Updated: Oct 14, 2021
✦ “It’s more than an issue. This is our life we're fighting for.” - Harvey Milk.
Diversity in all aspects of life is absolutely imperative to how we interact, learn and grow as a species. While we may all be created equal, we do share so many differences and this is the key to providing variety and vibrancy of life. It sure would be a boring world if we all liked the same things, ate the same food, watched the same movies and enjoyed the same music - likewise if we all shared an identical sexual preference.
Being queer is ok. In fact it is more than ok – it is a fundamental given right to those of us free to pursue individual interests and preferences. Embrace who you are as you’re not different unless defined so, usually mistakenly or inappropriately.
The global Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community have had to fight hard against outdated, misplaced opinions, stereotypes and discrimination. In one way it seems quite absurd that homosexuality and sexual identity are still very much contentious issues in certain parts of the world; in Russia the LGBT community still face formidable barriers to enjoying their fundamental rights and China has a long way to go on the issue if they are to be seriously considered a global super power of the 21st century. Even Thailand, much lauded for its sexual diversity, only very recently postponed without reason the hearing on a law approving same sex marriage.
However, there have been significant strides elsewhere. The words “lesbian,” “bisexual,” and “transgender” were used in President Barak Obama’s State of the Union address in 2015; in January this year, Joe Biden repealed a law introduced by predecessor Donald Trump banning transgender Americans to openly serve in the military.
In popular culture, we saw LGBT athletes win 32 medals at the recent Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and examples of triumph and success from members of the LGBT community in the arts and entertainment industry are now commonplace. In late September, Beatrice Luigi Gomez became the first person from the LGBT community to be crowned Miss Universe Philippines 2021 - quite an achievement in a country renowned for its hardline Catholic beliefs.
Month Long Observance
The LGBT History Month is a time when the LGBT community celebrate diversity, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history, and the history of the gay rights and related civil rights movements. This is celebrated in Australia this month, October.
The month-long observance was founded in 1994 in the USA by Missouri high-school history teacher Rodney Wilson to commemorate the first and second marches on Washington in 1979 and 1987 for LGBT rights. It strives to provide role models, build community, and represent a civil rights statement about the contributions of the LGBT community. As of 2020, LGBT History Month is celebrated in Hungary, the USA, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Ireland, and the German city of Berlin.
October is chosen to celebrate LGBT History Month in Australia to specifically coincide with National Coming Out Day on October 11; similarly there is International Lesbian Day on October 8, Asexual Awareness Week from October 24-30 and Intersex Awareness Day on October 26. The following month sees Transgender Awareness Week every 2nd week of November and Transgender Day of Remembrance November 20.
Australia has come a long way from the dark days when male homosexuality was prosecuted as a criminal act in every jurisdiction of the newly federated Commonwealth. For much of the 1900s the law stipulated imprisonment for up to twenty years for homosexual acts. Sodomy remained a hanging offence in Victoria until 1949. Thankfully, the last 30 years of the century especially, saw every one of those laws consigned to history.
The LGBT community still has some way to go until it is truly accepted as equal but positive strides are consistently being made and celebrations like LGBT History Month are integral to the movement’s objectives.
The annual month-long observance began in Australia in October 2016 when Minus 18 organised the first Australian LGBTIQ History Month in partnership with the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives, and Safe Schools Coalition Victoria.
The most prominent event celebrating LGBT is, of course, the world-famous Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Held annually on the first Saturday in March, the event attracts hundreds of thousands of revellers from all four corners of the globe and is one of the country’s biggest tourist drawcards. An extensive variety of events are staged including the Sydney Mardi Gras Parade and Party, Bondi Beach Drag Races, Harbour Party, the academic discussion panel Queer Thinking, Mardi Gras Film Festival, as well as Fair Day, which attracts 70,000 people to Victoria Park, Sydney.
Brilliant-Online is delighted to have conducted an interview with Stuart Doherty (now director of Wauchope Creative Hub) about his experience with designing the costumes for drag queens and producing and directing the Mardi Gras shows.
We also interviewed Gaye White about her experience in the LGBT community.
Then there is Camp Out, which offers youths between the ages of 13-17 throughout NSW the chance to attend an away-from-home camp with people who share similar experiences, offering “a supportive and safe space to learn and express yourself, an opportunity for capacity building and a fun environment in which to do so.”
This year the camp was held from September 27 to October 1 with an array of entertainment options on offer such as art, music, sports, games, movie nights and bonfires. Additionally there were open workshops and informal discussions on topics such as identity and what it means to be LGBTIQ-identified, questioning your gender or sexual orientation, dealing with homophobia & transphobia, coming out in highschool, coming out to parents or friends, and how to be a supportive LGBTIQ ally.
Ultimately, Camp Out is all about fostering a safe, open, inclusive community, providing the opportunity to hang out in a place where you’re not judged for who you are, or who you like. As the website states, “We aim to create our own world, guided by unanimously agreed upon facets of queer and feminist politics. We aim to create a safe, creative, nourishing and inspiring environment through which The Collective members organise, and project into the Camp itself.”
This approach is one very much advocated by local Port Macquarie-Hastings resident Gaye White whose business Infinity Co. Evolve located at The Wauchope Creative Hub specialises in food, yoga and fitness.
“Communication is the key,” says Gaye when asked how the wider community can move positively to embrace the issue of LGBT.
“Total acceptance of others in the way they experience life as we all take different paths to the same destination. Asking questions and listening to people’s journeys.” - Gaye White
Brilliant-Online wholeheartedly celebrates all forms of diversity and inclusion and is proud to shine a light on LGBT History Month. Let’s be inclusive and celebrate this occasion together as one!
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