Labels Are Gay is very excited after being invited to take part in Tas Pride this year. It'll be her first appearance, so she's rather nervous but excited to share her message of love and acceptance.
See link to Taspride lunch time interview at the Theatre Royal Backspace 29 Campbell St, Nov 23, 1.10pm here.
"Labels are Gay…love is for all. Voula Pleonie talks with Tasmanian author Alice Hansen about her book that aims to provide acceptance for GLBTIQ people."
All are welcome and as the Tas Pride joy begins to spread across our beautiful island I thought it was timely to share a little personal story below. It's long, as most things are that Alice writes, so settle in with an enormous coffee if you like :)
Labels are Gay – So is Alice
In primary school, gosh I loved my PE teacher. With her big blonde 80s hair, I was certain every girl in the class felt the same. So I didn’t think much of it. I just carried on throwing the ball much further than the other girls, and some of the boys, in an effort to catch her attention.
My early years were smooth sailing; I had Tasmanian wilderness on my doorstep, a loving family and enjoyed swinging a tennis racquet. Much to my mother’s dismay, I wasn’t so keen on dresses and much preferred following my brothers up tall trees and hoping the remote control car under the Christmas tree was for me. Another doll and I would have ripped my hair out- and hers.
Although Mum must have despaired at my non-girly tendencies, the flipside bonus for her in later years was that she and Dad never had to worry about me meeting boys. In fact, they weren’t introduced to a single boyfriend during high school years. Must have been a relief in a stoutly catholic family that the eldest girl was so well behaved!
I buzzed through high school in a wonderful circle of friends, collecting A’s in the classroom and life was pleasantly cruisy. A lack of boy interest was easily disguised by my commitment to fluffy yellow balls and the impending US tennis scholarship I had accepted post year 12.
The jumbo roared up the runway and next minute I found myself sitting in my coach’s Cadillac, on the wrong side of the road wondering where the hell I’d landed. Tassie was long gone from sight, so I did what I knew best, leaping into my degree and whacking forehands about the court. Still, of course, there was no time for boys.
But I certainly didn’t want my teammates to suspect I was gay. That would have been dreadful. So I went about cunningly maintaining my ‘straight Alice persona,’ which went so far as kissing a strange Mexican in a North Carolina club, among other such duties of deception.
I tried to convince myself that it was because they were all foreign men, and I’d find a nice Australian later. Deep inside however, I knew that no matter how handsome my imaginary Aussie surfer was, I’d be the first to handball him to my younger sister.
And so the ‘straight Alice’ image remained alive on this new continent for my full 5 years there. On return to Australia, I never thought I’d share the fact that I was gay with my family. How easy it would have been to say to, ‘Mum and Dad, I'm gay.” Those words, I didn’t think would ever come. I accepted instead that I’d live a life alone. In my mind, that would be easiest.
But at 28, when I had a fantastic paying job, had just bought myself a house, was cruising about on a Vespa and continuing to trick those closest to me that life was perfect, suddenly my wheels fell off. I walked into that home I owned, all alone, and I cried. I cried because it wasn’t the Australian dream of owning a house, the type where you begin your life with someone and create a home.
I cried because I knew I’d never be a career woman and all I wanted was to love someone. I cried because I was gay and that as a Catholic I abided by some unspoken rule that acting on this part of me would be very wrong. And I cried some more because that’s what you do when you’ve had too much to drink.
In the following days I realised it was time. One by one I began telling people my dreadful news; that I was gay. Individually I sat down dear friends, even broke the news to my parents and brothers and sister. Sixty or so people later do you know what happened? They all jumped for joy! They were all so happy that despite my plan to shock them with my news, I became shocked myself.
Not one of them disowned me, not one of them turned their back. All I got in return were hugs and happiness. There was one thing the same in every response - and that was love and acceptance- the type we all deserve.
My older brother excitedly told me he knew many lesbians, all the women who had rejected him in the past. One of my best friends took great delight in greeting me over the phone ‘good morning pussy licker’ and my parents said they’d be delighted to meet anyone I brought home. Who would have thought? I began to wonder why on earth I’d hidden away this part of me.
As it turned out began gay wasn’t so bad after all. In fact it was wonderful! And it is wonderful. Which is precisely why the book Labels are Gay Love is for All was born, so that no young person has to hide away for years like I did. Its message is simple; that love is love, no matter who it is between.
In Australia today, it breaks my heart to hear that gay youth are six times more likely to suicide. That’s not right and if this book can go a tiny step to bringing acceptance and love into the lives of others, to perhaps help a father understand his young son for instance, then it has a place on the shelf.
I got an email from someone who wrote, ‘this appears to be the most important book you’ve done yet’ and that’s very true. When the initial draft was shown to someone and it brought them to tears (an officer of the law) I knew I was onto something special that might perhaps make a small difference out there.
Every one is deserving of love. The book carries no political message around gay marriage, or any ‘poor us it’s not fair’ undercurrent. It’s simply about love. It carries a message that straight people understand just as gay people do; that love is a beautiful gift. Let’s all enjoy it.
