Queer togetherness and joy online: Yves Rees on events in lockdown
By: Yves Rees
The following is a short extract from All About Yves: Notes from a Transition (A&U, RRP $32.99) by Yves Rees and is available for purchase here.
Our lockdown experience got no airtime.
Instead, the media and politicians told stories of white picket fences and nuclear families. Homeschooling, sourdough starter, quarantinis, Bunnings projects, family Tiktoks. A run on rescue dogs and jigsaws. Hunker down, get cosy with the family. Grow a veggie patch. Watch the footy with a beer or two. This will be a winter like no other, but we’ll get through it together. Hold your family close.
But what if you don’t live with family? What if your family has rejected you for being trans? What if your only family are the fellow queers who are now banned from gathering?
What if you can feel yourself disappearing after weeks and months starved of anyone like you?
In spring, after more than six months of lockdown, I’m invited to the Zoom launch of the latest issue of Archer, a Melbourne-based queer magazine. I’ve contributed an article, and they want me to read from my piece.
I agree, but out of duty. It’s another task, yet another Zoom to add to the hundreds upon hundreds attended this year. There have been so many soul-crushing hours staring at a montage of faces. At this point, just the sight of the blue-and-white Zoom logo triggers nausea.
The week before the launch, an Australia Post package arrives: decorations. The Archer team have sent me rainbow banners, magazine posters and confetti to liven up my backdrop. Vivid reds and blues and purples and greens. It’s unnecessary and I love it.
With life now reduced to bare essentials, all endless shades of grey, there’s something defiant about spending time and money on mere colourful paper. It reminds me of the joys of frivolity.
On the night, rainbow decorations duly strung up behind me, the launch begins with an aerobics routine led by drag performer Betty Grumble. Adorned in high-cut leotard and eighties sweatbands, Grumble gets us to shimmy and shake.
“Thank your bodies, thank your bodies!” she instructs, wrapping her arms around herself.
Next, contributors read from our pieces. Besides me, there’s a gay man talking about the ravages of HIV; a lesbian confessing her Catholic guilt; an Indigenous community leader. All different, all cherished here. In this space, we’re the VIPs, not the freaks. At the centre, not the margins.
As we read, the chat fills with love and affirmation from the audience of fellow queers. We can’t be in the same physical place, but we reach each other with words. I haven’t touched my G&T but can nonetheless discern a glow in my veins.
Already, this is a Zoom like no other. No longer a chore. Then, the dancing begins. DJ Gay Dad, a non-binary performer, leads us through a set of queer anthems, early 2000s pop classics, and classic disco.
The ‘crowd’ goes wild. We writhe and bop and shake in our loungerooms, kicking legs and swaying hips, apart but together, shaking off the tension of many months.
Somehow, I find the nerve to leave my video on. I’m dancing like nobody is watching – but the truth is that many people are.
The difference is that they’re my people. The people who never got the sympathy vote on TV, who were never acknowledged by ScoMo or Gladys or Daniel Andrews in his North Face. The people who know what being invisible feels like. Those who don’t have any fucks left to give.
This is our own alternative universe, where we make the rules.
The faces on the screen cheer my enthusiastic dancing, which is high on energy if light on finesse. High kicks, waving arms, bouncing feet. Never stop moving. Sweat soaks my T-shirt; the cats have taken refuge under the bed.
The DJ’s set is meant to run for an hour but ends up going for more than two. We have last song after last song, only for us to plead for another.
We are all making stars of ourselves tonight. A constellation of pulsing aliveness. Tonight, we insist on our existence. Together, we are real.
This is an extract from All About Yves: Notes from a Transition (A&U, RRP $32.99) by Yves Rees and is available for purchase here.
HELP KEEP ARCHER MAGAZINE AFLOAT!