A national LGBTQI+ storytelling project curated by Maeve Marsden
featuring a book, event series and an award-winning podcast

A national LGBTQI+ storytelling project curated by Maeve Marsden
featuring a book, event series and award-winning podcast

Rosa Campbell – I Really, Queerly Love You

Rosa tells a story of the British general election campaign 2019 as a tale of queer romance and heartbreak.

Rosa Campbell is completing her PhD in history at the University of Cambridge. This project sets Australian women’s liberation between 1968-1990 in a global context. She has been active in movements for gender justice both in Sydney and London. She writes fiction and non-fiction on a range of platforms for both adults and children. Her star sign is Virgo but her rising – which is what really matters of course- is reconstructed Marxist.


Hi, I’m Maeve Marsden and you’re listening to Queerstories.

This week, Rosa Campbell is completing her PhD in history at the University of Cambridge. She’s active in movements for gender justice, and she writes fiction and non-fiction for both adults and children. Her star sign is Virgo but her rising – which is really what matters, of course – is reconstructed Marxist.

This story was recorded in January 2020 in Sydney.


Thank you so much, beautiful Sydney. I wanted to do a story about Maeve and my single night of passion in 2009 but she banned me, so. And this is not really the time for jokes, because, queers, I stand before you, heartbroken.

My last relationship was with a cis, heterosexual, white British male, who was middle class and had a lot of structural power. [audience boos] He was also pretty uncharismatic, sometimes hopelessly so.

I got up for him at 5 o’clock in the morning. We were non-monogamous, him and I. I had one other lover, while he had many others. Also, we never had sex, though I found him devastatingly handsome in his brown corduroy trousers.

Normally I would suggest that you boo at this point, like that really enthusiastic person, and say that this guy sounds like a dick, and I would agree. How trashy are jerks like this? But it’s not so. He in fact is not a fuck boy, but a very special man.

His name is Jeremy. Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the UK Labour Party and I really, queerly loved him.

In case you haven’t been following along, a month ago, the Labour Party and him, and me, and us, got trounced by the British Conservative Party led by Boris Johnson. They are the true villains of the story, so if you’re looking for an opportunity to boo, it’s now. [loud boos]

I’m so gutted, so buy me a drink at the bar afterwards, but first listen to this story of my no-regrets love affair.

I moved to London in 2011 and have been there ever since. It is, I guess, my home now, and I have learnt to walk as quickly as everyone else. I’ve learnt how to battle and survive and even thrive in the city sometimes. I’ve had one partner, and then another, and then another, and I’ve been married twice – yep, I’m a divorcee – once to a woman, once to a man, both times for love, and both times because of borders.

I’ve written lots and I’ve spilt coffee explosively and extensively down my clothes approximately six times. And I’ve been involved in movements for justice in the UK, against cuts, against state violence, against sexism and racism, for housing and for dignity. I also write about the Australian women’s liberation movement which is why I had to leave the day after the election campaign started, to interview those who did loads of cool shit and without whom, quite frankly, I would not be standing here talking to you.

Losing the election was a break-up, there’s no doubt about it. The day after I did some break-up activities. I went for a reflective walk, thinking ‘if only I had…’ and ‘if only things had been different’. I had a quiet weep at the bakery. And I allowed my tears to drip onto my croissant until the middle deflated.

In a peak break-up move, I even went to stay on the couch at my dad’s. In some ways this was really perfect, because it was my dad, he was the one who taught me that there was absolutely no contradiction between being a wharfie and being an intellectual, and that every waitress is likely an artist, so walk with your head up.

I looked at photos on Facebook the way you look at the pictures of your best holiday together and congratulate yourself on your excellent taste in swimming costumes in the past. I saw pictures of us, I saw pictures of all of us, pinning our red ribbon rosettes on, knocking on doors to announce ourselves to strangers, teeth chattering against the cold of the British winter: ‘Hi, I’m Rosa from the Labour Party.’

How strange it was to hear myself say those words. I spent loads of time agitating against the state, outside of party structures, in small grassroots groups. Together with others I dyed the fountains in Trafalgar Square red in protest against the two women a week who are murdered in the UK by a partner or ex-partner, and against the Tory cuts to domestic violence services, and to demand Black services for Black services and LGBTQI services for LGBTQI survivors. I helped organise a radical community childcare where kids were looked after while mums and carers chatted about what it would mean for mums everywhere to strike. And against cuts to education and childcare.

I saw these cuts play out in the five years that I was a special needs teacher. My classroom budget was slashed from a grand to 250 pounds, which included all resources and trips out. What that meant in real terms was me calling the London Zoo in my lunch break and begging them to let me visit for free. My school, in the shadow of the burnt-out shell of Grenfell Tower, was not the worst of it. Some schools in the UK can no longer afford to buy paper.

