Safe spaces for older LGBTIQ+ people: The Coming Back Out Salon
By: Archer Magazine
The Coming Back Out Salon is a spectacular social event celebrating older Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Gender Diverse and Intersex people, for the whole community, produced by All The Queen’s Men (ATQM).
Their upcoming event at Sydney WorldPride is co-produced with ACON’s LOVE Project, a community service that supports older LGBTIQ+ people in NSW. We spoke to the following people about the importance of these spaces:
- Tristan Meecham (Artistic Director, All The Queens Men): A queer artist and a leading voice within the LGBTIQ+ community internationally, specifically for championing the rights of LGBTIQ+ older people.
- Colleen Windsor (Attendee and LOVE Project Advisor): A retired showgirl and proud older trans woman who performed in the famous Les Girls in the mid-1970s and the Flinders Hotel in the 1980s (part of the Golden Mile).
- Trevor Pritchard (Attendee and community volunteer): 70-year-old volunteer who visits gay men in aged care facilities. Treasurer for Mature Age Gays MAG and Pride History Group.
- Ros Hope (Attendee and LOVE Project Advisory Board member): A non-binary gay person, lover of music, dance, art and people, and writer published in SX News and women’s magazine Cherrie.
- Russ Gluyas (Program Coordinator of The LOVE Project): Passionate about creating better conversations and improved social engagement with our older LGBTIQ+ community members.
Image: The Coming Back Out Ball 2017 by All The Queens Men. Image by Bryony Jackson
Archer Magazine: Thanks for chatting to us, everyone. Tell us about All The Queen’s Men and how it came about.
Tristan Meecham: For almost a decade, our independent Australian arts organisation, All The Queens Men, has dedicated a large part of its mission to building creative and community practices that place the rights of LGBTIQ+ elders at the visible forefront, shifting the way we value and create space for the older members within these communities.
We began presenting The Coming Back Out Salon and LGBTIQ+ Elders Dance Clubs around Australia in 2016, with the aim of combating loneliness by offering a regular dance event that celebrated the social and cultural rights of older LGBTIQ+ people.
Tristan: In Australia, older LGBTIQ+ people lived through times when being LGBTIQ+ could result in imprisonment, enforced medical ‘cures’, loss of employment and rejection by family and friends. For many, impending old age has meant going back into the closet, for fear of being deprived of companionship and quality care when they need it most.
The Coming Back Out Salon aims to empower older LGBTIQ+ people to assert their social agency, value and worth within a mainstream and ageist paradigm.
Archer: Why do you think inclusive spaces such as The LOVE Project and Dance Clubs are so important?
Colleen Windsor: I love that we can still – even in a fractured world – bring all our LGBTIQ+ communities together through mutual respect.
Partnering the LOVE Project with Melbourne’s successful All The Queens Men is the perfect nexus for these groups to join forces, and give the Sydney older community an event worthy of the momentous occasion of Sydney WorldPride.
Russ Gluyas: So many older LGBTIQ+ people have experienced trauma and discrimination in their past, so it is essential that we create welcoming and safe spaces for them to share, learn and stay connected.
The Coming Back Out Salon is the perfect event to create a magical space for all LGBTIQ+ community members to come together and celebrate our older community, who have have been at the forefront of making our world a more equitable and inclusive place to live in.
The Salon recognises this history and creates a special intergenerational experience for all to enjoy.
Archer: As The Coming Back Out Salon at Sydney WorldPride approaches – tell us what you are excited about with this event.
Trevor Pritchard: I’m excited about the line-up of guest artists, and the diversity of community members who will be attending. As the Treasurer of Mature Age Gays Sydney – which by its name attracts ageing community members – I’m excited about the possibility of more of these people joining our group.
Ros Hope: This is such a personal journey for me because I made my coming out ‘debut’ as a young person of 18 at the Lady Mayoress’ Ball at the Sydney Town Hall. I was there because my mother initiated it, but I was in a hidden relationship with my girlfriend.
It was a very glamorous event which was televised by the ABC. I had the pleasure of being presented to Australian artist, William Dobell.
This is my opportunity to recreate my life and history when I get to attend the very glamorous Coming Back Out Salon event with my partner – at the same place, and in a different time.
Archer: Do you have a favourite anecdote you’d like to share from your experiences as an LGBTIQ+ person?
Trevor: I realise that looking at photos of myself at age 30 in 1982, with a moustache and beard, that I was part of the early beginnings of the “bears”.
Ros: In 1989, I helped establish the Caringbah Women’s Health Centre. I was the Founding Coordinator.
I was still in the closet, living with a husband and two children. I was late in coming out, and I introduced myself to our community by writing weekly articles on health and wellbeing for the paper SX News (a Sydney-based LGBTIQ+ news magazine).
When my dad died in 2004, I participated in many different groups in order to find my place. Since then, I have volunteered for ACON via a women’s discussion group, marched in Mardi Gras, helped with sexual health surveys, sold ribbons for HIV/AIDS Day and been a health rover at the Mardi Gras afterparty.
Archer: Do you have any advice you’d like to share to LGBTIQ+ younger people?
Russ: Take some time to get to know older people in your community. Before you know it, you will be looking back and reflecting on your life.
One of the greatest joys I get to experience are the intergenerational conversations and connections being made. We can learn so much from each other if we simply take the time to stop, listen and share.
Trevor: Be connected with as much of the LGBTIQ+ community as you are comfortable with. We have to stay united as a community, as there are too many opposing forces out there.
Colleen: When you hear older people say “it gets better”, believe it. Don’t let that thought go – dig deep and work for it.
Ros: My advice would be to never give up in your quest to be your true self. There are people and organisations who will support and help you. Trust yourself and be open to new and different experiences. You never know what the next person will bring into your life!
The Coming Back Out Salon at Sydney WorldPride:
Saturday, 18 February 2023, 2pm – 6pm
Sydney Town Hall, 483 George Street, Sydney
Tickets from $40. Bookings via Moshtix. A drink and a sweet treat on arrival.
Featuring an incredible line-up including The Sydney Youth Orchestra, Robyn Archer, Deborah Cheetham, Paul Capsis, Nana Miss Koori, June Jones, Tina Del Twist, Nefertiti LaNegra, The Huxleys and Tristan Meecham, with more to be announced. Kick off Sydney WorldPride by celebrating our older people in a truly inclusive way.
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