Members of the ANU community have joined the University's LGBTIQ* students and staff to celebrate pride and diversity on the second anniversary of Australia voting 'yes' to marriage equality.
Hosted by the ANU Postgraduate and Research Students' Association with participation of ANUSA Queer* Department and the ANU Respectful Relationships Unit, the WE ARE! PROUD party took place at the ANU Union Bar last Friday night.
In welcoming partygoers to the event, PARSA's Queer Officer Weli Menario said pride exists in many forms within the queer* community.
"We are a minority group, which means we need to fight daily for many things... such as visibility at our work, school or even homes, so people can remember we exist the way we do."
"That is why events like this are very important. It is not just about how many people turn up, but how many people hear about it, as it helps with strengthening our queer* community and showing how welcoming we really are", he said.
Weli also affirmed that the list of things people might not realise that we need to militate constantly to access goes on:
"Respect and recognition as a significant fraction of the society but also direct respect from our colleagues and even friends and family at many points in our lives; safety so there are laws that protect us from hate or worse physical harm; legal recognition of our love so we can dream with marriage as anyone else can do."
"There is still a lot to do in the name of equality and human rights, but coming from a different country where things are still running much far behind, I have to say how sheltered we all are here. That is actually a good thing, but we cannot simply take a rest in this shelter."
"There are many people who come to work or study here who have never heard about queer* people in a positive context or have never had an openly queer* friend. These people are promising leaders in their communities. We can be an eye opener for them, and this can have a positive impact in the lives of so many queer* people around the world."
Weli said in his day to day life, his activities as a queer* person are not different from anyone else's.
"When it comes to the differences, by that I mean, my sexual orientation," he said.
"I have learned that my sexual orientation may vary from the majority, but it still is just a sexual orientation. People may think that is the bad side of me but it is not, it is just purely the way I experience sexual attraction."
ANU has proved to be a safe space, he said.
"But it is not quite an open one as many may think it is. There is still lots of things to do here in the name of equality, just like anywhere else."
"It is important that everyone understands that the rights we fight for are not just beneficial for the queer* community, but for the whole society, because it becomes more equal, safe, and fair," he said.
"It is crucial that we spread this knowledge through our acts, so people can go back to their homes, wherever they are, and bring with them this understanding."
Aisling (Ash) Arnould, the undergraduate Queer* representative who attended the We Are! Proud event, said the event is a testament to the strength of the queer community here at ANU.
"More than that it shows that we're proud of who we are and that we'll never be anything but proud of who we are," Ash said.
This year, WE ARE! Proud worked also as a platform for intersex visibility, the 'I' in the LGBTIQA+ acronym. Mimi Hall who is intersex and helped organise the party's music, told the gathering that intersex was just one part of their identity.
"But unfortunately, society and the medical community try to enforce the cissexist and heteronormative sex binary on us and hide us from each other and the rest of the world.
"This event is incredibly special to me, because it is one that is increasing intersex visibility, and one of the first events I'm at which is celebrating intersex, and how amazing and unique and awesome it is!
Mimi said it was important for people to read the Darlington Statement and continue to push change to laws in Australia and New Zealand to protect intersex individuals.
"I really hope one day we can have a party where we celebrate the banning of unnecessary medical intervention that is happening on intersex children around the world including in Australia."
Manager of the Respectful Relationships team, Sue Webeck said people being able to bring themselves to the environments they live, learn and work in is fundamental to everyone feeling safe and connected in the ANU community.
"Our communities still experience violence and poor community attitudes at disproportionate rates so having time to celebrate the diversity of our community in a welcoming space is essential.
"Every member of our ANU community should feel welcomed and valued and I thank PARSA for bringing us all together to demonstrate that."
If you'd like to meet people in the LGBTIQ* community or find out what events and activities the community has planned throughout the year, contact the Respectful Relationships Unit: https://www.anu.edu.au/students/contacts/respectful-relationships-unit