Why We’re Revolting

transphobiaSince the melee at the Scots Church, outside the Eric Metaxas event, many people have tried to figure out exactly what went down.

Neil Ericson, the well known neo-Nazi, posted some videos of his version. Equal Love issued a statement. I spoke with anarchist Kieren Bennett, of Bennett’s Review. An atheist representative wrote about his protest inside the church. And various eyewitnesses spoke out about their personal experience. From this I pieced together this account.

But missing were the voices of the young protestors carrying the banners and trying to block the entrance to the Scots Church. Many of them had previously attempted to blockade the Melbourne Pride March. They have been roundly criticised for naivety, playing into the hands of the Australian Christian Lobby, dividing the community, and hijacking the event for their own purposes.

At both Pride and the Equal Love rally they were especially criticised for concealing their faces, an act which runs directly counter to the whole history and ethos of the gay movement, which has always stressed coming out into the open and being recognised, at whatever personal cost, for the good of the G.A.Y.* movement as a whole.

Bennett suggest I should contact Nick R Carson for their side of the story. Nick’s public reaction to the criticisms of his group has been unapologetic. They wrote, “OK, this has got to stop…”

Why is Equal Love throwing trans & queer people under the bus by condemning their actions at the ACL Melb conference as “wrong”? WTF?
Why did Equal Love not advocate for SameSame to get quotes from transgender people who were there for this article?
Why does EL’s Anthony Wallace confuse queer & trans people with antifascists? Why does he accuse queer & trans people of attacking someone?
Why does he suggest the presence of trans people and an anti-transphobia banner constitutes “hijacking” what was a community action, not EL’s exclusive event?
Why does he apologise and excuse the police who were the ones violently pushing & shoving trans & queer people to the ground?
Why does he disrespect the confidentiality of queer & trans people who had to cover their faces?
Why does he say queer & trans people “caused violence” when clearly police & conference attendees were assaulting LGBTIQA+ people?
Why does he say the conference attendees have a “right of passage” to attend a conference that spreads homophobia & transphobia?
Does Equal Love and those involved in the campaign condone this abhorrent attack on queer & trans people who dared to get involved and assert themselves and their existence against the ACL’s attacks on the LGBTIQA+ community?
I think Equal Love need to answer these questions immediately if we are to move forward as a community against all forms of harm against LGBTIQA+ people.
Trans & gender diverse people make a banner and try to block the entrance to this awful conference & they get attacked by Equal Love. Surely this is not how we should treat trans & gender diverse people who are struggling just to assert their voices?

Clearly there is a vast gulf of understanding between Equal Love and most of their supporters, and this new generation. Bridging that gulf, however, is hard, when people you try to engage with hide behind masks. I was told in a comment on samesame that if I didn’t support what they did, I was as bad as the ACL. When I tried to reply, my critic’s account was reported as deleted or non existent.

Eventually, however,  a lengthy account of events appeared on Tumblr entitled “What really happened outside the Australian Christian Lobby’s Melbourne conference”. Nick has kindly given me permission to repost it here on the stirrer in full and unedited [the post was originally credited to Nick in error].

It explains who was there, and the rationale for their actions. The aim was simple: “Assert trans and gender diverse voices in the absence of solidarity from cis people in the politically active LGBTIQA+ community.” Have the rest of been turning a deaf ear to some members of our community, and if so, what needs to be done about it? Were this groups tactics, here and at Pride, justified? Please, read what the post says [below] and let me know what you think.

