I believe love is written in the stars. Or The Star.
Except in The Twilight Zone, how else could you explain that on the front page of the local gay newspaper I picked up passing through Sydney that sizzling January day in 1981, that the hot young girl on the cover would one day be my wife? Her name was Frances Rand and she went on to publish the hugely successful magazine she cheekily called Lesbians on the Loose.
A reality check for those celebrating marriage equality—who never knew The Dark Ages—Frances’s father slapped her across the face when he saw that newspaper. But she was the strong one. He was the bully. She lived happily ever after, he died homeless and unloved.
I was not to meet and fall in love with Frances for another 11 years, after I had become, in 1993, the first Lesbian editor of that very same newspaper, by then known as the influential Sydney Star Observer.
Inside that 1981 edition, the editorial was looking forward to summer Mardi Gras on February 21. The paper called on the community to heal its idealogical differences. We are different, the paper said, yet we have one common goal – “acceptance and the freedom to choose our own lifestyle and sexual partners.”
But the brighter the light, the darker the shadow. AIDS was creeping into Sydney.
Believing visibility was the best way to achieve acceptance, Frances published Lesbians on the Loose. The masthead was later changed to LOTL and exists today even in the crowded digital world. Before the Net, it was every dyke’s bible.
In celebration of the upcoming 40th anniversary Mardi Gras, here are two of the double acts outfits we wore in the 90s.
We never dreamed we would be able to marry those we loved yet here we are, married, after 25 years together, and giving that vow about ‘sickness and health’ the rounds of the kitchen.
So Happy Mardi Gras to you all. Let’s not just remember the very memorable ’78ers, but also those who came before, those who came after, those who just came, and those who died along the way as HIV/AIDS left all those “shadows on our dance floor”.
I was told I’d be in a box by 45. (Never did what I was told). So we sold LOTL and went somewhere better for my lungs. Actually it was better for our souls, too. We had done our time as urban activists and next we would transform into girls from the bush, become vegetarian, volunteer for the Fire Brigade, Meals on Wheels and Wildlife Rescue. Frances would work as a local reporter, I would review books. We would bury three cats and get a new kitten. We love our place by the sea at Currarong on the South Coast of New South Wales and feel blessed in every way, bar one: The clock is ticking. The hot breath of death is on the back of my neck and I need just one more miracle. Like in ’81.
Tomorrow, February 27, I hope to turn 61. It was touch and go and I’m in palliative care but like Clive James still hanging in there and seeing our Japanese Maple bloom another year. I love my wife. I love my life.
At 35 kilos, or five and a half stone, I know, without photos, what my ancestors looked like during the 1845-52 Potato Famine in Ireland. I know how their tail bones hurt them to sit, and their hip bones hurt them to lie down on their sides. I understand how exhaustion from starvation would lead you to dig your own grave and hop in and just wait, as they did. I know why they ate grass or spiked milk with blood from a living horse or cow. I know why they got on the boats and sailed away forever to strange lands, a long thin green thread criss-crossing the globe. Seeking sanctuary. Looking up at different constellations knowing you’d never see your parents or brothers or sisters again. We said a lot of goodbyes, us Irish.
My ancestors were stripped by the English of education, culture, language, beauty and land. And let it be admitted by one of their daughters five generations later, that hurt people, hurt people. In our rage, desperation and ignorance we killed and took what wasn’t ours to take. We defiled sanctuary. We did to others what was done to us. Not personally, but those of our blood did these things.
Do the arithmetic of racism: There were 750,000 Aboriginals in Australia when Europeans arrived. Down to 75,000 when the killing was done.
I live in a time of plenty and I cannot get fat. There is air everywhere but I cannot breathe.
Homophobia causes smoking. Hatred is a health hazard. Prejudice kills.
Racism causes suicide and sadness.
What’s wrong with us,? Why are we sacrificing the many for the few?
On the 9th of January 2018—undreamt of—the yoke of oppression was finally lifted from me and Frances with our marriage.
It released in us a new and rare energy, even others have remarked upon. Other lesbians who are married have felt it too. End oppression and the world would be soaked in this revivifying energy. The last crust of patriarchy would turn to dust and, lest white men think it works for them, there is one fact to smash that delusion: suicide is the biggest killer of men 50 and under.
The energy of Liberation would heal our First People, our multicultural population and our Muslims, who are hardly less hated now than the Irish Catholics were when old white Australia banned the Mass. Then Poacher turns Gamekeeper.
It takes a lifetime of watching politicians to see they are the ones their Christian Jesus would have taken a whip to, and his priests who so defiled the temples. Any religion which excludes women is a stag club.
I left the tribe a long time ago. And it hurt. For a while. I left the place of my birth and took my deep wounds to Australia, first to Adelaide, and began a healing that first required protest and activism.
I’m 61 and these mellower days more inclined to the four virtues of the Tao: reverence for all life, including animals plants and people; gentleness, simplicity and service. So the great churn of life will go on.
One hopes to be kinder and wiser when the bell tolls.
A note: I am stoked the National Library of Australia has deemed my blog worthy of inclusion in its digital archive, Pandora. To that end, I shall keep writing.
Cheers Queers and anyone who stops by here.