Essay by Luke Foster
“Never follow someone else’s path…unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost, and you see a path. By all means, you should follow that.”
I am not gay, and I also don’t dismiss the struggles of gay and lesbians and transgender people in Australia, but I think its perhaps more interesting to talk firsthand of people who identify themselves this way who I have met in Australia.
The opening quote is by one of my favourite comedians Ellen DeGeneres however she is American not Aussie. However, when she came to Australia, she attracted huge crowds for her outdoor onsite shows. I think she has had a huge impact internationally for the perception of gay people in the world with her generosity for the average American and humour.
“Early laws in Australia were based on then-current laws in Britain, which were inherited upon colonisation in 1788. Lesbianism was never illegal in Britain nor its colonies, including Australia. Sodomy laws, however, were part of Australian law, from 1788 through to 1994 under Human Rights (Sexual Conduct) Act 1994.” Google
I wasn’t going to write about the history of laws affecting gay and lesbians in Australia, but I thought this quote gives a good general background of the discrimination they have faced.
I went to art school called College of Fine Arts in Paddington and of an evening I would walk from there down Oxford Street through Darlinghurst and down though Hyde Park to Wynyard where I would get a bus to Avalon which was about a two hour commute every day each way.
Darlinghurst/Oxford Street is the centre of gay culture in Australia with gay bars on every corner and once a year hosts the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras that has colourful dancers parading up Oxford Street on floats. Perhaps Sydney and San Francisco are the gay capitals of the world. When it’s on in Sydney Mardi Gras attracts lots of people from all around the world.
I met some gay people at art school but my main encounter with gay and lesbians was when I worked at the Museum of Contemporary of Art between 2000-2002. It was only a casual job and only worked when a new exhibition was being taken down or set up. There were a few gay guys but quite a few lesbian women. We worked as a team, and I enjoyed working with them and all of them were more experienced than me and had worked there for a while, so I was always learning from them.
We got along well except when I came back from a few months trip to India, and I was screwy as can be and argued with everyone and it was only really my fault.
However, it was at an all-boys Catholic school in Sydney’s northern beaches that I saw first-hand the discrimination and suffering that my in the closet gay friends experienced as they were sort of obviously camp. They had a hard time at school. It’s a complex issue though as me and my friends also had a great time there and our favourite teachers took all of us under their wing.
The other issue I want to write about is the legalisation of gay marriage which has probably been the biggest breakthrough in not just Australia but around the globe in many countries. I have some lesbian friends who got married in Canada many years ago.
“Same-sex marriage has been legal in Australia since 9 December 2017. Legislation to allow it, the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017, passed the Australian Parliament on 7 December 2017 and received royal assent from Governor-General Peter Cosgrove the following day.” Google
The only first-hand experience of a transgender person I have had is when I worked with such an individual and we would have interesting conversations and joke around while working in an op shop.
In terms of culture my favourite Australian author is the late Patrick White who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1973. He was homosexual. His novels are amazing, and my favourites are the Vivisector and Voss.
“If I have not lost my mind, I can sometimes hear it preparing to defect.”
One of my favourite politicians in Australia was famously gay former Greens Party leader Bob Brown.
“In securing the future of the planet, we secure happiness for ourselves. One of the aims of the Greens is to turn around the tide of pessimism amongst the young people of the world.”
In conclusion there has been great progress in the rights and perceptions of gay and lesbian and transgender individuals in Australia and internationally, but much can still be done particularly for those who figure out they are gay, lesbian, or transgender when they are at school and suffer bullying and general discrimination.
Not as an after thought but a genuine error I made while writing this essay is about bisexuals as I have met some really nice bisexual artists both at art school and as well as an adult artist. They too have a genuine place in this essay and their rights and place in society is just as important too. In this essay I didn’t use anyone’s name as I am not sure if people feel comfortable with me writing about them not just for these issues but people in general in my essays.