It’s been over 40 years since Mardi Gras began as a riot: our queer rights protest movement has since decriminalised sodomy, allowed for child adoption, put PrEP on the PBS, decriminalised sex work in NSW, washed away the gay and trans panic defence, and in 2017 we won a massive victory with almost 8 million people voting in favour of marriage equality.
But Pride in Protest knows that the time for protest is not over. Brutal attacks continue on trans and non-binary people with the cuts to Safe Schools; queer people seeking refuge in Australia after fleeing from countries where they face persecution for being queer, are locked in offshore torture camps indefinitely by the Australian government, in countries where it is also illegal to be queer and where queer-bashing is common; the Liberals have proposed a ridiculous ‘religious freedom bill’ to discriminate against queer people; meanwhile queer people still experience high rates of depression, homelessness, danger from incarceration, and suicide.
At the 1978 Mardi Gras protestors chanted ‘Stop police attacks on gays, women, and blacks’. This is because our struggles are not separate: while the police force may have apologised for some of their most visible anti-queer violence, their attacks on our community continue to this day, particularly towards those queer folks who are trans, sex workers, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, people of colour, experiencing homelessness, or disabled.
None of this is acceptable, and we must continue our protest movements towards a society that offers freedom, inclusivity and safety to all.
Mardi Gras is an important part of any movement for the rights of queer people. It can easily be one of the largest protest marches in the country full of fierce community ideas calling for a better system, like in 1978. So why do we give up so much space within Mardi Gras to corporations to promote themselves when some of them take so much from us? Why is QANTAS a corporate partner when they help deport refugees to the risk of death? Why promote ANZ when it is Australia’s biggest lender to fossil fuel companies, spurring climate change which we know impacts those who are most marginalised? Why allow the police, one of the biggest perpetrators of violence against Aboriginal people and queer folks alike, to march in this parade and make the space unsafe for so many marginalised people? Why allow corrective services, responsible for so many Black Deaths In Custody, anywhere near a parade that purports to be about liberation?
Some of us in the queer community may feel we have achieved equality, but we should not rest until all of us are free. As queer people, we understand what it means to be oppressed, and we will fight the system that causes oppression not just for ourselves, but for everyone except the top 1%.
It may not be 1978 anymore. But the rights that we do have today were not handed to us by politicians or by corporations. We won because we rioted, we protested, and we campaigned in the community for decades until those in power had no choice but to listen to us. With the same energy, as one united and strong community, we can struggle against continued injustice and fight for liberation for all of us.
— WHAT YOU CAN DO —
** Join Mardi Gras, and vote for Pride in Protest’s motions and Board candidates. You can join as a member and cast your vote at the AGM.
** Sign up to stay in touch with us throughout this campaign, and onwards to the Mardi Gras parade next year — be involved in our protest floats like No Pride in Detention, No Pride in the Liberals and No Pride in Police!