The Museum of Experience collects, interprets and displays personal experiences of national significance in a pop-up format.
This project was a joint venture between the Museum of Experience: Matter of Pride and Jane Duong, Raising the Flag project. We asked 11 members of the Canberra community to donate an object that signifies a sense of pride in their lives to the Musem of Experience, and have their portrait taken to create large flags to be displayed in the Canberra Civic Library. Generously funded by a Capital of Equality and Photo Access grant. This project included a free public program for library visitors to make their own flags to celebrate pride.
Fairness. Equality. Fairness. Equality. Fairness. Equality.
Being part of the Marriage Equality campaign was a defining moment in
Tom Snow’s life. He joined the Marriage Equality campaign in August
2015 aware of the significant strides in law reform and social change
the Australian LGBTIQA+ community had already made—and the work
that remained. Tom and his team worked with Core Agency in Sydney
to create this logo to celebrate Australianness and uniqueness with
positivity. While the “Yes” campaign was built around the key messages
of equality and fairness, the rainbow flag was linked to activism and the
LGBTIQA+ community only. It didn’t include allies and Tom wanted as
many people as possible to vote yes. This logo was used on brooches,
posters, t-shirts, tens of millions of digital advertising displays, and a
large 3-metre plinth at Canberra Airport to greet travellers to and from
the capital. Tom felt immense pride “working alongside some of the
most dedicated and hardworking activists in the country”.
I was amazed at how happy wearing these made me feel.
Guy Alias had no idea that he’d be here a year ago. He said: “I have
been out and in this space for a comparatively short amount of time.
Although I’ve been this way forever, for a long time I’ve been quietly
listening, reading, thinking – I’ve only been out in the queer space
for a year”. These suspenders are the first piece of gay masculine
clothing Guy ever purchased and they are extremely precious to him.
Guy bought them at a party shop in Canberra and kept them in a
drawer for a few years before wearing them publicly. He enjoys how
subversive they are: “On the surface, they are very clowny and very
fun, and deeply loaded with man-ness and queerness”. Some of the
first drag he performed was at Yes! Fest 2018 on Lonsdale Street with
two other drag king clowns. Guy has experienced pride through
community and performing: “There is some kind of queer performance
every week, things keep launching and we are all benefiting from other
people’s bravery and creativity”.
I felt like me, once I was on T.
This is the type of testosterone Tate used when he first transitioned four
years ago. He thinks there can be an obsession with transness: some
people do choose medical options, and other people don’t. But Tate
“wouldn’t be here without it. For me, it’s important. It’s hard to have
pride when you hate yourself. It’s not only that T has changed my body,
and now I have a good body image because I look different on T. It’s
more layered than that. I have confidence in a way I’ve never had
before. It fits, it feels normal and right”. There has been a change in
language over recent years, and Tate explains: “People who want to
understand themselves as trans are trans, there is no necessary level
of transition to be trans”. Trans people are from all walks of life, race,
class, and sexuality. Tate knows that “if I needed help, I feel very
comfortable that I could reach out to people whom I have not met but,
because we are both trans, they will come to my aid”. For him, that
matters, and he’s proud to contribute to such a generous community.
A flibbertigibbet! A will-o'-the wisp!
Clara vaguely remembers as a toddler running up and down the theatre
during a screening of The Sound of Music in Malaysia. Clara’s parents
were strict and conservative, with high expectations and many rules
about how to have a successful life. As a child, Clara knew she was
attracted to men, and “liked being pretty. I knew I wasn’t supposed to
be like that and I wasn’t supposed to enjoy that, but I did”. In her teens, The Sound of Music screened again in theatres, and after seeing it anew she “floated on this romantic cloud for several weeks afterwards”, listening to the record at home and trying to understand what some of the tongue-twisting English lyrics meant. Clara says the film “deeply influenced her ideas about relationships”. Clara would daydream about
Captain Von Trapp and imagine herself as Julie Andrews. She says: “I’ve watched the film with my husband. He doesn’t identify with the Captain, but he is a gentleman. He is stoic and I am proud to be his wife”.
It is what it is.
After her mother died in 2007, Sally was clearing out her mother's home
and had been put in touch with the local antique dealer, Gabrielle, who
became the “love of my life”. They have always lived apart—now there
is 17,125 km between them—but home is where Gabrielle is: “I always
refer to that as home. Canberra is home now too, but in another way”.
These papers evoke “feelings of deep love and very good fortune” and
remind Sally how short life is. She says: “As you get older you go with
the flow more because you realise that everyone is going to die
sometime. You’ve got to be happy, and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been
since meeting her”. Gabrielle often sends Sally cards and she has kept
every note. Most of Sally’s stuff from her childhood is stored at
Gabrielle’s house in Worcester, as an anchor of sorts, a way to say “I’m
Mizz Brown Shuga
I have community, culture and strength.
