The Ugly Walls of Suburbia and B033

On Saturday night, I watched The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – a 1994 Australian film which follows the adventures of 2 drag queens (Felicia and Mitzi) and a transsexual (Bernadette) as they travel across the Australian outback from Sydney to Alice Springs to perform a drag revue in the hotel run by Mitzi’s ex-wife. A line delivered by Bernadette struck me in this viewing – despite multiple previous viewings in which I had not assigned any particular significance to it. After Felicia has been viciously attacked by a rowdy group of rednecks, Bernadette says,

“It’s funny. We all sit around mindlessly slagging off that vile stink-hole of a
city [Sydney]. But in its own strange way it takes care of us. I don’t know if
that ugly wall of suburbia’s been put there to stop them getting in or us
getting out.”

Perhaps in the aftermath of General Convention’s B033 vote, the words were as much solace to me as they were to Felicia. In its own way, the city of Chicago and the Diocese of Chicago provide a kind of insulation to my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. From within, we do not have to feel the day-to-day pain of being outcasts because we know a community – a family – in the city.

In an analysis of masculinity in “Australian road-genre cinema,” Katherine Biber writes, Mitzi, Felicia and Bernadette realize in their travels that “the substance of their identity . . . is in the community or family they have left behind. Here in the outback, they are lost, stranded, victimized and bored.” (p. 41). Though we have not left the city for the outback, the walls of the Diocese proved to be inadequate to protect us from B033. Perhaps the hope lies in the realization that the walls still exist and can, perhaps, provide us some small comfort as we grieve.