Gay rights activist Dennis Altman made it onto the Queen’s Birthday honours list this year, with his name coming just below John Howard’s.

The former activist turned academic and prolific writer of a dozen books was made a Member of the Order of Australia to commemorate his work as an intellectual and advocate of humanitarian principles.

Though obviously pleased about receiving the award, Altman was ever sceptical about the Establishment and the decision not to mention anything about gay rights in the official citation of his achievements.

It’s clear that a number of people have worked to get me a nomination and in that sense this is clear recognition of the work that I’ve done, he told the Sydney Star Observer.

But I do think these kind of awards do tend to recognise the same sorts of people each year.

Altman, who was born in Hobart, started his career as a politics lecturer at Monash University in the 1960s and became a well-known activist who worked to achieve gay rights throughout his career.

Writing a number of books around the topic, his first published work in 1971 Homosexual: Oppression and Liberation was a riling call to action.

His following 11 books continued to look at the issues surrounding homosexuality and AIDS, an area in which he has had extensive experience, including a four-year stint as president of the AIDS Society of Asia and the Pacific.

Like most radicals from back in the day I am deeply suspicious and aware of the dangers that can be involved in rewarding people from the Establishment too much, Altman said of the award.

It was also interesting that the citation made no recognition of anything gay and it was very revealing that the gay press were not given any advance notice like the rest of the media.

Awards like this need to be constantly reviewed, but I am glad to have received it and am glad to see it when people who have fought for the humanitarian issues are rewarded.

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