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  • Our Queer History Museum | 1980s


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    The Laws and Notable Events

    1980 – The DSM now includes “gender identity disorder”.

    1980 – VIC decriminalises male acts of homosexuality.

    1980 – VIC equalises the age of consent for heterosexuals and homosexuals to 16 years old.

    1983 – NT decriminalises male acts of homosexuality. Age of consent is 18 for homosexuals and 16 for heterosexuals.

    1984 – SA discrimination against LGBT+ people becomes illegal. The law will be updated in 2016 to have more inclusive language.

    1984 – NSW decriminalises male acts of homosexuality.

    1985 – ACT equalises the age of consent for heterosexuals and homosexuals to 16 years old.

    1986 – Estelle Asmodelle becomes the first transgender Australian to amend her birth certificate.

    1988 – The first Midsummer Festival in Melbourne.

    1989 – WA decriminalises male acts of homosexuality. Age of consent is 21 for homosexuals and 16 for heterosexuals.

    Roberta Perkins (1940-2018)

    Roberta Perkins was born into a Christian family. Some of her first memories were of praying to God to ‘make me a girl’. Perkins married for the first time in her late 20s and had 2 children. The marriage didn’t last long and Perkins married two more times before having a mental breakdown and being admitted to a psychiatric hospital. After being discharged from the hospital, Perkins began her transition. “The pain and agony is now well and truly over for me, and even the memory of it has gone, almost, for many of the dreadful feelings of inadequacy and dysfunction I once experienced seem to have belonged to another being.” Perkins became a key member of the Australian Transsexual Association (ATA), which was originally a support group for transgender people, but with Perkins’s leadership, the ATA leaned more towards political activism. Roberta formed a committee that campaigned for transgender rights including birth certificate reform, rights to redress under the NSW anti-discrimination act and reform to support trans prisoners. In 1981 Perkins completed her Bachelor of Arts degree (with Honours) at Macquarie University. In 1982, Perkins led Australia’s first trans rights protest in Manly, Sydney. In 1983 Roberta released her first book The Drag Queen Scene. This book influenced Frank Walker (then NSW minister for Youth and Community Services, Aboriginal Affairs and Housing) to open the Tiresias House. The Tiresias House (now known as the Gender Centre) offered emergency accommodation for trans people, longer stays to support people through their transition, as well as a number of support services including survival skills, finding employment and support group meetings.

    The HIV/AIDS Epidemic

    HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system, making the person more vulnerable to other diseases and infections. It can be spread through bodily fluids, unprotected sex, or sharing injection equipment. If left untreated, HIV can turn into AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) in 8-10 years, and AIDS can be fatal. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS but there are medications to control HIV and prevent disease progression. The first diagnosis in Australia was in 1982. Between 1983 and 1985 the disease spread rapidly among 4,500 Australians, mostly in Melbourne and Sydney. 86% of early diagnoses were transmitted through men who have sex with men (MSM). Little was known about the disease so misinformation was quick to spread with newspapers using terms like “gay cancer” and “the gay plague”. This caused p.eople who didn’t know any better to fear the homosexual population. Within a few years, Australia achieved one the fastest, most effective responses to HIV/AIDS in the world. HIV testing, counselling and hospital services were set up to be free, confidential and accessible to all. In Australia, MSM, and trans women who have sex with men are still required to undergo a 3 month abstinence period before donating blood. Having such a rule for a minority comes with negative connotations and stigma for that particular group. The United Kingdom removed its ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood, and has moved to an individual risk assessment for all donors. Other countries such as The Netherlands, Israel, Argentina, France and Germany have abolished the ban since the pandemic, proving that the rule is prejudiced and unnecessary.

    Continue your journey here.

    (This image and related history are part of the Our Queer History Museum project.)