When in the chronicle of wasted time
I see descriptions of the fairest wights
And beauty making beautiful old rhyme
In praise of ladies dead and lovely knights,
Then in the blazon of sweet beauty’s best,
Of hand, of foot, of lip, of eye, of brow,
I see their ántique pen would have expressed
Ev’n such a beauty as you master now.
Neither gods nor nature suffer our insolence to be unrestrained.
And, so, they made a plan to humble our pride
and improve our manners. To diminish our strength
they cut us in two, and gave us, each, a neck that could be turned
to contemplate the part of ourselves that was lost.
Through this we were to learn humility.
—the fable of Aristophanes
(This contents table differs from the PDF version because poetry on the website is sometimes linked to the date of publication of the book in which it first appeared rather than the date or year of writing.)
Poems in this book have been published previously in Family Ties: Australian poems of the family, Melbourne Chronicle, Out of the Box: Contemporary Australian Gay and Lesbian Poets, Overland, HIV Here and Now and TheBody.com, The Oxford Book of Australian Love Poems, Perseverance Poets’ Collection 1991–92, Walking the Dogs: the Pariah Press Anthology, at http://theraysfrommyeyes.tumblr.com and on ‘A First Hearing’, ABC Radio.
Senator Cory Bernardi, Liberal member of the Australian parliament, has weighed into the marriage equality debate by saying that businesses—any businesses—should be allowed to refuse service to whomever they want. This means that, even if the marriage equality debate ended happily with an agreement of a majority of Australia’s elected representatives to permit marriage between two people regardless of sex, the question of ‘business freedoms’ would still need to be resolved. Why should anyone be forced to provide goods or services to anyone else, Senator Bernardi wants to know. It conjures up the prospect of future legislation to protect businesses from legal actions: a ‘Pâtissier Freedom Act‘ perhaps? I would like to see it, to tell the truth. Pastry chefs deserve this recognition. And those gays, they just want to have their cake and eat cock, too.
While we are waiting for these events to unfold, I’ve created a register for businesses wishing to announce they will refuse to supply goods and services to Senator Cory Bernardi. There are fairly broad options for classifying the kind of services: everything from catering services to psychotherapy to resuscitation.
I encourage you to add your business to the register, and to pass on the URL to any business-owners you think may be interested.
Please note: The registration website has now been closed. Thank you to the thousands of businesses and individuals who participated.
“so ancient is the desire of one another which is implanted in us, reuniting our original nature, making one of two, and healing the state of man” — Plato, the fable of Aristophanes from the Symposium
There is currently no standard ritual text for gay marriages for the obvious reason that such marriages have been forbidden and, as a consequence, a public ceremony having the function of liturgy (rites and duties in religious worship) has not developed. In places where gay marriages have been permitted by state authorities the ceremonial language of the marriage either mimics marriages for the union of heterosexual couples, is provided by a helpful marriage celebrant, or is composed by the couple seeking to be married. There are many examples of new texts for gay marriages.
It is sometimes said that the advantage of religious rituals for marriage is that they are grounded in traditions that span centuries. By contrast modern rituals for gay marriages, especially if they are composed by the celebrant or participants, do not normally refer to ancient texts. So, we are in the habit of thinking that there are no beautiful ancient texts that could form part of a rite for gay marriages. That is not true.
The core of this ritual text for gay marriages is a version of the fable of Aristophanes, which is recorded in Plato’s Symposium. It is the original text of the fable that tells the story of the origin of human desire and the meaning of love: we were once a different kind of being, cut in half by the gods, and therefore always destined to search for that lost part of ourselves.
The ritual may have any cultural characteristics the participants wish: they can choose any location, costume, music, specific vows, or ritual actions borrowed from their personal, religious history (such as the breaking of glasses). In particular, those parts of the Catholic religious ritual that refer to scripture have been removed.
Stephen J. Williams
Ritual text for gay marriage
The persons to be married choose how they are introduced to those invited to participate in the ceremony, and the wording of the promises (vows).
[Full name of person to be married] and [Full name of person to be married] welcome you all to the celebration of their marriage.
Our original nature was not like the present, but different. We know that the sexes were not two, but three—man, woman, and the union of the two—just as the sun, the earth and the moon are three.
In our original nature we were all bound at the back and sides, forming a circle, to the other half of ourselves.
Neither gods nor nature suffer our insolence to be unrestrained. And, so, they made a plan to humble our pride and improve our manners. To diminish our strength they cut us in two, and gave us, each, a neck that could be turned to contemplate the part of ourselves that was lost. Through this we were to learn humility.
Separated from the other part of our true selves, these two parts of [man/woman], each desiring [his/her] other half, come together, throwing their arms about one another, entwined in mutual embraces, longing to grow into one. The desire of one another which is implanted in us, reuniting our original nature, making one of two, is the ancient and healing state of every person.
Each of us now separated from the other part of our true selves is but the indenture of a [man/woman], and [he/she] is always looking for [his/her] other half.
We are prone to love and ready to return love, always embracing that which is akin to us. And when one of us meets with [his/her] other half, the actual half of [himself/herself], the pair are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and would not be out of the other’s sight even for a moment: these are the people who pass their whole lives together; yet they could not explain what they desire of one another.
Please face one another.
Do you [name of person to be married] take this [man/woman] to be your lawfully wedded [husband/wife], promise to keep [him/her], love and comfort [him/her], in sickness and in health, whether you are rich or poor, and to be kind and faithful to [him/her] for the rest of your life?
