4. Where did the idea come from?

The Stonewall Riots had smashed the reformists’ strategy of staid and respectful marches. Inspired by the anti-Vietnam, Black and women’s movements and their own camp heritage, America’s Christopher Street Parades were sassy and fun. In Sydney, activists’ zaps, entendres and radical drag had challenged the status quo. Johnny Allen had just curated Sydney’s first gay and lesbian film festival where The Word Is Out featured charismatic activists and flamboyant street parades. Seeing these parades, Ron Austin thought that a night parade would encourage gay men and lesbians to get onto the streets. It would be less threatening than a full-on, day-time street demonstration. To set an example and/or to obscure their own identities, he and his boyfriend had clown-like make-up and caftans.

Kym Skinner and Ron Austin (detail)
© Branco Gaica photographer

His idea turned the American day parades into an innovative, after-dark event.

Authors: Gavin Harris and John Witte.

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