First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
We live in a time of unprecedented political and societal change. Our politics have become increasingly concerned with personality, and far less about policy. Somewhere in between this transition we have traded in our compassion and humanity for something far less tolerant, yet not unfamiliar to our history.
Donald Trump is the President-Elect of the United States, and we find ourselves scratching our heads as to how this could have happened. His election has normalised attitudes of xenophobia, racism, misogyny and intolerance, and resurrected a sentiment a lot of us believed was banished from mainstream politics. Not to suggest that these attitudes didn’t exist within the political establishment, but it felt safe to assume that they wouldn’t be allowed to dominate our social discourse. It felt safe to assume that we were learning, albeit slowly, from our past and fashioning out a progressive and inclusive future. Yet here we are.
Trump’s election has raised significant alarm in the LGBT+ community across the world, but particularly for our rainbow brothers and sisters in the United States, who are fearful of what this means for them. With reports of a surge in hate crimes in the U.S. since the outcome of the election, this concern is justified. As we move closer to a Trump White House, details of his picks for Cabinet offer no solace for the queer community as a circus of intolerant characters with records of significant homophobia and transphobia are set to become some of the most influential people in the world.
Even more troubling is that this resurgence of the far-right is not isolated to one country and is something we are seeing all over the world, including here in Australia. It’s 2016 and Pauline Hanson - an individual who campaigned on a platform of intolerance, misinformation and hatred - sits in our senate. Embarrassing doesn't even begin to describe it. Opposition to the Safe-Schools Coalition and continuing opposition to marriage equality in Australia is stemming from our own burgeoning far-right, championed by the likes of George Christensen, who labelled the teaching of tolerance and gender diversity “psychologically harmful”.
These are uncertain times indeed and while I want to say we are headed for uncharted territory, this isn’t the case. We are instead headed for a mapped out and well charted discourse that we have seen before. The only thing in flux is the minority group which becomes the target of hatred for the standing elite.
It is more important than ever before for people to be vocal and aware of the normalisation and justification of intolerance, and the LGBT+ community has a particularly significant role here. While we have been a target of the intolerance taking hold of our political discourse, we are not the only minority group to suffer at the hands of this ignorance. The rise of xenophobia and racism aimed at the Muslim community has been a clearly apparent consequence of the far-right resurgence and is something that we all have a responsibility to condemn.
Drawing back to the piece from Martin Niemoeller, we have a responsibility to break the pattern of silence we have seen in our past and vowed to never again stand for. Misinformed hate speech is not ‘politics as usual’ and is something that must be called out for what it is. As a minority group with a heightened understanding of what it means to have the weight of the mainstream stacked against you, and to know what it feels like to be dismissed or ridiculed for being yourself, or afraid of being open about your identity, we must empathise and stand in solidarity with those who face similar condemnation.
In an era where community and commonality are in the back seat and divisive individualism has taken the wheel, we must respond with love and support. We will only get through and tackle the rise of the far right by remaining close as a community, being active in our cause and reaching across the divide to those who may have a different battle, but nonetheless similarly need and deserve the support of the broader public. We are one people living in a place that has a vast and rich history, which has only ever grown on the back of acceptance and diversity and floundered in the pursuit of oppression and exclusion.
Love the story? Follow the author here: @TomDryburgh