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September 7, 2009 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

Tea party proms and political complacency: “Be as gay and lesbian as you can all the time”

As Generation Y queers we have grown up without the constant threat of being arrested, sacked from our jobs, kicked out of our flats and physically abused just because we are queer. We haven’t had to fight for legislative change to gain rights equal to non queers; this is something that has been done for us by earlier generations of queers. And now that we have civil unions we practically have it all. We are the lucky ones—right?

We are without a doubt lucky to grow up in a safer, more accepting environment than in the past thanks to the efforts of our predecessors. We can now tentatively come out at high school or wait for the safe arms of university to spread our queer wings. Maybe after reaching the point where you are safely out to most of your friends and maybe some of your family, living somewhat comfortably as queer you have a little niggle that you want to help change things, make it easier for the others, yet to follow in your footstep and come out as queer. You’re all fired up and want to change things, you’re ready to speak out. But there is nothing obvious to do and nobody else but a few annoying outspoken political zealots are saying anything… and then you just want to get on with life, get that career, settle down, travel, start a family, buy a dishwasher, etc. You don’t want to make a fuss about being queer and all the messages around you say you don’t have any reason to go on about it so you don’t.

You’re silent. People around you don’t want to hear about the struggle of being queer, nobody cares anymore whether you’re queer or not, so why should you?

At least that’s what they want you to think. Oppression of queers still exists but it’s just not as obvious, it’s changed shape, become more strategic, and boy, has it got smarter.

And so we have shut up, we have become complacent, apathetic. What are we waiting for? When we think back to Stonewall in the 60s, homosexual law reform in the 80s, we can think “Wow, we’ve come such a long way”. But the question is this really enough? Have we truly hit the wall of contentment and honestly kid ourselves into thinking that this is as good as it gets?

Back in 1985 during her ‘bigot busters’ speech, Alison Laurie said “No woman is free until all women are free to choose to be a lesbian”… If we apply this today, we could say that no one is free until they are free to choose to be queer. If everyone is free to choose without feeling less or deviant than the ‘norm’, if no ‘norm’ existed then we would know we have truly achieved equality.

Thus the issues raised in 1985 are still significant today. This was 24 years ago and those issues are still alive and well.

The consequences of coming out have changed, as have the punishments for stepping out of our gender role expectations—our societal fascists (who believe they are entitled to discriminate against queers) have adapted to continue the oppression and police queerness. The techniques have become more subtle and strategic, cunningly institutionalised as ever, as normalised and silently accepted as ever…

Every time a queer couple is asked, so which one of you is the man? We can be assured that the silent machine is still well at work within society, policing heterosexual and homosexual alike.

So what’s with those insecure fascists that continue to police sexual conformity and work toward keeping everyone else down? What’s with the urgency? The backlash to feminism has been huge. The pressure on women today is greater than ever; to have a meaningful career, make ridiculous amounts of money, a body to die for, successful children and (heterosexual) marriage as well as a commitment to volunteer work with those kittens at the SPCA. Recently, an article on the front page of The Press stated that a woman’s looks were her CV. Cringe. How agonising, as well as insulting.

And what about those that don’t feel secure in their heteronormative power? Young men who feel they might not measure up to the masculine ideal, so they find someone they can exert their masculinity at visibly. Older heterosexual men aren’t at the top of the foodchain any longer, and so they too need someone to be below them. Why not queers and women for the job?

Great, so it’s all starting to look like it’s three steps forward and two steps back. Well, this doesn’t have to be the case. We too can get smarter, more subtle and more strategic. We don’t need to scream it from the rooftops, or blog away quietly at home if we don’t want to. However, there is something for everyone.

So what are some of the reasons we’re here today? Media, lack of role models, compulsory heterosexuality and a heteronormative school curriculum to name a few.

Arguably we all have a common responsibility to ensure that our queer young people are validated and supported in being who they are. This is the responsibility of not just individuals or the queer community, but that of institutions, organisations, communities, schools, universities and most of all government. These are the places with power, the policy makers, the movers and shakers. These are the people who set the tone as to whether or not this country is going to embrace queer young people.

Role models and positive media representations of queers is the ticket! Older queer people who are comfortable within themselves and connected to others (both queer and straight) make a huge statement to our younger generation of queers. They are sending the message, “Hey you know what, it’s okay that you’re gay, queer, bi, whatever. We still have friends, family, jobs, and do the things we love just like everyone else—and we also know what we want more than most because we’ve had to fight for it.”

Interestingly, the same powerful message came from two revolutionary activists, Alison Laurie and Harvey Milk; the more visibility we have, the safer, the stronger our community will be. This is still relevant today; if we are not visible, we let people think we are hidden and they will treat us that way. Give the oppressor the right to think we don’t exist and they will use it. Visibility reminds society that we aren’t going away. We have a responsibility to be visible: the effect this has on other people, the young people following in our footsteps is well worth it. We can have power and impact as individuals by being ourselves and not hiding.

So let’s be visible as queeries—like Harvey Milk said back in the 70s, “The gay doctors will come out, the gay lawyers, the gay judges, gay bankers, gay architects … I hope that every professional gay will say ‘enough’, come forward and tell everybody, wear a sign, let the world know. Maybe that will help.”

Finally we must unite together to complete the job and get full equality. We have civil unions, etc, but it’s not enough. There are still gay men being beaten to death and their murderers being found guilty of manslaughter, not murder. Obviously emotional abuse continues to be rife, and the language used to police queers still maintains a stronghold. We need to fight for real and adequate support for our queer and trans youth; this isn’t just about being ourselves, this is about speaking out together so we can’t be ignored so easily.

So be visible. Come out to as many people as possible, not just uni friends, at work, sports, your family, come out everywhere. The personalised effect of people knowing queer people is the best way to change things, and that starts with you.

“I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you… And you… And you… Gotta give em hope.” —Harvey Milk


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Comments (3)

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  1. Charlotte says:


  2. Lemmy says:

    :) Awesome.

  3. Mitzi Del Bra II says:

    Great article!

    “… I ask my gay sisters and brothers to make the commitment to fight. For themselves, for their freedom, for their country … We will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets … We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions. We are coming out to tell the truths about gays, for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I’m going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it. You must come out. Come out to your parents, your relatives.” -Harvey Milk, “Hope Speech”, 1978.

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