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Saturday 11 April 2015

Comment: Gay Privilege

Posted in: Our Communities
By Robbie van Dijk - 24th February 2015

I thought long and hard about voicing an opinion over the incidents that have happened involving groups within our own community protesting against 'pride'. I have reservations, not because I feel I have no place to comment, but because I am the vision of privilege to which these protests point.

I will start by saying that in essence I do not condone the actions of these groups. To resort to vandalism in this way diminishes your cause and the weak execution did so even further. The protests at the Pride Parade had as much place as the parade itself. Protesters have as much right to express their point as we did marching. Perhaps, once again, execution could be considered. For the safety of marchers and protesters alike, the barriers are in place for a reason. By crossing these you opened yourself to the same persecution that I personally would expect for anyone.

Yet understandably, an act designed to shock can sometimes be the only way to make a point heard.

To those who have been so quickly spoken out against these actions, stop and think why these actions were considered necessary in the first place.

Let us not forget that it was through protest that out queer family from generations past fought for the rights you now take for granted. Do not forget that the reason we can march so proudly down that strip, dripping in our commercialized glitz, is because others dared to defy the norm, to stand up and say “NO” when they felt their right to live was oppressed. Consider that these people feel they have something to fight for and maybe we should take the time to listen.

I hear you. Loud and clear, I hear your struggles and marginalization from society as a whole and those whom you should be able to call ‘family’. As a cis-gender, white, male I sit atop the queer archetype that you so publically shame. Well, almost at the top. As an effeminate gay man I am marginalised by qualities that we, as a society, so readily condemn. I hold no delusion, society as it stands, is represented by and for the middle class, white, straight man.

Some of you may disagree. A lot, I fear, will be much like me, the young gay male, so content in your bubble of marginalised acceptance that you fail to comprehend the battle still facing us.


The comments and anger from within the community, and dare I say it, the demographics to which these protests point, are testament to the topics these actions have raised. Have we been so blinded by the normality and commercialization of pride that we’ve forgotten to stand up and actually be proud? In saying this, I love the Pride festival and I feel that we should all have the option to express ourselves in whatever way we see fit, without persecution from those internal or external of the queer community. We mustn’t dwell eternally in the past nor look too far to the future but remember that our people still face persecution today. These protests make a valid point, whether or not you agree with the method.

Make no mistake; we have come a long way. But it is because of people like the groups you now slam. Veiled by the misconception of equality, we so readily abandon those still left fighting for the rights we now have. I will share with you a poem, that I heard over the weekend from a man I so greatly admire and I hope it highlights the need to stand beside those in our community that still face persecution and marginalization.

First They Came for the Jews
by Martin Niemöller

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

We are all in this together. Our rights as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, fa’afafine and takataapui people are not mutually exclusive. Even those labels do not represent everyone under our rainbow umbrella.

Do we abandon those in our queer culture who we have abandoned in the past so that we can live our privileged lives in peace? Can we sit content with gay marriage (an amazing step forward) and think that’s equality?

Nothing is certain. Nothing is forever. Our rights are interconnected. Look at the state of the world now. So much progress yet so much backtracking. We have countries passing laws that allow for the persecution of gay and lesbian individuals, a battle that we act as though we’ve already won. How then can we guarantee that what we have now will be sure in the future? Legislation can be rewritten and laws overturned. These things themselves do not represent societal progress as a whole either. A law removing persecution under the judicial system does not translate to the removal of persecution at a personal and fundamental level. Comments such as “you just want something to complain about” highlight the fact that we don’t see these people as a collective with a point. By telling them to get their own parade you further marginalize people who clearly already feel so removed from what should be their community.

I write this not to condemn anyone or their opinions but simply to make you think and allow yourself to understand. We haven’t reached the end of the road and we aren’t done fighting. A show of colour isn’t what should define us. We should define ourselves through the support and knowledge we share as community.

Robbie van Dijk - 24th February 2015

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