Queer eX-detainees urge artists, presenters, and other participants to boycott the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival, which also hosts WorldPride 2023, in so-called Sydney, Australia.

Who are we ?
RISE:Refugee, survivors and eX-detainees is a not-for-profit association and the FIRST eX-detainee led and governed welfare and advocacy organisation in Australia. RISE is a unique organisation distinguished by our ethics of self-determination and community control. RISE raises the bar in the non-profit sector by ensuring we are not subservient to politicians or businesses by not accepting blood money from the Federal government, State government, local government, or corporations who invest in detention, prisons, the military, or are complicit in land grab or labour exploitation.

What is the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (SGLMG)?
Started in ‘Sydney’ as a celebration after a protest march and commemoration of the Stonewall Riots of New York City back in 1978, the parade was a march against discrimination, police harassment, and the criminalization of queerness. Their rally was met with violence by the police. Many of these protesters were arrested and abused in police custody, and those arrested were further outed by mainstream media, leading to detrimental consequences to their lives.

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is now an annual queer party, arts and cultural festival for the privileged middle class based in ‘Sydney’, ‘Australia’. It is predominantly run by queer white people and a few handpicked queer people of colour.  Like many queer festivals around the western world, SGLMG is now bedding with politicians as well as boot-licking the military, police, and corporations. Following the ‘diversity’ trend, in recent years, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has been working towards ticking diversity boxes after many years of centering [white] gays and lesbians, whilst not updating the ‘Gay and Lesbian’ in their festival name.

What is InterPride and WorldPride?
Founded in the US, InterPride is a western global organisation whose members are mainly organisers of queer festivals across the world. A licensed event by InterPride, WorldPride is run every 1–3 years, each time in a different location. InterPride members would nominate and elect which city/queer festival in the world would win the right to host WorldPride during a particular year.

Being US- and Western centric, InterPride’s Global Advisory Council has around 2 representatives from each of the 20 regions across the world that InterPride has divided into. The division of regions centred around the US and Europe. The US alone is divided into 6 regions, one of which also includes the country of Mexico, but the representatives for this region are currently all from the US.

Europe is also divided into at least 6 regions, with the UK, a country that makes up less than 1% of global population, being one region. Most noticeably, they lump the entire African continent into one region, the entire South American continent into one region, all of east, south-east and a big part of south Asia (which comprises at least 45% of the total world population) into one region. In 2023, WorldPride is being hosted in ‘Sydney’, ‘Australia’, by the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival.

1. Australia’s White-Supremacist Mandatory Detention Policy
Australia’s white supremacist mandatory administrative detention policy was first set up by the Australian Labor party in 1992 to stop boats of Refugees coming from Asian countries such as China, Vietnam and Cambodia.  Today this white-supremacist policy is supported by ALL three major parties including Labor, the Greens and Liberals/Nationals.

Australian-run detention torture camps have been operating for over three decades now. During this entire time of mandatory detention, there have been brutal murders, sexual abuse, and torture experienced by our community. This is still happening in front of your eyes. This crime against humanity, against refugees seeking asylum by boat has been used during every single election over the past 3 decades (over 30 years) to gain votes. There are still no charges against any detention architects and profiteers for their crimes against humanity so far.

2. Australia’s crime against queer refugee detainees and eX-detainees
We Queer eX-detainees left our countries due to the queerphobia we faced and survived until we reached “Australian” waters or territories, mostly by boat. After our arrival, we were held hostage and taken forcibly to Australian-run administrative detention centres, where we were tortured and abused once again.

The compounding trauma and ongoing triggers have permanently destroyed our lives, and we still do not receive adequate support from services that claim to and/or are funded to provide support services to us, as well as the queer community, who claim to fight against queer oppression. In queer-friendly ‘Australia’, each and everyone of us is forced to justify our queerness, our refugee claim, our identity, our need for support, our disability, our visa status, etc. on a daily basis, at every turn, from the moment we arrive in “Australia”.

The racist white supremacist government policies, racist white supremacist community sector, along with racist white supremacist queer events, services, and festivals such as SGLMG and WorldPride, all work together hand-in-hand to destroy our lives, our dignity, and our humanity. We are continuously facing queerphobia and systemic oppression at every turn, struggling on a daily basis, with the queer community in Australia bedding with politicians as well as boot-licking the military, police, detention profiteers and corporations at festivals like Mardi Gras.

3. Ongoing impact of detention on detainees and eX-detainees
Australia has provided the world with a blueprint for contemporary modes of border imperialism. The Australian mandatory detention system is a white supremacist system, which has been designed and maintained for the purpose of torturing refugee detainees who are all people of colour.

For over 30 years, successive Australian governments have enacted the systemic torture and abuse of refugee/asylum seeker adults and children in mandatory detention- and this goes hand in hand ideologically with Aboriginal deaths in custody and dominant policies of enacting white supremacy.

The labels of “Refugee”, “Permanent resident” or “Citizen” are legal terms which do not reflect the reality of the lives of people seeking safe harbour and freedom from torture and abuse. In Australia, the eX-detainee and detainees communities are one of the poorest, most racially profiled and systematically oppressed communities. We endured abuse in our own countries, only to find ourselves suffering institutional abuse upon seeking protection in Australia.

