Dusty Springfield — “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”
I was very young…
Dusty Springfield — “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”
I was very young…
Yes, I’m back, and yes it was wet…
Go to the photoblog for more: Mardi Gras.
Shortly I have to venture out into a very damp Sunday to “cover” the Mardi Gras Fair Day for the South Sydney Herald, so you may expect pictures here and on the photoblogs shortly.
Meanwhile, consider the gay anthem. Read this excellent post if you are unsure what that means: My Eleven Favorite Gay Anthems.
Here is one of them.
Shirley Bassey and Bryn Terfel.
I am what I am
I am my own special creation
So come take a look
Give me the hook or the ovation
It’s my world that I want to have a little pride in
My world and it’s not a place I have to hide in
Life’s not worth a damn till you can say
Hey world I am what I am
I am what I am
I don’t want praise
I don’t want pity
I bang my own drum
Some think it’s noise
I think it’s pretty
And so what if I love each feather and each spangle
Why not try and see things from a different angle
Your life is a sham till you can say
Hey world I am what I am
I am what I am
And what I am needs no excuses
I deal my own deck
Sometimes the ace
Sometimes the deuces
It’s my life and there’s no return and no deposit
One life, so it’s time to open up your closet
Life’s not worth a damn till you can say
Hey world I am what I am.
…not at Mardi Gras last night.
Or so it would seem.*
By all accounts it was a great success.
Australia’s gay and lesbian community stepped out in style to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Sydney’s Mardi Gras parade, lighting up the city’s streets with a colourful array of costumes and characters on Saturday evening.
Heading the 1.6 kilometre route was a group known as the 78ers, who took part in the first Mardi Gras in 1978. On that occasion, what started out as a peaceful march ended in confrontation with the police and several arrests.
“The 30th anniversary makes it extra special this year,” said Thomas Finnegan, 23, wearing a white mask and sequin-laden leotard and taking part in his third Mardi Gras.
With a theme of “Brave New World”, organisers were expecting up to 300,000 people to line the parade route.
Graeme Browning, the parade’s director, said that while the event’s 30th birthday was cause for celebration, the fight for acceptance and equality continued…
I reached the stage a couple of years back where standing around in a crowd, no matter how friendly, does not appeal any more, so I am giving the Mardi Gras Parade a miss. However, in my wanderings around Central/Chinatown/Surry Hills I do get to see some sights, most of them pleasant on this particular occasion.
A little while ago I reported finding a whole stack of old entries going back to 2000, and made a page of some of them: Sydney’s Olympic Year 2000. From that page I thought I would recycle one entry as a kind of tribute to what the thirtieth Sydney Mardi Gras represents:
Saturday, September 30 2000
It is quite early as I write, as after yesterday’s hot weather I rose very early this morning–5.30am in fact. It is cooler and promises to be a very nice day. There being several hours before I go down to Chinatown to do my tutoring, I decided to visit here. Read the rest of this entry »
After coaching tonight I caught the slow bus from Chinatown to arrive on a cold and wet Sydney night at Newtown’s rather wonderful Courthouse Hotel for the blogger meetup. That’s not our group in the picture on the right. I was late, so I missed Marcellous.
Even before I had settled into the group for an hour I met of all people someone I had taught English with at Dapto back in 1970, one of the Spender sisters, Dale and Lynn, the former a rather well-known feminist writer, the other no slouch either. It was Lynn I saw, though initially I thought it was Dale. We both contemplated the years that had flown since then with some amazement, though I have to say I am a minnow compared with what those two have done with that time. (See also When I was a twenty-something conservative in transition…)
A story that does not do the NSW Police great credit appeared in the press yesterday: Taunts forced gay officer out.
DURING his three years as a NSW police officer, Dallas McCarthy endured taunts of “poofter boy” and “fag dog” – not from criminals but from his own colleagues.
Mr McCarthy claims he was ordered by a superior to introduce himself to senior officers as “pillow-biter”. And he says when he discreetly complained he discovered a handful of chopped liver in his locker and a note warning: “Your heart’s next.”
The former constable abandoned his ambition of becoming a gay and lesbian liaison officer, quitting the force in disgust last April.
In his initial letter of complaint, while stationed at Cabramatta, Mr McCarthy told of being ridiculed by an officer in the tea room with the claim that he give his boyfriend a pillow for Valentine’s Day…
If I go I will be about an hour late… Sounds interesting though, and I am not doing much about Mardi Gras this year. As for last year, see here and here, and before that quite a few entries and pages on the Big Archive.
