Lesbian feminist in 1990s Melbourne: An interview using my mum

I usually knew my personal mum had been gay. While I had been around 12 years of age, I would personally run around the playground boasting to my personal schoolmates.

“My mum’s a lesbian!” I might scream.

My reasoning had been this forced me to a lot more fascinating. Or perhaps my mum had drilled it into me that becoming a lesbian ought to be a source of pride, and that I got that really actually.

2 decades later, I found myself personally doing a PhD on cultural reputation of Melbourne’s internal metropolitan countercultures throughout the 1960s and seventies. I was choosing people who had lived in Carlton and Fitzroy throughout these decades, when I ended up being interested in learning more and more the progressive metropolitan society that We was raised in.

During this time, folks in these areas pursued a freer, much more libertarian way of life. These people were constantly checking out their particular sex, creativeness, activism and intellectualism.

These communities had been specifically considerable for ladies located in share-houses or with pals; it was becoming usual and accepted for ladies to reside separately on the family or marital residence.

Image: Molly Mckew’s mommy, used by author


n 1990, after divorcing dad, my personal mum moved to Brunswick old 30. Here, she encountered feminist politics and lesbian activism. She begun to grow into her imagination and intellectualism after spending most of her 20s getting a married mom.

Influenced by my personal PhD interviews, I made the decision to inquire of the lady about it. I hoped to get together again the woman recollections using my very own thoughts with this time. I additionally planned to get a fuller picture of in which feminism and activism is at in 1990s Melbourne; a neglected decade in histories of lgbt activism.

During this time period, Brunswick ended up being an extremely fashionable suburb that has been near adequate to my personal mum’s outer suburbs institution without being a residential district hellscape. We stayed in a poky terrace residence on Albert Street, close to a milk club where I spent my once a week 10c pocket money on two tasty Strawberries & solution lollies.

Nearby Sydney path ended up being dotted with Greek and Turkish cafes, where my personal mum would sometimes get us hot products and desserts. We largely consumed incredibly mundane meals from nearby wellness food retailers – there is nothing that can compare with becoming gaslit by carob on Easter Sunday.


s someone that is afflicted with FOMO (fear of getting left behind), I became interested in whether my mum think it is depressed relocating to another spot where she understood no one. My personal mum laughs aloud.

“I found myself not at all lonely!” she claims. “It was the eve of a revolution! Females wanted to gather and share their tales of oppression from males plus the patriarchy.”

And she was actually glad not to be around guys. “I did not engage any guys for decades.”

The epicentre of the woman activist globe had been Los Angeles Trobe college. There is a passionate ladies’ Officer, as well as a Women’s area when you look at the beginner Union, where my mum invested plenty of her time planning presentations and sharing tales.

She glows regarding activist world at Los Angeles Trobe.

“It decided a transformation involved to happen and then we needed to transform our everyday life and stay section of it. Ladies happened to be coming-out and marriages happened to be being busted.”

The ladies she met were revealing experiences they would never had the opportunity to environment before.

“The women’s researches course I became undertaking was actually similar to a difficult, conscious-raising party,” she claims.


y mum recalls the dark Cat cafe in Fitzroy fondly, a still-operating cafe that launched in 1981. It actually was one of the first on Brunswick Street; it was “where everyone went”. She also frequented Friends for the world in Collingwood, where many rallies happened to be organized.

There seemed to be a lesbian available household in Fitzroy and a lesbian mother’s group in Northcote. The caretaker’s class provided a place to share things such as coming out your kids, associates going to school events and “the real-life consequences to be gay in a society that couldn’t protect gay people”.

That which was the goal of feminist activism back then? My mum tells me it was quite similar as now – a baseline battle for equality.

“We desired quite a few practical change. We talked plenty about equal pay, childcare, and basic societal equivalence; like ladies getting enabled in taverns and being corresponding to men in all aspects.”


the guy “personal is actually political” was the message and “women took this actually honestly”.

It may sound familiar, in addition to not-being enabled in bars (thank goodness). I ask this lady just what feminist culture ended up being like back then – assuming it was most likely very different towards pop-culture powered, referential and irony-addled feminism of 2022.

