Queer Thinking curator Maeve Marsden
Queer Thinking curator Maeve Marsden

Queer Thinking, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras’ boundary-pushing talks and ideas program returns in 2020, bringing together innovators, trailblazers and provocateurs from across the world for two days of challenging discourse at the Seymour Centre on Saturday, 22 and Sunday, 23 February.

Queer Thinking is set to feature nine compelling sessions across two days. Leading thinkers, creatives, community organisers, activists, and academics will traverse topics from religious discrimination to prison abolition, mutual aid projects to data marginalisation, and revolutionary tactics to trans liberation.

Queer Thinking curator Maeve Marsden said, “In 2019, Queer Thinking examined issues facing our community, across identity and sub-culture, that could unite us. In 2020, we will explore our community’s struggles and the tools we can use to fight back. We ask not only ‘what matters’ but ‘what can we do about it?’”

Special guest speakers include pioneering gay rights activist Dennis Altman in conversation with academic Raewyn Connell, award-winning poet Ellen van Neerven, academic Aren Azura, executive director of change.org Sally Rugg, lawyer and writer Alison Whittaker, psychotherapist, community activist, and policy advisor Dr Gávi Ansara, Secretary at Acceptance Sydney for Gay and Lesbian Catholics Matthew Boon Meng Ng, Chair of the Transgender Resource Center Henry Tse, sex worker and activist Gala Vanting, and Pacific Studies lecturer and writer Dr Patrick Thomsen.

The weekend also includes free sessions, a mass singalong with The Welcome Choir, Big Queer Book Club with Better Read Than Dead and a Letter Writing Workshop with social worker and prisoners’ rights advocate Witt Gorrie and community organiser Anne-Lise Ah-fat.

Saturday, 22 February

Dennis Altman In Conversation With Raewyn Connell (12 pm-1 pm) – Reflecting on the early days of gay liberation in Australia, the homosexualisation of America, and the subsequent rise of the far right in both nations; Dennis Altman and Raewyn Connell will unpack the past, consider the present and pontificate on the future. Have we achieved post-gay? Is nostalgia a milestone around the neck of the queer revolution? And what change can one manifest from within the ivory tower?

Does Marriage Matter? Pride and Activism In the Asia Pacific (1:30 pm-3 pm) – When Taiwan passed marriage equality in 2019, the move was celebrated globally: the first Asian nation to achieve this historic reform. But in a region with violent histories of colonialism and contemporary State oppression, does mainstream Australia’s continued focus on marriage equality as a measure of progress help or hinder it? What does universal LGBTQI equality look like?

Queer Liberation Needs Prison Abolition (5 pm-6 pm) – The chant from the first Mardi Gras in 1978 pulled no punches. What has happened in the intervening years? LGBTIQ+ identities and behaviours are more heavily policed and criminalised than the dominant white cis-hetero population, sistergirls and trans women are locked up in male prisons, and HIV transmission is criminalised – but State violence and prison abolition have dropped off the mainstream gay agenda. Have we lost our way with cops now a feature at Pride parades and the ever-increasing demands for hate crime legislation and carceral repercussions?

Letter Writing Workshop (Free Session) (6 pm-6:30 pm) – Come and learn about how you can support members of your community or anyone currently incarcerated. Learn the ins and outs of writing to prisoners, the do’s and don’ts of sending reading materials, and the joy of coming together to support the community.

Sunday, 23 February

Trans Futures (12 pm-1 pm) – In the face of continued threats to the lives of trans people, there’s no rest for transgender leaders and organisers. From Trump’s America to the Murdoch Press, the rise and rise of the TERFs and SWERFS – battles rage on all fronts. Join three leading trans thinkers as they outline their vision for the future of transnational trans organising and mutual aid. Is there a trans light at the end of the cisnormative tunnel? What does trans liberation look like?

Activists Handbook – Or, How to Work with People You Don’t Like (1:30 pm – 2:30 pm) – Activism can be exhausting; working long hours in stressful conditions for little or no pay. In this context, what does survival look like? Is it possible to thrive? Led by several activists engaged in struggles for change, workshop participants will learn strategies for soldiering on when the going gets tough, conflict resolution, negotiation and what to do when it all falls apart.

Big Queer Book Club (Free Session) (2 pm-4 pm) – Get offline and meet like-minded bookworms at the Big Queer Book Club. BYO is your fave book to kickstart a conversation or pick up something new from the Better Read Than Dead Bookstand. It’s like speed dating for nerds, like a writer’s festival but without all the cis-het people, like Chatty Wednesdays but with something to talk about (yes, that’s a Fleabag reference).

Freedom From Whom (3 pm – 4 pm) – LGBTQI+ people are often directly opposed to religious institutions, but what of those tick both boxes? In our rush to condemn historical and contemporary discrimination and exclusion by religious institutions, are LGBTQI+ believers being unfairly sidelined by religious and LGBTQI+ communities, leaving few spaces where they feel welcome? LGBTQI+ people of faith discuss legislation, LGBTQI+ community exclusion, activism, contradictions, and what faith means to them.

The Big D: Data and The Marginalised (4:30 pm – 6 pm) – Filling the gaps in data for marginalised groups is a surefire way to improve access to health care, education and services. Visibility = acceptance, or does it? As every facet of our online and many parts of our offline lives becomes surveilled, what are the consequences of uncritical participation in pursuing equal representation?

Queer Thinking
Location: Seymour Centre, City Road & Cleveland Street
Dates: Saturday 22 February 2020 – Sunday 23 February 2020
Time: 12pm – 6:30pm
Single Tickets: $15 Full, $10 Concession
Day Passes: $45 Full, $30 Concession