Thursday, July 5, 2012


Canberra is not known for its warmth or friendliness, and I must warn you that if you move here everyone will assume you are gay.

No one asks you directly. It is considered rude. Instead, the local custom is to ask friends, acquaintances and employers of the newly arrived, and then filter the information through as many people as possible, before finally passing it on to you via the grapevine.

I have not yet been in town long enough to meet a new person and mutter rumours about their sexual preferences with the townsmen. I assume I will have been accepted as one of the locals when this happens. For now, I can only take what facts I do have and attempt to reconstruct the following, likely scenario.

“Is he gay?” a person might say. “Is his name Ray?”

“No,” my friends say. “He’s not gay. He’s not Ray.”

“Since he’s not a gay, since he’s not Ray, I will say G’day and be on my way.”

“Yes don't stay go straight away.”

As is the local custom, the townsmen then shake hands with a double pump, stare each other down, and walk away. They may spit after touching hands to get any possible man love out of their system.

Clearly, Dr. Seuss has had a major influence on Canberra’s culture, as have wizards, dragons and jousting knights, all of whom the Canberrans assume are copulating with one another. The locals have a limited imagination, and they are almost always creating childish rhymes about whatever pops into it.

I will point out that I am not gay, I am American and educated, but I can understand how Canberrans could easily confuse these qualities. And it would not bother me if I were gay. It is 2012, people are gay and proud. I have many friends who may or may not be gay, but the point is that I do not spend my time making rhymes about it like Canberrans are probably doing.

I explained this situation to some gay friends, who said, “All of this is good, it will help you get over your homophobia.”

Homophobia means fear of or hatred of homosexuals. However, this really is not the right word for what has unfolded here. I am not afraid of, nor do I hate, gay people. Gay: Go for it! I am happy for you, and it certainly does not bother me. Therefore, homophobic does not describe me. I am, however, afraid of people who are afraid of gay people.

Here is my phobia: Phobo-homophobia.

Phobohomophobia is like a fear sandwich, with homo in the middle.

And if ever I attend a barbecue, I might walk into the kitchen and meet the host or their family, and the fear sandwich is right there, prepared on a plate. Canberrans see the same sandwich, but they call it by a different name: homosandwich. Or, sometimes, a homoburger.

And because of my lack of punching and spitting, tattoos, scars and Hepatitis C, along with a stubborn refusal to don the local uniform of sweatpants, Nike Shox and a T-Shirt with a misogynistic caption, Canberrans assume that I am after a homosandwich and would enjoy eating it.

This is usually when someone’s mother, drunk, will let it slip. “And there is a special sandwich for our visitor. Go ahead, we made you this to make you feel at home: it’s a homosandwich.”

"Awww, Ma,” one of the kids will convey disapproval for her letting the cat out of the bag.

“No, thanks. I don’t want the sandwich.”

“It’s okay. Everyone knows you’re a homosexual. Eat it!” Pause.

“No, really. That’s very thoughtful and confused, but I’d rather not.”

Then, during the awkward silence, one of the men folk will become righteous. “Mate, Ma went to a lot of trouble to make that. You got something against homoburgers?”

“Well, no, it’s just that-“

“Then eat.” Pause. “I said eat the fucking homosandwich.“ And they usually pull a knife, as is the local custom.

Once, to be polite, I did take a bite. I am not sure if it was so that I didn’t seem rude, or because everyone had gathered around, or to avoid being knifed. But it didn't help having everyone shout and clap in unison, "EAT, EAT, EAT, EAT, EAT."

I ended up gagging, spitting the contents out, shouting, “This tastes like dick.”

'Ha, Ha," The host announced, “Well, it’s a homoburger. What did you expect?”

“That’s right, 100% Aussie dick meat. Born and bred!” Ma seemed proud.

And someone else said, “Well he is spitting more these days. Perhaps he isn’t gay after all?”

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