A gay man synonymous with youth empowerment, lesbian theatre pioneers and a same-sex couple who took on discrimination and won. These are just some of the intriguing personalities on show in a new calendar celebrating gay life in Newcastle and the Hunter.

With Sydney getting most of the attention, members of Hunter gay and lesbian group Rainbow Visions wanted to show there was an equally vibrant community a couple of hours north.

Titled Rouse, the large-format 2007 calendar profiles people who are from Newcastle or live in the area now.

We felt that it was a novel thing to do. It would help to celebrate the diversity of the gay and lesbian community in Newcastle and the Hunter, Rainbow Visions co-convenor Kevin Markwell told Sydney Star Observer.

We see [the name] Rouse as being provocative and stimulating.

The calendar’s subjects include Newcastle-born Michael Wilson, who founded international gay youth website Mogenic, and Amy and Rocky Murphy-Higgins, pictured, a lesbian couple who set up regional Australia’s first women’s theatre partnership earlier this year.

Then there are Bill and Andrew Whitbread-Brown, also known as Mr and Mrs White Trash. The couple won a landmark 1990s case entitling gay couples to family medical cover.

Janet Dore, who’s the general manager of Newcastle City Council, came out publicly last year and so she and her partner are also featured, Kevin Markwell said.

There’s another couple of guys who live in southern Lake Macquarie and they’ve been together for 44 years, so again it demonstrates the longevity of gay and lesbian partnerships as part of the whole deal of the calendar.

Photographed by Newcastle local Lauren O’Brien, Rouse is a fundraiser for Rainbow Visions and is available for $20 plus $9 postage from www.rainbowvisions.org.au.

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