and a recommendation …
This piece was written by the smart and switched-on Australian journalist Julia Baird, sister of former NSW Premier Mike Baird, the bloke who presided over intensified police drug dog operations that made us hate and fear the cops again, the one who went on with his cronies to become such fierce and thick upholders of the NSW lockout laws, which effectively obliterated social life in general and Sydney’s gay party culture in particular as we knew it…
Remember that guy?
Anyway, back to the good bit, Julia wrote this piece in 2004 ~ more than a decade before her brother Mike became Premier of NSW (the same year, it turns out, that internet sites for the first time became the most common way men looked for each other for sex; a circumstance strangely absent from the accounts the article engages with to work out what was changing, how, and why …but I say this in hindsight, more a retrospective thought to inform present activities/ activisms.
In Chemical Palace, Fiona McGregor articulates that sense in the late 90s that things were splintering, but what were the mechanisms of that splintering? It splintered in so many ways: including all those she names, for sure, and more ..
For guys especially, I think, one important source of this splintering was the new pleasures and possibilities and problems of digital cruising ..(I explore the impacts of digital culture on queer sexual sociability in my new book, The Gay Science (Routledge, 2017).
One thing I wonder about, re-reading this piece today, at any rate, is whether Mike ever read his sister’s piece, and if the did, what he thought of it? could he relate? how did it affect him? Could he even be bothered trying to get a sense of what it’s feeling out for, its significance, its meaning?
Because I guess in the back of my mind I’m wondering, Mike (if I may): did you ever have the pleasure of partying at Mardi Gras? with your sister? or whoever? did you enjoy it? make new friends? smile with someone? learn new dance moves? get a jiggle in your hips? have an adventure? have a chat with ….anyone? anything?
(I just remember how my sister and I loved these parties, went to them together, or separately with our friends and others, so many times, such awesome times, all of us dancing, playing, laughing, crying, moving, joking, smiling, zoning out, searching, encountering each other, beside ourselves, together…)
And Mike if you did get the pleasure, what did you think of it? What did it do for you? How did it change you? How could it not have??
Tell us, wherever you are, Mike Baird, what did you make of it? Do you remember? (because many of us do). What did you do to it? Where are they now?
I can’t help thinking, you see, Mike, had you actually got that pleasure … ( & now I’m just speculating I suppose) … what would Sydney feel like today? How would it differ? What would we be capable of? How would it feel? What might become of that history today – the good bits at least – & what supports do we need to build for these good bits to flourish, right now, all together, in the present?
It’s not at all a matter of wanting or thinking we can somehow just go back and live happily in some romanticised mid 1990 bubble. I don’t think anyone really thinks or wants that, anymore. Things have changed. We’ve moved on. New things are happening now, some better, some worse – including for new, previously excluded, identities and constituencies – that nobody could have imagined then. Creativity. Or, as Muriel Heslop’s father would say, ‘You can’t stop Progress’… (I beg to differ)
No, it’s more a matter of thinking about what this time did for us, what bits are worth carrying forward, what bits are worth affirming and remembering, what we want to let go of, what can’t we forget? . In other words, this isn’t a whinge, or some sort of nostalgic rant (ok maybe just a little bit of each/both to be honest), but actually meant this festive season, in the gayest of spirits as an entirely practical question:
How can we make what was nourishing and energising and important about those times, those spaces, those processes, those connections, those intimacies, those dynamisms, return/again ~ be renewed ~ newly happen?
I love Dion Kagan’s fresh new thinking on this question, by the way … he’s young and well-read and smart and lives in Melbourne and well, he definitely gets it. His book is even bathed in the inverted colours of Gay Christmas! 🖤❤️🖤
Perfect Summer Reading ☀️ Hopefully it’s out before Gay Christmas (by which I mean late February… what were you thinking??)