Set ironically against the austere walls of the State Library’s Institute Building, Gay Times are Here Again was always going to defy easy categorisation.
A colourful retrospective, dedicated to the first Gay Pride March in Adelaide held September 15, 1973, the exhibition consists of a collection of high quality photographs of the ‘Proud Parade’, courtesy of the National Australian Archives. It also presents the rise of a burgeoning print media, magazines and newspapers such as the Adelaide Gay Times, which acted as seminal tools in raising awareness, advocacy, support and protest for the GLBTIQ liberation movement (GLBTIQ is the acronym commonly used for for Gay Lesbian Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer).
The exhibition primarily tracks the course of the Parade, organised by the Adelaide Gay Activists’ Alliance as a part of National Gay Pride Week, with the images revealing an atmosphere of celebration, tribute and elation, from gaily sung platitudes of ‘Happy hom-o-sex-uals’, photographs of young women holding seemingly innocuous placards ‘Lesbians are Lovely’ (also ‘Don’t Panic, lesbians are everywhere’), to the mention of what must surely have been an audience highlight – a salaciously sounding ‘love in’ at the bedding department of David Jones.
However amidst the balloons and the cheerful placards, it is also an exposition of the hardship and persecution of Adelaide’s homosexual community, prior to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1975; ‘Come out, come out wherever you are,’ one of the many celebratory slogans chanted during the march, also disconcertingly speaks to an underlying hostility and malevolence which marred the burgeoning movement, often at the hands of Adelaide’s police, often by means of raids and entrapment.
Sobering accounts of young men and women turning to electro-shock therapy, suicide and the murder of gay Adelaide University Law Lecturer, Dr George Duncan, in 1972, which to this day remains one of Adelaide’s most notorious, unsolved crimes, reminds the viewer that underlying the revelry of the march, there was a clear and unequivocal message: GAY PRIDE.
From the context of pre-liberation oppression to a fresh climate of social reform ushered in by Don Dunstan in 1965, the exhibition presents the movement as transforming awareness of homosexuality away from the stagnation of whispered coffee lounge discussions to an active activism given voice through public protest- ‘militant and proud rather than humble and accepting’.
The subcultures and/or counter cultures aligned with the movement are playfully exposed in the variously strewn magazine and pamphlet excerpts, some with heavily politicised calls to action, others more cheekily, simply invite the reader to send in their naughty stories.
Gay Times Are here Again recounts a highpoint in the history of the Adelaide GLBTIQ liberation movement, but in its rich imagery of 1970’s Adelaide culture, it offers something for everyone, regardless of orientation; significantly, it also offers a politics or rhetoric which still holds resonance for the politics of today: Two, four, six, eight, gay is just as good as straight!
But, if politics isn’t your thing… naughty story anyone?
Reviewed by Jordana Lennox
Gay Times Are here Again
Where: Ground Floor, Institute Building, State Library of South Australia, cnr North Terrace and Kintore Avenue, Adelaide
When: 18 September – 24 November 2013
Photo credit: Rod Lewis