25 LGBTI Australians to watch in 2017
From politics and media to activism and the arts, here is GayNewsNetwork’s (SX, MCV, Queensland Pride, Blaze) sixth annual list of talented, intriguing and compelling people to watch from the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex communities around Australia in 2017.
A young transgender advocate who is changing the world
Georgie Stone is a 16-year-old transgender woman who is getting pretty used to making headlines. In fact, in the past year not only has her story appeared in major newspapers and magazines, but also on the ABC’s Australian Story. She was also the youngest person to take home the GLBTI Person of the Year award at the 2016 GLOBE Community Awards.
Stone is the voice for a generation of transgender young people and she has politicians sitting up and listening. Premier Daniel Andrews visited Stone’s school to meet with her, her school principal and her mother, Rebekah. He mother founded Transcend – the first parent-led peer support network and information hub for transgender children and their families in Australia.
Stone is also hoping to have a meeting with the Prime Minister to raise transgender issues.
For 2017, she says she will continue advocating for transgender young people.
“Changing the law concerning stage two treatment is my main goal, and I am trying to meet with as many politicians, specialists, lawyers and families as possible so we can bring about change in the family court system,” Stone says.
“I also want to shed light on the issues and discrimination trans young people have every day. The more people understand about what trans kids and teens go through, the more acceptance and empathy people will have for them.”
Stone says she was “surprised and honoured” to be included in the People to Watch list.
“To be recognised is a great honour and I hope it will highlight the issues trans young people face.” Rachel Cook
Our first gay Indigenous MP has Uluru in his backyard
In August, Chansey Paech became Australia’s first gay Indigenous MP when he won the seat of Namatjira in the Northern Territory.
His electorate is about the size of Germany, its population varying from 5,000 to 8,000 and made up of 77 per cent Indigenous Australians.
“I love the diversity, the landscape is amazing,” Paech says. “How many electorates have places like Uluru in their backyard?”
A sense of social justice and the plight of Indigenous Australians prompted the Horticulture and Conservation student to join the Labor Party.
“For me, Namatjira is home to some of the most disadvantaged Australians in the country, and I see Labor as the party with the long-standing commitment to disadvantaged people.”
On marriage equality, Paech believes Malcolm Turnbull compromised his own belief to win the top job. “I think he has let down members of the community. Australian Labor is probably the best party to bring on marriage equality.”
Apart from making sure people in remote areas are resourced appropriately, Paech has other goals for 2017.
“In terms of the LGBTIQ community, I want to see marriage equality in two forms. I want to see the Northern Territory Government bring in marriage equality, so that when the Australian Parliament catches up it’s something we can go straight into. Same-sex adoption is something I would like to see.
“I struggle to comprehend that we’re still having a conversation about Safe Schools. This should be a national policy, we shouldn’t negotiating individually on a state basis to avoid these terrible instances of young people being bullied and harassed.”
Paech says euthanasia should also be revisited. “The NT was the first jurisdiction to bring that in. But because we were a Territory, it was overridden by the Commonwealth.” Andrew Shaw
Champion athlete set to play in the inaugural season of the Australian Football League Women’s competition
Cecilia McIntosh is about to make sporting history by being one of the first women to play in the first national women's Australian Rules Football League. AFL Women’s which starts its inaugural season in 2017 will see McIntosh play for Collingwood Football Club.
While McIntosh said she was, “pretty surprised, excited and honored to be on the People to Watch list,” we can’t think of a better sportsperson to have made the cut. Her list of sporting achievements is nothing short of astounding.
She won a silver medal in the javelin throw at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, represented Australia in bobsled at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and was a runner-up at the 1997 Australian Weightlifting Championships.
McIntosh, who was also a heptathlon athlete as a teenager, is known as one of the best defenders in women’s football and is one of the few players who was able to limit the effectiveness of star player Moana Hope.
Dogged by injuries including a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which saw McIntosh unable to play football for nearly a year, her determination to get back in the sport has been inspirational. When she returned to the game in May 2016 she delivered a match-winning performance.
McIntosh, who has already started pre-season with Collingwood, said of 2017:
“Coming up for me in 2017 is the inaugural AFLW comp and I'll be playing for Collingwood FC. [It’s] very exciting times.” Rachel Cook
Author of the award-winning book, Populate and Perish
Photo: Patrick McDavitt
George Haddad released his novella Populate and Perish to much acclaim. So much so, that the book took out the 2016 Seizure Viva La Novella Prize, and had critics hailing it as “the freshest writing to come out of Melbourne since Christos Tsiolkas’ Loaded”, while lauding Haddad as a vital new voice in Australian fiction.
Populate and Perish tells the story of Nick, who, finding himself with no boyfriend, no career and living in a granny flat in Fitzroy North trading sex for money, decides to travel with his twin sister to Lebanon in search of their estranged father. The book, set in Melbourne and Lebanon, was praised by leading Australian writer Tony Birch, who described Haddad as “a dynamic voice in fiction”.
