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Pride Month has come to an end: Here’s a list of queer Australian icons

To finish off Pride month, let’s take a moment to celebrate some beautiful Australian Queer icons through history.

Pride Month has got to be the most wonderful time of the year as we get to shine a spotlight on all things queer.

We’ve collated a list of some of the great Australian queer icons that continue to inspire.

Peter Allen
Credit: Tony Mott/Channel 7

Peter Allen 

Peter Allen is the definition of Australian queer camp, being an avid Hawaiian shirt lover and spectacular performer. He became an international hit-maker in the 80s, helping launch artists like Olivia Newton-John and topping the music scene in the US. 

As a child, Allen lived in a hostile home battling with his father’s suicide and his acceptance of his sexuality in such a conservative country. Childhood friend Jenny Goodwin stated this time of Allen’s life was one he covered up with his vibrant persona. At age 11, Allen had his first gig in the ladies’ lounge of Armidale’s New England Hotel, where he played the piano. Peter began to release his own music in 1971, Peter Allen (1971) and Tenterfield Saddler (1971). In 1974 he collaborated with Jeff Barry on a hit song ‘I honestly Love You’, which won him two Grammy awards and Record of the year. Allen used his own effervescent personality on stage which gained him international success.

Peter Allen queer
Credit: Keith Edward Byron/Fairfax Media

One of his most breathtaking US performances was his 1981 Radio City Music Hall event, where he sashayed with the beautiful and sparkling Rockettes. These upbeat performances were dazzling moments of exuberant samba movements and absolutely fabulous costumes. Allen shook things up by appearing on stage on top of a camel as he shook his maracas in his leopard-print shirt.

He was never explicit about his sexuality, often making ambiguous jokes about it. It’s iconic to be living your true self and not having the need to come out to other people.  

Leigh Bowery 

Leigh Bowery was an Australian performance artist that dressed in exaggerated colours and outfits to experiment with self-expression and masquerading. He transformed himself through his body, using himself as a blank canvas that reenacted satirical performances and self-stylised expressions that disrupted and disregarded traditional representations of gender. Bowery was born in Melbourne and moved to London in his late teens, leading to his incredible impact on culture. Bowery continues to influence many artists of the modern era, such as Noel Fielding, Lady Gaga and RuPaul.

Leigh Bowery
Credit: Fergus Greer

He first began his journey at the Anthony D’Offay Gallery in London in 1988. Bowery would take Drag and create bizarre costumes and often experiment with his physique and body proportions. He would often perform the act of giving birth to a young naked woman. The high volume of fake blood and links of sausages would appear as he gave birth. He was committed to shocking people and making them uncomfortable. He would test people’s urges to put him in a category. Bowery summed up his own ethos once by saying “if you label me, you negate me.” Described by friend Boy George as “Modern art on legs”, his club Taboo, was London’s most debauched space of all time. This is where binaries were challenged as it became a hedonistic atmosphere and a place to embrace polysexuality. 

“His work was about things like body image or illnesses – and those things haven’t gone away. It confronts you and frightens you and makes you think. It’s very disruptive, to use a word of the moment.”

Josh Cavallo

Last year, Josh Cavallo from Adelaide, became the first internationally openly gay professional top-flight men’s footballer. He opened up about his sexuality via a video shared on social media. The 21-year-old felt that he was finally comfortable speaking out and added that he didn’t want to keep “living a double life” and “hiding who I truly am”. He talked about how exhausting it was to pursue football professionally while he was repressing his true identity.

“I have been fighting my sexuality for six years now and I’m glad I can put that to rest” he commented. 

He spoke about the shame of accepting his sexuality and the difficulty of dealing with the lack of queer representation in football Several top-flight footballers have waited till their playing careers were over to come out. He wanted to change this by speaking out, by encouraging others in silence to speak up. 

“I want to help change this,” he said. “I want to show that everyone is welcome in the game of football and deserves the right to be their authentic self.

He has received an overwhelming response from both football players and queer icons. 

“It was over six years of pain and I’m so happy and excited to be able to put that pain to rest today. Today is my freedom day and I’ve never been this happy in my entire life.”

Magda Szubanzki

Known as Sharron in Kath and Kim, Szubanzki publicly came out as gay in 2012 on The Project. During a campaign for gay marriage in Australia, she announced ‘I am gay, gay, gay, gay gay.’ It felt like the most empowering thing she had ever done. She was terrified when she first realised she was gay in 1972. She only heard the word lesbian in whispering judgmental tones and there was no representation of gay women in the media or popular culture. She often felt like she was the only one. 

it was considered to be a psychiatric illness, it was illegal and, really, you were going to hell.” she spoke about how it was her secret.  “When I was younger I used to pray to be straight,” she added, saying that she had only grown to accept herself after years of therapy. 

The culture and acceptance of queer people had shifted dramatically by 2012, allowing her to feel safe opening up and being that representation for young lesbians. 

“Having gone through the whole journey of coming out…I’ve felt like a butterfly shaking off a carapace,” Magda said in an official statement, according to The Australian Women’s Weekly.

She has recently collaborated with Seeker Lover Keeper’s new single, Let It Out which she resonates with as it’s all about being your true authentic self. 

Josh Thomas 

Josh Thomas gained international fame with his four seasons of Please like me which the Australian Actor, writer and comedian appears in. In 2005, Josh Thomas started off as the youngest ever winner of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival’s RAW Comedy Competition, at age 17. He was also a Gen Y representative on Australia’s show Talkin’ Bout Your Generation. When he came out as gay, his dad lectured him about HIV and to wear a condom. His older brother is also gay and their dad never tried to shape them into certain people. Josh has talked about doing silly and crazy things as a teenager, one being sex with girls. 

“But also when I was 14, I tried to f**k a watermelon. So like, what does it mean? Really you know, I grew out of fruit and then onto girls, and then I moved from girls onto men.” 

Thomas feels the importance of bringing explicit queer content to the forefront of the screen as it commonly has challenges around depictions of gay sex and there is not enough representation. 

Thomas said. “I said, ‘We absolutely need that… Gay sex is anal sex and if you don’t let me have that you’re telling me I can’t put gay sex on television.'”  

Listen to Thomas’s queer experiences and challenges on his podcast ‘How to be gay’ on Audible! 

Josh Thomas Queer Icon
Credit: Jim Spellman

While it’s sad to see Pride Month end, we can celebrate our queer Aussie icons all year around!