Queer Thinking, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras’ boundary pushing talks and ideas program brings together innovators, trailblazers and provocateurs from across the world for two days of fiery debate at the Seymour Centre on Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 February.
Queer Thinking is set to feature nine compelling sessions across two days. Leading thinkers, creatives, community organisers, activists and academics will traverse topics from religious discrimination to prison abolition, mutual aid projects to data marginalisation, revolutionary tactics to trans liberation.
Queer Thinking curator Maeve Marsden said, “In 2019, Queer Thinking examined issues facing our community, across identity and sub-culture, that could unite us. In 2020, we will explore not only our community’s struggles, but more specifically the tools we can use to fight back. We ask not only ‘what matters’ but ‘what can we do about it?’”
Special guest speakers include pioneering gay rights activist Dennis Altman in conversation with academic Raewyn Connell, award-winning poet Ellen van Neerven, academic Aren Aizura, executive director of change.org Sally Rugg, lawyer and writer Alison Whittaker, psychotherapist, community activist, and policy advisor Dr Gávi Ansara, Secretary at Acceptance Sydney for Gay and Lesbian Catholics Matthew Boon Meng Ng, Chair of the Hong Kong Transgender Resource Centre Henry Tse, sex worker and activist Gala Vanting, and Pacific Studies lecturer and writer Dr Patrick Thomsen.
The weekend also includes free sessions, include a mass singalong with The Welcome Choir, Big Queer Book Club with Better Read Than Dead and a Letter Writing Workshop with social worker and prisoners’ rights advocate Witt Gorrie and community organiser Anne-lise Ah-fat.
Saturday, 22 February
Dennis Altman In Conversation With Raewyn Connell (12pm-1pm) – Reflecting on the early days of gay liberation in Australia, the homosexualisation of America, and subsequent rise of the far right in both nations; Dennis Altman and Raewyn Connell will unpack the past, consider the present and pontificate on the future. Have we achieved post – gay? Is nostalgia a milestone around the neck of the queer revolution? And what change can one manifest from within the ivory tower?
Does Marriage Matter? Pride and Activism In the Asia Pacific (1:30pm-3pm) – When Taiwan passed marriage equality in 2019, the move was celebrated globally: the first Asian nation to achieve this historic reform. But in a region with violent histories of colonialism and contemporary State oppression, does mainstream Australia’s continued focus on marriage equality as a measure of progress help or hinder? What does universal LGBTQI equality actually look like?
Queer Liberation Needs Prison Abolition (5pm-6pm) – The chant from the first Mardi Gras in 1978 pulled no punches. What has happened in the intervening years? LGBTIQ+ identities and behaviours are more heavily policed and criminalised than the dominant white cis-hetero population, sistergirls and trans women are locked up in male prisons, HIV transmission is criminalised – but State violence and prison abolition has dropped off the mainstream gay agenda. With cops now a feature at Pride parades, and the ever increasing demands for hate crime legislation and carceral repercussions – have we lost our way?
Letter Writing Workshop (Free Session) (6pm-6:30pm) – Come and learn about how you can support members of your community, or anyone, who is currently incarcerated. Learn the ins and outs of writing to prisoners, the do’s and don’ts of sending reading materials, and the joy of coming together to support community.
Sunday, 23 February
Trans Futures (12pm-1pm) – In the face of continued threats to the lives of trans people, there’s no rest for transgender leaders and organisers. From Trump’s America, to the Murdoch Press, to the rise and rise of the TERFs and SWERFS – battles rage on all fronts. Join three leading trans thinkers as they outline their vision for the future of transnational trans organising and mutual aid. Is there a trans light at the end of the cisnormative tunnel? What does trans liberation look like?
Activists Handbook – Or, How to Work with People You Don’t Like (1:30pm – 2:30pm) – Activism can be exhausting; working long hours in stressful conditions for little or no pay. In this context, what does survival look like, is it possible to thrive? Lead by a number of activists engaged in struggles for change, workshop participants will learn strategies for soldiering on when the going gets tough, conflict resolution, negotiation and what to do when it all falls apart.
Big Queer Book Club (Free Session) (2pm-4pm) – Get offline and meet like-minded bookworms at the Big Queer Book Club. BYO your fave book to kickstart a conversation or pick up something new from the Better Read Than Dead Bookstand. It’s like speed dating for nerds, like a writer’s festival but without all the cis-het people, like Chatty Wednesdays but with something to talk about (yes, that’s a Fleabag reference).
Freedom From Whom (3pm – 4pm) – LGBTQI+ people are often placed in direct opposition to religious institutions, but what of those who tick both boxes? In our rush to condemn both historical and contemporary discrimination and exclusion by religious institutions, are LGBTQI+ believers being unfairly sidelined by both religious and LGBTQI+ communities, leaving few spaces where they feel welcome? LGBTQI+ people of faith discuss legislation, LGBTQI+ community exclusion, activism, contradictions, and what faith means to them.
The Big D: Data and The Marginalised (4:30pm – 6pm) – Filling the gaps in data for marginalised groups is seen as a sure fire way to improve access to health care, education and services. Visibility = acceptance, or does it? As every facet of our online, and many parts of our offline lives become surveilled, what are the potential consequences of an uncritical participation in the pursuit of equal representation?