In 1977 two women were convicted of ‘obscene behaviour’ for holding hands on a tram in Melbourne, Australia.
Their story was even the focal point of the Victorian Government’s apology to gays and lesbians convicted of overturned homosexuality laws.
40 years after the lesbians’ arrest, a group of women honoured them by holding hands on trams in Melbourne.
‘This event was amazing,’ said organizer and director of Celebrate Ageing, Catherine Barrett.
‘We had 20 lesbian elders board the tram and a group of LGBTI community members come to send us off.
‘We also had a number of straight folk who heard about the project and wanted to come along to show their support – this was very moving and bought a number of us to tears.’
But even in 2017 some of the women were still nervous about holding hands in public.
— Janet Rice (@janet_rice) October 11, 2017
Barrett told Gay Star News it was sign that society still has a long way to go.
‘A number of women told me that they were really nervous – they don’t generally hold hands in public, it has not been safe to do so,’ she said.
‘So even though we were travelling in a group they were frightened of the responses from the general public.’
Lesbophobia is real
Hold Hands on a Tram was organized to remind people of lesbopobia – the discrimination uniquely faced by lesbians. It was also a chance to highlight some of the struggles older lesbians face.
‘Often LGBTI histories are talked about as a collective – as though each subgroup had the same experiences,’ Barrett said.
‘These experiences need to be understood – because the past is not dead, there are still legacies of history present in contemporary society.
‘We see this in older lesbians fears about services, in the elder abuse some experience by family members, in the attitudes and behaviours of some community members and community leaders.’
Barrett wants to now take the initiative to major regional centres, Bendigo and Ballarat.
‘The event really highlighted the trepidation many older lesbians feel ‘being identified as a lesbian in public. We recognize this is a project that needs to continue,’ she said.