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Updated October 03, Gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, fluid: The spectrum of sexuality and the labels we use to describe it might seem very new, but if we look back, we can see that Australia's past is chock-full of queerness, Graham Willett writes. There was a time when we had fewer choices.
Respectable people called us "homosexuals". Vulgar people called us "poofters" and "lezzos".
Generally, we called ourselves "camps" — or sometimes it was spelled "kamps", which was supposed to refer to a police abbreviation for "known as a male prostitute". The asterisk on "trans" itself gestures towards a plethora of identities, behaviours, attractions. It all seems very new — and it is. But not perhaps in the way that people think. What's new, really, is that people are inventing and celebrating these labels in very public ways, and insisting that society take them seriously. It is the visibility of sexual diversity that is new, and the politics. There is, for example, a secret history of same-sex marriage or "marriage-like relationships" if you prefer in Australia that goes back to colonial days.
One observer reported in that on Norfolk Island there were as many as cohabiting male couples, happily describing themselves as married and referred to themselves as "man and wife". In Sydney, younger convicts had or perhaps took names such as Kitty, Nancy and Bet, and lived under the protection of older, more experienced men exactly in line with heterosexual norms of the time.
In the female prison-workhouses in Tasmania, women convicts flirted, and fought for the affections of the prettier girls, who "titivated" themselves to appeal to those they fancied. Women sent out as servants were known to behave badly, so as to be sent back to the workhouse where their partner was still incarcerated.
Norfolk Island sex encounter, too, with cross-dressing. He had lived and dressed and worked and loved for many years as a man. He had married three times — and his third wife had given birth to their daughter in Then there was Bill Edwards, of Melbourne, who, inwas discovered to have been born a woman and became known in the sensational media coverage thereafter as Marion-Bill Edwards. Ellen Maguire, of Fitzroy, was a notorious prostitute, which was bad enough. When it became known Maguire was a man, John Wilson, whom many young men had paid for sex, he was condemned to death by the courts.
The sentence was commuted, but he died in prison not long after, broken by his sentence of hard labour, in chains. But so, too, are the young men.
Could they really not have known Maguire's true sex? The sexual encounters took place in the dark, with both partners fully dressed, and sexual knowledge less widespread than it is today. It is possible they didn't know; of course, the penalty for sodomy was death, so they had a pretty good reason for lying about it. By the s and thirties, Melbourne and Sydney had healthy kamp scenes, where men who loved men and women who loved women could mingle.
Cafes and pubs that catered to bohemians and theatricals and political agitators — and people "like that" were scattered around town. Parks and streets provided opportunities for smouldering glances, an exchange of pleasantries, coded conversations Always quick to adopt new technologies and turn them to their own nefarious ends, kamp men and women used telephones and the post to keep in touch, and found cars and trains to be convenient alternatives to bedrooms and alleyways.
In the s, flats became popular as a way of living away from family — perhaps sharing with a 'friend' to split the cost. First-wave feminist activism sparked Norfolk Island sex encounter a romance between middle-class women. Pretty much everything we know, however, we know because something went wrong. Court records and the tattle-tale tabloid press were ruining lives by outing and shaming people, to be sure — but they were recording our history for us, too.
All those women who passed as men and who did not get caught, all those men who fell in love and lived happily ever after and whose family and friends and workmates did not notice, or pretended not to — these don't turn up very often in our histories, although historians are still discovering them.
Monte Punshon was born in Melbourne and was a lover of women.
Her great love was Debbie, but this was not her only love affair by any means. She mingled in a very camp world and when Debbie broke up with her, Punshon was consoled by a group of friends she called her "homosexual boyfriends". Norfolk Island sex encounter know about Monte's life because, unlike many of her generation, she chose to talk about it — beginning at the age of !
She never used the word lesbian, but she knew herself and created a life that allowed her to be that person. All of these people — and many, many more than we will ever know — are part of our history. And by "our" I do not mean queer people only — these lives are part of the history of our cities, regions, states, nation. We understand ourselves better if we know about them; they remind us that human beings have a remarkable capacity for self-invention: as individuals, and through the creation of scenes, subcultures, communities and movements.
That self-invention generates more social diversity that we might realise — and always has. Topics: historyrelationshipssexualitypeople. First posted April 09, If you have inside knowledge of a topic in the news, contact the ABC. ABC teams share the story behind the story and insights into the making of digital, TV and radio content.
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Photo: Sexual fluidity may feel like a new thing but Australia's history suggests otherwise. AAP: Alan Porritt, file photo. Photo: Edward De Lacy Evans was in discovered to be a Norfolk Island sex encounter, but he had lived, dressed, worked and loved for many years as a man. More on gender and sexuality Male and female brains are not that different, study shows Gender fluidity: one of the best things to happen in my lifetime Sexual fluidity: Living a label-free life. Photo: Monte Punshon, c. Top Stories 'Total deviousness': Witnesses recount 'suspicious' inferno in the Luna Park Ghost Train Felicity was kept as a 'slave', caged and tattooed.
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Australia's secret history of sexual fluidity