A graduate of Melbourne University with a Masters of Creative Writing, Publishing and Editing, Haddad says 2017 will see him writing a new novel and working on other creative projects, such as podcasts, visual essays and spoken word.
“My work will explore suburbia, nationalism; the queer and Australian identity,” Haddad says.
The importance of LGBTIQ writers in our community cannot be underestimated since it is their voices that tell many of our stories. Asked for his reaction to being named one of our People to Watch, Haddad says:
“I’m stoked by the nomination and genuinely humbled to be placed in the same class as some big wigs who have had a positive impact on the gay community. It excites me to think that my work may do the same.” Rachel Cook
This long-time equality advocate is now Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney
Photo: Jacquie Manning
Thrust into the spotlight in the late 90s when she and her partner were outed by a Sydney paper, Kerryn Phelps became something of a poster child for marriage equality and LGBTI causes. As the couple marched up Oxford Street ahead of the Mardi Gras parade in 1998, Phelps recalls it was a moment for which she and partner Jackie Strickland had been ill-prepared.
“We became the faces of the marriage equality movement and we have been fighting for equality ever since,” says Phelps. “Jackie and I started advocating for the rights of children when we started fostering and then adopted our youngest daughter. We became ambassadors for Barnardos Mother of the Year to raise the profile of child protection issues.”
It seems Phelps has always had a keen interest in social justice and in her role as former president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) she soon came to realise how much the health system was in need of reform. Now, as Deputy Mayor of Sydney, the professor says she hopes to bring a “healthy” perspective to future plans for the city.
“I look forward to helping to guide Sydney into the future. It is exciting to play a part in that work.”
She says since her term as AMA president she’s maintained a strong interest in politics and remains very much aware of the importance of public policy in enhancing people’s quality of life. But she says she and party politics are not a natural fit, so joining Team Clover seemed the next step.
“I am much more comfortable with the principle of being politically independent. I live and work in the City of Sydney and I care about the future of the city and its people, so it was the right time.”
She says Sydney is currently at a tipping point with big business and development on the rise and the city’s population set to explode.
“The city government has an essential role in governing the quality of development, ensuring infrastructure predicts future needs, takes leadership in sustainability initiatives, and enable business to thrive while taking care of the interests of all of the diverse residents of Sydney.” Cec Busby
Empowering gay and bisexual trans men, and LGBTI communities in regional New South Wales
Photo: John McRae
The sexual health resource for trans men, GRUNT, was by all accounts a smashing success. Its bold, unapologetic and sex positive approach to trans male sexuality not only delivered vital sexual health information, but brought to the fore a greater awareness of trans men who have sex with men, and the important role they play in Australia’s HIV response.
“The demand, interest and feedback from trans men all around the world has been so fantastic,” says Teddy Cook, co-director of the Peer Advocacy Network for the Sexual Health of Trans Masculinities or PASH.tm, the group behind the campaign. “The community was so ready for GRUNT, a sexy, edgy, in your face celebration of trans male sexuality and sex positive, pragmatic and evidence informed approach to sexual health.”
Making trans men who have sex with men part of the conversation is PASH.tm’s focus and Cook has been instrumental in the pursuit of that objective. He is a co-founding member of the advocacy group, which was formed in 2014, and currently serves as its co-director. The other members of PASH.tm are Jeremy Wiggins and Max MacKenzie – both featured in previous People to Watch lists – and Aram Hosie and Laurie Hopkins.
According to Cook, in order for Australia to really meet its goals in ending HIV, it must include trans men who have sex with men in the national HIV response.
“Our plans for 2017 will be to progress our research agenda,” he says. “We will be rolling out a national survey that is similar to the Gay Community Periodic Survey and seeks to build the evidence base we so desperately need.
“We are also hoping to develop a resource for sexual health clinicians to support their capacity to provide safe, inclusive and thoughtful care to trans MSM and trans communities more broadly.
Cook also works as the Regional Outreach Team Leader for Southern and Far West NSW at ACON, a role that takes him to various communities around the state. Expect to see more of him in 2017.
“Our role is to focus on health promotion, community development and peer education to extend the reach of ACON’s strategies, services, campaigns and resources around HIV prevention and support, and LGBTI health.
“I am totally in love with my job and just think being able to do this work is the best thing ever,” he says.
“Regional LGBTI communities work hard to find a common ground and are so enthusiastic and committed to supporting each other.”
With what he’s seen in the trans men’s health space, as well as in regional outreach, Cook believes we are heading in the right direction in terms of improving the community’s health and wellbeing.
“I think taking people along with us is essential. Building relationships and changing hearts and minds through education, conversation and humanity is a real priority for me and is at the core of how I go about my day.” Reg Domingo
Mr Australasia Bear and pastry chef extraordinaire
Photo: David Cook
Patrick Greber moved to Australia from Austria, dived into Melbourne’s Bear scene and hasn’t looked back.
