Here are two life-snippets from the last few weeks or so that have been worrying me senseless.

Life-Snippet Number One: just before Christmas and keen to buy a new sun-hat – I’m at an age when these things matter – I walk into a surf/street-clothing store in the very guts of this modern and supposedly progressive city I live in (it’s not yet 100 years old, and it’s the only state or territory that voted for a republic in the 1999 referendum).  As I scan the shelves and racks for what I’m looking for I watch as two women walk into the store.  They’re middle-aged and might have dyed blonde hair.  They walk up to the shop assistant, a youngish man, and say they’re looking for a Christmas gift for their thirteen-year-old nephew – a kind of cool school bag, they request.  The shop assistant dutifully takes them to a display of bags hanging on the wall.  He points one out.  One of the women, who has a very broad Australian accent, says, ‘Oh not that!  We don’t want him to look gay!’ She isn’t joking.  ‘Yeah,’ says her friend, ‘we don’t want him to look GAY!’  The shop assistant, obviously taken aback but still keen for a sale, returns the bag to the display and then suggests another that might be suitable.  ‘Nah,’ says the first woman, ‘that looks gay as well’.  Again the shop assistant looks bemused, at best.  I walk out, hatless.

Canberra's not anywhere near the beach but it's the thought that counts.

Life-Snippet Number Two: on the Wednesday night just gone I visit my mechanic to pick up my car, a shitty little Barina thing that I don’t use that much because I like getting around on my pushbike (more on this in a forthcoming post).  My mechanic has his workshop in the Chinatown district just down from where I live, an inner-suburb that’s filled with students, public housing, and groovy young families that also get around on bikes, or in Subaru stationwagons, or environmentally-sensitive hybrids.  As my bill is being tallied up, I turn around and look out the workshop window.  Two women walk past: one is tall, the other shorter; the shorter woman has short dyed-red hair.  There is nothing particularly unusual about these women, except they’re holding hands, actually it’s more like they’re holding fingers, the way people who are very comfortable with themselves and their surroundings can often do.  Walking behind the women is another couple, an older man and woman; they’d be in their late sixties or early seventies.  The older man taps the woman – his wife, I assume – on the arm and points out the women ahead by doffing his head in their direct.  As if it’s the freakiest thing he’s ever seen.  I have no reason to think that the older couple is about to abuse the women – they look friendly enough.  But why is the sight of two women holdings hands remarkable, notable, even worthy of any comment whatsoever, even on this blog?  I return to the mechanic’s counter and settle my bill.

So what’s it all about?  Were the women on the hunt for a sports bag for their nephew truly worried that a particular design would have an impact on their young nephew’s sexuality?  Or were they already worried about their nephew’s sexuality – was he displaying signs of ‘sensitivitiy’?  Or were they just bogan women who themselves had the sensitivity of a punch-drunk moron?  And what of the old couple following the lesbian couple who were daring to hold hands in public?  In effect, were they saying to each other, ‘Look at those freaky lezzo women?’  or ‘Why do they have to do that in public and shove our faces in it?’  Do either of these stories give a hint to what modern love – or sexuality, which are so closely related they’re almost the same thing – is all about in 2010, now that the infamous naughties are finished?

Based on the two stories presented above, my conclusion is that despite all the societal advances since the Second World War, we’ve not really pushed the whole issue of sexual diversity, expression and freedom that much forward at all.

The poll below is a start, but comment however you see fit…