Breaking down barriers with pride

19 February 2019

Gina Olivieri is a Program Assistant in the Tasmanian Youth Mental Health Services team at Life Without Barriers. Read the article below to hear about Gina's personal reflection on what marching in the Mardi Gras means to her.

Image: Gina with her partner in Tasmania

When I found out I’d be on the Life Without Barriers float in the 2019 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade, I was so excited. And not just because I love glitter, rainbows and making a spectacle of myself.

United under the theme “Breaking Down Barriers,” I’ll be marching with a group of staff members, foster carers, NDIS participants, clients and others dressed as construction workers, wearing hard hats, pink wigs and high-vis suspenders. I can’t wait to wave to you all from the telly. Just quietly, I really want a sledgehammer too. As excited as I am, I’m also nervous. Despite working in a diverse, progressive workplace that actively celebrates pride, I’m worried I’ll be asked, “Why you?”

As a cis-gendered woman married to a cis-gendered man, the answer to this question isn’t immediately apparent. My choice of person to spend my life with would lead you to believe I’m straight. But I am bisexual. It still feels weird to type that. My bisexuality is largely invisible, which has been a source of some anguish – I’m not straight, but ‘not gay enough’ to feel like a legitimate part of the rainbow community.

Image: Gina and her partner wear their marriage equality shirts with pride

Now that I’m off to Mardi Gras, I am struck by the fact that my invisibility is in fact my privilege. I get to live my life without many of the barriers faced by others like me. I never worry about disapproving stares, harassment or violence when I hold my husband’s hand in public. I did not think twice about sticking wedding day photos up at my desk at work, or casually mentioning my partner by name in conversation with colleagues.

I do not live with a disability. I do not have to work out whether my carer will understand and respect my needs once they know my sexuality or gender identity. I am not a transgender teen, so when I needed to find a psychologist to help me through my depression, I didn’t have to worry about ending up in the office of someone who would mis-gender me.

I am white. I am not Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, and I speak English. I do not move through the world worried about how people will treat me based on my skin colour, race, or cultural background as well as my sexuality.

I am not seeking asylum in Australia, fleeing my home because it is literally against the law to love the person I love in my country of birth. I am not a member of a religious community that tells me I’m wrong for who I love.

"I am not a child being cared for away from home, unsure if I really feel like a girl or a boy, trying to figure out who to talk to about it. I am not a gay man wondering if my partner and I will be rejected if we try to foster children. I am not elderly, worried that moving into a nursing home also means moving back into the closet."

Gina

What I am, is someone who now has an opportunity to put my pride on display for the world to see. With privilege comes the responsibility to stand up, speak up, and wield that privilege to break down barriers for others where you see them. I encourage everyone to break down barriers that are in the way of those around you because of who they are and who they love. I’ll even lend you my sledgehammer. And who knows, maybe you’ll be the one waving from the telly next year?