2011: The Gay Queensland Year That Was
BRISBANE: 2011 was a turbulent and diverse year for Queensland with natural disasters, public rallys and some serious ups and downs. Anthony Smith looks backwards at the events that have stuck in his mind!
January was a month full of turmoil, with the biggest floods since 1974 hitting Brisbane and its surrounds. Massive destruction hit areas of Towoomba and Gatton, while Brisbane city went under water, its streets filled up with a creeping brown menace. The iconic floating restaurant Drift was dragged down river and smashed into a bridge while the Healthy Communities’ GLBTI services were sandbagged in Newstead. As houses flooded people were put into mass emergency accommodation, with a GLBTI emergency billet program set up for people in need of accommodation. Once the waters receded the clean up began, with people all across Queensland pulling in together to help neighbours and strangers alike.
A damming report was also released in January by Roy Morgan Research showing that Queensland was the most homophobic state in Australia, with one-third of people in Queensland believing homosexuality to be immoral. The residents of Capricornia, a district that includes Rockhampton, polled a staggering figure of 44.7%, compared with only 13.6% of Brisbane residents. The poll surveyed around 1,400 from each electoral district.
More bad weather continued in February, with Cyclone Yasi bearing down on Northern Queensland. Places like the iconic Turtle Cove gay resort in Carins and The Soverign Hotel in Townsville prepared for the worst. At the last minute Yasi headed south, hitting the township of Mission Beach and tearing it apart.
May was a big month for gays and lesbians in Brisbane when a planned lecture by visiting American 'ex-gay' speaker Adam Hood was canned by a Brisbane Catholic school after GLBTI activists alerted the school to the lecture’s content. Hood came under fire for claims he had been 'cured' of homosexuality and because he described gays as an “abomination” who would be “damned to hell”. Hood's two lectures in Melbourne were also cancelled soon afterwards.
In June the Rip and Roll campaign by LGBTI organisation Healthy Communities made headlines all around the world after its safe sex posters were pulled down from bus shelters around Brisbane. After a co-ordinated complaint campaign by the Australia Christian Lobby, the company Adshell pulled the poster of two men hugging. Outrage spread quickly at the decision when it was discovered just how few complaints had been made against the image and the calibre of the supporting arguments. The poster was soon reinstated after major media scrutiny and public pressure.
The Brisbane Pride Festival triumphantly returned shortly afterwards, having announced only the year before that it was in serious financial and constitutional trouble. After a new board stepped up the festival returned in June, but with the rally and march relocated to Fortitude Valley. This festival also marked the 50th anniversary of the Queens Ball, the longest running gay and lesbian event in the world. While successful, running these events in the middle of winter was decided to be unfeasible and the elected committee decided to move the festival to September in 2012.
When Bob Katter's gay half-brother, Carl Katter, spoke up in October on a televised interview on 6:30 with George Negus, it caused a media frenzy. People praised him for speaking up and standing against the discrimination he had faced when living in North Queensland. Carl talked about the current gay marriage debate and chided his half-brother and other Members of Parliament for their comments against the GLBTI community.
December saw the Marriage Equality debate close in, with Andrew Fraser launching the Queensland Civil Union Bill; the Bill was passed with a 47 to 40 vote despite all members of the Liberal National Party (LNP) withholding support. In the same month Julia Gillard announced she was opening up the Gay Marriage bill as a conscience vote for Federal Labour MP's, while Tony Abbot announced that the LNP would vote against the bill as a bloc. A contingent from the Brisbane Equal Love movement made its way down south to Sydney for the massive Marriage Equality rally held in Hyde Park; where over 10,000 made their views known.
What was your highlight from 2011? Let us know on our Facebook page!