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Opposing government homophobia

Evan van Zijl discusses splits in the queer community towards Abbott’s queer policies

This year, Tony Abbott won an election with a ‘mandate’ that included racism, sexism, climate skepticism, and the idea that our marriage rights are nothing more than a ‘fad’. This new regime is coupled with a series of state Coalition governments that are waiting to prosecute their conservatism without federal opposition from the Greens.

Already, Abbott has enacted refugee policies using his executive power that will place those fleeing to Australia from homophobic countries in great peril, pledged to repeal anti-hate speech laws and proposed cuts to public services that can only be harmful to our community. In less than nine months, Tony Abbott shall no longer have to contend with the challenges presented by the Greens in the Senate and will pass legislation with little to no oversight within the parliamentary system.

At the moment, Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) is the only group in NSW that consistently mobilises large amounts of people despite the criticism it receives from groups like Australian Marriage Equality (AME). CAAH has, from its inception, taken on causes which other groups found too marginal to advocate and this begun with marriage equality which only after this consistent agitation became popular enough for lobbyists to much later coalesce into AME and the machine which elected Alex Greenwich to parliament. Over the years, this taking up of ‘radical’ ideas has seen CAAH stand up for queer refugees, victims of police brutality and harassment at Mardi Gras, and endorse actions for sex and gender diverse rights amongst other things.


This agitation and tendency toward mass action is integral to most of the progress gained in Australia, including better conditions for our workers and protections for our precious environment. Gay liberation movements within the United States have resorted to similar levels of agitation in order to achieve its goals. In 1969, a community persecuted by police and frustrated by the lack of progress achieved by lobbyists instigated the Stonewall Riots. Derided by gay lobbyists as counter-productive, the powerful actions at the Stonewall Riots, after which our own Oxford Street bar is named, led to the birth of activist groups across the world that are directly responsible for the decriminalisation of homosexuality. This is echoed in our own history of queer rights, with the original Mardi Gras condemned by the more moderate elements of our community who now profit so greatly from it.

These divisions within queer communities on the issue of opposition versus submission can still be seen quite clearly today around the issue of how to respond to an LNP government. Over the course of the federal election, AME has offered endorsement to LNP candidates who support marriage equality regardless of their views on queer refugees, HIV funding or hate speech and now condemned CAAH for its explicit opposition to Abbott.

Regardless of community division, a rally and a movement is much more than a popularity poll or a feel good exercise. It is a series of actions that provide the building blocks for change which, like our sexualities and genders, do not always please everyone in the mainstream. It is important that we build movements that push agendas rather than encourage passive support. CAAH’s recent anti-Abbott action was the beginning of this push and hopefully, like Mardi Gras, an opposition to government homophobia can also move on from community division to one with immeasurable traction.