I’ve been quite busy since settling in Melbourne, and I’ve tried to keep an open mind and take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way. I’ve had my fair share of chaos, but I haven’t lost sight of why I wanted to keep this blog in the first place. Not only have I been experiencing Melbourne for the first time as an American student, but I am getting to know the city as a gay person, which provides me unique perspective. Perhaps the most promising aspect of my experience so far is the very fact that I’ve barely had an experience different than that of my straight friends, which proves that my sexuality does not set me apart in a negative way.
As far as I can tell, the LGBTQ+ community in Melbourne is a healthy one. Since Victoria is a relatively progressive state, many individuals feel safe to express themselves in regards to their gender identity and sexual orientation. I have met several queer and trans students at Collarts, including the lead singer of the band I’m recording for one of my class projects. I even attended his birthday party where he received huge support from friends and family in raising funds for his top surgery. I know that the Collarts community is not representative of Melbourne as a whole, but I find that students and staff at university are very accepting. It seems as though students who identify as either trans or queer, including myself, can express themselves freely without being harassed or discriminated against.
Although Melbourne (especially its inner suburbs) maintains a safe climate for LGBTQ people, the city does not have as vibrant of a queer scene as cities like New York or San Francisco. Most of the queer attractions are nightclubs, and there are comparatively few of those. Additionally, one of my gay friends here at Collarts explained to me that gay clubs in Melbourne have been subject to raids in the recent past. This came as a surprise to me as I expected Australia’s hippest city to be more tolerant and accepting than most of the US. As it turns out, some of my assumptions about queer culture in Australia were incorrect. I had been under the impression that Australia was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage nationally, but one of my professors told me that the United States actually achieved this first. Finally, the same gay friend who I mentioned before, whose name I won’t disclose, filled me in on one of the Australian government’s latest legislative attacks on gay culture: a hefty ban on “poppers.” These drugs, although dangerous and under-researched, are most popular among gay males, and the ban and its implications pose a threat specifically to gay people, according to my friend.
Conversations such as these have given me insight on Melbourne’s gay community, both on surface and personal levels. I recognize that Collarts, as an arts school, exists as its own bubble of acceptance, but Melbourne on its own is a decently safe space for those of all orientations. This entry is the result of much reflection on my conversations and observations over the past two months, and I still have plenty of exploration to do before I pass any final judgements on Australia. This morning I was excited to find a stack of Gay Scene Guide, a monthly magazine about queer culture in several Australian cities, in the Collarts kitchen! I’m including some examples of the events listed in the issue for those who are curious about the scene here in Melbourne:
Tuesday November 20th: Transgender Day of Remembrance and Candlelight Vigil at Hares & Hyenas
Saturday November 24th: Queer Springtime Picnic in Edinburgh Gardens
Drag Bingo: Wednesday nights @ Mollies
Thursgay: @ Yah Yah
Sunday Social: @ The Laird
This was a long entry but I’m keen to share more about LGBTQ life here!