Taking out the Mr Australasia Bear title this year, Greber has contributed to the LGBTIQ community not only via his involvement with VicBears, but also through his drive to raise awareness around LGBTIQ issues.
He says one of the big reasons he wanted to stay in Australia was because of “Melbourne’s amazing LGBTQI community” and because of that he wants to give back.
Looking to 2017, Greber says he has plans aplenty!
“First of all I plan my start my own business. I don’t want to give too much away, but it will have something to do with my background as a pastry chef and involves one of my big passions in life – chocolate!
“I [also] plan on going to an international bear contest to represent Australasia and show them how much love we have Down Under.
“I want to talk to people and educate them. I want to show people that it's ok to be whatever you want to be. I want to support my transgender friends and I want to support local artists and just to be a good friend to the people who need a friend on their side when they don't have anyone.”
Greber says making the People to Watch list means a lot to him:
“It’s unbelievable and it’s such a big honour. It proves to me again that I made the right decision to make Australia my home, and makes me want to work harder than ever to give back all the love that I’ve received here.” Rachel Cook
Fighting stigma and helping increase intersex visibility
Intersex advocate Bonnie Hart considers stigma as a key issue in her advocacy work.
“Stigma sets the scene for a lot of childhood surgeries to happen. There’s a fear that people will be maladjusted because their bodies are different, and that fear teamed with the ignorance of the realities of what it’s like to live as an adult with those bodies without surgery, kind of perpetuates a surgical intervention process.”
Hart is the President of Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome Support Group Australia (AISSGA), a support group that offers advocacy, information and support services for people with intersex characteristics. Hart says she sees people struggling stigma in their lives, even in the ways they just talk about their bodies.
It’s an experience all too familiar for Hart, who didn’t talk about her intersex variation until she was much older. In 2012, Hart, along with her sister Phoebe, who shared the same genetic variation, released Orchids, a film documenting their intersex experience, thrusting Bonnie into the spotlight.
“I didn’t even know how or what to say about it because I’ve spent so long of my life not talking about it,” Hart says. “So that really started whole development process for me.”
Today, Hart is passionate about promoting the health and wellbeing of intersex people. She has been vocal in her push to end forced surgeries of intersex children. She helps parents and provides support while they talk to doctors and clinicians. She co-authored a landmark report, Intersex: Stories and Statistics from Australia, that provided solid data on the experience of intersex people. And she does policy reviews for services and government and advocates for better legislative protections for people with intersex characteristics.
“In 2017, we will continue to increase intersex visibility,” Hart says. “I think visibility and empowered messaging helps undo stigma at a community level, and we’ll also be looking at greater advocacy in terms of human rights protections of intersex people.” Reg Domingo
A former professional footballer with a sexual health message for the NT
Photo: Virginia Cummins
Casey Conway grew up in the town of Bluff, near Rockhampton. He played football from the age of six and was educated at St Brendan’s College in Yeppoon before being scouted by NRL team the Sydney Roosters in 2003.
Conway came out as gay in 2005 after leaving the Roosters due to injury and has since pursued a career as a model and youth worker.
“I think it’s important for young people to have someone to relate to,” he says when asked about being a role model for Indigenous people. “Coming from a similar background, I understand the importance of having positive role models.”
His campaigns for Aussiebum swimwear showed off his physique, but more recently he’s putting his public profile to work as the face of an NT sexual health campaign.
The Victorian AIDS Council’s Drama Down Under campaign has collaborated with the Northern Territory AIDS and Hepatitis Council. The message: ‘Wet or dry, any season, sexy health is deadly! Get tested, get treated, no drama!’
In 2017 he will work with NTAHC, VAC and other stakeholders “to continue building and spreading positive messages around sexual health, Aboriginal youth and the LGBTIQ community”.
He also wants to encourage Aboriginal people and the broader community to engage in regular sexual health testing.
“The NT has higher rates of STIs than any other jurisdiction in Australia and there is a large prevalence within the Aboriginal community,” he says.
“I really hope the campaign will get people testing every three to six months – once in the Wet and once in the Dry. As the campaign says, get tested, get treated, no drama.” Andrew Shaw
Community advocate – and proud parent – giving a voice to rainbow families
Rainbow Families co-chair Vanessa Gonzalez says she owes a lot of her awareness of social justice to her parents.
“I was born in Argentina at the time of the military coup and the oppression that followed. At that time, the military were kidnapping and killing thinkers, artists, many creative and dissenting people. As a child I noticed the corruption, inequity in wealth, and the fear. That awful feeling of being poor, excluded and less than.”
Gonzalez says what her family lacked in riches they made up for with love.
“My home was rich in hope, solidarity and resistance. My parents are compassionate and community-minded.”
