Posts for the queer dept

David Shakes, Elsa Kohane, Edward McMahon and Holly Parrington talk about pride.

Pride means a lot to the queer community: it’s a deadly sin that only some of us are lucky enough to reclaim. If you’re queer, pride is not a birthright; instead it must be fought for. It’s hard to take pride in yourself in a society that understands the way we are as an aberration, harmful to our families, ourselves, and our prospects for the future. Many of us will never be able to take pride in queerness. But for those who can, celebrating difference and diversity against the rigid confines of social conservativism is a tool of empowerment and subversion.

This week is the USU’s Pride Festival, and from the 5th-7th of August, queer organisations around campus (QuAC, Queerkats, SHADES and Queer Revue) are collaborating in conjunction with the USU Queer Coordinators to put together a series of events to celebrate pride. The event can be found on Facebook, and the full itinerary is on the USU website. Look out for a variety of workshops, performances, and social events. The SRC Queer Officers are incredibly proud of all the hard work queers on campus have put into running such a vibrant festival. Many of the events will be autonomous, but sometimes we’re down to party with cis hetero people too, and we’d encourage everyone to (where possible) come out and celebrate the pride of the queer community at the University of Sydney.

As we enter the second half of the year, we remind all people who are queer or questioning that you are always welcome in the Queerspace, especially for Queer Action Collective meetings which will take place at 1pm each Monday in the Queerspace (Holme building). Queerkats, the autonomous group of queer non-cis men, will continue to meet at 1pm on Thursday. As renovations in the Holme building are soon to be completed, we look forward to a new and improved space. Greater accessibility, greater anonymity, and the inclusion of gender neutral bathrooms will all hopefully make for a safer space for queer people on campus.

Elsa Kohane talks about the importance of non cis-male queer representation.

When I first started here at Usyd last year, Women’s Collective and Queer Collective were almost everything this little queer baby from a Catholic high school could ever want out of university life. However, there is an intersection between my identities that means something is lacking in these two groups; in women’s spaces that hold up heterosexuality as the dominant way of life and think only of the experience of heterosexual, cis-gendered woman; in queer spaces where I’m the only woman in the room, where I’m talked over and dismissed, where casual sexism is excused and the benefits of the patriarchy to cisgendered men are ignored.

Queerkats exists for this reason. Building on the work of a small group of queer women last year who started a Queer Women’s Network, we are an autonomous collective for any non cis-male identifying queer people. That is, anyone who isn’t a cis man (assigned male at birth and male identifying). We want to be a safe, attentive and comfortable space, where issues pertaining to queer non cis-men are actively discussed, prioritised and fought for.

This year ACON stopped printing The Birds and the Birds, an important information booklet about lesbian sexual education and health, and Gender Questioning, an information booklet for Trans youth.  It just shows how marginalised queer non-cis men are, when the largest queer health organisation in Sydney stops catering to us. It’s therefore important to try and make a difference. Throughout the year we will be running campaigns, workshops and skill-shares, creating resources and posters aimed at non cis male queer people, and holding parties and social events specifically for non cis-men.

Our first event of the year, a Queerkat Tea Party, was a huge success. Held in the Queerspace one Thursday afternoon, it was a great way for people with similar experiences to meet and chat comfortably and happily. Delicious tea and cakes certainly helped!

There are still many issues with our male dominated Queer Action Collective, that Holly and I are working hard at combatting, but the Queerkats has thus far been an amazingly successful, encouraging and positive collective, and we hope for that to continue throughout the year and beyond!

If you’re interested in getting involved, contact us at queerkatsusyd@gmail.com or friend Elsa Kohane or Holly Parrington on facebook to be added to the group.

Queer Officers Report: Semester 1, 2014: the year in queer

We started the year with a successful float in Mardi Gras, which was organised by queers from universities across NSW and available to queers across Australia. Students and allies, including many from USyd, had the chance to march, many for the first time.

We created a buddy system to introduce new queer or questioning people to the collective. As a result there are a lot of fresh faces at collective meetings, creating an awesome space to share ideas
and skills.

Members of the queer collective also participated in a pink bloc at the recent National Day of Action (NDA) against the Liberal government’s cuts to higher education. Such blocs serve to make broader political actions relevant to minority groups. As queers, we formed our pink bloc- identifying ourselves with pink triangles- to highlight the importance of a fully funded education for those who experience systemic oppressions on the basis of their gender identity and sexuality. Courses such as gender studies and services such as counselling are two examples of things that are important for queers at uni and threatened by consistent cuts to our education. We had students from all over NSW contribute to the bloc, which made it very successful.

