Events in Orlando offer a unique opportunity for allies to get on board the rainbow train.
After the massacre in Orlando, lots of people, ordinary and not so ordinary, offered thoughts, prayers and love in support of the G.A.Y.* community. For which we are very grateful. But thoughts and prayers, unfortunately, don’t cut it. Even love doesn’t cut it, either, unless it’s expressed in action.
Outside the Facebook/gay community bubble, I’ve been struck by the extent to which most ordinary people aren’t really that compassionate, or even interested. I walked into the post office yesterday, furling my rainbow umbrella. Two middle-aged women ahead of me in the queue glanced disapprovingly, and then turned away.
“Of course, I don’t mind,” said one, loud enough for me to hear, “but I don’t want it here.”
This will not do. In the wake of Orlando, what LGBTI people need is real and substantive change in the hearts and minds of every Australian. We are not, and will not allow ourselves, to be labelled as anything other than fully equal with any other Australian, equally welcome everywhere.
We have to stop being so apologetic about what we both want and need, as well as the true consequences of our recognition as fully equal citizens. There’s something dishonest about the current marriage equality campaign, and that needs to change. So to all our opponents, especially the ones hiding behind their supposed “God”:
- Yes, you are correct, it will require a fundamental change in society.
- Yes, it means we get to marry, adopt, raise kids exactly like anyone else.
- Yes, it means surrogacy will become fully legal, in time.
- Yes, it means your kids will be taught that we exist, and have always existed, and our historical contributions, from Leonardo Da Vinci in art to Alan Turing in computing, will be embedded in every subject in all education, public and private.
- Yes, it means everyone’s children will be given proper, age appropriate, inclusive sex and relationship education, from primary school onwards, in all schools, public and private.
- Yes, it does mean that if you do business with the public or with any level of government, you will be unable to refuse help, service or employment to G.A.Y.* people.
I have written elsewhere of some of the other changes that are vital to make this a free and fair society for G.A.Y.* people. But beyond the legal and political changes, a change of hearts and minds is needed, and this is something in which every Australian can participate.
Love can win, but only if you translate it into practical actions. To all non-LGBTI people: commit to removing all prejudice, stigma and marginalisation of LGBTI people within a generation. Make a start in your own life today. For example:
- Have you ever heard someone bad-mouthing G.A.Y.* people, either to their face, or behind their back? Next time, call them out on it.
- Is there a gay couple living in your apartment block? In your street? Have you knocked on their door and introduced yourself?
- If they knocked on your door when they moved in, did you make them welcome?
- When you invite the neighbours over for a barbie, do you make a special effort to include them?
- When they invite you over, do you make excuses?
- Are some of your neighbours homophobic? Think what you can do to help them get over this handicap.
- Do you belong to any local churches, sports clubs or other societies, or are you on, say, a local school board? Do they have non-discrimination policies, practices and procedures in place?
- If not, don’t wait for the law: draft some and insist they are put in place now.
- Invite your LGBTI neighbours to join if they’re not already members.
- What about your workplace? Do they also practice non-discrimination? If not, work to put measures in place.
- Are you responsible for ordering supplies at your workplace?
- Do your suppliers embrace diversity? Ask them, and if they don’t, choose other suppliers. Don’t do business with irredeemable homophobes.
These are just a few examples: I’m sure you can think of many more. We are everlastingly grateful for your sympathy and your love: we cannot do this without you. Now the real job begins. Put your love to work and make Australia a better place.
*G.A.Y. = Good As You: the acronym formerly known as LGBTIQQ2A+