It was a Howard and Latham-style social stand-off fitting of such an A-list queer event. The first sight upon entering last week’s Queerdoc opening night was Greens candidate Jenny Leong and current Labor MP Tanya Plibersek standing about three metres apart, smiling and studiously ignoring each other.
Anyway, with their short hair and capable ways, both Jenny and Tanya could be considered examples of the night’s recurring theme: tomboys. This wasn’t just because Judith Cobb’s short documentary was called Tomboy. The first doco Transgression told the story of a young Asian student who had undergone sex reassignment surgery to become a slightly tomboyish woman. And there were plenty of tomboys to be found in The Tasty Bust Reunion (like the security guard, the heroine, the drag queen). Tomboys, it seems, are the new bears -“ every one in the queer community either is one, or will be one eventually.
The soccer team I play for won its first grand final last week. We did it in front of a crowd of gays, girlfriends, ex-girlfriends, friends, donors, boyfriends, dads, mums and children, and most of our team went out and behaved like louts to celebrate. It was a party of tomboys with a few exceptions. Some of us might have grown up playing with dolls and doing ballet classes, but we all got to boyhood in the end.
Tomboys are hot right now. Good-looking straight boys are dressing like dykes and cutting their hair just like we used to. Gay dudes I know look longingly at drag kings as examples of what boys would look like if they were only a bit cooler.
But now that we’re all celebrating little girls behaving like boys, I wonder when we’ll feel the same way about the tomboy’s male equivalent, the pretty princess boy. Studies show even lesbian parents don’t encourage their sons’ interest in girly things, preferring them to be more macho. Where tomboy girls are tolerated, doll-loving boys are usually worried about. Arnold Schwarzenegger calls his rivals economic girly-men and crowds of women cheer.
Hopefully that won’t last for long. We could all do with a little less Playing It Straight false masculinity and a bit more Carson Kressley sissyness. Bring on the era of the girly-man. And if your son wants to be the littlest mermaid, just be thankful he isn’t getting his pretty nose bent out of shape playing rugby league.