I picked up my first copy of the Star Observer from the old Fish Records on King St in Newtown when I was 17.
I’d speed read through it, searing in my mind every flash frame I could of ‘gay’ images, ‘gay’ headlines and every ‘gay’ word on every one of the newspaper’s ‘gay’ pages.
And minutes, sometimes seconds later, I’d put it straight back down and run away.
I’d run with a palpable sense of fear.
Fear of losing my family. Fear of losing myself. Fear of being found out. I lived a very sheltered life in western Sydney growing up in an Arabic speaking family.
Back then, in some parts of the Arab world homosexuality was still punishable by imprisonment or even death. In fact, it still is in 13 countries. Many of my parents’ generation came to Australia bringing those interpretations of homosexuality with them.
My own ignorance coupled with dread forced me to suppress my sexuality.
And my time with the Star Observer was my little secret with myself.
Sometimes my only solace was that trip to Newtown, which I made often, each time with the same anticipation of what I’d learn, and the same fear for what I could lose. I was so deeply locked inside a dark closet.
Many years later, I found the courage to come out to my family. And in many ways, it was the Star Observer that helped light my path.
That long standing ‘gay’ education from the pages of this very newspaper helped me to understand who I really was.
The stories, the scene pics, the sentiment of acceptance alongside support from cherished friends helped to show me that being ‘gay’ was not a sin. That coming out could save me. And it did. For that I am forever thankful. And now my family are my strongest allies. My greatest supporters.
But sadly, there are still so many others out there living that lie, hiding in fear.
So when I got a phone call just a few weeks before this 40th anniversary edition went to print asking if I’d come on board the Star Observer as its Editor-At-Large, I said a huge resounding yes! Shaping where the paper goes next gives me the opportunity to do for others what so many have done for me.
We’ve come a long way. But no matter how many wins we achieve in our fight for equality, this brief glimpse into my own story is a gentle reminder that there will always be a young person out there on a journey of self-discovery.
And it’s publications like the Star Observer, its writers, photographers, illustrators, all the amazing people that contribute to making it so special, that go a long way to guiding people through that, changing lives for the better, one page at a time.
In this issue you will hear voices of a community that helped me find my way, a community that I’m so proud to be a part of – our beautiful LGBTQI+ family in all its diversity. Now we must continue to carry one another forward.
And it’s these pages, 40 years strong that I hope will continue for decades to provide respite, reassurance and most importantly love for those who need it most.
Happy 40th birthday!
Patrick Abboud is an award winning broadcast journalist and has joined the Star Observer as its Editor at Large for its 40th anniversary issue