The City of Sydney, NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, along with a number of other partners are co-hosting a forum exploring sexuality, sex and gender diversity in multicultural communities, called Sharing our Stories.

It is an open invitation to the community to share, listen and learn from our stories and contribute to the reshaping of our communities by learning from each other.

One of my personal stories of experiencing difference was when my Catholic schoolteacher once yelled at me, “Close the door, its freezing! Were you born in a tent?” I innocently replied, “Yes, in a Red Cross tent in a refugee camp during the Khmer Rouge Genocide.”

My teacher, mortified and embarrassed, went on the offensive accusing me of calling her racist. My classmates stared at me as if I had just grown horns. This is a story of where difference lead to division through misunderstanding.

While I have left those hideous green blazers and yellow ties behind, incidents like these, have become a permanent fixture in my life. For those whose experiences are similar, there is always the temptation to become angry. Anger however, is only useful when tempered with hope. And hope alone is nothing but an emotional response to protect us from despair. But when anger and hope are combined with action, we create change. The Sharing our Stories Forum is one of these actions.

Having worked and played in some of the world’s biggest gay meccas, from London to Paris to Tokyo, I have learnt that every city and community has its quirks regarding diversity.

The greatest lesson I have learnt is that diversity is not about tolerance. It is also not about acceptance of difference. To say so would be to undermine the responsibility of all of us as civilized people to engage, learn from and in turn come to respect one another.

Diversity is about the evolution of humanity, the possibility of a better world.

info: Sharing our Stories Forum: Tuesday, December 14 at 5.30pm at 37 Reservoir St, Surry Hills. RSVP to Maria on 02 9246 7312 or mchan@cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au

By RATHANA CHEA, NSW GLRL

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