Scott Morrison’s Religious Licence-to-Discriminate Bill has gone. The politics of anti-trans prejudice has been repudiated with the landslide federal election defeat of Katherine Deves. Eric Abetz has been knocked out of the Senate by a supporter of the LGBTIQA+ community.
Is this the end of the resurgent prejudice that arose as a backlash to marriage equality and has plagued LGBTIQA+ Australians for seven years?
Is Australia about to fulfil the promise of the marriage Yes vote, the promise of full equality and inclusion for LGBTIQA+ people?
The answer to that is entirely in our hands.
We must entice Labor out of its shell
Labor was elected with as few LGBTIQA+ election commitments as it could get away with.
It (wrongly) believes this was necessary to keep electorates in Western Sydney, which, this election, it did keep.
In a way, Labor is still stuck in the postal survey, making itself as small a target as possible to avoid culture-war flak.
There will be loud voices in the ALP counselling that playing a small target won them government (it didn’t) and will keep it for them (it won’t).
There will be other voices wanting a return to Labor’s old unspoken doctrine of one gay reform per term, a doctrine the LGBTIQA+ community must make clear we no longer accept.
Our job is to entice Labor out of its shell by demonstrating two key facts about the election:
First, in those electorates that catapulted it into government, religious freedom, trans equality and school inclusion (the three main battlegrounds of resurgent prejudice) don’t decide election outcomes.
Second, in the wake of Labor voting for the Religious Discrimination Bill, and the Greens being the only party with a comprehensive LGBTIQA+ policy, LGBTIQA+ voters deserted Labor in city electorates including those that fell to the Greens and Teals.
Another lever we can pull is that Labor will have to negotiate with Greens and progressive independents to get legislation through the Senate.
We must use this strategically and boldly to ensure outstanding inequalities are addressed.
What we want from the new parliament
Just.Equal will take our recent survey of the LGBTIQA+ community’s election priorities as a blueprint for what the new Parliament should achieve.
It found the following issues are top priorities for our community:
- removing exemptions allowing faith-based organisations to discriminate against LGBTIQA+ staff, students and clients
- improving LGBTIQA+ school safety and inclusion
- establishing LGBTIQA+ policy groups in relevant government agencies
- a national LGBTIQA+ mental health strategy
- LGBTIQA+ inclusion in the Census
- removal of the gay, bi and trans blood ban
- constitutionally guaranteed human rights
For trans folk, the top priority is Medicare funding for gender transition. For intersex Australians, it is a legislative prohibition on non-consenting medical interventions. The top priority for bisexual respondents is a national public education campaign, and for asexual and aromantic respondents, inclusive sex education in schools.
But making progress won’t be easy. The Coalition has been reduced to an anti-LGBTIQA+ rump with many moderates gone.
The danger is that it will harass LGBTIQA+ people from opposition in a way that is nastier, crueller, more outlandish and more American than ever.
The received wisdom is that this would put the Coalition permanently out of favour with voters.
But the same is said every time the Coalition moves to the right. It still finds ways to be both a destructive force in opposition and to be re-elected to government.
We must continue to work constructively with moderates to move the Coalition back to the centre on LGBTIQA+ equality.
Labor’s Catholic right will oppose reform
The Labor Catholic right is also riding the wave of resurgent prejudice and continues to wield power beyond its numbers.
You can hear its influence in Anthony Albanese’s frequent references to Australia being a land of opportunity regardless of “who you worship or who you love”. Worship always comes first.
Labor’s Catholic right will push against LGBTIQA+ law reform.
For example, Labor is committed to protecting LGBTIQA+ students from discrimination by faith-based schools, but it is ambiguous about teachers.
The Catholic right will ruthlessly exploit this ambiguity to ensure protections are as weak as possible.
However, the LGBTIQA+ community and its allies can overcome these hurdles.
But only if we put aside the despair many of us, including Yours Truly, have felt over the last few years.
We can only make progress if we keep hope alive and have faith in our capacity as a community to make real change.
We must rekindle the belief in ourselves and in the possibility of change that we felt when marriage equality passed.
Australia’s ‘profound transformation’
We also need to remind ourselves of the great changes we have wrought. Here’s one example of a recent reminder of this:
After my mother and I voted on election day in Devonport, we went to a café. She told me about a recent gathering of her elderly Devonport friends where one used the word “poofter”.
She said the other women went silent, then, one by one they spoke up against what they’d heard.
I asked my mother how she felt. She said, “That word just sounded so archaic.”
What a profound transformation that is from just ten years ago. Back then, “poofter” was prolific and too often went unchallenged, especially in regional Australia.
Together we made that happen.
The same transformation is possible on trans recognition, intersex surgeries, our inclusion on the Census, blood donation and all the other outstanding inequities we face.
The election has unlocked the door to all these reforms. It’s now up to us to throw open that door and walk proudly through it.
For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.