But the thing was, our small, grassroots, fabulously creative groups weren’t winning big enough. The inequality, the violence, the injustice just kept on deepening and getting worse. And then Jeremy Corbyn, who has stood up for you, and me, and us, all his life, became the leader of the Labour Party. And so we saw an opportunity and we pivoted.

Was he going to solve all of our problems? No. Would racism and sexism be crushed forever if he got elected? No. But did that make the project a complete failure, or a waste of time? No.

This was the most radical agenda in 50 years and we didn’t have the luxury not to compromise. You can have the best, most pure politics in the whole world, but you need to take power back to win. So in I went, all love and no illusions, compromising my heart out just like in every other relationship.

It was a rocky road, queers, I tell you that much! The dates spent door-knocking were, shall we say, mixed. Sometimes you’d arrive only to get the door slammed in your face. Sometimes people would yell, ‘Get Brexit done!’ Sometimes you’d have to hold your tongue until someone finished their bitter tirade, and then sometimes you’d get the opportunity to begin the work of agreeing with the feelings – of hopelessness, of despair, of no opportunities, of being so, so tired – but disagreeing with the reasons put forward, which were often that immigrants had caused these problems.

Other times, people said ‘no offence to you, mate, but political correctness gone mad is what’s caused these problems’ or my favourite, ‘weird looking women like you’ had caused these problems. And then, this weird looking woman, like so many others, might try to suggest that now was not the time to turn inward but to be as broad and expansive as possible. And then most likely the person would slam the door in your face.

But sometimes people would give you the side eye and open the door widely. They’d open their house to you and give you a cup of tea. And this was a dream date! Once someone said, as she passed me the cup, ‘I added extra sugar to yours my pet, you look like you could do with a bit more sweetness in your life.’

You might talk a bit then, about schools, about relationships, about religion. Sometimes you’d sit in your coat, and they’d sit in theirs because they couldn’t afford to top up the stick to heat the flat. I bounced a one year old on my lap and his mum said, ‘I can’t do much, I’m a single parent’, but then on the way out, she said, ‘But you know what I’ll do, I’ll leave some leaflets up at my Mosque, you’ve put the fire in me now.’ And I thought, like all people in love, in the throes of a new relationship, ‘I have never been happier than at this moment!’ Lisa from Stroud, you fucking legend.

But most of my relationship was long distance. He was there, I was here, and I was pining. I made phone calls from my little room in Sydney, smoky with bushfire smoke. I got up at 5am for two weeks and I said those words ‘Hi I’m Rosa from the Labour Party’ maybe 500 times while Scott Morrison planned his trip to Hawaii.

‘I’m glad you called,’ one person said, ‘because my daughter just this second has bought her new grandson to see me, and I’m really worried about climate change. What kind of life will this new baby have.’ And all I could say was ‘same, I’m worried too’ and talk to this new granddad in the weird orange light as our Harbour Bridge was hidden from view, the sky like a nicotine stain, both of us hoping that this wasn’t actually the end of the world, but the start of something different.

And people were calling all over the world. There were big teams in in San Francisco, in New York, in Madrid, in Melbourne and in Vientiane, calling for a Corbyn Labour victory. Those making calls sent messages of support and consolation collapsing the thousands of miles between us by WhatsApp. When the first transatlantic telephone lines were set up in the sea beds, women in the US and the UK who were agitating for the right to vote called each other and they plotted and planned and shared militant tactics across the Atlantic Sea. Some called these phone lines the ‘golden cables of sympathy’ and it was only during this campaign, receiving red roses and strong arm emojis from complete strangers that I really understood why.

I also realisedthat this love affair was with Jeremy Corbyn, not really. It was strangers that were the object of my affection. People who I’ve never met and never will meet pushed hope into every crevice inside me that I hadn’t even realised was empty.

So now, my sweet loopy love affair is over. We got smashed. I’m broken-hearted and wondering what’s next. You can say, ‘Oh Rosa, you weird looking woman, it was never gonna happen.’ People have advised, get into nihilism, or your career. Be content with the glittering surfaces of our Macbook culture and just give up.

But to that I just say that I can’t, cos a life that revolves around me, around myself, is not enough for me. And I’ll hand you a red rose, for socialism or romance, you take your pick, because neither are dead, not really. Buried and dead are not the same thing. And I’ll remind you that it’s like Paul Kelly says: you know and I know that love never runs on time.


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Queerstories is produced by Maeve Marsden and recorded by wonderful technicians at events around the country. Editors and support crew have included Beth McMullen, Bryce Halliday, Ali Graham and Nikki Stevens.