It’s a trait they’ve passed onto their daughter who has made her mark working in family and community services and most recently advocating for rainbow families.
“They’ve taught me about gratitude, service and responsibility,” Gonzalez says. “They are values I hope to impart on my children.”
Gonzalez was living in the Blue Mountains in a community she describes as very inclusive when she and her partner had their first child.
“But you have to put your hand up if you want things to happen.”
She says when she first came to Sydney she heard that a group of rainbow parents were starting a committee with dreams of being incorporated.
“I went along. Prior to that, gay dads and lesbian parents mostly did their own thing. I was pleased to join a group wanting to work together.”
Since joining Rainbow Families, Gonzalez has worked tirelessly on a number of the organisation’s projects, but says her proudest moment was when the group travelled to Canberra to speak with politicians about the plebiscite.
“The plebiscite debate was an invitation for others to judge the worth of our relationships and the value of our families. I think making space for the voice and experience of children is so powerful. There we were with our rainbow flags meeting with any MPs who made time to listen. I am really sure that we helped turn that tide away.” Cec Busby
Fighting for marriage equality in Australia and abroad
Despite all other Western countries celebrating equal rights and achieving marriage equality, Australia has fallen behind.
Tiernan Brady helped achieve marriage equality in Ireland and has since come to Australia to try to help everyday people have the opportunity to marry who they love.
Brady says the key is sharing our stories with others. “Each one of us is the real leader of the change we seek in our own space,” he says.
“We will win when each of us tells our personal stories to our friends and family, neighbours and colleagues.
“Achieving marriage equality and LGBTI equality is not about who is in charge, or having a great leader or saviours – it is the opposite of that. We do not need saviours because we are not victims, we are proud and resilient.”
Brady said the Australian campaign for marriage equality is about more than law. “It is about our dignity and place in society, in our families and our communities,” he says.
“One of the most important and sometimes hardest things is making sure our campaign tone reflects the respect and dignity we seek. A campaign about love, joy and respect should be something that all of us enjoy every moment of and take strength from. LGBTI people will have to live with the tone each of us sets long after the campaign ends.”
On being added to this year’s list Brady says, “It almost seems unfair to be recognised as I am barely here a wet weekend from Ireland – although I am enjoying the lack of wet weekends compared to Dublin! But I am deeply honoured.” Glen Morét
A Brisbane visual artist who stimulates our sexual appetites
Photo: Cam Attree
Born in Newcastle, Joel Devereux moved to Brisbane when he was three. Interested in painting and sculpture at school, he studied a Bachelor of Creative Industries with a major in Entertainment.
“I always knew I wanted to pursue a creative career, but growing up I never considered myself a photographer, despite being heavily inspired by the art form,” he says.
The book of Devereux’s #FOODP*RN project, featuring images of naked guys with healthy appetites, will be launched at Brisbane’s 2017 Melt festival. The concept came from the #foodporn Instagram tag.
“The more I delved into the subject, I realised that food and sex are sold to us in very similar ways and the concept of #foodporn is less about satisfying a basic human need to eat and more about the visual appeal of food. Ultimately, #FOODP*RN is a send up of this phenomenon that we have grown to love and partake in.”
He describes his images as “conceptual, escapist and celebratory” and is a big fan of French artists Pierre et Gilles, who combine photography with painting in their highly stylised images.
“Also, Justin Monroe’s work has been a huge influence with #FOODP*RN, and artists like David LaChapelle and Robert Mapplethorpe continue to remain two of my top original sources of inspiration. I have learned a lot from the performance pieces of Marina Abramović, which may be surprising to some familiar with my work.”
#FOODP*RN launches January 25 at Brisbane Powerhouse from 6pm. “It’s the eve of a public holiday too, so we’ll be partying until late at Fluffy most likely,” Devereux says.
If you’d like to model for Devereux, or view his work, find him online. “I always have projects on the go – with a few surprises too!” Andrew Shaw
Performance artist, writer, singer and provocateur
Maeve Marsden says she grew up in a house full of music, so it comes as no surprise that she should go on to create one of Australian cabaret’s most acclaimed singing groups, Lady Sings it Better.
Renowned for their soaring harmonies and eclectic take on some of the world’s most famous pop songs, Marsden and the Lady Sings it Better crew offer an irreverent night at the theatre.
Asked to explain the genesis of the group which began seven years ago, Marsden laughs: “Gosh it’s been so long I think nailing down one thing would be hard! At the start it was about creating a show that challenged gender in pop culture and ‘queered’ songs written by men, but how we do that has changed over the last seven years. Now, the act is really about poking fun at misogyny in pop culture, using comedy. But it’s also about singing really ridiculous medleys and trying to find the dorkiest choreography we can.”
With gender inequality in the arts a hot topic at present, Marsden seems well-placed to answer the question of why it’s important to see women’s stories represented on stage. Her answer is glib but truthful: “Because of patriarchy. And because women are so great.” She describes her own place in the arena as a performer of “theatrical comedy cabaret”.
