This coming Monday night, ABC documentary series Australian Story will profile one of our most vocal and charismatic straight allies, Shelley Argent.
Argent is the national spokesperson for PFLAG (parents and friends of lesbians and gays) and an outspoken champion of gay rights issues — it was she who appeared in PFLAG’s national television advertising campaign last year, directly imploring Kevin Rudd to “show leadership” on the issue of same-sex marriage.
Australian Story series producer Kent Gordon helmed the documentary, titled Mum’s The Word. It was a subject close to his heart — Gordon’s own child, Phoebe (formerly Felix) is a male-to-female transsexual.
“We met Shelley a couple of years ago when that was first an issue for my family,” he told Southern Star.
“She’s a well-off housewife from the suburbs of Brisbane whose son came out and sent her on a mission. The idea (for the doco) came about when we went to her book launch earlier in the year — Dave Graham (of Big Brother fame) spoke about how she’d helped him, and there were so many people there who’s lives she’d affected, so many parents who’d started off as angry homophobes before being educated by Shelley, that I just realised what an inspirational person she is.”
Gordon had a simple explanation as to why Argent was such an effective spokesperson when it came to gay and lesbian issues.
“As well as being smart and articulate, I think that she looks so much like ‘everywoman’; she’s so approachable. She says that when she speaks to people on the phone, they assume she’s going to be a tattooed lesbian with a razorblade hanging out of her ear, and when they meet her, she’s all twinsets and pearls.”
Several members of the Argent family appear in the documentary — Shelley, her gay son James, now living in London, and her husband Don. Gordon admitted some family members were harder to convince than others.
“There was no reluctance at all from Shelley — with her, it’s always because she’s trying to advance the cause. Her husband Don was a surprise though. At first it was ‘Don won’t be part of it’, then ‘Don will do it, but only in silhouette’, and then finally it was ‘Don will appear in the program and he’ll march in Brisbane Pride too’.
“Don used to be really homophobic, so James always says that Don is his mum’s greatest success.”
info: Australian Story: Mum’s The Word screens at 8pm, Monday July 19, on ABC1.