Be sure to look out for many more pink blocs throughout the year.

At the campus level, the collective has learned of an issue involving the names used on the Blackboard eLearning discussion boards. As it currently stands, people are required to post content under their legal name/name at enrolment. For trans* students in particular, this can mean outing yourself to classmates.

This discourages participation in online education from queer students. We’re building a campaign to try and change this. To get involved, come to a meeting (1pm
on Tuesdays in the Queerspace), or indicate your interest on the (secret) collective Facebook page – if you haven’t been added yet, get in contact (queer.officers@src.usyd.edu.au) and we’ll rectify this immediately!
Sadly, this is the last queer report that Honi will permit us this semester, but look out for more next semester. In the meantime, the autonomous group for queer non-cis men called “Queerkats”, which meets on Thursdays at 1pm in the Queerspace, will be occupying the Wom*n’s Officers’ report at points later on in semester. Thanks to the Wom*n’s Officers for sharing their weekly space.

David Shakes, Holly Parrington, Edward McMahon and Elsa Kohane discuss Semester 1, 2014: the year in queer.

There’s more to queer rights than Mardi Gras.

Elsa Kohane, Ed McMahon, Holly Parrington and David Shakes

If you identify as queer – that is, anything  other than “straight” – you may wish to join one of the oldest, most active queer organisations on campus, the Queer Action Collective (QuAC). This collective is a radical community, dedicated to fighting queer oppression at uni and beyond, as well as being an autonomous, anonymous and welcoming social environment and network for queer students.

The collective aims to be a safer accessible space for all queers on campus. We seek to actively challenge queerphobic, sexist, racist and similar attitudes and behaviours within our collective and beyond. The queerspace – a room just for queer students located in the Holme building – is a place to organise, meet, and for members to use however else they choose. Meetings are held here twice a week-  a general meeting at 1pm on Tuesday and an autonomous (that means exclusive) meeting for non cis male identifying queer people at 1pm on Thursday.

Something members of QuAC have been working on, along with other students from universities all over NSW, is a float in this year’s Mardi Gras parade. The theme of the float is “More Than Marriage”, which is in many ways a great representation of the collective.

The Queer rights movement has been recently dominated by a rights-based assimilationist agenda, where equality is sought on the grounds of sameness. Asserting the ‘normality’ of being queer denies what we should truly seek – autonomy and power in difference. While most people now agree that so long as the institution of marriage is available to heteronormative relationships, access to the institution should be granted to non-straight relationships, there are many other important causes within the queer movement that don’t receive anywhere near the amount of attention that “marriage equality” does. They are issues of life and death – things like queer poverty, mental health, and asylum seeking. Yet they do not get as much airtime because they are not promoted by the “pink dollar” and the cis, white, gay men who primarily control it.

The Mardi Gras float aims to show the world that queer students are fighting for more than just marriage equality, and that society should too. The float will promote issues such as transgender rights (“combating the
cis-tem”), protest the fascist immigration policies of the state that operate particularly harshly on queer asylum seekers, protest police violence and brutality against queers (which has specific relevance to Mardi Gras), and advocate for the introduction of queer sexual education in schools. If you’re interested in coming on the float, go here: http://goo.gl/z8M8Xy .

There is plenty more than Mardi Gras happening the first few weeks of semester. To find out more, such as how to find the queerspace, find our stall at O Week, find an officer on Facebook (the Queer Officers for 2014 are Elsa Kohane, Edward McMahon, Holly Parrington and David Shakes), or contact us at queer.officers@src.usyd.edu.au. We hope to see you at the meetings in Week 1!

Challenging Transphobia on Campus

It’s getting more common now to see symbols of support for the queer community, such as rainbows and marriage equality posters. But it’s rare to see something that directly addresses and concerns people who don’t conform to gender stereotypes, and that’s why we were really excited when Cat Rose emailed us about the anti-trans*phobia stickers. We knew they would be a really effective way to make the USyd community think more about trans* and gender-diverse issues, as they advocate for respectful behaviour in bathrooms, and send a clear message that any harassment based on gender presentation is unacceptable and must be reported.

Dishearteningly, people went to extraordinary efforts to remove the stickers, sometimes just hours after we had put them up. They were scratched off, drawn on, and in one case, covered in toilet paper. This behaviour is really disgusting. Now the vandalised stickers send an explicitly queerphobic message, potentially causing gender-diverse people to feel less safe in bathrooms. It is also extremely troubling that most of the vandalism has occurred in the female bathrooms, raising concerns about gender policing in women’s spaces. This is an issue that the Women’s Collective and the Queer Collective intend to jointly address. (EDIT: Unfortunateley, over the past 2 weeks, the stickers in men’s bathrooms have also been vandalised).