“It’s a bit of a mouthful but it describes all the elements. There’s a loose narrative, it’s funny and it’s cabaret, by which I mean work that picks and chooses from different genres to tell stories, that uses music as a storytelling device and has a political element of sorts.”
While Lady Sings it Better goes from strength to strength, Marsden has a number of other projects on the boil for 2017.
“My new show, Mother's Ruin: A Cabaret about Gin, has been announced for a season as part of the Sydney Festival in January. Following that, I’ll be touring with Mother's Ruin, Lady Sings it Better and Jagged Little Singalong for much of the year. I'll also be hosting and producing Queerstories monthly at Giant Dwarf. And at some point I’d like to have a baby. So quite a busy year!” Cec Busby
The artistic maverick infusing new and creative ideas into Sydney Mardi Gras
A childhood spent reading, drawing, creating stories and fuelling his imagination was the perfect fodder for a life of artistic endeavours for Mardi Gras’s new creative director, Greg Clarke.
Whilst his dreams of being a famous visual artist like Andy Warhol may have fallen by the wayside, Clarke is adept at making other people’s dreams come true. As the artistic director of Adelaide Fringe Festival he whipped the event into shape to deliver its most acclaimed seasons, and now he will turn his attention to Mardi Gras in 2017.
If you’re wondering why Clarke’s name seems so familiar, before he took on his more recent incarnation as a producer and festival director, he was one half of iconic duo Jamie and Vanessa.
These days, though, he is more comfortable behind the scenes than centre stage. He says his biggest challenge as creative director at Mardi Gras is learning how everything works while also trying to come up with fabulous ideas and strategies in such a short time.
“I have a few tricks up my sleeve,” he says.
As for next year’s festival, Clarke says to expect a diverse program of events that includes fabulous parties, fun community events, thrilling performances, stunning art exhibitions and the best parade yet.
“You will really see this year’s theme ‘Creating Equality’ being featured throughout the festival.”
Clarke says one of the most important elements of the festival is increasing LGBTIQ visibility.
“The parade provides a platform for creative and political expression and a diverse and exciting program of cultural and social activities enables everyone to come together in an amazing celebration like no other.” Cec Busby
Minus18 worker and advocate paving the way for LGBTI+ youth
Photo: Margot Fink
Rory Blundell is a young, non-binary trans guy who is making a big difference in the LGBTI+ community via his work with Minus18. In the past year, Blundell has worked as the Stand Out Coordinator at Minus18 presenting workshops and seeing the “tangible effects of increasing awareness of LGBTI+ identities and inclusion”.
Blundell also organised and facilitated the Stand Out, Feel Good Wellbeing Day camp, a day about self-care and empowerment in response to the very public negativity directed at the LGBTI+ community.
Blundell’s work has also included a collaboration with AFL Victoria to decrease sexism, homophobia and transphobia in AFL and creating a program to encourage LGBTI+ young people to get back into sport. As a result of this collaboration a team of LGBTI+ young people played AFL 9s during the half time of a Collingwood v Gold Coast game at Etihad stadium.
2017 is shaping up to be a big year for Blundell, who will continue his work to educate and increase awareness of the experiences and issues faced by the LGBTI+ community.
“I'll also be working with the youth services team at Drummond Street Services as a youth peer leader,” Blundell says, “[and] I'm also going to be at the University of Melbourne in my third year of studying Criminology.”
Blundell says he is “really flattered to be on the People to Watch list”.
“While I never really aimed or meant to receive recognition for the work I do, I feel extremely happy that the issues faced by the LGBTI+ community and the advocacy I'm doing are being recognised. There are so many amazing people behind me and with me on this, and it's pretty incredible.” Rachel Cook
The ACON-led project shaking up the way women engage with sexual health information
Photo: Reg Domingo
Sex, health, art, kink, women – that’s what CLAUDE is all about. Since its launch four years ago, the ACON-led project has been shaking up the way lesbian, bisexual and queer (LBQ) women engage with sexual health information with spectacular results.
“CLAUDE is a sexual health resource and art project for women who play with women, and part of ACON’s women’s sexual health project,” says Dr Viv McGregor, Community Engagement Coordinator, Lesbian and Same Sex Attracted Women's Sexual Health Project, ACON.
“We run sexual health workshops and events, collaborate with artists and performers to create sex-positive art, and provide free safe sex packs and safe sex info for LBQ women through the iloveclaude.com site.”
And the response, McGregor says, has been “overwhelmingly positive”.
“Showcasing art that celebrates queer desires, and providing women with a space to ask anything about sexual health in a world that still shames us for our bodies and sexualities is pretty powerful.”
McGregor says it’s this melding of creativity and sexuality that has struck such a chord with LBQ women.
