A new exhibition showcasing the history of the LGBTIQ community in the Northern Rivers, Lismore Has a Diverse Past is now on display at Southern Cross University until 30 June 2017.
The history of the lives of LGBTIQ people is always the history of the society in which those lives are lived. By its very nature this exhibition is a celebration of resilience whilst also facing the ongoing challenges LGBTIQ communities face, with the changing nature of identity, sexual mores and social values.
Curator and volunteer LGBTIQ community historian, Ian Gray said the exhibition, currently open at the Southern Cross University Learning Centre, “is a celebration of our vibrant history. We have always been here in regional and rural Australia – we are still here and we are getting stronger.”
While Lismore is now a reasonably accepting and safe place to live, these facts have ongoing and powerful effects. “History must include the whole story, and for too long our struggles and our everyday stories have been invisible, much of it lay hidden, even forgotten,” said Gray. “Almost a conspiracy of silence! We have always been part of history but sometimes it’s been a bit hard to find us. Straight Australia has a queer his/herstory too.”
“These days we have attention paid to us by the media, commerce and government in the name of equality, or maybe more because we are just ‘so colourful!’, but always present just under the surface is ongoing trans/homophobia that can be experienced in a myriad of subtle and not so subtle ways, it must be dealt with and challenged daily.”
As an unveiling of the work of the Tropical Fruits Queer History Project, the exhibition hosted by the QSCU Society, will showcase the excavation and uncovering of local his/herstories, much of the information gathered through personal interviews with those who were in the Northern Rivers from the nineteen sixties onwards.
Included are a number of photographic and written presentations outlining the history of the LGBTIQ community in the Northern Rivers, including: Queer in the Country; Rural Response to the HIV / AIDS Crisis; Mandala – Australia’s first ‘gay’ commune; Homo Aquarius; The Winsome Hotel; and the Tropical Fruits Inc.
The exhibition also looks at the acrimonious battle in the mid-1980s between local activists and the major regional newspaper – The Northern Star, while showcasing the changes in current representation of the LGTBIQ community in local media.
“QSCU was set up to promote inclusivity, respect and awareness of gender diversity in the Lismore Campus at Southern Cross University and this exhibition offers a great chance to promote those goals by telling the stories of our sexuality and gender diverse communities,” says QSCU Society President, Shae Brown. “We aim to generate respectful engagement and discussion about community and professional life.”
The Lismore Has a Diverse Past exhibition will contribute to the ongoing journey for equality, and community belonging for everyone. There are many stereotypes and myths about LGBTIQ communities – this exhibition is an opportunity for Lismore people to look beyond those myths.
Lismore Has a Diverse Past
Learning Centre – Goodman Plaza, Southern Cross University, Lismore
Exhibition continues to 30 June 2017
For more information, visit: www.facebook.com/qscusociety for details.
Image: Ronny Susanto, Shae Brown and Ian Gray at the opening of the Lismore Has a Diverse Past exhibition – photo by Brad Mustow