Originally published in FUSE, December 2010
It is the end of another year. With a Federal Election, growing momentum from the queer movement and political and legal changes around the world, 2010 has been momentous. As the year comes to the end, it is worth looking back on some of the major events, victories, losses and changes of 2010.
So, here it goes; a brief summary of the queer year of 2010.
2010 was a unique year in Australian political history.
With a Federal Election in August, 2010 brought with it dramatic changes to the shape of Australian politics. In late 2009 Tony Abbott was elected as the leader of the opposition in a somewhat unprecedented coup. That was until June, when Julia Gillard swiftly knifed Kevin Rudd for the leadership of the ALP. Three weeks later, Gillard called the Federal Election. These dramatic changes brought with them a dramatic result, as Australians elected the second hung parliament in our history – leading to the ALP forming a minority Government.
This election was also historic for the efforts of many in the queer movement, in particular those working for marriage equality. The 2010 federal election saw queer activists mobilise around marriage equality in a targeted and effective manner. In particular, Marriage Equality Australia targeted the inner city seats such as those held by ALP members Anthony Albanese, Tanya Plibersek and Lindsay Tanner in order to get marriage equality onto the national agenda. This saw the queer activists mobilise within friendly areas to demand change; something which added to the momentum around the country of those demanding change.
There were also two other elections in Australia this year. In South Australia, the Labor Government was returned with a reduced majority. In Tasmania, the ALP was also re-elected, but only with the support of the Greens, who took two cabinet positions.
2010 also brought some significant institutional changes within Australia.
In March the New South Wales Government set an international precedent by officially recognising Norrie May-Welby as neither male nor female. The success was short lived however; as May-Welby was forced to take the case to Human Rights Commissioner after the decision was revoked by the registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. There has yet to be a resolution to May-Welby’s challenge.
Concurrently, the chief defence force of Australia ordered that the ban on transgender people serving in the defence force be lifted.
On the 29th of September, Tasmania passed a bill recognising all legal same-sex marriages performed outside Tasmania.
Issues around coming out made it into the headlines in the middle of 2010 as two major stories stirred debate around the difficulties queer people face when coming out. It all began when AFL player Jason Akermanis wrote a newspaper column arguing that any gay players should refrain from coming out as the league wasn’t ready for it. This was followed a few days later by the public outing of NSW transport minister David Campbell, when Seven News showed footage of him leaving a gay sex club.
Of course, on top of all of this activity there were the many pride events, the Mardis Gras and the regular ACT SpringOut Event. These events, along with many others around the country continued to bring people from all parts of the Australian community together to celebrate and take pride in the diversity and strength of the ‘queer community’.
There have been many significant political and community based changes around the world in 2010.
Both the UK and US saw significant changes in 2010 as elections took their countries back to the right. In the UK, elections in May brought a Coalition comprising of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to power.
In November, Republicans took control of the US House of Representatives and gained extra seats in the Senate to create a significantly different new political climate for the next two years.
There have also been significant changes on many legal fronts for queer people. The most important of these has been the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Fiji. This move brings the number of countries where homosexuality is illegal down to 79.
On the marriage front, Portugal, Argentina, Mexico City and Iceland all passed same sex marriage legislation. Iceland was particularly momentous as the countries Prime Minister, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, became one of the first to utilise the legislation marrying her partner Jónína Leósdóttir.
Whilst it technically didn’t happen in 2010, Pakistan made headlines early in the year by legally recognising hijra as an official third gender. This occurred after a supreme court challenge was upheld, making Pakistan one of only a few nations to recognise more than two genders.
In the US, two major court cases saw momentum build around Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and marriage equality. In September a judge ordered that DADT was unconstitutional. Whilst this has yet to be acted on, it has brought with it significant momentum that could easily result in the overturning of the policy. Almost simultaneously, a judge in California declared that proposition 8, the legislation that made same-sex marriage illegal in the United States was unconstitutional. This is a move that could result in the overturning of all same-sex marriage bans in the United States.
These positive results however, were still unfortunately matched by some serious negative issues.
The issue of queer mental health was also brought to attention in the United States after the suicide of Tyler Clementi after two of his roommates streamed footage of him having sex with another man on the Internet. This was the most high profile of a string of suicides from young people who had been bullied in one way or another. Following it, columnist Dan Savage and his partner Terry launched the “It Gets Better Project”; a YouTube channel designed to help young queer people get through difficult times.
In Malawi two men were arrested after they held an engagement ceremony in December. After a well publicised trial, which was strongly condemned around the world, the men were eventually sentenced to 14 years imprisonment with hard labour.
So, there it is – a brief story of the queer year of 2010. Whilst I’ve missed plenty of activity that’s happening around the world I hope this story paints a picture of a movement that is growing stronger, but still has lots to do.
I must acknowledge that we cannot look at these changes in isolation. Changes to legislation or advances in debate are only useful if they are met with other changes around the world. For example, there’s no point to having marriage equality, when our queer friends in Uganda face the death penalty for being out, while our trans* friends lack access to appropriate healthcare and other services because their government doesn’t recognise their gender, while kids in schools all across the world are bullied for not living up to sex/gender stereotypes. As we look back at these victories therefore, let’s remember that issues such as marriage equality are only one part of the significant changes needed in our society to create a fair and more just world.
What to expect in 2011? Who knows, but as the queer movement gets stronger, more changes to our society can only follow in the years to come.