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Pride and Clean Air for Queers.

A pride flag stands out against a blue sky.
Jasper Peach

Jun 25, 2024

The moment the calendar flips from the end of May to the beginning of June, everything suddenly becomes rainbow glitter-fied. It’s Pride Month and if you’re anywhere in the vicinity of social media you would have seen the memes, the corporate pinkwashing and the booty shorts (usually beaming in from the northern hemisphere where it’s a smidge warmer). Originating from the Stonewall Riots in 1969, Pride is ostensibly about liberation.

“None of us are free until all of us are free” and “we are all we have, we are all we need” are statements that flow throughout intersecting activist groups. We see them on banners, stickers attached to drink bottles, artworks and paste ups. The message being that these groups are inclusive, left and caring for all.

Here's the kicker. Quite a lot of disabled and chronically ill folks are still forced to shelter at home from Covid-19. While the rest of the world moves on there are literally countless people isolated and without community presence and care, because who would care enough to actually count? Those who know their exposure to the virus may limit their quality of life or even bring it to an untimely end are alone. Then pride month shows us heaving crowds, togetherness and community exultation. We need to bridge the gap between these two subsets of our community.

A new Instagram account Covid Conscious Queers Naarm has been sharing various ways queer friendly spaces have been taking zero or useless and performative precautions, making them unsafe for so many of us. These are medical clinics that specialise in serving the LGBTIQASB+ community, queer organisations, entertainment providers and venues. They all fly the progress pride flag, proudly displaying signage about being inclusive. It doesn’t add up.

This 2024 reboot of The Emperor's New Clothes shows the masses following the erroneous messaging from the top. All is well, nothing to see here, no need to address the lack of safety or the collateral damage.

We don’t have to consider who is missing from public spaces, and the extremely achievable measures that aren’t being taken that would make inclusion possible. Ableism is rife and it stinks.

Everyone had a rough time in 2020 and 2021, particularly those in Naarm. That doesn’t mean we can stick our fingers in our ears, sing and make it all go away. It might be confronting to mask up or switch on the air filter that will keep you safe, but imagine how tricky it would be if your next Covid infection left you bedbound 90% of the time? How many of your pals would stick around for that, and how many of the ones who show up for you would consider your need to avoid reinfection at all costs?

Themme Fatale, a performer and advocate living with Long Covid has successfully crowdfunded to create a free library of clean air resources. They’ve spent more time in bed than out of it over the last year, and were driven to give options to performers who want to be safe at work. Available to borrow for any performer or venue are air purifiers, CO2 monitors and PCR tests from Clean Air Naarm.

Why is it that a disabled and exhausted person needs to arrange this rather than the government mandating that all spaces are as safe as they can possibly be?

One of the finest examples of LGBTIQA+ community care and leadership can be seen in their mask-mandated, clean air event, Trans Day of Rest. With free tickets and access granted to anyone who both provides a negative RAT result and identifies as trans (and their carers), this event during the winter solstice shows thoughtful inclusion and big picture thinking.

A woman in the outdoors puffing a large quantity of smoke out of their mouth. The smoke obscures their face.

If we cast our minds back to the lives lost in the AIDS crisis, it was community who cared for the sick and dying, often abandoned by biological family. Logical family steps up when there’s care missing, but it’s not happening in the present day. Management of the pandemic has been diabolical due to confusing government messaging, and this has filtered through management of queer friendly organisations. Everyone is struggling, and the collateral damage can be seen in the many queer, disabled and chronically ill people who can no longer attend their GP safely.

On July 1st 2007, smoking in pubs became legislated to occur only in designated areas. Do you remember grabbing a pub meal prior to that time and breathing in second hand smoke from the same room? Covid particles linger in the air in the same way, and it seems fairly straightforward that air filtration laws would reduce harm to an insurmountable number of lives.

When we gather during Pride we just want to feel part of things, celebrating who we are and how far we’ve come. Nobody wants to be taking a risk every time they draw breath, and we shouldn’t forget those who can’t even leave the house to do that.