The Empress is a 78-er: that is he was in the first Mardi Gras in 1978. (That’s from a left-wing source and they do romanticise themselves a bit, in my opinion. Shame about the attitudes and policies of people like Castro and Mugabe…) He’s not participating this year on the grounds it is all too commercial now and, he thinks, has lost the plot. That is perhaps a bit too strong, though I know what he means. I think it still serves a useful purpose, and is also one of Sydney’s more colourful occasions, though some still find it confronting. That last may in fact be proof The Empress is not right…
Andrew Sibley has faith in its existence. Writing on the UK Creation Science Movement site (presumably not an anti-gay lobby group) he says with amazing confidence:
Channel 4 presented a programme of poor quality by Rod Liddle, The New Fundamentalism, Dispatches, 8pm 6th March 2006, that was nothing more than a thinly veiled attack on evangelical Christianity and creationists by a self confessed liberal Christian…
God called men and women to respect each other and engage in life long committed relationships, but Liddle seemed to ridicule children for their stand preferring the negative social consequences that a liberal attitude to sexual activity brings. He failed for instance to acknowledge the link between condom use and promiscuity. Condoms are about 95 to 98% effective, meaning they have a 1 in 20 to 1 in 50, failure rate. If the rate of extra marital sexual activity increases by more than a factor of 20 to 50 through contraception use then the incidence of unprotected sex will increase with damaging consequences for people and society. The issue of whether a gay gene exists or not is also an important one because many people suffer from confusion or mental illness, as a result of popular culture and the gay lobby teaching children and young people that gay sentiment is genetic, and not cultural. There is no evidence that a gay gene exists, although Jesus did acknowledge that some are born as eunuchs, this as a result of the fall. But God did not create people to be gay and our genes do not determine the thoughts we choose to think. While we have sympathy for those suffering confusion over their identity, it is important to maintain a correct understanding of our make up. Gay sentiment has more to do with exposure to a cultural replicator and nurture, perhaps through negative experiences in childhood…
Too old and tired to bother much this year, so let’s recycle a bit of the “lost” diaries:
February 10 2001: Mardi Gras Reflections Part 1
Last night Mardi Gras was launched at the Sydney Opera House. I did not go myself, but many did. In Chinatown today I could not help noticing the tourist wave has begun to arrive: a young couple (male) very much in love hand in hand down Hay Street, for example. In past Mardi Gras seasons I have met interesting people from various parts of the world, especially the US.
Yet I have never been to a Mardi Gras Party (or a Sleaze Ball)–and don’t really want to; it is not my chosen mode of enjoyment, and I have always deplored (perhaps hypocritically as a smoker) the druggy/out-of-it side of the event. Nor have I ever participated in an orgy. (Some will think me terribly deprived, or insufficiently depraved!) Mind you the drugginess is also part of nightclubbing in general, to be fair. But delight for me is in the company of some loved and loving friend rather than in bacchanalia: but then maybe I am tight-arsed…
Thirteen years ago I was teaching at a private school north of Sydney. A little boy in my roll class (Year 8) came up to me and asked if I was going to the Mardi Gras Parade. Noncommittally I replied, “Yes–I live nearby so I will probably see it.” “Oh,” he said, “I would love to see that parade: they’re my kind of people!” A cute thing he was too, I might add, so somewhat taken aback I said “That’s nice.” For weeks after he used to give me a big cheesy grin and put the chairs up for me at the end of roll call. I have often wondered where he is now–he would be 26 years old now. On the other hand another young person (not a homophobe) recently told me how much he hated the whole thing–the Parade in particular.
About five years ago I was with a group in a Thai Restaurant overlooking Oxford Street. One of our number was a gay man who had only just arrived from Mainland China. As the parade passed beneath us–the Dykes on Bikes looking pretty scary, the marching boys just looking pretty, and the enormous crowd on the street–his eyes were glowing with happiness. So much freedom he could only have dreamed about before, and he was lapping it up. Interestingly he had seen footage of the event on the news in China, with appropriate commentary about Western depravity–an encouragement in fact for him to come to Australia.
There is more to Mardi Gras than the parade of course. It is a month of sports, art events and exhibitions, film, a fair that even straight families go to…the official program is quite impressive.
Over the next few entries I will continue my personal reflections (and that’s all they are). Some will agree with me, some won’t…
February 11 2001: Mardi Gras Reflections Part 2
I am a beneficiary of Gay Liberation, but did not participate in it until well into the 1980s. Indeed, except for a somewhat self-interested participation in the Gay and Lesbian Immigration Task Force in the early 90s, when I did meet some community heroes, and an association in the later 80s with the then Sydney Gay Youth Group (I ran a writing workshop at a national gay youth conference at the University of NSW) I have had little to do with the political side of gay life in Sydney. This partly has to do with the circumstances of my long delayed coming out.
