Apparently the LGBTQIA community has an extremely short memory, because how else could the Liberal party have marched in the Mardi Gras parade this year?
Has everyone forgotten the horror that was the marriage equality vote? There were various reports into how the vote affected our community, but no report can quantify the tears around dinner tables, the long hugs between barely known colleagues, or the pain of scrolling through internet news feeds filled with hate.
Seeing Turnbull in our parade is astonishing in the wake of the marriage vote. Not only because the Liberals had the audacity to march in our parade, but because they are also trying to take credit for marriage equality in Australia.
At the Fair Day event they had a sign stating “2017 Turnbull Liberal Government legislates marriage equality”. I wonder, how can anyone stand to read that sentence?
And yet, the Liberal party was celebrated at Mardi Gras by other people in the parade and by the crowd. Well, celebrated by most people.
There was a voice of dissent this year. A group of activists under the auspices of “The Department of Homo Affairs” disrupted the parade and then marched the whole route in front of the Liberal party with the sign “Turn back the float. Justice for refugees”.
This was in solidarity with refugees who Australia is sending offshore. It was also in response to the #SanctionAustralia call from RISE: Refugee Survivors and eX-Detainees.
The spokesperson said that the crowd was receptive to their message, with an elder queer shouting “make the Mardi Gras political again”.
This was clearly the aim of The Department of Homo Affairs, and it was in the tradition of queer protest that is humorous as well as political. They were dressed as Border Force agents and their flyer had such quips as “We will decide who CUMS here, and the circumstances in which they CUM”.
The Liberal party forcing the LGBTQIA community into a horrendous vote is just one of its atrocities. Its treatment of refugees is something that our community needs to stand against.
Some people do not have the luxury of a short memory. We have people in our community for whom marriage equality does not change their reality of violence and discrimination. And for the refugees left in torturous conditions, right now, forgetting is not an option.
As a community we need our collective memory not just for ourselves – though clearly the narrative the Liberals are spinning is a lie. We also need a collective response to the treatment of refugees.
Mardi Gras started as a protest as well as a celebration and that is what it still should be. Next year let’s hope there are more people disrupting the Liberals. In fact, let’s demand that the Liberals are not there at all.
Jessica Ison is a Tutor and PhD candidate at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at La Trobe University.