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

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