Interrogating the politics of Gay/Lesbian belonging in an Australian country town: a case study of Daylesford, Victoria, and local responses to the Chillout Festival
This paper examines the nature of gasy/lesbian belonging in Daylesford, an Australian country town, contributing to work on both gay/lesbian rural geographies and the politics of belonging. Daylesford hosts ChillOut, Australia's largest rural gay/lesbian festival, thus providing an apt lens for investigating gay/lesbian belonging in rural Australia. The festival, per se, is not analyzed, but instead local responses to ChillOut are interrogated below, particularly certain outcomes and debates following the 2006 festival. This paper begins with a discussion of the notions of belonging and the politics of belonging, and how these relate to gay/lesbian lives. This is followed by background on Daylesford, ChillOut, and data collection methods; the analysis utilizes qualitative data gathered during the 2006 ChillOut and subsequent events. Drawing on this data, the contradictory nature of gay/lesbian belonging in and to Daylesford is discussed. We first outline how Daylesford has been imagined, constructed and experienced as a 'unique' site of gay/lesbian belonging in rural Australia, finding that ChillOut crucially contributes to its reputation as a gay-friendly country town. We then examine a series of events ignited by the 2006 ChillOut Festival which, conversely, cast a serious question over the inclusive politics of gay/lesbian belonging in Daylesford. In doing so, we highlight how a multi-scalar politics of belonging was deployed by some locals to challenge gay/lesbian acceptance in Daylesford, where inclusion and diversity at the local scale were contested by the assertion of a 'more meaningful' national scale of allegiance. As such, we extend disciplinary arguments about the intersectionality and fluidity of geographical scale (Massey, 1992; Marston, 2000).