Richard Ammon – GlobalGayz.com
Hobart, Tasmania, November 9, 2009
Gay life is everywhere, as we know, even here in Tasmania.
Some people think of this place as some remote Africa country hardly worth mentioning. But they couldn’t be more wrong. Tasmania is Australia’s southernmost state, off the south coast of the continent and separated by treacherous seas. But flying in from Sydney is a smooth trip on JetStar Airlines into the modest and tidy airport. Immediately a visitor notices how friendly folks are here–even if recalcitrant legislators here were the last in Australia to acknowledge the presence and legitimacy of homosexuality.
Now, a few short years later it has the best school anti-homophobia programs, Anti-discrimination Act and same-sex relationship laws in the country, all with public support. In 2004 Tasmania became the first Australian State to establish a civil union scheme for samesex and other couples.
The state tourism agency produces a 31-page brochure specific for LGBT visitors (www.discovertasmania.com) with a full history of the struggle for rights and a complete listing of all venues.
Hollywood gossip provided Tasmania with its most famous queer citizen, film idol Errol Flynn of the 1940s and 50s. Famously, one director shouted at Errol: ‘Stop acting like a goddam faggot, you no-good Tasmanian, bum, son-of-a-bitch.’ In this on-set outburst, Michael Curtiz, director of Flynn’s first Hollywood hit, Captain Blood, summed up two major themes of Errol’s life: his Tasmanian origins and his reputed bisexuality. In his autobiography, Flynn reflected happily on trips into the wilderness with his biologist father, Theodore, trapping native animals like the now extinct Tasmanian tiger.
By coincidence, our arrival in 2009 coincided with the annual TazPride Festival, this year from 31 October to 15 November. For this, the GLC Centre produced a 35-page program of events stretching over two weeks, with the state tourism office as one of the major sponsors. Tassie has come a long way in a few short years. TazPride events include a Halloween party, concerts, film festival, family picnic, dances, story telling, radio propgrams and Divine Divas.
In addition to the special events during the Festival, the gay community in Hobart has groups and organizations that offer legal advice services, youth counseling, women’s groups, hiking club, social organizations such as Human Rights Week, Coming Out Proud Program and the annual Rainbow Award event–as well as a bar (Flamingos), a gay friendly cafe (Fresh), and accommodations (Huon Bush Retreat).
Overall, gay life is quietly alive here. At a gay day picnic (part of the 2-week gay TazFest) about 50 people showed up for a friendly folksy afternoon of events one might expect at a town fair: pet dog showing, a three-legged race, a drag dressing contest, a potato-sack race and a purse-throwing competition (won by a lesbian) along with tasty lentil burgers, hot dogs, numerous babies and curious neighbors who lived by the Parliament Oval park venue.
As one picnic-goer said, “we used to be more active and vocal but now that they’ve made us legal there’s not much to fight for”, referring to the decriminalization of homosexual behavior in 1997. Gay marriage is a far off dream as is full equality. “But we have it pretty good here. People don’t hide but we don’t have a parade either. There are no grinding issues.”