marriage equality love won 15.11.2017

The chairs have been stacked, the glitter has been swept up, and our all-gender bathrooms have been returned (alas) to their ‘male’ and ‘female’ binary designations. Better Together 2018 was an inspiring two-day showcase of the depth of thinking and passion of our LGBTIQ community of communities.

Over those two short days, 647 LGBTIQ people and allies attended 56 sessions with dozens of speakers and facilitators to revive the legacy of the National Homosexual Conferences of the 1970s and 80s and establish a new 21st-century platform for conversation, collaboration and action on LGBTIQ rights and social justice.

The Equality Project was founded to open up space for talking more deeply about how our communities work together and how we support others in the social justice movements to achieve genuinely meaningful and lasting social change.

Our biennial conference is just part of that.

We need to keep the conversation going and continue to build bridges that support all of our communities and achieve our vision of a world that values and affirms all LGBTIQ people as full citizens.

– The Equality Project Team


The Rise of Rainbow Atheism – Geoff Allshorn


  • still going to church looking for community
  • still going to church seeking space of acceptance and inclusion
  • LGBTIQA+ support is being “snuck in” by allies under other labels/programmes eg. playground bullying, welfare issues… there are those working within the system for change.
  • non-believers/atheists are a belief group that needs to be respected too – rather than dismissed as an individual that doesn’t belong anywhere. How might Rainbow Atheists develop a corporate identity?
  • atheism still seen as largely white, educated, male… see hope of that changing.
  • religiosity growing in poorer regions rather then privileged. What does that tell us?
  • frequently becoming atheists because of damage by church/religion – a way of saying “fuck you” to the church. This group are largely invisible and unacknowledged.
  • {older} I find solace in faith that there’s something afterwards when my friends die.
  • I have a humanist approach.  Where there are experiences that validate my faith, I stay in church. If there’s not, I leave. It’s faith that gives belonging – not the church. More comfortable to stay with what you know than reflect and grow… you feel hurt and don’t want to be hurt again, it’s natural to want to stay away… but am I exploring?  I care about refugees, equality, I’m an activist. Faith still informs my actions and choices.

Further Reading:

Australian skeptics
YouTube The Atheist Experience
Contact Geoff if you’re interest in being part of something local – formal or informal.

garden town hall urban planters

Disabled Identity – A Symposium with Mellem Rose, Aymam Barbaresco, Jax Brown and Grant Maynard (Panel Chair)

GM: Interaction and intersectionality can often feel like groundhog day. Frequently have people approach and ask things like: how do you fuck? how do you do yoga? what’s wrong with you? you are so inspirational! … our story must necessarily inspire or be tragic. How or have you experienced this?

JB: Repetitive and a stereotype.  My life must be terrible or tragic… that’s not my truth… I don’t tell a sad story because I don’t have one. People don’t know how to respond.  I can get practical assistance with access t housing, employment, etc. but what about access support to explore sexuality and inclusion?

AB: Mine is a neurological diagnosis. I’m a person – mind, heart, body, soul… treat me like anyone else.  Within LGBTIQ+ community… feel a bit judged.  Don’t fit. Sitting at equal eye level and making eye contact is important. Sets us more equally.

MR: I’m non-binary, am autistic and have Tourettes…. only diagnosed at 29. Until that point I had been told I had behavioural issues.  I’m not aware when my tone and expression change. Sound is deafening – sights, sounds, smell, touching…. sensory issues. I want to engage but I have to leave. Are there quiet networking spaces? I get worries that people don’t understand me.They think I mean it (raised voice or swearing) but I don’t.  I swear at the doctor, the chemist, in restaurants… to be around me you have to accept who I am.

JB: Around privacy and consent, we have to overshare to get access.  Weave the personal with our rights.  We not taught our bodies belong to us – it seems it belongs to doctors, belongs to those trying to make me “normal”. Never given space to accept my ability as who I am. calling body ‘home’ instead of being exiled from my own skin… feel to move in this body and my chair like I need a lot of distance, not to take up space or be different, I need to inhabit and call this body mine.  I get to say what I’m going to share and not. My hair is bright red – as a flag to others who are queer but also sometimes because it means I get to participate in a conversation about that instead of my disability.

AB: I choose to participate in tests and trials. I hope to make it better for the next person. I’m happy to be used as research.

MR: Before I was diagnosed… my parents would talk about me.  They wanted support for how hard it was raising me.  The online spaces are filled with parents (they post photos, videos, stories of behaviour seeking advice and sympathy without consent). I’m still trying to find online spaces where I can be myself.  I’m an over-sharer but I’m making that choice.

