Last night Mardi Gras, along with the Femme Guild, Lemons with a Twist, Dykes on Bikes and Natural State Living put on the inaugural Women Say Something event. It was, in my opinion a resounding success. We had around 140 women, from many of our community tribes represented not only on the panel but also in the audience.
I saw people talking to people who would not normal mix together, and I hope people left the event feeling a little more comfortable with the diversity of our communities.
The original vision I had for this event was just that. That people who would not normally meet would get the opportunity to come together and learn. Learn to accept all our community quirks and differences and carry that forward into their own tribes.
That’s a big call. But it’s not something I say lightly. I have pondered whether I should not say anything at all, but I have come to the conclusion that someone has to look at our community from the inside and point out the obvious.
We are all fighting for acceptance yet we struggle to accept one another. How can we demand acceptance in the greater context when we still cannot accept the differences that make up our community.
Last night’s Women Say Something event was a start, but it was no means an end to the work that needs to be done. And although we have programs in place by our wonderful community organisations, this really needs to start at home. Meaning, one person at a time. That means you. And it’s not hard to do either.
I want to share a personal story that bought me to this point. It made me take a good look at my own reactions and my own thoughts on the subject.
I never really “got” the queer scene. I struggled with the performance art and I struggled with why people dressed in a non-conformist manner. I didn’t think I was a judgemental person, I just thought “it wasn’t for me”, but then I met Zoo. I say I “met” Zoo, but really I started to get to know her through Facebook. We instantly clicked after an incident at Sleaze ball last year which saw her write to the community press and me respond. The importance of boundaries was the title of my response and it was based on the respect that we all had fought for for the past 40 years in terms of diversity and acceptance.
Writing that response really started me thinking about my own opinions and judgements.
Zoo is the first real Queer that has come into my life in a major way. She is controversial, provocative and well, just out there. Queer performance pieces, I admit, I still don’t “get” at times, but she is happy to explain them to me, and from there I have a greater understanding of what people are trying to say. She is someone who never stops saying something. She has taught me, and I say taught, because I do feel she has been my teacher, that expression comes in a number of ways, and acceptance comes from appreciating that.
The other thing Zoo has taught me is that the Queer scene isn’t really that scary. Over the past 6 months she, and others I have met, have introduced me to some amazing artists, writers, professionals and musicians. I see self-expression in everyone I met, and I have even started to define and develop my own sense of expression in the clothes I prefer to wear. The “look” I try to achieve for myself when I got out. I no longer listen to those people who tell me I can’t wear that, I choose to listen to that person inside that say’s I can! And I choose to wear what I wear where I wear it. Transcending the queer to the gaystream to the bears to the twinks.
What Zoo and I have is a symbiotic relationship. We often laugh about how I teach her about the gaystream and she teaches me about the queers. It works!
I am so lucky that in my role at Mardi Gras I get introduced to many of our diverse community tribes. Exciting that I get to learn the politics and the reasons and the inspirations that drive our thought leaders and clusters of community. And I feel privileged that I have a platform to drive greater acceptance of that in events such as Women Say Something.
I fear that others feel they do not have that opportunity. But what I would like to say is that you do.
It simply begins with Hello and continues with an open mind.
And who knows, you might even find your own Zoo.
Happy Mardi Gras.