Saturday, December 07, 2013


Last week I was at my local library going through the video collection, I’d gotten there early and was the only one at the shelf. A gronky guy came up beside me and, ignoring etiquette, instead of perusing the DVDs I’d already gone over, jumped into the middle and flipped his way towards me, causing us to crash together in his haste not to miss out on anything that took his fancy. I didn’t realize till later that he must’ve targeted me from a distance, thinking here was an old man easy to push over.

It was either me or him, who was going to give way? With terse voice I asked him, “Can I get by?” He hissed, “Say please!” I grunted, “I’m not gonna say please to you!” He moved around me and snapped, “Faggot!” I went into shock and, instead of a witty come-back, growled, “You fat creep!” He launched into a stream of hideous invective, sending me further into speechless shock, this sad-sack was taking it all out on me. “You loser, you pathetic little man, you sorry old creature!” I could only reply, “I’ve a good mind to ring the cops and get you arrested for defamation!”

When I looked him over I saw he was actually gazing into a dark mirror with his insults. About 45 years old, saggy guts, daggy clothes, clutching a plastic shopping bag like some poor bag-lady, with a hound-dog face, unshaven, dead-eyes, just plain ugly with no edge of cool at all, he looked like a bum who’d lost his bureaucratic job six months ago, wife left him a year before that, mortgage screaming and few friends bothering as he’d never even been adventurous enough to shake his booty at a rock gig, in other words a real loser. I should’ve responded, “Listen creepo, I’ve had a long life, I’ve contributed and achieved much and had untold fun, I’m now retired and very happy.” Except that was too much information, instead I screamed, “You motherfucker!”

Other people in the library reading books spoke up, “Take it outside!” I was getting ready to slam him in the mouth and he saw it and a look of fear filled his hound-dog mug. “Aha!” I thought, “A wimp as well as a bigoted bastard. One of those dickheads that jeer from the sidelines but have never had a smack in the face in their entire lives.” A couple of librarians ran over to quell the riot, I told them what the boor had said to me and he countered, “He was aggressive with the DVDs!” I wanted to smash his dead-fish face in but he was protected by the sanctity of the library, I could only run from the premises shouting over my shoulder, “All my life I’ve copped cruelty from arseholes like him and I’m not gonna take it quietly anymore!”

Yet again I was reminded of a nebulous hatred towards gays that exists out there amongst the general populace, quietly smoldering like a plugged-up volcano and, given some untoward opportunity, breaks forth with irrational fervor to scape-goat us hapless homosexuals with curses, torture, incarceration and death if the political climate allows for it. This has happened many times to me in my long travail up life’s rocky road, a thoughtless word and suddenly the howling mob of “good citizens” sets upon me to tear me to pieces if I don’t make a hasty get-away. And it’s been here in Australia that this has happened, afflicted for my sexuality, in the so-called lucky country, land of the fair-go, egalitarianism and fond friendship, much of it bullshit if you don’t conform, keep your mouth shut and slave away in the chain gang. (At the risk of being tedious I have to reiterate, many of the tales of the Punk Poofy Cat deal with this prejudice, I not only want to recount a personal folk-history but educate and plead for tolerance and inclusiveness, not so much for my deviant, renegade self but for all those helpless, voiceless others.)

Reading Robert Hughes “The Fatal Shore” I’m informed about the particularly homosexual history of the founding of Australia via the penal colony. “Buggery is to prisons as money is to middle-class society.” He quotes texts from the times such as Bishop Ullathorne’s survey, “Australia is a polity of fallen souls, a community without feelings, whose men are very wicked, whose women are very shameless…”

And from Thomas Cook’s “The Exile’s Lamentations”, ... "overseers on road gangs were homosexuals… to bribe their way out of floggings convicts would have to ‘come out’ as homosexual, (i.e. give sexual favors)… the strong breaking the weak down into a punk, a molly, a gobbling queen… sexual contact in prison metabolized into relationships of power, the System nurtured sodomy in Australia as nowhere else… rape was one of the automatic punishments for the unwitting convict… innocent youth and respectable gentlemen were thrown amongst the vilest ruffians to be tormented by their bestialities… next to homosexual rape, flogging was the most humiliating invasion of the body that could befall a prisoner…”

On a more positive note, convicts in penal stations formed strong relationships with their fellow inmates somewhat akin to marriage, receiving mutual support, comfort and affection in an otherwise cruel, deprived, inhuman existence. Out in the bush, amongst the cow-herds and road gangs, where there were no women at all, homosexual relationships developed and became the basis for the famous phenomena of Australian “mateship”. But it was in the prisons that the most infamous homosexual activity, intimidation and rape occurred.

