QC’s Rebecca Reynolds on her vision for queer Queensland

QC CEO Rebecca Reynolds standing in a QC black t-shirt with a park behind her.
Image: Supplied

Rebecca Reynolds is the CEO of the Queensland Council for LGBTI Health and Co-Chair of the Qld Government Roundtable for LGBTI Communities. She shares her advocacy journey as well as her vision for LGBTQIA+ Queenslanders. 

I grew up in rural and regional country, in the colonised state now known as Western Australia. 

It was the beauty, vastness and remoteness of that country that really was the first sense of our differences for me.  

The oldest child of a priest and a school teacher, my mother in particular raised me on books and movies that were from another time and another place.  

To take a line from the Sound of Music, they spoke of “girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes, and snowflakes that stayed on your nose and eyelashes” and when I looked around me, there was nothing but salt lakes and red dirt and a white dress would not have stayed that way for long.

When I was about 16 or 17, and at boarding school, I read a book called Under the Tuscan Sun and it was the first time that I had read a version of myself written into a book or anything really that wasn’t just my thoughts and feelings. 

It felt liberating and made me want to find my people.  It was also a key defining moment for me in terms of values that I live by in my work. With visibility being core.

Community challenges

It is one of the biggest challenges for our communities today.  Speaking our differences while honouring the things that we share.  

We are a diverse bunch of people packed together under the same roof.  Those under the roof know that we have come together because of a shared sense of needing to create places and spaces of safety, those outside often only see the one structure. 

We have some big challenges for us when we start thinking about who to invite in. It’s like our identity and bodily journeys all over again.  Who do I trust?  

To our allies genuinely wanting to do better, be deliberate and intentional.  Come to the table with what you need, yes, but also what you can offer in return.  You have pathways into places that we can’t yet imagine and genuine partnerships are stronger when both parties benefit.

We rely heavily on our largely unfunded and underfunded community-based organisations who are often forced down a path of responding to what is in front of them. Meeting the needs of our local communities, and leaving little time and energy to think through the precious gifts of mentoring and sustainability.  

It is why our funded organisations, like Queensland Council for LGBTI Health (QC), need to hold space for communities to take a breath and know that all of the passion, hard work and energy won’t have been lost.  It is another reason for the way I work.  

Going deeper

Going back to a much younger version of myself, when I had found the lesbians in Tuscany (Under the Tuscan Sun) I was connected through the Western Australian AIDS Council to HIV/AIDS and the crisis and loss of life that our communities were experiencing at that time.  

While life moved on, my connection to working within the HIV/AIDS response remained.

This ultimately, saw me heading to Thailand to live and work for four years.  

Here, one of the roles that I was privileged to get to know was travelling with the outreach nursing team. They explained treatments and co-infections to a generation of families across Thailand who were grappling with a lack of access to treatments.  

On one particular day, we were visiting with a 10-year-old who had lost her parents during Thaksins’ War on Drugs. She was living with her Aunt and Uncle who would use their income to stock up on ice (to keep the medication cold) and batteries (to enable her to stick to her medication regime of 6am and 6pm daily).  

Her friends had all started having sleepovers and she did not want to miss out. However, the clock was an essential piece of her daily routine. 

I suggested to the nurse in English, that we drive back to the nearest 7-Eleven to buy her a Casio watch. She could then go to the slumber party and still achieve her medication regime. 

“Rebecca,” she says sternly (or kindly) “what happens when the watch runs out of batteries and where will she tell her friends she got the money for the watch?”

It created a big shift in the reasons why I work for change now.  Rather than making myself feel better by buying the watch, I shifted my focus to the systems that keep our communities silenced, isolated and not fitting in.  

Don’t buy the watch. Go deeper.

A future vision for Queensland

So with the long-term hat on, I know what I want to see change for our communities here in Queensland. With an election before us in 2024, eight years out from a time when our State and the way it treats its communities being showcased on the world stage, there is no time like the present to make some big, bold and deep changes that will have a lasting impact on our communities.  

The commitment from our State Government to fund not only a Strategy for Queensland, but also a Peak for our LGBTI community-based organisations is significant. And in terms of the Peak, would be a first for Australia.  

This would create a visible conversation for people everywhere to participate in and bring solutions that fit our local communities to the table. 

On the other side of that, is that we know all too well the impact when conversations about our race, our lives, our bodies, our relationships and our feelings happen in public settings. That people can be cruel and in my time working within LGBTI health and wellbeing, I and the teams of people that I work alongside see the impact of that up close and personal.  We live it.  

As members of our communities, we are the people best equipped to make decisions about those changes that will most impact us and we need places of safety to do that work from.

A Pride Centre for Brisbane

A Pride Centre for Brisbane would be a visible, safe and welcome start.  It would change the story for the younger folk and generations that are still to find their voice and their feet. 

However, more importantly, it would give us the chance to build a model that extends strength and support radiating across the state to connect with those folk in communities who are doing amazing things.  

It would make us stronger and it would weave our communities together in a way that would interrupt many of the negative impacts that are happening in our lives now.  

I believe that we can change the story by sharing ours.  That we can support each other, bring visibility where it is needed and learn and grow from the unique ways in which so many of us are working across this state.  

We can create places of safety in the most unexpected ways, through the most unexpected means.  

Great things are possible for our LGBTIQ+ Communities in Queensland and when we work together. It is often the smallest of moments that catch us unaware but are profoundly life-changing.  

Rebecca Reynolds is the CEO of the Queensland Council for LGBTI Health.

Read next:

QC’s Rebecca Reynolds on Year Endings and New Beginnings

QC announces regional Queensland expansion

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Rebecca Reynolds
Rebecca Reynolds

Rebecca Reynolds is the Chief Executive Officer of the Queensland Council for LGBTI Health (QC) E: rreynolds@qc.org.au

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