We expected the stickers to cause some controversy. Bathrooms breed a culture of ostracism for anyone who doesn’t conform to the gender binary, which is clearly defined by the normative symbols on men’s and women’s bathroom doors. We found that the stickers’ message “I’m here to pee, not to be gender stereotyped” elicited negative reactions in public bathrooms, in an appalling reflection of the trans*phobia in our society.

But the vandalism actually shows that this campaign is working, in the sense that the stickers challenge people to question their assumptions and prejudices about gender stereotypes. It also testifies the reality of these prejudices, sparking anger among allies. We have been approached on numerous occasions by people who want to express their support, and members of the Women’s Collective have been very enthusiastically helping us replace all of the damaged stickers. While this campaign alone can not change our culture, hopefully it will continue to challenge cis-normativity in our society

Eleanor Barz (SRC Queer Officer 2013)

Fahad Ali believes the on campus queer movement is growing strong

As the year is coming to a close, it’s worth reflecting on the achievements of the past year, and turning our attention to building our community further in the future.

At the beginning of the year, we saw the first official University of Sydney Mardi Gras Float, coordinated by the Students’ Representative Council, the University of Sydney Union, SHADES, and the Queer Revue Society.
This was the first time that the University had lent endorsement to a major queer initiative of this type, and the Queer Action Collective (QuAC) found itself not only on the front page of the University website, but also in the Sydney Star Observer.

Around this time, we also put together a submission to the New South Wales Legislative Council’s inquiry into same-sex marriage. The submission, over 7000 words, was one of only about 1000 submissions posted on the State Parliament website, and was quoted in the final report. The Queer Action Collective was the only university-based group to contribute to the inquiry, an achievement for which we are immensely proud.

We’ve been involved in this year’s Pride Festival celebrations, earning ourselves a spot in the SX magazine for our efforts. We’ve worked together with external organisations, such as the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL), the AIDS Council of New South Wales (ACON), Twenty10, and Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) to build a better, more inclusive community.

The Queer Department has also been active in pursuing gender-neutral toilets on campus. Your Queer Officers have been in negotiations with the University on this point, and we have also been pushing for the establishment of a student and staff ally network, similar to those existing at UNSW, Macquarie, UWS, La Trobe, Monash, UTS, and Newcastle, among others.

We have built momentum this year, but we do not intend to stop. In the next year, we hope that QuAC will continue to flourish and grow, and we have helped insure this by laying the groundwork for a strong collective space, and building cooperation between other campus queer groups.

Our campaign in this year’s SRC elections promised to fight for improved mental health services, equity scholarships for queer students, and a well-maintained and well-stocked Queerspace. In order to get this through, we need every bit of support from the community. If you’re interested in helping us out, come join us QuAC meetings every Monday at 1pm in the Queerspace, Holme Building.
Feel free to send us an email as well—we’re a completely safe, confidential, autonomous space, and we’re open to everyone who’s queer or questioning.

Hope to meet you there!

Eleanor Barz looks back on an exciting year in the collective and Fahad Ali reflects on the meaning of the word ‘queer’

The Queer Action Collective (QuAC) has been working hard all year to ensure that Sydney Uni is a great place to be queer. Our main goals are to represent the needs of LGBTIQ students, and to provide a safe, friendly environment for them to make new friends and engage in queer activism.

In March we spent hours together building a cardboard Quadrangle, complete with a clock tower, to create the first official University of Sydney Mardi Gras float. Marching down Oxford Street in our lab coats and academic gowns was definitely one of the most exhilarating experiences that I have had this year, and was a wonderful way to begin my term as Queer Officer.

In 2013 we have been committed to queer women’s issues, working with the Women’s Collective the University of Sydney Union’s Women’s and Queer Events coordinators to establish a Queer Women’s Network. We started out in O-Week by stocking our stall with plenty of material from ACON’s Young Women’s Project. Last semester, we organised a movie night and an afternoon tea at Verge Gallery. Look out for the upcoming autonomous Queer Women’s Tea party (Part II), which will take place this Friday at 2 pm in the Manning Loggia as part of Pride Festival!

Other social events this year included  the fortnightly USU sponsored Queer Beers, a trip to the aquarium (‘Aqueerium’), bake sales, and more!  As you probably know, this week is Pride Festival so be sure to check out the schedule to find out what’s on.

