Thanks to our LGBT+ elders

Today I’d like to give thanks – and there is so much to be thankful for.

When a good friend of mine came out to his mother, she wept. She was devastated. Not because she loved him less, but because she saw a rough road ahead of him. “Life will be so hard for you”, she explained.

And in her generation, it was. There were no good options for our community. The best path was to live in hushed communities in sanctuary cities dotted sparely across the globe. The more common path was to despair, abuse, and even an early demise, perhaps at your own hand or at the hand of a terrible virus that we started fighting far too late.

Against that bleak background, a few special people made the outrageous decision, the dangerous decision to fight. To do something about it. To be out and to be allies. To present society with its own values of equality, liberty, and dignity and say what I’m asking for is not revolutionary, it is what you told me that we all get. I want some of what you preach. Your equality is my equality and I will put myself at risk to get it.

The generations before us walked troubled paths that we millennials will never know – but on days like this, we must try to know. We must try to see our lot in life. We must see that our community does not have equal opportunity and that some of us, people like me, should give more sympathy than we receive. 

Today we give thanks to those with the grey hair and rainbow lanyards. This is how I want to do it: I was raised Roman Catholic. I can’t say that I stayed awake for every mass of my childhood, but I can say one of the best parts, one of the warmest parts, of a Catholic mass was turning to those around you and saying “peace be with you”. Often, they’d be strangers in your own church. You’d often be giving peace and shaking hands with someone you hadn’t really met. 

And at IDAHOBIT 2021, we owe so much to elders we haven’t really met. So whoever it was that first walked down Main Street, hand in hand with their same sex partner, peace be with you. Whoever it was that first waved a rainbow flag at our parliament to agitate for change, peace be with you. And to all our elders who faced ridicule, rejection, humiliation and violence, and kept going in spite of it all, peace be with you.

“Life will be so hard for you” is what so many of our mothers thought for us. And today we thank all those people who made our mums so happy to be so wrong.

(Speech for Brisbane City Council’s IDAHOBIT Day Event – 18 May 2021)

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