Did you come out in the 1970s?

Wednesday 25 November 2020

The State Library is looking for people who came out in the 1970s!     

Lifelong activist John Englart excitedly scribbled this note in his diary 47 years ago: ‘Monday 10th September 1973: This is GAY PRIDE WEEK, I have come out !!!’    

John Englart, then a 17-year-old schoolboy from Sydney’s north-west, was among the many young people realising their same sex attraction in an astoundingly different Australia to the one we know today. Back then, male homosexuality was illegal, and men could get hit with a 14-year gaol term for being caught in the act, twice the penalty for rape.   

The State Library has just acquired John Englart’s personal diaries kept between 15 March 1970 and 2 September 1974 (from the age of 17-21), as well as his rare collection of Kodak instamatic snapshots documenting Australia’s first national Gay Pride Week in 1973, which saw Sydney’s largest public gathering of lesbians and gay men yet, and other important protests of the era.   

The acquisition is timely – it will feature in the Library's new exhibition Coming Out in the 70s (opening Saturday 28 November) to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of CAMP Inc (the Campaign Against Moral Persecution), Australia’s first political organisation for same-sex oriented men and women.  

CAMP’s main aims were to promote the visibility of gay men and lesbians in the community, advocating for their rights, and to raise public awareness about the issues faced by homosexual people in Australia at the time. 

According to Coming Out in the 70s co-curator Bruce Carter, "Englart’s compelling firsthand account offers not only a rare insight into the personal and emotional journey of a Sydney teenager exploring his sexual identity, but also records the growing political awareness of this young man who would become a lifelong activist." 

Coming Out in the 70s tells the stories of the lesbians and gay men who, through individual acts of defiance and mass political campaigning, proudly demanded to be seen, heard and accepted. 

Penny Short was trainee teacher at Macquarie University when she was declared 'medically unfit' to teach children after her explicit lesbian poem was published in the student paper Arena. Her Department of Education scholarship was revoked and never reinstated.   

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