March 02, 2005

Queer Activism - why bother?

It's amazing how pervasive the idea that queer = bad is becoming. There are few better barometers of the times than right-wing crack downs on queer expression.

Here's the text of a leaflet that the University of Technology (UTS), Sydney put out recently:

* In 2003 the Catholic Church released a paper labeling homosexual people “seriously depraved” and calling on politicians to oppose the legalization of same-sex marriage. These messages of intolerance from Church leaders are still very influential.

* Within weeks, Australia’s Prime Minister John Howard made his infamous “survival of the species” comment in opposition to gay marriage.

* Both the Catholic and Anglican archbishops of Sydney, George Pell and Peter Jensen, are well-known for their public homophobic comments, and are regularly invited to speak publicly, including on university campuses.

* On being told their child is queer, parents still cry and ask where they “went wrong”, as if it is one of the worst things that could happen.

* A recent official NSW study has shown that homophobic violence remains high, with queer people much more likely to be physically assaulted than their heterosexual peers.

* Research indicates that about 30% of Australia’s high number of youth suicides involve despair over sexuality and/or gender identity. This despair is intensified, if not initiated, by negative comments and attitudes in the community toward queer sexuality.

* Australia still has a raft of laws that treat queer people differently from the rest of the country’s citizens, in areas including Centrelink allowances for students, employment, taxation, superannuation, marriage, access to reproductive technologies, child adoption and inheritance.

* School sex education routinely fails to include information on same-sex sexual activity, sending an unspoken but incorrect message that same-sex attraction is outside of the spectrum of diverse human sexuality.

* The media images with which we are bombarded present heterosexuality as if it is not just more common but the only natural way to be.

* The 1993 judgement of Chief Justice Brennan, involving the so-called “homosexual advance defence” meant men could be considered justified in inflicting grievous bodily harm or even killing another man who made a sexual advance.

* As recently as 2000, students at University of Technology Sydney (UTS) were refused permission to include their university logo in a cross-campus queer students' entry in the popular Mardi Gras parade. A document circulated at University Council in opposition to the proposal labelled queer sexuality "morally undesirable, perhaps offensive".

* Until late 2003, due to NSW’s unequal age of consent laws, it was illegal for health workers to provide information about safe gay sex to males under 18.

* The Howard government is attempting to introduce anti student organisation legislation (Optional Membership of Student Organisations, formerly called Voluntary Student Unionism), which would spell the end for campus queer groups offering resources and support.

* In 83 countries it is still illegal to engage in same-sex sexual activities. In 9 of those the penalty is government sanctioned execution.

* Australia's refugee assessment procedures consider it oppressive for people to have to practice their religion in secrecy for fear of persecution, yet effectively tells queer refugees they can hide their sexuality to avoid persecution. We then deport them back to their country of origin and supply to that country the files detailing why the applicant did not qualify as a refugee in Australia.

* Tens of thousands of queers were targeted and died in the Nazi Holocaust. This is rarely acknowledged, keeping queers invisible in history and contributing to their oppression.

* Far from living in pink-dollar prosperity, queers actually experience high levels of poverty, with lesbians the worst affected. Two thirds of lesbians worldwide live in poverty, a reflection of the inequality suffered by women generally.

* The current crop of queer characters on our TV screens, rather than breaking down prejudices, tend to trivialise, objectify and stereotype queers.

* In 2004 Australia's parliamentarians voted by a large majority to outlaw same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage has never been legal in Australia so this new piece of legislation served purely to make a statement that queers are considered second-class and not considered capable of the same commitment as our fellow adult citizens.

* For one night a year, the straight world gawks and cheers at queers in the glitzy spectacle that is Mardi Gras. But being 'tolerated' is not the same as being accepted. Being applauded for entertaining spectators with glamour and wit is not the same as acknowledgment of the very real and very unglamorous inequity suffered by queers 365 days a year.

Posted by .M. at March 2, 2005 12:51 PM | TrackBack


Queer Animation
A public lecture by Professor J. Jack Halberstam
Author of: Female Masculinity
In a Queer time and Place, and
The Drag King Book with Del LaGrace Volcano

Sponsored by the Narrative, Discourse and Pedagogy research node and the College of Arts, University of Western Sydney

Friday, 1st August 2008
6pm for 6.30 start

The Powerhouse Museum
500 Harris Street Ultimo
Coles Theatre
Enter main doors from Harris Street Forecourt
Gallery Officer will direct guests to ramp to Level 2 Theatres

$20 (student and pensioner concession)
Ticket price includes booking fees and GST. Handling fees may apply.
To purchase tickets, call Ticketek on: 132-849 or online:

Public Transport
Central Station is the closest railway station to the Powerhouse Museum. From Central Station take the eastern exits to Railway Square/George Street. Turn left into George Street and then right into Harris Street. Walk down Harris Street for 5-10 minutes until you reach the Museum on your right. For further information:

Parking for the Powerhouse Museum is available at the Entertainment Centre Car Park on Darling Drive. The Level 3A RED parking area is the most convenient to the covered walkway connecting the parking station to the Museum (a two minute walk). When tickets are validated at the Museum, a special flat rate of $11.50 (inc GST) applies.

Posted by: Cristyn Davies at July 14, 2008 02:13 AM

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