Perhaps the most laughably misnamed paper in Australia, the Truth has been a source not just of amusement for generations of Australians, but is more and more a source of knowledge. Especially of queer lives in our past.

In its efforts to sell as many papers as possible, the Truth reported the stories that more respectable newspapers wouldn’t touch. It reports indecent assault cases, cross-dressers, men/women, bizarre murders, sex change operations, and ‘fairy’ clubs – and in doing so allows us to gain ideas of where the we met in earlier days, what we did, how we were perceived by the wider community, and how that community sought to deal with us.

Not only did they report these cases at length; they editorialised about the cases, the individuals and the general tone of society. When you read through old newspapers, you not only find facts: where were men arrested for having sex with other men; what did a husband do if he found that his wife preferred the company of another woman.  You also get a feel for the things that made society nervous.

And all in a tone that was always racy and often bordering on camp – most dramatically perhaps in a 1915 headline: ‘Lindsay Kemble’s Lurk – Mountebank Manikin Masquerades as a French Girl – Amorous Antics of an Advertising Actor – Disgusting Doings of a Degenerate – A Hideous Menace to Morality – Adelaide’s Plain Duty “Boot the Blackguard Out!”’

They just don’t write ’em like that anymore.

Brought to you by the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives

Posted in History Bites.