Allies: Get your hands dirty, not just glittery, this Pride season

On Fair Day I watched my daughter and her friend wandering around with huge smiles on their faces. I stood under the shelter of the PFLAG Perth tent and thought “Imagine if the whole world was like this? Safe, inclusive, joyful, loving and SO FUCKING BEAUTIFUL with all the colours of the rainbow! With bonus free popcorn and fairy floss!”. It was glorious!

It’s PrideFEST in Perth, as we celebrate Pride across November. This year’s theme is “Reflect; love, heroes, community and identity” so I thought I would do some reflecting. I’m happy to hold my hand up as a complete novice in all things rainbow. I’m a cis-het woman, or I have been thus far in my life, but I hope that my enthusiasm, open heart and mind combined with an intense desire to learn are positive attributes as I throw my active support behind the LGBTIQA+ community.

I have been a supporter of the community from way back but it is probably in the last five years or so that I have been more active and vocal about that. As much as I love my LGBTIQA+ family and friends it was during the fight for Marriage Equality that I realized love alone was not enough, even combined with writing on my little blog. So I write this as an ally, in the hope of reaching other allies, with my ignorance and biases acknowledged.

Myself, my kid and our friends didn’t arrive at Fair Day until later in the afternoon. That was because my kid and her friend were going to a LGBTIQA+ friendly group for young people aged 12 – 25 run out of Headspace Joondalup, friends and allies welcome. It runs the first Saturday of each month from 1 – 3pm and as this was the first one they’d been to they didn’t want to miss it, Fair Day or not! I was impressed with the number of young people who attended and my kid bounced out the door at the end of it! Highly recommended!

For us though, Pride started a bit before November. I mean, really, Pride isn’t one month or one Parade. It’s a spirit, a belief system, a movement! As this year’s theme says ‘Reflect; love, heroes, community and identity’. I can’t pretend to speak for anyone else but what that has meant to me and mine this year is that Pride started early. We began on Saturday 26th October by going out to protest against the Religious Discrimination Bill. There have been many useful and informative pieces written about why this Bill is so destructive and threatening.

What I will say here is this; when I attended the Rainbow Rebellion launch on the 5th November someone commented that thousands of people had mobilized to fight against inequalities in our marriage law, in support of equal human rights, but that this Religious Discrimination Bill was a profoundly more fundamental attack on human rights and needs. By targeting jobs, homes, access to services, restricting healthcare, promoting discrimination and harassment without any method of redress, you are breaking down the basic building blocks of society. People can choose whether or not they wish to get married. They can not choose whether or not they want to have an income, whether they will need healthcare, whether or not they will be abused or harassed.

The other point about this legislation is how much power it gives to so few, over so many. With the marriage equality debate the logic was simple; if you didn’t want gay marriage then you didn’t have to have one. Under the Religious Discrimination Bill the LGBTIQA+ community will not be the only ones targeted or impacted. People with no religious beliefs, women, single parents, people with a disability, indigenous people and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds will all be disadvantaged and discriminated against.

We will all be forced to defer to the religious beliefs of others. As I said when I spoke on behalf of PFLAG Perth (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) at the protest on the 26th October, I’m not trying to detract from the clear reality that this Bill is a direct retaliation against our victory in securing Marriage Equality, but what I am saying is that we need to work together now, as we did then, with any allies we can find, against this abuse of power.

So, we started our Pride by attending the protest where I spoke. After the protest, as reported in OUTinPerth, an American, homophobic, misogynistic, anti Islamic, self styled fundamentalist religious leader was holding an event at Perth Town Hall. The views of this person are so extremely hateful that he was denied an entry visa to Australia. Unfortunately, he had minions come in his stead and they beamed him in over the internet. The event was spread over three days in Perth, which was one more day than Sydney merited.

This particular American organization has been vocal and financially generous in support of a young footballer who is becoming more and more well known for his hate speech as memories of any sporting prowess quickly pale in comparison. My friends, the kid and I hung around in Perth after the protest so we could go and stand outside the Town Hall in silent, peaceful protest as attendees rocked up. We stood smiling and holding our small ‘Love Not Hate. No Right to Discriminate’ posters in front of us.

The good news is that the attendee numbers were pitiful, although the big show of security that came out shortly after we arrived might have suggested otherwise. We stood and we smiled and people looked at us as if we may be contagious before scuttling inside, or shook their heads at us sadly. The one exception was a biggish man who pointed his finger at us and said “Jesus loves you! You can change!”.

