It just so happened that this weekend when I visited Mr Revthreads that the Mardi Gras was happening and we had the privilege and opportunity to march with Uniting Network with the message LGBTIQ Refugees are Welcome Here! So sat in the airport waiting to fly home, here is my reflection, or at least part of it!
We met at Pitt Street Uniting Church, to don our T-shirts and gather. We met at 4pm and we were due to begin the March at 9pm, so yep it was going to be a long night. We left the church, the first March was to walk to Hyde Park, the group had drummers, who I have to say we’re amazing and set a great pace. The walk to Hyde Park wasn’t huge, but it was a powerful action to walk together, each of us wearing the Uniting Church logo standing together in solidarity with the LGBTI community and highlighting the reality of the plight faced by people seeking asylum. The church for hundreds of years have been part of the systems and structures that oppress, the church has indeed been a place of hurt and pain for many, and this is a fact that we cannot and must not deny, for only in our acknowledgement of this can we ever hope to be part of and bring healing and reconciliation. With this in mind you never quite know what reception you wil get as you walk with a clerical collar on and the church logo at the forefront, but it was a reception that I will never forget. As we marched through Sydney to Hyde Park and the marshaling area, people thanked us, people cheered and clapped. As part of the church we really did carry a message of good news into the community and world and it was welcomed.
The action of marching with the Mardi Gras was for me an opportunity to stand with people who love, people who for many years have had to deny their love, I stood I solidarity with people who because of gender identity had faced pain and hurt, I was able to stand in a place where I was part of the “respect for the dignity of humanity” in a place where for perhaps just one day in a year people can be who they are, can express their gender identity and their sexuality in a safe place with no judgement from those who gathered with them, an opportunity to see the joy and celebration of liberation from oppression.
8:15 and time to gather at the start point of the March soon came around, it came around quickly because we gathered, we shared stories, we watched the fun and frivolity, it was time to prepare, but honestly, nothing could have really prepared me for what was waiting around the corner.
As we began to move forward we entered the main path and the thousands of people gathered and cheering was like something I have never experienced before. We marched among peace with a message of love, now that’s what I call church and proclaiming good news! Again people cheered, people called thank you from the side lines, people from all walks of life together in peace, in support, in love, in one place at one time.
The pain, hatred and oppression that has been experienced by our brothers and sisters of the LGBTIQ community is horrific, their love, their identity reduced to mental health and worse, that I cannot even bring myself to name, acts and attitudes of others born of fear and ignorance. Yet in their strength and courage, in their determination barriers begin to crumble. I think particularly of the 78’ers who marched, who were beaten, who marched with the Mardi Gras, who have never given in, have stood firm to journey with others to proudly call for their dignity, for their respect, for their humanity.
Of course throughout, the message was one to highlight the fact that there are people seeking asylum for whom their punishment could be prison or even death because of their sexuality or gender identity. People we are continuing to process claims in offshore detention camps, like Nauru, where homosexuality is illegal, people who have escaped persecution and trauma who are continuing to be traumatized by our governments decisions and actions – a lack of compassion. People are continuing to suffer because of fear generated by rhetoric, people who are denied the respect of their humanity, it must end! We must call for an end to dehumanizing and traumatizing treatment! We must make things right.
Because the other thing that amazed me was the peace in which so many people gathered to stand together in solidarity, and how the world might actually look if this example were to be the example we lived by, which is a simple one when we break it down, because it is an example of love, respect for the dignity of humanity, an example of the barriers of fear been broken through, an example of inclusion. I believe we are all called by God to be vehicles of peace, healing and reconciliation not pain and hate – that is the call to all of us regardless of our faith, because we are all created equal, all created in the image of a God who loves – the task for each of us is to work towards this.
I could go on forever, this was a most humbling experience, one I will remember for ever, my first Mardi Gras, but it certainly won’t be my last. To all my Rainbow friends, much love and respect to all.