Community Group of the Year … Six LGBT+ Guiding Lights … Launch of Out In The City Art Exhibition


Community Group of the Year Award

Out In The City joined over 400 passionate and dedicated Forever Manchester supporters at the historic Kimpton Clocktower Hotel to celebrate Forever Manchester’s Birthday Party. It was a time to celebrate a year of local people doing extraordinary things and making Greater Manchester’s communities become even greater.

The evening involved a drinks reception, three course dinner, entertainment and awards. Entertainment was provided by The Circus House, Bolton Mandhata Youth and the Manchester Proud Chorus.

The Community Group of the Year Award is given in recognition of a community group that has made a meaningful and significant impact, strengthening communities, making a difference, and putting smiles on people’s faces.

The shortlist was:

Ashton Community Chess Club

Buile Hill Mansion Association

Community Buds

On Top of the World

Out In The City

Trafford Handball.

… and the winner was Out In The City.

Congratulations to all the shortlisted groups. More photos can be seen here.

‘The joy is waking up and liking who you are’: six LGBT+ guiding lights on the long road to now

As World Pride descends on Sydney in one of the planet’s biggest celebrations of LGBT+ lives, images of youthful revellers will dominate television, print and online coverage and postings on social media.

So the arrival at Sydney Town Hall of the city’s first Coming Back Out Salon – already a fixture of the Melbourne social calendar – is something of a corrective. Welcoming all ages, the salon honours older LGBT+ people, recognising them as guiding lights.

‘There’s a youth obsession’: Tristan Meecham, cofounder of All The Queens Men, and Russ Gluyas, coordinator of the LOVE Project.

“As much as we talk about inclusivity, it is an ageist community,” says Tristan Meecham, the cofounder of All The Queens Men, which produces the salon. “The experiences of older LGBT+ people – being imprisoned, hospitalised, going through an epidemic – the younger communities haven’t quite acknowledged or understood the amount of trauma still in elders’ bones.”

Ageism can compound earlier discrimination and stigma, says Russ Gluyas, coordinator of the LOVE Project (Living Older Visibly and Engaged). “There’s a youth obsession and it’s becoming more annoying, perhaps not recognising the experiences and lived history and the enormous amount of stories and love,” Gluyas says.

Six LOVE Project ambassadors talk about life, wisdom, issues still faced and hopes ahead.

‘We were told … there was no way out’ – David Polson, 68

David Polson

I grew up in Christchurch, New Zealand in the 1960s, which was a really homophobic city. I went to a macho high school and was regularly beaten up. I realised from an early age I was gay.

Just after I turned 18, I was offered a scholarship at Sydney’s Ensemble theatre. When the plane took off for Australia, I felt this enormous burden lift off my shoulders. The theatre world was wonderful because I could be who I was.

The moment I was diagnosed with HIV, in 1984, I felt like I was falling down this black, bottomless pit of guilt, shame and terror. But somewhere down there this little voice said, “No, you’re not going to die; Aids will not kill you.”

We were told we had a terminal illness and there was no way out. There was enormous ignorance fuelling hatred, fear and discrimination. [But] I’ve never seen such an outpouring of love and unity from the LGBT+ community as I did during that period. I regard my gay friends as my family.

I went through 28 HIV drug trials over 20 years with the late immunologist Prof David Cooper, all horrendous. I use the term chemotherapy, so everyone understands what it was like. I had probably the best medical attention, but there are still older HIV-positive people isolated in rural areas that are not getting the help they need.

When David died in 2018, I was chatting to his widow, Dorrie, who said, “Polly, David never got to see his vision of an Aids museum in Sydney.” I said, “Dorrie, this is going to happen; you’ve given me a project.” [Former high court judge] Michael Kirby thought it was a great idea, but he said, “You also need to include the oppressed and persecuted queer people over the decades.”

We formed a committee and Qtopia, Sydney’s queer museum, is finally launching on 16 February. As chair, I’ve found this absolute thirst for knowledge from young people, wanting to get involved with their elders.

‘I really love my body’ – Apple Jack (AJ) Brown, 55

AJ Brown: ‘I’m not frightened of navigating forward.’

