I got a new gig! From Monday December 4th I’ll be hosting a brand new show called Tonightly alongside Greta Lee Jackson, Bridie Connell and Greg Larsen.
The show will be on at 9pm every weeknight (sweet Jesus) on the brand-new ABC Comedy channel.
Please watch it and help me win a Logie.
Hello everyone! I am sorry I have not posted an episode in a while.
I have a reasonably good excuse: I am going to host a TV show.
Geoffrey Winters is a native title lawyer who ran against Tanya Plibersek as the Liberal Party candidate for the seat of Sydney in the 2016 election. He’s a Gamillaroi man who’s openly gay and who regularly appears on ABC’s The Drum.
This is a frank discussion, featuring me trying to get my head around where Geoffrey is coming from as an Indigenous queer man who’s also a conservative. From the marriage equality survey to being in a party alongside people he disagrees with with to being “pragmatic” to what conservatism can offer first nations peoples to what (if anything) would make him consider leaving the Liberals.
I got a lot out of this conversation and Geoffrey was mighty patient with me. I hope you like it.
Cause of the Week: Libs & Nats Say Yes (libsnatsyes.com.au)
Exciting times! I’m returning to Sydney for a live taping of my little podcast for the inaugural YACK Festival at the Giant Dwarf Theatre.
Join me as I sit down with journalist and author Stan Grant for a chat about history, race, rights, China and much more.
It’s happening on Saturday November 11th at 2pm. Book your tickets NOW please immediately yes yes just click here.
Alex Greenwich is an independent MP in the NSW parliament and the National Convenor of Australian Marriage Equality. He’s been campaigning for equal marriage for 10 years now and kindly gave me some of his time to reflect on how the postal survey is going, from the incidence of violence to the notion of “respectful” debate to what will happen if the No side is successful (an annoyingly real possibility).
Cause of the Week: Get the YES ad back on air
— AU Marriage Equality (@AMEquality) September 6, 2017
After seeing that video on twitter a couple of weeks ago, I got all teary and happy and uncomfortable at the same time. It was immediately clear to me that this was something I had to do, too. Amongst this stupid, bullshit, hate-ridden cluster-dump of a postal survey, I would have to make the effort and have a conversation with my gran Nola and my great aunt Shirley about who I am and what this vote means to me. We have never really spoken frankly about my sexuality until now: they had never met a boyfriend or asked if I was seeing anyone. Now was the time. I had to be honest and clear about this and try to reach out across a generation. I had to try.
Below is the (slightly edited) letter I ended up sending them:
Dear Gran and Shirley,
Hello! I hope you’re both doing well.
I probably should have written something like this a long, long time ago, but I didn’t, and I’m sorry about that, so here we are.
I’m writing to ask you both to consider voting Yes in the current postal survey on marriage equality. No doubt you’ve heard a fair bit of banging on about it in the news of late and perhaps you’ve already received your voting slip in the mail by the time you read this. If I’m honest, I think this method of bringing about reform to the Marriage Act is completely unnecessary, expensive and a tad cruel, but hey – this is where we are. This is the fun outcome of good ol’ fashioned Australian politics.
Gran and Shirley, as I’m pretty sure you’re aware by now, I am gay. I’ve known that I’m gay since I was 15 years old. I did not like that fact about myself initially: it took me a long time to come to terms with who I am. There were a few years when I hated this part of myself. I tried to deny it and push it down inside me. Throughout my life I have seen and experienced homophobia in the schoolyard, on the internet, in our media and in our parliament. I have often been made to feel dirty, lesser, excluded or abnormal because of something about myself that I cannot change and that doesn’t hurt anyone. I don’t want to complain too much: in many ways, I’ve been extremely lucky, thanks to support from a loving family and dear friends, and there are plenty of queer-identifying people who have it much tougher than me. But still, that unmistakable sense of rejection that comes from growing up in a homophobic society lingers with me. I can’t help but see it all around me as this debate about marriage equality plays out in the media every day.
