Monday 3 March 2008

Bursting with Pride

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras came and went on the weekend with 300,000 people attending. Soldiers from the Australian Defence Force marched for the first time. This annual gay parade is one of the largest in the world and is now part of the cultural landscape. The mention of its success on the News made me think about how far we have come as a community in accepting and respecting each other's differences.

Sometimes its easy to forget or not to even care about the past. I can remember the public uproar when the parade started in 1978. There were demonstrations, violence and police intervention. Homosexuality was still a crime until 1984. I simply had no idea. Equal rights and acceptance means everything to people who don't have it and seemingly not a great deal to those that do. When you haven't walked in another person's shoes it is hard to even understand the pain they may go through because they are ostracised, humiliated or treated like second class citizens.

It's always easier to judge than be judged isn't it? I hold my fair share of guilt for doing just that.

Thankfully, attitudes really don't stand still even though we sometimes think progress is far too slow. In fact equal rights is shifting and changing with remarkable rapidity really. Not fast enough for some I know, but it is happening. Progress has only happened because courageous people have been willing to stand up and fight for justice despite the opposition they face. There is no doubt that some segments in our society have to fight harder than others just to have the same every day rights. Attitudes are one thing but having equal legal rights is something entirely different again.

I don't think we were born with a prejudice chip. It's a learned response to be afraid of others who we perceive as different from us. The intolerance and fear just exacerbates and the targets just keep on shifting. Altering mindsets is not easy unless you happen to belong to the elite who have their own special interests for keeping us all afraid. There is always someone or something we need to fear. Why? We need to stop that and get off the fear train as it is only puts us on a journey to chaos and destruction.

Things are changing though. Just look at the American Presidential campaign. Candidates who are truly more representative of the broader community. Just to be able to start off at the same starting line is a huge step. How they have been judged though, particularly via the media, has shown how entrenched sexism and racism still is in our society. It takes time, a long time.

I try hard to judge people soley on how they act towards their fellow human beings. That's the only thing that counts. Sure I have tapes running through my head just as much as the next person does. However, I try hard to see these tapes for what they are and press the EJECT button immediately.

Nothing changes unless our attitudes do. I still have a lot to learn. One day at a time.