Tag Archives: Mardi-gras

Life in Kellett Way, Kings Cross, 1985.

A 1985 fluff piece by Adam Carr for “Outrage” magazine. Adam was visiting Sydney to report on Mardi Gras, and was a friend of my boyfriend at that time, Damian Guy. We were living in Kellett Way in The Cross at the time, behind a strip club. He came to visit us for dinner, and the next thing we knew…we were an article! Again, a lot of editorial license is used, and it is quite a funny piece. For the record, there was NO pink in the flat – it is one of my hate colours – and NO mantelpiece of tiny ornaments lol. For the sake of identification, Damian became “Shane” and I became “Tony”. We had no idea he was writing it, and the look on my face when reading it in Outrage, and the dawning on who it was about, must have been priceless.
  

   
Tim Alderman (C)2015

 

Disappointments

As I watched the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade wend its way up Oxford St, I paused for a second of reflection as I saw the group for PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) marching up the street under the PFLAG banner. I admit to a tinge of envy as I pondered how proud both the parents and the children must feel at being able to express them selves so easily, and be so comfortable with each other’s sexuality.

This is not a privilege I have ever known with my own parents. Growing up as I did through the fifties and sixties, my parent’s generation was not given to liberal attitudes, and the prospect of having a gay son in the family would have meant automatic exclusion from the family unit, a prospect not many of us would have favoured. During the 70s, I had amongst my friends several gay men. Though not being out myself at this time, I enjoyed their company, finding them a constant source of amusement with their camp witticisms, and enjoying many social occasions at their homes. On the one occasion when one of them came visiting at home with a group of friends, my father told me, in no uncertain terms, that he was not to cross our doorstep again. This was only one of many rifts between my father and myself over the years. Thankfully, I was old enough to stick up both for myself and my friend, though making sure I did not ‘out’ myself.

My mother had left home when I was eleven years old, and shortly after my brother was killed. My mother accepted guilt for this happening right up to the present. She used the classic “well, maybe if I’d never have left…”, which is pretty inconsequential at this stage of the game. My mother was also part of the homophobe generation, though she seemed to have had little compunction about buying me dolls as I grew up, on the proviso that I never told my father.

My father killed himself in 1978, and I moved to Campbelltown with my stepfamily for a short period of time whilst the legalities of his death were sorted out. I accidently ‘outed’ myself to my flatmates when, on packing a bag for me to take down to my father’s funeral, they encountered some gay porn hidden in the drawers at home. So the cat was out of the bag in respect to that subject – at least with them. They weren’t particularly shocked, but told me I should tell my mother, who I had reconnected with only a short time earlier. The reconciliation with my mother had been shaky at best, and with her having remarried a man who reminded me very much of my father, I wasn’t really prepared to tackle the issue of being gay.

The opportunity came in 1980 when I went to live in Melbourne for a couple of years. I kept contact with my mother, and my old flat mates. While living there, I came out with a bang, and made short work of catching up on the life I had been denying myself, for all of my mature life.. There is nothing quite like the freedom you get from being far away from everyone you know. The flat mates kept telling me to be honest with mum. I kept putting it off. When mum found out I was gay, it wasn’t me who told her. My flat mates accidentally outed me.

When I moved back to Sydney, I never really set up an intimate relationship with my mother. I think all the years apart had played a role in distancing me from her. Anyway, she had established a life of her own with Ray, and produced a daughter. If we weren’t distant enough already, eighteen years between my half-sister and myself certainly didn’t help shorten the gap. I never really felt comfortable at their home in Toongabbie, and over the years my visits got less and less, until they were finally reduced to nothing more than phone calls. I did attempt a single reconciliation, and had my doubts about its success fulfilled . Over a very nice lunch in the city, a situation where I thought the two of us could discuss the issue of gay like mature adults, I gave up after having to sit through the old “it’s my fault you are like this…” line. I realised then that we were beyond reconciliation. But the saddest aspect of it for me wasn’t her inability to accept me as a gay person, but the fact that she would never really know me, the person I was, or the person I was to become. I wasn’t even really sad, just angry that she just would not accept things as they were.

In 1996, I became very ill, and ended up in Prince Henry Hospital, with a prognosis of about two weeks to live. However, new drug regimes and a lot of Capricorn stubbornness and determination turned the tables in my favour. I was released from hospital, and a whole new era of my life began.

My mother knew nothing of any of this. She knew nothing about my brush with death, nor the numerous operations I had over the next couple of years to try to save the sight in my eyes. She knew nothing of the thousands of injections I had been given, the litres of blood taken, or the 150 odd tablets I took every week to stay alive. Nor did I want her to know. Her reaction to me was that it did not exist. She lived in a vacuum- packed little suburban world, and things such as ‘gay’ could never break through the seal of that vacuum. Perhaps the saddest part of this was that she never got to be involved in my new life. She knew little of my community work, nor of my battle to return to work, of the success I was making of my writing, and my continuing attempts to reeducate myself so I could move in new directions. I felt particularly disappointed when I was given my UTS offer, and knew I could not share it with her.

