When Benjamin Law published his quarterly essay, Moral Panic 101, Australia was in the midst of the same sex marriage postal vote. Although it was only five years ago, it almost feels like a different world – concerned mothers spouting right wing talking points during every ad break, social media bombarding us with local queerphobic graffiti and attacks, and the looming thought that maybe, after everything, we wouldn’t even win.
Nowadays though, most of Australia would think that we’re past all that homophobia. Marriage equality passed and is here to stay, what else is there to do? This is what Benjamin Law will be exploring in his curated event, The Fights Ahead, one of four Queer Thinking panels happening as part of the 2021 Mardi Gras festival.
As one of Australia’s most prominent queers, Law is well placed to host Queer Thinking. His memoir, The Family Law, and its subsequent SBS adaptation is unlike anything that has been done for queer Asian youth, and his writing for page, news, and screen continues to challenge and delight. Moral Panic 101 charted the saga of the Safe Schools program, from the literal hundreds of disparaging articles from publications like The Australian, to the queer kids who became victims of the right’s obsessive campaign to eradicate any semblance of LGBTQI discussion in schools. Safe Schools and the “cultural Marxist” plot to turn kids gay isn’t in the news as much anymore, but the same sentiment of queerness spreading rampant among Australia’s youth still remains, this time in the form of the “transgender agenda” and “alphabet mafia.”
“I thought this was a good opportunity to take stock of where we are post-marriage equality,” Ben said of the event. “It’s a chance to look at where we are legally in terms of trans rights in New South Wales and Australia, culture wars with trans youth, legal access… even things like ageing, which most of us don’t even think about. It’s kind of like laying out a map for where we’re going next.”
He agrees that many would regard same sex marriage to be the final frontier of gay rights in Australia, something he considers a “myopic” view.
“I’m looking forward to having conversations that we kind of ignored for years because so much of the focus was on marriage equality.”
Of course, not all of LGBTQI inequality and injustice comes from Sky News commentators and Liberal party pollies. For many of us, the violence is coming from inside the house. There’s plenty of misogyny, transphobia, racism, and anti-blackness spread around by other queers, making spaces that should be safe and inclusive anything but.
“We’re getting better at assuming that not all queer people are facing the same struggles, especially in terms of disability and gender,” Ben said. “Our asset is our diversity. LGBTQIA+ is a mouthful, but I think it’s a great thing that we’re striving to include those differences.”
Ben will be joined by writer Liz Duck Chong, CEO of Equality Australia Anna Brown, and co-convenor of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby Jack Whitney, with more panellists still to be announced.