Organisers of the Gay Games closing ceremony were not aware that Alice Hoglan would be helping to present the Tom Waddell awards until the morning of the ceremony itself.

A cabin attendant with United Airlines, Hoglan was in Sydney on a 53-hour lay-over.

I never told them I was coming, she says, before explaining that with only four hours of sleep in the last 30, she was still feeling a little bit woozy.

Hoglan’s reception at the ceremony -“ a standing ovation -“ moved her deeply.

I was stunned, she says. It’s an awesome experience for me to be able to gaze out over all those loving faces and absorb the energy and spirit of the crowd.

Since the death of her son Mark Bingham on 11 September 2001, Hoglan has been called upon to speak many times, and says she feels honoured and privileged to be embraced by the gay community.

I’ve had a chance to speak to a number of different groups and do some travelling. It’s been a very broadening experience, she says. I wish I had Mark’s experience in PR, he felt very confident in front of a group. I’m a little bit more introverted. But I owe it to Mark’s memory to be able to put one sentence after another in front of a group.

Since Mark’s death, Hoglan has travelled widely and spoken broadly -“ on the need for increased security in the aviation industry, on the terrorist threat, and also frequently on gay issues.

I’m very proud that the gay community has embraced Mark, she says. Mark was proud to be a gay man, and he was the first to come to the fore to defend a cause or speak out or fight against oppression. He was a champion of the underdog but at the same time he knew how to party and have a good time and get in there and bust heads and compete. He fits right in here with the GLBT community.

This last sentence she says with a big smile. When talking about her son, Hoglan is at times moved to laughter, and at other times appears half a beat away from tears. She acknowledges her strange life and says it calls for a great deal of strength.

Joy and sorrow come mingled down, as the hymn goes, and yes, it is a very strange life I’m leading now in the aftermath of my son’s death, she says. In many ways I died with my son, and sometimes I wish that I were in the ground with him, and other times I want to live so that I can speak out and fight another day, because he’s not here to do that.

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