Labels are Gay is bound for Mardi Gras. Yes that's right, she's toddling off and making her way into the big crowds of Mardi Gras ready to share her message of love and acceptance with thousands. Or at least as many as her little legs can get to. She's very excited.
Lots of flyers will bear her cover and lots of work will be done as she mingles with her people and settles in to her new world.
Well what a nerve wracking moment.....when I realised that a friend 'liking my website' on Facebook and it appearing on my wall didn't just mean the book was out....but that so was I. First response. Mad panic. Eyes growing wide. Gripping the sides of my laptop in sheer, helpless, white knuckled panic. While many knew I was gay, my mind raced at who I was friends with on Facebook....work colleagues.....school friends.....even a couple of elderly folk who needn't have known my impending news.
The only thing I could do after the book with such a 'gay' title became born on Facebook was to share with the community that I 'happen to be gay to.' I type in these words quickly and mindlessly, clicking submit before I can think straight (bad choice of word) and then freeze, eyes fixed on the computer wondering what the hell I'd just done.
The seconds pass....
As I sit here watching the impending doom unfold, I think I can begin to breathe again. The world hasn't toppled over. In fact, I stare in amazement as those very work people, old school friends, etc, are popping up one by one in a show of support for the new book. I'm not a big social media person, nor do I sit for endless hours and preen my profile. But as I watch the little notification symbol change as more people hit 'like' I get this overwhelming sense of relief. Not a relief for my 'virtual friendship' or that people have responded positively to the book, but a feeling of...acceptance. And that's acceptance in the sense of a much greater acceptance........an acceptance of being gay.
And that's what this book is all about. Acceptance. I denied and hid my 'gayness' for many years. At 31 now, and being in love with my Prep PE teacher at 6, that equates to many, many years. But until two years ago or so, I was too fearful to share this truth with the world. Today, I can. And the purpose of this book is to ensure no other person goes through years of 'half living' and being afraid or hiding this 'part of themselves' in fear of what may be. I don't want any child to feel that being gay is wrong or something filled with shame....as newly-out Magda reminded us a few days back, poor little kids are killing themselves because they are gay (not to put a dampener on this post) ... which is why I feel this message of love and acceptance is SO VITAL.
I was one of the lucky ones. People flocked with their support when I finally shared my news. There was only love and kindness shown. I was never shunned, I lost no friends, in fact if anything I grew closer to people and they were excited that they now knew the 'real me.' Some were surprised, others chimed in with 'about bloody time you told me Alice, I've always known.' Then there were all the people in between, a particular friend who insisted on calling me 'pussy' from then on, just to lighten the situation and a brother who said he knew many lesbians that would be perfect for me....all the women who have rejected him in the past.
If only I'd had his confidence and self assurance when I was secretly gay all those years. For his comment, he got nothing but a punch in the arm.
It won't be long before little Labels are Gay hits the streets. But not in any normal way. She'll be left to fend for herself, stand strong, alone in the world. First stop: Sydney.
In specially chosen coffee houses, salons, stylish cafes and secret nooks, she'll find herself placed with a simple sticker on her front ... this is beginning to sound like abandoning a baby in the rushes.
It will read:
"I am a traveller - a little messenger of love. Take me
with you, give me to someone special or set me free
somewhere new. I don't like to stay still and if you liked
something within me, share it around. I'm here to spark
conversation, generate acceptance and make you smile."
She and 50 to 100 of her sisters will take this journey...depending on how generous their mother feels. Keep an eye out on Facebook to see where the Sydney orphans end up and whose hands they pass through.
Next stop: Queensland. Then she's due in London Town.....France....New York....
When she's ready, she may even infiltrate Tasmania. All in good time.
Well I'm no gay marriage crusader or loud-voiced advocate; I've never been to a rally in my life. But it doesn't mean I don't stand for what I'm passionate about. I may not be sure of gay marriage in my own circumstance, peering over to a lady in a matching white dress brings a grin to my face that indeed could dissolve into serious laughter if it were to ever come true. But that's not to say I believe that for those who want to marry, gay or straight, they should have the privilege to do so. And one day perhaps I'll stand straight-faced through my own ceremony- at least for the serious bits.
So, this book isn't about pushing a cause, or making racket in a space that's already noisy, it's about getting back to basics. It's about getting back to the most fundamental thing that binds us. And that's love. It's often overlooked when labels come into play, differences are highlighted and laws are squabbled over. As far as I see it, at the end of the day, two people simply want to share their love.
Labels are Gay is a celebration of this love that can be found tucked away in all kinds of places. From page to page, you'll see it shining through. It's the care shown to another during times of sickness (or extreme man flu), it's zipping through the city streets on a scooter high on the thrill of life together or simply sitting on a park bench realising the person beside you makes the world a shiny, beautiful place.
The book has an enormous journey ahead. She plans to travel far and reach many. Her message of love, although light-hearted in appearance is steadfast in the face of challenges specific to the gay community. Unfortunately youth suicide, prejudice and continuing hardship is very much alive for many in today's society. It's this book's job to instil a sense of compassion and bring us closer through non-judging acceptance.