As the new citadel of Melbourne’s gay and lesbian ascendancy raises its concrete facade to prove that, no, the artists’ impressions on the hoardings did not lie, this will be one of the ugliest buildings in Australia, one obstacle persists. On its doorstep, and for some distance either way along what used to be cosmopolitan Fitzroy Street, formerly Melbourne’s most ‘European’ avenue and now drugs and squalor central, homeless representatives of our ‘first nations’ lie asleep, swathed in grubby blankets, day or night, come rain, hail or shine. Others are awake, drinking from bottles in brown paper bags or shouting abuse at one another or at the few passers-by with the temerity to brave coronavirus and venture along these grimy pavements blotched and stained with substances better left unexamined.
I wrote about the Pride Centre in The Spectator Australia on 1 June last year (‘Pride and priorities’). This monument to Melbourne same-sex militancy is now nearing completion. The difficulty that persists is what to do with the street slumberers and swearers when the costly new vanity ghetto (or rather, as the website puts it, this ‘iconic, beautiful, safe and inclusive place that will promote equality, diversity, wellbeing, understanding and resilience’) is opened. You can’t have its designer-clad membership stepping over the recumbent forms on their way inside to a ‘tomboy party’ or to make a quick visit to Be Who You Are (‘clothing and makeup support for transgender women all ages 16+’). That would be just too, well sordid, and too inclusive by far. Nor can you have the crème de la crème of Melbourne’s gays, lesbians, etc. and their supporters – why, the premier himself is sure to attend the opening, if gatherings are permitted by then – exposed to a barrage of slurred obscenities from the sleepers who’ve woken up. On the other hand, you can’t bring in a squad of security heavies to push the homeless round the corner out of sight. For, just as the government of Victoria and the local municipality ‘celebrate’ gays and lesbians, so too do they ‘acknowledge and respect’ the various ‘nations’ whose down-and-out descendants languish outside the Pride Centre. To banish those unfortunates to somewhere less visible would hardly be an act of ‘respect’ or of ‘celebration’.
Indeed, it will be interesting to see how inclusive the administrators of this ‘beautiful, safe and inclusive place’ turn out to be towards their shelterless neighbours. Will they find room for them in the Centre, offer them a shower and a meal and perhaps a cup of Queer Coffee? And the local authority, the Port Phillip City Council? Does it even notice the numbers of people sleeping rough in its streets, of whom Aborigines are only a minority? Homelessness never gets mentioned in Divercity (get it?), the smug little magazine the council publishes about itself at ratepayers’ expense. Divercity is full of self-congratulatory drivel about ‘greening’ the municipality, boot-scooting to keep ‘seniors’ fit, instructions for ‘waste’ classification of Dewey-like complexity and of course the lip-service acknowledgments of ‘indigenous elders past and present’, but nothing about the unphotogenic homeless, who after all are citizens too. ‘Acknowledgment’ is about all that any present elders among the Fitzroy Street sleepers are likely to get. Yet this same municipality had the nerve to contribute the equivalent of $13 million to the Pride Centre by donating the land. It could have provided many beds in shelters for that. The Victorian government’s gift of $15 million would have paid for even more.
The whole saga encapsulates the hypocrisy of identity politics. The homeless have no political or social clout. The gay and lesbian establishment does and many individuals in it have lots of money too. They could have paid for their new toy themselves, but government and councils rushed to stump up to advertise official support for ‘diversity’. Yet where’s the diversity nowadays in being gay, lesbian, trans and so on? And why do people who have chosen to make their sexuality the most prominent aspect of their personalities but are in every other way the same as everyone else need a costly clubhouse to show off their ‘pride’. Do they secretly feel inferior? Why is it OK for them to divide themselves from the rest of us when ‘discrimination’ in other areas is no longer acceptable? Why are they instituting a new sexual apartheid by building a ‘permanent home’ for, to quote the website again, ‘Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex’ organisations in Victoria (though that catalogue must be out of date by now)? Homosexuals, lesbians, transitioners, etc. are not a race or a cult or a religion. They are, by their own insistence, an integral part of the community. They are protected by law from the faintest whisper of homo- or trans-‘phobia’. They made such a song and dance about their ‘equality’ with everyone else that marriage had to be redefined so that no gay or lesbian was excluded from it. Why turn back the clock by constructing an edifice that by its very existence reinstates discrimination, albeit in the opposite direction from the way it used to be?
One reason, according to the ‘chair’ of the Pride Centre, Jude Munro, a veteran spruiker for gay and lesbian causes since the foundations of ‘Gay Lib’ were being laid in the flower-powery 1970s, is because the centre ‘underpins society’s acceptance of its own diversity’. And that’s worth $28 million? And to what extent will the Pride Centre accept a touch of diversity itself? Will the Israel Folau or Margaret Court fan clubs be allotted space there, along with the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, Midsumma Festival, Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council, and sundry other identitarian enterprises?
Jude assures us that the Pride Centre will be a ‘meeting place for both the LGBTQI and broader community’. Oh yeah? They already have members of the broader community sleeping outside. When are they being asked in for a meeting?
Actually, ‘relocating’ the homeless of Fitzroy Street to prevent them lowering the tone of the Pride Centre environs is not as inconceivable as municipal protestations of ‘respect’ might suggest. Some years ago the then local authority in St Kilda in effect did just that with homeless Aborigines who used to gather on a triangle of public land near the beach where they could use the public lavatories. Then a ‘beautification’ scheme was decided on as part of the overall gentrification of the district, a scheme into which the ‘indigenous’, elders or not, most decidedly did not fit. The council pulled down the lavatories. The homeless disappeared. Who said suburban councils are inefficient?
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