Each month we’ll champion two amazing drag queens, DJs, or community heroes in the gay scene. This week: Felicity Marlowe, Executive Director of Rainbow Families Victoria.

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What do you love about Australia’s LGBTI community?

My lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, gender diverse, queer, and intersex elders, and I absolutely love the new work being done to celebrate and commemorate those incredible people who paved the way for the rest of us.

What motivates you to speak out about LGBTI rights?

In the carefree days of the early noughties before (my partner) Sarah and I had children, we needed to work out how it was even possible to start a family in Victoria. Once we worked out just how few options there were, and how little legal protection we would have had as parents, we were horrified. It was obvious to both of us we needed to get organised to make change, so we established the Love Makes A Family campaign in 2004, and I’ve continued to advocate for rainbow families ever since.

What area do we need to focus on at the moment?

I have a top three at the moment: birth certificate reform for our trans and gender diverse community, ceasing medical intervention on intersex infants, and ensuring our education system, from early childhood to primary and secondary schools, is inclusive, welcoming, and values our LGBTI, gender diverse, and non-binary young people.

What can you tell us about your Being Rainbow Ready events?

Sending your precious bundle off to childcare or their first day of school for the first time can give you a huge sense of relief, but can also make you rather anxious at the same time. Our rainbow families are full of parents and carers with diverse lived expertise willing to share their excellent tips so, instead of relying on social media, we have created a series of community workshops to share how you chose the childcare centre best suited for your child. You can check out our website (www.rainbowfamilies.org.au) for upcoming forums near you.

Who do you see as an LGBTI hero in the community?

I have always been awed by Sally Goldner’s tenacity in her advocacy for trans and bi communities and by intersex advocates like Tony Briffa who stand up for their communities again and again in very public ways. But my ‘everyday hero’ winners are actually the parents and carers in rainbow families who are quietly upsetting the gendered status quo about how families are formed by advocating for their children every single day in all sorts of ways.

Favourite LGBTI venue?

Victoria’s LGBTI Hares and Hyenas bookshop on Johnston St, Fitzroy. Rowland and Crusader not only sell a fabulous selection of children’s books but they also provide a safe haven for so many in the community who need a place to meet or hold community events. It was my home away from home during the postal survey and they make a great coffee too.

Favourite LGBTI anthem?

At the moment it’s between “Black Tie” by Grace Petrie which my non-binary child knows off by heart and “I’m Coming Out”, a family favourite for a living room boogie.

Best Pride moment?

Watching my kids stand up at their primary school assembly on the Monday before the postal survey result day was a standout Pride moment. They each gave a rousing heartfelt speech thanking the school, their teachers, and their friends for supporting them through the postal survey and then went on to explain to everyone that even if was it was a No result they knew they were loved – there was not a dry eye in the courtyard that morning.

Advice for young LGBTI people?

I have two of my own so it is hard not to sound too much like a mum but I do believe that one day we all find our ‘people’. It might take longer if you are stuck in a school that is unsafe or a community where you can’t see anyone like you but just hold on to that thought  – we truly are everywhere. And the wonderful Switchboard (QLIFE) is there for anyone, so my advice to any young person feeling particularly isolated is to give Switchboard a call on 1800 184 527.

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