Sisterhood has always been important to Mizz Brown Shuga. During a
holiday in Indonesia, her Balinese drag sisters made this outfit for her
to wear to the 2013 Sydney Mardi Gras. She’s worn it twice since then,
though “you can’t keep recycling drag looks”. In this outfit, Shuga feels
like Grace Jones: “I’ve always been courageous and brave, but I feel
stronger when I’m in drag”. It took a while “to discover what looks good
on my body and not to worry about what other people are doing and
saying”. Her drag mother Atlantis gave her the name “Brown Shuga”,
inspired by the supermarket baking aisle. Atlantis taught Shuga “about
makeup, wigs, and how to handle yourself”. Shuga says that getting
into drag creates a shift in “mindset and makes me feel empowered”.
She is proud to have co-created The House of Black Star in 2009 and
be a “drag mother for the next generation. There are so many
Indigenous drag queens now, there is nothing stopping us!”
With this, I can do more. It means that I can dance. Isn’t that
C was queer before having a stick and experienced pain before being
diagnosed with a disability. C came out last year as genderqueer and
“started to accept my body and love my body for what it is, with pride in
my disabilities”. During that time they realised that their gender “didn’t
match up”. Rather than dysphoria, it was more “gender euphoria, I
realised all that I could be!” This stick was the first one C owned. It is a
“cheap one” that goes with C to clubs: “It's the worst thing when you’re
at a gig and you’re trying to party as best you can and people kick your
stick out from under you”. To make their stick more visible, C decorated
their party stick with fairy lights, rainbow tape and the genderqueer flag.
C was invited to march in the Mardi Gras parade by Women with
Disabilities in 2019. Despite “my issues, I wore heels the whole way. It
was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done”.
17-beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase deficiency.
This “isn’t a happy object”—it’s been kept under Mimi’s bathroom sink
for four years. This dilator kit was given to her when she was 14; when
her doctor warned her that to have “normal sex” with her “future
husband” she would need vaginoplasty surgery or use this kit. Mimi
thought she would never meet anyone else like her and was told not to
talk about her diagnosis with other people. Last year she discovered
that she is intersex. She says: “It’s difficult for intersex people to find
each other, because they are often told to keep it private and that it’s a
medical issue”. Since finding other intersex people on YouTube, she
thinks that “there is a big difference between secrecy and privacy”.
Mimi has become a passionate advocate, finding a sense of pride in
sharing her experience with her student residence, and arranging
public forums to raise awareness about intersex status and build
community. Mimi wants to tell intersex people: “You are loveable, your
body is beautiful, there is nothing wrong with your body. You’re not
A house is a chosen family.
Jye came out as gay in 2017, but his mum says he was always
fabulous. The same year Jye’s step-grandparents Andy and Laney who
live in Newcastle sent him this bear for his 13th birthday. This gesture
meant a lot to him: “I didn’t know that they knew about rainbow
representing the LGBTIQ+ community”. Jye feels lucky to have a loving
family, and they are especially supportive of his dancing. Jye loves
voguing, a dance style featured in Madonna's song and video "Vogue",
showcased in the 1990 documentary Paris is Burning. Since
performing on stage at Yes! Fest in 2018, Jye has visited Sydney to
attend “balls” and meet people from other “houses”. He says:
“Watching voguers is really inspiring to me. I hope to be running my
own house in Canberra one day”. This bear is a reminder that “I have a
supportive family. I love my family so much and since coming out, my
family has just gotten bigger”.
Some people think it's weird. I don’t think it’s weird at all.
Angus was given Brownie at birth, a teddy knitted by his “wonderfully
thrilling aunt”. He literally doesn’t recall a time when Brownie wasn’t
there and now that so many dear relations and friends have passed,
this bear has “been a constant companion but also witness to the
people that have been in and out of my life”. Brownie has witnessed
“my whole evolution to the place we call pride,” says Angus. “There is
something campy about him. He arrived in this form and has been
dressed in this way for 55 years. I’m very proud of him”. Angus had his
first gay sexual experience the summer after he left high school.
Having just turned 17, he distinctly remembers “reading the newspaper
the following morning about the first report in Australia about a
mysterious disease that was going through the gay communities in
New York and San Francisco. Back then it was called the Saint’s
Disease because it was associated with the nightclub called THE
SAINT”. Angus is proud of his journey: “If I’d been born five years
earlier, I might have been dead. I’ve been very fortunate”.
Transgender Dysphoria Blues.
When Dionysus Sin was 12, he bought an Against Me! CD from a
bargain bin and they quickly became his favourite band. Laura Jane
Grace, the lead singer, was everything Dionysus “wanted to be” and he
saw them perform for the first time on 7 May 2017 at Groovin the Moo
UC. This is the setlist from the show. Dionysus was “front row, with
repressed feelings”, knowing he was trans, “but I just didn't want to say
it, or accept it”. Dionysus remembers standing there, screaming the
song lyrics, and coming out to himself. That night he messaged a friend
to say “I’m trans”, then told his parents. Dionysus saw Against Me!
again at The Basement in Belco: “I met Laura, we played pool, shared
fries, I told her that I’d just started testosterone and she signed my
record”. He says: “Nothing is as important to me, as Against Me!” The
song True Trans Soul Rebel is “about the good and bad of being trans,
it's about not knowing if anyone is going to love you as trans, but still
being proud of yourself anyway”.