Thursday, 27 November 2008

Monday, 17 November 2008

Rally: Repeal the Same Sex Marriage Ban

This Saturday 22nd
Speakout and Petition Handover in support of Gay Marriage
12:30 State Library

The ban of same sex marriage across 3 states in America and the campaign to ban it in more, is a painful reminder that not only must we continue to fight to GAIN our rights, but we must fight to MAINTAIN our rights!
Protestors in Iowa pictured left.

I have been involved with a group that has been petitioning for equal marriage rights over the past year (of course the over all campaign began much earlier). It is quite clear that public opinion is in our favour. Our petitions have been signed by over 30,000 people. a recent Age poll showed that 79% (an overwhelming majority) of Australians support equal rights for same sex couples. In reaction to this public opinion the Rudd government announced a raft of changes to homophobic laws; many of which would be automatically reversed if same sex marriage was legalised and if passed may save the Government massive amounts of money. None the less the proposal was indeed a victory for our side but it falls well short of the campaigns demands!

The ban imposed by Howard in 2004 was a massive slap in the face to queers and activist, a curt reminder to "Keep in our places"-we will NOT!!

This Saturday, in the city at the State Library there will be an important rally which aims to put pressure on the government to repeal the ban and make Rudd follow through with his legislation changes. At the rally the petition will be handed to a Greens Senator, to table the issue in parliament.

Friday, 14 November 2008


I'm bussy with exams and too lazzy to do a proper blog post so i thought i'd just post this instead....

An interesting email sent to me by my Girl Friend today... (Note while she tallks of the 'Torah' as she is Jewish, Christians have also included this in their holly scriptures (The Bible) I'm not as familiar with the holly scriptures of Islam but it would not suprise me if the Koran had the same or a simmilar story)

The English word Sodomy is derived from the destruction of Sodom in this week's Torah Portion, Vayeira. A common misconception is that Sodom was destroyed for engaging in homosexual acts (thus the term Sodomy). However, these homosexual acts were merely manifestations of Sodom's real sin: hostility to strangers. Sodomites would rape visitors due to a hatred for outsiders.

In light of this realization, perhaps we should revisit the definition of the word sodomy. A word that for so long has been used to induce shame and self-loathing in homosexuals could instead be used to discourage homophobia and other forms of intolerance against "outsiders" in our society.

The message of the destruction of Sodom is thus to welcome and embrace all people in our community -- not in spite of their difference -- but precisely because of it.

It just goes to show, the meaning of holly scriptures, like most text, is all in the niterpretation.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Q+A: Kicking Ass To Get The Job Done!

Q+A: Queers and Allies, Questioning and Answering is a group that was set up and run by students at Northcote High. At the conclusions of Rainbow Day 08 (an event i will talk about at a latter date) we were asked to speak at a forum of teachers and other high school workers (school nurses, welfare staff, principles etc) about our group. Bellow is an extract from the speech I gave.

On this day which we had worked so hard for not only to make it good, but to be allowed to do it in the first place we had a speaker from PFLAG. Kerri was informative and entertaining, we were gratefully to have her there. However before she left she told us that she believed that "Northcote High should be the blue print for all schools" she then went on to tell us that it's "all about the head" She felt that the existence of Q+A, our ability to run Rainbow Day and celebrate sexual and gender diversity was because of our principal (little did she know our teacher banned the use of the word "sexual" as in "sexual diversity" on any display we had up at the school and did not understand what "gender diversity" is! Anyone involved with the group knows that that's not true!

We had to campaign hard to have this day and she refused to let us have casual clothes on that day. Our original idea had been to have a free dress day allocating a colour to each year level, each year level would have represented a colour of the rainbow and we were going to ask students to submit a gold coin donation for this. This is standard practice in events at the school. We had hoped to raise money for a queer youth related group. She wouldn't allow this. She also wouldn't allow us to have the free dress day arguing that year 12 students would get to excited if they were allowed to wear free dress and this would cause them to do poorly in their exams.

