Tootsie's optimism so inspired me. His story is a testimony that things can change and as a society, we can grow and develop a deeper understanding of others.
At an age when most youths are celebrating an exciting and unknown future, Tootsie was dealing with a completely different reality.
In 1949, at the age of 16, his twin brother died. His mother, unable to deal with the grief, committed suicide by drinking carbolic acid. Tootsie was the one who found her a fortnight before his eighteenth birthday.
At the age of 20, he was jailed in Pentridge for two years simply for being gay. Working at the Cheltenham Benevolent Home for the Elderly he was arrested with seven other work colleagues. At first, Tootsie cried, but a policeman assured him that if he just owned up to being homosexual, he wouldn’t do time. So Tootsie confessed, only to find himself with a two-year jail sentence.
It wasn't until Tootsie was 62 that he was finally able to celebrate who he truly was. He embarked on a grand new adventure and started to dress in drag and perform throughout the pub circuits of Melbourne. He became quite famous in the Australian drag scene and was known as the oldest drag queen in the southern hemisphere.
Sadly, two weeks after Tootsie saw this painting, he passed away. He was so thrilled to be painted and along with his performing career, viewed the recognition as a significant symbol - finally he was accepted for being who he was.
He was so thrilled to be painted and along with his performing career, viewed the recognition as a significant symbol - finally he was accepted for being who he was.
He always remained himself and wasn't afraid in his later years to start something new…albeit in a frock.