“Until September 1970, there was no publicly self-identified lesbian or gay man in Australia. Yet today, with lesbians and gay men so visible in our society, it is sometimes difficult to conceive of a time when gay male sex behaviour was illegal throughout the country, with people being gaoled as a result; when anti-discrimination legislation was an unheard-of option; when doctors could unquestioningly carry out aversion therapy, or other medical experiments on homosexuals, with court approval; and when no publicly recognised gay or lesbian community existed in which one could live openly and find support…
“It was therefore something of a shock to most Australians to read in The Australian of 10 September 1970 of the formation of an organisation, Campaign Against Moral Persecution Incorporated (or CAMP Inc), dedicated to removing the stigma which society still attached to homosexuality.” [Robert French, Camping by a Billabong, Sydney, BlackWattle Press, 1993.]
If they noticed… I didn’t, though I soon did, while having absolutely nothing to do with it. For one thing I was in Wollongong teaching; for another I was firmly in the closet. In 1971 I began teaching in a private school in Wollongong, and one of my brightest Year 12 students (Dick Wilson) a year or two later became part of CAMP Inc, though he moved on to the more radical Gay Liberation Front. He was subsequently (but not consequentially) murdered in the Philippines. My current friend the Dowager Empress of Hong Kong was 17 in 1970 at a famous private school on Sydney’s North Shore–where he was raped. (Is this a specialty of private schools?) Ian (the Empress) was early involved in CAMP Inc.
It is fair to say that the Vietnam War, the Moratorium, the Whitlam years, and my personal shift from the Right to the Centre/Left in politics through an exposure to people and ideas I had avoided all through University in the early 60s (thanks to the Evangelical Union), were all gradually broadening my horizons and deconstructing many of my views–essentially my views were a mix of inherited prejudice and crackpot theology, but fortunately I always had a doubting side–a most valuable asset I now feel, and my studies of English, History and Psychology had some effect after all. (The religious Right at the time were always on about how University was corrupting “our” Young People by getting them to read filth by James Joyce and D H Lawrence for example.) Such issues occupied me rather more than the growing Gay Rights Movement–which had nothing to do with me anyway, right?
Meantime, my liberal (definitely small-L) zeal was satisfied by exploring better ways of teaching English, and in due course I was well-known in the English Teachers’ Association. By 1978 I was on the ETA State Council and was lecturing in English Method at the University of Sydney. Ironically, given later developments, I was also running a sociology seminar on Deviance and Nonconformity! I might add that I was madly in love (in an ill-defined way) with an ex-student who is still a very good friend, albeit straight… To sum up, it could be said that I was a champion wanker–in more than one sense. In time I would pay a price, not for the wanking, but for the denial of myself that characterised my life through all this time. (There were relevant family issues of a very pressing nature involved as well.)
When the first Mardi Gras Parade happened in 1978–something of an ad-hoc affair after a political demonstration–and many were arrested and subsequently had their names and suburbs published in the newspaper, I did not even notice. Perhaps I was at a conference? Odd, really, since I was constantly reading Honi Soit, edited then by gays and Trotskyites as I recall–and I even met them, as I took over a double-page spread in one issue for my Dip. Ed. students’ creative writing. Perhaps I didn’t want to know? Ian, the Empress, was there, however…
I saw my first Mardi Gras Parade in 1985. It made me proud. (Actually 1986 See next entry.)
I shall justify that statement and also qualify my enthusiasm at a later time. See you–especially you
(BTW: In 1978 1634 Vietnamese boat people were welcomed into Australia by the then Liberal government. I was briefly afraid that we were being “swamped by Asians”, to use the expression made popular by the Bitch Goddess in 1996, but moderated my views when I finally met some of them. Meanwhile the Communist trade union boss in Wollongong, blessed with the name Merv Nixon–which he briefly changed by deed poll to avoid association with the charming Dick–was loudly fulminating against our being swamped by Right-Wing Asians! I do hope old Lefties cringe when the
y recall that episode.)
February 12 2001: Mardi Gras Reflections 3
I was wrong yesterday: I was invited to see the 1985 Mardi Gras Parade but did not go. By that year I had been “out” for about eighteen months and had found a local gay bar where I felt comfortable and indeed had many a good time. However, the Oxford Street scene, let alone Mardi Gras, was still more than I could handle.
The Parade where I finally “felt proud” was in fact the 1986 one. At that time a very kind 21-year-old man, Paul, had taken my gay education in hand and had invited me to a pre-Mardi Gras party in East Sydney. I remember it was an enormous warehouse flat which was wall-to-wall with beautiful young men dressing down for Mardi Gras After the party I went and watched the Parade.
