Stories of resilience, solidarity and survival were shared in Katoomba on May 17 to mark IDAHOT Day, the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.
Historian Dr Shirleene Robinson recounted the personal story of a lesbian who worked in the Australian army well before gays were officially welcomed into the military in 1992.
“Julie gained the rank of corporal in the Women’s Royal Australian Army Corps. She was posted to Singapore in 1967, working on a British base, where she discovered there were many other lesbians. Her sexuality was exposed the following year when military personnel found her in bed with another woman,” she said.
“Julie was forced out of the army within a week. She appeared before a British officer and forced to write a letter admitting she was a lesbian. Given her high security clearance her superiors believed Julie’s lesbianism made her open to blackmail.
“However, Julie makes the obvious point that she would not have been vulnerable to blackmail if homosexuality were not illegal. For two years Julie lived with the stigma that other LGBTIQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer] people faced in those days: being labelled psychiatrically ‘not quite right’. Not only that, but her loyalty to her country and profession were questioned. In Julie’s case, resilience resurfaced after a few years; she started studying and then working in a new profession,” Dr Robinson said.
Community activist Paul Van Reyk revisited the 1978 Mardi Gras, noting that coverage of the 40th anniversary neglected the history of the previous eight years of community-building, mobilisation and activism that made possible the response by revellers on June 28, 1978.
“What happened over those years, and what has continued to happen since, through the horror years of the aids epidemic right up to last year’s successful activism on marriage equality, is a textbook case of resilience, solidarity and survival. It was great that, in the Blue Mountains, your community and your council supported marriage equality.”
Blue Mountains councillor Romola Hollywood affirmed the council’s continuing support of IDAHOT.
“Our council, like a number of other councils in NSW, recognises the need to stand up against homophobia, transphobia and biphobia. It is vital all people who make up our wonderful Blue Mountains community feel safe, valued and included. Understanding and respecting diversity is part of the continuing story of social justice, fairness and equity,” Cr Hollywood said.
Blue Mountains’ 78-ers, Myra Hutton, Brian Coates, Genie Melone and Jan Forrester raised the Rainbow Flag to close IDAHOT 2018.