Speech by James Froch, key organiser of last night’s Queer The Night march, Schools Out facilitator, Wellington Gay Welfare Group trainee co-ordinator, and Workers Party Wellington Education officer.
I’m one of the organisers of this march, but I’m also here as an organiser for Schools Out.
Homophobia is something each of us has to live with. We hesitate to hold our partners hand in public because we fear straight people’s reactions, their dumbfounded staring, their screams of dyke or faggot, their fists and their bottles.
Their homophobic actions aim to rein in our various identities and orientations, to keep us off the streets and in the closets. Its intent is to make queer and trans-people live in fear.
We’re here to say we’re not afraid. We’re here to say we stand as a community against homophobia and transphobia. We’re here to fight until everyone has the right to express and explore their queerness without religious, economic, legal restrictions.
More specifically, we’re here because we’re outraged. We’re outraged that 39% of queer youth seriously consider suicide as a method of dealing with homophobia, a rate three times higher than their straight counterparts. We’re here because we’re outraged that 20% of queer youth actually make attempts on their life, a rate five times higher than their straight counterparts. We’re here because we know that these are not just statistics but actual people, our friends, family and community.
Homophobia and transphobia affect us all on a day-to-day basis too varying degrees. The majority of us, queer youth included, manage to live out and a proud life, to connect with other members of the community, to ward off the isolation and fear homophobia tries to instil within us. However, a significant part of our population remains under constant lethal attack.
So what do we do about it? The only way to eliminate homophobia and transphobia is to collectively organise for the struggle. If we want equality and a society without fear, we have to be prepared to fight for it. Simply put, we need to build movement—the types of movements queers haven’t seen since homosexual law reform.
I don’t think anyone has the illusions that homophobia and transphobia will come to an end with the close of this march. This is just the first step. We need strong community action before we can begin to effect heterosexual culture. The next step in building this movement is to attend our public meeting “homophobia and transphobia and how we respond” at Trades Hall, at 126 Vivian St at 7pm next Thursday.
The third step to ending queer oppression, homophobia and transphobia is to link with other struggles. We alone cannot end our oppression. We need to link our allies in other progressive movements. We need to stand with women struggling against sexism and patriarchy for equal pay, free and safe child care and free and legal abortions. We need to be standing with migrants and Maori against racism, for legal rights to work of all to work here and against land confiscation. We need to link ourselves with the radical and progressive elements of the Labour movement fighting for a living wage. The Wellington Unite Union organiser has been instrumental in helping organise this march. She has taken the first step and I call on everyone here to stand in solidarity with McDonalds workers potentially going on strike next week. Their struggle for a living wage and workers’ power is connected to our struggle for community power.