19 years after the iceberg: re-imagining safety, stigma and loss in a new century

Presentation Type: Oral
Conference Stream: Ageing and Aged Care
Presenter: Ian Davis
Presentation Title: 19 years after the iceberg: re-imagining safety, stigma and loss in a new century.
Room: Fitzroy
Program schedule: Friday 14 August 2015 at 14:20
Duration: 20 mins


Stephen Swartzberg’s (1996) A Crisis of Meaning: How Gay Men Are Making Sense of AIDS suggests that the AIDS epidemic of the 1990s re-characterised the obstacles faced by gay men and other queer communities. New definitions of safety, stigma and loss were imagined, progressive politics and practices were curtailed; we became conservative, compliant, heteronormative and scared.

19 years later Russell T. Davies’s multi-platform drama Cucumber, Banana and Tofu explores the after effect this period of terror had on communities of queer folk. Cucumber’s central character Henry, a 46 year old insurance broker, is in a long term relationship, is outwardly content yet inwardly struggling to begin understanding his own sexuality. This paper/presentation uses Davies’s Cucumber to explore the accumulated effect of coming-out during the 90s AIDS crisis. In our conservative compliance did we construct areas of misperception about ourselves in order to outwardly validate and repair our image in the wake of the epidemic? What happens to communities who become legally institutionalised before being socially accepted? How do generations within our communities manage the disconnect of coming-out or living a queer life (still a dangerous and fraught occupation) now often viewed as easier ‘these days’; and queerness (a new and brave social position) often read as a privileged social status?

The terror of icebergs and grim-reapers had a profound impact on the emotional safety, mental health and identity development of a generation of queer folk and the generations that followed, how do we now re-imagine our relationship with safety, stigma and loss and reconstruct an identity that is recognisable in the new century.

Presentation slides (PDF)