I just spent 17 minutes bearing witness to a sideways video posted on youtube. It is a crowd shot, made with someone’s handphone, showing a really small and really brave group of pink bandannae’d protesters sitting in the middle of Fitzroy street St Kilda – pretty much around the corner from where I live.
This blog post explains what went on better than I can…. and I assume it is from the group organising it. The video footage shows the physical assaults by members of the onlooking crowd, and the overtaking of the street by the police marching band, once the protesters were removed, but I am still feeling uncanny and strange about the whole thing….. mainly because it was so close to where I live, and to where I was standing – and yet I heard or saw none of it.
I was waiting in Albert Park for AGES, as part of the registered group #149 – which was at the tail end of the march. A friend and I had decided to march in solidarity and support of our friends in the Quippings radical queers with disability performance divas and general ratbags…… who had done a callout for general ratbags to support the performance divas who were rolling along. We (the general ratbags) spent a LONG time standing around using the plaquard as a sun shield. We mainly heard bagpipes, and saw some rainbow flags (including the corporate branded Melbourne University diagonal versions), and saw a few feathers, and heard some motorbikes.
St Kilda seems an incongruous place to have the pride march – and this was the first year I didn’t spend an hour trekking from the north to attend it. Apparently, once upon a time, St Kilda was queer, and even Fitzroy Street was queer. Now I know it as the concentration of some of the most obnoxious heterosexuals in the southern hemisphere – as it is a backpackers, schoolies and family holiday haven for white middle class heteroids.
Once we started our 20 minutes of Pride parading down Fitzroy street – I recognised the familiar crowds of random straight white drunkards lining the street – punctuated by the occasional clusters of queers from other places – but the pride parade – especially this year – felt like a scripted event: a spectacle of civic tolerance put on by the local council in order to inject some local colour into what is becoming an increasingly beige and fake-tanned precinct.
the group with whom I rolled were sandwiched behind a corporate disability providor service (SPEW) and a choir singing a super cheesy “marry me” song. At the end of the parade, where my friends super wheelchairs crossed the gravel and sand and chunky ramps onto the grassy area, I went wandering, looking for some sign of queer community loving. All I could see were takeaway food vans, and a tent in a fenced off area, for which we were required to wear wristbands. I suddenly felt overpowered by the urge to walk up the street and buy some kitty litter. And wearing my rainbow tutu and glitter in woollies was kind of cool. A 96 year old lady asked me if I had been in the parade, and I felt decidedly queer and queering of my everyday spaces. But it was so brief. the council cleaners had hosed all of the glitter from the streets by 4.30pm, and late last night the Irish backpackers across the street were noisily brandishing a rainbow flower they had pulled from the council sponsored street decorations.
By watching the little video of the protest, I felt some genuine spark of the spirit of early pride marches: the radical intersectional revolt that attends to the broader social injustice that queerness defies. Amidst hours of bland corporate pinkwashing, it is really good to know that there was 17 minutes of genuine radical reflection. I feel really sad that so many people showed their hatred and anger towards the group – because it shows the danger faced by all queers when we stray of the narrow little gaystream paths that heteronormative society carves out for us. It shows our precarity and vulnerability as subjects. I wish pride marches allowed for more of this – and felt less like the Anzac Day parades I marched in as a kid. Maybe this small protest will be the start of something that will do this.