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UC queer students want space

By Kerces 16 February 2006 73

Earlier there was some discussion about what’s happening for O Week at the universities around town.

Yesterday the University of Canberra held their market day — when the various clubs, societies and anyone else wanting to flog things to students set up a stall and proceed to flog.

This being one of the biggest crowd-attracting events (possibly because it’s also about the time people start thinking about everything they need to do to get organised for next week), it was also the day the Student Association and queer collective UCanQ chose to launch their campaign for a dedicated queer space at UC.

Queer space campaign launch

I headed on down to the uni in the afternoon, mainly in search of textbooks, cheap newspapers and so on, and caught up with UCSA Sexuality Officer Jessica Rodgers who is leading the campaign.

Jess said the launch included speeches by herself, national Queer Affairs Officer Rachel Evans, Wollongong Uni Queer Officer Karlee Jones and UTS Queer Officer Chris Brew (who is an ex UC and ANU student). It looks like from the photos she sent me they had a bit of a march as well.

At this stage the campaign mainly consisted of getting people to sign a petition to the University asking for a queer space, as well as flyers, posters, chalked messages and a stall all aimed at raising awareness of the issue.

UCanQ stall

One of the flyers explained that a queer space is “a room for all gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, genderqueer and questioning students”.

“A queer only space provides a safe space for queer students to meet, socialise, politically organise and simply act without fear in public, in a way that heterosexual students take for granted.”

Jess said, “We desperately need a queer space to help queer students come out. Queer Spaces are safe spaces where queer students can feel comfortable to be themselves and not fear queerphobia, which can sometimes take the form of violence; they can seek out information and build strong networks.”

“We have not identified a space as yet, we are more hoping to build the launch, build interest and get more people to help.”

In the hour or so before I arrived the campaigners collected more than 150 signatures and said they had found most clubs and societies were supportive of their cause. Thirteen activists from NSW universities came to help out and Jess said they were making sure to explain the cause to people signing the petition, not “just shoving it in their face”.

She said she hoped to be able to put in a submission to the University, including the petition circulating yesterday, in a month’s time.

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UC queer students want space
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simto 4:59 pm 20 Feb 06

I’m pretty sure there’s been a few comments along the lines of “why do they have to rub all this in our faces”, or “I’m over this gay thing”. Which, when you consider the amount of hetrosexuality rubbed in everyones faces, is ever so slightly ridiculous.

Do I think that gay guys groping each other and dressing in revealing clothing in public is kinda stupid and gross? Yep I do. I think the same thing about hetro teenagers (and those with the brains of teenagers) who do the same thing. And there’s a fair wack of ’em out there, people.

So, yeah. There’s a side of me that agrees that, yep, exclusionary spaces are a mistake (in any kind of context). There’s another side of me that thinks – hey, it’d be nice to shut out the hetrosexual world for a few minutes and just be able to bitch and whine about the stuff that still sucks. Just because we’re not getting punched and kicked any more doesn’t mean that we’re problem free.

I still don’t feel comfortable talking about my love-life at work, and I sit next to a bloke who has happily said, on more than one occasion, that he’s a homophobe. I have an aunt who have said such wonderfully understanding things about gay people as “love the sinner, hate the sin” (never mind the fact that her son has had two children out of wedlock, and is never intending on getting married, yet she’s perfectly willing to accept his kids). My parent’s next door neighbour is a mostly lovely guy, who regularly looks after our dog – and who disowned his son when he came out of the closet.

So society has advanced. But there’s still a hell of a lot of crap out there that I’ve tolerated, and accepted. And I understand the desire to say “fuck ’em all”.

bulldog 4:41 pm 20 Feb 06

By that I mean that I don’t work for the ABS. thought I’d clarify.

bulldog 4:38 pm 20 Feb 06

Don’t work for the ABS simto, but thought I would point out that I think (that in Australia anyway) the homosexual community is fairly well represented.

Simto – I don’t see the complaints that the homosexual community gets attention; that’s certainly not my angle. My angle is that I thought we (as a society) had come further than the anti-homosexual sentiments of the days of yore – but maybe I’m wrong about that.

