Wednesday, February 22, 2012

On beginning my 60th Year


Tony with his parents Alex and Kath at three weeks!
This week I celebrate the beginning of a new era as I begin my 60th year with my 59th Birthday History was being made all around me in  1953: , Perry Como released "Keep It Gay". The VFL footy season saw Geelong and Collingwood play off in an historic Grand Final  win to the "pies"  Dag Hammarskjold took office as the second Secretary General of the United Nations and of course in the UK  they put on the best bit of post war pomp and circumstance for the coronation of Elizabeth II.

It's a time of thanksgiving, of celebration and an opportunity to look to the future.I acknowledge the ownership and pay my respects to the Indigenous Peoples of Australia whose land is my birthland..

It's a time of humble gratitude to my parents and family who nurtured me in safety and love .It is a time to acknowledge that I carry the story of previous generations from another land.It is a time to wonder at the unknown diversity of those who have gone before me carrying the family names of Robertson and Tracey.

I've packed a fair bit into 59 years and there are still mountains to climb and deserts to cross in the challenges that the future offers. Relationships  are at the core of my life. I carry around a growing collection of photographs of people who have shared my life as family, friends, companions and visitors. Since moving to Brisbane I have kept a guest book which tells wonderful stories in many languages of coffee, port and  hospitality in the shared households

In the past 59 years I have lived in:
2 Countries; Australia,  Papua New Guinea
3 States Victoria New South Wales, Queensland
12 Postcodes: 4103 3169 3066 3065 2040 4122 3215 3051 2761 3011 4101 3218
Houses
Friaries
Monasteries
Presbyteries
Flats
Townhouses
Terrace House
Mission Station
I have travelled with 7 airlines: TAA, Ansett, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, Virgin Blue, Jetstar, Telair

The photos taken of me over 59 years tell a story as well. My toothy grin at primary school is still my trademark. Family photos from school days, and gatherings show my parents' preference for convention. There are no photos of the gear I bought for myself as a pretty flamboyant teenager. ( I still miss my bright red shirt with puffed sleeves and it's long collar) My own photo collection includes the  variety of hair styles, travel, and people from all sorts of backgrounds who have challenged, hugged, fed and inspired me. Above my desk I have two family shots, one taken for my parents 40th wedding anniversary of us kids and the last photo I took of my Father with Mum and a few of my friends from PNG who were visiting Geelong during a scout jamboree. On the wall is one of  my favourite shots which I took in Oxford Street Sydney back in the 90's with one of the Sisters Of Perpetual Indulgence in animated conversation with some  locals... my straight family and my gay family watching over me as I work here at the keyboard!!

The learnings of 60 years come in the usual packaging of joys and hopes, grief and anguish....not in equal servings thank heavens. The joys and hopes have far outweigh the grief and anguish. The reality of middle age came home to me recently in the Boundary Hotel in West End when two young guys in an animated conversation turned to me and said "let's ask the old fella"!!! The responsibility of middle age awes me with the trust of young people and the wonderful families who have "adopted" me as a surrogate uncle and brother. The  pain of middle age is realising that the body can't do all the great physical things it once did...well not at the same speed!!

My passion in middle age is to challenge the remnants of prejudice  homophobia and racism that I inherited from my cultural environment. My education, religion and family life were supportive and nurturing,  however they were not able to support my sexuality as a gay youth and young adult; They sheltered me from the reality of the exploitation of the Indigenous peoples of my country and they blinded me to structural power that men and women continue to use in political and religious systems.

In many ways I have made an intentional choice to be "alternative" in my lifestyle. Part of this choice is forced by my sexuality, part is chosen in my living as a  "Community Jester" a role that allows me to use humour and a love of the eccentric to challenge many conventions that keep people in "Little Boxes".