Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011: Women on the verge

Rachel Barnes takes a look over a year of trials, tribulations and triumphs for queer women.

Can homosexuality and religion become bedfellows?
While the rest of the world seems to be moving onwards and upwards when it comes to the church and the LGBTQ community, Australian religious communities remain hesitant to taste the rainbow. There is a continuing global trend of acceptance of LGBTQs in religious circles, yet in Australia we can’t even keep a lesbian couple on TV, let alone have them serve in a church.
In July, gay Reverend Ali Wurm resigned after 11 years as a priest, stating that she was, “choosing to no longer submit myself to being attacked, threatened, and spiritually abused by some colleagues and members of Diocesan leadership.”
However, it does seem like Australian church leaders could be coming around. Adelaide’s Anglican Bishop, Dr Tim Harris said the Anglican Church is in a “current messy period” because of the worldwide debate on the matter. “I have no problems with people of any orientation being in the ministry so long as their lifestyle is consistent with what the church agrees to.” Baby step by baby step.
Don’t trust the Internet
On June 13, a widely-read blog apparently written by a lesbian living in Damascus turned out to be a fake, written by a white male living in Edinburgh. The blog’s true author, Tom MacMaster, said it was "a hoax that got way out of hand.” Starting off as a way for MacMaster to comment on topics with some sense of anonymity, 'Gay Girl in Damascus' took his online alter-ego (a Syrian-American known as Amina) to a whole new level. Despite the extent of his masquerade (as suspicion grew he tried to end the blog by having Amina kidnapped at gunpoint), MacMaster defended himself, saying although Amina was a fictional character he was stating facts. "The facts I was presenting about Syria, about Islam, about the Middle East, about all of these things are true," MacMaster said. (Don’t worry, I promise I am actually a lesbian who lives in Australia.)
Penny Wong’s baby
Australia’s first openly gay member of parliament, Senator Penny Wong, released a statement on August 9 announcing her and her partner were expecting a child. Despite knowing who the biological father is, the couple decided to keep his identity a secret, but were happy to share the news with Australia. "We have chosen to make this statement about Sophie's pregnancy as we understand there may be public interest due to my position,” Wong said. Wong’s partner, Sophie Allouache, gave birth to healthy baby girl on December 11. Born just a week after the ALP debated marriage equality in Sydney, Wong and Allouache won’t have to look very hard for a stunning flower girl.
Mardi Gras ‘De-gayed’
Pack away your bedazzled bikinis, hang up your arse-less chaps, and throw away your feather boas, because Australias’ favourite LGBTQ party has become family friendly. On November 17 Sydney’s iconic Mardi Gras underwent a change of its name and logo in an attempt to make the event a celebration of universal love. Organisers literally removed the “Gay & Lesbian” from the festival’s title, leaving some people worried that the event has been effectively “de-gayed”.  Joy 94.9 broadcaster Doug Pollard said: “The whole makeover smells of making the event acceptable to mainstream corporates and the mainstream tourist industry.” However, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays’ Shelley Argent said the festival’s new focus will help “encourage more parents to play a part in the parade.” Let’s just hope it doesn’t become too PG.
The Newtown Girls web series
Sick of every gay character on Australian TV being killed off? Well, you’re in luck! An Australian produced and entirely fan-funded web series is already being compared to The L Word, even though the series writer/producer – Natalie Krikowa says it’s not quite the same. With Australia lagging behind the rest of the world in LGBTQ content on local programming, the web series could be the kick start we need. “There’s more representation coming out of the Middle East than there is in Australia, and that’s disturbing to me,” Krikowa says. “But I think there’s a big change coming and we’re just trying to help that change get out there.” Reaching their kickstart funding goal on November 21, the web series will be hitting our screens early 2012.
Influential Melburnian fights for equality
In December, marriage equality activist Ali Hogg (pictured) was named one of The Age newspaper’s 100 Most Influential Melburnians of 2011. Recognised for her work with grass roots lobby group Equal Love, where she helped organise a rally and mass wedding outside the registry office in Melbourne, Hogg believes marriage discrimination leaves LGBTQ people as second-class citizens. “…we are still denied equality, which not only affects those who want to marry but sends a message to LGBTI and questioning youth that they deserve less than others in society,” Hogg said. Things do seem to be looking promising, with the ALP recently changing their marriage policy to support equality. Just don’t run out and buy those dresses just yet – it could be some time before we see any legislation passing through federal parliament.

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