1950: The Lampshade Shop
A flagon of wine and a secret knock admitted you into the presence of bevies of flamboyant young men: ‘flairy queens … all fluffing and screaming, and … all in drag’. Gatherings of as many as fifteen were reported!
1952: One for us
The first homosexual rights organisation to be established outside Europe was the Mattachine Society, founded in California in 1948. For a long time, it was an organisation of very few members, and adopted a very low profile. And then, in 1952, this began to change.
... society had been captured by the forces of debauchery and depravity, represented above all by male homosexuals. The press, the police force and the politicians agreed – Something Had To Be Done.
The three were charged with nineteen counts of sexual offences, including conspiracy, a charge last used in relation to homosexuality against Oscar Wilde.
1955: The Sydney Morning Herald
The Sydney Morning Herald was to make itself notorious in the 1970s for its implacable hostility to the newly emerging gay and lesbian movement. Oddly, though, it was in this newspaper that the first editorial regarding homosexuality appeared that presented in any way a sympathetic slant.
1956: Tea and Sympathy
In 1956, the racier sections of the Australian press were preoccupied with the decision of theatre companies in Melbourne and Sydney to stage productions of Tea and Sympathy.
In 1957, a watershed in the history of homosexual law reform was crossed when the British government’s inquiry into homosexuality and prostitution published its report.
1958: Our Wolfenden
Our very own Wolfenden-style inquiry, conducted by a NSW government committee set up in 1958.
1959: AIDS arrives
Although AIDS was first identified in the United States in the early 1980s, what is believed to be the earliest case of a human being being infected by the disease has been identified as occurring in 1959.
1960: Straws in the wind
There are the Big Years in gay and lesbian history – 1948, 1957, 1969, 1978 – and then there are years where it seems that nothing much happened at all. These are actually the more interesting. And 1960 is one of them.
In a number of ways, Victim was a trailblazer. It was unambiguous in is depiction of a homosexual. No coy, coded references here.
1963: Another Country
In 1963, the Australian government, protector of the morals of the nation, banned the import of James Baldwin’s novel, Another Country. This is hardly surprising.
1964: The homosexual villain
‘It is the purpose of this article to try and give the ‘normal’ person some idea of the ways and habits of those individuals who do not conform to the regular moral code of this society’
In the Bulletin in May 1965, Gordon Hawkins referred to NSW Police Commissioner Colin Delaney’s claim that homosexuality was ‘Australia’s greatest menace’ – and immediately set about demolishing it. He railed against the ‘prudery, obscurantism and ignorance’ which marked attitudes to homosexuality.
1966: Heart Balm
In 1966, seemingly out of the blue, camp people started to speak for themselves. And where was this new openness to be found? Surprisingly enough, in the letters page and in the Heart Balm advice column of the Truth, Melbourne’s favourite scandal sheet.
And then, finally, in 1967 the moment that we had been waiting for, in many cases working towards, for ten years.
1968: May days
In May 1968 France was in upheaval. Student protests had spread to the working class and a great general strike was paralysing the nation. President De Gaulle fled to Germany to negotiate with the army. Revolution seemed to be in the air.
1969: Riot on!
Late on the night of July 27 a few police entered the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, a seedy, unlicensed bar, known to be a favourite among homosexuals and drag queens of the most disreputable type.
1970: Birth of our power
John and Christabel broke with all traditions by openly discussing their homosexuality ... the first time any such thing had ever happened in this country. If their thoughts and comments seem somewhat conventional, even conservative, to us today, they were powerful stuff at the time – and the effect was electric.
1971: Oppression and liberation
Without question, the definitive text of the gay liberation period was (and is) Dennis Altman’s Homosexual: Oppression and Liberation, published in New York in 1971.
1972: Dr Duncan
When George Duncan’s body was pulled from Adelaide’s Torrens River in May 1972, the Australian gay movement had its first national campaign.
1973: Not mad after all
In 1973, Australia’s psychiatrists discovered that homosexuals were not psychologically disordered – and said so in public.
1974: Penny Short
In 1974 ... Penny Short, a trainee teacher at Macquarie University, published a lesbian poem in the student paper. Explicit, in the style of the time, in both sexual and political terms – and proudly signed, of course – it came, inevitably, to the attention of the Authorities.
In September 1975, a newspaper appeared on the shelves of Australian newsagents – Campaign: Australia’s gay newspaper. It was to prove the most enduring such publication in our history.
1976: All That False Instruction
Maureen’s early lesbian encounters are adolescently romantic and timid – but they get better. And for its time it was daringly explicit. Which is where the problems arose.
In 1977, the backlash against the gay rights movement, so long feared and expected by activists, began in the United States.
1978: Our Stonewall
On the night of July 24, something different happened. A festive march – dubbed a Mardi Gras – with music, costumes, dancing in the streets, began in Kings Cross (the traditional heart of gay Sydney) and made its way to Oxford Street (the coming place to be).
1979: The last days of disco
The mushrooming discos were almost entirely queer – crowded with gay men and lesbians, expressing and celebrating their new found pride and freedom on the dance floors.
1980: Send in the clones
This clone was human, gay and male. And what set him apart from the rest of the gay world was his Look: short hair and moustaches, jeans and flannel shirts and work boots.
1981: From before to after
The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report appeared on the same day of the week every week; and had for as long as anyone cared to remember.
1982: Mardi Gras takes off
As it became clear in the early 1980s that Mardi Gras was becoming an annual event, the thoughts of organisers turned increasingly to what to do with it.