Madonna wants to start a revolution!
“After reading the Crucible and realising what a cunt I’d made of myself I desperately needed something to redeem my confidence. I wanted the perfect role. A solid, deep 3 minutes that showcased my range and my cast-ability for the upcoming seasons. An engaging speech that showcased my face, voice and physicality”.
At 17, my best friend; Gay Craig and I auditioned for drama schools together. I’d already fucked one up massively the year before; determined to get out of school as soon as I could*.
*Apparently, if you don’t read the whole script, it is possible to play a John Proctor monologue from the Crucible in a green pinstripe suit while smoking a cigar. (Add to this the fact that I had a shaved head and a quiff, I’m actually pretty impressed that the audition panel didn’t laugh in the face of the young clueless boy that looked like Ani Defranco playing at being a grown up).
Fortunately, a year makes a massive difference when you’re that young.
With a little more maturity, I was ready to throw myself to the lions again. In the spring of 93, with the hope of being afforded the rare and sought after opportunity of becoming Leroy from Fame, I started to work on my tan. And my monologues.
For those of you that are fortunate enough not to have undergone the humiliating process of auditioning to get work, you should know it’s the equivalent of giving a dog a biscuit for rolling over or giving good paw. But instead of a crunchy treat, your tricks need to be of a standard to convince a director, panel of lecturers and sometimes even your contemporaries that you are worthy of the opportunity you are chasing. Sometimes it’s a day’s work that will pay your bills for a month. At other times, it’s the opportunity to develop professionally and be in with a much better chance of getting work in the future.
We were facing the latter and were about to embark on a series of auditions to get into one of three sought after courses available to aspiring actors in Scotland.
As such, we needed the perfect monologues to convince potential course heads that we were exactly the right people to occupy their hallways, singing arias while stag leaping our way to superstardom.
After reading the Crucible and realising what a cunt I’d made of myself I desperately needed something to redeem my confidence. I wanted the perfect role. A solid, deep 3 minutes that showcased my range and my cast-ability for the upcoming seasons. An engaging speech that showcased my face, voice and physicality.
I searched libraries far and wide for the perfect character. Something about a teenager from a council estate. Someone from West Lothian.
Passing Places. The Life of Stuff. Find Me. Trainspotting. The list of opportunities was endless. I worked on four or five different performances. Night and day. Day and night. Over and over again until they were all instinctive. I was all ready to go when Craig brought me something that he said was perfect for me…
Bruce Niles, a thirty-something ex marine from New York whose boyfriend had just died of AIDS.
Regardless of how inappropriate the casting would be in the real world, the writing was so powerful that I elected to create a tailored performance around the piece.
From that point in, I developed an incredible relationship with the play, it’s themes and it’s author.
In my second year at college I used WH Auden’s poem September 1st 1939 as stimuli for a street performance for World Aids Day. The Normal Heart took its name from the poem. This was the start of a long relationship with World Aids Day.
As a director and producer, my first publicly staged work was a preview of a section of the play and my first successfully written funding application was from the Health Education Board of Scotland for the full show to be produced. Incidentally, this also bred my first BBC radio interview for that production and egotistically my first ever standing-ovation.
Revisiting the monologue in my graduation showcase at the Pleasance got me cast in my first film and when a few years later, I applied for a grown up job as a Cultural Coordinator for Fife Council, it was apparent that where I was in my life at that particular time all came back to The Normal Heart.
That job opened so many doors for me professionally that by 2007 when I restaged the Normal Heart with Civil Disobedience it was with the full support of Larry Kramer, at the National Museum of Scotland and came with an editorial in the Sunday Herald.
26 years after it was first written, the play is as powerful as ever. It’s recently been revived on Broadway and Ryan Murphy has announced that he had been given the film rights. Personally, I can’t wait to see what the creator of Glee, Nip Tuck and American Horror Story does with it.
As I sit in my beautiful Edinburgh flat contemplating my incredible job, today I’m raising a glass to Larry Kramer and all the boys from Act Up. But most importantly, I’m raising it to big gay Craig and the wonderful moment he created that set me on this track.
Michael Burge guest blogs for LGBTicons.com about Australia and his fight for Equality.
“Jono and I never discussed the legalities of our relationship. We were married in every sense of the word, but we were blissfully ignorant of how precarious our legal status was. The aftermath of his death revealed the rotten core of Australia’s attitude to same sex equality”.