But being a part of the collective isn’t just about making friends and supporting queer students. It’s also a major avenue for student activism. We have organised QuAC contingents at numerous rallies this year, including those against police brutality, the inhumane treatment of refugees, and of course the queerphobic laws banning marriage . In semester one, we collectively wrote a  submission to the NSW Legislative Council inquiry into same-sex marriage, which was published on the Parliament of NSW website and even cited in the resulting report! Over the semester break, we sent almost thirty delegates to the annual Queer Collaborations conference for an intensive week of workshops, conference floor and political action.

Nominations for the 2014 Queer Officer positions are currently open to anyone who is a current queer-identifying undergraduate student, and who has attended at least three QuAC meetings this year. If you have any questions about the role or how to nominate, then either email us or come to our meetings at 1 pm on Mondays in the Queerspace (Holme Building). As always, new members are more than welcome!

Eleanor Barz

We are all queer by choice.

There is a significant and under appreciated distinction between LGBTI and queer. Being LGBTI is an intrinsic, immutable property of the self—certainly subject to fluidity, but wholly involuntary.

I am a gay man, and I understand this to mean (in the context of myself), that I am sexually and romantically attracted to people who are male-bodied. But, like my love for Lianne La Havas or my aversion to blue cheese, my identity as a homosexual really says more about what I’m into rather than who I am as a person—it doesn’t define me in the slightest.

My identity as queer is something more substantial, and one that I am more proud of. Queer is a political identity, one that is defined in opposition to the heteropatriarchy and the structures that oppress us. Queer is resistance; it is a constant challenge to the social hegemony that divides us into worthy and unworthy, accepted and estranged.
In our context, our sexualities and our sexual and/or gender identities are constructed as ‘abnormal’. That is what lies at the heart of our identity as queer—it’s an affirmation of our existence as deviant and different.

But we are an extraordinary community. It was political and activist mobilisation of the gay and lesbian community that effectively shattered widespread social stigma and often-violent homophobic prejudice and discrimination and suppressed the AIDS epidemic.

An overview of the radical history of the gay liberation movement would be a lengthy piece in itself, but one does not need to look far to find authentication for the effectiveness of direct action in achieving social change.

We have overcome so many challenges, some that at the time seemed insurmountable, but we now face the threat of social conservatism—an insidious, destructive force that is obsessed with immobilizing progress, restricting freedom, and limiting a heterogeneity of expression
An absolute stasis of social structures is infeasible, which is why conservatives have excised the G, L, and the B from LGBTI, and extended an olive branch to a small circle of middle-class homosexuals who pose minimal threat to guarded social structures.

But we must resist. We cannot allow ourselves to become subject to the whims of the social conservatives. Marriage equality will be won in the same way as the suffragette and civil rights movements: on the streets, with rallies, together as one community. It may even be delivered in the term of a conservative government, as it was in Britain. But we must never make the mistake of supporting a conservative agenda, or going to lengths to appease these fundamentalists. The truth is that this virulent strain of faux-progressive conservatism affords equality to only part our community. What is to become of the poly, intersex, and sex and gender diverse communities? They will be left behind, excluded and oppressed.

An injury to one is an injury to all—as long as there are people in the queer community who are being marginalised by prevailing social norms, I will continue to show solidarity with my fellow queers and challenge those structures that hold us down.

The theme of this year’s Pride Festival is ‘pride, passion, power’. Let us take pride in our community, and remember that our passion and power will deliver us a better world, as long as we stand united.

Fahad Ali

Fahad Ali reports on the latest queer news on campus

The University of Sydney Pride Festival is coming our way: a spectacular, week-long burst of energy and colour on campus to celebrate our queer community. It’s on from 16th to the 20th of September, and here are some of the highlights.

On Sunday the 15th, join us at 12:30 on Eastern Ave for the first Queer March! It’s own little (less corporate and more exciting) Mardi Gras. We’ll parade our colours down Carillon Avenue, followed by celebrations in Camperdown Memorial Rest Park.

The Queer Honi Launch Party will kick off at the Verge Gallery at 6:00 pm on Tuesday the 17th. Celebrate the launch of the annual queer edition of Honi Soit, Australia’s oldest student newspaper—the most fabulous edition of the year. At 10:00 pm on Friday, SHADES will be holding ‘Super Queer-os’ at Zanzibar in Newtown, celebrating the end of Pride Festival and the superheroes of the queer community.

Beyond Pride Festival, look out for the University of Sydney Union’s Glitter Gala on October 10th. It’s a celebration of the queer community on campus, and includes a three-course dinner with drinks, and tickets are available from the Access Desk (Level 1, Manning House).

Parties are pretty great, which is why between the SRC’s Queer Department, the USU’s Queer Coordinator program, and SHADES, we’re holding so many! But when you’re out having a good time, make sure you’re aware of your rights, especially if you’re using illicit substances.

