To See Ourselves As Others See Us

Sydney (Don’t Mention Gay & Lesbian) Mardi Gras: pic by Remi Tu

Reading reports of Tyrone Unsworth’s funeral, looking at the faces of his parents and mourners, I experienced anew a burst of the rage and grief like I felt when this story first broke. Rage and grief amplified as I read of people running fake Facebook accounts in Tyrone’s name, mocking him, and taunting his parents.

Rodney Croome said:

‘I extend my sympathies to the family of Tyrone Unsworth and share their outrage that he is being bullied beyond the grave. The continued bullying highlights how deep the hatred of LGBTI people still runs in some parts of Australian society.’

Right on cue, Bill Leak produced another deranged cartoon in The Australian, taking a swipe at Safe Schools.

To rage and grief, add fear.

Meanwhile a new report from the National Centre for Excellence in Youth Mental Health –  Raising the Bar For Youth Suicide Prevention – almost accidentally revealed that LGBTIQ youth suicide isn’t a priority, even though LGBTIQ young people suicide and self-harm at up to six times the rate of their peers.

Add indifference.

Hatred. Indifference. Derision.

Earlier in the week I touched off a minor twitstorm – of which I was blissfully unaware, since I only use twitter to promote this blog. I seldom bother to read anything on twitter.

Commenting on a Facebook post, I wrote:

People seem confused as to why News Corpse would simultaneously sponsor a major LGBTI festival and run a vicious campaign of vilification against marriage equality and Safe Schools. The message is actually quite clear.

So long as we stay in our little pink ghetto and put on amusing freak shows for the tourist industry, like Mardi Grad and Midsumma, they will be nice, they will even help.

(Please note this is the message I perceive to be coming from News Corpse. It represents their attitude, not mine, as the next para should have made clear. Unfortunately lots of people seem to arced up at this point)

But dare to step outside that box, start clamouring to be treated, not as freaks, but as normal people with the same rights as anyone else, and the guns are trained on us.

It’s called “keeping the pink ni-gers in their place”

I thought that last line might be the one that got me into trouble, but I guess people didn’t read that far. One of the more considered responses said “I’m not sure referring to Mardi Gras and Midsumma as a freak show is all that respectful. Or am I reading it wrong?” Obviously, I got it wrong. I was trying to get us “too see ourselves as others see us.” Let me try again.

Lest We Forget

The late great Adam Stobbs used to enrage Joy listeners by saying that Mardi Gras had long since ceased to be an LGBTI community event and was now a “freak show for the tourists”, many of whom came, not to stand with us or support us, but to poke fun and have a laugh.  I think that is correct.

In mainstream society, complete acceptance is far from the norm. Support for us is broad, but not very deep. Tolerance may easily vanish. Many watch Mardi Gras, not to laugh with us, but at us. To poke fun. To mock. To ridicule. Many of those lining the Pride route are there to sneer, not cheer. Not all the women invading drag bars are there because they love queens. They’re there to look down on us.

Some will have their eyes opened and their minds changed, and become friends. Something News Corspe and Bill Leak, Eric Abetz, George Christensen, Dr David Van Gend and the rest work tirelessly to prevent, and reverse.

Rodney reminded us ‘how deep the hatred of LGBTI people still runs in some parts of Australian society.’ Large parts. Forget that at our peril. People in positions of influence and power are happy to use that hatred for their own ends, with no care for the consequences to us.

These are dark times. Never forget the ones who hate. Take care of yourself, and look out for one another. In the end, it’s all we have.

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)