An Open Letter to Midsumma

Noe more Golden Stillettos?

No more Golden Stillettos?

To Midsumma Chair John Caldwell & CEO Karen Bryant


First off, I have to say your program looks a bit odd this year. Two signature fundraisers – DTs Golden Stilletto Rally, and the Greyhound official Pride March after-party – seem to be missing. In a year when you’re going to need all the goodwill you can get, seems like something of a clanger to drop these much loved community events.

Apparently you decided not to have an official after party for Pride March at GH, as in previous years. I thought maybe they weren’t having one because of their publicized financial struggles, but they tell me that’s not so.

“There aren’t really any struggles for the GH currently. Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation out there at the moment. The GH has no plans to go anywhere. Although it was on the cards some time ago, it’s not something the owners are even currently considering. Even if the owners decided today to go ahead, it would be at least 2 years before anything changed.”

The GH will still be holding their own event and should have something out in the next week or so.

Still, at least the Dykes on Bikes Pillion Raffle is going ahead. They’ll probably still lead the Pride March, although the issue will be under review at their GM this weekend, according to DOBM President Jo Bangles.

Have Miranda Devine and Rita Panahi bought tickets to ride, do you know, or are you providing complimentaries, as part of your contra deal?

And Mooning at the Laird is still on: Bill Leak should come up with some great cartoons from that. He has such a talent for drawing gimps in chains, rubber and leather.

They’ll be perfect for illustrating Andrew Bolts breathless piece about the talent on display. I can’t wait to read what he writes about Noah’s Arse, where the guy pulls an entire ark of animals out of his derriere. And the guy who uses a rubber chicken for a butt plug! Priceless! Good for pages of excellent publicity!

Sincere congratulations on getting all that free ad space in the Leader papers, too. Most copies will of course seamlessly transition from mailbox to rubbish bin without being read, but hundreds of suburban gay budgerigars and parrots will be avidly scanning the bottoms of their cages for the location of the Avian Liberation Front disco. Thousands of cats will be digging up the litter in their trays, looking for ads for Gay Pussy nights.

But personally, I’m still not too happy about this News Corp tie-up. I do understand that you might not have been able to afford the necessary high-powered lawyers to get you out of the contract, there being so few on the Melbourne Gay “A” List. Or perhaps you were just a teeny bit embarrassed to buttonhole them at your last cocktail party? You know, like it’s bad manners to ask a dentists advice at a dinner party? Still, I’m sure you did your best.

The trouble is, all year long we’ve been seeing all the hate and homophobia coming from News Corp – OK, maybe not so much in the Leader – and now we’ve got to stomach that brand proudly emblazoned all over our festival. A festival that, as well as boosting board members resumes is also, just coincidentally, meant to provide safe spaces for LGBTI people. Not the red-carpet LGBTI people you occasionally trip over on one of your reporting gigs. People like me. It makes those spaces feel not so safe, and not mine any more.

You see, when you align yourselves with News Corp, you legitimise all their LGBTI content, good and bad. It’s very hard to say you’re promoting the rights of the LGBTI community, in media belonging to an organisation that campaigns vociferously against LGBTI rights. So you can see how some people might get a bit upset, can’t you? Actually, quite a lot upset. In fact, fucking furious.

It gets especially problematic when news of your tie-up happens to break alongside news of the suicide of a young boy who might have been helped by, say, the Safe Schools program. Which News Corp outlets continue to relentlessly demonise. That, of course, is why you waited till now to tell us you were going to ignore the criticism. Now the heat has gone out of the situation. Congratulations, that was very clever. Not very respectful or honest, it’s true, but very clever.

But cheer up, all is not lost. Unlike physical virginity, your moral and political virginity is to some extent salvageable. Prove you’re genuinely sorry by:

  1. Admitting the tie up is a mistake
  2. Swearing to end it after this year
  3. Donating all the ad space you’re given to promoting Safe Schools
  4. Supplying all Pride marchers with banners promoting Safe Schools
  5. Having Safe Schools lead off the march
  6. Giving Safe Schools a free, prominent marquee at Carnival

It won’t get you off the hook entirely. But by making some genuine sacrifices, you will regain some of the respect you have lost. It will show that, rather than trying to pull the wool over our eyes, as you tried to do with that limited, slanted survey, and that consultation with carefully selected individuals:

  • You know you got it wrong
  • You’re genuinely sorry

Now get on it. You’ve a lot to do, and not much time.

Thanks for listening.

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)