Garry Pye, founder of Acceptance (Australia), was born in Scone in New South Wales in 1947. His lrish Catholic family moved to Sydney and initially lived in Kingsford above the cake shop where his father worked as a pastry cook. After stints as a taxi driver and working at the Walton’s department store, Garry spent most of his working life at the Duty Free shop at the Sydney Airport. He shared a house with friends in Paddington.
In 1970, Garry joined a small group of lesbian and gay Catholics in Sydney who met in each other’s homes for a monthly mass. They knew of Dignity USA which had been founded in 1969 and had quickly grown into a national organization with chapters in different cities. Garry decided to attend the first Dignity USA national conference in 1971. He came home inspired and energized to form a similar group in Australia. Dignity leaders encouraged the Australian group to affiliate with them, but Garry chose to give the Australian group a unique identity as “Acceptance.” The initial group became Acceptance Sydney and soon chapters formed in other parts of Australia. These were recognised by Dignity USA as “affiliate chapters.”
Garry was the public face of Acceptance in its early years and was instrumental in many other persons coming to the group. Fr. Patrick Sharpe MSC was a priest in Canberra in 1973 and recounted coming to Sydney to meet Garry on the steps of Sydney Town Hall, organised by a mutual friend. Fr. Pat recalled that Garry gave him a really warm welcome and within 24 hours, he was celebrating Mass at Garry's terrace house with about 12 members of Acceptance.
In an interview with Garry Pye around 1976 he describes the Acceptance meetings as: "We have mass celebrated every Friday ...followed by a social hour of wine, coffee and conversation. We have recently started Human Rights Relations Groups, which are going well and looks like one way, that our members can help themselves and others. We have social evenings, barbecues, theatre parties, prayer services. We have also started a monthly newsletter."
Garry was involved in many aspects of the LGBTQ community, including being one of the organisers of the first Mardi Gras march in 1978. He was active in local politics, campaigning for Clover Moore, the first popularly elected female Lord Mayor of Sydney. After his HIV diagnosis in the mid-1980s Garry established Body Positive, one of the first groups for people living with HlV. He was also actively involved with ACON (community-based health collective addressing HIV/AIDS), the Quilt Project and the Pride Committee.
Garry Pye died of AIDS in 1990.
(This biographical information taken from the narrative history of Acceptance on its website: http://www.gaycatholic.com.au/history.)
Biography Date: September 2019
Australia | Catholic (Roman) | Dignity | AIDS | Activist (church change) | Acceptance (Australia) | Sydney