“We write this letter to remind everyone that diverse sexualities do exist in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, have always existed, and will continue to flourish.
“We are united, we stand strong and we reclaim our rightful places in our cultures.”
Black Rainbow, a national coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander gay, lesbian, bisexual, sistergirl, transgender and intersex peoples has published an open letter the Koori Mail, a fortnightly national newspaper reporting on the issues that matter to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people giving Indigenous Australians a voice missing in the mainstream media.
“We are a group of strong and fabulous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lesbian, gay, bisexual, sistergirl (transgender) and queer people who would like to highlight our existence and the positive roles we undertake in our communities,” the letter reads.
“We would also like to congratulate the makers of the first episode of Redfern Now, and to respond to recent homophobic comments in the mainstream and social media.”
The open letter was developed especially for the Koori Mail in acknowledgement that the publication is the most widely-read Aboriginal-owned newspaper within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and was prompted by the mainstream media’s reporting of homophobic comments made by Aboriginal athlete Anthony Mundine.
“Our ‘Black Rainbow’ peoples are making excellent contributions in politics, sports, arts, land rights, health, education, justice, business, science, research, the bureaucracy, healing, community life, family life and most importantly, in cultural survival and restoration. We are your family members, community workers, advocates and leaders. We bring strength and love to our communities.
“For some in our communities, however, they seem to be hung up on the lies that ‘homosexuality is a white man’s thing’, and ‘there wasn’t homosexuality in traditional cultures’, so we would like to share a few home truths.”
Paraphrasing, the letter outlines nine truths that expand and explore upon homosexuality and discrimination and its affects in the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Communities.
These include the fact that there was same-sex attraction in pre-invasion Aboriginal cultures and “wherever there were humans; there was a diversity of sexual and romantic expressions.”
The process of invasion has lead to some within the communities to adopt views buying into colonisation’s lie and confusing some imported religious beliefs with that of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, the letter points out. It also adds that the fact that teenagers question their sexuality as a normal, healthy but often painful part of adolescent development and those coming to terms with their sexuality are already at a much higher risk of suicide than others.
“For anyone to suggest there is something evil about how people are born, they are giving the doubtful teenager another reason to consider suicide. Through this hate, they are choosing to put the blood of their own people on their hands.”
Written with pride, the letter, with 26 signatures noting many other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lesbian, gay, bisexual, sistergirl (transgender), intersex and queer peoples challenged Anthony Mundine “in the spirit of healing and understanding, to meet with some of us, away from the media, to work together to build a better community for our Mobs and our future.”
“We would like to thank and celebrate the creators, cast and crew of Redfern Now, particularly Kirk Page and Andrew Wills, for their brilliance and honesty in storytelling, art and production – your work makes our lives better.”
“Most importantly, we take this opportunity to send a message to anybody in our respective communities,” said Gregory Phillips of the Waanyi and Jaru peoples, who coordinated the development of the open letter, “be they lesbian, gay, bisexual, sistergirl, transgender, intersex, queer or unsure, we want to let them know that it’s okay to be who you are.
“There’ll always be people trying to tell us we don’t belong but we can take comfort knowing our cultures make us a part of something much bigger and stronger than even our loudest oppressors.”
The letter was published in Edition 564 of the Koori Mail, dated Wednesday 20 November. It’s now available to read online here.