It was the sheer colour and energy of it that drew me in. Forget it on TV with the usually inane commentary! Yes, there were things about it that were not “me”–but it was representative of many facets of gay life, and there was much to appeal. There was satire, sheer silliness, rudeness, beauty, seriousness–political and HIV issues–but the statement it was making was–be proud! Don’t let homophobia hold you back! Celebrate! And I did, in my own way. The other thing that struck me was how friendly the crowd was watching it–even a policeman I spoke to commented on that. People–gay, straight, old, young–were just enjoying the spectacle and the cheeky vibrancy of it.
The following year I took some straight friends and they loved it. Another memorable Mardi Gras was 1989 when I found myself surrounded by my own students: “I didn’t know you were gay,” one said. “It’s OK, it’s not catching,” I replied. Then there was 1991–the first one I went to with M. That is full of nice memories.
This year I may or may not go. Last year I went to the Thai Restaurant for a meal beforehand, but the group did not stay to watch from the restaurant and I just went home. Partly this was that I had after all seen it all before in a way. More so it was that, being short, I couldn’t really see it! The crowd was just too big–so all I could see was the crowd!
So like it or loathe it, it doesn’t matter. Remember however how it started and what it still represents–defiance of the ever-present repression that would prefer we all just quietly went away and shut up. We can’t shut up: Mardi Gras is a brash and confronting declaration of freedom.
March 4 2001: Odd View of Mardi Gras
Yesterday I worked all day, then by about 5.00 pm I struggled up Oxford Street through the already large crowd, larger than the January Federation Parade, to the Albury, where I stayed for an hour or two with PK, Sirdan, DEHK and various others. The problem then was how to get home, as it was impossible to cross back to the Surry Hills side as the roads were all blocked off. I ended up having one of the takeaway dinners the local restaurants were selling on the street (and it was good too) and then set off down the back streets of Paddington, within sight most of the time of the Parade but avoiding the crowd. I ended up walking the full Parade route, as the only place I could cross the lines was at the end–Fox Studios. I then crossed Anzac Parade at Sydney Girls High and came home.
I saw, then, a bit of the Parade itself, and it seemed as lively as ever. What I spent most time observing was the crowd, which was very big, despite what they say about the Party (a rip-off if ever there was one) being down in numbers this year. While the street crowd did thin out by the time the Parade reached Fox Studios (note–this is the place to watch it at street level), there were a number of large viewing stands at that end, and they were packed. Oxford and Flinders Streets were wall-to-wall people. The nice thing was that the crowd was very good–everyone just seemed to be having a good time. I think wilder crowd scenes could be seen at almost any Cricket or Football match!
A highlight was crossing Moore Park in the company of some mums from PFLAG, who were lovely. One claimed to have known her son was gay since he was three! I’m not quite sure how she did that, but they do say mothers know these things. I kissed quite a few of the ladies who were charmed to hear I was a teacher and gay…
On the other hand, a bit of the dark side was witnessed by M, who worked a marathon 6 pm to 10 am straight at a gay venue. Drunk people, drug-f*cked people, mad people–he saw the lot, including one who thought he was the Police Commissioner and said he had come to examine the venue.
Drugs–and it’s mostly ecstasy, speed, and various designer drugs–are a down-side to the gay scene in my view; M. saw that pretty clearly where he sat last night. To be fair, any large “dance party” almost anywhere in the Western world, gay or not, will exhibit this phenomenon.
Yum Cha this morning was myself, The Empress, Clive, James, and eventually M, absolutely exhausted and needing the food. It was a good Yum Cha (The Emperor’s Garden service was friendly and excellent). After that M went home to sleep–he starts again tonight at 6 pm, and I went with James and The Empress to the Albury–yes, I was there this Sunday–where we surprised the bar staff by eating barbecued quail that Ian had purchased, and added a Chinese tonic to our beer (it said it could be used in beer) which caused the beer to look like some Jekyll-and-Hyde potion, but actually improved the taste!
This has become February in Sydney really, and I find it hard to believe that it is now twenty years since I saw my first Mardi Gras Parade, and a joyous, irreverent, cheeky, colourful spectacle it was and is, and at that time liberating for me. This year, however, befitting my grumpy old man status and my dislike of crowds, my participation will be minimal.
However, the usual people are worried and saying their pieces. Today, for example, “THE Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, has called on the Anglican Church to declare homosexual practices a sin, defending the church’s ‘obsession’ with human sexuality. He joined fellow evangelicals in criticising English laws recognising civil partnerships as unbiblical.” He does not go so far as to advocate persecution and punishment on this earth at least.
On the other hand, you may care to visit Uniting Network, members of the Uniting Church in Australia daring to embrace diversity.