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Gil's story: I rise for a dancefloor

Posted on 08 Jan, 2021
Gil's story: I rise for a dancefloor

Gil Beckwith, Mardi Gras Finance Manager (She/Her) 

This is Gil, Mardi Gras’ Finance Manager. Gil has a long history working the finances for many art, LGBTQI+ and not-for-profit organisations.  

“I've been very lucky that I can marry my finance career with things that I'm very passionate about," she says. "I'm a little bit older than the average bear, I'm in my 50’s and have been working in the arts or not-for-profit sector since my 20s. Over the years I’ve worked with the likes of Sydney Theatre Company and Melbourne Festival, but I also worked at the Victorian AIDS Council in the ’90s which was a tough time, working alongside my gay brothers who, at the time, were dying and very sick.”  

A devotee to the dancefloor since the early '80s when she’d make weekend trips to Sydney to go clubbing along Oxford Street, Gil has witnessed first-hand the evolution of the LGBTQI+ community over the years. 

“God, I love a dancefloor. Dancefloors are a sea of happy. They are a beautiful and joyous place where everyone’s just smiling and dancing and enjoying being with each other.” 

“I think I probably went to my first Mardi Gras Party in the late '80s. I was a little baby lesbian and it was quite interesting back then because women in gay venues or mixed venues weren’t very tolerated.  

“But then sadly you know the '90s came along and so did HIV/AIDS. As I said I worked at the Victoria AIDS Council for about four years and it was harrowing. Our community press at the time would be filled with pages and pages of people who had passed away. I met some amazing men who were dead within four weeks or six months. It was so indiscriminate, who died or who survived. 

“In the '90s every party was so bittersweet because you were there either dancing through the pain of having lost someone or celebrating the fact that someone was here for another year. During that time, we all had a common enemy and it brought us together to fight hard - either on the dance floor, in the hospitals or anywhere else that we could. 

“I learned a lot about illness and health, anger and discrimination. 

“Amongst all that, there was change. I was lucky to be a volunteer for Midsumma and became the first lesbian president of Midsumma. It had been suffering financially but there was a real sense of coalition politics. Women working with men to further the cause. At that time Midsumma bought on its first major sponsor and lobbied the Government for funding, helping to secure the Festival’s future. That period of pain and suffering had galvanised the community to come together and demand change. They were exciting times. 

“Things continue to change but there’s still a lot to fight for and I think that’s why Mardi Gras is important. It’s visibility. I say to my mother all the time, “we save lives”. I believe that Mardi Gras gives people hope. Imagine being a kid out in the western suburbs and your family is highly conservative and there’s nowhere to go and then suddenly you see all these loud and proud people marching down Oxford Street and it just gives you an “Oh my God, that's my home” moment. 

“I’m hopeful for the future. I’ve seen our community at odds in the past and how destructive it can be. But I’ve also been there when we have come together, and all the amazing things we were able to achieve then because we were united.” 

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