When Pride is Not a Sin: Prejudice and Pride exhibition at the Museum of Brisbane


Damnation Poster

Damnation Poster International Lesbian Day 1993? On display at Prejudice and Pride exhibition, Museum of Brisbane, 2010, poster by trishweston

I wrote this a few months ago after seeing the heart-swellingly wonderful Prejudice and Pride exhibition in Brisbane. The exhibition finishes on 17th October 2010 …

I had a few hours spare while in Brisbane on a Saturday afternoon recently and decided to check out the Prejudice and Pride exhibition that’s currently on at the Museum of Brisbane.

Not only was I captivated for hours by this amazing exhibition but I also came away having rediscovered my own pride – for the people who have lived according to their own truth in a culture that has often violently repressed their authenticity.

I am of course talking about all the gays, lesbians, transgenders, queers and every other permutation of other-sexuality and gender you with to throw under the GLBT umbrella.

The exhibition explores the GLBT history of Brisbane through stories, flyers, magazines, letters, photos, videos and other ephemera. It’s not easy being different but throughout all the items collected here, I saw the common thread of people standing up and saying, “This is who I am. This is how I live.” I could only imagine the courage it would have taken to be gay in sleepy old 1950s Brisbane – when homosexuality was still considered a sexual deviancy. (We are talking pre-Kinsey). And yet folks did.

I was beautiful. It is beautiful.

The personal is still political

On the same weekend I visited the exhibition, I saw Nick Douglas’s film People, Parties, Pride & Politics. Nick’s film explores DIY culture and activism in GLBT Brisbane and the impact of decriminalisation in 1990. So once I got to the exhibition I was quite sentimental for a life I used to live, where I belonged to a community, where I felt appreciated and loved, where I got to use the skills and talents I had (as well as develop a few unusual ones – spray painting anyone?) and where I could be myself. (Well, at least if I wasn’t in the company of the PC Police…)

The exhibition was personally touching for me as some of my posters (above) from the period were on display. These were posters / artwork that had been accidently thrown out in one of my house moves and so to see them again just brought back so many memories.

There was something very special about that time and that community. Homosexuality had just been decriminalised in Queensland and this major victory had me believing that I could indeed make the world (or at least our little corner of it) a better place.

But I also appreciate that I was able to experience the joy of belonging to a vibrant, exciting community and part of something that was bigger than me. It’s made me wonder how I can create that vibrancy and sense of belonging in my life now.

If I take a moment to look, I see it is there – albeit in a different form. The players may be different but those communities still exist. I still get to discover new talents – mostly legal nowadays. And most importantly, I still have the belief that my actions can contribute to the world becoming a better place.

Pride is not a sin

A few years ago I came across a reference to pride as a negative emotion (see Power vs Force by David Hawkins). I really wrestled with that as a concept, because for me, pride is a positive. It’s about believing you are as worthwhile as the next person. But our culture insists on loading it up with religious baggage – giving it a ‘deadly sin’ status and insisting that it is merely a precursor to an ignominious fall.

However, after spending time with the stories of the Prejudice and Pride exhibition, I knew I could trust my experience of pride. The feeling I had on leaving the exhibition was overwhelmingly positive. I didn’t think myself better than anyone else. I had merely glimpsed what it means to be human and feel worthwhile.

Happy International Lesbian Day!

Miss Stray Cat's trophy

Ahh, there was a time when you could win awards for being a lesbian. Miss Stray Cat trophy award to Ms Gai Lemon 1992.

Pushing buttons.

Dykey Bridge, West End, early 1990s