“LBQ women are well aware of how often we are ignored in sexual health spaces and discussions, so turning that invisibility into something unapologetically erotic and beautiful – that resonates.”
CLAUDE’s Closer film clip, produced in collaboration with Lady Sings It Better and released during Mardi Gras, is a case in point.
“When the way you have sex and the options for safe sex are decidedly absent, it’s empowering to see a sexy woman singing ‘I wanna fuck you like an animal’ while fisting a watermelon,” McGregor says. “We had great feedback on the video and over 25,000 views, and it opened up great discussions about using gloves to make sex more pleasurable, reduce the risk of tears, and reduce STI risk.”
And there’s more to come in 2017 – more collaborations, more art, more creativity, more celebrations of sexualities and attention on women’s sexual health.
“CLAUDE is unique. We saw the need in our community – in evidence from research and from our own experiences – and designed something quite beautiful, run by peers and community-based, to improve women’s sexual health.” Reg Domingo
Queensland’s first openly-gay MP won’t be pigeon-holed by his sexuality
In July, Trevor Evans became Queensland’s first openly-gay federal MP, winning the seat of Brisbane.
Asked if the job is what he expected, Evans says previous roles – such as chief executive of the National Retail Association – allowed him to observe politics close up. “Thinking I could do a better job than half of them was one of my motivations for putting up my hand!” he says.
“It’s a life, not just a job, so the biggest adaptation is probably figuring out how to strike a balance where I can still spend quality time every week with my partner.”
After campaigning as the candidate for small business, Evans remains an opponent of Queensland’s lock-out laws. “It seems crazy to lock out members of the LGBTIQ community from some of the places they consider to be their safe spaces. Not to mention the terrible impacts on our live music scene, our DJs and artists, and our city's culture and our nightlife.”
Instead, Evans wants to fund initiatives to help venues and governments use technology “so we can better target the real wrongdoers”.
Evans campaigned for the marriage plebiscite and is proud to be part of the first government to sponsor a marriage equality bill. Despite its defeat, he says he’ll continue to work for reform and encourages people to get in touch about the issue.
Asked what personal challenges he faces in 2017, Evans replies: “I suppose one of the challenges I may face as my career progresses will be to avoid not being defined by my sexuality. I don't want to be pigeon-holed as ‘the gay MP’.
“I want to achieve so much over so many areas and be recognised for those achievements. It’s a challenge so many people in the LGBTIQ face in their personal lives too.” Andrew Shaw
BECCY COLE & LIBBY O’DONOVAN
The country music duo now taking on the fight for marriage equality
Beccy Cole is one of Australia’s most successful country singers and after coming out on national TV in 2012, she recently appeared on Australian Story again – this time with partner and renowned cabaret singer, Libby O’Donovan.
Both launched themselves into the marriage equality debate, expressing their disappointment that marriage equality is not yet a reality in the country. Cole says it’s something basic that we should all have the ability to do if we would like to.
“It should be a basic human right… I’m embarrassed that our country is so backward in this necessity,” she says.
O’Donovan says it doesn’t make sense that she cannot marry the love of her life.
“Not being legally allowed to marry the woman I love is not protecting our people, it’s not protecting our communities, it’s not for the ‘greater good’. Indeed, it is harmful. I love my country, I absolutely love Australia and I can’t wait to be accepted by the laws of this great country,” O’Donovan says.
“I am proudly out and will continue to campaign for marriage equality through living my life openly.”
Cole said it is an honour for the couple to be included on this year’s list, “What an honour. It’s nice to know that you can just be yourself and that it means something important to such a special community.” Glen Morét
The artist exploring his gay, Aboriginal and HIV identities in a stirring new work
Dancer Jacob Boehme says his Aboriginal heritage has always impacted his work, as has his identity as a queer man.
“It’s about representation and recognition,” he says. “Every culture has art and artistic expression as a key part of its fabric and form of communication. It brings us together, reflects and comments on our times, reminds us of our histories and our dreams of our futures. If art is for everyone, then everyone’s stories equally deserve to be told, seen and heard.”
Boehme began his training in dance in the early 90s at NAISDA in Redfern, where he had the good fortune of being trained in traditional dance by Song Men and Women and Lore Men and Women from around the country.
“It was this training that gave me the realisation we have dramaturgy and performance-making methodologies much older than Ibsen, or Shakespeare, or even Aristotle – 60,000 years older in fact. It is these teachings that inform my contemporary practice.”
Next month, Boehme will bring this notion of storytelling to the stage once more when he explores his identity as a gay Aboriginal man living with HIV in his latest work, Blood on the Dance Floor, which will premiere at the Sydney Festival. In creating the piece he says he wanted to tell the story of what it is like to live with HIV now.
