In 1986 I came to Sydney.
A month or so later I was in a taxi one night on my way to god knows where, and during this trip my driver passed a street that looked like paradise. It was filled with young gay men my age. Oxford Street was alive with guys going from bar to bar to club.
I asked what this street was. The driver made a snide remark about the poofs and I asked no more. I was new here and still didn’t know my way around Sydney. Would I ever find this street again?
In 1998 I volunteered for the OutFM test broadcasts.
Something big was happening that year. It was twenty years since the birth of Mardi Gras. But it wasn’t a celebration of a friendly parade down the street. It was the remembrance of a large group of baby boomers who protested against police violence on ‘gays, women and blacks’.
Our radio station was run by what was then known as Generation X (advertisers have since changed the parameters and I don’t agree with those changes). We were in the midst of some of Mardi Gras’ golden years. The festival ran for a month and attracted international artists. The parade wasn’t as big as now, but every float was a masterpiece. And all of Sydney’s inner city community, straight and queer, joined together for the party of the year!
So how could Mardi Gras be born out of terror?
We were so naive. We interviewed the 78’ers who were ambushed by cops, bashed senseless, but didn’t retreat. They had had enough. They stayed outside the police station bailing out who they could. And they didn’t go home. The next day the press named a number of the disobedient protesters, causing humiliation and job losses.
The 78ers inside Parliament
But without them, we wouldn’t be us.
And now in 2016 there’s an apology to these brave comrades. It’s been nearly forty years, but it had to come. And I thank you for making my life better and brighter than yours was.
But society always finds new demons. Someone else to be scared of. Some new group to apologise to down the track.
Watch the apology here.