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Kinky Equality: Australians Vote On Gay Marriage

Australia is currently in the throes of an emotional and malicious debate over the state of Same-Sex Marriage. The country is in the process of partaking in a non-binding postal vote that is attempting to get an idea of how the population feels about this topic. The entire process will end up taking approximately 3 months – from official announcement to final tally of the votes. In that time, the campaigning from both sides of the argument is heated and divisive, having an emotional effect on many of our people, especially our children.

I, personally, stand strongly, definitively and vocally in the Yes camp. But this is not an article about my personal views, but rather the strength and importance of the arts in times such as these.

I am currently touring with the Australian production of Kinky Boots – the Tony award-winning musical by Cyndi Lauper, Harvey Fierstein and Jerry Mitchell. The show tells the tale of a small town failing shoe manufacturer that is saved when a friendship develops between the young (straight) man (Charlie) who inherits the factory and a fabulous drag performer (Lola). They go on to conquer the market for “properly built to last boots for women who are men.”   The show is full of pop numbers and hilarity but under all of that, there is a message of acceptance, of not being scared to change your mind and of being brave enough to just be who you want to be.

From here I am going to tell you three tales of how this show, I believe, has effected change. The first involves my own family. I gave tickets to a cousin of mine who brought her rather conservative Greek boyfriend with her to see the show. She didn’t know much about the show beyond the fact that Cyndi Lauper wrote the music. Initially, when Lola and her Angels (the drag performers in the show) came out, my cousin’s boyfriend was quite uncomfortable. Homosexuality was not something that he was necessarily opposed to, but also not something he had been exposed to. However, as the show went on and as Lola and Charlie’s story unfolded, he was drawn into this very human tale. At the end of the show, he turned to my cousin and said to her incredulously “They’re just like us!” to which, she very supportively replied “What did you think they were? Martians?” (complete with eye roll).

The second story was told to me by our ridiculously gorgeous Lola.

At the end of one of our shows, an elderly lady in the front row tapped our musical director on the shoulder. He turned to chat with her and she proceeded to say to him that she was 70 something years old and in her life, she has never known a gay person.

She had no friends who were gay and she had never wanted to know a person who was gay. However, for the past two and a half hours, she had sat and watched our show. She had laughed with us, she had cried with us and she had laughed again.

She then went on to say that she was going to go home and have a good look back at her life and who she was as a person and make some life choices.

The final tale happened just last night and circles back to the Australian Marriage Equality plebiscite. Kinky Boots is currently in Brisbane, Queensland. Queensland is the most conservative state in Australia, the state most likely to return a no vote. Despite that, Kinky Boots has been selling to nearly full houses for most of our run here – a pleasant surprise to this cynical Queensland native. Over the last week, the Kinky Boots team has been putting together a social media video in support of Marriage Equality. We have a very conveniently titled song – Everybody Say Yeah – and access to a rainbow array of satin, drag queens, glitter and sparkles, so off we went!

For the last few seconds of the video, we wanted to ask an audience to stay back and be a part of the final shot.  We were going to give the audience the option to leave and we were hoping to fill the stalls to at least half. Even though the audience for a show such as Kinky should be a shoe-in for this, some of us (myself included) were worried; we had in the back of our minds the conservative nature of the state we were in. Within my own family, the debate has been flying fast and furious with all three options covered – yes, no and abstain. How was this going to be received?

As it turns out, well. We filled the stalls with enthusiastic supporters and we still had people in the first balcony, all wanting to throw their support behind this issue. I was in the centre of the stalls for this filming and all around me, people were looking at the number of people who stayed and saying that this moment filled them with hope. We did three takes, each one more enthusiastic than the last.

At that moment, Kinky Boots and the audience came together to form a loving community, full of hope and joy.

These events, both big and small, show the power that we have as artists. Through our work, we change minds, hearts and lives. It won’t happen on every gig, but when it does, it is a thing of beauty.

I am incredibly proud, to be working on this show, at this moment. I’m a part of a show that supports inclusiveness, acceptance, friendship and love, that is reaching out to people and gently asking them to be bold. To be daring. To be brave. As Kinky Boots’ Don says: you change the world when you change your mind.

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