Doug

[pictures by Ron Van Houwelingen & Michael Barnett]

*G.A.Y. = Good As You, the acronym formerly known as LGBTIQQ2A+

hell houwelingen


THE POST FROM UTOPICA

What really happened outside the Australian Christian Lobby’s Melbourne conference

It seems everyone from fascists and white gay men to Equal Love have felt entitled to publish their explanations as to what happened outside the Australian Christian Lobby’s (ACL) conference in Melbourne that took place on the evening of April 27 at Scot’s Church in the city. A local fascist thinks queers attacked him. A white gay man thinks things got out of hand and looked bad for marriage equality, and spokesperson for Equal Love thinks queer and trans people “hijacked” “their” event, believing that homophobes and transphobes had a “right of passage” to attend the conference. Here I will attempt to provide a less sectarian, more accurate explanation…

After repeated attempts by transgender and gender diverse people and their allies in Melbourne to encourage Equal Love to start exercising some responsibility (as opposed to tokenistic selective “inclusion”) for cissexism and transphobia within the LGBTIQA+ movement, and more general calls for LGBTIQA+ liberation (as opposed to respectability politics and assimilation), some trans and gender diverse people and radical queer allies felt it was necessary to engage with the ACL’s Melbourne conference alongside the event Equal Love had planned. They saw much of their goals to be shared and assumed the groups at Equal Love’s event would welcome the work that trans people and their allies had been done for them.

What were the goals of these trans & queer people?

The goals seemed simple to me: Assert trans and gender diverse voices in the absence of solidarity from cis people in the politically active LGBTIQA+ community. Make sure there was a banner that said “Transphobia Kills” and signs that said “Liberation NOT Assimilation!”. Try and start some anti-transphobia chants. Try and talk about cissexism and homonormativity during the open mic. By doing these things perhaps trans voices would be heard, perhaps the respectability politics of Equal Love could be challenged and perhaps it could be asserted that what LGBTIQA+ people need is liberation, not assimilation.

Not many trans and gender diverse people have the time or energy or capacity or mental/physical ability to do this work or to attend events like this. Most need to decide to avoid even just discussion around it to maintain capacity to continue surviving in the world. One trans person and a cis queer ally made the “Transphobia Kills” banner, it was held by trans and queer people. Queer allies brought along a “Queers Revolt!” banner. They were joined by several more queer and trans people at the event. One these trans people requested to speak during the open mic for a short time about cissexism and homonormativity and assimilation and how we need to end these things and was quickly given the wind-up. Though some of these people were disabled and mentally unwell, they were also settler-colonisers and white.

Who else was there?

Also in attendance was Socialist Alternative’s contingent with an anti-homophobia banner, members of several other socialist groups, some of which carried a banner supporting the Safe Schools Coalition, non-affiliated supporters of the Equal Love campaign predominantly carrying pro marriage equality signs, and other people generally opposed to the ACL’s conference. I’m not going to comment on or describe the attempt by a local fascist to video and provoke people attending the event. I’d hope as community we don’t welcome fascists at LGBTIQA+ events and actions.

Were there antifascists and anarchists in attendance?

Ideological links between the Australian Christian Lobby, right-wing Liberal Party members of parliament, and far-right and fascist groups are quite obvious to antifascists and anarchists, who are among, if not the first, to protest against the homo/bi/queerphobia and transphobia of groups like the ACL. It makes sense that they would attend events like this in solidarity with sexually and gender diverse people, and I imagine some of them are also queer or gay or trans or people of colour. Why would they not also have a right to attend? The protest against the Sydney ACL conference was attended by an “Anarcho-Queer Solidarity Bloc” in solidarity with queer and trans people, for instance. The solidarity of anarchists and antifascists makes queer and trans people safer on our streets.

socialists

Why did people picket the entrance and how did it happen?

The contingent of trans people and radical queers with the “transphobia kills” and “queers revolt!” banners were the first to picket of the entrance of Scot’s Church. At 6:30pm conference attendees were streaming into Scot’s Church as Equal Love campaigners and Socialist Alternative members held ground on the pathway and the steps to the church with loud megaphone speeches and chants directed at attendees who were moving slowly into the church in two slow single-file lines on the pathway north and south of the steps. The pathway in both directions was covered in people attending the Equal Love-promoted anti-ACL event, surrounding the lines of conference attendees. Some people attending the anti-ACL event were blocking the paths of people wanting to attend the conference. This appears to have been a tactic used more or less by people from all political affiliations and non-aligned attendees.

