Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Apology.

I was meant to come back from India when I did. I’d tried to change my ticket for two weeks later but Singapore Air couldn’t find me a seat and so I was resigned to returning to the same old same old Sydney when I didn’t really want to. But it was fortuitous as I then got to experience one of the greatest moments of my life, and I’ve had many.

A Gay lobby had convinced our New South Wales parliament, after 38 years of pleading, cajoling and head-banging, to issue an apology to the gays, lesbians, trannies and queers, for bashing and arresting us in 1978 when we had our first big liberation march. About 300 of us marched up Oxford Street demanding, “Stop the police attacks on gays, women and blacks!” and “Come out of the bars and onto the streets!” and we were joined by another few hundred fellow travelers rushing out of the pubs, half of them heterosexual friends and supporters.

After stomping up the Golden Mile, at Taylor Square, outside the convict era police station and jail-house, (where they used to hang poor sods), we were met by a phalanx of police brutes who did a flying wedge into us, bashing, kicking, hair-pulling, arresting and dragging many off into the pig-pen where they continued to flog the hapless protesters.

I was in the middle of the crowd trying to video the melee but got knocked to the ground, my camera kicked out of my hands. I scrabbled about on hands and knees trying to grab the camera which had become a football and was falling to bits, I was shoved and trampled, then received an almighty kick in the head. I staggered up in a daze with the broken camera, the roar of the crowd fading, the riot dissipating, breaking up, splintering, some of them storming the doors of the cop-shop, me feeling a sense of confused dislocation. “What the fuck had happened?”

I wandered off home thinking it was all over, not realizing the march had then continued up Darlinghurst Road to Kings Cross where another riot ensued, the police had attacked again and made further arrests, for they really hate fags and dykes. Instead I was back in my squat, collapsed on my manky couch, blowing a joint and trying to calm down, my ears ringing, my head aching.

We finally got our decriminalization in 1984, the Catholic Church being the most zealous in the attempt to stop it happening. Police harassment continued of course. In my own frame-up by the pigs in 1993 they snarled at me, “You’re a liar, a thief and a poofter and we hate all three!”

I’ve gone on ad nausea about the trammels of being gay in the 20th Century so I won’t bore you with a reiteration of the horrors. Here we are in 2016 and things have improved for gays, at least in our part of the world, hopefully the young do not feel the degree of alienation and cruelty we experienced back then. Thus I marched into the State Parliament House on February 25, biting my tongue somewhat as it was the abode of “the people’s democratic fuck-over”, to enter the sacred inner sanctum and sit in the public gallery at long last to hear an apology for the State’s mistreatment of me and my kind.

I thought just one pollie would make a speech and then it would be over, we could rush the free feed and guzzle the free booze. But every damned one of Ali Baba and his forty thieves, (i.e. the Premier and cabal), wanted to grab some limelight, as if an election was due and they were on a soap-box. We got heartfelt apologies a hundred-fold, it smacked of “the lady doth protest too much”, especially from the conservative ruling Liberal Party members, each of whom left the chamber quickly after delivering their crocodile tears till their side of the room was empty. Only the leftist Labor Party and the Greens stayed throughout the interminable speeches, showing some respect, compassion and good manners.

The Labor, Greens and Independents on One Side, the Right-wingers Disappeared on the Other.

What surprised me was the intensity of the empathy shown, especially by Labor and the Greens; that they understood the torture we oldies had gone through: unemployment, homelessness, family estrangement, insults, bashing, murder, a loveless life. I nearly cried as I remembered the long road of pain that had brought me here and finally I found that some in the Heterosexual world “GOT IT”; for many of us old gays it had been a terrible life that they wouldn’t wish on a dog and they certainly hoped it was not something their own children would have to go through.

In the middle of proceedings I, as usual, had to have a bitch-fight with one of my “community”. The fuckwit sitting directly behind me started texting right in the middle of a particularly affecting story from a young M.P. telling us of the brutality of the boys towards anything poofy when he was at school. The beep beep beeping went on relentlessly, this fag didn’t give a shit that he was disturbing the rest of us, it could be heard right throughout the chamber, everyone was turning their heads wondering where the annoying noise was coming from. Beep beep beep ba beep beep beep!

As it was right in my ear, I could stand it no longer and had to turn to this skin-head prick who looked like he lived under a sun-lamp, and said, “Can you stop doing that?” My voice rang loud and clear for all in the chamber to hear, and his shrieked reply was just as loud. “No, I can’t! I’ve got to do it!” I wanted to suggest he put his key-pad on silent but figured I’d said enough. The beeps continued but gradually died away, he knew he was an inconsiderate arsehole. All us gays are not cut from the same cloth, we do not come off a conveyor belt in some factory at the back of the gay ghetto, and I don’t get on well with 50% of them.

The motion for the State’s apology was tabled by a conservative gay Lib from the beach-side suburb of Coogee, he was the coolest of the bunch and he made a rousing speech of what it was like to grow up gay, and in 2016 there were now 2 gay MPs and thus THE HOUSE was getting more gay as time wore on. Oh happy days are here again!  

We in the gallery cheered, catcalled, even groaned but mostly we were pleased that we’d gotten some consideration. The Libs probably only came to the table because the GLBTQ Mardi Gras parade brings in millions of tourist dollars to the State and THEY love money beyond all else.

The Police Dept, of course, have refused to apologize, they can get away with murder, they even get medals for it; (2 weeks later they got their arms twisted and they did apologize; the beauty of the whole event for me was that these reactionaries had to do something they must have ground their teeth over.)

 The different religious faiths have also been called upon to apologize, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Protestants, for all the torture, maligning and obstacles they’ve thrown in the path of gay freedom, especially the brainwash they still instill in children. But the medieval mindset of religion will be the last bastion of repression and bigotry to fall, even a nuclear war wouldn’t make them cave in, in fact they’ll probably start it.

For the first time in 37 years, after having participated every way possible in the Gay Mardi Gras parade, (I even had my own float once), I will be in the contingent of ‘78ers leading the whole shebang and it will be a blast, the crowd screaming, my smile bursting, a fountain erupting from my head in sheer liberating ecstasy. I’m not so proud to be gay, it seems a silly emotion to me, I am what I am, but I will be a happy gay, not so miserable, at least for a night.

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.