Hold Hands on a Tram
In his 2016 apology for the historical treatment of gay people, especially men, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews told the story of two lesbians who were convicted with offensive behaviour for holding hands on a tram. This focus on lesbians historical experiences is important. LGBTI histories are often viewed collectively – but vary significantly between subgroups. Older lesbians experiences of homophobia were compounded by sexism – women had (and still have) fewer rights than men (journal article). We need to understand lesbian historical experiences and celebrate their strategies for resistance.
Following his apology, The Premier urged community members to ‘hold hands on a tram’ as a gesture to challenge homophobia (view the apology). This gesture was successfully adopted in Holland to support a gay couple who were assaulted for holding hands (view Dutch campaign).
Hold Hands on a Tram – or ‘Tram’ was launched in July 2017 (MediaRelease) to recognise historical experiences of lesbophobia and the resistance that got older lesbians through this lesbophobia. You can support the project in a number of ways:
- Share archival material: send us a copy of information relating to historical experiences of lesbophobia (including information relating to the conviction of women for holding hands in 1977)
- Share a story: older lesbians are invited to share their stories of resistance and we invite younger lesbians to talk to an older lesbian and document a story together
- Share a photo: we invite all women, and lesbians in particular, to send us a photo holding hands – on a tram, in a park, on the couch, in a paddock – anywhere that can be shared
- Join the Tram ride: join a group of Lesbian elders as we jump on a Tram (holding hands of course) from the Melbourne CBD and head to St Kilda for afternoon tea – as part of Victorian Seniors Festival
1. Share archival material
Please share any archival material relating to historical experiences of lesbophobia, including information relating to the 1976 conviction. We are also calling for a volunteer to search through the microfiche at the State Library of the Sun newspaper and, if necessary, Truth, between November 1976 and April 1977, for the report of the two women holding hands in a tram. The following is an extract from the Report of the Premier’s Equal Opportunity Advisory Council (18 April 1977):
13. Resolution concerning Section 17 1 (d) of the Summary Offences Act.
The Equal Opportunity Advisory Council agreed to draw the attention of the Premier to Section 17 1 (d) of the Summary Offences Act dealing with offensive or indecent behaviour which is vague and therefore permits discriminatory prosecutions. The Council recommends to the Premier that this sub-section be considered by the Government with a view to prescribing an equal treatment clause so, that if behaviour between heterosexuals in public is not considered offensive such behaviour between homosexuals should not be considered offensive
14. Reasons for Resolution concerning Section 17 1 (d) of the Summary Offences Act
14.1 The Homosexual Law Reform Coalition drew the attention of the Council to a recent case in which two women were convicted of offensive behaviour for holding hands in a tram.
14.2 The Council recognises that Section 17 1 (d) is a vague catch all provision and therefore permits selective and discriminatory prosecutions, and the Council therefore decided to draw it to the attention of the Premier, and to recommend that the Government consider the matter with a view to possibly alleviating its operation in the area described.
We will share suitable material on this webpage and we are working with ALGA to present historical information during the Victorian Seniors Festival.
2. Share a story
We think it is important to hear lesbians historical experiences of lesbophobia and their stories of resistance in response. We invite older lesbians to share these stories and particularly encourage younger, middle and mature aged lesbians, and other people, to talk to older lesbians about their experiences. Stories can be short (a few paragraphs) or long. Please email your stories to Dr Catherine Barrett at Alice’s Garage or ring Catherine for more information (contact details below).
3. Share a photo #womenholdinghands
Please send us your photo of two women holding hands – on a tram, in a park, on the couch, in a paddock – anywhere that can be shared. Ways to share include:
- Celebrate Ageing Twitter using the hashtag: #womenholdinghands
- Send via email to Alice’s Garage: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Post them to Alice’s Garage Facebook page.
4. Join the tram ride
In October 2017, as part of the Victorian Seniors Festival, a group of lesbian elders will board a tram from the Melbourne CBD and travel through the City of Port Phillip to the St Kilda Town Hall for afternoon tea and to share their stories of resistance. The event recognises the historical experiences and resistance of older lesbians. It also acknowledges societal change – including the announcement of a Pride Centre in Port Phillip.
- Date: Wednesday 11 October 2017
- Time: 1 – 4 pm
- Location: Tram #16 from CBD – please contact the project coordinator for more details
Photographer Lisa White will be aboard the tram to photograph lesbians holding hands. If you are unable to join us for the full trip to St Kilda contact the project coordinator to discuss meeting us to travel a few stops – to show your support. Please RSVP for numbers.
For more information contact the project team:
- Dr Catherine Barrett, Director Alice’s Garage/Project Coordinator: 0429 582 237 or email: email@example.com
- Lisa White, The Social Photographer: 0468 661 973 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jo Ball, General Manager Switchboard Victoria: (03) 9663 24724 or email: email@example.com
The Tram Ride is presented by Alice’s Garage (part of the Celebrate Ageing Program) and The Social Photographer in partnership with Switchboard Victoria. This event is part of the City of Port Phillip Seniors Festival and is supported by the Victorian Seniors Festival. Special thanks to Jacq from Plump Design for the beautiful postcard graphics.
In the Media
We value media coverage of the project because it helps to raise awareness of lesbians historical experiences. Thank you to all the journos who have covered the project: