Saturday, May 19, 2018

Today In 2017, Australian LGBT Rights Pioneer Peter "Bon" Bonsall-Boone Died

Peter "Bon" Bonsall-Boone (right) with his partner Peter de Waal
Peter "Bon" Bonsall-Boone AM was born in 1938, and died a year ago today. He was an Australian LGBT rights activist. He was a foundation member of the Campaign Against Moral Persecution (CAMP) and participated in the first Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

At the age of 19, in 1957, Bonsall-Boone was convicted twice of homosexual activity after being arrested on separate occasions at a public bathroom and a Sydney train station where he went to meet other gay men. He later said that these convictions prevented him from his goal of becoming an Anglican priest; he was expelled from his theological college in 1962 when his criminal record was discovered. 

Peter de Waal (left) and Bon
He met his life partner, Peter de Waal, in 1966, and they both became foundation members of the Campaign Against Moral Persecution (CAMP), one of the earliest gay rights organisations in Australia.

In 1972, Bonsall-Boone and de Waal appeared in an episode of the ABC documentary series Chequerboard that featured them kissing briefly. Their kiss has been reported as the first kiss between a same-sex couple on Australian television. 
At the time, Bonsall-Boone was working as a secretary for St Clements Anglican Church in the Sydney suburb of Mosman; he lost this job as a result of his television appearance. 

“I eventually got [another job],” Bonsall-Boone said. “I was asked if I thought I could get along with heterosexual people. I said, ‘Well, I think my mother and father are fairly heterosexual and we seem to have done all right so far.’”

In 1973, Bonsall-Boone and de Waal set up an LGBT help line called Phone-A-Friend from their home. In 1978, Bonsall-Boone participated in a protest that would later be recognized as the inaugural Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, and was charged in the aftermath of the event.

When Bonsall-Boone was diagnosed with cancer in 2015, he said that his dying wish was to be able to marry de Waal. They campaigned parliament and wrote to the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in 2017 in an attempt to have same-sex marriage legalized, noting: "please do it quickly as Bon's time is fast running out!" Bonsall-Boone died on May 19, 2017, several months after celebrating his 50th anniversary with de Waal. Same-sex marriage became legal in December of 2017, with the first same-sex marriages taking place on January 9, 2018.

In June 2017, Bonsall-Boone (posthumously) and de Waal were both inducted as a Member of the Order of Australia in the 2017 Queen's Birthday Honours, "for significant service to the community as a LGBTQI advocate and supporter, and through a range of volunteer roles."

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