As a gay man, I experience homophobia every day. I rarely recognise it as I’m used to it. I’m distracted, desensitised, numb and largely oblivious to the subtle and systemic ways I am oppressed. I’m also immune to its full ferocity because I am white, male, middle-aged, middle class, educated, professional, Western and living within proximity of an active gay community. Yet I’m obviously aware that institutions in society do not fully recognise and support my orientation and some never will. But most days I don’t feel that impact in an urgent, gut-wrenching, visceral kind of way.
Except when it comes to the police. Then I feel it. And although I’ve been able to placate my feelings of oppression in almost every other area, when it comes to the police, it feels real and I can’t fake it. It’s the one time I feel it in tangible terms.
It’s because I know that as a gay man, I am being treated differently. I know that as a community, we are being policed differently, more aggressively, more intrusively, more deliberately. I say this recognising the efforts that both the GLBTIQ community and police have made liaising with each other, even after knowing cops and their partners and seeing the other side of the story, even after recognising that sometimes we might act like a bunch of dickheads who need to be locked up.
But the fact is, as a gay man, I have personally felt intimidated and harassed by those charged to protect me. I have dealt with that discrimination and experienced that persecution and felt that force of police oppression.
It’s hardly surprising as it is a defining aspect of our history. It is important to remember that the GLBTIQ community was founded and forged under the boot and baton of police brutality. At the New York Stonewall in 1969 and at the Sydney Mardi Gras in 1978, as in countless other flashpoints, it was our reaction to their excessive force that inspired us to take a stand that still resonates to this day.
That is why it is so important that we make our outrage felt and understood when this brutality continues to resurface decades later. It’s important to fearlessly protest against police brutality at every opportunity, but also to protest any policing that singles out any community of any kind.
The police need to understand that we will not tolerate roaming packs of uniformed thugs rioting at our venues and events and targeting our people. We will not tolerate officers using undue force to aggressively apprehend any member of the public, irrespective of their identity. We cannot allow them to use our grand expressions of sexual and gender freedom as a smokescreen for any latent hostility felt towards the community.
We have for decades now respectfully made peace with the police and their actions continue to extensively undermine our good will, tarnishing those more honourable segments of the force that have made it possible for our out and proud officers to even march in parades to overwhelming acclaim. They cannot, now the GLBTIQ community has become a valid and valued part of wider culture, intimidate us and bully us and get away with it.
History has proven that police violence is a tipping point for us, so let it be again. Seize these moments to create change and let them know that next time they are guests in our company, we will be expecting them to act civilly.