DAMIEN: My name is Damien Webb. I'm a second generation black queer.
I have two mums and my family are Palawa from the east coast of Tasmania. And despite, obviously being pretty drawn to everything in this show, it was this section in particular that really spoke to my childhood, growing up in the nineties with lesbian parents, long before that was cool or acceptable.
I suppose if we go back to the beginning, my mum had always identified as straight and had always been in straight relationships, but grew up very poor and without access to a lot of opportunities to consider anything differently.
So after some bad relationships, let's just call them that, my mum ended up at Annie Kenney, which is actually a very iconic women's shelter in Tasmania. And while she was there, we were staying there with her, she actually met a case worker named Lee. And they kind of pretty much immediately fell in love. And so that was my mum's coming out.
It was, I think, as confusing and unexpected to her as it was to the rest of my family. And so as part of that, we moved in and hung out with Lee. We lived in a couple of pretty wonderful, pretty strange lesbian share houses in the late eighties in Tasmania.
So I was surrounded by a lot of positive energy and I have very few memories of feeling like an outsider, but the rest of the family were not very receptive or supportive.
So they actually, with my mum's most recent ex, actually lobbied to have custody of me and my sister taken from my mum. Which obviously we've always been very close to my family, so that was a pretty intense realisation, you know, at that age when I would've been maybe five, which, you know, shouldn't have been surprising considering that we were, and are, black, but that realisation that even now and then, people could just take children away from their parents, and for reasons that absolutely did not make sense to me.
I don't have a lot of memories of the court case, and my understanding is that it stopped short of going to a full hearing, because of my mother and some of her other friends that had, you know, it was a very, very common part of a lot of those feminist networks that I remember, was giving each other legal advice, and some of the women in there that were lawyers or had experience in that. Those networks really relied on each other to kind of grassroots your way through these very confrontational legal systems.
I'm not sure what the legal status of lesbians was when this would've taken place, but, I'm definitely aware that, you know, as we even see now in the courts, it doesn't always matter what the actual legal precedent is or what the legal structures are, there are always ways to gaslight and attack queer parents, from any number of angles.
So that was, that kind of inspired us to get the heck out of Tasmania.
So me and my sister and my two mums, left. I remember my Nan standing on her lawn screaming that we'd burn in hell. There was always that sense of us against the world to some degree, and so we lived in that car for, I suppose a year and a half. We stopped at a few places, but my parents took on getting curriculum resources so that we could, me and my sister, could stay up to date with schooling. I remember it as a really quite wonderful time. But I do remember that outside of our little family unit, things were not as safe.
And definitely it was still very strange and uncommon for people to have lesbian parents. I mean, for everyone else I should say. We spent a lot of time in communes and, staying in huge sprawling properties and share houses with other lesbians and a lot of them who had kids, some of them didn't.
And I remember my mum dealing with some of the tensions within the queer community. The fact that she had come from a straight relationship, that she would be called things like a 'hasbian', that people would question her queer credibility or that they were like Lee, which is my other mother, had always been lesbians.
So it had never been part of their world to really consider childcare needs in these quite, you know, sometimes quite fundamental lesbian spaces.
I mean, like most, most issues in most queer communities, when push comes to shove, we come together, even with those tensions. They were nothing compared to the abuse you would get from outside the queer community.
We kind of arrived in Perth in about '93, and settled down there for what would be 20, 25 odd years. And so once we were in Perth, we kind of had the privilege and pain of being everyone's queer family.
So, I know a lot of my friends, all of my friends, most of my sister's friends, had never met people with two mums before. I don't remember there being a lot of homophobia about it, but then I was fairly immune to it at that point, and I, I was pretty staunch. I was probably overachieving and being school captains and faction captains and some kind of subconscious level to prove that, you know, we weren't deficient and that we weren't damaged.
But I definitely remember people and the thrill of meeting real lesbians, (LAUGHS) and the disappointment that would fall across their faces when they realised that we were just another family and that neither of them were the dad. Lots of questions about which one's the dad and having to try and explain that that kind of is the point of being lesbians, is that neither of them is.
So really from there, I suppose these posters came around, probably around about the time that we'd settled in Perth. And so I remember seeing things like these, "Some kids have two mums", I remember the "Lesbians are everywhere, so get over it" bumper stickers that we had. The women's symbol with the fist was… there were singlets. All of that imagery, all of that iconography, was all just part of my childhood. So it's actually quite wonderful to see that kind of coming up again and to be able to remind people of that.
So for me, yeah, it's always been that source of inspiration that these things made it a much safer and normal, more normalised experience for a lot of people, and I'm really glad people had that.
I never felt like I needed it as much, but I think my parents actually curated a lot of this same energy and these same perspectives, and we were living and working with the women behind a lot of these same kinds of, posters and flyers and events and, legislative pushes and these pushes for childcare.
So I was always kind of in that. So I don't know, I feel like we were always designed to help other queer families because we were in a position where we had each other and we were safe, and we knew that that wasn't always the case.
Yeah, I suppose watching them navigate that kind of space, watching them deal with their own toxic friends and family, watching my own family come around knowing that if, you know, my natural tendency, which would probably be to, if that had happened to me, would be to drive back to Tasmania, well catch a boat back to Tasmania and then burn the entire island.
My mums didn't. And as a result, five, ten years later, she had her mum again. She had all of her aunties, all of my nieces and nephews and cousins and Mum's nieces and nephews looked up to her and have told her that she was the first lesbian in the family, which, you know, statistically can't possibly be true, but she was the first out person.
And so there's a whole couple of generations that, because my mum chose patience, and not that she wasn't frustrated and didn't give into anger a few times with them, but that she kept that door open even if it was just a crack, even if it was, you guys have to do a lot of work on yourselves, but do that and you can come back.
Taking people on those small and large journeys, which often feels like it comes at great cost to yourself. I suppose they taught me that sometimes you can think bigger picture and sometimes it will actually come back to you.