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It's been 6 months since the Marriage Equality motion was passed in the Australian Parliament House of Representatives. IDEAS recently spoke with Teddy Cook, Regional Outreach Development Manager at ACON, on the impact last year's positive result for the Marriage Law Postal Survey has had on the LGBTI community in general and specifically for people with disability within that community. 

Interview with Teddy Cook from ACON

Q: Teddy, you work for ACON, a New South Wales-based health promotion organisation specialising in AIDS and HIV prevention, HIV support and lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) health. Are you able to tell us a little about the LGBTI community?

A: “The lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex community is a collection of populations that form a collective human rights movement. We share common experiences of stigma and discrimination on the grounds of our sexual orientation, gender identity and/or sex characteristics.”

Q: The recent Mardi Gras marked the 40th anniversary of the event. How far do you think that equality has come during that period?

A: “40 years ago, Mardi Gras started as a riot, a protest. However, the human rights movement was well underway before Mardi Gras.”

“Equality has come on a fair way since then. This was evident in the number of people that converged on Oxford Street, but there is a real feeling of inclusiveness within the general population. It was both a celebration of human rights and equality. Beyond metro areas, we’ve experienced greater levels of inclusion spreading into more regional areas.”

“An example of this is Hay, a small regional town of 2,500 people where they celebrated their own Mardi Gras festival. 400 people participated in the parade in the town’s main street. It was fantastic to see the local community supporting the event, even down to the local shops hosting the rainbow colours in their windows. There was a huge mix of participants, including people with disability.”

Q: What do you think that the “yes” marriage equality vote has brought for the LGBTI community?

A: “The Marriage Act reform has changed inequalities. There is no longer “legitimate” and “illegitimate”. It is now about a celebration of everyone. However, there is still plenty of work to do to make it a truly equal world”.

Q: Do you think the equal marriage vote has had any impact on people with disability in the LGBTI community?

A: “Unfortunately, people with a disability often fall into two categories; being desexualised or being treated as asexual, or else fetishised.”
“There are many people with a disability living within the LGBTI community who have desires and sexual needs.”

“It is a very diverse group. There are some diversities within that group who are shouldering heavier burdens than others, especially relating to health outcomes. There is great optimism for the future, but more could always be done to support people with disabilities”.

“As human rights' improve and the LGBTI community becomes more visible, in turn, ‘hidden’ populations become more visible. Many people with disability are living self-fulfilled and fully productive lives but that doesn’t mean that everyone is. I believe that ‘until all of us are equal, none of us is."

Q: What would be one piece of advice you would give a person with a disability who may be questioning their sexual orientation or gender?

A: “You are perfect. You are wondrous. Human diversity is so important and really normal! You can be exactly who you are. Stay fierce, stay strong. You do you, and hooray for that!"

For more information on ACON or their Regional Outreach Program, click on our Community Directory listings below: 

ACON (AIDS Council of NSW)

Freecall: 1800 063 060
Web: www.acon.org
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ACON Regional Outreach

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