Study in older LGBTI Australians finds fear, discrimination and pain

The Sydney Morning Herald National
Jill Stark
Original Article:

In the struggle to be who she was, Dorothy McDonald lost everything. At times, it felt as if she had fallen into a "waking coma".

"If people experience one loss – they lose their job – it’s pretty major, but mine was compounded, I had loss of security, family, children, my home, my identity and my friends. I had to construct a whole new life for myself in every way."

Married to a man for 14 years, Dorothy then fell in love with *Ann in the 1970s, at a time when homosexuality was illegal in Victoria and many believed gay and lesbian people were immoral or mentally ill.

When she decided to leave her husband, Dorothy’s parents branded her "insane" and made arrangements to have her "fixed".

"They got me into the car and said: we’ve got an appointment with Pell [Cardinal George Pell]. They  said: ‘You’re a sick person; we’re going to take you to Pell.’ They were almost hijacking me, but I refused to go."

Being shunned by her family – her father only reconciled with her shortly before his death, while her mother never spoke to her again – pushed Dorothy to a suicide attempt. "The rejection of so many people really broke my spirit. Love had conditions attached to it."

Her story forms part of a research project, revealing how gay, lesbian, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Australians coming of age in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, endured religious conversion therapy, violence, imprisonment, forced psychiatric treatment, family rejection, and job losses, as  many were forced to hide their sexuality.

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