I came to terms with the fact that I am gay whilst living in a converted barn on the edge of a frozen field in the grip of a Suffolk winter in early 1998.
Loneliness, and the creeping realisation that I was wasting my swiftly disappearing youth were the motivating factors, plus the knowledge that I’d tried playing it straight for far too long.
In desperation, while on a day trip to Cambridge – city of so much stifled sexuality – I purchased a book called How to be a Happy Homosexual.
Yes, the shop assistant gave me “that” look, as she turned it over, clocked the title, and promptly buried it in a paper bag for me.
In an early chapter, author Terry Sanderson suggests an exercise which struck me as weird, but I rolled my eyes, went to the bathroom mirror, and told myself that I am gay.
The self-acceptance I received in that moment changed my life forever.
Within months I left England for home. I felt sure that Australia would provide me with all the answers I needed to make this desperately important transition.
It took me another 18 months to break the closet door open. In preparation, I parachuted from an airplane to help a friend celebrate her 50th birthday, thinking that if I could manage that, coming out would be a cinch.
Then I took another leap and came out to everyone.
A year later I manifested a relationship with Jono, a beautiful, generous, funny man with similar showbiz aspirations. We shared our lives for four irreplaceable years before he died suddenly one night at the age of 44.
As the reality of his motionless body sank in, lying in the emergency department, I realised I was in for years of grief. I ran my hand across his forehead and told Jono he was worth every tear. I had no inkling at that stage how magnified my grief would be by other forces.
Jono and I never discussed the legalities of our relationship. We were married in every sense of the word, but we were blissfully ignorant of how precarious our legal status was. The aftermath of his death revealed the rotten core of Australia’s attitude to same sex equality.
I could write at great length about the number of ways my human rights (and his) were trampled on by Jono’s family, some of his friends, and various government agencies and businesses in their service.
Thankfully, the state laws of New South Wales had enshrined same sex de-facto relationships into law the year Jono and I met. Given time, I was able to reverse the criminally fraudulent acts perpetrated to ensure my name was not on Jono’s death certificate, and that I had no access to it.
But the battle to achieve ownership of this crucial piece of paper, which eventually allowed me to reclaim our joint financial affairs, turned me into an overnight marriage equality advocate, simply because marriage would have saved me from the deepest disenfranchisement I ever wish to experience.
So I began talking about same sex marriage to anyone who would listen – particularly warning gay friends in de-facto relationships about the risks they faced if something went wrong – death, separation or incapacitation.
Surprisingly, I was met with off-handedness from couples who blindly trusted their families would respect their relationships, and those who couldn’t see that same sex co-habitation is still very much a political act in Australia.
Thankfully, the marriage equality movement swiftly took a foothold in the gay community.
Right in the middle of my grief, two men who wanted to marry noticed that the Australian federal Marriage Act did not explicitly state marriage had to be between people of the opposite gender, so they applied to marry under Australian law.
Federal Attorney General Phillip Ruddock went into a panic about this obvious oversight, and worked his hardest to add six words – “between a man and a woman” – to the legislation. Conservative Prime Minister John Howard saw the addition of gender into Australia’s marriage act as a much-needed law reform, and the law was swiftly amended under his personal leadership in 2004.
When Kevin Rudd led the Labor party to victory in 2007, sweeping away 11 years of conservative government, he did so on the promise of removing legislation that financially discriminated against same sex de-facto couples.
These were welcome reforms, but despite having a majority in the Senate, Rudd stopped short of any kind of leadership around marriage equality. Most commentators put his reticence down to religious convictions.
So it was a great relief when Julia Gillard became Prime Minister in 2010. As a self-declared atheist, she brought the possibility that faith-based lobby groups would be firmly reminded that we live in a secular nation. As a woman living in a de-facto relationship, she seemed equipped to understand why the full spectrum of coupling choices should be available to all citizens.
In 2012, months after the Australian Labor Party adpoted gay marriage as a policy platform, Julia Gillard ensured her senators a conscience vote on a bill designed to consider that over 60% of all respondents in the Australian community now supported same sex marriage.
Sounds good, right?
But Gillard’s leadership on the issue was limited to crossing the floor (followed by most of her front bench) to express her atheist conscience by sitting with the conservative Opposition and voting against allowing same sex couples in Australia our equal human rights.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott forced his colleagues to tow the line in a bloc of “no” votes, flying in the face of the Liberal Party’s claim to have invented the repercussion-free conscience vote.
