Rockhampton rally for Equal Marriage
Cath is one of the organisers of Rockhampton’s Rally for Marriage Equality on April 18. She spoke with Andrew Shaw about the rally and what it’s like being part of the LGBTI community in Rockhampton.
Cath, you’re holding the rally on August 18, a week after the Equal Love rallies across the country on the 11th. Why did you choose the 18th?
The event was started by a friend of mine, Kate Moore, who thought it would be a nice idea to get a group of local equality supporters together at a Rockhampton landmark and take a photo to send out to politicians. Katie created the Facebook event and she and my partner, Monnie, shared the event with their Facebook friends.
Before we knew it, word had spread and over 300 people had agreed to attend the event. Kate set the date as [August] 18th – it was a fairly arbitrary choice at the time – without realising there were Equal Love rallies being held on the 11th. We discussed changing the date to the 11th, but decided it was best to keep it as the 18th to avoid confusion and because some participants had already applied for time off work or made plans to travel just for the rally.
Which organisation is organising the rally, or is it being done through personal networks?
This is an entirely grassroots event. There is no formal organising committee or affiliation to any organisation or group. The 'hosts' for the Facebook event are myself, my partner, Monnie Williams, and Kate (KT) Moore. We have done our best to make this an organic process and allow the community to contribute, discuss ideas and troubleshoot and to decide their own roles and level of participation.
Another friend and supporter took it upon himself to make enquiries with the local council who have given verbal approval and I have since lodged paperwork with them for formal approval. My partner enquired with the police about how we should go about things and they have helped her obtain the appropriate permit.
How many people are you expecting to attend?
So far, 347 people have said they are attending on the Facebook event page. We know that some of these people are not physically attending but have registered as 'going' as a way of showing support. We can only speculate on actual attendance, but 200 seems a reasonable estimate.
Our local federal member, Kirsten Livermore, has been invited to attend and to speak but we haven't had a response yet. Ms Livermore is already in support of marriage equality and we hope that she will endorse the rally. I intend to extend invitations to our other regional representatives, as well as local media.
The local paper The Morning Bulletin last week ran a brief story about the rally, featuring myself and my partner with our daughter.
You mention Club-Rok on the event page.
Rockhampton Club-Rok Inc is a group that organises a monthly 'gay-friendly' event. Rocky is a small town and we don't have a 'gay' venue as such, but presently Club-Rok hold their events at the Post Office Hotel. The events are often themed and showcase local and out-of-town performers, including drag shows.
How important is Facebook when you’re organising an event like this?
I personally wouldn't have a clue as to how to go about organizing something like this without Facebook. Apart from some liaising with council, police, etc, the entire process has been done via Facebook, either directly on the event page or by discussions via private message. The majority of promotion has been word of mouth by means of 'sharing' and 'inviting' through the Facebook event.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your involvement in the Rockhampton LGBTI community?
I live with my partner, Monnie, and our daughter Lilliana – conceived via AI using a sperm donor. Monnie is pregnant with our second baby. We both grew up locally. I haven't had active involvement with any groups before this, but I have tried always to support initiatives in our local area, such as attending and promoting events like CQ Fair Day 2011 and 2012. I feel that the best way I can support the LGBTI community is to be out and proud and known in the wider community as a good parent, good neighbour and someone who contributes to the community in a positive way – and just happens to be in a same-sex relationship.
What’s it like to live in Rockhampton as an LGBTI person?
The attitude towards LGBTI people has improved over the years. I feel that the younger generation are far more accepting. Most people know someone who is gay or have a friend or family member who is gay. Once the fear of the unknown is gone, reasonable people feel no need to hate or judge. That is why I feel the most important 'activism' I can do is to be 'out' and unashamed.
Club-Rok events are probably the most popular way to meet other LGBTI people in an accepting environment. I believe there are also some Facebook groups who have get-togethers.
How difficult is it in Rockhampton for LGBTI people to be themselves in public? What level of behaviour provokes a response: Kissing? Hand-holding? Looking ‘gay’?
PDAs would certainly raise eyebrows at the very least. I think many lesbian couples might feel safe enough to kiss in public but I have NEVER seen a gay male couple kissing or holding hands in Rockhampton outside of LGBTI-specific events and I think they would feel they may be at risk of physical harm if they did.
In terms of appearing 'gay' or 'queer' – anybody who is different will probably stand out and may feel self-conscious or feel judged. Again, gay men – or those perceived to be gay – are a more common target than women and are more likely to experience rude or offensive remarks or even threats. In my personal experience, I feel safe to hold my partner's hand in most circumstances. I have rarely encountered direct bigotry. I can't speak for others' experiences, though.
You have posted about conduct during the march on the behalf of marchers, do you have concerns about how the media might portray you?
I'd like everyone to be safe on the day, first and foremost. And that will require responsible behaviour. I also don't want to give anyone reason to believe that the LGBTI community are anything other than responsible and fair members of society. I worry that those against equality for LGBTI people will be watching with scrutiny for further excuses to discriminate against us. If we encounter opposition or provocation, I hope that our participants can rise above and carry on with dignity. This isn't always easy when passions are high.
A person called Mitchell posted on your FB event page: “Maybe I'm just a pessimist, but I'm fully expecting resistance. This is Rockhampton. The only reason it's not a Hate State is because they're not organized enough to channel any of that negative emotion into anything.” Do you agree with his suggestion that bigots are waiting for something like your rally to pick on?
This is a pessimistic viewpoint, but it is still valid and no doubt there are others who feel the same way as Mitchell. I disagree with Mitchell, though. I believe it is unlikely we will encounter 'resistance'. He says himself "they're not organized enough" and I really don't think any haters will bother with us. Apparently some posters promoting the event have been torn down by persons unknown. This is the kind of opportunistic and cowardly 'resistance' I expect, but nothing more.
Rockhampton Rally for Marriage Equality, Saturday, August 18, 2012. Starts 3pm at PCYC, Bridge Street, North Rockhampton, proceeds over the bridge to Central Park (Rainbow Fountain). After Party at Republik, 234 Quay Street, Rockhampton. FB event page: ‘Rockhampton Rally for Marriage Equality 2012’. Club-Rock FB: facebook.com/rockhampton.clubrok
IMAGE: Some of the helpers, performers and organisers from this year's CQ Fair Day. This was the second year of Fair Day for Rockhampton, a drug and alcohol free event for LGBTI people, family and friends including live entertainment, market stalls and a sausage sizzle.