A “Rainbow Rights Roundtable” on July 16 discussed how better to support LGBTIQ rights.
Organised by the newly-formed Rainbow Rights Coalition, it heard from Naarm/Melbourne’s Rainbow Community Angels’ Claire Flynn and Flis Marlowe; Drew Bowie, author of The Studwall Riot and organiser from the Trans and Gender Diverse Blue Mountains group; Miranda from Illawarra Friends of Rainbow Story Time; a representative from the Coalition of Queer Organisations in Muloobinba/Newcastle; and Greens Inner West councillor Liz Atkins.
Marlowe said the Rainbow Community Angels (RCA), a grassroots, community-led, safety initiative, formed in May after transphobe Kellie-Jay Keen Minshull’s (Posie Parker) tour. Leading up to International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, the media was campaigning for councils to cancel drag story time events in response to threats from right-wing groups.
“These people were calling library staff ‘groomers’ and ‘pedophiles’. It was horrendous. Ten councils cancelled their drag story-telling shows. When the Lethem Library, sadly, had to cancel theirs, we were prepared. We met the librarians; we visited the library and we worked with Frock Hudson, the drag performer scheduled to read on the day.”
Marlowe said 60 Rainbow Community Angels were trained in 10 weeks. We formed “smiling, happy, disciplined rainbow lines against the far-right” and to shield families and library staff.
“Our Angel mobilisation was a huge success. We had 200 of us, great music to dance to, wonderful storytelling, and with just 49 haters counter-protesting.”
Bowie reported that Trans and Gender Diverse Blue Mountains started by organising community picnics, clothing swaps and cake bake-offs. When Nazis threatened a bake-off, they were supported by Dykes on Bikes and the Blue Mountains City Council.
“The Nazis turned up to a council meeting to intimidate it into cancelling an event, which did not succeed. We are building numbers and are adamant that if our events are cancelled by a venue or council, we will do it anyway.”
In Tharawal/Wollongong, a neo-Nazi group has plastered stickers and posters around Wollongong city. “When the far right threatened to cancel drag storytelling, we organised a public event outside the Thirroul Library,” Miranda said. “We asked all the small businesses in the area to support us, which most did. It was an empowering experience: about 100 people attended. Now our community is more organised.”
The representative from the Muloobinba coalition reported that the far-right, anti-vax and freedom movement is “very organised” there and that two Cessnock councillors are members of the reactionary anti-trans group MyPlace.
“We are defending drag story times. Timberlina, a local drag queen, first called a mass mobilisation to support the drag story and, through social media networks, it was built. Around 200 people attended.
“From there, LGBTIQ groups began to organise and ensure all future events were defended. We brought a lot of people to the table, briefing them on the threat, and making sure Timberlina was defended going to and from the event.
“We didn’t need a mass mobilisation every time; we just need to make sure the event is safe for the families and people showing up.”
Atkins said the Inner West Council continues to show its support for trans rights: Pride Square in Newtown; three trans and gender diverse swimming events; and Pride events during the World Pride.
Atkins said the Christian Right still comes to Pride Square and the police aren’t helpful. “When the right threatened the swimming events, Council enlisted Dykes on Bikes for security. Council unanimously passed a motion to organise a drag storytelling event and we are working with community organisations to keep it safe.”
Josh Pallas from the NSW Civil Liberties Council said Labor’s support for the religious discrimination bill risked LGBTIQ rights.
Cris Bernart, from Fruits from Brazil which works with LGBTIQ migrants from Brazil, said: “We know we have to keep active to push back against the right-wing”.
Yasmina from Parents for Trans Youth Equity spoke about her child who had transitioned at the age of four. “The gender-affirming schooling and health care options were so few we are planning on selling our home in case our child needed to access private schooling and private health care.”
[A Community Rally for Rainbow Rights rally to Defend Trans rights and stop the religious discrimination bill is being organised for August 5. Sign Pride in Protest’s Open Letter: Stand up for Drag Performers.]