I twist the key in the lock. It won’t budge. ‘Try the other door’, says Conner, a trans boy I met at the university queer lounge a few weeks ago. Finally the padlock gives way, allowing us access to the freezer. I reach in and grab three bags of ice.
We’ve been driving through the drizzly cow paddocks of the Macedon Ranges since 7am and only now is the fog beginning to clear from the spa town of Daylesford in the Hepburn shire. The temperature is forecast to climb this afternoon and we will need the ice to keep our water cold. 400 bottles to be exact.
Like the 5,000 other out of towners, we have come to celebrate queer country pride at the 18th annual ChillOut Festival. It is a weekend of hot spring bathing, roller derby, comedy, outdoor yoga, bush dancing and trivia. But this is not why we are here. We have come here for an idea. It fills our hearts and minds; equality. The fight is not over yet.
Discrimination continues for LGBTIQ people. We know this group have significantly poorer mental health and higher rates of suicide than other Australians. We believe that Australia deserves better. And for this reason we want to get Jason Tuazon-McCheyne elected in the senate in the 2016 federal election. The time to act is now.
I hold our banner up high, well above the dusty streets. We are in the front line. Several Equality party members wait in anticipation for the parade to begin. They wear white equality t -shirts with the signature purple Q. Around me are cheers of ‘Equality!” Dogs of different colours and breeds scrap and play from the pet rescue float, our neighbours in the parade. The baby goats and dogs peer out from the hay bails of their ute. A gorgeous white Samoyed pants from behind a glamorous feather boa.
Slowly we move off down the main street. The crowds are bigger than ever this year, spilling out onto the road as we pass. ‘Whadda we want? EQUALITY! When do we want it? NOW.’ I feel a rush of support and warmth from the onlookers, young and old alike. ‘Cmon. Make some noise!’ shouts Conner, stirring up cheering and applause from the streets. We throw handfuls of wrapped lollies at groups of kids. The Minties scatter at their feet. Their expressions turn from surprise to excitement. A small boy runs up and takes the last one from my hand. ‘Equality!’ An old friend runs out of the crowd and gives me a hug. I look over at my girlfriend on the end of the banner. Her eyes are shining and her smile widens as she catches my eye.
Bunches of white and purple equality balloons hang from our stall. Everybody needs good neighbours, or so the saying goes. Next door is the Diversity Group, a support group for same sex attracted young people living in Shepparton. To our right the boys are giving away A3 pin-up calendars and condoms.
Streams of people stop by to talk and find out what the Australian Equality party is all about. One party goer stirs interest by stripping off to her bra and slipping her new Equality t-shirt over her athletic body. The eskys are in demand as the revellers’ thirst grows with the strengthening sun.
A lesbian couple from Bendigo are delighted that we have Equality t-shirts in XXL size. ‘They’ll make great pyjamas,’ they say. We exchange photos of our cats, bonding over the peculiarities of our pets. We visit the Australian Sex Party and ask what they have been up to. They show us their condoms. We pop into the HIV stigma stall and sign their petition. My girlfriend and I get a photo with the grim reaper. HIV rates are on the rise, especially amongst young gay men.
I cut out animal stickers for a troop of kids who stop by our stall. They are nodding to the sounds of Dancing Queen, playing from the stage. ‘I’ve got glittery elephants or lions?’ I hold up the stickers to the sun. A seven-year-old boy holds out his hand. ‘Right there.’ He points to the back of his hand. ‘Lions are for pride’, I say, pressing it to his skin.
Our recent policy document is available at https://equality.org.au/policy
Jason Tuazon-McCheyne Senate 2016 Candidate for the AEP will be a proud new voice in Australian politics that aims to promote fairness, human rights and equality for all Australians. Read more about Jason Tuazon-McCheyne here: