A national LGBTQI+ storytelling project curated by Maeve Marsden
featuring a book, event series and an award-winning podcast

A national LGBTQI+ storytelling project curated by Maeve Marsden
featuring a book, event series and award-winning podcast

337 Lisa Salmon – The G.O.D. Gang

Lisa visits the Australian Queer Archives and is transported back to a different time in her life, shifting the way she thinks about her present.

Lisa Salmon is a queer artist and writer from Naarm/Melbourne who debuted as a writer and publisher in 1989 when she and her then partner launched Australia’s first lesbian erotic zine Wicked Women. Lisa is currently writing a memoir and I cannot wait to read it.


Maeve: Hi, I’m Maeve Marsden and you’re listening to Queerstories. This week Lisa Salmon is a queer artist and writer from Naarm/Melbourne who debuted as a writer and publisher in 1989 when she and her then partner launched Australia’s first lesbian erotic zine Wicked Women. Lisa is currently writing a memoir and I cannot wait to read it.

Lisa: You’d think that seeing objects from your own life in a museum might be a blunt reminder of your advancing years. But when Nick lifted the lid of a sturdy garment box with the flourish of a designer unboxing a glittering party dress, my only response was to laugh in delight.

“This is acid free paper,” he informed me, beaming. “To preserve the fabric.” He invited me to part the tissue, revealing Jasper’s jacket in all its glory. The last time I saw this woollen army jacket, it had been flung to one side in amorous haste to lay crumpled on the floor. Now, looking at it in the archival box memories came in vivid flashes and tactile sensations. I recalled the slow burn intensity contained within Jasper’s slight frame.

The jacket is emblazoned with shoulder patches of the infamous G.O.D. gang, a club of sorts started by Jasper, Jade and I in 1990 when we lived together in a ramshackle terrace in Ultimo. Creativity was our religion, so we decided to form our own subversive sect. We chose the name G.O.D because we needed to call on the highest authority to protect us. Punks like us rarely had money left over for a cab. Back then, Sydney streets were treacherous; gay bashing was a street sport legitimised by a homophobic police force. Luckily, we had G.O.D. on our side.

When I heard that Jasper had cleaned out his garage and donated the boxes of memorabilia to AQUA, the Australian Queer Archives, I was curious to see what remained of the years we spent together making Wicked Women, the delectable sex positive zine that sparked a revolution in lesbian circles of inner-city Sydney. So I messaged AQUA to request a visit. Activist, Nick Henderson, responded within minutes. He was keen to show me the collection and we arranged a time to meet next time I was in town.

But once I arrived at the AQUA office, my enthusiasm for history abandoned me. As I held my finger to the buzzer, acerbic thoughts, old and new flew at me like hungry seagulls on St Kilda beach. My mind raced: How public are the archives? Who gets access to the papers? Are they going to digitise the photos and videos? What about all the people in our performances? We restricted photography at Wicked events to give everyone the luxury of a private public space to unleash. The audiences were strictly queer, we had very astute door bitches controlling who got inside to witness our wicked splendour. They can’t just post all those treasures online, can they? 

Nick greeted me with a winning smile. He muscled open the door of a humidity controlled cupboard, pulled out a sturdy cardboard box labelled Wicked Women in bold font, and plonked it onto a table, ready for me to open.

I shuffled through a stack of photos of Jasper and me in our dusty backyard in Redfern. I opened letters from subscribers, newspaper clippings crackled in my palms. I found artefacts of life in flux. Shy smiles from me for my first love behind the camera. Another photo was bisected by an orange stripe, probably a camera flare. It showed Jasper shaving my head in the backyard of our Erskineville cottage, taken in those first few years of blood-churning devotion. 

Another stack of photographs revealed nipple naked pagans cavorting on stage, on the dancefloor, on the streets. The characters grabbed my gaze and held it tight. I delved into the contents — memorabilia, letters, photos, and the like — and what I found had the potency of a thousand blooming roses. They reconfigured memories of my youth. I reached for the G.O.D. jacket and fondled the red shoulder patch. It was Jasper’s lifelong dream to have his own gang. Head bowed, he’d sketched the insignia: a snake intertwined around a sword. The same symbols had appeared on my underground lesbian lingerie label Tantrum Tits, and they had occasionally appeared in the zine and on our event posters. The noble sword cut through the bullshit and protected our sacred sexual energy, as represented by the snake. The letters could mean a number of things: Girls of Dishonour, Guys of Disgrace, Girls on Drugs. We didn’t dictate the acronym but we did vet who got to join. One drunken night we conceived elaborate and suitably debauched initiation ceremonies for new members… That’s for another story. But truth be known, G.O.D. basically consisted of our friends and lovers.