I only speak of my (and my peers) experiences. I worked security in a gay club for a year (five years ago!), and the incidents of my friends and colleagues in and around the club seemed to be that there was not a huge element of queer bashing in the region. Maybe this is reflective of the age and lifestyle of that particular time and place (many of these people are still friends) as opposed to Uni life – I don’t know and I don’t pretend to.

But thinking that the gay community is more prone to the slings and arrows of idiocy than any other type of minority seems daft. I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen or that it should happen; I’m saying that it happens to most people.

And it is only my humble opinion that a ‘queer only’ area will only serve to exclude the rest of the community – even those who see themselves as queer friendly may be slighted at the fact that are unwelcome in an area where some of their friends are.

simto 2:03 pm 20 Feb 06

Oh, and in answer to the question about “Big Brother”, etc – the usual stats are one in ten. Since Big Brother has around 12 entrants a season, one per year seems about right.

simto 1:57 pm 20 Feb 06

I’m fully aware that there’s one “gay” movie in cinemas (although it’s about two guys who both marry women and raise children with ’em, so, hey, hetrosexuality ain’t taking a holiday in this film either). Having gone through the list of what’s on at Hoyts at the moment, everything else has either a hetro main plot or a subplot (okay, I’m not entirely sure about Big Mama’s House 2, but I’m going to assume that Martin Lawrence doesn’t embrace his transvestite tendancies and decide to spend the rest of his life in a dress). If I’m moving into the arthouse stream, I think I get a chance to watch “Capote”, too. Otherwise – pretty much everybody’s straight. There’s even a hetro subplot in “Good Night and Good Luck”, for godsake. So my point still stands – the vast majority of cinema is supportive of your life choices as far as romance is concerned, and ignores mine.

And I’m not actually whining about that – just pointing it out. Because there seems to be a lot of “why are gay people getting all this attention” complaints here, and I’m just pointing out that, in the wider world, gay life gets an intifessimally small part of the attention. And pretty much everyone complains whenever it gets any.

Having said all that – I think we’re agreed that if a queer space becomes somewhere to hide and plot and hate the rest of the world, it’s completely useless. On the other hand, if it’s a place to engage with one another and to discuss issues that are of no interest to your average hetro, hey, why the hell not.

On the other side of the coin – sexuality officers in all the unis aren’t doing their job unless they get involved in both sides of the sexuality equation – providing support for anybody with problems or confusions, without jumping to conclusions. If sexuality officers assume that means giving support just to their own sexuality, they’re falling down majorly on the job.

bulldog 1:47 pm 20 Feb 06

GFB – I want you to understand that Gay people are not alone in being outcast. Good on you if you grew up bush and skinned pigs, I don’t think that has any bearing whatsoever on your sexuality.

As for me opening mymouth and embarrasing my gay mates, I asked a couple of them about this issue at the weekend and they could see botht he positive and the negative behind it. That being said these people are in their thirties and forties and don’t have the same militant views as the ones being purveyed here. Heteros are not the enemy here. Rednecks aren’t the enemy. The enemy is lack of acceptance and education; it is incidental that this is more predominant in what some call ‘redneck’ areas.

Simto – As for Gay role models Simto – when was the last time there was a reality TV show w/o the obligatory queer? Doesn’t matter if your watching the block, big brother, race around the world, my restaurant rules or any of the noxious crap that the networks swill out. Don’t tell me that the Gay community isn’t represented inthe media – if anyting I would suggest they might be over-represented when you look at statistical evidence.

And GFB RE your comment about migrants; No – not all of them have families, and if they do they could well be ten thousand miles away – maybe you can drop past the Italian club, the white eagle club, the serbian club, the croation club, the Austrian club, the Harmonie german club and instigate a conversation with people from a generation who had problems of acceptance and education that make this seem all the more trifling.

I am NOT anti-gay and I am not the enemy; to the militant’s who think that I am I suggest you read my shit more carefully before targetting me as such.

And if you do read it and think that I’m still the enemy it just goes to show that you don’t have to be a ‘redneck’ to be intolerant.