Growing up in Derbyshire in the United Kingdom, I never really understood what gender was. My role modelling was probably on my father but wasn’t gender-specific. When I hit puberty, the devastation I [felt at realising I] was going to be a [specific] gender was confronting. I thought of myself as androgynous.

When I came to Australia, I went into sex work, a whole rainbow melding of gender and sexuality. The “girls” [my breasts] earned me a lot of money – I was a double E-cup – and I used to work in lingerie. I decided when I stopped bleeding and was about to go into menopause that I would take testosterone.

I had top surgery [chest reconstruction], which doesn’t make you who you are; it’s a reflection of what your optic sees in the mirror or what you feel. Somebody once asked me, “Do you feel less like a man because you don’t have a penis?” I thought, “No, I really love my body.” I’ve always loved the sexual element; that feeling of what I can vibrate.

Trans masculine people have often gone under the radar. Yesterday, somebody gave me a hug because I’d lost my dog and said, “Big, built farmers like you, it’s all right to cry, mate.” I thought, “I don’t know who you’re talking to.”

I have a voice and I’m not frightened of navigating forward, but the biggest fear is going into hospital, being put into a retirement home [and being misunderstood]. In the community, you’ve had to build up a tool kit of resilience and to have that just taken away is almost like having your body taken away from your mind.

‘We bring encouragement to the younger ones to not be afraid’ – Eliese Embrey, 73

Eliese Embrey

I grew up in the UK and always knew I was different, a female in a male body. When I was seven, my parents gave me a birthday party and boys and girls in our street came. I remember looking around the table and thinking I didn’t belong with either group. From that moment, I became a solitary child.

At 13 or 14, I remember seeing a transgender model on television and realised it was possible to change your gender, but I kept that secret inside me. One day I read about the £10 passage to Australia and thought this was a chance to get away from provincial England, so at 19 I emigrated.

In my early 20s, I secretly started to live as a gay guy. I was put on to Camp, the Campaign Against Moral Persecution [the subject of a new play during Sydney World Pride]. I dressed flamboyantly, but it wasn’t sexually right for me. I really just wanted closeness, but I wasn’t emotionally strong enough at first to deal with the social ramifications of changing my gender.

I went back to the UK to transition at the Charing Cross hospital in London. My parents were very supportive, but after my mother died, the rest of the family confronted me and said if I transitioned, I wasn’t welcome. It was a simple choice: suicide or transition. So I left my family behind and I’ve been a trans woman now for more than 30 years.

For 40 years, I was afraid. It was like being locked in a room with no windows and no doors. After transitioning, there are windows and doors and you can walk out a free person. Life is wonderful. We bring encouragement to the younger ones to not be afraid. We live in a different time. There’s support now to live your authentic self.

My [lesbian] partner, Jacqy, and I have known each other for three years and recently at Parramatta Pride we were in charge of a Pride history stall. Jacqy turned to me and said, “What about you and I?”, I said, “We can be anything you want us to be.”

So we declared our love for each other then and there.

‘I did not know another person who was gay’ – Ros Hope, 74

Ros Hope: ‘I’m non-binary: my brain is half male and half female.’

Ros Hope: ‘I’m non-binary: my brain is half male and half female.’

I grew up a little out of Bankstown, in Panania. I’d skateboard around the back shops with the boys. I’m non-binary: my brain is half male and half female. If anyone asks, I say I’m “bi-brainery”.

I had a girlfriend from 17 to 19. I wanted to move out with her, but Mum said, “If you ever leave home, you can never come back.” I married and eventually, in 1996, when I was 48, I left my husband for a woman and our two teenage kids came with me. I’ve only been with women since.

I was a late bloomer becoming a gay person. I had huge anxiety until my 50s, probably because of not knowing what my sexuality was. My mother was 80 when I came out to her as gay. It was all about her: “What will people think about me?” She only softened later when she was in a nursing home and she accepted my sexuality in the end.

My partner and I did not know another person who was gay. It was isolating and it took a long time to come out properly. After my dad died, in 2004, I decided I was going to go out into the LGBTQI community. I joined a lesbian open house discussion group on a Tuesday night.

