Maxine Kauter: How To Make Your Bed

 In Podcast transcripts, Queerstories

Transcript:

Hi. I’m Maeve Marsden and you’re listening to Queerstories – the podcast for the monthly LGBTQIA storytelling night I run at Giant Dwarf in Redfern, with support from the City of Sydney. This week – musician Maxine Kauter.

 

It was a full moon and I was standing in a small shared courtyard out the back of my friend Dave’s apartment. The air was summery, and a warm blustery wind was chasing leaves in circles about the concrete ground. Inside, I could hear the party chattering over music. There were about eight of us left, and everyone but me was crowded on Dave’s floor laughing and talking shit. The smell of weed and tobacco danced in the air.

I was brooding. I was leaning against the red brick wall outside, looking up at a patch of sky between towering buildings. Moonlit clouds were rushing by like a film on fast forward: a flowing river, a stampede of horses. Relentless images in the ether.

Suddenly, the wind died. The leaves fell lifeless to the ground and that rushing sky halted to a complete stop.

The clouds had arranged themselves into the image of a giant dragon face, and that face filled the entire sky. From one of the dragon’s eyes, a sudden flash of colour shot out directly at me, and when it hit me, I felt an intense euphoria. I was overcome by an otherworldly benevolence that had targeted me specifically. My entire body was buzzing. Each and every cell charged with a fuzzy, glittery joy. I was bursting with an important understanding of the universe that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, like a dream on waking.

After a moment the wind resumed, the clouds recommenced their rushing, obliterating the dragon face, but the euphoria and the benevolence remained.

The acid trip that I had taken was called a Purple Ohm.

*Audience laughs*

I got the Ohm. This story is about how that Ohm lasted for a good few years, taking me on an amazing journey into the heart of Evangelical Christianity, and teaching me that you should be careful how well you make your bed because you may be sleeping in it for a lot longer than you anticipate.

*Audience laughs*

I was 19 years old when I got the Ohm. I had just begun dating Deborah, my second ever girlfriend. I had a nice group of friends. I was smoking weed. I was taking heaps of acid. I was reading a lot, I was making things. Life was pretty good. But when the sky dragon shot me down with her love-laden laser beam of colour, I felt an intense need to leave that party.

Deborah lived in an apartment upstairs from Dave. The building provided housing to young people trying to get on their feet without family support, and most of them were gay. She took me to her flat and sat on the floor while I paced about the room, babbling about the meaning of life and the universe. What I didn’t know about Deborah is that she came from a very religious family and she was struggling with terrible guilt about being a homosexual.

She had also taken the Purple Ohm acid. When I got the Ohm, she took this as a sign that God was trying to bring her back to the fold, and she got the Ohm too. She pulled out a Bible and tried to show me that what I was having was something called a “Road to Damascus” experience.

*Audience laughs*

I grew up in what I would call a culturally Catholic family. I’m sure there’s some of you out there. Easter, Christmas, schooling. A sort of in-name-only secular Catholicism, so I knew the stories that she was telling me: The Virgin birth, the Messiah, the blood baths, rising from the dead. But her interpretation of these things were a lot friendlier than the Catholics.

In the weeks following the onset of the Ohm, she reconnected with people she knew from church and they all tried to get me to attend. The church was not like any I had ever been to. It met in the function room of the Burwood Coronation Club. We got the train there, and it was then that I received another major revelation: Burwood is not in Penrith.

*Audience laughs*

We made our way through the entry, the sound of pokies cloying with the smell of old deep fryer oil. An old man, a Perspex raffle box, chocolate wheel, sign-in books. But upstairs, we were greeted by very clean people in tasteful clothing. An excessive hygiene hung about them. These people…

*Audience laughs*

I’m kind of going back there, that’s all.

These people smiled warmly and looked me right in the eye when I was introduced to them as if they were looking for something very important. They shook my hand, and some of them did that two-handed handshake thing, in which the handshake becomes a proxy hug. They repeated my name when I was introduced to them, as if using some learned technique to commit it, and me, to memory. Children ran around and their parents reined them in with a beneficent calm. They were kind, well-meaning people. I was terrified.

*Audience laughs*

The room was arranged in rows of club seats facing a lectern. There was a band, with drums, and a singer who closed her eyes and lifted her enraptured face to the low-hung ceiling, as if it were the Great Dome of the Hagia Sophia. In place of stained glass, there were stacks of superfluous chairs. Where an altar should be, there was an overhead projector telling us the words to sing. A very short man got up in front of everyone and began speaking. Instead of robes, he wore that middle-of-the-road “trendy” that you might find in General Pants. I’ve heard they’re going out of business, which is probably a good thing.