If there was a Jesus then I’ve no doubt he’d love us! He was- reportedly – a dress wearing radical, with two fathers, who hung out with the poor, the sick and sex workers! He spoke out against the governing bodies of the time and as a Middle Eastern Jewish man, who was very close friends with twelve other men, would be as likely to be disadvantaged by the Religious Discrimination Bill as the rest of us! I don’t think he’d want us to change. We’re the ones loving our neighbours! Which is another link we need to make; people caging refugees, denying climate change, campaigning against bodily autonomy for women, trying to roll back LGBTIQA+ rights – they are the same people! Let’s harness our allies and energy for the common good. There were literally six of us outside Perth Town Hall and none of us said a word to anyone attending, but our presence was noticeably felt and you can’t ask for more than that.

Our next pre-Pride preparation event was “Let’s Talk Culture: LGBTIQ+ in CaLD Communities, which was presented by Ishar Multicultural Women’s Health Services Inc and Richmond Wellbeing. This was a panel based discussion on the issues faced by people who identify as LGBTIQ+ in the culturally and linguistically diverse space, which aimed to support culturally sensitive approaches to working in mental health and well being. We found this event really fascinating with much food for thought. Different perspectives and a variety of voices can never be underestimated for their value.

The Rainbow Rebellion launch started with an inspiring Skype appearance by Roz Ward and stirring words from Lynn MacLaren and JJ Blackburn. On the 10th November the kid and I attended the Youth Pride Network’s Campaign Against the Religious Freedoms Bill drop in, where we sent our protest emails to 45 politicians each. On Saturday the 16th it was PFLAG Perth’s last support group meeting for 2019. PFLAG’s memberships are now open and signing up gives you the option of marching with us in the Pride Parade. On the 17th we attended a screening of Mr Velvet Ears, an event held by Pulse of My Heart and GRAI – GLBTI Rights in Ageing Inc. This film, and the series of short film prequels, shares with us the life and love of Anne and Edie and their journey with dementia. Mr Velvet Ears is an exquisitely moving, mesmerizing story of love in deed, not just in word.

On Wednesday the 20th myself and my friend attended the Transgender Day of Remembrance and on the 21st we attended Feminem’s show My Life In Heels with my kid and a young friend. I think for me, those two events side by side really speak to the many faces of Pride. The struggle and the sacrifice, the glitz and the glamour. Feminem’s show was a masterful blend of story telling and music, transportive enough to bring many in the audience to tears.The Transgender Day of Remembrance was powerfully moving in a different way.

Pride is so much more than one event or one month a year. It’s a spirit, a belief system, a movement. Pride in Perth celebrates it’s thirtieth anniversary this year. PFLAG Perth also celebrates it’s thirtieth birthday this year. There is much to celebrate but as the theme suggests, it is essential to remember how we arrived at this point and to think about who we are and where we are headed.

After the marriage equality victory many people in the wider community think LGBTIQA+ issues are sorted. They aren’t. As I said earlier, in some ways they are under more fierce attack than ever. If you need any idea about the extent this ridiculousness could potentially reach look no further than Ohio where they are currently debating a bill which would mean that teachers cannot “penalize or reward students based on their religious beliefs”, for example if the student referenced creationism instead of evolution in a biology class. Many of those who have campaigned for decades on issues such as decriminalization, reproductive rights and marriage equality have fought the good fight until they have nothing left to give, except their wisdom and the passing of the baton.

Fair Day was magical and the Pride Parade is always fabulous! I just want to broaden the focus a bit. There are so many wonderful events but there are also ways to contribute to the community that are meaningful and long lasting. As an ally, my challenge to other allies is to get involved, get your hands dirty, not just glittery. If you have lined the streets to watch the Pride Parade, or if you have brought your children to Fair Day, or if you have gone to an LGBTIQA+ venue because you feel safer and just want to have fun without being harassed then ask yourself how you can give back to the community. If you have LGBTIQA+ loved ones in your life be active in that love. Come for the Parade but stay for the protest. Pride isn’t just a parade or a party. It is definitely a celebration but one borne of struggle, sacrifice and the fight for survival.

The LGBTIQA+ community should not have to spend their lives campaigning for basic human rights. They also should not have to spend their lives educating the rest of us. Educate yourself, find out where you can be of most use. Be visible. Be vocal. ALLY, like LOVE and PRIDE, is a verb, not just a noun. There is no better time to be practicing what you preach, putting your money where your mouth is, rolling up your sleeves and turning up for the hard work, than right now.

Kate Salinger, image:- Kikei Dot Net


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