The gay Anzacs who refused to stay silent


Kathy Marks | BBC News | April 24, 2016

Stuart Martin looks back with pride on his six years as a nursing officer in the Royal Australian Air Force. But he also recalls having to “not be gay”. And one incident from that era sticks in his mind: a veterans’ leader physically blocking a group of gay ex-servicemen trying to lay a wreath during an Anzac Day service.

It was 1982, and the man obstructing them was the notoriously bellicose Bruce Ruxton, long-time president of Victoria’s Returned and Services League. On Monday, as Australians remember their war dead at Anzac Day ceremonies, Mr Martin – health permitting – will be among current and former military personnel placing a rainbow wreath at that same shrine in Melbourne.

The service and sacrifice of gay and transgender members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) will be similarly honoured at ceremonies in Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide, Brisbane and Townsville – thanks largely to Mr Martin, who decided last year that it was time to “address an injustice” and “acknowledge all those who have gone before us”.

That the ADF has given its blessing to this new Anzac Day tradition is testament to how much things have changed since Mr Martin’s day, when military police would “hang about gay nightclubs looking for people with very short haircuts and take pictures of them to compare with the military files,” he recalls.

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