Circus Parade

I was at Macquarie Uni, West Ryde, when Dennis Altman participated in a debate titled Gay is Good. His opening comment was about the number of people who recognized each other as gay, where previously they had clearly been ambivalent. This was indeed what we had done; I turned to the people I saw most on campus but had not come out to, they likewise. I completed my degree, the uni being an isolated suburb only accessed by interminable bus rides.

I moved to inner Sydney; in fact, I lived upstairs of the Gay Liberation headquarters in Glebe Point Road. There, the life was a series of encounters as our lesbian sisters became separatist and we struggled with feminist texts by Greer and Shulamith Firestone. Most of the time I felt like the focus of anti-male hatred. In spite of this, we organised and participated in a series of Gay Liberation demonstrations. We had long ago decided that what Camp Ink and Dignity stood for was being “naiice”.

In my own group there were so many socio-economic rifts: I was an ethnic working class kid from the country, a rarity at that time, until the current Federal Govt gave scholarships to working class kids to complete university degrees. Meanwhile, my comrades were middle class. “We are the kids our parents warned us against”. Another way of delineating the boundaries was hearing of one guy who, no matter whatever he did during the week, turned up for Sunday lunch, lest he be deprived of his inheritance.

The demonstrations became increasing larger events culminating in that 1978, that moment that became deified annually, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. However, the series that preceded it and made it possible, gave it the necessary momentum, included the demo against the Springboks. My fellow demonstrators and I. long haired, all of us, I was wearing the de rigueur duffle coat with a copy of the Lord of the Rings in the pocket. We passed through the front gate and the attendant policeman leant over and sniffed me.

On another occasion we were in someone’s house in Camperdown, then definitely a working class suburb; we were debating where the next demo should happen. Someone said we should just go outside, there and then, and march through the local streets. Two blocks away, I decided I felt like an icecream; I bought it and was approached by a clearly working class man. In pleading tones he asked me if I was with the group of demonstrators. My reply was “yes, they were lovely people”, which left the man in a state of visible distress. I was approached by one of the demo organisers who thought my “tactic” had been brilliant, and that I should immediately repeat it. I refused, on many grounds: the original act had been spontaneous and the organiser herself had never spoken to me previously.

Clearly, Liberation was a severely impersonal matter, which was not to my liking. This spans my life to the present: my life is lived within personal bounds; art making is my life’s work; when and where it expresses my sense of liberation and my attraction for persons of my own gender.

The last photo of the three below, (1. me, 2. Rod, my partner) is of a Domain demo, that usually happened on a Sunday alongside all the speakers on boxers and the Hari Krishnas chanting.

a swingrod1domain demo1


About anton veenstra

tapestry weaver, fibre artist, gay/qr activist, multiculturalist
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