The crunch came at the end of 1997. She had been having a number of tests, and had been diagnosed with bladder cancer. I thought it was terrible, but was still recovering from my own battles with ill health. She was admitted to hospital to have her bladder removed, and it came as quite a shock to me to find out she was there, as my step father never notified me. I rang him at Toongabbie to enquire about her health. He shocked me by demanded that I go out to Westmead and visit her. It was Christmas Eve, and I refused. I slammed the phone down. I knew he would go to the hospital and create a scene, whether I went to visit or not. As far as he was concerned, I should have been the loving, doting son. I wasn’t, and couldn’t be. I rang mum in the hospital, wished her a ‘Merry Christmas’, and that was the last time we ever spoke. She has never rung me, I have never rung her. I feel sad that it had to come to this, but I don’t have any regrets.

I envy those people walking up the street because they know how to love and accept what is. It may have been a battle, they may still not understand what it is all about, but they support their children in the most dynamic way, by walking up that street and declaring their support in public.

It was perhaps an odd anachronism that my partners’ family was more accepting of our relationship than my parents could even have considered. I have been accepted into their household, and I’m treated every bit as part of the family, though we are no longer together.

But I still wish that my parents had just taken the time to try to understand, not to be necessarily all over me about it, but at least accepting of me as being their child no matter what my sexuality. They have never allowed me the privilege of feeling like I ‘belonged’ to them in any sense of the word.

I know only too well that when my mother dies (if she hasn’t already), there will be no one to call me and let me know. To me, that is perhaps the greatest sadness of all.

Tim Alderman
(C) 2010

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Going Out In Style

There is an A4-sized photo amongst my collection, notable only because there are very few photos I have blown up to that size. The photo is almost surreal. In it, two people stand on the porch of a Classical building. A sign in the background gives the location away – the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The person in the foreground is dressed as something out of a fantasy novel, quilled headdress sweeping several feet into the air, the rest of the outfit equally futuristic, or perhaps something from the past, a couture of leather and giant jewels. In his hand is a whip with a silver skull adorning its handle. The figure in the background could be a God, or a sprite about to cause mischief, a glittering figure with gold face and shining blue hair. The photographer has caught the two figures just as a breeze has blown, and has caught the movement of an arm and hand behind the fantasy figure, and the sweep of the voluminous robe being worn by the God/sprite. The movement, captured on film, gives the impression of bodies just arriving from somewhere? Nowhere? Anywhere? The photo is suffused with a golden light. The subject matter is illusive. It is Mardi Gras 1988, and the figures are waiting expectantly, nervously, for the parade to start.

What can’t be seen in the photograph is a gold lurex bag with a drawstring, clutched in the hidden hand of the God/sprite. They descend the stairs and join the line heading towards College Street. As the parade starts to snake its way down College Street, then into Oxford Street, colourful floats, flashing lights and booming music, surround them. Drag queens cross their paths, as do other costumed visages. Religious fanatics, huddled almost in fear on the sidewalk, hold placards promising Christ’s mercy and forgiveness. These two fantasy figures start to walk alone. The forgiveness of Christ means nothing to them.

As they arrive at Oxford Street, the roar of the crowd increases. The figure in flowing gold glances across at his leather-clad partner, and a brief nod of heads indicates to the God/sprite that he is to reach into the bag. As they round the corner into Oxford Street, the God/sprite pulls his hand out of the bag, and flings something into the air. The clamour from the crowd is deafening. A soft cloud of glitter and dust floats down towards the ground, some floating off amongst the crowd, some a soft coating landing on the feet of the fantasy one. A close-up shot of the pair would have shown tears streaming down their cheeks.

The God/sprites hand returns to the bag.

Don had died on the 2nd February 1988. It had taxed our faith in human nature when his flatmate stole all the furnishings out of the apartment before most of us had even been notified of his passing, but had amazed us with his almost surreal, funeral. Unlike just about every other funeral at that time, Don had not died from AIDS. Instead, we all had to watch his slow, painful demise from stomach cancer, caught too late to be cured, and a secret that Don kept until it was no longer possible to hide it.

Some expressed the view that it was nice to know that people died of things other than HIV, and though most of us would not have voiced it, we agreed! We knew of no family. Darby and I had no money, and relied on the generosity of friends on the evening after his death to get the several thousand dollars together to cremate him. He had been well loved, and we had to call an end to their generosity. We had far more cash than we needed. The funeral home managed to come up with two sisters, who had not had contact with their brother for many years.

They did not even know he was gay, let alone ill. They attended the funeral, but left us to our own devices. ‘You obviously knew him better than we did,’ one sister confided to me as we sat outside the MCC church at Paddington. ‘I had no idea he would ever have so many friends.’

At the Northern Suburbs crematorium, Darby is the MC. I have made up the tape for the service, and tell him where the numbers start. He miscalculates, and Shirley Bassey singing “Don’t Cry Out Loud” fills the chapel. There is a shriek from the front of the chapel, and the sister who had been speaking to me earlier is on her feet and heading towards the coffin, yelling ‘This is one of my favourite tracks too!’. It is only later that Darby tells me that it was not the track he intended to put on. We exchange a look!

I left the Mardi Gras party about 9 am the next morning. As I walked down Oxford Street, the street cleaners were working there way up the parade route.
“My God, poor Don’s ended up in a street sweeper”, I thought to myself as they trundled past me. Well, he had always claimed that he trashed himself! Perhaps it had all been more appropriate than we ever realised. I smiled to myself as I continued down the street, and the sweepers headed up Flinders Street, towards the show ground.

Tim Alderman
Copyright 2003

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