T is for:
Teens We live in a world without Mardi Gras, Michael Wilson, founder of gay and lesbian youth website Mogenic.com, told Sydney Star Observer when asked about young people’s attitudes to the iconic festival last year.
Wilson’s statement was unequivocal but not quite accurate, as the strong youth presence at this year’s Sleaze party showed. But his matter-of-fact comment did prove something: as tolerance improves, many gay and lesbian teenagers are prepared to challenge the narrow definition of the queer community and where they belong in it.
Unfortunately not all gay young people’s experiences are as positive as Wilson’s, and same-sex attracted teens still hit the headlines for the wrong reasons. A national survey of people aged 14 to 21 last year found nearly half had been abused because of their sexuality.
In the US, gay and lesbian children of conservative religious families have been enrolled in ex-gay courses to cure them of homosexuality, and ex-gay advocates are reportedly targeting Australia too.
But they may be frustrated, if last year’s national survey is any guide. Despite being more likely to suffer abuse, more than three-quarters of the young gay and lesbian respondents said they felt good or great about their sexuality.
Tim Conigrave The Sydney-based actor and playwright, who also worked at ACON, wrote a moving account of his life in the book Holding The Man, which detailed his experiences of coming out, negotiating gay relationships, dealing with homophobia and living with HIV.
The book went on to become what is arguably Australia’s favourite gay-themed book and reading it has become almost a gay rite of passage.
In Holding The Man Tim wrote about how, growing up in Melbourne during the 1970s, he struggled to come to terms with his sexuality when, to everyone’s surprise, the boy he had a crush on at school, John -“ who happened to be captain of the football team -“ became his boyfriend and remained his boyfriend for 15 years.
During the 1980s Tim studied acting at NIDA and he and John moved to Sydney, where their lives were turned upside down when they discovered they were both HIV-positive. Over the next few years Tim and John tried to make the most of the time they had left together.
Sadly Tim died in October 1994, just after completing Holding The Man. It went on to win the 1995 Human Rights Award For Non-Fiction and has just been turned into a play, set to debut at the Stables Theatre (where Tim once worked) on 9 November.