I’m writing the book, at long last. It’s heavy going. Not the writing, that at last is flowing like our creek after rain. It’s the remembrance of all the lost boys and girls.
It’s wondering if I had stuck it out, stayed in the city, how many of them would I know now? How many have actually survived to the current day. I know there was huge attrition amongst the boys. They were always going to be the ones hit hardest by the plague. They were young kids in the 70′s, out in the city, frequenting all the places that gay kids and came to be young, carefree, yes – gay. We were a generation on the loose. It was dangerous, it was fun.
I’ve read some real nonsense about those days and those places. Yes, we were illegals and outcasts in our own land, communities. But if you’d asked any of us if we truly felt oppressed, most would have laughed in your face.
Now some of our number, just a few, came from pretty hard backgrounds. There were many tales of trauma and violence. Davy, whose stepfather beat him repeatedly. He kept running away. Eventually he was charged with being uncontrollable and the courts sent him to a children’s prison. That’s how we dealt with disadvantaged youth in the 60′s. There Davy was molested by inmates and jailers alike, learnt the techniques of petty crime and was discharged on his sixteenth birthday. Naturally he hitched straight to Kings Cross.
Lyn was another. Her father had been a fireman who perished in a massive fire in the city when she was about 6 years old. Her mother, who knows, went off the rails. There was a procession of men in their home, alcohol, physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse. Her teacher noticed that Lyn was turning up day in and day out in the same grubby uniform. Lyn had been abandoned a week before, had taken herself to school day after day, put herself to bed, scrounged meals from the dwindling supplies in the house. Lyn went to live in a children’s home.
Lyn became an exceptional athlete and was due to compete in the state championships. But before these took place, she reached the age of sixteen and was sent away from the children’s home, onto the street with fifty dollars and a bag of second-hand clothing. Nothing more. She got a job in the local abattoir, saved some money and came to the city. Tall, exceptionally good-looking, seventeen years old and Butch, she found a place in the ‘camp’ world.
I came from a far less traumatic background, better educated, better off. I was also unceremoniously kicked out of home – at the much later age of nineteen. I was an absolute innocent compared to some. But so were Lyn and Davy. And we became friends. The whole tribe. We had each other to depend on, nobody else. We were no angels, admittedly, but just a lot of kids together, learning, experimenting, living and growing, eventually in wisdom.
But for most of us, our adolescence had been troubled, our minds and emotions marred either by family circumstances or our school or social environments, for we had been in hiding until we got out into the wide world. What choices were there then? Acceptance was unattainable. Yet we were light and easy once we found our freedom, carefree, happy-go-lucky. Yes, we lost our innocence – but we gained our freedom. We gained our self-respect and strength. We started to agitate and to support campaigns. We won a few legal rights eventually. Best of all, we lived a life that was true.
Our Edens were not lost, they were found.