This blog will record the international travel of queer fusbands* Piggy and Panda,** as we travel together to nine countries in three months, leaving behind our safe, gay bubble of inner Sydney to explore the wider world. It is our Grand Tour, our honeymoon, our expedition, our international Thelma and Louise without the killing and the suicide (but just as lesbionic). Leaving early November, we’re travelling to New York, Paris, London, Portugal, Nigeria, Zambia, Kenya, Egypt and Israel.
We’re going to record this adventure for a couple of reasons, one of which is that we have never, in five years of being de facto partners, travelled together. So a record written from both of our perspectives could be incredibly useful in any legal processes initiated on our return. I’ll say now, categorically, that the breakdown of our relationship during this trip is/was entirely Panda’s fault.
The other reasons are that we want to record and share our experiences with others, mitigated as they will be through our massive bias against heterosexuality. We’re interested in mapping out queer, gay, and trans relations across differences of culture, place and context. We’re going to talk to gay activists in places as disparate as London and Lusaka; we’re checking out queer spaces and venues in Paris and Tel Aviv; we’re going to meet fat femme goddesses in New York and porn researchers in Nairobi. The fascinating thing, for me, is to see how much this idea of an international or global ‘gay identity’ is bullshit, and at the same time, what kind of things connect us, and how we can meet in the middle, or on the side, or just to the left of, a shared subjectivity. (I suspect love for Lady Gaga is universal.)
Our motto? “Don’t be a Sex Tourist: Be a Sexy Tourist”.
Panda and I are sharing the duties of blogging, so you can enjoy the pleasures of two different points of view. As Panda just pointed out, readers will be able to see how deep he is, in comparison to my shallowness. Lovely.
Here are some recurring themes of our relationship and its impact on this intense undertaking:
Disorganisation: Our departure is about a month away. Here are some things we haven’t done: Panda’s passport application; visas for African countries; accommodation for about 90% of locations… We are both powerfully disorganized procrastinators, and I can only begin to imagine how this will effect what is basically a trip around the world. So watch out for wacky adventures with immigration officials, strange tales of forgotten necessities, and extensive, Beckett-like dialogue based on time spent waiting in airports. [SIDEBAR: Whilst we have not yet sorted out inessential things like passports, tickets, and visas, we have had a very productive shopping trip, where we bought new shoes for every continent.]
Quabbles: Panda and I get along extremely well. We have lived in a one bedroom flat together for the past 4 years, with minimal fights, quickly forgotten squabbles, and no serious fractures in our relationship. But for anyone who has ever travelled extensively with a friend, lover, spouse or partner, you know that the stresses of travel can disintegrate the most solid relationships. Just one more delayed train, one more squabble over seating preferences, one more idiosyncratic twitch which used to be adorable and is now infuriating and KA-BOOM. You’re left standing alone, crying in a duty free store at Mombasa airport. Another excellent reason to blog: any difference in opinion can be mediated quickly by an objective comparison of narratives, which will result in Panda admitting my eternal, transcendent rightness. Which will be nice, seeing as how I will be camping in some backwater airport or train station for weeks, crying, and waiting for him to come back so I can apologise.
I should note here that our most serious disagreement thus far has been a symbolic tug-of-war over continents. Panda’s main interest in this trip is Africa, while I cannot stop fixating on Europe. It is, literally, a border war, with skirmishes being fought in Berlin (Panda wins), Rwanda (Piggy wins), Evora (Piggy wins) and Paris (peace accord signed). The problem is that as a white person living in a first world (and I might add, intensely racist) country, I already have the problem of looking like I am occupying the moral low ground in this debate. Because I was fighting for more time in Europe, Panda could effectively silence me by employing the rhetorical technique of calling me “Eurocentric.” [SIDEBAR: Panda just read this section and informed me, smugly, that I don’t know that I’ve won Rwanda, effectively resuming hostilities]. We have also quabbled over the efficacy of maroon velvet doc martins for African trekking; whether or not it is funny to pinch my arm after getting an immunisation shot; and whether or not it is appropriate to lift up my shirt and flash my belly whilst riding on my scooter (nothing to do with travel plans, it just really pisses me off). As with most of our “disagreements,” the word “quabble” should tell you something of their nature: the dictionary defines ‘quabble’ as “disorderly fighting; an unceremonious and disorganised struggle.” Which also describes every single experience of driving Panda around on the back of my scooter (sometimes he squeezes his thighs around my butt and calls me his ‘thigh-master’).
*Fusband is a term used to describe either female husbands, or in our case, faux husbands. Half fake, half real, our relationship is a queer marriage born of mutual affection, interdependence, love and shared politics. We don’t have sex with each other. Don’t be gross. All sexual relations occur, as god intended, outside of the marriage relationship and with same-sex or other sex and/or gender diverse partners. Ours is not a marriage of convenience, like those between dykes and poofs throughout the ages, but a marriage designed to inconvenience others.
**How to explain these pseudonyms… Panda is my partner’s nickname, which developed quite organically via an amalgamation of Cockney rhyming slang and an excess of affection (which often results in the application of cutesy, animal-based nicknames). “Piggy,” however, has a darker history. Panda is what we call a chub-hound: someone whose partners, past and present, have all tended towards having “a bit of extra padding,” or camel-esque qualities (Panda describes this as the tendency to ‘carry a bit extra’ in case of emergency. Like a camel crossing deserts with its own water storage system, Panda sees fat as emergency food storage. For him, fatness represents resilience, something he feels his permanently slim frame lacks. I think underneath this desire for the heavier, bigger boned members of our community – bears are a favourite – is actually his sneaky preparation for the apocalypse, when he may need to eat his partner. The way he kneads, pinches and wobbles the fat deposits on my body has very little to do with eroticism; it feels like he is weighing and calculating future food stores). So… you can see where the name came from. In terms of nicknames, I definitely got the short, unsexy end of the stick. Keep an eye out for references to my snout (nose), trotters (feet and hands), and crackling (belly). Adding to the indignity of the name is the way he calls it out in public. He raises his voice, goes up an octave, and enunciates the last syllable, extending on the “eeeee” sound: “Pig-GEEEEEE!” I do not believe I will ever have sex again.