Community hero: Lee Carnie, human rights lawyer and LGBTI advocate

Community hero: Lee Carnie, human rights lawyer and LGBTI advocate
Image: Lee Carnie with Star Observer editor Matthew Wade / Image: Supplied.

Each month we’ll champion two amazing drag queens, DJs, or community heroes in the gay scene. This week: Lee Carnie, lawyer for the Human Rights Law Centre and LGBTI activist.

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What do you love about Australia’s LGBTI community?

Our diversity – Australia’s LGBTI community comes from all walks of life with a range of experiences to share. We’re visible and proud and take every opportunity to celebrate our community in all our shapes and forms.

 What motivates you to get involved?

​Seeing the impact of our advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre keeps me motivated – all the wedding invites since marriage equality, our clients’ relief at having their convictions expunged, parents of trans kids no longer having to get dragged through the courts to access basic medical treatment, people finally changing the gender marker on their birth certificates to reflect who they are – that’s what keeps me going.

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

There are so many issues we’ll be working on – adoption equality and equal access to IVF and surrogacy across all Australia, putting an end to medically unnecessary surgeries on intersex kids, gay conversion therapy and hate crime, fairer anti-discrimination and birth certificate laws, and basic dignity and respect for LGBTI refugees. It’s going to be a busy year for LGBTI rights.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Every day is different. I could be in meetings with important stakeholders, in court, writing submissions or reports, at Parliament House, running a training, flying around Australia, monitoring UN reporting, talking to clients.

There’s a lot to be done to remove every last stain of discrimination from Australia’s laws.

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

Anna Brown has always been my LGBTI hero – I feel very privileged that I now get to work with her.

Anna puts in countless hours behind the scenes to make our laws fairer and more equal for LGBTI Australians. She does a lot of challenging work that doesn’t get public recognition but is essential to achieving law reform, all in service of the LGBTI community.

Favourite LGBTI venue?

How could I possibly choose? Hares & Hyenas because I’m a total nerd who loves hard copy books, and I love how Midsumma Festival makes venues more LGBTIQ+ inclusive and friendly each year.

Favourite LGBTI anthem?

Sia’s “Unstoppable”.

Best pride moment?

I was really emotional when I saw my mum and dad at the first rally after the postal survey was announced last year. My mum is Malaysian-Chinese and grew up in a country where same-sex activity is still a crime today.

I was so intensely proud of her for attending her first ever rally and making the journey over many years to support marriage equality. It was fabulous to see everyone bedecked in rainbow colours showing their solidarity, fighting spirit, and chutzpah.

Advice for young LGBTI people?

Be kind. Finding your place and figuring out where you belong is difficult, made even harder when we’re not accepted for who we are. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to your friends, partners, and strangers at LGBTI+ events. Be kind to people who have a harder time fitting in or being heard. We’re all looking for community, and none of us are perfect.

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