Survivors and Thrivers: Male homosexual lives in postwar Australia

A$38.50 (AQuA members A$33)

By David Gould

Drawn from interviews with 27 men aged between 74 and 95, this book is a timely recording of the lives of male homosexuals in Australia during the postwar years from 1946 to the early 1960s. It traces homosexual struggle through life histories that navigated legal and medical responses informed by homophobia and prejudice. It reveals how men tried to make sense of their same-sex attraction in an era when meanings of homosexuality were narrowed to mental illness and criminality. The collective personal stories also explore how homosexual men responded to heterosexually defined expectations of family and marriage. They also uncover how men found homosexual sex at a time when it was proscribed by law, condemned by society, and luridly sensationalised by the media. What emerges are stories of revelatory resilience and sometimes, joy. They teach us that to understand ourselves and our communities, we need to step back and account for lives that forged our contemporary freedoms.

This history of homosexual life in Australia in the 1940s and 1950s relies on memories that are, with the passage of time, increasingly unavailable. Here we see a world that is rapidly slipping away. What Dr Gould discovered is that, while many men managed to survive the difficulties and challenges, others actually thrived and built lives for themselves, full of friendship, love and pleasure. Their stories are too little told.

Anyone interested in queer and Australian history will find this a compelling and illuminating read. More than that, the book has precious lessons for queer people in other countries, their allies and families. It shows the urgency and justice of reform on the international stage. Truth and human rationality can be great agents of change in our world.

The Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG, Justice of the High Court of Australia 1996-2009; Australian Human Rights Medal, 1991

As against those histories that emphasise only the doom, gloom and oppression faced by homosexuals who grew up in Australia in the years BC Before Camp), we see here that, despite the very real difficulties, many men did manage to live, love and lead fulfilling lives. This book is a testament to them.

Robert B French, community historian


  1. What have we overlooked?
  2. Defining ‘homosexual’: Legal, medical, and psychiatric interventions
  3. Constructing ‘homosexual’: Integration of self
  4. Navigating ‘homosexual’: Family and Marriage
  5. Embracing ‘homosexual’: Finding the men
  6. So now we know

About the author

David Gould has worked as a teacher and counsellor in schools and universities in Australia, France, and Japan. He was later employed in the business world, as manager of a two-year business leadership program. David is a co-founder of Bare Elements Entertainment company. He also founded and is Secretary of Carlton Pride, the official LBGTI+ supporter group of the (AFL) Carlton Football Club. He lives in Melbourne with his Japanese partner of 30 years.

Published by Interventions, 2023. 206 pages. ISBN 978-0-6452535-2-8.

A$38.50 (AQuA members A$33), plus A$12 within Australia. Price includes GST.

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