Elders share stories in ‘The Coming Back Out Ball’


The coming back out ball movie

Melbourne artist Tristan Meecham had a vision for the inaugural Coming Back Out Ball event.

The gala event – a glittering red carpet evening of live entertainment, dancing and pride – would honour and celebrate his local LGBTQIA+ elders and help address some of the social isolation and invisibility they experience.

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“We want to acknowledge and champion the paths they’ve forged,” Tristan explains.

“As a younger person, you take your sexual or gender identity for granted. This is a generation who didn’t have that privilege.

“There are members that have been married, that have lived life in a very closeted context for a long time. Others have lived through times when they were imprisoned.”

The inaugural ball occured in October 2017, during the divisive same-sex marriage postal survey, at the Melbourne Town Hall. Filmmakers captured the experience in The Coming Back Out Ball Movie, out next month.

The film features a group of elders who share the heartwarming and heart-wrenching stories of their lives. They  reflect back fifty years or more to a world far less accepting of LGBTIQ people.

We become a fly on the wall of the extensive planning behind the event. Tristan and his team establish a monthly Seniors Dance Club to help the elders connect with their peers and learn some steps for the ball.

We see Tristan navigate the big personalities of the group as he seeks their feedback on everything from the music to the entertainment to the timing.

“Older people need to go to bed early,” 73 year-old Ardy Tibby declares at one meeting.

Sue Thomson, director

Sue Thomson said Trsitan first approached her about immortalising the ball three years ago. She jumped at the chance.

“Tristan had read a paper by academic Catherine Barrett which was all about older LGBTIQ people going back into the closet in order to get decent healthcare,” she said.

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“He was shocked by that. Tristan has a background as a performance artist so he wanted to put on an event to say thank you to these people who have allowed him to be out and proud.

“I think it’s the beginning of affecting change in people’s lives. Some of the attendees hadn’t ever come out publicly as an older person.

“It was an extraordinary night, I really think we captured a moment in time.”

2nd Coming Back Out Ball

After the success of the inaugural Coming Back Out Ball, Melbourne hosted it for a sceond time last month.

Sue said it was Tristan Meecham’s goal to take the event national. Dependent on funding, a Brisbane Coming Back Out Ball might happen as early as 2019.

“There’s no date yet but as far as I know, it’s in the works,” she said.

The Coming Back Out Ball Movie is in select cinemas including New Farm’s Five Star Cinemas from December 6. 

The Coming Back Out Ball trailer

(All photos by Bryony Jackson)

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