Monday, August 24, 2009

Que(e)ry Everything - My Queer Radio Days

This weekend just gone I spent doing a workshop learning how to make digital stories. It was rather fun and also quite intense. It's Monday night and I'm still feeling tired. We were mostly working in Windows Movie Maker and I made a little video about my days in Queer Radio on 4ZZZ here back in the 90s. I chose it because that's the photos I had courtesy of Facebook. I had to write a little text/script and then record that and combine with the images to make the video. It was a strange exercise in down memory lane. And today I popped into the Queer Room at UQ to hang out for a short while. I hope to pop in more regularly this semester. But it was really strange being there and not knowing anyone there. For a moment I felt a little bit like a ghost. But the room itself still had lots of stuff from the past and so I could also feel the ghosts or the presences of so many people.

Anyway, I thought tonight I'd put up the script from my little digital story effort from the weekend. There were all manner of constraints like time but also the selection of images I had that would illustrate it. I'll pop in a couple of them here too. So here for you is my little walk down memory lane:

Ever since I was young I harbored a secret desire to be in radio. I never expected that starting university as a mature age student in 1992 would let me fulfill that desire. An out gay man, I had come to university to have a rest after working with the Qld AIDS Council for several years. At university, I got involved straight away with Gays and Lesbians on Campus and ended up being elected President 2nd semester 1992.

My friend and predecessor, Jeff Ward, was one of the two regular announcers on 4ZZZ’s Queer Radio program, the latest incarnation of many years of lesbian/gay broadcasting on Triple Z. The other announcer was Gai Lemon. Gai and Jeff had transformed the older Gay Waves format into the new Queer Radio and remained the lynchpins for the next couple of years. The program ran two out of every three weeks, the third week being the then separatist Lesbian Show. Queer Radio represented a new radical and coalitionist politics which was energizing the Brisbane lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities in the years following homosexual law reform in 1990.nd semester 1992.

In late ’92, Queer Radio was running a regular series on Faith and sexuality. Because I was doing a Religion double major, Jeff invited me to come in and be interviewed on air. It was all pretty informal. Triple Z had not long acquired the old Communist Club premises in St Paul’s Tce and was still fitting it out. The studios were still being built and so broadcasts were done from a space at the end of a corridor and overlooking Barry Pde with all its intrusive traffic noise. All manner of cables and wiring hung from the ceiling and everywhere there was clutter. The interview was a lot of fun and Jeff asked me to come back the following week to talk some more. I came back but we never really did that second interview. Instead I found myself becoming involved with the show and I kept coming back for the next few years.

By early ’93, the studios were finally finished and some sort of order emerged out of the structural chaos. However, I would soon be caught up in a new very creative and enriching chaos. A gorgeous baby dyke and student activist from QUT, EJ, had also joined us. Even though there was a 20 years age difference between us EJ and I hit it off like a house on fire. We ended up doing a Saturday morning breakfast shift together for a short time in 1994. But EJ and I encouraged queer folk from our own campus groups to get involved in Queer Radio. In next to no time Queer Radio became the best night out in town. Our shows become more and more outrageous and fun and many a week there would be as many as 20 – 30 people in at the station for the show. Not all of them were students either. Often listeners would drop in and get involved too. And we always had things for people to do if they dropped in. From reading the Triple Z Accommodation Notices to doing the weekly Gay and Lesbian News to all manner of other little spots, everyone had a chance to get their 5 minutes of radio fame.

One of the most surprising people to get involved was Fr Theo. He was the parish priest at St Albans, the Anglican parish at Auchenflower. Theo flew the rainbow flag outside his church and advertised his services in the gay press. He would usually come in once a month and participate in the show.

But we didn’t only welcome people coming in to get involved. We would also get out and about recording and documenting local community events and political activism. In 1993, Courier Mail columnist, Lawrie Kavanagh, wrote an extremely nasty homophobic piece in the Courier Mail. It was not unusual for him to engage in a bit of poofterbashing when he had nothing better to write about. A bunch of us queer folks went off to demonstrate outside the Courier Mail premises, then over at Bowen Hills. Queer Radio was there to document it as well as participate in it. I went around with a little tape recorder interviewing people to play on air. The demonstration culminated in a die-in outside the Courier Mail. We queers got our point across to the paper and Lawrie Kavanagh never wrote a homophobic piece again.

That’s just one small example of the amazing energy of those days, an energy that found its focus and expression in Queer Radio. I summed up that spirit in my sign off at the end of each show – “and remember to Queery everything!”

Images: Gai Lemon


  1. How much does Gai look like Mars in that shot?!?! :-O :-D

  2. Hadn't thought that myself but then I'm probably back there in '92 when I look at that photo and just seeing Gai as well as Jeff. I'll have to check out some pics of Mars, methinks