Robert Hughes concludes, “News and rumors of such (homosexual) doings leaked out (of the penal stations)… and contributed to the atmosphere of nameless evil, of unutterable degradation, that surrounded the idea of convictry in the ears of (the colony’s) respectable citizens. This inevitably fostered more repressive attitudes towards all homosexuals in Australia. This sexual preference was doubly damned: first because it was a crime under law, second because it was mainly committed by those who were convicts already. There could have been no better breeding ground for the ferocious bigotry with which Australians of all classes, long after the abandonment of the (convict) System, perceived the homosexual. And this in turn seemed like an act of cleansing – for homosexuality was one of the mute, stark, subliminal elements in the “convict stain” whose removal… so preoccupied Australian nationalists.”

There is intense denial about this homosexual history amongst the Australian populace, bordering on collective hysteria, like a repressed memory purposefully forgotten, it still wells up and issues forth in a barely disguised hatred towards gays, such as my ongoing experiences attest. The fact that Australia will be the last country in the “western developed world” to legalize gay marriage equality proves the fact of this bigoted conservatism. Denial of many hard truths of contemporary life is a national Australian characteristic: the mounting national debt is put away for another day to deal with; workers from the collapse of manufacturing industries are supposed to be accommodated in the service industries, much of which, in truth, are sent offshore; many jobs miraculously still existing are being filled by third world labor brought in on 457 visas by greedy bosses; the true unemployment rate is swept under the carpet by hiding vast numbers of the hopeless poor on the disability pension, (the unemployment rate would quadruple if the not so disabled were kicked onto the dole queues, investment would falter and interest rates would skyrocket.) 

Last week a Belgian tourist was horribly raped in a back alley of Kings Cross after only three days in the country, and yesterday a sick pervert was finally caught after five years on the rampage kidnapping and raping many, many little girls. It seems the true number and frequency of rape cases is unreported by the press or police for fear of causing societal collapse; not only are untold women nastily assaulted, men also, but most horrifically, children; people intuit the rampant priapic deliriums anyway and live uptight, guarded lives, scape-goating minorities such as gays to blame for all and sundry, (apparently "ICE" junkies are uncontrollably horny and go on mindless sexual rampages, thus they can take-over being scape-goats and give us poofs a break); the underworld of illicit drug smuggling is both undermining and ruling society, high and low; the environment is degraded past salvation; business fraud is rife, no workers or pensioners’ savings safe;  the number of suicides annually is unreported, possibly thousands giving up hope, the true facts, if known, horrifying into despair a complacent polity. And underlying the famous Australian mate-ship is an undercurrent of homo-eroticism, for all the blokes would swear it wasn't so. Repeat, Aussies are in denial of many things!

Oh yeah, and one of the biggest myths that Aussies still swallow and are in denial of: that we’re an egalitarian democracy. Sorry, we’re cringe-worthy in our class consciousness, with no meaningful freedom of speech or pursuit of happiness, ruled by an oligarchy of mining magnates, robber barons and gambling house kings, the emperor of all being a media mogul running the world from America. I didn’t come from an influential, rich family or go to a private school. To promote gay liberation, I confessed in my early writings and artworks that I was an oppressed homosexual who got fucked in toilets and dark parks by uncaring overseers. Thus I was never going to get far in an arts career, or any other for that matter, as all worthy positions in Auz society are reserved for the connected and the conformed. Homos are still hated, for all the Sydney Gay Mardi Gras queens marching up the Golden Mile in sequins and feathers. Don’t forget, on our original march back in 1978 we got the shit kicked out of us by the cops and, at the back of the crowd, the pigs did the same thing in 2013.

When that sad-sack attacked me in the library I should’ve expressed my ‘Buddha nature’ and responded with, “Peace, brother.” That would’ve truly confounded him and negated his hatred; yelling “Motherfucker!” just played into his nasty game and gave him the upset he was looking for. But for all my old age and wizened experiences I’m still weak, stupid and full of anger, yet always working on trying to be a better person, hopefully one day I’ll get there. Anyway, I still want to make a plea for “the way of the warrior”, if the intention for an honorable outcome is there, like fighting the Nazis in World War 2.

For all those who died young and didn’t get a life, who didn’t get to tell their story, good or bad, happy or sad, who didn’t leave even a ripple on the pond of life, I fully revel in my perseverance, brains and talent, to tell my story, of growing up, suffering and exulting as an Australian homosexual in the late 20th and early 21st century. For what it's worth, not much, I don't give a shit, burn me at the stake as a faggot if you can.

P.S. I'm indebted to my good mate Paul Vassalos, (a dyed in the wool heterosexual but with a sharp eye on the Aussie psyche), for the title of this essay and for reminding me of Robert Hughes' text, "The Fatal Shore." Also for his encouragement for me to keep on writing, as I often despair as to its purpose, it's like crying in the wilderness, blind and lonely, though it is fun and it sure feels good to get it off my chest.

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.