"Melbourne - Queen City of the South"

Melbourne Gay & Lesbian History series



listen: PERCY HAYNES - 04:45 minutes




Unlike today's crop of over the top drag queens, many of whom aim to send up women and feminitity, in days gone by the mark of a successful drag was to "pass" as a woman. If you could walk down Bourke Street at 3 o'clock on a Tuesday afternoon dressed in full drag, and NOT be noticed, you were considered to be a successful drag.


Percy Haynes was almost one such drag. And this is his story.


One winter's day in August 1935 Percy decided to see if he could pass in Collins Street. He opted for a bit of window shopping and an afternoon at the pictures. So he dressed carefully for an afternoon in town. Now, in 1935, this required not just a nice frock, but also stockings, hat, bag and gloves. After carefully making up his face, he hopped on the number 67 tram from Elwood and headed for town.


He spent the early part of the afternoon walking along the Block in Collins Street - the nice block between Elizabeth Street and Swanston Street where for the past 60 years Melburnians had promenaded, shown off their finery and greeted their friends. He did a bit of window shopping in the shops in the new Manchester Unity Building, wandered up to Allan's music store to look at sheet music and looked at the frock shops in the Block Arcade.

Unbeknownst to Percy, he'd been spotted by a police detective who thought there was something unusual about the well-dressed woman occupying her afternoon in Collins Street. The copper followed the woman around for a while, and when she decided to rest her feet by popping into the Tatler newsreel theatre at the Hotel Australia, he followed her in and sat through the whole of the program.


After that, he followed her back up to Swanston Street, watched as she caught the number 67 tram outside the Town Hall and followed her all the way home to Elwood! 1 have to question whether this was a productive use of police time and resources, but there you go.


Our intrepid policeman followed the well-dressed lady off the tram and up to the front gate of her house in Broadway, Elwood. And at the front gate, in front of all the neighbours, he apprehended her, knocked of her hat and wig and revealed her to be - Percy Haynes!!!


Poor Percy! Outed in front of the neighbours, forced to admit that his cunning disguise wasn't as good as he thought it was, and worst of all, grabbed by a policeman and forced to take the tram back into the city to the City Watchhouse to be charged with "Offensive Behaviour"!


The next morning, Percy fronted the Bench at the City Court. When asked why he wanted to dress in women's clothing, he said he didn't know - he guessed he had a kink! He said he hadn't been offensive, because he hadn't spoken to anyone in town and most people hadn't realised he was not what he appeared to be - a respectable suburban matron. He fully expected, however, the Police Magistrate to throw the book at him - Melbourne's legal fraternity were not known for their understanding of people's kinks in the 1930s.


But here's the surprise!


The Magistrate, instead of reprimanding Percy for his behaviour and satorial adventurousness, said that as women could walk the streets in riding jodhpurs and beach pyjamas, he couldn't see the problem with Haynes dressing in skirts. Magistrate also commented that Haynes was dressed more respectably than most women. Case dismissed! Percy was free to go.


The moral of the story? Well, Percy was probably much more discrete about his kink in future, as he was never busted again. And 1 wonder why the Judge was so lenient - did he himself like the feel of silk on his body and the way a well-cut skirt draped to show off the magisterial leg? One will never know......!

  © text copyright Wayne Murdoch, Australian Lesbian & Gay Archives 2002





Australian Lesbian & Gay Archives

Email Barry McKay - the producer of the series