It is illegal for police to conduct a strip search without a warrant or reasonable suspicion. Sniffer dogs only warrant a search if they sit down next to you—it is not enough for them to simply sniff you. They cannot conduct a cavity search. It must be conducted in private, and they must tell you their name, command, and the reason for the search.
If someone is having an overdose, call 000 and you will not get in trouble. Ambos and medics will not call the police or report you. They’re there to save lives, so be up front and honest. People have died because emergency wasn’t called in fear of being caught out. Remember, call an ambulance and you will not get in trouble.

Police brutality, illegal searches, and misconduct are common, especially at large queer events. ACON’s Rover team works to help make sure that people are staying safe at parties, and legal observers from the Inner City Legal Centre (ICLC) make sure that police are acting by the book. If you suspect police misconduct, contact the ACONAnti-Violence Project or the ICLC and they’ll provide you with advice and support.

The SRC supports the full legalisation of all drugs. Drug use can be safe, as long as you’re informed and know what you’re doing. If you need any information, get in touch with the queer officers and we’ll be happy to direct you to the resources you need.

Eve Radunz speaks about the culture of sexual harrassment at university

The latest audit of the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) found that 27% of female students had experienced sexual harassment or assault, compare this to the 67% of female students who’ve had unwanted sexual experiences at civilian universities (from the National Union of Students ‘Talk About It Survey’). This disparity is incredibly alarming given the appalling treatment of women in the armed forces which is seemingly ingrained in the culture of national defence. The audit details the way in which the ADFA has made steps to change the culture of assault in the army; including a residential support program to increase supervision and information to residential cadets, an unacceptable behaviour survey which streamlines the reporting system for leaders and allows for swift action to be taken, and the development of an evidence-based sexual ethics induction program. Of course this is not a complete reflection of the armed forces, it applies only to the training of cadets, however if these important values and knowledge of what constitutes sexual misbehaviour are carried into the defence force by young cadets being trained up by the ADFA then the way forward looks a lot clearer.

Now let’s take a look at the culture of sexual harassment and assault in Australian civilian universities: women are being pressured, bullied and raped during college hazing; slut shaming and victim blaming is profuse; and on-campus safety methods and procedures are inadequate. The truth is that we are being educated in a dangerous environment and the fact that this is not being proactively addressed by our university administrations or our government is a testament to how sexual harassment is seen as an incurable disease of the human population. If this is what we are learning in university then how are we meant to shake that when we leave? We need to develop comprehensive reporting systems, we need to create convincing induction programs, we need to put the onus back onto the perpetrator and support the victim, and we need to do it now.

harrassment.officers@src.usyd.edu.au

 

Eleanor Barz and Fahad Ali are expecting an exciting semester

Hi! Below is the Queer Officer Honi report.

This will be an exciting semester for QuAC. We are looking to expand our visibility and establish a gateway for people who might just have come to terms with their identity, or are looking for a queer campus group to join.

It’s a sad fact that the collective isn’t very visible. For many prospective USYD students, the most prominent face of community involvement is the University of Sydney Union’s Clubs and Societies program. If you skim through the USU C&S listing for LGBTIQ clubs, you’ll find the Queer Revue Society but you might miss SHADES. And if neither performing nor the party scene are for you, the collective might seem like the only alternative.

But not everyone can just throw themselves into a collective head-first, especially if they’re not out or are still confused about their identity. And that’s why we’re setting up a new gateway: the Queer Student Alliance society. It’s going to be registered with the Clubs and Societies program, and will bring together both queers and allies to promote community awareness, visibility, and present itself as the low-key, social alternative to SHADES.

QSA isn’t about replacing the collective or SHADES—it’s about providing an environment in which students can learn more about themselves to gain the confidence to branch out into activism or the high-energy SHADES parties. It’s about boosting involvement in existing community groups, rather than leaching members from them. The IGM will be held on Friday, 30th of August at 5:00 pm in the Badham Room in the Holme Building, and we urge everyone, including allies, to attend.

We are also determined to reach out to female-identified queer students at USYD. It is a common experience among same-sex attracted women to attend an LGBTIQ event only to find themselves sadly outnumbered and potentially disappointed. But as last semester’s hugely successful ‘It’s a Girl Thing’ tea party confirmed, there is no shortage of enthusiasm for queer women’s events. Over the next few months a women’s planning group will meet regularly to ensure that the fun continues this semester. On Wednesday in week 6, we’ll be screening The Itty Bitty Titty Committee in the International Student Lounge – be sure to contact us if you’re interested in getting involved in organizing future events!

queer.officers@src.usyd.edu.au