Beechworth rainbow brings diversity
RAINBOWS appeared in Beechworth on Sunday morning when an estimated 300 people walked Ford Street to celebrate diversity despite intermittent rain and heavy cloud cover.
About 150 were expected so organisers Tania Sutton, an artist, and Indigo Shire youth officer Sal Kimber were delighted by the turnout in support of diversity and Indigo’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex communities.
Ms Sutton said the walk had been brought forward this year to show support for LGBTI people facing pressure as a result of the debate surrounding Australia’s marriage law postal survey – which is being used by the federal government as a guide to possible changes to the Marriage Act.
In her speech to walkers at Town Hall Gardens, Ms Sutton said diversity was important for growth and learning as a community.
“It allows us to understand other points of view and have empathy towards others,” she said.
“It is up to us to lead the way in diversity for our children and their children, too.
“We need to break down the idea of placing labels on each other, (which can be) used negatively, and instead celebrate each other and all that we are.”
Ms Sutton said people could be damaged when singled out, labelled and “put in a box” when it was endemic in human nature to belong and seek to be valued.
“The simple fact we are human should be enough to know that we matter, we are valued, and we belong,” she said.
“Differences that make the world colourful need to embraced and celebrated.”
Ms Sutton also acknowledged recent difficulties faced by the LGBTI community including young people not old enough to respond to the marriage law postal survey and said each of them was loved and supported.
Quoting the 26th United States’ president Theodore Roosevelt she said “wide differences of opinions in matters of religious, political and social belief must exist if conscience and intellect alike are not to be stunted, if there is to be room for healthy growth”.
She also quoted former South African president Nelson Mandela, who once said: “No-one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
Indigo mayor Jenny O’Connor said the day was a celebration of all the differences that made the shire’s communities rich and vibrant.
“Whether you are able-bodied or living with a disability, born in this country or in faraway lands, employed, retired or seeking work, a young person or an elder, a believer or a non-believer, straight or gay, gendered or non-gendered – you belong to this community,” she said.
“Today is also about those who are not feeling included – particularly those young people who may be same-sex attracted and who feel isolated, afraid of rejection, or of being bullied or ostracised.
“We are standing here together today sending a message that you matter to us and are part of our community.”
Mayor O’Connor said the community would not tolerate bigotry or bullying.
“We are a proud, inclusive, kind and caring community to which everyone belongs and we say ‘Yes’ to equality for everyone.”
Beechworth’s Joanna Shwerdfeger, who is transgender, said she found people in Beechworth “super accepting”.
“Today it’s about accepting those who are outside the norm in being different and extends beyond LGBTI,” she said.
Albury’s Joel Krautz said it was good that such a small town supported so many people.
“(Partner) Mark (Green) and I have been together for six years and it’s good to see the community support our relationship,” he said.
Ms Sutton last year worked with Peggy Leung Davidson to co-ordinate a walk in response to allegations of homophobia in the community.
“We hope the walk will continue to be an annual event,” she said.
Young musicians from around the shire – some as young as six – entertained the crowd.
AFFIRMATION: Stanley’s Terri Standfield and Beechworth’s Kim Davis showed their support for diversity.
‘BEYOND LGBTI’: Beechworth’s Joanna Schwerdfeger and Sue Mineo took part in Sunday’s diversity walk from Quercus Beechworth to Town Hall Gardens.