“You’re not getting the red carpet!” It’s the fairly simple message we gave to Malcolm Turnbull by not officially inviting him to the Sydney Mardi Gras parade in 2017. Honestly, we could have delivered a more acidic statement if we wanted to, but it was the least we could do to retain some of our dignity.
Along with other members of Community Action Against Homophobia, I brought the proposal to the parade’s annual general meeting after it was first pushed by one of the parade’s board directors, James Brechney. It was gratifying to register our dissatisfaction with the man who earlier this year made headlines as the first sitting prime minister to attend the parade.
The reality is that he hijacked the event. He got plenty of media as, one cynical selfie after another, he spruiked his supposedly gay-friendly values. But what did we get? He’s been nothing but a conduit for homophobes since then. Now he fills the tired boots of chief explainer of why we can’t have equality.
So we enjoyed seeing him shift in his seat as he was forced to respond to an interviewer asking him about his “uninvitation”. Channelling the “I have lots of gay friends” mantra of the homophobes he keeps company with, he replied that he has “had so many invitations” to the Mardi Gras parties of his friends that he and his wife Lucy would have lots of options.
Personally, I’d rather Malcolm and Lucy celebrate their marriage in private at Mardi Gras 2017. As long as he keeps us from enjoying the same, rubbing their government-approved relationship in the faces of us second-class citizens is just unseemly. You’d think his own public relations people might be able to point out the obvious indelicacy of it all.
But the public relations know-alls reckon it is our side which has erred by calling Turnbull out. On his blog, Andrew Bolt accuses us of the denouncing even our “friends as evil”. He asks me: “Is this the way to win them over?”
Thanks for the tip, Bolt. Of course I deeply respect the strategic input of a man who warns of a slippery slope from legalising same-sex marriage to legalising bestiality.
But yes, people on our side have asked the same question. In fact, it would be reasonable to say the reaction to our red carpet retraction has been nearly hysterical. We have been questioned about everything from whether we’re alienating Turnbull as an ally and threatening corporate sponsorship of the parade to whether we are carrying through an exercise in Trotskyist entryism into Mardi Gras in the style of Jeremy Corbyn’s “takeover” of the British Labour Party.
Right. First up, someone claiming to be on our team while doing everything to uphold the status quo is not an ally; they’re a liability. But really, Mardi Gras started as a protest against the police brutalising our community. It was organised by gay liberationists and revolutionaries. It may be swarmed by corporate sponsors these days, but Mardi Gras will never be theirs. It belongs to us, and we say Turnbull’s not welcome.