Everyone deserves to feel included, accepted and recognised for who they are. Especially within their own community. Örebro’s Pride Parade was a perfect demonstration of a town coming together in celebration.Örebro showed that it was a community that not only tolerated but supported all of its members, a community that allowed people to be themselves, a community that did not condemn people to the the shadows because they were different.
Whilst I feel fortunate to call Australia home, I was terribly embarrassed to be Australian on Saturday. Marching in the parade was an activity organised by the university as part of the orientation program, and we were joined by fellow students, policemen, politicians, religious groups, parents with children and the elderly. Even the public transport buses raised rainbow flags the week in advance. Unfortunately, I could not feel proud, instead I felt very ashamed. All of the excuses were insufficient. The smiling children seemed well balanced to me, they didn’t find it so difficult to accept or understand. What about the elderly people that had grown up in a completely different generation? You can’t push change onto them! Well the many MANY elderly citizens of Örebro that showed up in support proved that idea wrong.
I think we are discrediting ourselves by allowing these excuses to still pervade our society. It’s 2015, time Australia caught up with the rest of the world. Whilst homosexuality may make some people feel uncomfortable, that is tiny in comparison to how it must feel to hide who you are. Feeling uncomfortable is not a valid reason to discriminate against someone who is not causing any harm.
After experiencing life in a place (even for a short time) where you are free to be who you like and aren’t restricted because of your sexuality, gender, ability or religion, I really can vouch for the benefits. People’s rights are both socially and formally recognised. That is important. At the end of the parade the whole town gathered for a free concert in the park. A rapper performed, whilst to the side of the stage someone translated his music into sign language so that hearing impaired citizens could understand. There is a big effort made to ensure everyone feels a sense of belonging. You can be an authentic individual whilst also a member of a group.
For me, I often felt in Perth, that I was not included, treated the same in a professional environment and had massive assumptions made about what I wanted, because I was a women. That’s a tough pill to swallow. It feels like someone is saying, “This is your home but you’re not free to be who you want, you have to be who we want you to be. ” I love Perth, but I think we all win if we try and empathise more; just because we can not understand somebody else’s experience directly does not mean that we can not try to relate or put ourselves in their shoes, I think that is the essence of what makes us human. Let’s change our culture so that we are less proud and stubbornly stuck in our ways. Let’s be open to change, then we will have a legitimate reason to be proud. We will have a community where everyone feels accepted, where everyone has the right to belong, where nobody has to hide. That’s the type of place I want to live in, and I don’t want to have to travel to the other side of the world to find it.