As I stroll down Eastern Avenue clutching a pride week themed coffee cup in my hand on the way to class, I cannot help but remain critical of pride campaigns that exist purely for some perverted notion of equality clout. Since the marriage equality plebiscite, its been a race, one of which corporation can show how accommodating and chill they are with the LGBT+ community, while doing little to nothing for the community – and the University of Sydney Union is no exception.
It seemed Pride Week was rather one large advertisement for USUEats, which was supposedly meant to have me ‘embracing the rainbow’ with a special pride edition of the USU food truck, where I could purchase 3 rainbow ice cream mocha pieces for $7.50 – a bargain I’m sure. Or perhaps on the Wednesday, I could have otherwise emptied my wallet with the Pride Themed Monthly Markets, and bought myself a limited edition, pride themed, frank green keep-cup. Or if I was really feeling quite lavish this Pride Week, I had the option to attend the annual Glitter Gala, at $45-65 per ticket depending on your ACCESS membership status. It is almost unarguable that the USU seeks to turn Pride Week into a moneymaking venture, reportedly not liaising with the universities Queer Action Collective, but rather just giving them the crumbs to conduct a chalking on Eastern Avenue.
I can sympathise with new LGBT+ students who would feel a huge sense of comfort seeing rainbow colours spread across campus. I can only reminisce how it influenced me, first attending a campus seemingly so open to celebrating queer pride. Yet beneath the cosy, warm feeling that rainbow flags might leave in your tummy lies a far more sinister scheme.
Pride events like this intentionally ignore the fact that queer youth are twice as likely to experience homelessness; three times more likely to experience depression, half of all transgender Australians have attempted suicide; the list of real issues that demand discussion and address. But you don’t hear about this during Pride Week. You only hear about the rainbow ice cream mocha pieces and pride-themed coffee cups.
It really is quite a shame. 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, and with marriage equality passed, now is the time to start the conversation on transgender rights. Weeks out from a federal election, we should be diverting our money, energy and resources into the Safe Schools program, and removing religious exceptions for discrimination. But, as long as USU board members continue to move further towards the right, any future Pride Week will forever turn away from the real issues that need addressing and towards the pretty and chromatic food you can consume to forget your problems.