Sex, Soldiers and the South Pacific, 1939-45: Queer Identities in Australia in the Second World War
Military and civilian worlds have an uneasy relationship. They inform and intersect with one another in complex and competing ways. Sex, Soldiers and the South Pacific, 1939-45 explores how life in and out of uniform shaped Australia's queer identities in the 1940s. Queensland – with its massive throngs of local and foreign servicemen – provides an unusually detailed tapestry that weaves together the complexities of homoerotic inclination and self-expression in Australia and the South Pacific. Gender would prove to be the central thread colouring dominant forms of identity for men, youths, and the authorities who responded to their behaviour. Effeminate cissies like young Errol, the Australian soldier Vernon and his American lover Jack, Paul the camp café owner, soldiers like Edgar and Roger who stole intimate moments on an abandoned block by the Brisbane River, Eric and the girls in New Guinea, and the belles and trade among the Americans in Noumea, all reveal how the war and its immediate aftermath shaped contemporary male experiences. Together, they show us how men and youths forged new beginnings and possibilities, created circuits of thinking and practice at home and on forward bases, and employed strategies of resistance and negotiation in order to live happy and fulfilling lives.