Tag Archives: history

Gay History: What Are My “Gay History” Blog Posts All About?

As many of my blog followers would have noticed, I put a slightly perverse twist on the word “history”.

I love history, and always have. I excelled at it at school, right from the first day of what was then “Social Studies” at high school, which then morphed into history. As soon as the teacher started on about ancient Greece and Rome, I was hooked.

Ancient Greece & Rome – the beginnings of an addiction to History

In first form at High School, I was given the more complicated history projects, as Mrs Wilson, my asocial Studies teacher, knew I’d do the research, and put it all together in a professional way. I always scored high marks in history exams, and entered my School Certificate exam at Ordinary level for history, coming out with an Advanced pass. I had the ability that, even if I couldn’t recollect exact dates of events, I could fill in the gaps with a whole raft of other facts and figures surrounding the event. It’s a shame I can’t say the same for Math, Geography & Science – all subjects I had no love for.

This love of history has been with me all my life, and shows no signs of slowing. One of the great things I have applauded in recent years has been a strong movement towards telling the truth about history. Like many others, I grew up with a sugar-coated view of history. It was almost like we had to be protected from the very events that have placed us where we are right now! Yes, wars happened, but it was about the actual battles and the total outcome that was taught, not the actual human cost, the great blunders that cost lives…and I point directly at Gallipoli here as an example…the cities and towns and villages that were obliterated, and the millions left homeless and wandering. It never spoke of the hardships of the battlefield, where survival was an unexpected turn for those caught up in the romantic notions of war sold to them to get them to enlist. We were never taught about the aftermath of war, the disabilities, the mental anguish whereby that supposed “return to normality” never happened. My own father, who was in New Guinea and Borneo during the war, never recovered from the savageries of war, and was very much a twisted man up to his eventual suicide in 1978.

The history I grew up with extolled the virtues of the wrong people, like the ever adored Winston Churchill, who is credited…controversially…with helping to win WWII. We were never told of his drinking, his depression, his arrogance, unpopularity within parliament, his many bad decisions that resulted in the deaths of untold hundreds of thousands of people…decision making from afar, with no concern for the losses. Likewise, the Holocaust was totally ignored, the long years of events that led to Hitlers rise to power, nor the staggering death legacy of people like Stalin, and Mao Tse Tung. These were names that were just dropped into, and pulled out of, history as if their existence had no consequence. With the release of records, and film footage over the last few decades, we now have a clearer picture of the events that shaped the world around us.

But having said that, history is not just about the major events that happen around us, both in the past, and now. If we take the word ‘history’ literally, what has just happened is, in the blink of an eye, history! It is not just about what has happened in the past, but is happening right now around us, globally. The good…and the bad! Nor is it about great people, those with prestige and power. It’s about the tiny events by almost unknown people that has a long-term affect on the world. It’s about inventions, taking chances and risks, writing notes and letters, or just being a bit out-there and wacky. History isn’t just about all the serious shit – it has, quite often, an amusing and eccentric side to it.

And this is what I look for!

How many of you would read my blog posts if they were about the known, and mundane! As a gay man, I have lived through some major milestones of gay history, everything from the activism of the 70s and 80s, to the ghettoisation of the lgbt communities, to the devastation of HIV/AIDS, and the advent of Gay Pride.

However, like the world view of history, I don’t want to bore my followers by banging on about events they are already aware of. We all know about Stonewall, Gay Pride, Larry Kramer and the beginnings and politics of HIV. We know about Harvey Milk et al. Amongst all the night club dancing, the drugs, the sex, there was…and is… a plethora of other events happening. In many respects we have a bit of a blinkered view of our history on the gay scene (déjà vu?), seeing it mainly as events that happened from the mid-70s onwards. As you would have seen from the scope of my posts, the affects of both out-there and closeted gay people has been around for centuries. It is the weird, wacky, eccentric, brilliant, sad, funny, serious, fun, and downright fascinating shit that makes gay lives the earth-shattering influence they can be. That is what I want YOU to know about. If I can make you gasp, roll your eyes, or laugh then my aim has been a success.

I know there are politically correct individuals out there in Gayland who probably take offence to my calling the category “gay” history…and I don’t care, quite frankly. Their bleating falls on deaf ears. I identify as a GAY man, and as such use that term to define everything I do. However, that does not make me narrow-minded in the scope of what I post. I do not change terminologies to suit my own agenda. If an article is on queer, or trans, or homo, or bisexual…or any other terminologies within our community…culture, that is how it will be posted. I might be a narky old 80s queen, but I can assure you my world view is wide, and inclusive. The very multi-directional way our community has evolved is part of its…history.

Finally, I have to say I have loved putting these posts out there. It has indeed been an education for me as well. Who knew there was this much weirdness out there! And as gay people there is one thing I do know…the weirdness will never end as long as our community, and the individuals within it, are out there.

