World-wide, June is recognised as Pride Month in honour of one of the seminal moments in the Queer Rights movement – the famous Stonewall Riot which occurred in New York in June 1969. Half a century later, we have come a long way in the march to equality. Pride Month is a celebration of how these early definitive moments in the history of the movement have allowed today’s generation to live freer lives.
‘Pride Month means many things: respect for human life and human rights, beauty, happiness, colour, and festivity. Pride Month means appreciating I'm alive and I'm completely worth it. Pride Month means I can live the life I want, and not the one others want to put onto me. Pride Month means health, growth, freedom, and I'm no longer repressed,’ says Joseph Black, who is pursuing his Juris Doctor.
While this is certainly worth celebrating, the reality is that despite this progress, equality is still a long way off.
‘From a global standpoint – we still have a long way to go. As always – it starts at home. The queer movement in Australia continues to be overwhelmingly cisgender and white. This is not necessarily wrong – as the birth of the movement was when migration of people of colour was significantly low,’ explains Ali Asghar, from Institutional Analytics and Planning.
‘This is where the forerunners of the movement need to exert their influence in normalising the visibility of Indigenous people and those belonging to diverse cultures, genders, and sexualities. We know that it’s never been a sprint – and it’s not a marathon either. It’s a relay and the baton must be passed on to intersectional communities,’ says Ali.
This is where the real significance of Pride Month lies – as an opportunity to shine a light on the work that still needs to be done. If progress is to be made, then true allies are vital.
We know that it’s never been a sprint – and it’s not a marathon either. It’s a relay and the baton must be passed on to intersectional communities.
‘The first step is treating us like normal people; yes, we are all utterly fabulous, but we’re still ordinary people. Whilst we may live up to some stereotypes, there is no one cookie-cutter mould we fit into,’ says Ewan Cooper-Frater, a third-year Secondary Education major.
‘Don’t tokenise us. It’s honestly upsetting when someone points out that I’m the ‘gay one’ by explicitly looking at me when something queer-related comes up or gives a group chat nickname just because I am gay.’
Joseph also reminds allies to not be discouraged if their queer loved ones don’t seem to engage with them, but rather to be mindful that their experiences are very different.
‘Be mindful to not bury our voices and actions. Understand that many of us have been through trauma, and may find it hard to engage. Be open-minded, and realise there are many, many genders, sexes, and sexualities out there...Muxe, Two-Spirit...so many!’ Joseph says.
‘To me there is nothing better than simply being understanding or being curious in a way that isn’t clawing. I think a lot of us have gone through those dinner parties where the hosts have been overaccommodating and overcurious – like a Stepford nightmare!’ says Ali.
The first step is treating us like normal people; yes, we are all utterly fabulous, but we’re still ordinary people.
‘Queer education is where it all begins. Last year I researched Queer Education, and there was essentially nothing mandatory in the syllabus. I interviewed 20 people and only one mentioned that they had received any form of positive LGBTQI+ related education. Many more recounted homophobic stories or a complete absence,’ says Ewan.
‘The inclusion of same-sex sex education, viewing English and Drama texts through a queer lens, history lessons on the struggle for queer rights and understanding the relationship between the LGBTQI+ community and religion could begin positively changing the views towards the queer community and make queer students more comfortable with their sexuality.’
While recognising that there is still a long way to go, Ali, Joseph and Ewan will still be celebrating Pride Month as well as doing what they can to further the movement.
‘Two colleagues-turned-friends and I are currently in the middle of organising Sydney’s first queer writers’ festival, EnQueer – which is due to be held in late 2021,’ says Ali.
'It's all about bringing back intellect and enquiry in Pride - which sometimes gets a little drowned out by the parties and parades. And by no means is that a bad thing, I'm usually front and centre in those festivities!'
‘For anyone just starting at the University or who hasn’t heard of the groups, I would highly recommend coming to their events or checking out the Queer Space in Manning Building or QOCO. Through Shades I’ve found some of my closest friends and become more confident and proud of who I am.’
Note: For this piece, we reached out to a number of people across the University with diverse genders, sexualities and cultures and received the responses from the above people. We understand and acknowledge that the people interviewed in this piece represent a very small fraction of the LBGTQI+ spectrum and their views only express their experience. We will continue to ensure that voices across the LGBTQI+ spectrum are heard, recognised and celebrated.