As one of RUSU’s queer officers, I’m often asked, “Why is there a Queer Lounge? How come there isn’t a straight lounge?” Usually, my response is, “Every lounge is a straight lounge,” followed by nervous laughter, a cool robot arm-swinging dance move, and an awkward pause. Despite constant enquiry, I have rarely received criticism for its existence, until recently when a gay male friend (we’ll call him Bill) expressed having a problem with the Queer Lounge. He told me that it only further segregated queer people from straight people, thereby exacerbating any friction, indifference or prejudice that may exist between the two. OK, that’s an exaggeration: he wasn’t that eloquent – I’m just a brilliant paraphraser. But it’s interesting to note why people sometimes get uncomfortable, or even displeased, by the notion of a Queer Lounge.
It’s sometimes perceived that the Queer Lounge (and Womyn’s) exists as a barrier, a form of passive-aggressive segregation, to the rest of the student population. Just like Bill, others believe that the willing separation of queer people within a selected space will only widen the gap between straights and queers. We’re annoyed to be a minority so we purposely set up our own exclusive club as a big fuck you to straight people.
That’s not really the point of it at all. In fact, we dream of a world with zero queer lounges. This perfect world is just like ours right now, but instead of people being discriminated against due to their sexuality, gender, race, religion or any other facet of their individuality, we just discriminate against whoever thought Windows 8 was a good idea. Because Windows 8 has had a terrible bearing on everyone’s life, and it is awful, and we all hate it.
The Queer Lounge (and Womyn’s, if I can adequately speak on their behalf) does not exist to ostracise, separate or further divide minorities within society, but rather acknowledge that we live in an imperfect world where there is sometimes division. These places exist to advocate change, and the rights of students, in lieu of the sometimes-insidious-sometimes-not prejudice that still persists in pockets of our society.
This is something that’s difficult for many open-minded and accepting individuals to comprehend. Which is half-good, because it reveals the progress of social movements, whereby individuals are seen as individuals – and not as “women, blacks, migrants, homosexuals or whatever” (cheers, Tony Abbott, circa 1979). %%anc%%
But sometimes it’s difficult to perceive the subtle discrimination and prejudice that exists within society, until you are the victim of such behavior. I hate to use the following word … it usually stirs an eye-roll-bonanza for anyone who’s familiar with its use in social rights issues: Privilege.
You don’t know what it’s like to be queer unless you are queer. Just as I don’t know what it’s like to be female because I am not female. I have only ever felt discriminated against because of my sexuality; never for being male, never for being Anglo-Saxon, or
have some people dislike you for a characteristic you cannot change.
If you’re lucky, you’ll never have to experience prejudice in your lifetime. Or if you do, you’ll have the self-confidence, external support, and/or ignorance to prevail.
For those of us that do or have experienced prejudice, we sometimes seek identification and assurance in others: that we are normal; that we fit within society; that anyone who discriminates against us because of our “otherness” is blinded by prejudice.
That is why the Queer Lounge exists. There’s no gay agenda, or gay orgies (that I know of), or exclusively-gay events. It’s just a space where students, who may otherwise feel uncomfortable with being queer, can go and be themselves –without prejudice or fear of discrimination.
So, if you’re queer, or unbothered by whether people are queer or not, feel free to visit the Queer Lounge. Our doors are always open – between 8am and 8pm weekdays only.
Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!