Midsumma will be a minnow compared to World Pride. Some criticise the intensive corporatisation, as if a branded ANZ GAYTM is a transgression against the purity of the homosexual race.
But those critics swim against the tide of popular support for World Pride. And if you don’t have the corporates, you don’t have the funds.
The diversity-obsessed ABC is treating World Pride like the 1956 Olympics, and even The Australian has got in on the action, with its high gloss magazine WISH (disclosure: I’m an ex-employee) producing a special Pride issue, complete with an interview with Zoe Terakes, a gay non-binary trans masculine actor (who uses they/them pronouns) who has just starred in an international Marvel TV series. The edgy photo shoot showed Terakes clad in jacket but no t-shirt, revealing the bandages from their top surgery (a procedure to remove breasts).
So LGBTQ representation is everywhere. Except in our federal parliament, where representation of out gay and lesbian parliamentarians went backwards at last year’s federal election, from 4.4 per cent of both houses, barely causing a ripple.
Which seems odd to me, given we live in an age where there is obsessive focus over every other minority – just not this one.
Federal gay MPs get barely a mention, apart from respected Foreign Minister Penny Wong, the sole gay South Australian parliamentarian in Canberra. She is visible but not particularly vocal.
NSW and Tasmania do not have a single gay or lesbian MP in parliament. For the record, the other LGBTQ MPs are: WA Labor Senator Louise Pratt, WA Liberal Senator Dean Smith, Victorian Greens Senator Janet Rice, Queensland Labor Senator Nita Green, Victorian Labor MP Julian Hill, Queensland Liberal MP Angie Bell and new Queensland Greens MP Stephen Bates.
It’s not a priority in the discourse. In fact the Parliament of Australia hasn’t updated its guide to LGBTQ parliamentarians since January 2022. So it fails to note that three prominent Liberal gays – Tim Wilson, Trent Zimmerman and Trevor Evans, lost their seats at the last federal election.
Normally such a loss of diversity would prompt lament – but in this case, there was silence.
The modern Liberals lost their seats to teal independents, or in the case of Evans, to gay Greens MP Stephen Bates.
For the commentariat, teal was more in fashion than rainbow. As the gay publication the Sydney Star Observer commented: “Some out gay Liberal MPs were voted out, but in good news a more progressive parliament was voted in.”
The Liberal Rainbow three got little credit from the left for their role in one of the signature social reforms of our time, same-sex marriage.
The Coalition government introduced this reform, but activists argued that the 2017 plebiscite was bad, because it damaged mental health of the community and it should have been a parliamentary vote.
But Labor gets no criticism for failing to have a parliamentary vote and blocking the reform during the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments. While at the same time of Labor’s refusal, the British conservative government, voted to legalise same-sex marriage in 2013.
After the public voted 61.6 per cent in favour of the legislation here, it passed through parliament with little opposition, vindicating the Coalition strategy
So where are we now? Not a single LGBTQ federal MP will speak at the World Pride human rights conference, but gay ACT chief minister Andrew Barr will be there. And LGBTQ state MPs, which in Victoria include government ministers, should be noted.
Does this mean gay MPs are so mainstream that this is not a cause to concern ourselves about?
Representation is still important and should be acknowledged. But it is not the only thing.
But the final word to new state Victorian Liberal MP Joe McCracken, who came out in his first speech to parliament this week, saying:
“I’ve experienced shame, anxiety and many other things. I’ve never really talked about it much or made an issue of it because I never wanted to be defined by it. I hate identity politics, and I will fight against that whenever I can.”
Stephen Brook is deputy editor of the Sunday Age.