In 1979, a young American man named Michael Glynn founded a free gay newspaper in Sydney. He called it The Sydney Star, and he distributed it by hand to the clubs and bars in Sydney’s gay ghetto around Oxford Street.
The newspaper Glynn founded went onto become Australia’s longest-running gay and lesbian publication. Now known as the Sydney Star Observer, the paper has captured extraordinary moments in the cultural history of Sydney’s LGBTI communities.
Glynn was born on 7 April 1948 and died in Sydney on 10 July 1996. He was a passionate advocate of gay consciousness, and used his newspaper to urge readers to ‘think gay, buy gay’.
Glynn was particularly smitten by the leather scene. He was a keen supporter of Patrick Brookes, the only Australian to win the International Mr Leather Competition, in Chicago in 1980.
In May 1983, The Star published the first account of AIDS in Australia and the newspaper went on to be a leading source of AIDS information with the Sydney community.
Michael Glynn sold his newspaper to a cooperative of fellow workers in 1984 and retired to the Blue Mountains with his lover, Steve Cribb. Towards the end of the following year, Steve was diagnosed HIV+. The couple moved back to Sydney in 1986 so that Steve could be closer to medical care. Steve died in November that year, aged 28.
Michael was also HIV+ and he survived Steve by another 10 years. Writer Gary Dunne recorded Michael’s death in the 18 July 1996 edition of the Sydney Star Observer.
Dunne wrote, in part: ‘Glynn was a lanky American with no shortage of chutzpah who played a significant role in the history of the Sydney gay community from 1979 onwards.
‘He was a feisty long-term survivor who made friends and enemies easily.
‘He passionately believed in the notion of a gay community based around a common lifestyle and identity, and was behind the push to send a team which included Bobby Goldsmith (who won 17 medals) to the first Gay Olympics in 1982.’
Two years before his death, Glynn spoke about life in retirement, telling Dunne that he was writing a porn novel and his autobiography.
Both of those documents are lost, most likely discarded in the aftermath of Michael’s death. But the fact that Glynn thought about writing an autobiography indicates an awareness of his life as a story to be told.
My doctoral thesis, Preaching to the Perverted: the Life and Times of Michael Glynn, is held at the University of Sydney.