*Audience laughs*

He went about explaining the Gospel and his explanation was like a Radiohead song: Just confusing and vague enough for me to impose my own meaning on it.

*Audience laughs and cheers*

All this reminded me of my adolescence. I would lie on my bed listening to music, and dream of a time when I would be old enough to go and find my people. These were not the people living in my home, these were not the people I went to school with, not the people I played sports with. These were a fabled people. And when I found them, I would find that they were good; better people than the people I knew. Open-minded, worldly, kind, and wholly superior to the people I knew now. They would be interested in the ideas I was interested in, and human prejudice, human failing, would not be present in them. They would also deeply appreciate the music of Jim Morrison.

*Audience laughs*

One day.

I became saved. I wanted it so much. It was like the Ohm was a Horsehair worm parasite lodged in my cricket brain, driving me into some kind of unseen oblivion. To my legitimate surprise, people in the church were quite concerned about whether or not Deborah and I were sleeping together. In fact, being a practising homosexual was one of the only things explicitly forbidden by the church; one thing you had to try really hard not to do. It was considered to be a defilement of the church and something that would ruin the Ohm, so Deborah and I stopped having sex.

I applied myself to being a most excellent devotee. A disciple. I attended meetings. I ate cake. I led a youth group. I was baptised. I learned to play the guitar. I learned to sing. I repeated people’s names when they were introduced to me. I looked them in the eye. I did the two-handed handshake thing. I spoke in tongues. That is an experience I can only describe as a kind of divine madness, a waking actionable meditation that voids the mind of any graspable thought until it resembles something like that rushing sky back in Dave’s courtyard. I was in deep.

Now, I know you won’t have seen this coming, but Deborah and I struggled hard not to have sex.

*Audience laughs*

We struggled, and I know you know believe this, but we failed.

*Audience laughs and cheers*

We failed often. Spectacularly. We oscillated between intense shame sessions and intense sex sessions; I knew I wasn’t going to be able to say that. The forbidden nature of our failings provided the act with an intensity that made it seem downright, well, spiritual. I experienced intense guilt and shame over this part of my life, a guilt and shame my young mind had not got around to developing on its own.

One afternoon, my mother and I were driving to a netball game. It was a crystal-clear blue Sydney day. Elton John was on the radio. Mum had been reading Ian Roberts’ autobiography. I don’t know if you know who that is, or how significant it was that he wrote an autobiography. Anyway, she was doing this in an effort to understand my being gay. God bless her, she was trying.

“Mum,” I said. “What do think God thinks about me being gay?” She said nothing for a moment and then replied, “Well, it’s been hard for me to understand, but I think, as long as you are a good person, God would think it’s okay, and he would be okay with it. And if I want to keep my daughter in my life, I have to accept it.”
She had brought herself a long way from the day that she and my father cornered me in the kitchen, forced me to come out to them, then asked me to leave the house for a few days before insisting on family counselling to “fix me.” This was real, proper progress. “That’s what you think,” I said, ‘but what does God think?” She wasn’t expecting that.

*Audience laughs*

The worm had thrown me off the cliff. I had made my bed, me, the headstrong, outspoken, unapologetically leftie gay of the family had found God, and denounced her gayness. Such a miracle was all the proof my mother needed. I converted my mum, my dad and my brother to the church. I had come out as an ex-gay.

*Audience gasp and chuckle*

This is a very healing experience.

*Audience cheers*

I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I had come out as an ex-gay, and it was about that time that the Ohm began to fade.

I’m going to do a song to close if that’s okay.

*Audience cheers*

*Sings*

 

If then, I’d known what I know now

I wouldn’t change a thing.

Sometimes you’re up

And sometimes you’ll fall

And in this life I want it all.

 

So come on young heroes

And stop your pretending.

There’s nothing to gain in

Seeking perfection.

Let it all hang out.

That’s what it’s all about.

 

What’s the use in being a saint?

When each of us faces the same glib fate.

You’re a girl, you’re a boy

You act brave, you act coy.

You’re neither, you’re neither

You create and destroy.

 

So come on young heroes

And stop your pretending.

There’s nothing to gain in

Seeking perfection.

Let it all hang out.

That’s what it’s all about.

 

We, we are the lucky ones

We are the lucky ones

Don’t waste it away

Don’t waste it away

There’s no one to pay.

 

So come on young heroes

And stop your pretending.

There’s nothing to gain in

Seeking perfection.

Let it all hang out.

That’s what it’s all about.

 

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