Geraldine Box (born in 1949) left the family farm on the New South Wales Riverina to train as a nurse because it offered travel and excitement. After completing her training she spent a year working as nanny in England and travelled overland back to Australia through Iran and Afghanistan. In 1974 she was working as a nurse in Darwin and, at the age of twenty-five, realised that she was a lesbian.
I didn’t want to have boyfriends and thing, and yet I did it because that’s what you did. But it was never right, they were always just good mates, they were always chaps that you just wanted to go out and have fun with. If they went climbing or something I’d be there because I thought that was great fun, but I didn’t really want to be there as their girlfriend.
I didn’t really have a concept, and in that era—the 60s growing up—even though I had all literature at home, there was nothing really out, there was nothing overt written, or even television didn’t arrive until much later anyway in the late 60s, or for us the late 60s, early 70s, at home. There weren’t programs about being gay, or ‘gay’ wasn’t even a word very much here in Australia. I didn’t think I knew anybody. I had no concept for it. I had no role models or concept of what was going on, until I met somebody and that was, ah, right. So the light went on but, you know, we thought we’re the only people in the world anyway. We absolutely had to be the only people like this in the world and so it had to be a secret. So it was a secret for some time, especially living in nurses’ quarters you’ve to be really quite careful.
However subsequently learnt from people who lived around us, they all knew, it was all fine but nobody said anything. We thought they didn’t know and they knew, so there’s a strangeness about that.
Credit: Geraldine Box interviewed by John Bannister in the Australian generations oral history project, ORAL TRC 6300/36, National Library of Australia. Recorded on 17 January and 8 February 2012 in North Perth, Western Australia.