I left that [female] partner when I was 58. My current partner of six years identifies as lesbian; at least, I think she does. She knows what I am.

‘We never stop becoming who we are’ – Jessica-Su Tang, 70

Jessica-Su Tang

My early years, up to eight, were predominantly in Darlinghurst and then in 1960 we moved to Earlwood. I’ve got five sisters and I grew up around the three youngest sisters. I was always fascinated with the feminine, particularly their clothes, the textures.

I gravitated to becoming Jessica and 2009 was the year I determined to live as a female full-time. There’s more congruency I feel as Jessica than as my former persona. I chose Jessica because my other name had a J and I got used to signing the J.

I call myself trans feminine, as opposed to trans woman, because the debate is, what is a woman? But there’s no problem with being trans feminine. There’s a spectrum from masculinity to femininity and everyone falls somewhere along that.

I didn’t transition until I was 57 and I’m happy to have [waited] because I know that women are disempowered in so many ways, particularly around image and safety. I’ve never had really any negative feedback [about transitioning]. The real struggle is within yourself, actually getting rid of what didn’t serve you.

I’ve investigated various surgical options and I’m happy to say I’ve saved a lot of money. The joy is waking up and liking who you are. It’s never ending; we never stop becoming who we are. If the mind-body-soul connection is congruent, then there’s no conflict.

‘They were going to throw me in the river’ – Trevor Pritchard, 71

Trevor Pritchard: ‘I felt I was trailblazing.’

I grew up in inner-western Sydney. When I was 12, my father died. My older brother had cerebral palsy.

I came out as gay in 1970, when I was 18. On a Sunday afternoon in 1972 I was with a mixed crowd at the Scarborough Hotel, 60km south of Sydney, and got a lift back with three guys. They turned out to be absolute homophobes.

They took me to the Royal national park and tied me up with bricks and said they were going to throw me in the river. All of this went on for four hours. I said, “Look, if you murder me, you’ll murder my widowed mother and my brother, who is disabled”. Saying that saved my life.

In those days, you wouldn’t report an attack to the police, who had a homophobic attitude. I eventually put a submission into the NSW parliamentary inquiry into LGBTQ+ hate crimes. I developed post-traumatic stress disorder, a debilitating fear of heights.

Oxford Street became our haven. We’d spend a lot of time in bars. It was our community, but when HIV hit, the party was over. I was fortunate enough to be HIV-negative, but a lot of guys who have HIV have issues about how much money they’ve got to live on.

In 1988, when I climbed into management at a cigarette factory, I decided to do this as a manager who was gay: not flaunt it but not deny it. I felt I was trailblazing.

At 50, I left work on a redundancy after a company merger. I did a lot of travelling and some writing. Eventually I thought, “I’m getting too isolated,” and I joined Mature Age Gays. For the past five years I have been visiting older gay men in aged care centres. My present client, who has dementia, loved the performing arts [so] I’m reading a biography on dancer Rudolf Nureyev.

Oh … er, missus … note the date: 22 February, 5.30pm!

Launch of Out In The City Exhibition

On Wednesday, 22 February from 5.30pm to 8.00pm we will be launching the Out In The City Creative Writing Art Exhibition as part of LGBT History Month.

The venue is LGBT Foundation, Fairbairn House (2nd Floor), 72 Sackville Street, Manchester M1 3NJ.

Come and see artworks by members of Out In The City produced with Manchester Street Poem.

3 thoughts on “Community Group of the Year … Six LGBT+ Guiding Lights … Launch of Out In The City Art Exhibition

  1. Reading these articles, I lived the same. Being born and bred in Salford I was known as kinky and the frights I had all because I was different.

    It took many years to admit I am gay, even trying marriage but my wife knew after one night of sexual acts I loved her but couldn’t sleep with her.

    When I left the Army that’s when I came out in 1972. This my first time I told my story.

    Even today some don’t believe I am gay, even that I am different, the older male in one of the biggest families. It’s good to be different and gay never mind what others say. Enjoy what you can. I have for 73 years.

    Thanks for letting me share my life with you.

    Liked by 1 person

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