Lateral violence has been described as the organised, harmful behaviours oppressed groups exhibit to one another. We repeat and magnify our original oppression by intensely focusing on the negative; twisting information, making assumptions and drawing fear-based conclusions until someone has been labelled ‘bad’ and ‘wrong’. Once the labelling has happened, the attack begins.
The recent debate surrounding the ALSO SGM is an example of the behaviour we can exhibit in the face of the larger challenges that beset our community.The public campaign challenging ALSO and its leadership has been conducted with a lack of accountability, involving misinformation and distortion of the truth.
A lack of real engagement with ALSO, or knowledge of the complexity of the issues it has confronted, has facilitated the acceptance of ‘facts’ that are patently untrue.
Committed volunteers have been publicly vilified. Some supporters have been placed under such intense pressure it has impacted on their health. In some instances, our community’s media have been complicit in fanning the flames of the ensuing hysteria.
Few of the issues at the heart of the debate are contested: that more needs to be done for the older members of our community; that more volunteers are needed; or that streamlining of ALSO needs to occur. Action has been happening on all of these fronts.
Our community is diverse and multi-faceted, passionate and, at times, fractured. What unites us is a history of continuing invisibility at best, and outright attack at worst. The struggle for full acknowledgement, support and acceptance is largely a struggle with the mainstream, not with each other.
The strategy developed by ALSO over many years has been straightforward, though high risk. By building capacity, profile and credibility with government and other sectors by investing heavily in the short term, ALSO has aimed to establish itself as a representative peak body to support, coordinate and contribute to the systemic changes that will enable our community to develop in the longer term.
Given reliance on existing resources was always going to be unsustainable in the long term, this strategy required trust, but it also requires community support underpinned by a shared commitment to a longer-term vision.
If that commitment is no longer shared by the membership, clearly ALSO does not have a future defined by its current vision.
If, however, member support for this vision continues and detractors instead used their influence to support ALSO — by mobilising community support through volunteerism, membership or donations; or by helping lobby governments regarding their ethical duties towards our community — this ambitious but achievable agenda might get closer to being realised.
Instead, ALSO’s limited resources have gone into defending against attack rather than being used to focus on the main game. People who otherwise might have supported ALSO’s work have been discouraged through confusion, suspicion, or fear of personal attack; government departments that have confidently funded ALSO’s work may soon have no choice but to put their money elsewhere, perhaps never to return; and the collective lobbying efforts for a funded peak body, if successful, may soon be without the preferred organisation through which those resources might be channelled The very significant and different needs of our community won’t go away, and neither will the widely accepted need for a coordinating peak body to advocate for and deliver services to our community.
If a more shortsighted agenda is favoured at the expense of longer-term strategies to remedy the historical and continuing discrimination we face, then I believe our community will be poorer for the experience.
I will not be involved in the future governance of ALSO, but I am hopeful that, regardless of the SGM outcome, the community will regroup and focus on working more constructively together rather than continuing to tear itself apart — for the benefit of all of us
— Jason Rostant
Fmr president, board and committee member

The Laird Hotel would like to make it known that in no way did it have any input into the decision to cancel the Melbourne Leather Pride (MLP) Leather Fair.
We were left in the position on Sunday of having to respond to numerous phone calls and door-knocks to explain the situation. While there was time to make note in last week’s SSO, MLP could have made some announcement via their website, newsletter, Facebook or JOY 94.9 to reach the broader community.
The Laird was only advised on Monday, April 11 at 4pm via email from MLP stating:
“We … were taking the weekend to assess whether we should go ahead with the event. Because of the short lead we have had so little response that it is not financially viable for us to put on the event during the 2011 Festival. We have cancelled the event in the paper and will be running ads for the events instead.”
We find that a lack of lead time as a reason for cancelling the event less than one week out is poor reasoning, given that the festival was being planned back in November.
— Mark and Brett
The Laird

I congratulate Cr Simon Curtis.
Homophobia has a significant impact on a young person’s health and wellbeing, increasing their likelihood of self-harm and suicidal behaviour. The It Gets Better campaign encourages community members to share messages of acceptance — what’s wrong with that?
Headspace promotes acceptance of sexual orientation and gender diversity. One huge step in making this happen is to introduce equal marriage rights, ending social exclusion and giving all Australians the same basic rights.
Sharing messages of hope and acceptance make a difference, and so does taking a stand against those who choose to stand by idly. Well done, Cr Curtis, keep up the good work.
— Chris Tanti,
CEO headspace

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