We soon gained a fierce reputation as a vigilante gang of queer renegades. I heard later that we looked intimidating. People projected all sorts of kinky fantasies on us. I recall lapping up the attention of swivelling eyes as we swaggered into Girl Bar. I am sure we cut a fine swathe. But to be honest, that day Jasper and I toddled off through Chippendale to the seamstress to get the patches made up, we were more like sweet crafting D.I.Y. lesbians than butch bikers. (Don’t tell him I told you that). As he stitched his patch onto his jacket sleeves, Jasper dreamed big. To assert his emerging gender clarity, he assigned colour codes: blue patches for boys and red for girls. Jasper roped in a few members from the gay male leather club S.P.M.C., which butched it up a bit. I created the Lipstick Lesbian contingent L.O.S.T. —Lesbians of Superficial Tendencies—with the motto ‘Get Lost!’ which we graffitied with lipstick on bathroom mirrors in clubs.

Now that the art of networking has shifted online, the archival objects are relics of an era when locating like-minded people required physical effort. In pre-internet times, entering a gay store to get your hands on a copy of Wicked Women required a certain type of courage. Everyone who stepped through the doors of The Bookshop in Darlinghurst crossed a threshold into the sanctity of one of Sydney’s most worldly mixed gay spaces. A lover of libraries, this store was my queer mecca where I found news about Clause 28 in London, ACT-UP responses to the AIDs crisis in NYC, lesbian feminist texts, zines, postcards and posters. Lesbian erotica magazines On Our Backs from San

Francisco and the mixed gay Square Peg from London inspired me the most. We were free to browse as much as we liked and I was able to feel a part of a global community.

“Here are the magazines.” Nick placed another box on the table.

As I flicked through some early editions, I was initially astounded by the pre-selfie generation photography. There were no duck lips or wide-eyed vacant expressions in these images. We had a different awareness of the camera back then. 

Taken mostly at home by Jasper and me the photos provide a glimpse into our relationship. I shuffled the magazines across the table-top then selected one. A young woman stared out at me across time. The woman was me. We shared a blinking contest. She won.

In the pre-digital era, finding a lab that would print erotic photos was tricky; luckily there was one place on Oxford Street that obliged. Gay, of course. We asked for black and white prints so the lovely technician tried turning down the colours on the machine. The images emerged from the printer a deep navy blue and silvery white. We loved the effect. Once again, our limitations created an opportunity for creativity.

All these years later, the images still exude queer desire. It pulses off the page. It is clear that these pics were not made for the  straight cis male gaze. You can see it in the poses we struck, the clothes we wore, the relationship between the photographer and subject. Erotica made for and by dykes has a specific tension. It is unapologetic, unflinching. Women and trans men in the photos own their power  and a lot of fun was had. 

Nick asked if he could interview me. He set up an audio recorder but before he got a chance to ask anything, a barrage of questions spilled from my mouth. Nick didn’t seem to mind the interrogation, and he talked me through the various levels of privacy and accessibility of the archives.

“Some items in the collection are only to be opened posthumously,” he explained. “At the moment Jasper has authority over the items he donated. That means we need to contact him, or you as co-founder of the magazine, whenever anyone wants to access the Wicked Women material.”

“Oh okay. That’s good. Erm, who looks at it?” I asked.

“Academics usually.” Nick didn’t seem to notice my panic. “We have a few who come in regularly. Here, I can share some of their work with you. Wait a sec.” He tapped at his keyboard. The printer whirred. Two minutes later he handed me a dissertation on lesbian performance art activism of the 1990s.

“What?” I glanced at the document, flicking through the pages, “someone wrote a PhD about us?” Further investigation revealed the scholar not only wrote about us, but her analysis is finely attuned to the nuances of our manifesto and the impact we had on dyke culture. I leaned back in my seat and let out a deep sigh. I’d been here for hours. I shared a grin with Nick. Gosh, accurate representation is nice. Retrospective recognition is even better.

Before leaving, I took a final look at the G.O.D. jacket, pleased to see that it was still a bit grimy around the edges. I am grateful Jasper saved this material, and that here in the archives our artefacts have been preserved with deep queer reverence. Seeing objects from my life in a museum was weird, but it did not make me feel old. It made me feel valued. Queer feminist history matters. My story matters.

I farewelled Nick and strutted up the lane with a new sense of purpose. Striding alongside me were my G.O.D. crew, all decked out in our jackets. Once again owning the streets.

Maeve: Thanks for listening. Don’t forget to check out Queerstories on Patreon where you can support the project for as little as $1 per month. Follow Queerstories on Facebook for news and event updates, it’s been a weird couple of years what with the pandemic and me becoming a parent but I’m planning some big things in 2023 and I’d love you to be part of it.

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Queerstories is produced by Maeve Marsden and recorded by wonderful technicians at events around the country. Editors and support crew have included Beth McMullen, Bryce Halliday, Ali Graham and Nikki Stevens.