Maelinar 12:27 pm 20 Feb 06

lol, give them a closet to come out of…

*drumroll* boom, boom…

Simto, FYI the latest ‘in’ movie is fudgepack mountain, and the hetero world in a general sense tolerates the majority of homo that are content to hold hands and occasionally kiss in public (like us stinky hetero’s). As in the homo world, there are the few who think that because they are homo they have carte blanche authority to grope each other, openly display sexual organs and otherwise carry on like fuckwits, in the hetero world there are the wayne-o steryiotypes who think the world revolves around drinking themselves into a stupor and picking fights.

I just cant see the requirement to have a room to run the activism from, for as I’m sure you will agree, the decision should be your own, and you shouldnt be pressured either way, be it pro or anti.

I am also concerned genuinely that this room, should it be set up, will quickly become the political mustering area for the few, to the disregard of the many, and that numbers will decline to the point that the whole process was fruitless.

Yes those who led the communist-style revolt will get their political kicks, heck they may even get a few blowjobs out of it, but no real outcomes will be achieved.

You could obtain the same outcomes by putting a soap box in the middle of the communal area and allowing people to proclaim their issues from there, but of course this is going to be overshadowed by the now hallowed requirement to have their own special room to find out that not only is masturbation fun, but doing it to other people is fun too.

Woo Hoo.

Mr_Shab 11:20 am 20 Feb 06

Amen, Johnboy. I get a bit miffed when “tarred with the ugly brush” by queer activists.

The NUS intervention reads like a form letter.Jey – in identifying himself as the NUS male queer officer, he is acting on behalf of the NUS, ergo he is “intervening”. Wheather his personal views align with those of the NUS is immaterial.

Mr Jacka, you do your cause no service by trotting out the same plattitudes I’ve been hearing since I first set foot in a university. You’re not convincing me to change my opinion. And as I’ve said before, I’m not the one you need to convince.

Genderfuckbel articulates a better arguement for mine. Yeah – dealing with an unaccepting family must be the toughest part of coming to terms with your sexuality. I doffs my cap to you. A queer room would probably help some people by providing support in matters like this. But isn’t an SA queer support officer well equipped to help out here? Or at the very least point out some others who can?

However, for wider community support (I say again) you have to convince the rednecks that their life is no poorer for your being queer. Wayne-o will probably never march under the rainbow banner, but maybe you can convince him that his sexuality isn’t threatend by talking to a gay guy. Having a tangible sign of queer protest (as distinct from activism) embodied in the queer room does aim this no service IMHO. You’re just creating a magnet for hostility.

As I’ve said, there’s no harm in having a queer room/space/broom cupboard for providing queer support, but the queer community needs to think about what they hope to achieve in the long run.

simto 9:28 am 20 Feb 06

Maelinar, I’m pretty sure that, almost everywhere you go, you’re getting the message that it’s okay to be Hetro. In my office, people are constantly talking about their kids and their opposite-gendered partners. I go to the movies – chances are most of the films are going to feature a hetrosexual relationship. Look at the magazine rack – on the covers of a lot of the magazines, there’s likely to be a story about some crappy celebrity’s opposite gendered relationship, child or both.

There aren’t that many places, really, where people get a chance to see and be around queer role models. A tiny bit of real estate isn’t really that much, is it?

nyssa76 6:45 pm 19 Feb 06

What about the “mother’s room” on campus…you have to go get a key from the Student Association. Now if you’ve got a child that’s just dirtied its nappy, you aren’t wanting to run around trying to get a damn key or deal with the ignorant people around you when you have to change the nappy in public – and yes I have seen it.

Where’s the Queer room at Signadou? We do have more than 2 Universities in the ACT.

Why should one group get a room (no pun intended) when there are many more people who also “need” a room but don’t get it and get on with their lives?

Maelinar 4:35 pm 19 Feb 06

Precisely what is it that a wannabe Queer person will learn by coming to a room full of other Queers ?

That it’s ok to be a Queer ?
That, no matter what language I speak, it’s ok to be a Queer ?
All of us (in the Queer room) are Queer and it’s ok if you want to be too ?

And in which classroom does a Hetrosexual learn that it’s ok to do all of the above, except change Queer to Hetro ?

Fuck off behind the bike sheds and work it out like everybody else has done you precious tools, and get a life.

Slinky the Shocker 5:42 pm 18 Feb 06

I realize this is a tad off-topic, yet still related and damn funny…

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