Each month we’ll champion two amazing drag queens, DJs, or community heroes in the LGBTI space. This month’s spotlight falls on Director of Celebrate Ageing Catherine Barrett.

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What do you love about Australia’s LGBTI community?

Diversity! Absolutely! Without hesitation! Every time I walk into an LGBTI event I think to myself: this world is a beautiful place. I love that being outside the margins means we get to decide who we are and how we want to be – the outcome of that is magic.

What motivates you to support and work with older members of the LGBTI community?

I have worked with older people for 35 years because they are amazing. After I came out I started working with LGBTI Elders and declared them to be the most wonderful group of humans on earth. There is so much that still needs to be done to right the wrongs. #NotDoneYet

What issue do we as a community need to focus on at the moment?

We need to focus on ageism in LGBTI communities. We live in such an ageist society – most people can’t even see the impacts on the rights of LGBTI Elders. Our LGBTI Elders need us to form a community of support and respect around them. It’s not a big ask.

What does a typical day look like for you?

6am is my favourite time of day (unless it’s cold). The city is quiet and I start the day with a swim, spa, sauna followed by a walk with Agnes, the mini schnauzer. Work by 8.30, hoping I have a coffee meeting with someone; but mostly it’s about resource development; consultation; research; listening, plotting and dreaming. Evenings are for chilling and play.

Who do you see as a hero in the community?

Recently I heard Sally Rugg speaking about life and her dad and she made Heroine status right there and then. I am so inspired by people who use their power for good and those who allow themselves to be vulnerable by talking about their challenges or imperfections from a position of strength. Inspiring. Permission Giving.

Favourite LGBTI venue?

I love Melbourne Queer Film Festival for the films and the debates (lesbian tropes) and the reunions. But I think my favorite LGBTI space is the Elders Tea Tent at Midsumma Carnival. I love that we have created a space for LGBTI Elders to explore (some for the first time!). I love the hospitality and warmth of it all.

Favourite LGBTI anthem?

My beautiful friend Kay Gravell took me to the Sydney Opera House to see Antony and the Johnsons. It was an ethereal experience – and I loved, loved, loved “You Are My Sister”. The song reminds me of all my beautiful LGBTI friends – and of Kay, who died last year. I love you Kay.

Best Pride moment?

I swam in a relay with the Glamourhead Sharks at the Asia Pacific Outgames. The relay team included my dad who was 88 and a conservative catholic, my ex-husband and my then girlfriend. A couple of years earlier I divorced and came out and things fell apart. I felt I had nothing to lose by recruiting this team and a photo of this relay team is my reminder that I am empowered.

Advice for younger LGBTI people?

Everyone says the best thing about ageing is that “it” gets better (it does). But what many people won’t tell you is that it is “YOU” that gets better. The authenticity and experience that comes with ageing is so rich and sweet and opens up unimaginable possibilities.

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