After Orlando

If you work in a cultural institution, what do you do in response to a tragedy like the shooting in Orlando last week?

You see a lot of rainbow flags on social media and there’s a hashtag going round, #LoveIsLove. There have been gatherings in major cities, showing solidarity with Florida and letting each local LGBTQ community know they are celebrated and cherished.

These are wonderful things but I wanted us at the State Library of Queensland to do more.

On Monday morning, we fast-tracked a project to acquire a major piece of Australian LGBTQ oral history – the final interview tapes of Bernard King.

King was the flamboyant, gay, notoriously acid-tongued pioneer of Aussie TV cookery and talent shows. We discovered the tape as part of my weekly newsletter Marvellous, Electrical when I interviewed King’s biographer Stephanie Clifford-Smith.

You can read the Bernard King edition of Marvellous, Electrical here.

This is a major acquisition of materials from a forgotten Queensland icon whose work was under-represented in the state’s libraries and archives. You’ll see more about it through official channels in coming weeks.

The interviews will now be digitised by the library’s Queensland Memory team. State Library oral histories currently available online include the LGBT Lives: Oral Histories collection and the Greg Weir collection.

I have to say massive thanks to Dianne Byrne and Gavin Bannerman of Queensland Memory for helping us to pursue this acquisition.

I also spent my evenings this week investigating Queensland’s Panic Defence – a lingering clause of the state legal code which seems to allow killers to claim they were provoked to manslaughter if their victim made a homosexual pass at them.

Alongside celebration and solidarity, it’s important to look to our own doorsteps and recognise where prejudice and injustice can be found right before our eyes. Discussion of the Panic Defence led to some uncomfortable truths about murder and straight male privilege in Australia’s Sunshine State.

You can read Marvellous, Electrical: The Panic Defence here.

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