GM: How important is choice?

JB: When I was young my family were involved in medical practice, tests, etc.I didn’t have a choice. I do now.  People have been so disempowered.  when you ask: “what do you want? Where do you see yourself?” They don’t know how to answer.  Lack of choice.  We are denied so much that’s taken for granted – that one day you will live out of home, with a partner… receive care from family members not staff so you can’t advocate for what you can’t imagine you could have. Medical appointments… take a lot of effort and capacity – it is like running a business to co-ordinate getting the services you need.

AB: Access isn’t safe on PT at night.  There might be a ramp and signage but what about being deaf, queer, managing loud noise (autism)… Access means and looks like lots of different things

MR: After I resolve an issue people often want a hug/comfort.  I don’t. Not my problem.  Need my boundaries. There’s a lot of drinking and drugs in the LGBTIQ+ culture and I want to feel safe.

JB: we need improved mental health services. when I had depression in my 20s it was assumed the cause was my chair not because I was heartbroken and queer… it was nothing to do with my chair.  I have to do Jax 101 with every doctor > this is profoundly disempowering. I have to be in this advocacy role and I don’t want to be.  Have depression, must = chair.  I have to educate. I can’t just be who I am.

AB: I have scoliosis so was put on female growth hormones.  experienced weight gain from the drugs.  No youth helpline and online chat rooms – had family only. I ate a lot.

GM:  It’s hard to find an advocate – eg. a minority within a minority e.g. Gay and in a chair… started to take drugs… became a regular meth user… for the first time felt connected to community. I had somewhere to go and something to everyday.

How can we create better space?

  • gender diverse/non-binary research is taking place overseas but not here
  • ask the person what they want, don’t assume you know
  • educate yourself and become fluent – we need to advocate for ourselves and each other. Society is very conservative – suggesting sexuality is a very radical idea
  • change surveys and forms to have inclusive language. e.g. male or female.  Systems are stuck in binary.  Everyone should be working on this.
  • e.g. if I want to go to a gay club, might get a referral from my disability agency to an LGBTIQ+ community… go there and they refer back. Need paid work for people to be trained in both and offer an integrated package.


love is love graffiti

Beyond Sorry, The Apology at Work by Equal Voices

The Equal Voices campaign invite all Christians to make the following apology.

Beyond “sorry”, what does this apology look like at work (lived out)

Allies need to stand up. People will often say: “But I haven’t done anything”  … yes. You haven’t done anything. You haven’t done anything to discover whether your church is a safe or welcoming space for those LGBTIQA+ identifying and create the foundation if it is not. This work is left to them.  You haven’t had conversations with those who find inclusion and acceptance of LGBTIQA+ identifying folk at church difficult.  This work is left to them.  You haven’t fought for recognition and acceptance of all humankind – made by God, in the image of God, loved by God. This work has been left to them… what could you do that isn’t “nothing”? What consultation and listening might we be able to undertake from the wisdom of those who have been largely carrying the burden of this work alone? And how might we come alongside as allies and advocates?

An apology to my LGBTIQ+ friends, and to all who have been adversely affected by the teachings and behaviour of Christians and their churches

Considering the ways in which you have been hurt by me, and by other Christians and churches, I ask for your forgiveness:

  1. For being too slow to acknowledge that we need to say sorry to you;
  2. For not speaking up against the damaging, isolating, and often violent mistreatment you have been subjected to;
  3. For speaking about you, without first listening to you;
  4. For not creating safe environments within our churches where people can speak openly and honestly about their struggles and understandings;
  5. For perpetuating stereotypes, and for not taking full account of your actual lived experiences;
  6. For talking to you or about you in such a way as to suggest that sexual and gender differences are not part of your true identity as humans made in the image of God;
  7. For perpetuating the mistaken belief that sexual orientation and gender identity should be treated, healed or changed;
  8. For rejecting and harming people with intersex variations because we fail to understand or accept your non-binary biological sex characteristics;
  9. For not acknowledging that Christians who are seeking to be faithful to their Lord and to the Scriptures are coming to different conclusions on matters of gender, sexual orientation, non-binary biological sex, and marriage.

