By Sophie Pyrgiotis
Suffocating the air between the yarns of carpet were speckles of purple, green, and gold glitter, celebrating a gay liberation protest tickling beneath our feet.
The glitter splashed on the walls were singing Gaga’s Born this Way and the people you meet were covered in glitter.
The room had transformed into a Yayoi Kusama Infinity artwork sparkles stretching into the distance beyond discernible horizon.
It’s 1:30pm and all that is left are crusts from a pepperoni pizza and the Kellahan residence has already started to form a conveyer belt of make up for an appearance at the Edinburgh Hotel Bathurst on a Wednesday night.
A pop of colour from Queen Supreme mixed with Risk Taker to the eyes. Lashes coated with Hawt and Naughty. Film Noir for a defined cheek. Amorous drawn twice over the lips.
And drizzles of glitter.
A splash of two bubbly personalities equates to the amount of colour the Phoenix Twins bring to the Central West. Tyler Kellahan and Gino Milsom are Bathurst’s most famous drag queens.
“The two can strut around town in heels better than any woman,” says local resident Emily Horton
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics people from the LGBTI community are more likely to live in large cities rather than towns in rural and regional areas of Australia.
While the Phoenix Twins are part of the Central Wests LGBTI community, the Queens weren’t always sitting on their throne of Bathurst. While Kellahan was born and raised in the Central West and Milsom relocated to Bathurst after growing up in the city of Brisbane.
The Phoenix Twins started their public appearances in the Central West in a four person group formed in 2016. However, sadly Milsom and Kellahan left early 2017 to create the Phoenix Twins Horton describing the Twins as;
“Outrageous, fabulous and absolute drama queens.”
Changes to acceptance of the LGTBI Community
With over forty Mardi Gras parades through Sydney’s Oxford Street since the original 1978 protest, the LGBTI community across Australia and the globe have used the parade to evolve as a platform of social justice.
Mardi Gras is a celebration of freedom and rights which are now accepted around the world. But behind the glitter, rainbow crossings and an outburst of colours, the event signifies an important chapter in Australian history.
The parade came from a passionate, striving and violent beginning as the original protest erupted into a vicious dispute and rebellion against police which left many wounded and 53 arrested fighting for their rights to celebrate their identity.
Based on true events and real profiles, ABC premiered their telemovie Riot February 25th.
The film depicts the difference between the modern celebration of Mardi Gras, with people singing, dancing, skipping and walking behind a truck with a small sound system, playing gay liberation anthems such as Ode to a Gym Teacher and Glad to be Gay. Riot focuses on individuals who created a celebration of diversity during an important moment in LGBTI history.
Dealing with oppression and ostracism the individuals brought what we call four decadent decades of love, protest, diversity, acceptance, endurance, activism, satire, pride, family and creativity.
“The horrible irony is they didn’t want it to be a protest; they set out to do something that would be a celebration, a party that would be colourful and welcoming,
Said producer Joanna Werner in an interview with The Australians Graeme Blundell.
“This was not meant to be a violent demonstration but the police lost perspective, reacted with fear and turned what should have been a joyous street party into a massive signifier of the need for social change.” Werner said
Although the Central West has been receptive to the Phoenix Twins, Gino Milsom has found herself dwelling on negative comments.
The Phoenix Twins Experiences
Since gay marriage laws passed the House of Representatives early December 2017 the country has changed their views towards the LGBTI community and the Phoenix Twins’, Kellahan mentioned there are people from their community that have experienced the depressive stage of letting people’s comments affect what they think of themselves.
Over the past decade, the Phoenix Twins have been criticised for by the way they look. Kellahan has been refused service at a popular Orange restaurant and banned from pubs. He describes his experiences as horrifying and upsetting, but the most drastic and fearing dramatic and frightening experience was at Charles Sturt University.
It’s a Thursday night at a CSU sponsored Rafters event and t, in both hands, Kellahan holds plastic cups containing $9.50 worth of vodka raspberry spilling over the sides. Together they were wearing matching a short and tight white dresses with with a prominent red cross slammed on their front, and stilted with six inch stilettos.
The Twins were surrounded by love, and acceptance.
Charles Sturt University student Claudia McLaren says; The Phoenix Twins are two of the most lively and gratified people I know! There has never been a dull moment around them.”
Source: DK Pool Club
Sliding across the alcohol smeared, disorientating dance floor Kellahan pushed her way to the bathrooms. Originally asking to use the gender neutral disabled toilet, but when security refused her request, Kellahan says,
“I felt very vulnerable and uncomfortable to use the male toilet”
The only place she felt comfortable and safe were the female bathrooms. However, security marching behind, dragged her out.ed behind her to dragging her out.
Vulnerable and alone, Kellahan felt unaccepted.
“I felt she [security] was accusing me of doing something wrong when all I wanted to do was use the facilities for the intended purpose.” says Tyler
Homosexuality was at one time a criminal act. It wasn’t decriminalised in NSW until 1984 when it was then still considered a mental illness. There were cracks in gay and lesbian political views.
However, it was the abundance of activist groups that competed for a voice through mainstream platforms that brought about the debate of same-sex equality.
A different lover is not a sin.
The 2011 census has analysed 1% of couples in Australia are of the same-sex. When information about same sex couples surfaced in 1996, there was a pattern of more male than female same-sex couples and has been consistent since.
Within 5 years, the number of same-sex couples In Australia has risen significantly with a 32% increase in the five years since 2006. Between 1996 and 2011, the number of same-sex couples has tripled reflecting the growing social acceptance.
Number of Same Sex Couples 1996-2011
Chart: Australian Bureau of Statistics
Early 2018, the small rural town of Canowindra was attacked with yellow graffiti plastering the hurtful and disrespecting words “dyke” and “fag” across its main street on the eve of the Sydney Mardi Gras. While the towns total population of 2,258 (as of 2016), Canowindra statistics showed there was an overwhelming amount of yes votes from the electorate for the Marriage equality vote.
Residents of the town have replied to such act on social media with one resident commenting, “These negative opinions are walked over by decent people, and at the end of the day, that is where such abuse belongs – ground under the feet of a strong and accepting community.” it will take a lot more than a can of spray paint to break this community.
The Phoenix Twins Social Media pages have received negative comments for three years, and their personal accounts have also taken a beating.
People from around the Central West posting comments such as; “she’s gone from ugly to uglier… or should I say he.”
Kellahan responds to all comments with love saying,
“He may have been taught but ignorance is a choice made by individuals with negative mind-sets, what he does not realise is our differences is what makes the world a beautiful place to live. We don’t have to like everything that everyone does but we don’t have to stop others from living. Live and let live.”
Although, gaining significant positive attention from university students the pair are humble, down to earth, confident in their own bodies and also inclusive of peoples differences.