On the way to equality, the baton passes on.

Hey friends, really trying to stay positive here. Felt the vibe was best when I delivered a speech at the launch of Australia’s first LGBTI Awards at the Sydney Opera House on Friday. Please take a read. Sending love.

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I’d like to pay my respects to the traditional owners of this land. And Respects to those who have fallen on this Remembrance Day.

When I heard about the first annual LGBTI awards a few months ago, I was elated. I instantly thought, this is a much needed cultural event, and more thrilled as the awards also champions the support and care of our straight allies. This matters, as we strive for inclusion.

I’ve spent much of the past few years in the US and been out for just two years.

And I’m sure, like a lot of you, if not all, I’ve been making sense of the events over the year, the past few months, and particularly the past few days.

My views are through the lens of being a woman of colour. Seeing what I’ve seen, traveling through the south where the confederate flag still flies high, to seeing old slave shacks on former tobacco plantations. Then in more socially progressive states in the US, like marching at LA Pride the morning after the Orlando tragedy, all while being abreast of the news back home – like the delays in marriage equality.

It can easily feel like a burden being a minority. A struggle. And at times, very lonely. We all have our moments. And when “our moments” intersect with news so defeating it makes you numb. We want to throw in the towel. I had one of those moments this morning. But I told myself to show up.

I looked for hope. And a lot of what I was reading wasn’t helping. Soon, my mind turned to a play I saw in 2011 on Broadway called The Mountaintop by Katori Hall. The Mountaintop is based in the black civil rights era, and I often compare the movement with gay rights.

There are two characters in this play, Martin Luther King (who was played by Samuel L Jackson) and the motel maid, Camae (played by Angela Bassett). This play, fictional, though taken from real events is set the night before Martin Luther King’s assassination.

Camae delivers a cup of coffee requested by Dr. King, they end up having an hour of deep conversation and (sorry to those who haven’t yet seen the play) Camae turns out to be an angel of death. She tells Dr. King that he’s to die the next day, and that she’s been sent to take him to the other side.

Dr. King pleads with Camae – saying how much work he still needs to get done. For his vision to be complete. Then, accepting his fate, Dr. King wants to see what the future looks like after he dies. He asks Camae, “Is the future is as beautiful as you?” Camae very wisely replies, “Yes… and it’s as ugly as me, too.” 

It’s then that Camae rips into a stunning monologue paired with images of the decades that follow – the good, the bad, the ugly of America and the world, of legislation, events (Katrina, Sept 11) African Americans (Spike Lee, Run DMC Tupac, Oprah, Biggie), slogans, “I’m black and I’m PROUD”, to a Black President! She exclaims;

“The baton passes on!
The baton passes on!

The baton passes on! 
The baton passes on!”

And so here we are.

We’re not at The Mountaintop. But when we look behind to see how far we’ve come in gay rights, a lot of baton passing has happened. Its passed from the people who were once silent and lives were taken, to those who risked their safety and their livelihoods in the first Mardi Gras gathering. To openly gay and thriving Australian politicians like Senator Penny Wong, the heart-felt apology from Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, to gay formals for high school kids, to a rainbow Qantas logo, a gayer presence on mainstream media than we’ve ever seen, to cracker journalists like LGBTI reporter, Lane Sainty at Buzzfeed, to Benjamin Law’s literary genius, to seeing equal marriage in every English speaking country – to championing for our own. To our first LGBTI Awards. Every bit matters. Every person matters. The baton passes on.

So thank you to Awards Director, Silke Bader for accepting the baton once more, to adding to the celebrations, in the way the gay people know how. And thanks to you all for being here. There will always be ugliness but here’s to more positive change; where we can feel a lot less lonely, where we can live in the world as true equals. Any step forward by our LGBTI community is a shared victory. The baton passes on.

The first Inaugural LGBTI Awards is now open for public voting. You can vote here.

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