“A lot of work: theatre, film, TV, which speaks to or about HIV, is generally a memorialisation of the plague days in the early 80s, where, by Act 3, everyone dies. We live with HIV now. And if we are living, isn’t it better to live with hope, not fear? This world is crazy at the moment. With hope, we have a much better chance of influencing our realities.” Cec Busby
The out and proud Pentecostal pastor promoting inclusion and equality
Photo: Deep Field Photography
Often members of the LGBT community face discrimination when they turn to their local church, something Rebecca Bauer is helping find a solution for.
Pastor of Melbourne Inclusive Church, Bauer says “everyone is welcome”.
“We welcome all people to not just come along, but to be involved in ministry where other churches may have excluded them,” she says.
Bauer says she believes God loves everyone equally. “This is why when the mother of a transgender child says that no church will baptise her son, we don’t understand and we welcome them to come along. We welcome all people to not just come along but to be involved in ministry where other churches may have excluded them.”
Bauer says she is honoured to be a part of this year’s People to Watch list.
“I am thrilled to know that the work we are doing is making a difference in the LGBTIQ community and that as a result the work has been recognised,” she says.
“I am very honoured to be sharing these pages with so many amazing people who dedicate themselves to the health and wellbeing of our community.” Glen Morét
Out and proud lawyer fighting for justice and our rights
As a partner at out and proud law firm Dowson Turco, Nicholas Stewart is more than a little au fait with the LGBTI community’s fight for rights. He’s been front and centre at plenty of legal stoushes in recent years calling for justice for our community. Most recently, he made headlines when he took on NSW Police at Newtown LAC for homophobic behaviour against a number of its gay police officers.
While his initial degree was in commerce and his first job out of uni was as a telephone counselor at Lifeline, lawyering is in Stewart’s blood – his father is a retired solicitor. It was while working as a policy officer in government that Stewart first contemplated studying law and before long he’d commenced a graduate degree. Born into a middle class family, he says he is keenly aware of his white privilege and has always looked for ways he can assist those with less opportunity.
“At Lifeline I saw the overwhelming mental health crisis facing our society and I also saw how significantly people were affected by the rules that govern how we all interact.”
He says his interest in LGBTI rights began at an early age and he has significant memories of gay men being ruined by the judicial system.
“When Bill Heffernan made defamatory comments about Michael Kirby while using parliamentary privilege I was just a young kid but I remember the hysteria so vividly. Furthermore, Judge Yelhdam lived next to my high school and I remember NSW Police and NSW Health gathering outside his house when he committed suicide after Franca Arena outed him in the NSW Parliament. Both of these events involved legislators using parliamentary privilege to harass gay men. So I suppose each instilled in me a desire to bring about safety for the LGBTI community more broadly.”
In recent times he’s been working on a number of cases regarding police violence towards the gay community and he hopes one day these men will get justice. Cec Busby
Brisbane transgender activist, cabaret performer and electrical engineer
Activist, cabaret performer and electrical engineer, Roz Dickson was born in Brisbane at Boothville House, a Salvation Army Maternity Hospital for unwed mothers. She describes herself as “an adoptee of the forced adoption generation”.
She grew up in Kedron, her father a postie and Korean War veteran, her mother a housewife. “We initially had a modest, two-bedroom war service Queenslander, later extended to three bedrooms as my brother and I grew older,” Dickson says.
“I was a techy kid. My parents bought me a Science Fair electronics kit, one with a battery and solar cell to make things like a crystal radio and Morse code. I was hooked. Mum bought it to stop me pulling her clocks apart to see how they worked.”
She says 2016 was “challenging and wonderful”.
“My body and mind are finally aligned after having my Gender Confirmation Surgery. The relief and peace I’ve gained is something I needed. In a proud moment, I handed my Ms Brisbane Pride title to the next winner at the Brisbane Pride Festival and soon I’ll dance in my first student ballet routine on stage after starting classes last year.”
Dickson is a member of The Wendybird Collective, the Australian Transgender Support Association of Queensland and the Brisbane Pride and Ferocious Cabaret. She’s spoken at several Marriage Equality rallies and the Save Our Safe Schools rally.
What does 2017 have in store? She’ll continue in the electrical engineering field, she says, since there are few women involved.
“I’m also a passionate advocate for marriage equality, ending trans forced divorce and ending the requirement for trans people to have surgery before updating their birth certificate gender marker.
“There’s to be a review of Queensland’s Birth Deaths and Marriages Act, so hopefully soon we’ll see a resolution of our transgender identification issues.” Andrew Shaw
The singing queen bringing drag to suburban, regional and rural Australia
LayDee KinMee (pronounced ‘lay-dick-in-me’) burst onto the scene in 2012 as the ‘yodelling drag queen’ in Australia’s Got Talent, but it is another endeavour she started that same year that is now getting plenty of traction and attracting heaps of praise: Drags To Bitches.
The show, which features a cast of seven drag queens and four male dancers, is a two-hour drag extravaganza that tours the NSW club circuit. In 2014, the show won the Australian Club Entertainment Award for Club Show of the Year.
