Written by CEO Albert Kruger

What does it mean to be a queer leader?

At its core, leadership is about inspiring others. It can be to achieve a common goal, become the best version of oneself, or to drive positive change. But traditional leadership is confined by the social constructions society has labelled it with. The notion that there must be one person above all else who leads and directs others, and that there is an authoritarian structure involved in traditional leadership.

Queer leadership aims to dismantle these conventional principles, demonstrating that leadership can be a collective effort to inspire, and drive, positive change. Leadership as a collective effort has the capacity to foster stronger community bonds and a sense of belonging which traditional leadership lacks. It brings about a shared vision and a sharing of decision making which traditional, autocratic structures of leadership lack.

There is a strong legacy of LGBTQIA+ leaders driving positive change and standing up for their community, even in incredibly difficult and oppressing circumstances. Peter De Waal is one such individual, whose legacy of LGBTQIA+ activism has left an everlasting legacy. A member of the 78ers, De Waal is a foundation member of CAMP Inc (Campaign Against Moral Persecution), established Phone-A-Friend, the precursor of the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service, as well as being a staunch supporter of the marriage equality movement in Australia. De Waal exemplifies what queer leadership means, it is about being a changemaker, and inspiring others to drive the change which you yourself stand for.

What do positive LGBTQIA+ leaders do?

Be visible no matter what! Leadership is never a silent activity; it needs to be heard and seen to have an effect. Having visible LGBTQIA+ work and community role models is extremely important. They provide the rest of their community with something to be empowered by and someone to look to in times of upheaval.

A role model is not always a public figure either, it can be a colleague who leads by example and creates a safe space for queer individuals to be a part of in the workplace. These role models can be just as important as public figures, as they inspire those around them in real time and in a tangible manner.

Always show passion and courage. My advice to the community is to keep showing passion, courage, and resilience. It is vital that queer leaders make their identity, motivations and resiliency known. It is by being your authentic self that you are then able to inspire and be a leader in the eyes of queer communities.

Do what you love. If you feel that it’s right, go for it! Historically, our communities have shown courage and bravery in the hardest situations. With that passion, we have taken huge strides in protecting and progressing LGBTQIA+ rights and ensuring that the legacy of the 78ers continues to live on. Ensuring that the work of Peter De Waal lives on.

Practice civic engagement. Community and civic engagement are critical and require a least a bit of sacrifice. Commit to the cause. Lobbying and engaging in LGBTQIA+ rights activism is important. Sometimes it seems to be so easy to sit on the side and wait for changes. Don’t be an observer, understand and be aware of the movement that are affecting your fellow LGBTQIA+ communities and show your solidarity.

Collaboration at the core. Together we’re stronger. Our communities have helped us create an impact. We as a community are loud advocates for LGBTQIA+ people, andwe know our collaborative work has been pivotal in bringing about lasting social change.

This collaboration stems into the work environment as well. Advocate within your organisation to promote inclusivity of LGBTQIA+ individuals to create safer working spaces for queer communities. Collaboration is about creating an impact for your community in all facets of life, so why should work life be any different.

Don’t wait for change, inspire it.

Having the honour of leading the team at Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras means I’ve been able to drive forward and amplify the voices of our communities more than ever. Mardi Gras started as a protest, and that fire has never gone out thanks to the staunch and unwavering activism of the 78ers who started it all.

I want to thank them, and all leaders of LGBTQIA+ communities for their motivation and resilience to continue to fight and advocate for the rights of not just themselves, but all those affected by prejudice and discrimination.

To future leaders, look at those who came before you. Look at the legacies they have left behind as a reminder that your efforts to drive change and inspire your communities to follow suit will not be forgotten.