The Australian gay community witnessed this with jaws dropped. We had hoped our leaders would see things in a more 21st century light.
Thanks to all this political dissembling, same sex marriage in Australia was defeated by an enormous margin, and remains dead in the water.
The news about the progress of marriage equality in the United Kingdom is heartening, but we are paddling in denial about how far back Gillard and Abbott have put the issue in this country. Neither leader has the conviction of Barack Obama, or David Cameron’s understanding of equality.
If only I’d looked at my country’s record for dragging its feet on gay law reform before I left the United Kingdom!
Australia lagged 30 years behind Britain on completely decriminalising homosexuality – which started in 1967 in Britain, but arrived as late as 1997 in Tasmania.
We do not yet have the right to create civil unions, which were legalised in Britain in 2005. The best we have are relationship registers, a process which feels rather like registering your dog with the local council.
Despite feeling like I’d lost my ability to love someone else, I was lucky enough to find love again, and by 2008 my partner Richard and I decided we’d like to formalise our relationship. The closest place we could be “civilly-unioned” (it sounds weird, but let’s call it what it is), is New Zealand.
Our civil union certificate has legal status in very few places in Australia, but certainly not where we currently live and own a house together.
Despite our wills, powers of attorney and guardianship, we still have no single piece of binding evidence if the validity of our relationship were to be challenged.
So how long will we remain in this parlous state?
Julia Gillard refuses to give a cogent explanation as to why she believes marriage should only be between a man and a woman. She remains the greatest anti-gay-marriage leader this country has ever seen.
But there is a link between this refusal and her inability to form a secure, united cabinet since the first day she held office. Within the ALP ranks a progressive core keeps dragging the deeply divided party towards an understanding of equality.
Tony Abbott believes that being a conservative politician comes with automatic opposition to same sex marriage, despite British Prime Minister David Cameron’s assertion that he supports same sex marriage because he is a conservative.
So Australians for marriage equality are left with a choice between two staunch same sex marriage opponents at our next election.
I used to think equality was a tenet of the Australian way of life, but to my surprise the word does not even appear in our constitution. Our politicians are under no obligation to stand up for something which isn’t mentioned in our supreme legal document.
But thanks to lobby groups, same sex marriage has become our politician’s first real struggle with equality since the removal of the White Australia Policy in the 1970s, and the granting of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land rights under the Mabo ruling in the 1990s.
While it chooses to use terms like “a fair go” and “closing the gap”, our parliament avoids the truth – that equality can never be a partial state. Equality either exists or it doesn’t, there is no grey area.
The removal of six words – “between a man and a woman” from the federal Marriage Act will cost this secular nation nothing.
But it will finally end my journey home from that lonely Suffolk barn, and make me a very Happy Homosexual indeed.
© Michael Burge 2012-2015; all rights reserved.
MICHAEL BURGE is an Australian journalist and writer who has written for Fairfax, News Limited, Intermedia and United News and Media in the UK. In 2006 he gave a live submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Same Sex: Same Entitlements hearing about his experiences after the sudden death of his partner Jonathan, the findings of which were instrumental in the Rudd Government’s removal of almost 100 pieces of legislation discriminating against same sex de-facto couples in Australia. Follow his blog here: http://burgewords.wordpress.com/
Happy Valentines Day! Whether you are marking today with a partner, a friend, a pizza or your cat, remember, LGBTicons loves you very much. To show our appreciation, we’ve dug out an old clip of Kylie Minogue performing Love At First Sight. Enjoy!
Last night, English and Welsh MPs voted in parliament in favour of the Equal Marriage Bill. 400 to 175. It’s great news for champions of equality and starts the somewhat arduous journey of bringing it into law. At its most basic, Equal Marriage would mean that same sex couples could get married, opposite sex couples could now enter into civil partnerships and churches and religious institutions that wish to marry same sex couples could. So a great big YEY for all 400 MPs that voted in favour, and in 10 years time when equality is the norm, I’m sure those 175 will feel very stupid.
As a quick aside….did you know that all 6 Muslim MPs voted in favour? That real progression and puts any Christian MPs argument to shame.
Here, Alice Arnold tells the Telegraph why she’s now going to marry Clare Balding.
If you have done a Civil Partnership as Clare Balding and I have, then what does yesterday’s victory mean? Well, we can ‘convert’ our partnership into ‘Marriage’. From using an expression that sounds like we have been paired up under an umbrella of politeness we can now use a phrase that is recognised by everyone.
