After facing pressure from sections of the LGBTIQ community, the organisers of the annual Midsumma festival in Melbourne announced that they would not be “taking up any of the advertising benefits of the partnership offered by the Herald Sun.”
Further to this, the Herald Sun (published by News Corp) will not have a stall at the Midsumma Carnival nor will they participate in the Pride March. The backlash against the participation of News Corp came after Bill Leak published a cartoon depicting the LGBTIQ community as Nazi soldiers in The Australian, another News Corp publication.
The sickening cartoon should have not come as a surprise as Leak had already come under fire for his racist depictions of Aboriginal people earlier in the year. The cartoon also followed a year of demonisation of the LGBTIQ community by the Murdoch owned News Corp, with a particular focus on attacking the Safe Schools anti-bullying program.
At the same time, a debate took place amongst the organisers of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras over whether Malcolm Turnbull should be invited to the event. A motion raised by members of the Community Action Against Homophobia group to rescind his invitation was passed at the Mardi Gras AGM in June. Disappointingly the motion was overturned by the Mardi Gras board.
Both of these incidents are reflective of the LGBTIQ community becoming increasingly fed up with the inaction of the establishment on LGBTIQ rights, in particular on marriage equality. The establishment are out of step with the bulk of the Australian population on the issue of LGBTIQ rights. In November 2016, a survey of 10,000 people undertaken by Monash University found that 67 percent of people are in support of marriage equality.
With talk of a marriage equality plebiscite last year it seemed as though reform was within reach. However, due to the misguided approach carried out by the self-appointed LGBTIQ community leaders the opportunity was squandered. Labor and the Greens used the issue as a political football and ended up voting the plebiscite down. It now seems as if we are back to square one.
People are searching for a way forward and the incidents surrounding Midsumma and the Mardi Gras are positive indications that people are fed up with the timid approach of the existing LGBTIQ leaders. There is no doubt that people would embrace a more fighting approach if a broader lead was given.
Pride marches in the past used to be far more political and militant. They were an assertion of identity and liberation, but they’ve now become completely depoliticised and are used as PR opportunities for banks and big businesses looking to tap into the ‘pink dollar’.
The first Melbourne Pride march was held in 1996. In those days identifying as an LGBTIQ person was much more difficult. For example, the police often harassed the LGBTIQ community. The infamous Tasty nightclub raid was a case in point. Patrons were detained for several hours, strip searched and cavity searched.
We have come a long way since then, the stigma around being LGBTIQ has been significantly reduced. Homosexuality has been decriminalised in many countries, often with anti-discrimination legislation passed in its place. Marriage equality has been won in the UK, US and Ireland in the past three years.
But in the current climate of capitalist crisis and austerity, it’s increasingly clear that these gains aren’t enough. Discrimination and oppression still persist on a number of levels.
We need to reclaim Pride as an event of political struggle. It should be used to raise the issues that LGBTIQ people face today – including bullying, workplace discrimination, marriage equality, safe and accessible access to healthcare and homelessness which affects LGBTIQ youth disproportionately.
Beyond marching once a year at Pride, we need to build an active grassroots movement that will put young and working class LGBTIQ people to the fore, and combine demands for legal equality with demands that address the day-to-day pressures faced by LGBTIQ people.
We need to fight for equality under capitalism, while ultimately fighting for democratic socialism – a society that is free from all forms of discrimination.
The Socialist Party calls for:
-Pride not profit: keep big business out of Pride events
-Rebuilding a militant LGBTIQ movement to fight for equality and genuine liberation for all
-A new party of the 99% to offer real political representation for ordinary people, including minorities
By Kat Galea