Annabelle Hick­son: A Day in the Coun­try


Country Style - - CONTENTS -

NOT LONG AGO I lived in a coun­try town where there was only one gay man (openly, at least). He grew up in the district, but moved to Syd­ney af­ter school where he came out of the closet. When he re­turned to the town in his 40s, ev­ery­one seemed pretty cool with him be­ing gay. It was an es­tab­lished fact. An­other friend in the vil­lage would have watched this home­com­ing with in­ter­est. He too was gay, but hadn’t told any­one be­cause he thought he’d lose every­thing — his friends, his place on the fam­ily farm, his coun­try life. He just couldn’t imag­ine the com­mu­nity ac­cept­ing him. And since there’d been no other gay peo­ple around to prove oth­er­wise, who could have blamed him for be­ing so wor­ried? But the day came, as Amer­i­can writer Anaïs Nin wrote, when the risk to re­main tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blos­som. As the sec­ond per­son to come out in the com­mu­nity, he was not shunned. He was not kicked off the farm. If any­thing, he said he felt closer to his par­ents. We are, thank­fully, a long way from the ho­mo­pho­bic small town days of the 1980s and 1990s. And as I look around my home of Ten­ter­field, a place where gay peo­ple can now marry thanks to the re­cent change to the na­tion’s Mar­riage Act, I can’t help but won­der what it would have been like in the 1950s, when a young Peter Allen would have come over from Ar­mi­dale to visit his grand­fa­ther of the Ten­ter­field Sad­dler fame. When lots of peo­ple would not have known what be­ing gay was. Even Peter didn’t seem to know he was gay. To­day Ten­ter­field is a town of about 4000 with a me­dian age of 53 (15 years above the na­tional av­er­age). You’d say it was more con­ser­va­tive than pro­gres­sive. But this Septem­ber, Ten­ter­field will hold the in­au­gu­ral Peter Allen Fes­ti­val, cel­e­brat­ing the mu­si­cian and his life, in all his se­quined glory. While Ten­ter­field is not the first ru­ral town to cel­e­brate a mu­si­cian via a fes­ti­val — Parkes has held an an­nual Elvis fes­ti­val since 1993 — it might be the first Aussie coun­try town to cel­e­brate a mu­si­cal icon who is syn­ony­mous with be­ing gay. Peter Allen was a pi­o­neer for the camp, Aussie man; he showed us that suc­cess could come with mara­cas, swiv­el­ling hips, leop­ard-print shirts and show en­trances on camel-back. And on the same week­end as the Peter Allen Fes­ti­val, a group of Ten­ter­field busi­ness peo­ple will hold a pop-up same-sex wed­ding event to cel­e­brate the town’s first gay wed­ding cer­e­monies. Amanda Rudge, who owns Ten­ter­field’s Our Place Wine and Espresso Bar, is one of the in­sti­ga­tors of the event. “We want to hold this event to show­case the town and the qual­ity of ser­vices we can pro­vide here, but also we want to say same-sex mar­riages are ac­cepted here.” Not ev­ery­one will agree. This is se­ri­ous Na­tional Party ter­ri­tory af­ter all and the fed­eral Na­tional Party did not sup­port gay mar­riage be­fore the plebiscite. How­ever, from what I can see on the ground, this com­mu­nity is hold­ing its arms wide open to same-sex cou­ples. And if Peter Allen is look­ing down on this lit­tle town where he was born, I think he’d feel pretty proud. He had to go to Rio de Janeiro, as he sang, “to be free at last — what a blast”. But hope­fully the gay kids of to­day can stay right where they are. The Peter Allen Fes­ti­val, Septem­ber 6–9, thep­eter­al­len­fes­ti­val. For in­quiries about the ‘Say Yes I Do in Ten­ter­field’ pop-up event on Septem­ber 8, tele­phone 0422 295 776.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.