Gay Hate Crimes – the Australian Version – A Play

Tonight formally ends Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras 2020 for me. The Parade and the After Party were on the weekend, but I couldn’t fit in all I wanted to see in plays, theatre (I didn’t get to any exhibitions!) over the 2 -3 weeks of the Mardi Gras season. Fortunately, a couple of plays associated with Mardi Gras started the season before, and some, such as the play I saw this evening, continue afterwards.

My final play was “Our Blood Runs In The Street”[1] put on by Redline Productions, and a beautiful little theatre in Woolloomooloo, just outside the CBC, attached to and underneath a pub – the Old Fitzroy. The play runs until 21 March 2020, and I would highly recommend you see it.

I knew some of the story from my volunteering at ACON Health, and also from that being aware of the NSW Upper House Inquiry [2] “Gay and Transgender hate crimes between 1970 and 2010 – 57th Parliament.”

This inquiry follows on from ACON’s report – I”n Pursuit of Truth and Justice: Documenting Gay and Transgender Prejudice Killings in NSW in the Late 20th Century – shines a light on the suspected anti-gay homicides that occurred in NSW from the 1970s and 1990s.” [3]

Given that I didn’t come out until 2015, was married in 1995, and hid my sexuality for most of my life, there were a couple of things that struck me.

Firstly, there is a connection for me, not here in Sydney, but in Adelaide, where I grew up as a child until I finished university. The first time I became aware of the word homosexual, I was nine years old, already knowing I was different, but not why, and this event didn’t help. Adelaide University senior lecturer, English born Dr. George Duncan died on 10 May 1972 after he was bashed, his body thrown into the Torrens River, where he drowned.

Soon after my 13th birthday in 1975, homosexuality was decriminalised in South Australian in 1975, around the time of major trauma in my family over my involvement with another boy. My father’s severe dislike for Don Dunstan, the Premier who brought about this change, plus I suspect his own war experience, meant that he was not supportive of this change at all.

In 2020 his murder has never been solved, and it is thought by many that members of the SA Police Force were involved. In the coronial inquest, members of the SA Police Force refused to answer questions. [4].

While this play (and other TV series on SBS) focus on the gay murders in Sydney, there is a history of the same in Adelaide also, and SBS has produced a web series on their summary of informaiton, “Out of Sight – Untold Story of Adelaide’s Gay Hate Murders.” [5] That was my town.

Each year post-Orlando Massacre, people in various places will read out the names of those that died in that horrendous gay hate attack in Florida. Candle Light vigils are still held to remember those who died in the AIDS crisis.

For me, one of the powerful parts of this play was to hear the names and the date of death of the some 80 or so people of the gay hate murder spree in Sydney.

Whilst some of the choreography of the play, I wouldn’t say I liked the overall presentation of the story was compelling.

Excepts of recordings of listening devices of criminals already in jail to gather more evidence of other gay crimes they committed.

The play explored the probably underreporting of transgender murders in Sydney (and Australia).

We were reminded that the NSW Police, in the case of an American student, determined that it was suicide without collecting any evidence. Three coronial inquiries later, the State Coroner determined that his death was a gay hate crime, some thirty years after his death.

Other stories, of bashings and attacks, and the LGBTIQ communities unwillingness to go to the Police because couldn’t trust the NSW Police, they either didn’t care, may have supportive of the attacks happening or may have been involved.

As I look back over my time in Sydney arriving in 1991 after spending time in Melbourne post-university, I have little or no awareness of these murders.

So I have begun to think, who else is complicit in all of this.

First and obviously the NSW Police Force who it appears failed to investigate these (and possibly more murders) actively.

Secondly, where does Christianity come into this? The Sydney Anglican Church was well on its way of being a leading anti-gay religious community in Australia (and has expanded that activity globally). The Catholic Church which has historically had strong political ties is also notoriously anti-gay. While Australia’s third-largest Christian denomination was progressing on LGBTIQ acceptance during this period, there were still strong pockets of resistance, and significant parish have had (and still have) a significant anti-LGBTIQ stance.

The NSW Police and religious have had a long relationship and did the religious leaders in Sydney put any pressure on the NSW Police Force to not focus on these 88 or more murders?

Thirdly the media. There remain influential groups within the media who are clearly of homophobic and/or transphobic. You only have to look at the ongoing campaign of News Corps “The Australian” with its very regular and unbalances articles running since about July 2019 against transgender youth. There were some journalists who researched and considered these issues, but how did 88 murders go unnoticed by the media? If it these murders had been of almost any other group (probably with the exception unfortunately of Aboriginal people) at that point of time, there would have been a significant outcry. But it was only the murder of the gays.

The families of these victims will never have a sense of finality (as the play said closure is not appropriate here, because you can never close of these events in your lives) until these murders are solved. Unfortunately, with the progress of time, the lack of evidence maintained by the Police, this is getting increasingly unlikely. One hope is that as many of the murderers were likely teenagers, they are now probably in the ’40s or 50’s as life moves on, maybe for some of them, clearing up their conscious is something they might do. Somehow, I think that is a hope too far, but we can always hope.

“Our Blood Runs In The Street” is a play that people should see, particularly our younger members of our society, LGBTIQ and straight. Some rights still need to be achieved, particularly when governments around the world, including our Federal Government in Australia who want to wind back LGBTIQ rights. The winding back of rights will inevitably lead to increasing violence against the LGBTIQ community, starting with verbal abuse, and that may well escalate to the return of significant physical violence and deaths.

And it is those same churches, the Sydney Anglican Church, the Catholic Church, and other conservative Churches in Australia that are rightfully seeking anti-discrimination laws for people of faith, but are also wanting a sword to attack others. They wish to withhold employment and health care from people they don’t approve. They want the right to intimidate LGBTIQ people and others in our society. Where in Christianity is the justification for having a right to intimidate others?

These are the very attitudes that were part of the framework for setting up the environment where there are 88 unsolved murders of gay men in Sydney.

This is why this play, at this point of time, is so important.


[1] https://www.redlineproductions.com.au/our-blood-runs-in-the-street

[2] https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/committees/inquiries/Pages/inquiry-details.aspx?pk=2562

[3] https://www.aconhealth.org.au/report_into_historic_gay_hate_murders_calls_for_justice_and_healing

[4] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-41964671

[5] https://www.sbs.com.au/topics/feature/out-sight-untold-story-adelaides-gay-hate-murders

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