I commit myself to:

  1. honour and support you in every way I can;
  2. be open to your correction and gentle guidance;
  3. act in love to hold others to account for words, behaviour or practices which hurt, harm or exclude;
  4. promote respectful, inclusive and informed discussion about issues of Biblical interpretation and application;
  5. work with you to bring about transformative change within our churches.

mental health and transgender people

Mental Health and Transgender People with Brenda from Transgender Victoria


Inclusive practices

  • use the correct pronoun (ask don’t guess) this is as important as correctly knowing my first name
  • designing forms – gender and titles, Mr, Mrs, etc.)
  • designing forms – ways of writings marital status/family of choice (not family of origin). Allow space to self-describe.
  • consideration given to regard to privacy, confidentiality and discretion (especially where people are trans and intersex)
  • don’t assume someone is (or isn’t) TGD because of the way they look or how they seem.
  • treating everyone the same is not necessarily meeting individual needs (needs not met and understood)


We need to remove systemic barriers

There are no LGBTIQ/TGD mental health programs at state, national, local levels. Nothing to address it. Nothing changes. What needs to be done?


…suicide, self-harm, eating disorders. 48.1% attempt suicide by 25 years old.


Trans and Gender Diverse (TGD) people can

  • be strong
  • look outfor others
  • engage community and allies
  • recognition getting easier but still a long way from equality
  • use your experience to make it easier for others
  • remember the power of stories
  • encourage medical providers to get themselves up to speed – tell them about online training Ruth McNair is releasing later this year (right now I’m paying them to teach them about me)
  • recognise that some find solace in religion


Families can do:

  • a LOT family has impact
  • find the help you/they need eg. RCH, Monash, Northside, PMC, Equinox, H&H, TransFamily Drummond St Services, QLives, Switchboard
  • use right pronouns and first names
  • be positive there are many success stories
  • support Safe Schools – bullying
  • support and promote positive TGD stories
  • embrace and celebrate diversity
  • pride march/events

What needs to be done short term?

  • encourage TGD to reach for help. “You’re not alone. It’s ok.”
  • encourage families to accept not reject TGD family members
  • encourage increased TGD safe and informed medical practitioners and make access easier
  • improve TGD friendly and informed phone support
  • encourage more peer supports organisations

What needs to be done medium term?

  • informed consent model
  • better TGD pathways
  • talk to your Member of Parliament about your lived experience around legislation – need to be known as community/constituency members
  • medical practitioners up to speed
  • increased/improved mental health interventions and programs

What needs to be done long term?

  • lobby at Federal/State and Territorial levels
  • improve Medicare and PBS support
  • private health care cover
  • provision of a multidisciplinary clinic in each state > within public healthcare system

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Melbourne Bi-Network Strategies for Health and Resistance

A network of BI+ within queer community. 22 members, 3 aims:

  1. education
  2. broadening community
  3. look at existing organisations – are they inclusive? could they be more so?how can we work together?

Triple Bi-Pass show – listen to podcast episodes


  • I have to choose between going to an autism support organisation or queers support organisation – have to explain my other thing whichever I decide.
  • Ella Musak – done research on bisexuality and men in rural Australia.  How can we support people that are rural and isolated.? There’s a high correlation of bisexuality and family violence/similar to misogyny and family violence… are they queer and experiencing bi-phobia?
  • We’ve had a caller say listening to our shnow was like listening to his diary
  • First time at a conference, great to have this space. Discrimination, homophobia and transphobia, within the community.
  • Psychiatrist on staff. Only 10% of bi-males are coming out.  There’s a high incidence of aids – they’re married to women and having sex with men. negative health outcomes of multi-gendered attraction.  “bi-furious” physical and mental outcomes… how do we fix this?
  • Don’t go into the queer lounge at Uni… doesn’t feel safe. I didn’t know what having social support felt like.
  • Identifying as bi… you are seen as public property.  Bi-sexuals are more likely to expereice domestic violence, sexual assault and being fetishcised.
  • Gay people see you as fake, a liar, dabbling… straight people see you as gay.
  • Created a resource called “Bi-5” an audit tool for organisations… they might say they’re welcome and spaces are safe but are they?
  • Bi-Alliance walked under a banner within the Pride parade and got heckled.
  • Need to report biphobia.  Anti-discrimination support is there if you want it.  Personally and for the stats – need to make the problem (needs of community) visible
  • Know of a woman in a domestic violence relationship. Police came to the house once a week for 5 years (violence) both were bi but its reported as hetero because it was male/female.
  • San Fransisco far ahead on resources – they produce a pamphlet/guide for therapists re learning affirming language for therapeutically supporting poly, pan, multi-gendered, asexuals…
  • That idea that men and women can’t be friends… bi-people can’t have friends of either gender.
  • Research forms can offer a “gay/lesbian” box but we need another category. we’re not only leaving people out but we’re gathering bad data.