My personal mum remembers feminist tradition as “loud, out, defiant as well as on the street”. At among the restore the night time rallies, a night-time march seeking to draw awareness of women’s general public security (or diminished), mum recalls this fury.

“we yelled at some Christians viewing the march that Christ was the largest prick of all. I was aggravated during the patriarchy and [that] the church was actually exactly about guys in addition to their energy.”


y mum was a student in the lesbian scene, which she encountered through college, Friends with the Earth plus the Shrew – Melbourne’s first feminist bookstore.

From the her having a number of very kind girlfriends. One allow me to see

Video Hits

each time we went more than and fed me personally dizzyingly sugary meals. As a youngster, I went to lesbian rallies and assisted to operate stalls offering tapes of Mum’s very own love songs and activist anthems.

“Lesbians had been regarded as deficient and odd rather than become respected,” she claims about social attitudes at that time.

“Lesbian females are not truly obvious in culture because you could easily get sacked for being homosexual during the time.”

The writer Molly Mckew as a kid at the woman mom’s industry stall. Photographer as yet not known, circa 1991


large amount of activism during the time involved destigmatising lesbianism by growing their presence and normalcy – that I imagine In addition was actually attempting to do by telling all my personal schoolmates.

“The older lesbians skilled shame and often assault within their relationships – many of them had key connections,” Mum tells me.

We ask whether she previously experienced stigma or discrimination, or whether the woman modern milieu offered their with emotional protection.

“I happened to be out most of the time, while not usually feeling comfortable,” she answers. Discrimination still occurred.

“I was when pulled over by an officer because I got a lesbian moms signal back at my auto. There was clearly absolutely no reason and I got a warning, and even though I becamen’t rushing whatsoever!”


ike all activist moments, or any world after all, there is division. There was stress between “newly coming out lesbians, ‘baby dykes’ and ladies who was the main gay culture for a long period”.

Separatism was actually discussed a lot back then. Often if a lesbian or feminist had a daughter, or failed to live-in a female-only family, it caused unit.

There were additionally class tensions inside the scene, which, although varied, was still controlled by middle-class white females. My personal mum recognizes these tensions due to the fact starts of attempts at intersectionality – something which characterises present-day feminist discussion.

“People began to critique the motion to be exclusionary or classist. When I started to execute my own personal tracks at festivals and activities, some women confronted myself [about being] a middle-class feminist because we owned a property along with an auto. It actually was mentioned behind my straight back that I experienced obtained money from my personal past commitment with one. Therefore had been we a genuine feminist?”

But my mum’s intimidating recollections tend to be of a consuming collective power. She informs me that the woman tracks had been expressions from the principles in those sectors; justice, openness and introduction. “It was every person together, yelling for change”.


hen I found myself about eight, we moved from Brunswick in order to a home in Melbourne’s exterior eastern. My personal mum typically eliminated by herself through the significant milieu she’d experienced and turned into more spirituality focused.

We nevertheless decided to go to ladies witch teams from time to time. I remember the razor-sharp smell of smoke after class chief’s extended black tresses caught fire in a forest routine. “Sorry to traumatise you!” my mum laughs.

We stroll to a regional cafe and purchase lunch. The coziness of Mum’s presence breaks me and I also begin to weep about a recently available separation with a man. But her indication of just how independency is a hard-won freedom and advantage selects me personally up again.

I am reminded that while we develop the energy, independency and several factors, you can find communities that usually will keep us.

Molly Mckew is a writer and artist from Melbourne, exactly who in 2019 completed a PhD throughout the countercultures with the 1960s and seventies in urban Melbourne. She actually is been printed in




in addition to co-authored a chapter when you look at the collection

Metropolitan Australia and Post-Punk: Checking Out Puppies in Area

modified by David Nichols and Sophie Perillo. Possible follow the girl on Instagram
right here.

Source: /old-bbw-lesbians.html

Posted By


Previous Next
Test Caption
Test Description goes like this