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.