She also did not want us to put on 'Rainbow Day', but we gave her little choice. Presenting a letter to the school committee which involves parents and Friends of the schools, and anything tabled at the meeting goes on public record. Presenting at a staff meeting, I announced that we had proposed that such a day be held. As a result I gathered much staff support. This put the principal in a bad position to deny us the day. (Ofcourse Kerri, from PFLAG had no way of knowing this and we don't blame her for the misconception)

Freedoms Are Won Not Given! I know, i know you're sick of me saying that, but it's true SO true! Queer and Allied students have not been given anything but challenges by the school administration. We have fought for every minuscule gain we have achieved in our aim to make NHS a safer place for queer and questioning students.
The point of this speech was 1) to offer advice as to how to develop a Queer group at a high school and 2) to attempt to show teachers how much power their STUDENTS have. Students CAN make a difference and at Northcote High we are!
so any way, here's part of the speech....
We have met and dealt with numerous challenges as a group.

  1. The first was that we had our posters taken down by school administration. So the simplest piece of advice I have for you is make sure you get the right approval to have posters up!
  2. Sadly we had a number of posters being torn down by students. Largely dealing with this was resilience, we just had to keep putting up the posters-which did play on our environmental consciences a bit. We also quickly learnt where they were taken down from, and where they were mostly likely to stay up. We found putting them in classroom windows and staff offices facing out meant that they were not torn down.

  3. Our group was largely populated by year 12’s who wont be here next year. Overcoming this so far has been largely through word of mouth, having the younger students who do come encourage mates to get along. We soon found that close to 50% of the students coming to our meetings were non-year 12 students. Today has also had a recruitment focus. Telling students about the group, advertising our meetings and we’ve planned a special meeting tomorrow with a guest speaker. We spoke at the year 9 assembly, and went around to the year 10 and 11 homeroom classes to advertise the day and the group-In the hope that these students will be able to take on leadership positions in the group next year.

  4. Before we could put on rainbow day or get serious about a campaign to reduce levels of queerphobia we had to have the administration of the school accept that there was a problem in the school. When putting up posters to advertise our group we encountered hostility over the word “make” as in “make NHS a queer safe space” There were some people who disliked the suggestion that NHS was NOT already a queer safe space. Certainly we felt that this was something the school administration could not judge as they’re not students. They don’t experience and witness queerphobia in the same way we do. Suggestion that any queerphobia in the school was the result of “one or two bullies” was highly insulting to the group and put a bit of a block on what we wanted to do. After discussions and several proposed plans we decided as a group we really couldn’t do any work until the school was forced to recognize the queerphobia with in it. We submitted a letter to our school principal and school council detailing our concerns, with some suggestions for improvement including rainbow day as well as collecting anecdotes from students and teachers detailing experiences of queerphobia in the school. This resulted in us being invited to talk to staff meetings and committees- which has raised awareness of queerphobia among staff and has put sexuality and gender diversity back on the agenda.

    I hope what I’ve said has been usefull but I must stress what I think is possibly the most crucial point: For their to be real change there must be student led and organized groups! Students will listen more to other students than teachers and a group like Q+A provides an ability for self empowerment of queer and allied students. This sense of being able to make change and stand up for what you believe in creates confidence and students create their OWN safe place.

So far this year Q+A has created a year 7 lesson plan which has been used to a great degree of success, put on an excellent day which sent a clear message to the school that NHS was a place of gender and sexuality diversity and that such diversity deserved to be celebrated, we have raised conscious levels of students and teachers, we have had a commitment from the school curriculum committee to make queer-friendly changes to the education and the manner in which staff are trained and simply by existing and meeting regularly we have given queer and question students a place to feel safe and supported, supported not only in that we will never mock them in regards tot heir sexuality and gender identity, we are also providing a support in which we work together to overcome the discrimination that Queer and questioning students are forced to put up with. We WILL be back next year! In fact our own curriculum committee (a Q+A sub group)intends to meet at the conclusion of exams to make reforms to the year 7 health curriculum which will then be put in place for following years.