Person to be married says:
Do you [name of other person to be married] take this [man/woman] to be your lawfully wedded [husband/wife], promise to keep [him/her], love and comfort [him/her], in sickness and in health, whether you are rich or poor, and to be kind and faithful to [him/her] for the rest of your life?
Other person to be married says:
Do you have rings?
Person to be married says:
[Name], I give you this ring, a symbol of my promises and love.
Other person to be married says:
[Name], I give you this ring, a symbol of my promises and love.
We praise Love, our greatest benefactor, which both leads us in this life back to our own nature, and gives us high hopes for the future, for Love promises that if we are worthy, it will restore us to our original state, and heal us and make us happy.
I pronounce you married. You may kiss.
This document is a work in progress and I welcome constructive comments to improve it. Originally published in 2006, this is version 2.0 (Monday 14 December 2015). Shortlink: http://wp.me/p5OAfE-Iw
Trying to imagine what she calls ‟that anonymous monster the Man in the Street,” Virginia Woolf visualised ‟a vast, featureless, almost shapeless jelly of human stuff … occasionally wobbling this way or that as some instinct of hate, revenge, or admiration bubbles up beneath it.” The argument about whether such views make Woolf a bad person has been raging for a long while, and assume that we know what she meant by the remarks at all. I thought about them again when I saw Australian prime minister Tony Abbott shaking hands with Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, recently elected president of Egypt.
Abbott excuses el-Sisi. “President el-Sisi is a reluctant jailer here. He wasn’t the president when Peter Greste and his colleagues were arrested,” Mr Abbott told ABC Radio. Abbott and el-Sisi know, I think, how Woolf’s shapeless jelly can be made to wobble with just a little push; and how little the jelly knows about who or what is doing the pushing.
Many in Australia think that the current government is trading in distractions when burqas push war, privacy, performance and promises off the front pages of papers. [As it turns out, the plan to put burqas behind glass partitions in parliament was not an intentional distraction, but rather the panicked response to a rumor that the parliament was about to be disrupted by a posse of burqa-clad protesters.] El-Sisi has been accused of the same thing. An economic mess, power failures, rising taxes, and a government’s desire not to be seen as the morally soft option, all add up to a social climate in which minorities are easily scapegoated.
Whether by design or chance, Egypt is in the grip of an anti-gay hysteria. This hysteria now has a catchy anthem and a video.
A boy band, imaginatively called ‘Boy Band’, sings its confusion caused by ‟soft men” who wear tight jeans. The lyrics of its anti-gay song use words that pun on the Arabic equivalent of ‘faggots’ (see note, below). Three men burst into a room. They have their serious faces on. They begin to rifle through the belongings of a person, presumably the man in the photo on the wall. The video looks like a police raid set to music. (فمن مداهمة قامت بها الشرطة مع الموسيقى.)
[This video has been made private on YouTube after being published for some time. It is not clear why. There is a copy of it here ➔ http://goo.gl/9SMZCl.]
In Australia we are worried about burqas. In Egypt they are worried about tight red jeans. I notice now that both Abbott and el-Sisi are wearing dark suits and blue ties.
Egypt: Eight men sentenced to three years in prison for ‘gay wedding’ video
A court in Egypt has sentenced eight men to three years in prison for appearing in a video that purported to show a gay wedding.
The video, which became an online hit after it was posted on YouTube in September, shows two men kissing, exchanging rings and embracing among cheering friends.
It was filmed at a birthday party held on a boat on the Nile.
The sentences, which can be appealed, were met with uproar from the families of the defendants, who demonstrated outside the court in central Cairo and were dispersed by police.
The defendants, who had denied the charges, stood silent in the courtroom cage as the verdict was read, one of them holding up a copy of the Qur’an.
The eight were arrested in September when Egypt’s chief prosecutor decided that the video was “shameful to God” and “offensive to public morals”.
At the last hearing, on 11 October, a spokesman for the justice ministry’s forensics department insisted the men were innocent.
“The entire case is made up and lacks basis. The police did not arrest them red-handed and the video does not prove anything,” Hesham Abdel Hamed said.
“The medical test showed that the eight defendants have not practised homosexuality recently or in the past.”
He was referring to anal examinations, a long-standing practice in Egypt that Human Rights Watch has condemned.
The New-York-based lobby group had called for the men be released.
Homosexuality is not illegal in Egypt, but it is a social taboo, and allegedly gay men have often been arrested on charges of immorality.
In the most notorious example, 52 men were arrested in 2001 for their perceived sexuality, in what became known as the Queen Boat case.
In April, four men were convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison for “debauchery” after allegedly holding gay sex parties where women’s clothing and makeup were found.
Human Rights Watch said in September that Egyptian authorities had repeatedly arrested and tortured men suspected of having gay sex.
Saturday’s sentences are the latest in a crackdown by authorities against gay people and atheists.
The campaign also targets liberal and pro-democracy activists and anyone who breaks a draconian law on street protests.
Note: The lyrics use the word “khawagat” in a pun linked to the term ‘khawalat’ (a plural noun), the equivalent of ‘faggots’ in English. In traditional Arabic ‘Khawal‘ is a man who has been taught and performs belly-dancing routines. In modern Egyptian slang it is an attack on a man’s sexual identity.