Melbourne will soon play host to its first Coming Back Out Ball. Matthew Wade caught up with an LGBTI elder to find out why queer visibility in ageing is important.

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Nancy Peck came out as non-binary when she was 76 years old.

She’d been exploring gender and the many ways younger people were identifying, and as a queer person decided she wanted to shatter stereotypes around elderly people.

“I realised that there was an assumption,” she says.

“If you’ve got grey hair, you’re a granny, and nothing else.

“I found myself having to come out again and again, and thought, what’s this about?”

After she came out as non-binary – having already come out as queer previously – Peck was met with a mix of reactions.

“Young people I know that are gen Y have been very positive, and quite chuffed actually,” she says.

“They’re saying oh, it’s great, Nancy’s 76 and she’s come out as non-binary.

“But the reason I did it was because I took some time to seriously consider who I was.”

For a number of years Peck had always selected ‘not applicable’ when it came to declaring her gender in the census, but until gender diversity rose into mainstream consciousness, she had no idea why.

She’d always been a tomboy as well, and after coming out as a lesbian had been called “butch”.

But now that the times are changing, Peck thinks it’s fabulous she can identify the way she now does.

“We’re living in 2017 for fuck’s sake, it’s an exciting time,” she says.

Later this year, Peck, along with countless other LGBTI elders, will join together in Melbourne to celebrate their queer identities as part of the inaugural Coming Back Out Ball.

The event, which was created by All The Queens Men and will be presented as a premiere event during the 2017 Victorian Seniors Festival, will be supported by the Australia Council, the government’s arts funding and advisory body.

Peck can’t wait.

“Hopefully this will be a fantastic night,” she says.

“We always have to face that we’re different, so to have an event that highlights people of all ages in the LGBTI community is great.”

After coming out as non-binary, one of Peck’s friends asked her a simple question.

“My oldest friend said to me, you’re always going to be radical aren’t you? And I looked at her and said I hope so,” she laughs.

Director of All The Queens Men, Tristan Meecham, says he wanted to create an event after encountering a lot of elderly LGBTI people that were closeting their identities in aged care.

“It’s a social epidemic that I don’t think the community are cognisant of,” he says.

“So I wanted to create a large scale event accessible to LGBTI elders made with and for them.

“We’re hoping to create an event that harks back to the big social gatherings of a time fone by, a night of song and dance.”

The event, which will be free for LGBTI elders – 65 years or above – will include a three course meal, LGBTI performers, and live entertainment.

Meecham says the night will also help to raise awareness around the LGBTI elders that fought for the hard won rights our community has today.

“We’re really trying to create a special experience that means the night is one to be remembered,” he says.

“It will also help others realise that there are pioneers in our community that fought for the all of the rights we have now.”

The Coming Back Out Ball will take place at the Melbourne Town Hall on Saturday 7 October. To book your place or to buy a ticket (for those under 65) visit: www.comingbackoutball.com.

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