In August 1970, Resistance held its first national conference at the University of New South Wales. Bringing together young people from across Australia, the conference passed resolutions against the Vietnam War, in support of the rights of minority groups around the world and in support of the women's liberation movement. In the 40 years since, Resistance has been part of social movements that have had many victories.
But, as the agenda for the Resistance 2010 national conference shows, fighting against injustice and discrimination is just as relevant and necessary today. "Resistance 2010: the World can't Wait!" is taking place in Thirroul (near Wollongong, NSW) over April 24-26. It will feature three activists leading campaigns for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people. This will be timely, as 2010 has been declared a national year of protest for marriage equality.
Rachel Evans is a secretary of Sydney Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) and has spent much of the past six years fighting for same-sex marriage rights. She was recently preselected as a Socialist Alliance Senate candidate in the upcoming federal elections. Evans told Green Left Weekly the grassroots movement for marriage equality had "won significant concessions" over the last few years.
"We now have three registration schemes in Australia and a civil union scheme in the ACT. Under pressure, the federal ALP government eradicated 85 federally discriminatory laws. But there's still not 100% equality", she said. Both the Labor and Liberal parties remain at odds with majority opinion in Australia. A 2009 Galaxy poll found that 60% of Australians agree that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.
The statistics are even more striking among young people: 74% of 16-24 year-olds agreed. Protests held last year in support of equal marriage rights were some of the biggest in the history of the queer rights struggle in Australia. "In Spain, Canada, Mexico City and Argentina, among other places, queers can get married and society has not disintegrated." Evans said the biggest barriers to winning equal marriage rights are government homophobia and the political weight of the Christian right. "Also, the fact that groups that should be supporting the National Year of Action for Marriage Equality won't be, because it is an election year, and they don't want to put the ALP under political pressure, having tied their political fortunes to Labor", she said.
She stressed the importance of coming out into the streets to protest. "We still have many battles ahead: We have not won marriage equality, and we can't stop until we do."
Norrie is a long-time queer rights activist who, for a brief moment last month, won the right to be legally recognised as genderless, in what may have been a world first. Norrie had to provide the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages with confirmation from doctors that zie (gender-neutral pronoun) could not be categorised as either male or female.
In early March, after months of bureaucratic hurdles, Norrie won the right to have "non gender specific" written on zie's birth certificate.
This set a historic precedent for intersex people. However, on March 16, after the news made international headlines and support flooded in from around the world, Norrie was contacted by the registry and told the certificate would be revoked.
Norrie told GLW it appeared "'approved and finalised' (to quote the registry's cover letter on my certification) no longer means approved or finalised". The March 19 Sydney Morning Herald said the registry's back-flip was the result of "advice" from the attorney-general's office.
Norrie, along with a range of activist groups and individuals, has lodged a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission. In 2009, the commission recommended to government that the law affecting intersex people be reformed. "I am optimistic that my certification will be re-validated. The government's position is ambivalent", Norrie said.
Norrie will be performing at the Resistance conference, including zie's song "Choose Freedom", which has recently become a hit on Youtube.com with more than 100,000 views.
The Resistance conference will also be addressed by Conor Montgomery, a queer rights activist and trans man fighting to have his gender recognised on his birth certificate. Montgomery began hormone treatment to become a man more than two years ago.
His passport has his gender as male but the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages refuses to change his birth certificate unless he has genital surgery.
This mixed status makes it impossible for him to marry under Australia's homophobic laws. Montgomery told the April 8 Sydney Morning Herald, "I know a lot of [trans] people like me … especially in my age group who can't have further surgeries [for medical reasons].
“I mean, we are a small percentage of the population but I think it's inhumane to force anyone into sterilisation. Does it make me more of a man? I don't believe it does."
Montgomery has also filed a complaint against the state and federal governments for discrimination. Montgomery will be speaking at a workshop on campaigning for LGBTI rights along with Steaphan Markotany, co-convener of CAAH. [For more information about the Resistance conference.]