Whose Street, Our Street: LGBT Activists Reclaim Oxford Street

Whose Street, Our Street: LGBT Activists Reclaim Oxford Street
Image: Activists Marching through Oxford Street on Saturday Night. Image: Justin Cooper

Hundreds gathered along the historic Oxford Street over the weekend, protesting the rise of anti-LGBT rhetoric and to reclaim queer safe-spaces across the street.

On Saturday night, activist groups Pride in Protest, National Union of Students and USYD Queer Action Collective were joined by community activists and allies marching down the street.

The “protest and party” is in reaction to the multiple homophobic assaults on the street and increasing transphobic rhetoric from far-right groups. Protesters are calling for the state Government to provide support for queer communities and to fast-track the tabled Equality Bill.

“Fight For Our Rights”

Queer Action Collective member and organiser, Jamie Bridge, spoke on the lack of support from various institutions for queer community.

Affirming the need to support unions and activist groups, Bridge said, “The cops, the government and corporations do not care about queer people. They never have and they never will.”

Jamie Bridge speaking at the rally. Image: Justin Cooper

Bridge noted the recent rise in far-right nazi groups and the passing of religious vilification bill, as representing the lack of support for queer communities. They explained the state governments need to further recognise queer rights and implement trans inclusive measures.

“Queer people are amongst one the worst affected by the housing crisis, with no end in sight. Gender affirming healthcare remains criminally over priced and underfunded, and NSW remains the only state to gatekeeper gender affirming ID,” Bridge explained.

“Indeed it is up to us, the community, to protect [ourselves] and fight for our rights.”

With the march honouring the first Mardi Gras in 1978, Co-Chair for First Mardi Gras Inc, Ken Davis, spoke out in support of a protest forming on the street once again.

Ken Davis speaking at the rally. Image: Justin Cooper

Recalling the events from the first Mardi Gras and struggles towards progressing LGBT rights, Davis encouraged the protesters to continue pushing for support and recognition.

“It’s the power of the social movements within these streets that changes things,” said Davis.

Supporting Drag Artists And Sex Workers

Activist and sex worker, Charlie Murphy, spoke about their personal experience of discrimination within the industry and the necessity for change.

“We are being attacked; not just on the street, not just at places where we enjoy ourselves and express who we are, but the places where we make money to go home and pay our rent,” they said.

Speaking from their personal experience within the industry, Murphy explains the need for the government to recognise the discrimination against sex workers.

“We face discrimination in the types of employment that we get if we choose to leave sex-work. So many sex workers have civilian jobs in which they can not say that they are a sex-worker for fear of being fired,” Murphy explained.

Charlie Murphy speaking at the rally. Image: Justin Cooper

Referring to the Equality Bill recently introduced by MP Alex Grennwich, Murphys says the bill’s proposed amendments to the NSW anti-discrimination act to include sex workers would help provide protections.

“Us being on this street tonight, we are saying we will not wait. Pass the Bill immediately,” said Murphy.

Along with many Drag performers in the crowd, Drag Race Down Under star and celebrated performer Pomara Fifth marched and spoke during the protest.

Speaking to Star Observer, Fifth describes a recent “diminish” in numbers of people helping progress Queer rights and issues.

Pomara Fifth speaking at the rally. Image: Justin Cooper

Referring to their speech made earlier in the night, Fifth says it’s time the community join as a “collective” and push the message of “love is love.”

“People that are judging us don’t see it that way, but that doesn’t mean that we should join them. By doing that, we educate, we learn, we grow.”

Calling out for others within the community and allies, Pomara says it is currently crucial that marginalised groups receive support.

“We have really important bills coming up in parliament, [for] the aboriginal movement and the queer movement. Now is the time that we need the support, we need the people, we need the numbers,” Pomara explains.

Protesters are pushing for the Equality bill to be instated immediately. The Bill aims to provide recognition and support for the community, with measures to prohibit gay conversion practices and provide sex workers protections against discrimination.

NSW Government is expected to debate the Equality Bill at the end of the year.

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