For some of us it feels like a million years ago when we first stumbled across the LGBTI community. People who didn’t grow up in Sydney heard about it, but never really knew what it was all about.

My first encounter was through a girl’s Society and Culture project on the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras at school. Every chance I could I would thumb through it, looking at a world I’d never experienced.

It wasn’t until I’d finished studying and had moved to Sydney that I started to dip my toe in the waters. At first I was just happy to sit at Café 191 (Coco Cubano) and read the Sydney Star Observer, hoping the waiter would come and touch my shoulder and ask if I would like another “dreadful” coffee. The answer was a schoolgirl “Yes”.

The first club I walked into with a girlfriend from school was the Oxford Hotel in 1993. We downed two vodka and oranges very fast and scurried back to our hotel.

The next night I ventured out by myself for another two vodka and oranges (I’d seen someone on Sons and Daughters drink this, so it was my chosen poison even though it made my stomach do backflips).

I stood in the corner for about 30 minutes, smiling at a couple of people, but didn’t speak to anyone. I felt the music go through my body and was content to just watch others.

It was loud, there was pool and lots of men kissing each other. I headed back to my room, feeling sick from the vodka but dizzy with excitement.

I didn’t go back to another gay club in Sydney for two years when I actually lived in the city.

It took a long time but I started to make new gay friends and I wasn’t the lonely gay in the corner with my vodka.

I tell this story because I caught up with a friend of a friend last weekend from a small town in woop-woop. He had never really socialised with a large group of gay people and his gay life had largely consisted of anonymous hook-ups.

After we dragged him around the city, then dinner and out for drinks and to see my show, his protective walls started to come down.

He danced the night away, then we put him in a cab for the airport and home.

Have we lost that innocent excitement? Is it OK to just live in a gay world where everyone is the same as you and you feel comfortable?

Maybe we need to stop every now again and remember the excitement of the first time.

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