“When I started drag, my goal was to always put together a large-scale drag show and take it to the RSLs,” LayDee says. “My non-drag performing career started in the RSLs and I saw the potential that a drag show could bring.
“We started the show in 2012, and it has grown from strength to strength every year, with 2016 being our most successful year to date.
“I am incredibly proud of all of my cast and crew, and it always brings me such joy sharing the stage with other talented performers.”
LayDee, whose real name is Jace Pearson, says the response from mainstream audiences to the show has been overwhelming.
“Mainstream crowds love drag performers and shows. Most of our Drags To Bitches shows have been a sell out, and we have a great group of people who come to every single show, whether it be in Kingsford, Penrith, Campbelltown, Cessnock or Canberra. They are hard core followers and they come everywhere.”
LayDee plans to bring drag to even more places in suburban and regional Australia in the coming year.
“2017 is shaping up to be a big year,” she says. “Drags To Bitches is planning on lots of travel through more rural and country towns, and we are also planning some interstate and maybe international shows. It’s all very exciting.” Reg Domingo
Academic, activist-poet and Narungga woman
Natalie Harkin is a Narungga woman whose work Dirty Words garnered the highest praise from some of Australia’s best poets. The book, as Harkin says, took her on an unanticipated journey, including to the Active Aesthetics Conference at University of California Berkeley; Blak & Bright, The Victorian Indigenous Literary Festival; a poetry residency with RMIT’s School of Media and Communication Nonfiction Lab; and the Lost Languages Found Queensland Poetry Festival.
Natalie was also recently published in Penguin’s Best Australian Poems 2016.
For the past three years Harkin has also been part of the ‘Unbound Collective’ at the Office of Indigenous Strategy and Engagement, Flinders University. This is a group of Aboriginal women activist-academics collaborating in creative research, exhibition and performance work.
Harkin has just finished her fourth and final column for the much-respected Overland Magazine, and will be blogging for Southerly Journal in 2017.
“There are more creative projects coming up with the ‘Unbound Collective’ at Flinders Uni,” Harkin says, “including research supported by the National Indigenous Research and Knowledges Network. I’m also a member of the Australian Dictionary of Biography’s Indigenous Working Party, and hope to work more with my local SA Nunga writers group.”
She is also a mother who is “raising big-hearted, happy children who have a strong sense of social justice and who know their place in the world”, with her partner, Denise.
Harkin says of her work: “My writing has been labelled polemic, activist-poetics – a badge I wear with pride. In these deeply conservative times, I think it is critical to speak up, and there is always more poetry!” Rachel Cook
This Brisbane artist looks in the mirror then shows us a reflection of ourselves
Tyza Stewart’s art fascinates and challenges. In a Heiser Gallery exhibition in 2014, one of Stewart’s lithograph showed an act of self-fellatio.
“That litho was from an image I painted in 2013 for a group show about selfies, it was just like making fun at the ‘ultimate selfie’, and may not have the same effect for the viewer when seen out of its original tongue-in-cheek context,” Stewart says.
Stewart’s work has attracted raised eyebrows, with accusations the art depicts underage bodies. “I don’t portray young bodies,” Stewart says. “Years ago I painted my face – sometimes from photos of me as a kid – spliced onto adults bodies. Getting ‘raised eyebrows’ felt pretty bad at the time, now I’m just sick of people asking me about it.”
As a child, Stewart aspired to be “cis gay male” – “Sure glad I’ve moved past that.”
Stewart’s recent art almost erases the body completely, leaving the head suspended on a column of light.
“I’ve been working on painting myself like that for a few years now, leaving lots blank to focus on the expression of my face and gestures through my hands and feet,” Stewart explains.
“It’s in part a reaction to the sensationalisation of trans bodies in the media and movies and everyday life. With some of my earlier paintings some people did seem get fixated on the body or sexuality, which I didn't find interesting, and I thought this was sometimes hindering people from thinking further into the work.
“I think these self-portraits with lots of blank spaces have the potential to frustrate a viewers urge to classify my body.”
Stewart has paintings and videos in a group show at Caloundra Regional Gallery March – April 2017 and a show at Firstdraft in Sydney in June.
“No other plans so far, maybe some gardening…” Andrew Shaw
- TOPICS: ACON, Beccy Cole, Bonnie Hart, Casey Conway, Cecilia McIntosh, Chansey Paech, CLAUDE, George Haddad, Georgie Stone, Greg Clarke, Jacob Boehme, Joel Devereux, Kerryn Phelps, LayDee KinMee, LGBTI people to watch, Lobby Donovan, Maeve Marsden, Natalie Harkin, Nicholas Stewart, Patrick Greber, People to watch, Rebecca Bauer, Rory Blundell, Roz Dickson, Sydney Mardi Gras, Teddy Cook, Tiernan Brady, Trevor Evans, Tyza Stewart, Vanessa Gonzalez