When I was a kid, we used to go on family holidays to a place where there was a trail bike park where you could hire bikes. You could always find me down there.
My Mum put up with a lot because all the other parents used to point at her because I was doing this.
Growing up I knew I was a lesbian from the day dot. When I was seven I didn’t like my vegetables cooked. Mum told me that if I didn’t eat my vegetables cooked, no nice boy would take me out.
I thought, Forget about it. I didn’t want a nice boy to take me out. I had worked it out in my seven-year-old head.
Being a curious sort, when I was 12 or 13 I went down to the local library and went to the adults’ section. I looked up l and h for lesbian and homosexuality. It was all psychological case studies about whether they got cured or not. And I thought, I don’t want to be cured. I want to be contagious.
At school I couldn’t settle down, I didn’t want to learn. I was sent out of the class too many times got called into the principal’s office one day in Year 11.
I loved the way he described me and I think it’s very apt and it’s been myself ever since. He said: Janet Parkins, you are a rolling disturbance. Leave today or get kicked out tomorrow.
I think my sexuality was pretty obvious. When I did come out to my parents when I was 19 they were ready for it. I had come down to visit from Brisbane, where I was living at the time. I had dinner with them and within five minutes they said, We’ve got a question to ask you.
I said, Okay, but what’s behind your back? Mum had something behind her back. She said, No, I want to ask you a question. Are you a practising homosexual? And I thought, Do I have to practice? I’m good at it already.
But then I said yes and bang, the Bible came out.
It was abomination unto the Lord, Sodom and Gomorrah and all of this. They weren’t very chilled about it.
But through the years they got better. Mum met my friends and said, There’s so goddamn many of you, and she changed.
After Brisbane I lived in Adelaide for two years in the early 1980s. I played in the first-ever lesbian soccer team registered in the competition. It was called the Adelaide Armpits because we wanted to be an out team.
Some teams loved us, some teams hated us. We weren’t popular with the RAAF team. All the boys used to come down and shout, Kill the lesbians! There were no vilification laws back then.
When I came back to Sydney I arrived before the soccer season and put up a sign in lesbian venues saying, Do you want to wear shorts during winter? We set up a team in 1984. We were all young, vibrant women but we came up with the name The Crones.
Eventually somebody came along with a better name -“ The Flying Bats. That lesbian soccer team is a cousin of the former Crones.
I have been in Sydney since then. I’ve got my lesbian family here and I am so happy.
I first joined Dykes on Bikes 15 years ago. I had seen them drinking in Leichhardt a couple of times and an ex-lover of mine joined up. I went and joined and got more and more involved with the nicest bunch of people I’ve ever met.
People have this perception of Dykes on Bikes being big, tough tattooed leather girls.
There are a few tattoos and the leather is for the bike or just a fashion statement. But there’s no toughness or attitude. They’re the biggest bunch of marshmallows.
And it’s not just about one night, leading the Mardi Gras parade. For a lot of us it’s about being a member for the whole year and just the friendships that develop. I have ridden in Mardi Gras 15 times and I have been Dykes on Bikes president off and on for 10 years.
We also have a Bike and Tattoo Show during the Mardi Gras festival. It’s a great day for any gay, lesbian, transgender people and families -“ it’s open to everyone. The girls turn up with their bikes and there’s judging of the bikes. We do tricycle races -“ big dykes on bikes trying to race on little kiddies bikes.
There’s also entertainment and a tattoo competition that’s always a crowd favourite.
I am due to get back on a motorbike again this month after an accident last October. A truck overtook me and then sent the bike rolling.
I spent eight days in hospital and three weeks in community nursing. I had two big gouges out of my knee down to the bone, which I had to have plastic surgery on.
I’m very much looking forward to riding again, with a degree of trepidation -“ it’s like having to get back on the horse.
What draws me to motorbikes is the power of them and the style and the wind in your face. Somehow you just know if you’re a biker.
The Dykes on Bikes Bike and Tattoo Show is on this Sunday 12 February at the Hampshire Hotel, 91 Parramatta Rd, Camperdown, from 1:30pm to 10pm. Entry by gold coin donation.
Interview by Ian Gould