The LGBTI community and the Christian Church – dispelling the myths and bridging the gap with

Anthony Venn-Brown, Founder and CEO, Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International

Full session talk and slides here:


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How Faith Communities Can Support Transgender People with Sally Goldman (Panel Chair)

Ask of four faith leaders – what do you do at your church?

Beck Bower – Northern Inclusive Church
You have more friends than you know. You don’t have to surrender yourself to your faith. was at the Justice Conference…. this is a better conference.  You are preaching a powerful message. I try not to do anything different on the basis of someones sexuality.  Someone comes and asks: My son is trans, he’s 8 years old – will you baptise him?  Yes.  want everyone to be their most authentic self. want people to find belonging in a faith community that supports you when you need support. You are loved. Listen to people and love people, support people.  Answer any questions… can you help me find a friendly/understanding hairdresser? What does the bible say about people like me? Transgender Vic/Family… our church tithes 10% of its income to these organisations.  Acknowledge we don’t have all the answers.

Rev Susan Townsend – Metropolitan Church
Everyone created equally Psalm 139 – loved and cherished just how they are.  All CC churches. Participate on Board, as pastors, community volunteers. Angel – studies re how churches can be more inclusive.  Pronouns on our name tags, gender neutral bathrooms at conferences. Language for non-gender God, use the word siblings not brother/sister, etc. Acknowledge Intersex Remembrance day.

Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black – Leo Baeck Centre
Progressive Jewish movement – readings, Torah, Prayer books use non-gendered language and move away from King/Lord/Master language.  Have a statement on our handouts – “people of any religion and sexual identity welcome” Religion needs to change to become progressive religion.  All are made in the image of God and the essence of God is within them.  Love is a response to God’s presence in the world, irrespective of who its between. Progressive Rabbis – post-plebiscite… asked for legislation to be passed immediately.  Been conducting same-sex commitment ceremonies in last 10 years… not a queue of people waiting to marry so far.  Daughters of Israel and sons of Zion > binary language. Need to drawer from those elders you admire.

Sedat Annis/Omis (sorry I’m sure that’s spelt incorrectly!) – Buddhist Order
To develop greater and great depths of compassion is the path: intention – generosity, kindness… founder was gay.  Becomes meaningless when you are fully embodied/authentic self.  we do meditation and study in gender groups. Join whichever one you feel is the authentic you.  when events are male/female… if you are non-binary, which do you go to? Retreats and events are mixed now so that it doesn’t matter.

Ask of four trans people: how does my faith support my trans/gender journey and personally?

Michelle – 40s, autism, Christian, queer-trans, work at a bank. Grandfather was a Sydney Anglican. I have a theology degree.  Good man or woman of God. Melbourne affirming and inclusive.  Attend Fitzroy North Community Church. I’m wonderfully and beautifully made and they love me. Life of Jesus… I’m a human person like he was… inclusion, acceptance, kindness, compassion. Don’t have to wear a mask or pretend to be something that I’m not.  There are people like me in the church that don’t have the love and support that I have had – they don’t know how to come out/live their truth and maintain their faith.  Be patient and tell stories.  This works. It’s not contrary.

Nero – artist, author, faith/spirituality, mental health, Jewish culturally but not by religion.  Language, food, art, community. Judaism and trans not conflicted.  Not just tolerant but embracing… if I want to live immersed in Jewish community need to be south, if with my queer community need to live in the northern suburbs.  I have to choose who I’m close to.  I do speeches with my Mum to more conservative Jewish audiences – went back to my school King David.  Have a Facebook group:Here, queer and Jewish…don’t have to choose in this space.  Have Sabbath dinners with this group.  Need faith along the journey for mental health and wellness.

Terry Anne O’Donnell – “Why did You make me like this?!” years of pain/considering suicide.”Why didn’t you give me a girls body?” Left-handed, dyslexia, called dumb at church, a sinner and a cissy.  Took a long time to know I am loved just as I am.  Feels like yesterday but it was 1997 when I started that process.  T.I.L.G.B.Q.A Diana West, Christian faith.  Bullied to ‘toughen you up’. You need to find a Trans-elder… they  guide in challenges and have love in their hearts.  Be kind to those who are angry/hurting.  Sometimes you need to walk on/move on. Became homeless and metstreet church crew who feed those on the street.  Show people you have a faith people can get up and walk to.

Michelle – gay monk came out. can change faith communities – work with them to change.  Of the four church leaders here the three females are all lesbians.  It’s about becoming and living as your authentic self.

What are some of the roadblocks?

  • approach to text
  • cultural complexity (eg race norms)