Through the Screen: The Stories
Through the Screen is an interactive exhibition which asks you to lend to the story and define what happens next. Come on down to Mister Morris (20 Junction St, Preston) to join the conversation. I'll be at the gallery 12 - 5pm Thursday to Sunday until 8 February.
The below stories are either the inspiration behind the image, or inspired by the images.
Intentions weren’t always clear in these situations. After days, weeks or even months of conversation sometimes it still felt like you were going in blind. Online, we spoke about work, friends and family, our love of animals and the bars we frequented. On a couple of occasions we almost met up, but our plans always fell through. Finally standing out the front of his door, I knocked and waited. Meeting new people has always come with mild anxiety.
The door opened to reveal a tall man with messy hair wearing a ripped shirt and track pants. While he definitely resembled his photos, this wasn’t who I was expecting to meet.
I played it down, but it was a pretty big deal for me. I hadn’t been to any gay bars since coming out and after confiding in a friend about not wanting to go alone, we decided to make a night of it together. On Thursday I bought a new outfit and got my hair cut, ready for Friday night.
My friend was driving us in, but as the car pulled into my driveway she wasn’t alone. The car was filled with girls, laughing and singing along to music. I knew them all, but they were acquaintances more than friends. There was an empty seat in the back but I no longer wanted to go: It was clear that the night’s plans had completely changed.
Half an hour later we arrived at a club where I could have easily been the only gay person.
While everyone else was talking Dylan was mapping the conversation out in his head. He was calculating the chances that he’d find himself answering questions he didn’t want to be asked. Thankfully the boys didn’t start talking about girls but Dylan had dug himself a hole now that he couldn’t get out of. He had been in his own world for so long that he couldn’t keep up with the conversation. He wished he was more like the other boys, and not always so on-guard.
Brian was a sci-fi kind of guy. Time and space travel adventures where the characters banded together for a common cause. Enduring friendships, overcoming adversity and low-budget special effects.
This was his escape. From dealing with the complexities of relationships, from workplace politics and from meaningless endeavors. Science Fiction was Brian’s escape from the mundane.
So it came as a surprise when his housemate called him into the lounge. “Have you seen this? I think you’ll like it.”
On the TV two men were in a heated discussion. Some kind of power struggle in a corporate setting. Empty buzz words and politics, everything Brian hated. He couldn’t understand what he was supposed to like about it.
Then suddenly it all made sense. The office door closed and the blinds dropped over the frosted windows. For a brief moment the two men stared intensely at each other without saying a word. The older of the two bit his lip seductively and dropped his eyes to the younger man’s impossibly perfect tailored pants.
But for Brian it was still a terrible show.
Fantastic. Once again his sexuality overrode every other aspect of his identity.
It took a while to build up the courage. In the lead up I researched my options online, read reviews and even drove by to see what they looked like from the outside, and the kinds of people that went. I came up with a plan for arriving, what I would do once I was there and how I would leave. I was going alone which terrified me, but after a failed prior attempt I didn't feel like I had much of a choice.
As the shop window displays disappeared into the night, a building that went completely unnoticed during the day was now the focal point of the street. With a hollow feeling in my chest I pushed through the entrance, doing my best to look like I belonged.
It wasn’t dramatic. In fact it was a little anticlimactic, but then how bad could it be over the phone from almost 17,000km away. I had been living in the United States for the past 15 months and not much had changed in that time. Except for this.
“Can I call you?” I messaged mum.
“I’d like that” she replied.
I was staying at a hotel in DC with a couple of friends who were visiting from home. I’d already talked it over with them because I needed to get the words out before I called mum.
“When I come home, I’m hoping to bring someone back with me” I told her, cryptically.
“Oh really? Have you met someone?”
“Yeah. Um…” my response was slow and calculated “it wouldn’t be right away.”
“Ok mate. That’s great” she said “who is she?”
“Well” I paused, but only for a split second. I’d already started ripping the band-aid off and there was no point in stopping now. “She’s not a girl, mum” I stumbled. “His name is Justin” I closed my eyes and waited for a response.
To tell the story of Malcolm I think the best approach is to share some of my words from August last year.
“The epitome of privilege is debating whether or not someone else should share the same rights as you. Even when people show their support for marriage equality I get a little bit angry because they have that privilege over us. Believe me, we don’t want to continue discussing our rights but we will, because we have to. We genuinely thank you for your support, but wish we didn’t need it.