For me, the chance to reform the Marriage Act to fully include same-sex couples is an extraordinary opportunity for us, as a country, to be a kinder, more loving and more welcoming place. It is an opportunity for us to in some way acknowledge the wrongs of the past – decades of societal, legal and religious discrimination towards the queer community – and celebrate our diversity. It’s a chance for us to send a message to the same sex couples who have been together for decades and for queer young people: a message that says you are loved, you are full citizens and you deserve to be treated equally before the law. I know for a fact that to a scared 15-year-old growing up in country Australia, trying to figure out their place in the world, a message like that would mean a lot.
If I’m honest, I can’t say that marriage is a definite feature of my future plan for myself (finding a boyfriend might be a helpful first step). But I would very much like – and firmly believe that I deserve – the choice to make that decision, just as (my brother) Gavin does, and just as (my cousins) Michael and Lucy and Anna do and Chris and Andrew and Beth did. If I’m lucky enough to find someone with whom I want to spend the rest of my life, the chance to celebrate that fully with my family and my friends and yes, in the eyes of the law, would be a lovely thing indeed.
I know that this change might seem radical or hard to understand. I recognise that religion is an important part of your lives and I respect that, while not being religious myself. On this point I would just stress that if this reform is approved, no church would be forced to conduct same-sex marriages: no one on the Yes side of the campaign is calling for that. This relates to the secular institution of marriage, as defined by the Marriage Act, which John Howard changed in 2004 to specifically exclude same-sex couples. Secondly, while I’m more than happy to plead my ignorance when it comes to specific Biblical passages, it seems to me that the crucial lessons of Christian teachings are about loving one’s fellow human beings and showing them kindness and understanding, even when it’s hard to do so. I suppose that’s what I’m asking of you now.
I am a gay Australian. I am not ashamed of being gay anymore: I am proud of who I am. I am proud of what I’ve learned and I’m proud of the incredible community of people I’ve come across since coming out to the world. I try my best to be a good person. I am your grandson. I am your great nephew. I love you both with every fibre of my being. And I am now asking you to please, vote yes for marriage equality.
Thank you for taking the time in reading this. Again, I’m sorry I haven’t had the guts to write something like it a bit sooner. Please let me know if you’d like to chat about this further; I’d love to talk any time.
Lots of love,
I don’t share this with you to look super awesome or gain some emotional brownie points: I’m sharing this because my dad let my know that by the time they’d received this letter yesterday, Nola and Shirley had already returned their survey slips in the post. Jesus Christ. THEY’D ONLY RECEIVED THEM ON WEDNESDAY.
Say what you like about the Ballard family, we do not fuck about when it comes to admin.
I do not know how my gran and great aunt voted, but I have a pretty good idea. And perhaps my letter could have changed that.
Please – if you’re like me and you’ve put this off, do something about it now. Not everyone is as insanely pro-active as these two ladies; many people may not have even received their slips yet. I know it can be awkward and hard and painful, but if you can reach out to your family members and share your stories and explain to them why you think voting Yes matters – whether you’re queer yourself or someone who considers themselves an ally – then please, do it. Do it now. I know it’s bullshit, I know we shouldn’t even have to be doing this, but we do, and we can, so we should.
Yours in queer love,
Owen Jones is an activist (first) and celebrated writer (second). He’s the author of bestselling books Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class and The Establishment And How They Get Away With It, is a regular Guardian columnist and has a cracking YouTube channel. He’s a major Leftist voice in UK politics and quite frankly, I was pretty stoked when he agreed to give me some of his time.
Here we talk about democratic socialism, what Corbyn’s political rise means for that cause, the dangers of centrism and the basics of Brexit. We also touch on what defines the “working class”, being friends with Tories and Owen’s cat.
Cause of the Week: The Advocacy Academy (theadvocacyacademy.com)
Acclaimed comedian and all-round nice guy Ahir Shah was just nominated for the big award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for his passionate, insightful and hilarious show Control. It’s a brilliant treatise on the fallout of Brexit and Trump and humankind’s inability to learn from its past mistakes.
Here Ahir tells me about how the racist debate surrounding Brexit affected him personally, why he couldn’t vote for Jeremy Corbyn in this year’s election, the “economic anxiety” argument used to explain demonstrations of racism, being friends with conservatives and punching Nazis.
Cause of the Week: British Red Cross South Asian Flood Appeal
SOHO THEATRE, LONDON
Tuesday August 29th – Saturday September 9th (no shows Sundays or Mondays), 9pm