As it became increasingly difficult for would-be conference attendees to get to the steps, Victoria Police and ACL “ushers” began attempting to escort them through the crowd and into the church. At some point within the first 15minutes, by 6:45 or so, the “Queers revolt!” and “transphobia kills” banners had made it to the steps and were being used to partially block entrance to the church. Over the next 15minutes this encouraged more people from various political affiliations and groups to join blocking the entrance on the steps and on the pathway. Several small lengths of arm-linked picketters materialised where needed on the pathway and eventually linked up to form a consistent line, though this was breached by police several times to get more transphobes and queerphobes into the ACL’s conference.

The Queers Revolt banner, which was previously seen at Pride March

The Queers Revolt banner, which was previously seen at Pride March

To break the minor picket Victoria Police resorted to pushing trans and queer people to the ground, use pressure grips, pulling hair, twisting arms and generally inflicting harm and violence on sexually and gender diverse people consistently for around one hour. Perhaps around 90% of people who turned up wanting to attend the ACL’s conference were able to gain access to the church. At several points the only people participating in the linked-arm picket were trans people and radical queer allies, however at other points people of other political affiliations joined in. There were not enough people and it was not sustained for long enough for the picket to significantly impact on the number of people attending, however everyone who attended would have had to have been confronted with signs, chants, speeches, banners and physical disruption before they were able to access their sanctuary of bigotry.

I did not see any would-be conference attendees assaulted, pushed to the ground or spat on, as has been claimed by some white, cis, homonormative assimilationists.

How did Equal Love respond to the presence of anti-assimilationist, radical trans and queer people?

Equal Love’s Anthony Wallace provided quotes to Same Same for their article covering the events published on April 29 and written by Dean Arcuri. The article was titled “Our LGBTI protests are normally peaceful – so what went wrong at this one?”. The article gives voice to Equal Love’s cis, white, homonormative, assimilationist agenda and constructs cultures of cisnormativity and transphobia, accusing trans people of violence, suggesting their actions were “wrong”, that they “hijacked” what was apparently Equal Love’s exclusive event. Wallace goes on to apologise for and excuse the actions of police who assaulted sexually and gender diverse people, and shockingly suggests that conference attendees had a “right of passage” to attend the conference that spreads hate, homophobia and transphobia. Only one paragraph and one quote address the ACL’s attacks on LGBTIQA+ people. This is utterly shameful. Equal Love have not apologised for Wallace’s quotes in this article.

Equal Love’s condemnation of the actions of trans people and their allies outside the ACL’s conference constructs cultures of cisnormativity and transphobia and works actively to prevent gender diverse people from attending Equal Love-promoted events in the future. Equal Love here have worked to exclude trans and gender diverse people from protesting the conference making their participation contingent on their respectability to cis judgement, their ability to conform and assimilate to cultures of homo/cisnormativity, and encourages active condemnation of their tactics. Heaven forbid trans people make a banner and try to picket a conference of transphobes. It seems in the current LGBTIQA+ political community even talking about such things causes a stir, and power to all trans people and allies who dare take to the streets. In the absence of apologies, it seems the cis ocean is set to be riddled with stormy waters for some time to come.

UPDATE

Thomas Asher writes: Your article reads: “At both Pride and the Equal Love rally they were especially criticised for concealing their faces”. WRONG. Yes Pink Bloc – Narrm / Melbourne wore masks at pride, NO Pink Bloc did not wear masks at this ACL protest. The only people wearing masks at this ACL protest were 2 of my Anon brothers and Anarchists or Antifa members. There is photographic evidence from a couple of photographers in which you can clearly see the Queer/Trans activists holding the banners on and blocking the stairs (mentioned in Nick’s article) are not wearing masks. But more importantly, GTFO the petty shit about what other people are wearing, it’s no one’s concern nor business. As it turns out a well known Nazi was there filming (as you are aware) which is exactly the reason why some activists protect their identity at protests, for safety.

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About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years.

“Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe.” (Daniel Witthaus, “Beyond Priscilla”, Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)