When you say you support the cause, there’s a part of me that wonders ‘are you waiting for a reward? Isn’t your privilege reward enough?’ I know that isn’t fair but why should I concern myself with fair under these circumstances? When you tell me your theories about the views opposing marriage quality and how they don’t align with yours I think ‘great, but why do I have to hear this?’
If you say you’re opposed to marriage equality, so what? It has nothing to do with you. Your opposition to my rights isn’t the issue here, it’s the privilege you hold that needs to be addressed. And if you say you support equality but marriage isn’t important to you, I see selfishness, a lack of understanding of the real issue and a denial of the privilege that we need to fight.
We need to have a discussion; that’s what people keep saying. If we don’t get our thoughts and concerns out on the table alongside the facts, how can we progress?
But this isn’t the way. It may be ‘a way’ but it shouldn’t be ‘the way’. The discussion has already happened and we’re all beating dead horses now. We progress through strong leadership; with leaders who have the integrity to understand that a debate on the rights of a minority is not progress.
But until then we’re stuck here, forced to engage in a conversation that reeks of privilege. If we show any kind of weakness we can expect those who oppose us to pounce, setting us back further than when we started. We take a step backwards against our will in hopes that we claim back two steps towards equality further down the line.”
We exchanged numbers so we could grab a drink after work; I bailed. Once I built up the courage a couple nights later, we finally caught up and before long we were inseparable.
He was the first of many things for me which included being the man who helped me come out to my friends and family. After 18 months of living somewhere I couldn’t wait to leave he was the reason I missed my flight home. While we were only together for a short time I was devastated that he couldn’t follow me home as if that was ever a reasonable expectation.
Before boarding that plane I felt like I knew exactly who I was. Like ripping off a band-aid I had finally come out to myself and almost everyone I knew, but when I landed 21 hours later I realised it was only the beginning. I struggled to find my place, feeling out of sync with friends as I explored new territory they were already familiar with. For the most part I did it alone, and I felt unsure of myself now more than ever.
Suddenly this felt like a mistake. As I stood in front of the front of the house I would call home for the next two years, everything felt so foreign to me. Even the air smelled different. The lights were on inside, but the street was deserted. I wanted to go inside so that I wasn’t alone anymore, but another part of me wanted to stay outside; to stop the reality from sinking in completely. I had run away from home and now I was alone.
After a minute or so I took a deep breath and made my way to the front door. Being alone was nothing new; at least now I wouldn’t be surrounded by people while I felt alone.
A cafe: The perfect location! Quiet enough to hold a conversation, yet busy enough that there would be witnesses if anything went wrong! What a drama queen.
I was terrified though. I didn’t know how he’d take the news that his son is gay. I can’t recall him ever making homophobic remarks, but perhaps this was something so far outside of his own world, that it just didn’t occur to him.
The cafe was my second attempt. The first was during a family dinner but I bailed. I wanted to tell him while we were alone, and there wasn’t any hope of that happening during dinner. So I called a couple of days later to arrange a catch-up. I was suspiciously forceful when I told him to come alone.
Neither of us were great at holding a conversation. When you put us together without someone else driving the conversation it often just resulted in silence. So we sat in silence, just for a little while.
“I have something to tell you” I broke the silence.
“I think I already know” he replied.
Eve wasn’t allowed to have a TV in her bedroom. While her mum considered it an unnecessary expense, Eve considered this a violation of her rights. So on nights that her mum went out she took the opportunity to do something she was never allowed to do: channel surf! Pushing her homework aside, she made her way into the living room and switched the TV on.
First was an early 90s rom-com that was aired at least twice a year, then a crime drama, then a comedy about a dysfunctional family. When she stopped, she landed on an Italian film about a young brunette and a university lecturer. She could barely keep up with the subtitles yet the sexual tension and sense of taboo had her by the scruff of her pubescent curiosity and wasn’t letting go.
An hour later she didn’t notice the roar of the 1994 Toyota Camry pulling up in the driveway. On TV the brunette was gently brushing a foot up against the lecturer’s leg beneath an old café table while just outside, the security door was creaking open. Eve’s attention was finally broken as the deadbolt unlatched. Quickly changing channels as the door opened, the echo of footsteps filled the hallway.