You may have noticed the full-page colour ad for the Marriage Equality rally in the previous edition of Honi. A few weeks ago, I pushed for it to be included, but just before the deadline, in an abrupt volte-face, I fought to have it removed. Unfortunately, it was too late for such a drastic change.
You may be asking why. I am a staunch supporter of marriage equality. I’ve been involved in planning the rally, and I’ve organized the USYD contingent. Why would I attempt to do something in direct opposition to the movement?
I believe there are more pressing challenges facing the queer community than marriage equality. For instance, homophobia is still rife in schools, queer youth suicide rates are absurd, and the prevalence of anxiety disorders is disproportionate; highest in trans* people at 50%, and lowest in gay men at only 25%, compared to 14% in the general population. This is something even queer politicians are reluctant to tackle. For instance, the self-proclaimed gay messiah, Alex Greenwich, fails to recognize the troubles faced by the queer community beyond marriage equality. In fact, when I spoke at the Mardi Gras community forum earlier this year, his very abrasive reply was to inform me that the police brutality at Mardi Gras was not targeted homophobia.
In my first report, I wrote, “…the countless cases of targeted police violence and unwarranted strip searches throughout and after the Mardi Gras is a clear indication that there is a systematic queerphobia ingrained within the police force.” I stand by my position. Queerphobia, racism, and sexism have deep roots in the police force. If we are to eliminate this culture, we need to hold police to account. A multi-pronged approach involving direct action, demanding for an independent investigatory body for police, and calling out not just queerphobic but all police violence, is the best way for our community to proceed.
What happened at the last staff strike is abhorrent. Riot police brutalized students and staff for resisting management decisions in a peaceful, lawful, protected industrial action. I will not go into specifics: Honi has already published a number of articles by students who were the victims of police brutality. But I will point out that resisting this violence is extremely relevant to the queer community. If the police can’t get away with attacking one community, they will find it difficult to get away with attacking us.
The reason I tried to have the ad removed was to give the publication more space for material on police violence at the picket lines. It’s important that student voices are heard. The student body needs to come together to condemn police brutality on campus. I don’t believe this is an issue of politics; one can disagree with the claims of the NTEU and CPSU and still call for the Vice-Chancellor to rescind his invitation to the police. This is a matter of human compassion and decency. We will not have students and staff attacked on their own campus by violent thugs.
To the staff and students on the picket lines: the queer community is right behind you.