When I was eight, I remember trying to write songs. I didn’t know what notes were, but I was bashing away on our old keyboard, inventing my own codes so I could play the same songs again later. Music just felt so natural.
Growing up in the suburbs of Adelaide, unless you played AFL, you were a fag. And I didn’t play football, even though I wanted to.
My dad wasn’t a sports kind of person, so there was never kicking the ball sessions in our garden. And at school, I was too embarrassed to ask how to learn to play.
But when I saw my brother in the school band, I marched up to the conductor and asked what instrument I could play. He handed me a clarinet, so I had lessons and five weeks later was in the band. I happened to have a natural aptitude for it.
I later went to the Conservatorium of Music in Adelaide, and the head of the music department took me under his wing.
Half-way through my first year, he gave me my own orchestra and said, Off you go then. It was a full symphony orchestra with a jazz ensemble and a rock band attached to it. I was in my element.
After Adelaide, I went to the Western Australian Performing Arts Academy in Perth to study conducting and musical theatre. What I love about conducting is creating the sound.
There is such a wonderful feeling standing in front of an ensemble and being overwhelmed by the sound they are creating.
I then returned to Adelaide, pondering what I would do next, as well as working as an instructor at the local gym. One day I went to see a psychic, and that changed everything.
The psychic said I was going to leave Adelaide and that if I went to Melbourne, nothing would happen. But if I went to Sydney, everything would change. And so I headed to Sydney.
I remember driving up the Princes Highway and passing through Newtown, knowing I had done the right thing.
I was working as a music teacher at the time, and with my partner we were very much the married couple and not going out on the scene. Once we broke up, I got involved in the scene and the community in a huge way.
I became an Ankali volunteer, as well as the assistant conductor of the Gay and Lesbian Choir, and I also became a dancer at the Albury, the Shift and Caesars.
I danced with Veda Las Vegas and Claire de Lune, and my new boyfriend and I formed our own troupe called Pure Seduction. I think most of Sydney saw my butt in those days as I danced around in G-strings and hotpants.
At the end of 2001, everything changed overnight. I woke up one morning and could not hear out of my right ear. I went to the doctor, who said there was nothing wrong with it.
A few weeks later, the right side of face became paralysed. I was sent to a specialist who told me I had a brain tumour and my music career was over. As he was talking, I was already asking myself, Well, what can I do now?
The tumour was small and I was told I had about 40 years before I needed to worry about it, which was some kind of relief, but I had to do something about my face. Through acupuncture and reiki, I got the feeling back and my face eventually returned to normal.
Without my hearing, I couldn’t work in music, so I had to find something to do. A friend got me involved in the Pink And Blue website and, while I knew nothing about computers, I loved it.
When it collapsed a few months later, I decided to teach myself how to build websites and do my own site.
Queerplanet.com.au went live in August 2002, and we started off by taking photos around Oxford Street. The reaction was good, so I knew we were onto something.
In December, we were asked to be the official Australian fan website for the TV series Queer As Folk, and that kicked us into the big time.
Queerplanet.com.au continued to grow, and I soon set up portals for the UK, USA and Canada. We have 60,000 visitors a week and about two million hits per month.
Last month when the Cybersocket Web Awards named Queerplanet the Surfer’s Choice Best Travel Site, that’s when I felt we had been successful.
At a check-up at the beginning of last year, I discovered my tumour was now four times its original size. I was told I would not see Christmas unless I did something about it, but was warned about the dangers of surgery, so we decided on radiotherapy.
I had a week of radiotherapy and then the nausea and fatigue set in and my hair fell out. It takes six months for the radiotherapy to work, so I am hopeful the next check-up will be good news.
I have also just begun a sound engineering course and am determined to get my hearing back and get back to music.
Queerplanet saved my life. I had nothing else, and if I didn’t create it I would have lain down and let myself die.
The website takes work to keep it going, and I have a really amazing bunch of people who count on me now for the site, which is a good motivator. It came along just at the right time.
Interview by John Burfitt