Persistent Mediocrity

Let’s emulate our opponents and practice that underrated, dull, but powerful virtue – persistence.

Why do characters like Scott Morrison rise to the top despite their acknowledged mediocrity and numerous failures? Persistence.

Why do the extreme religious right keep coming back for additional rights, over and over – and winning. Persistence.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.”

Calvin Coolidge

It’s time for the LGBTI community (or whatever we’re going to call ourselves now that Labor has decreed that the acronym is too hard to sell) to buckle down and do some persisting ourselves.

We will probably have to do without the meaningful support of the Labor Party. Albanese is turning out to be another disappointment on the scale of Julia Gillard, caving in to his own in-house Christaliban the way she did over marriage equality. He wants to drop the rainbow acronym for some vague phrase about diversity, plus, he’s apparently willing to work with the PM on a “religious freedom” bill.

Not much hope there. Clearly he sees other constituencies as more important that the rainbow tribe. So what should we do.

I believe we need to set ourselves both large, ambitious long-term goals, as well as pursuing smaller and more short term victories. What follows is sort of “Notes Towards a Rainbow Manifesto.”

State Campaigns

When the Federal government is hostile and/or indifferent, work on state initiatives. This kept up the pressure in the days when marriage seemed and impossible goal.

Educate people about us, principally by coming out, and encouraging champions in sport, business, medicine, and education, as well as the arts, to come out and take leading roles.

That goes for every letter of the acronym: lots of people now know they have gay and lesbian family members, co-workers and friends, but few people have met and got to know a transgender, bisexual or intersex person.

Taking the lead

Get on the front foot. Instead of sputtering outrage and staging demos every time the Christaliban get up on their hind legs (though we must continue to do that too), vigorously promote and pursue our own big-picture agenda. We must do “the vision thing”, articulating what we want the world to be – and then fight for it. It’s time to wrest the initiative from our opponents. Shift the ground of the conversation.

Get Arty

And please, can we please make our campaigning upbeat. Not endless marches, endless speeches, shouted slogans. We are justly famous for the number of creative people in our midst. Let’s harness them.

Set up an “Arts For Equality” body, with a travelling theatre company and a film-making unit, funded and run as an offshoot of the equality campaign, to harness our community’s talents and drive change?

Take small theatre groups with short non-preachy plays dramatizing the issues around rural Australia. Make short films and distribute them to schools and sports clubs. Provide seed money to develop larger projects. Use comedy, music and drama to illustrate our lives, our problems and our joys.

The big things

Just as we need to deal with immediate problems, we need to articulate our dreams and hopes for the future. Explain what kind of Australia we want to see. And set some ambitious goals, like:

  • LGBTI cabinet minister and department
  • A Bill of Rights
  • Constitutional change

No doubt you can think of more. Remember, these are meant to be long-term aspirational goals.

Spread the Pride

Aside from all the boring, tedious but necessary political stuff, we need celebratory aspirations too. Campaigning ought to be fun! And Pride is campaigning, even if it looks like its ‘only a party”.

We have just seen literally millions of people flood onto the street of the US, South America and Europe to celebrate Pride. New York World Pride March was carried live on mainstream national television. We can’t leverage that global publicity to home advantage. We are out of the global pride loop, marching in February and March, not June.

Sydney is bidding for WorldPride2023 but they would locate it “within the existing two-week footprint of Mardi Gras”: week one dedicated to Mardi Gras, week two dedicated to WorldPride. Somehow I don’t see that working: Pride needs to be “within the existing footprint” of Pride Month – June.

We also deserve a place in the calendar of national celebrations. Pride must join the roster of national public holidays, on an equal footing with Christmas, Easter and Anzac Day.

We should have a new National Pride Day, a public holiday to synch with the global festivities. And to avoid all our delicate overseas visitors getting all cold and wet, how about siting the new festival in Brisbane?  After all, the place is chocka with Victorians and New South Wellies at this time of year!  Let’s get to it!

Let’s all sing along…

Nothing’s impossible, I have found, for when my chin is on the ground,
I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again.
Don’t lose your confidence if you slip, be grateful for a pleasant trip,
And pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again.
Work like a soul inspired until the battle of the day is won.
You may be sick and tired, but you be a man, my son.
Don’t you remember those famous men who had to fall to rise again,
So take a deep breath, pick yourself up, start all over again.

Dorothy Fields/Jerome Kern, as sung by Fred Astaire

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)