighting for our rights and for our community, in our way with song and music.
The Turnbull Government may seek recognition for helping us achieve marriage equality, but let’s come together to keep fighting to remain not only equal, but equally queer.
Queerly Beloved is on for two nights only at The Red Rattler in Marrickville.
Monday and Tuesday, 26-27 Feb 2018 at 8 pm