Most of the people we know refer to us as ‘married’, they talk about having attended our ‘wedding’. We don’t though. We never have. I suspect other people use the term ‘married’ because the expression ‘Civilly Partnered’ sounds so ridiculous.But I suspect some use it (and they are nearly all straight) because that is simply what they feel we should be. Neither of us has made any secret of the fact that we would get married if the law allowed, every newspaper has reported it.
We always new that Joe Lycett was a wonderful comic, but today, we found out that he’s a fully fledged legitimate icon. Check out his email to MP Roger Godsiff about his stance on equal marriage.
Ben Cohen, MBE is an activist and former England rugby union international player. He began his professional career with Northampton Saints in 1996; in 2007 he moved to France to represent Brive before returning to England two years later to join Sale Sharks. In May 2011, Ben Cohen founded The Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation which is the world’s first foundation dedicated to raising awareness of the long-term, damaging effects of bullying, and funding those doing real-world work to stop it.
Here’s what he has to say:
“I stand up against bullying. Will you?
I lost my own father to violence when he stood up for an employee who was being attacked. I’ve heard from many fans and friends how bullying has impacted their lives, and I am moved to make a difference for them.
Parents have written to me, sharing painful stories about how their children, who might be perceived to be different, are ruthlessly attacked and scared of their own schools. It is time we stand up for what is right and support people who are being harmed. Every person on this planet has a right to be true to themselves, to love and be loved, and to be happy. I encourage others to stand up with me and make a difference. Simply shop or donate, and your efforts will help fund extremely important work”.
“Lots of businesses have been really keen on flying the rainbow flag to mark the start of LGBT history month and show that the county is a safe and inclusive place for an often non-visible minority such as LGBT communities”.
We love people with a bit of get up and go and we were really impressed to hear about BeLGBT a couple of weeks ago.
BeLGBT are a new goup formed to champion initiatives and promote equality for the LGBT communities of Bedfordshire and to have LGBT issues recognised by their local authority after the disappointing news that all local MP’s stood against Marriage Equality.
To celebrate the creation of the group, BeLGBT is holding a launch event at Rock City Art gallery in Bedford’s Castle Quay tonight (Friday 1st February) at 7pm.
The launch coincides with the start of LGBT history month, which the group is marking with its ‘FlyTheRainbow’ Twitter campaign, followed by a display at Bedford Central Library from 8th February.
The group have been asking local businesses, public organisations and charities to fly the rainbow flag (#FlyTheRainbow) today to show their support for LGBT history month and Bedfordshire’s LGBT communities.
Over the past few weeks, they have contacted various individuals and organisations across the county to gain support.
Sam Smith said:
“We have been struck by the support shown to us by local businesses, the Mayor and the Bedfordshire Students Union at the University of Bedfordshire – and that’s just to name a few. Lots of businesses have been really keen on flying the rainbow flag to mark the start of LGBT history month and show that the county is a safe and inclusive place for an often non-visible minority such as LGBT communities. In a small county such as ours, it can be hard to find information on LGBT issues and one of our aims is to signpost people in the right direction and help them in any way we can.”
The launch event coincides with the new ‘She Bop A Lula’ exhibition at the Rock City Art gallery, which showcases the most influential singers and best female photographers of the past six decades.
All are welcome and encouraged to attend from 7pm tonight.
RSVP to email@example.com or via twitter (@BeLGBT)/facebook (BeLGBT).
The group can also be contacted via their website where you can also find more information about BeLGBT.
For further details about the exhibition at Rock City Art gallery, please contact Mick on 07890 333 666 or visit http://www.RockCityArt.com
It’s LGBT History Month in the UK, and we, along with a shed load of our friends are changing our avatars on Facebook, Twitter, Myspace (because it’s 2004) and Bebo (cough) to a rainbow flag to mark the occasion. Why don’t you join us.
Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans History Month takes place every year in February. It celebrates the lives and achievements of the LGBT community.
We were lucky enough to catch everyones favourite Drop Dead Diva Margaret Cho in Edinburgh two years ago with her brilliant show Cho Dependent. The show has been turned into a live album and not surprisingly (to us at least) it’s been nominated for a Grammy. To celebrate, she’s giving it away as a free download until the Grammys.
Just go to this link, click download or buy now and enter 0. Isn’t she a doll?
Margaret is currently on tour with her show MOTHER. Buy tickets here.