Celebrating the LGBTIQ community’s storied histories, herstories and theirstories, we asked some of the impossibly cool line-up to share with SBS Sexuality the queer icon that enlightened their lives.
Chris Tse, the New Zealand-based author of How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes and HE’S SO MASC, nominated singer-songwriter Tori Amos.
A few years ago, Tori said in an interview that, “The gays were always there… Without the gays, I am nothing.” You could say that she’s always been there for us too – she started performing in gay bars at the age of 13, and throughout her career she’s been a vocal supporter of the LGBTQIA community.
She infamously employs her fair share of abstraction and oblique imagery, and maybe because of this it’s her most direct lines that cut straight to your heart, particularly if you’re a confused, angst-ridden 15-year-old boy growing up in suburban New Zealand: “So are you gay? Are you blue? Thought we both could use a friend to run to.”
In a recent podcast, I said that if I ever get to meet Tori, I’d tell her that listening to her music made me feel safe – it gave me the tools I needed to work out who I was and how to deal with the mess of emotions in my head at the time. She's the friend I felt I could run to.
Jennifer Loveless, a Canadian import, house and techno DJ, and classical pianist, nominated British author Jeanette Winterson.
I struggle with ultimates so I’ll speak about the first lesbian writer I fell for. A good friend of mine gifted me with her copy of Gut Symmetries a few years ago and I was changed. Never had I read a writer that wrote about being in love with a female in a way that I wanted to champion, but I did with her. She writes so well on matters of the heart, the dark and the twisted, and does so with such lyricism. She amplifies the vengeful and the sexual and for the me of a few years ago, it was refreshing to encounter that in lesbian writing.
Peter Polites, the Greek-Australian author of Down the Hume and associate director of Western Sydney writers’ collective Sweatshop nominated mythological queen and sorceress Medea.
Three years ago I was writing a performance text for Urban Theatre Projects and I would wake up, walk to Revesby Workers Club, have a long black and pore over it. I thought Jason [of the Argonauts fame] was a total status-seeking fuckboy, but I fell in love with her.
Once a friend asked me, ‘Why do you love women like that? Are they in your culture?’ Something clicked inside my head. They are in my stories. They are in my life. Women that take their own fate into their hands, women that don't take shit from men, women who won't back down and are unapologetic.
Medea gave up her biological family for love and, when that love turned sour, killed a part of herself to move on and escaped in a winged chariot. There's a life lesson for all of us there.
Adolfo Aranjuez, editor of film and media magazine Metro and queer publication Archer, nominated Nuriko from the manga/anime series Fushigi Yūgi.
I watched this show voraciously in early adolescence, when I faced the first blushes of queer attraction and affection. Nuriko, a trans woman who has taken on the mannerisms of her beloved sister who was killed, was presented as androgynous and a formidable fighter. She was also a lady-in-waiting who fawned over the emperor and was quick-witted, quirky and candid.
As a young'un yet to be exposed to gender and queer theory and politics, I was fascinated by this combination of characteristics. Both demure and a downright boss, Nuriko commanded immense respect among her cohort, despite her 'difference'.
Her narrative arc undoubtedly made an impact on me, as I hoped that my 'difference' – my inability to fit neatly into societal categories – wouldn’t be an impediment to finding happiness and belonging. I also loved Lafayette from True Blood and think it’s hugely important we don't discount the role of media and pop culture in shaping how we understand the world and the people we become.
Quinn Eades, award-winning poet, researcher, and author of All the beginnings: a queer autobiography of the body and Rallying nominated American punk poet, playwright and feminist author Kathy Acker.
Photo: Jamie James, James Photographic Services
I discovered Kathy Acker’s Blood and Guts at Cooks Hill Books and Records, a cramped little shop on Derby Street in Newcastle, and I still have that copy with its cracked red and black spine.
Acker made such a huge impact on me. I had just left Sydney, the city I grew up in, to study Sociology and English at The University of Newcastle and I was carrying grief and sadness from an early life full of trauma. I acted out in all kinds of odd ways, but when I opened the pages of that book, I opened an entry point into a vast and tunnelling mycelial network full of body/wound/trauma/text.
Acker showed me how to find love at the bottom of the well. She made my heart beat for all the ways that a writer can break rules, write the body, s/mash genres, and find new/old/new ways to produce text.
Mama Alto, gender-transcendent cabaret artiste and activist, nominated transgender goddess Inanna.
I found it incredibly difficult to choose just one queer icon amongst so many shining legends who are queer, trans, femme, and people of colour, so I decided to highlight a literal queer icon: a religious sculpture frieze from 1750BC depicting the transgender goddess Inanna.
This aspect of the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar depicts a bearded trans woman, and surviving writings from the time describe her divine powers as “changing man into woman and woman into man.”
Her cult of devotees, the kurgarrus, were people assigned male at birth but who identify as women and were accepted as such by their society, “whose masculinity Ishtar has turned into femininity to make the people reverend.”
What I love most about this ancient divine being is that she’s part of a growing body of historical and multicultural evidence that trans people are not a new phenomenon – we have always been here.