Rodney Croome: We deserve full equality, not compromise


Rodney Croome stands in front of a sandstone building wearing a grey suit
Rodney Croome is a spokesperson for Just.Equal Australia

It’s time we stood up to those politicians who want to give us half a loaf of bread, writes Rodney Croome.

When a particular LGBTQIA+ law reform becomes inevitable those who aren’t reconciled to it find ways to hobble it.

Back in the 80s and 90s, when most people began to accept that homosexuality should be decriminalised, prejudiced MPs and activists successfully pushed for a higher of age consent for gay sex.

And when laws protecting people from discrimination were finding acceptance, the same prejudiced people made sure there were exemptions for faith-based schools and services.

As acceptance of marriage equality grew, people unhappy with queer equality proposed civil unions.

When marriage equality became inevitable the same people dropped their opposition to same-sex relationships and started talking about the threat to “religious freedom”.

As a result, Australia’s marriage equality legislation was so tainted by concessions it wasn’t really equality at all.

The same is happening now with trans law reform in WA. The state government wants to abolish the archaic gender reassignment board.

But instead of replacing it with self-identification, it has given in to myths about the threats trans people pose by insisting they get medical sign off before their gender identity is officially recognised.

In each case, an old, discredited form of discrimination was replaced with a more up-to-date and publicly-tolerated restriction that gives old prejudices a new lease of life.

The response of LGBTQIA+ community advocates has too often been resignation to the compromise prejudice demands, or even active participation in shaping that compromise.

This is especially so if they:

-are close to the governing party, Liberal or Labor, that is proposing the compromise.

-are seduced by the excuses given for compromise including that the new form of discrimination is temporary and will be removed soon (spoiler alert: it never is).

-don’t believe the LGBTQIA+ community is up for the fight, or want to own the “win” on offer.

But there is a different way forward.

A number of Australian LGBTIQA+ law reform campaigns in recent years have shown that true equality is achievable.

In Tasmania in 2019, trans advocates and their allies achieved the world’s best gender recognition laws with complete self-identification and the capacity to remove gender from birth certificates altogether.

In Victoria in 2021, survivor advocates secured the world’s best law against conversion practices.

What these achievements have in common is that they were driven by those most affected by discrimination.

They used personal stories to form a solid base of support in parliament, the media and the community.

They didn’t let the government take charge of the issue, but kept control at every step, including the drafting of legislation.

Just.Equal Australia’s response whenever a new form of discrimination is being proposed in return for removing an old form, is to ask the LGBTQIA+ community whether it accepts the trade off.

This takes the decision out of the hands of a coterie of advocates and gives it back to all those who are affected.

It is a step towards transparency and democracy.

In most cases our community rejects compromise and says it can hold out for full equality.

Hopefully, the more surveys we do the more legitimate our community’s voice will become compared to advocates who cave too soon.

Our latest community survey is about police, political parties and businesses participating in pride.

Take the survey at www.surveymonkey.com/r/LGBTIQAPrideEventsSurvey

-Rodney Croome AM is a spokesperson for Just.Equal Australia

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Rodney Croome

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