Sal

Now I’m 58, proud to be a feminist and still feel the personal is political.

Sal

When I was a child I’d had a floppy doll. I cut her hair off really short. And I took her dress off, so that she was wearing a singlet and pants. She was very tomboyish. I had her with me for years.

I was 18 when I came out. I’d had a boyfriend, and I said to him – I think we should have a break. The coward’s way out. Earlier that year I had been to an International Women’s Day march, followed by a meeting about Amazon Acres Women’s Mountain Farm. This was my first experience of seeing women kissing and being sexual with each other, and I thought, that makes sense.

Sal

I went up to Amazon Acres in my last year of high school. It was a women’s mountain farm
up near Wauchope. My friend Natalie and I drove there in my Mini. There were about a dozen women there. There were disagreements in the collective. That’s par for the course. We helped with building work, and joined in all the talk about poetry and writing, and consideration for the land. It was quite confronting. Pissing outside under the stars. I loved being able to walk around without clothes. It was an eye-opener, and an amazing sense of freedom.

When I was 22 I was a childcare worker at Elsie Women’s Refuge. That was in 1980. My father had been emotionally abusive to my mother, and then I was working with kids who were dealing with that issue. A couple of times when I was on a night shift I felt intimidated by the possibility of male partners turning up.

My first woman lover I met at Rape Crisis. We were both on an overnight roster, when one thing led to another, and we started counseling each other. Then, years later, I had a pretty amazing relationship with a woman when I lived in Adelaide. We were flamboyant in ways I rarely am now. We drank a lot of French champagne, and were at times frivolous with money. I wouldn’t do that now because my conscience wouldn’t allow me to.

Now I’m 58, proud to be a feminist and still feel the personal is political.

The most exciting, and then most frightening, and then most amazing thing I’ve ever done was being involved in the 1978 riot, otherwise known as the first Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. I got involved in organizing the day, because I was on the collective for the 4th homosexual conference in Sydney, and we joined forces with Gay Solidarity Group for the Remembering Stonewall day on June 24th. That night it was my job to look after the music on the back of the truck, and make sure that it kept playing two songs over and over again – Sing if You’re Glad to be Gay, by the Tom Robinson Band and Ode to a Gym Teacher by Meg Christian.

The New South Wales Police attacked the march and arrested many of my friends. I wasn’t arrested – mostly because my girlfriend held me back. Then on the Monday, outside the courts after the first Mardi Gras, it was frightening again. The police got aggressive with us – again they were not wearing identification badges.

SalA lot of us got together again at the 20th anniversary in 1998. We produced the book It was a Riot and we’ve done many exhibitions and talks. Most of us had put it in the background for years, but it’s so important to maintain a sense of our history. We must appreciate where we’ve come from. And know that the fight’s not over, and remind young ones of that. They might feel that because they’re in the inner city, they can walk down the street and hold hands, but they can’t do that in bush towns, or out west.

I was President of Pride History for a couple of years. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from other LGBTI people about how articulate I am, how fair I am, so I think people see me as being mindfully spoken. And now it’s fantastic to see so many young people involved in Pride History Group.

I am a good photographer. I love playing with light. I love teaching photography. It’s a lifelong journey and to share what I know about it so far, and watch what the students do with it is so inspiring. I’ve learnt so much – listening skills and patience. I embrace technology, though I do miss the darkroom because it slows everything down. I embrace the digital world. The trick is encouraging the students not to go wild and take a million photos when they don’t need to.

I would like to teach part-time so I have more energy for my own creative work. But in reality I imagine teaching for some years.   Financially and emotionally I’m not ready to retire. I have a good bit of working life left in me.

Sal

There are times at work every now and again where I get students who aren’t comfortable with the way I look, in a slightly homophobic way. I try to ignore it.   Considering I work in a design centre I find it intriguing. I always hope it will be different – huh! I had someone at work who was very anti refugees. There were several times I had to walk away because I thought no, I can’t listen to this hatred and intolerance any longer. I live my life considering politics in all kind of ways.

My mother is not comfortable with my sexuality. But I’ve learned to stand back from that – it is her issue, not mine. But it took some time to get to that point. Everyone else in my family is very supportive. I am very close to my brother, and his kids. I didn’t ever want to have kids of my own because you can’t go into the darkroom and let them be.

Being a lesbian woman in this world – I know that I don’t have a hard life – but there’s still so far to go before we can consider ourselves equal. I’m a bit of a serious person around all that. For example, my niece who is a younger dyke, sometimes calls women chicks and I say – hey, there are no wings. I get the usual groan in response. But really, my niece and her friends think I am OK – maybe just a bit annoying at times, in terms of the feminist stuff. I’ve been out to parties with them, and danced and had a great time.

I came out of a long term relationship last year, which was hard. Sex is a really important part of all of us, and a lovely way to share part of you with another person. I also think you can have relationships that are more about companionship. Not every relationship has to have sex for it to be sustainable.

My cat, Pearl, is a great companion to me. She is so affectionate. She’s really helped me when I’ve been feeling down.

As an older person I am so much more comfortable with knowing who I am. I would say to my younger self, just trust that who you know you are is okay. I’m starting to think about where I see myself in 10 years time. I feel totally comfortable with myself. In my thirties I had bravado, but not deep confidence. Now my confidence has caught up with my bravado.

Sal

I’ve had some health issues that impact on my energy and fitness. I was hesitant about getting a pushbike again, because I hadn’t ridden one since I was a teenager, and I was worried about falling off and breaking bones. But guess what? I haven’t fallen off.

I’m not a believer in God or organized spiritual practice for myself. Most organized religions have negative attitudes to women and for that reason they don’t sit very comfortably with me. Having said that, Buddhism makes the most sense to me. I’ve been meditating for the past 15 years, and the regular practice is fabulous. I feel things just wash over me much more. I wanted to do something to change the way I reacted to things, to be less impacted by things. Meditation really does help with stress.

My sexuality continues to be so much a part of me. It has coloured my whole life experience, all my interests, in creative and cultural ways.

 

Sal

Photography by Viv McGregor

 

 

 

 

 

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