Jul 182017

Australia in 2017 is STILL STRUGGLING with granting same-sex marriage to its tax-paying citizens (many of which have served in the military, as police officers and fire fighters).  Across the ocean, New Zealand was the first country in the world to grant women the vote and marriage equality has been passed.

Holding Hands in 1976 Led to a Conviction

It was a planned gesture of love and resistance, as two lesbians bordered No. 16 tram on October 11, 1976.  They got on at the Melbourne CBD and held hands as the travelled to the City of Port Phillips and to St. Kilda Town Hall.  There, they would have afternoon tea.  Now, there is a HOLD HANDS ON A TRAM campaign that will be launched this month (July 2017) to celebrate the fearless resistance of those two lesbians.  The event is being sponsored by Alice’s Garage a place of historical significance to older lesbians.

Another Story of harassment

Jill Bolen

Jill Bolen joined the police force despite being aware that she had witnessed first hand police harassment in the city of Brisbane, Queensland.  She was harassed for twenty years, but her outstanding record enabled her to become the first woman Chief Superintendent in Queensland.

Jill joined the police force in 1973 and established a discrete group of gay and lesbian friends in the force.  She lived with her partner who was also a female policewoman.  Eventually, Bolen was questioned by the Criminal Investigation Branch and she admitted to being a lesbian.

I cannot imagine such courage when she and her partner’s jobs were at stake.  Bolen wouldn’t back down and she “asserted that she was more competent and capable than some of my heterosexual, male counterparts.” The Inspector and interviewer mocked and laughed at her.

Male Oppressive Police Revenge

This being the 1970s with women’s liberation in force, Bolen’s Inspector and interviewer were not going to take such “brazen” confidence from a woman who was also a lesbian.  Within weeks, Jill and her partner were reassigned to police branches 400 miles apart. Bolen’s partner quit the force and their relationship fell apart.

Bolen was interviewed and saw the situation that she would eventually overcome:

“I had five qualities that they saw as very negative. I was a woman, the most junior in terms of years of service, a lesbian, the youngest in age, and the only commissioned officer with a tertiary education,” Bolen said.

However, Bolen’s resilience allowed her to rise through the ranks of the Police Force over the years and, in the early 90s, she became the first woman Chief Superintendent in Queensland.

Keeping Elder Lesbians’ Herstory Alive

Stories such as Bolen’s are important to Alice’s Garage because they show that queer women have been resisting persecution throughout history, although most of it is unrecorded. It also inspires younger gay and bi women, to see the progress their forebears have made.

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