Carl Milton – Part of Us

The Leather Pride Monument — $290
2024, Action Figure Doll, Found Objects, Coal, Beads, Glass Dome, 22 x 15 x 15cm

The Leather Pride Monument with the leather Pride flag speaks of a time when LGBTQ+ sexual identities were coming to the fore. The Leather/Kink movement was especially powerful in challenging previously held stereotypes of gay men. This small sculpture symbolizes the LGBTQ+ empowerment that was unfolding on both societal and individual personal levels.

When I was a young gay man, life out on the Sydney scene life seemed to be wildly bohemian. It was also much more egalitarian in Sydney’s art world. Sydney was a much feistier and colourful city, before the relentless incoming waves of gentrification and corporatization started to sanitize and monetize everything. The most easily identifiable members of the Rainbow Family at the time were the Leather/Kink crowd. The blatant in your face sexuality that exuded from someone dressed in nothing much more than leather chaps and harness was bold and also very visible both on the streets and in the gay bars. While it wasn’t my personal schtick, I appreciated the fearless expressive attitude to openly and publicly displaying one’s sexual and kink identification. It seems rare to see that kind of chutzpah, (or those sexy outfits), these days on Oxford Street. Venues catering to the Leather/Kink scene have virtually disappeared. In the 1980’s and 90’s the highlight of the Kink and Leather calendar was the infamous annual Sleaze Ball, attracting many thousands of aficionados to a party of debauched celebration and sexuality. Times change and while there is no doubt still an active leather and kink scene in Sydney it has probably moved more online and gone more underground.

About Carl Milton

I guess in some ways I was always out – or at least some people were able to pick up that there was a different energy within me that at times created a challenging life. I was born in early 1960’s Sydney and back then embracing an openly gay identity wasn’t a preferred option for a lot of gay folk. Role models were thin on the ground. Not much beyond the caricatures of Liberace or associations with depravity and tragedy. In the eyes of the law at the time, I was considered a criminal.

It wasn’t until my early adulthood that changes in laws and public opinion began gradually shifting towards a more accepting attitude, despite the emerging spectre of A.I D.S. Here in Sydney, the courage and activism of the 78’ers and other allies instigated a progression toward increasing LGBTQ+ visibility and laws improving human rights and outlawing discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community. Having experienced the tumultuous, but fantastic journey to where LGBTQ+ people are today, I remain far from complacent. I keep very aware that ongoing vigilance is needed to safeguard against the erosion of LGBTQ+ rights. I also acknowledge that there is still so much more global progress to be made – especially as the hard fought for LGBTQ+ rights is generally only thus far accepted and validated mostly by western democracies.