Positive directions for queer students


By Troy Dunn

ADELAIDE — Queer Collaborations (QC), the annual gathering of transgender, lesbian, bisexual and gay student activists, converged at Flinders University July 5-10. It was attended by 270 people from a broad range of backgrounds.

A variety of political views were debated, but there was agreement among many participants that there needs to be a more active and political focus among queer student networks.

One of the contentious issues was the place of bisexual people in queer activism. Some participants felt that bisexual people are somehow "less oppressed" as gays and lesbians because they sometimes choose to engage in heterosexual activity.

Some participants argued the separatist position that transgender and transsexual people have "their own" issues apart from those of "women born women" and are therefore not part of the women's liberation movement.

Another debate was around the focus and demands for the conference action, held on July 7. Agreement was reached the night before that the Australian Democrats should be targeted because of their reactionary stance on the GST and the common youth allowance. But the conference "logistics committee", dominated by moderate students, unilaterally changed the route of the rally to avoid the Democrats' office.

Despite such debates, factional differences at the conference were raised in an open manner and many interesting topics were discussed. Plenaries and workshops covered areas such as the issues facing disabled queer people, queer students and the common youth allowance, sexual assault and writing policy for the National Union of Students to better reflect the interests of queer students.

The conference showed that many queer students were open to socialist politics. Many participants were very critical of the commercialisation of queer sexuality, for example in Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, and were looking for a more radical focus for queer activism.

One of the most positive aspects was the resolution passed in the conference's final session that the role of capitalism as the source of sexism and the oppression of queer people be seriously examined at next year's QC, to be held at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst.

[Troy Dunn is the sexuality officer for the Southern Cross University Student Representative Council and a member of Resistance.]