Is it possible to turn four queens in a lounge room into one of Sydney’s most popular suburban social groups in just three years?

The short answer is yes, and the proof can be found in a suburb famed for its multiculturalism and its mix of tolerance and intolerance.

CBD is the short form of the Canterbury-Bankstown District Gay and Lesbian Social Group, a group of about 350 people about to celebrate its third year out of the lounge room.

President Alex Day is the man whose lounge room was the first meeting point. He says he often marvels at just how Canterbury-Bankstown the group’s membership is.

It’s very multicultural. I just looked around at the last meeting and there were Asian people, people from Lebanese backgrounds, Anglo people, and I just thought, -˜Yep, this is really Canterbury Bankstown,’ Day says.

The members are also not afraid to put in hard work for the sake of their communities -“ the gay and lesbian community as well as their neighbourhood.

Last year CBD ran Youth Against Homophobia workshops which ended up in a Mardi Gras float. The workshops were held at the Coolaburoo Neighbourhood Centre in Revesby and part funded by council.

This year they’re running a new series of workshops called Community Against Homophobia, after securing a $2,558 grant from Bankstown Council.

We’ve extended on the program. The culmination will be a float in the Mardi Gras -“ if Mardi Gras goes ahead. Who knows -“ if it doesn’t, we might just end up marching it up Chappel Rd [for all blinkered urbanites, Chappel Rd is a Bankstown main street].

The grant was not easily won. Two Bankstown councillors voted against it, and used the grant application -“ one of a number from a wide range of community organisations -“ to speak out against homosexuality.

It was, he said, unfair on Bankstown’s straight residents to spend money on a homosexual minority.

In the end, 10 of 12 councillors supported it, with several coming to the defence of the area’s gay and lesbian residents.

Day said the ensuing uproar -“ the matter was printed in two local papers and mentioned by Rev Fred Nile in the NSW Upper House -“ was not a sign of any deep anti-homosexual sentiment in the area.

When you come down to it, it was only two councillors -“ one a One Nation and the other a Liberal. After last year’s Mardi Gras we were on the front page of the local paper and they received absolutely no nasty letters. They did receive a few positive ones though, he said.

There’s still pockets of homophobia everywhere. I mean, not everyone in Newtown’s gay or even gay-friendly.

Day said CBD were busily planning for their future -“ to make Bankstown and Canterbury more gay- and lesbian-friendly, to open some sort of business and to increase women membership in the group.

We’d like to have more women. It’s probably about 20 percent at the moment, which is OK, but we’d definitely like to see more women at our events. When you walk around the neighbourhood and you’ve got your gaydar on you know there’s a lot more women out there, he said.

In the short term, the group is busily planning its third birthday party for Saturday 28 September, a $10 BYO event at the Bankstown Community Centre, West Tce, Bankstown.

The members are planning a spectacular performance and hoping to fill the hall with people from the area as well as the rest of Sydney.

To buy tickets, or get more information about the Canterbury-Bankstown District Gay and Lesbian Social Group, give them a call on 9733 4331.

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