The Tropical Fruits Parade 2015 down Molesworth Street in Lismore. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star
The Tropical Fruits Parade 2015 down Molesworth Street in Lismore. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star Marc Stapelberg

Taste for Tropical Fruits has changed over time

HAILED as one of the biggest and most highly anticipated events on the Lismore Calendar, it’s fair to say Tropical Fruits is a festival that’s embraced by the vast majority of the Northern Rivers community. But it hasn’t always been the case.

In its early years, Tropical Fruits was met with reluctance from different corners of the community including the Lismore council and, sadly, this newspaper (both now wholeheartedly embrace it).

Tropical Fruits and Queer History Project member “Uncle” Ian Gray said he could remember a time when he first got involved in Tropical Fruits in 1992, where the majority of events were kept under wraps due to homophobic views in the community.

“Twenty-five years ago all of the social events were in private homes and people were very careful about giving out any information about where they lived or their phone number,” he said.

“You had to be very careful because there were people out there who were homophobic and aggressive and sometimes even violent towards gay and lesbian people, so we had to be quite hidden away in some respects.”

The Tropical Fruits Parade 2015 down Molesworth Street in Lismore. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star
The Tropical Fruits Parade 2015 down Molesworth Street in Lismore. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star Marc Stapelberg

Mr Gray said attitudes had come a long way since then, with organisations like Lismore City Council now fully embracing the annual events.

“Mind you, it’s only been in the last five or six years the council has fully embraced us. It took a long time,” he said.

“I think the business community was a lot more open in the early days when they got to know us and realised there was a lot of money to be made.

“As time went on more and more of the straight people met gay and lesbian people as we came out and got to know us personally.”

Mr Gray said it would have been hard for Tropical Fruits members in the early days to imagine just how far the festival would grow and come to be embraced by the community.

Recently released Queensland Cabinet documents from 1985 give some insight into the mindset not so long ago.

“As a parent, I would have strong reservations about letting young people compete in a pool that was used for such a sick event as a gay swimming carnival,” the then Queensland welfare, youth and ethnic affairs minister Geoff Muntz said at the height of the country’s AIDS fear.

“It seems these people who promote such an immoral, unnatural and deviant lifestyle are turning up everywhere in New South Wales.

“… You’ll never hear of a gay mardi gras or gay swimming carnival in Queensland.”



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