Ron Van Houwelingen – Tribute to Tasty Survivors

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In the early hours of 7 August 1994, Victoria Police raided Tasty, a nightclub in Melbourne’s CBD with a predominately queer clientele. Hundreds were strip-searched under the pretence of a drug search. The police didn’t find a thing.

I happened to be in the ladies’ toilets, about 2am, with a trans* friend having a chat. Suddenly we heard sirens, the lights went on and a female police officer stormed in and immediately separated my friend and me.

What happened next was an ordeal that went for many hours. Each of the 463 patrons at Tasty were made one-by-one to strip and bend over for Victoria Police to perform a search.

There was an escalating feeling that the police weren’t finding what they were looking for. They knew they couldn’t find anything, and they were getting angry.

I was one of the first to be stripped but there were hours before of just standing with our hands against the wall, or on our heads, waiting to be searched. Anytime you got tired and your hands would slip, an officer would yell out: ‘Hey faggot! Hands back on the wall!’

There was an added level of humiliation for Tasty’s drag queens and trans* patrons, who were also forced to undergo a full strip-search.

The incident led to successful legal action against Victoria Police with damages of well over $10,000,000 awarded to patrons. This sum would have been considerably higher had all affected parties come forward—a large number of patrons, fearful of the repercussions of “outing” themselves in a public forum or reluctant to relive the traumatic experience of the raid, did not participate.

Although very different in their particular manifestations of activism, the Tasty incident has been described by some as Melbourne’s ‘Stonewall’  comparable to the latter through its effect on community views and awareness, and resultant reviews of inappropriate police activity.

If not already wary of police presence following decades of harassing the community (Stonewall, Mardi Gras etc.) this event left me with genuine trust issues that I’m still working through.

Following the Tasty raid, the LGBTI Liaison Officer program was implemented to help build rapport and also to have trained and experienced liaison officers to be there to support victims of crime who may identify as LGBTI, and this is a welcome initiative.

My mask recognises the magical and fabulous patrons that frequented the Tasty Nightclub back in the mid 90’s. I chose the colour silver to reflect the mirror balls and the blinding colour of the costumes and the general mood that a night at Tasty felt like. It was a place for the ‘queerest of the queers’ – the feeling (before the raid) was one of euphoria, of celebration. We’d survived the 80’s; the loss of many of our friends. This should have been a time to recover from our pain, not introduce a new one.

In 2014, Victoria Police finally apologised for the Tasty raid. While I welcomed the apology, I still wonder why it took 20 years.

More than an apology, the best thing to have come out of Tasty is the lesson that our strength lies in our ability to struggle collectively. For the patrons at Tasty, collectivity was something learned through the AIDS crisis. AIDS was the reason we became active. There was a general camaraderie based on lost members of the community, lost friends. We were already a wounded community, but in many ways, that gave us our strength.

 

 

 

Ayman Barbaresco – Never A Crime

NAC2_0116To me, pride is when you can truly be yourself. It means to be the real person that you are and not worry about what other people think. It is about letting your guard down and being happy in your own skin.

I have had a very mixed life as a gay man. I was accepted by my mum and outed at school. My dad didn’t accept it at first but has 13 years later by saying “I am ok that you’re gay. It’s your choice and that’s ok.”

In the “gay” community I have struggled massively with body image. Being just shy of five foot and not muscle built, I have found it hard to be accepted. It has taken me a long time and I am still working on it but I am coming to terms with being me and not worrying what others think

My mask is about breaking down the barriers and showing your brave self. The copper represents strength and courage. It resembles being exposed and soft to show the real person that you are.

Andrew Rogers – Never a Crime

NAC2_0120Pride to me means quiet strength in breathing the same amount of airspace as those around me, to paraphrase a writer whose name escapes me. Pride is recognising the courage with which we confidently move through the world as equal but not the same participants.

My life as a gay man has been one of delight that I am for the who and what I’ve met along the way that I may not have otherwise experienced. A life of living with and enjoying human diversity. It hasn’t been a smooth road but its given me a tribe that has become family where we share both sorrows and successes. I’ve loved being a gay man and never wanted to be otherwise.

My mask tells a story of a much younger me learning early to hide full expression behind an impervious barrier in a childhood landscape that was blue and green and straw yellow. It’s a landscape that hasn’t left me though the barrier has been mostly eroded.

Michael Dalton – Never a Crime

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Michael Dalton:My mirror mask: being able to look at yourself in the mirror and like what you see, warts and all as they say. It’s an ongoing process.

Pride means I get to be me. I get to live my life as a proud, out gay man. When I was younger I remember hearing the word “poof” like so many others around me. It prevented me from coming out when I was really young (15 or 16). But it didn’t take me much longer.

Antony McManus – Never a Crime

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Antony McManus:The journey to YES! Rally after rally, year after year, we persevered knowing that marriage equality would be realised. I thought it would happen sooner, but it was such an amazing journey. And now I am married to the man I love

Pride is living without fear. I can take pride knowing that I get involved when I see injustices within our community. I have been very lucky. I have surrounded myself with supportive, loving people.

Peter Hudson – Never A Crime

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Peter Hudson:My mask is black and white – signifying the ambivalence I feel towards my gay self. The tri coloured tears on the white surface are the blood, sweat and tears of struggling with life and relationships of a gay man. The tears are necessary and worthwhile and are blended in together. The ambivalence I mentioned is both my own feelings and the feelings of people close to me who struggle with acceptance and understanding of other world views

Pride means confidence, self-expression, community, acceptance, solidarity, camaraderie, joy of life, living, amazing creativity, growing graciousness and wisdom

My message to men who were unjustly convicted is claim your emancipation! Take back what is rightfully yours – your dignity, your self expression and your youthful searchings. The antiquated laws were a reaction to fear of the unknown, the different – so step up and make yourself known in your beauty and diversity boldly but graciously

What has changed is that many more people have experience and language around gay and bisexual people. There’s a greater degree of ‘naturalness’ around engaging with LGBTI people. I sense the community is a lot more supportive/vocal of LGBTI people – event spontaneously in situations of tension or discrimination. Also, many LGBTI people are becoming more articulate and courageous in challenging community attitudes

My mask is black and white – signifying the ambivalence I feel towards my gay self. The tri coloured tears on the white surface are the blood, sweat and tears of struggling with life and relationships of a gay man. The tears are necessary and worthwhile and are blended in together. The ambivalence I mentioned is both my own feelings and the feelings of people close to me who struggle with acceptance and understanding of other world views.