Bring on the Gay History!

Tim Alderman 2019

The blog owner Tim Alderman, with one of his two adored Jack Russells. They inspire me every day.

Walking In Time

Like most people, I take the city I live in for granted. Having always lived in and around Sydney, I don’t really give much thought to what makes it the city it is, what endears me so much to it, what creates this strange love affair with bricks, concrete, glass and steel.

I have always had a pretty good knowledge of the history of Sydney, and have walked much of its historic paths, and many lesser known alleys over the years. I travelled, at least for a while, over the Harbour Bridge on an almost daily basis. I have walked the pathways of the bridge many times, and have traversed it also in trains, and as a vague recollection, in trams. The bridge pylon has long been a favourite haunt as a place to escape the madding crowd – at least on weekdays – and as a place to meditate the beauty of my city, and be constantly in awe of the majesty of its harbour. The recently started climb up the actual span has added another dimension to it again, and a view of the harbour and city that is so beautiful it makes you weep. In my many journeys across it over the years, how often I wondered why I could not climb that arch! That dream is now available to all.

It is only as I have grown older that I have really started to get into the feeling of walking through time as I move about the city. Many others before me have walked streets that I walk, they are named after those who used them as far back as the first settlement. Suburbs are named the same way, as are homes, parks, bays, beaches, hills and mountains. Tongue-twisting Aboriginal names confuse many a tourist, and the buggerisation of their language is evident in many spellings of place names around the city. They have become not just names, but a patchwork of living history. I now go to Balmain knowing that at one time, the whole suburb was sold for five shillings. I know that Millers Point is just not a name, but an activity that occurred there, and that Brickfield Hill is named for the same reason. The Rocks is so because of rocks, Rushcutters Bay because they cut rushes there, Cockle Bay was renowned for its cockles and Double Bay because it is – yes – two bays.

The very trees and gardens in the Eastern suburbs hold history. Rocks bare graffiti from 1788. Archeology is all around, at places such as the dig at Suzannah Place in The Rocks, and more recently at Walsh Bay, and when the Conservatorium of Music was being restored (the old Government House stables). We no longer cringe at the suggestion of being from convict stock. There are many like me, whose families came out as free settlers in the mid-eighteen hundreds, who would beg, borrow or steal to have a convict history. It is only now that books are revealing the true facts of our past, the real people who were on the first fleet, the true conditions they endured to become the first white inhabitants of this land. This is a truth we no longer shrink from, but accept as part of our cultural colour. It is a shame we cannot be as proud of our treatment of indigenous cultures.

Up until I read John Birminghams ‘Leviathan’, I had always thought that John Macarthur died back in England. I had no concept of the hard time he had given his wife, nor that he died being declared insane. I had no knowledge of the back biting and factioning that went on between Governors, settlers and the Rum Corp, nor of the workings of the Unemployed Workers Movement of more recent history. I would not have known that free-settlers built homes in the highest areas of The Rocks, and that those living below them were engulfed by the sewerage running down the hills. Digging trenches around the lower homes did little to alleviate the problem – the sewerage just overflowed the trenches, and proceeded to boil and fester in the heat.
That I would never have been taught any of this at school does not surprise me. Growing up in the fifties and sixties in Sydney was a lot different to growing up here in the nineties and beyond. ‘Going to Town’ is no longer the event it used to be, where parents and children were dressed in their Sunday best, as though making a pilgrimage to the centre of their culture. My parents could not have imagined the squalor of the late nineteenth century, nor the depressions earlier in that time. Their parents lived on the legacy left to them from the depression of the twentieth century, and expected their children to carry the
same values forward. My apologies to them but they are wrong. I will not carry that guilt for them!

I love my city for having survived the warring factions, the depressions, the plagues, the demolitions, and the cultural and architectural history destroyed by a string of uncaring governments. I love her crowded streets, her bastard mix of architecture, and crooked, crazy alleys and lanes. Yes, she has grown as an old whore, but oh, a whore with so much class.

I was unbelievably impressed by the Olympic site at Homebush, and how much it was a measure of how far we have come. We have taken a toxic dumping ground and rejuvenated it into a suburban paradise. Twenty years ago, nobody would have given a damn about the Green and Gold Frog becoming extinct, let alone contemplating creating a space for it to thrive in. We now think about the spaces we are creating. No more just throwing up buildings as though there was no tomorrow – well, perhaps east Circular Quay is an exception to that rule. I see history being restored, and put to modern use. I trust we have got over the facadism of the eighties, and now choose to preserve buildings in their entirety, breathing into them a new life which they richly deserve.

Now when I walk up Palmer Street or Campbell Street in Darlinghurst, or drive down Old South Head ŷRoad, the names invoke a sense of history to me. They are not just boulevards, they are lives that have been lived, and continue to live as long as people care.

Tim Alderman
Copyright ©2014

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