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A letter from Sydney, Australia 11 May 2020

Lucy Nicholas

I write this as a settler colonial person living and working on the lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation that were stolen, with this theft and its related genocides never acknowledged and the land never ceded.

I’m a queer, child-free person living alone during social distancing in Sydney, with my partner a 10 hour drive away in Melbourne and my family in UK. I returned from the UK mid March and had two weeks of total home quarantine, followed by social distancing and haven’t hung out with anyone IRL for 2 months. Look, I’m doing fine. My job is stable, I can work from home, I have excellent income, I have zoom, but this vantage point allows me a particular perspective on some of the discourses I see coming out of the media at this time. 

One thing that has been irking my sociology of gender brain is the repeated invocation of ‘families’ by Government spokespeople. How they are working to help Australian families. Never people, citizens, always families. They love that discourse here in Australia and we all know what it means: nuclear, heterosexual, white families. Your regular mum and dad Australians. It is this constant barrage in the media of how families can struggle through Covid, how couples can balance home schooling, how it would be preferred if you don’t visit your country / beach property (!!), how women are bearing the brunt of home schooling. And my life is so.far.from.this. And it feels sometimes that even the critical people have slipped in to an extreme reformism, a really liberal feminism where we are talking about how to acknowledge and manage that (heterosexual, parenting) women are unequally disadvantaged by lockdown and will suffer in their careers, and don’t really talk about why they are and how we could avoid it in the first place. And I’m like yes let’s be mad at how institutions don’t acknowledge the realities of heterosexual parenting women’s lives but CAN WE PLEASE BE ANGRY AT THE MEN! But more so at heterosexuality? And gender? It is this constant tension we have in politics or social change in general of dealing with and minimising the negative impacts of the world as it is (heightened in a time of crisis) and avoiding the accidental reification of the fundamentally social things that make the world how it is. It is a constant tension in my work and in feminism and gender politics. That of keeping one eye on the gender order as is and naming it (in my last book with Chris Agius we used the more 80s term masculinism to talk about it), without reifying it so we always have another eye on getting rid of it, of radically altering it. So, I wanna talk about BOTH the reality of how many of my heterosexual parenting women colleagues will be doing even more in this time, and how compulsory, state sanctioned heterosexuality causes this. 

So, I leave my house and I walk down the street in my neighbourhood where I see queer couples holding hands, single people, and big extended Vietnamese families sharing houses and all hanging out in the yard or the restaurant they run (now take away, phew), to remind myself that this Australia of the news is indeed not the Australia I live in. I love my gaybourhood, one of many in one of the world’s gay capitals that I live in, I love the multiculturalism where communities keep their languages and foods and family ties, and I wish the media would stop trying to erase and deny this reality of what makes Australia awesome.

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