The big LGBTIQ+ issues discussed at Better Together 2020

Day One: Better Together 2020 


Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians Perth (PFLAG) have travelled across the country to attend the Better Together LGBTIQ+ Conference 2020 in Melbourne. PFLAG member Kate Salinger filed this report and her reflections from Day One of the Conference.

Melbourne looked post apocalyptic as we arrived last night, smoke haze clouding the cityscape, making sure the bushfires are never far from our thoughts. Although our plane was late and we missed the launch event we went to bed excited for what today would bring.

The name of the conference is Better Together and The Equality Project, who run the show, say on their website “In order to facilitate a conversation about LGBTIQ+ rights in Australia we need to have a platform to share our ideas and experiences and ask the hard questions.” I think that’s a fair statement and in my opinion The Equality Project team have worked hard to provide space for numerous voices and perspectives to be heard.

What does Better Together mean for a cishet Caucasian such as myself? Primarily it is a chance to listen and learn, to strengthen established bonds and forge new ones.

I hope that it deepens my knowledge and understanding to better inform my work with PFLAG Perth. I was at a meeting recently where someone said something along the lines of “We haven’t decided how we see the role of allies yet” and, as an ally I love clear direction! But I do think it’s important allies are included in the conversation, for all our sakes.

None of us operates in isolation and one of the interesting things about day one of Better Together 2020 is the focus on intersectionality; where different parts of the community, and also identity really, overlap and the strengths in that, as well as the struggle. I don’t see myself as the Great White Straight Saviour. I’m not interested in speaking for the LGBTIQA+ community, but I am interested in speaking with them.

I’m also interested in speaking out against those interested in oppressing LGBTIQA+ folk. Is it right that I have a certain cishet privilege that makes me seem somehow more palatable? Of course not! But it’s there and I’m bloody well going to use it! By all means, discuss how best to utilise allies and please, give us clear direction on your boundaries but make use of us anyway!

Don’t pretend we don’t have a vested interest! It’s cliché but true; some of my nearest and dearest are queer folk. I have loved ones who are HIV+. Two of my biological kids identify as part of the LGBTIQA+ community. More than that, a healthy, peaceful, inclusive society benefits EVERYONE.

One of the topics up for discussion is lateral hostility/discrimination and actual inclusivity instead of tokenism, both within the LGBTIQA+ community and outside of it. I spoke to someone pre Pride parade who told me that they didn’t celebrate Pride. That, in their opinion, Pride makes the queer community seem too other. But I think our uniqueness is what needs to be celebrated.

Things that divide us, based on those differences, are things that we construct, and so are things that we can deconstruct. As long as we can find the intersections and focus our efforts for growth there then we will all be winners. We might have differing needs, objectives and agendas but we have overlaps of commonalities. That is a positive place to focus our energies, otherwise divide and conquer becomes the outcome. The truth is, we need each other. Not in any condescending or controlling way, just in terms of the strength that comes from solidarity.

Some of the messages I heard today included acknowledgement of the importance of having separate safe places for different groups, but also communal spaces to come together. There was talk of trying to refocus on what the community looks like now, “the new ‘we’” Who are we in 2020? The importance of practising inclusivity in a meaningful way. Sometimes that might mean using our voices to make that space for others, and sometimes it may mean practising releasing our ‘power’ so others can use theirs.

The importance of partnerships for growth and advancement of human rights. One of the speakers said we should aim to be the example for the wider community.” – a statement that made me inhale deeply with the weight of it’s meaning.

I don’t believe the adage that until you love yourself no one else can love you but I do think that if we can’t come together as a community and build strong internal partnerships to further the pursuit of human rights, then we can’t expect the wider community to want to work in partnership with us either. For me, that’s the thing I will be thinking about as I go forward; how to best work in partnership with whoever the fuck we need to work with to get the job done!

Controversial opinion alert! Around Pride in W.A. there was some controversy about the inclusion of corporations and police in the event. For me, the reality is that corporations have employees who are part of the LGBTIQA+ community. While I hope Pride WA seeks out sponsorship from corporations who align most closely with the values of their members, a parade of the scale the last one was could not run successfully without funding from big business.

So, the question then becomes HOW we work with corporations? Should it be at the expense of the LGBTIQA+ community and it’s grass roots organisations? Absolutely not! But is it a great thing that Australia Post, for example, has an extremely out and proud contingent, super active and engaging on their social media, that sends overtly positive messages out into the wider community? ABSOLUTELY YES! Can we learn from past mistakes? Can we always strive to do better? Yes and yes again!

For me, Pride is both a protest and a celebration. It is still fact that proud Queer existence is a protest, in and of itself! The Pride march gives the wider community the chance to engage with us and show us some love. The people who line the streets are there to celebrate and show their support. That opportunity doesn’t happen by chance, and logistically speaking, can’t happen without dollars. How do we find those dollars without too much compromise?

How do we work with corporations and big business to our best advantage? Because while some people see corporate sponsors in a purely negative light, and as exploitation of our community, I think the fact they want to be involved is a clear message that they see something worth being a part of – even if it’s just to get some good publicity out of it!

And I think about the employees of the sponsors who identify as part of the community and their families and their friends and I appreciate the visibility it means for them. How do we work with corporate sponsors? If you want more input into that then you can always join Pride WA, and get amongst it!

One of this mornings speakers was a high ranking female Queensland police officer. Much was made during Pride of police marching in the parade. Police being traditional enemies of the LGBTIQA+ community. I don’t say that to trivialise history at all. I don’t think we should forget that history. I just think we should remember all the history.

Like the part where the first year Police marched in the Western Australian Pride parade they did so without any official approval from the Force. We should remember the history of the officer today who has dedicated decades of her life to the police force, helping people, and can, in 2020, continue doing so as out and proud as she likes. The histories of the LGBTIQA+ colleagues she spoke of and their allies in the force who have fought the good fight against homophobia, transphobia and all other manner of discrimination and bigotry from the inside!

We can be inclusive, with balance. Focusing on the things we have in common, for the greater good!

PFLAG Perth’s attendance at the Better Together LGBTIQ+ Conference 2020 would not have been possible without the assistance of our sponsors; Franklin Burke, Elizabeth Prendergast, Bobby Kendall, and Jodie and Steve Parsons – thank you so much!

We are also grateful recipients of scholarships from The  Equality Project. We are proud to be able to represent PFLAG Perth and Western Australia at a national level and we are looking forward to bringing back and sharing our learning!

Although I am passionate about my work with PFLAG Perth all opinions expressed here are my own and not representative of the views of  any organisation or other individual I may be affiliated with.

Kate Salinger

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