Life at № 42 by E.M. Coutinho
” … because I still have shame. You learn from the part of the story you focus on. I need to tell my story properly. Because the closet, for me, was no easy thing to come out of. From the year 1989 to 1997, right? This is 10 years, effectively my adolescence. Tasmania was at the centre of a very toxic national debate on homosexuality and whether or not it should be legalised. And I’m from the northwest coast of Tasmania, the bible belt. Seventy percent of the people I lived amongst believed homosexuality should be a criminal act. 70% of the people who raised me, who loved me, who I trusted believed that homosexuality was a sin; that homosexuals were heinous, sub-human paedophiles. Seventy percent. By the time I identified as being gay it was too late. I was already homophobic, and you do not get to just flick a switch on that. No. What you do is you internalise that homophobia and you learn to hate yourself. Hate yourself to the core. I sat soaking in shame – in the closet for ten years. Because the closet can only stop you from being seen. It’s not shame-proof. When you soak a child in shame they cannot develop the neurological pathways that carry thoughts, you know, thoughts of self worth. They can’t do that. Self-hatred is only ever a seed planted from outside in. But when you do that to a child, it becomes a weed so thick, and it grows so fast, the child doesn’t know any different. It becomes as natural as gravity. When I came out of the closet I didn’t have any jokes. The only thing I knew how to do was to be invisible and hate myself. It took me another ten years to understand I was allowed to take up space in the world. But by then I’d sealed it off into jokes, like it was no big deal. I need to tell my story because I paid dearly for a lesson that nobody seems to have wanted to learn. And this is bigger than homosexuality, it’s about – ”
I cut it off in mid sentence to arouse your curiosity. It’s a show that really must be seen, and it’s on Netflix now. It’s in the comedy category, but it’s much more than that as you can probably surmise from the excerpt above.
Like me Hannah was born in 1978. This means we were both spectators of the development of the global anti-gay movement. The timeline of which I’ve laid out in excruciating detail here, a sort of This Is Your Life of homophobia. The rise of this movement coincided with the rise of televangelism, and created an environment for LGBT people around the world that was psychological torture. We had no recourse, no escape.
They wanted us to be the wolf pack’s Omega. Relegated to the margins and trapped. Stuck in roles assigned to us in a system which has its order constantly reinforced by displays of dominance and submission. The omega bearing the brunt of the aggression. Others asserting themselves over the omega until he gives up resistance and surrenders, assuring the other pack members their own higher status in the hierarchy.
Hell. Margaret Atwood’s colonies.