More than the demos; more than the polite lobbying; more than Mardi Gras even. Being out is what has brought about the transformation of attitudes to homosexuality in our society.

When lesbians and gay men began to speak for ourselves in Australia – beginning with the formation of the Campaign Against Moral Persecution in 1970 – we did not yet have the term ‘coming out’. That came from the US a year or two later. But the fact of coming out, the fact that homosexuals who had for so long hidden themselves from the public gaze were now prepared to identify themselves, proudly, openly – this was a startling new development. The media was electrified and couldn’t get enough of us.

Even when they lost interest, the impact of being out was not lost. Activists started to tell their family, their friends, their bosses and workmates, their priests and their doctors that they were gay. Some, it is true, reacted badly. But for the most part, people responded with a surprising degree of acceptance. Word spread, confidence grew. Many gay people – literally tens of thousands – who had been afraid and angry, accusing the activists of ‘rocking the boat’ and making trouble, began to follow their lead.

Suddenly it became clear to millions of people that homosexuals were, indeed, ‘everywhere’, and were remarkably like everyone else. Acceptance became the order of the day.

Even today, coming out and being out remain the keys to changing the world.

Brought to you by the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives

Posted in History Bites.