The Australian mandatory detention scheme has left most of us permanently disabled. Many eX-detainees and detainees (including but not limited to queer detainees and eX-detainees) are on the street, homeless, unable to access medical care, don’t have work or study rights, are permanently disabled and incapacitated, or are still in indefinite detention centres due to the Australian mandatory indefinite detention policies.

The queerphobic nature of detention further traumatises us as queer refugee detainees and eX-detainees. It is not rocket science to understand that gender segregation in detention is the foundation of queerphobia in these torture camps. The US former president Donald Trump has been widely criticised for his anti-refugee policies yet even he says that Australia’s policies are worse than the USA which makes Australia the resource centre for anti-immigration policies in affluent liberal democracies around the world.  These mandatory detention policies are supported by ALL three major parties’ politicians which has resulted so far in gross human rights violations.

4. Pink Washing
Nowadays, the SGLMG parade is a photo and promotion opportunity for white supremacist politicians, police, the military, detention architects, and profiteers to pinkwash and artwash themselves in the name of ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusivity’. SGLMG provides a platform for these entities to pinkwash and promote their public image, as well as wash blood off their hands while they continue to abuse and torture refugee detainees and eX-detainees.

While we face endless systemic discrimination, festivals like SGLMG hold hands and share pride with our oppressors. What is also not surprising to us is that at the SGLMG parade, anti-detention slogans were destroyed, anti-cop banners were taken down, and even some of our supporters were chased away when they confronted the politicians. This says a lot about the white, queer nationalist narratives at the SGLMG festival.

It is embarrassing that white queers think their “queerness” somehow automatically “cancels” their white privilege and complicity in white nationalism, colonisation, genocide, and occupation. We are still experiencing white supremacy, border imperialism, structural discrimination, and, most importantly, being queer eX-detainees in Australia. This is also relevant to all eX-detainees in Australia, regardless of age, gender, orientation, sex characteristics, disabilities, and neurodiversity. We wonder who drafted the Mardi Gras “Ethical Charter” and whether it stands by its own terms.

5. Comical WorldPride Human Rights Conference 2023 (WPHRC 2023)
In an attempt to look inclusive, progressive and standing up for queer rights around the world, a signature event of WorldPride would be the WorldPride Human Rights Conference, bringing together academics, diplomats, government task forces, activists etc. to discuss and advocate for the human rights of queer people across the world.

This white-saviour white-imperialist, white-supremacist elitist English-speaking ‘Human Rights’ Conference violently sanitises detention torture, rape, murder, and survival in Australian-run detention centres.

Further, it fails to genuinely acknowledge the legacies of European colonisation of non-European countries and white Christian missionaries as part of European colonisation which has imposed queerphobic teaching, practice, and behaviours in most, if not all, of their colonies that result in many queer people being murdered, harmed, and facing ongoing discrimination and persecution in our countries. A classic example is the fact that the British imposed anti-sodomny laws in most, if not all of their colonies, including ‘Australia’.

Running a human rights conference whilst providing a platform for those complicit in human rights abuse is nothing more than running a circus. Another example of this is the fact that the U.S. Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI+) Persons will be given a platform at WPHRC 2023 for the US to polish their name whilst they continue to bomb many non-European countries to stone-age for decades without accountability, whilst causing ongoing trauma and displacement to their victims/survivors.

We Queer Refugee eX-detainees who sought asylum and are Survivors of Australian detention torture camps demand that the Sydney Mardi Gras immediately:

  • Outline Clearly, their position on mandatory indefinite detention policies against all people seeking asylum in Australia by boat including queer asylum seekers.
  • Cut ties with the police, military, politicians, detention architects, and profiteers who support mandatory detention and pushing refugee boats back into the arms of oppressors.
  • Cut ties with the military industrial complex, including the defence force, as weapons and war terrorise communities and forcibly displaced people.
  • Management restructuring and revamping: Where are even people of colour let alone queer former detainees, in the decision-making positions?

Providing a platform and space to Australian politicians, military, police, and corporations may not impact your lives, but it impacts our lives tremendously. You will know this if you have listened to and acknowledged what we eX-detainees have been saying all these years and decades.

Having experienced so many life traumas, including detention torture in Australia, and being one of the most targeted and impoverished communities in Australia, we queer eX-detainees should be prioritised for direct access to community support and events without any PTSD triggers and without being forced to bump into our abusers at festivals like Mardi Gras, World Pride, Human Rights Conferences, etc.

As the survivors of torture and abuse, we eX-detainees are unable to hold politicians, detention supply chains, the police, and the prison and military-industrial complex accountable when community spaces, the social / community sector, and human rights and Queer rights “activists” normalise their presence. It is utterly disgusting, queerphobic, and racist. There are thousands of eX-detainees waiting for compensation and reparations from governments and politicians. Further police racial profiling has not only been known to be used in so-called Australia but it is also internationally renowned to be used against people of colour including queer people of colour and has been condemned.

We eX-detainees would like to make it clear that we are distinct from those who arrived in an “orderly” manner to Australia on humanitarian visas or any other refugee group that was never administratively detained by the Australian government. Grouping us under the comical “culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD)” or “multicultural” labels further sanitises the ongoing institutionalised abuse, oppression, discrimination, and racism we face in Australia on a daily basis.

It’s time to show your solidarity. Pinkwashing and art-washing our ongoing abuse, torture, and structural discrimination is violent and unacceptable.

RISE queer eX-detainee / non-queer eX-detainee team