What would Fred Nile's gay-only nation state look like?
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What would Fred Nile's gay-only nation state look like?

Stories/142 , Issues/LGBTQIA+
27th Oct 2017
What would Fred Nile's gay-only nation state look like?
Seb examines the potential perks of an LGBT+ nation-state, a place where marriage equality would never be up for debate.

Recently, homophobic hate preacher Fred Nile made perhaps the most outrageous claim in the marriage equality debate to date when he suggested Macklemore taking the stage at the NRL grand final foreshadowed the rise of an all-gay nation-state.

Rev. Nile - who is known for encouraging compulsory blood-testing and quarantining for LGBT+ people, opposing the decriminalisation of homosexual relationships and leading annual 'pray-ins' against Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras - released a statement claiming that the "homosexual lobby" already enjoys "its own Olympics, its own award ceremonies in the cultural arena, its own flag."

"Now we are told they will have their own 'anthem'," he said, seemingly confused by the use of the term in a non-patriotic context. "What next? Are they going to start handing out their own separate homosexual citizenships?"

In fact, Nile isn't the first to raise such concerns. Back in February, anti-gay senator Eric Abetz slammed the rainbow flag as a symbol of a "hostile nation", telling a senate panel it shouldn't be displayed near government buildings.

Why? Because in 2004, a ragtag group of radical queer activists, led by their "emperor" Dale Parker Anderson, left the mainland and sailed up to the Coral Sea Islands on a ship called the Gayflower, claiming an uninhabited 300,000-square-mile territory north of Queensland.

Planting a rainbow flag in the soil, they dubbed their newly formed independent nation-state the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands before declaring war on Australia for refusing to legalise same-sex marriage.

As a fledgling micronation with no military, little-to-no infrastructure and an economy based entirely on stamp collecting, this declaration was largely symbolic. As of 2017, according to the Kingdom's official website, they have vowed to cede their claim to sovereignty and return the islands to Australia once marriage equality is passed.

More than thirty years before the Gayflower set sail, gay rights activists in the US floated the idea of transporting a few hundred LGBT+ people into the small Californian community of Alpine County in an effort to establish a queer majority, a scheme first suggested by gay rights activist Don Jackson in 1969 at the West Coast Gay Liberation Conference.

"I have a recurring daydream," Jackson said in a speech evoking Martin Luther King Jr's famous address from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C just six years earlier. "I imagine a place where gay people can be free. A place where there is no job discrimination, police harassment or prejudice."

He added this utopian refuge would include "a gay government, a gay civil service, a county welfare department" as well as "the world's first gay university, partially paid for by the state" and "the world's first museum of gay arts, sciences and history, paid for with public funds." It would be "a shining symbol of hope to all gay people in the world".

Some were inspired to purchase property in Alpine County, which soon became the centre of a media maelstrom. After pushback from the mostly Christian, mostly conservative residents and infighting with fellow activists concerned about public perception, the plan was scrapped. Today, the original organisers have hinted it was little more than a publicity stunt designed to highlight the social inequalities that demanded such drastic action in the first place.

But what if it wasn't?

Viktor Zimmerman is the founder of the Gay Homeland Foundation, a group in Cologne, Germany dedicated to promoting the quest for a queer nation. He tells The QUO that a hetero-free state "has a dual purpose: to offer a safe haven for gay refugees and to serve as a cultural and political centrum for gay people."

"Achieving equal rights under law removes many obstacles in our lives, but it doesn't emancipate us," Zimmerman says. "Gay people have different cultural and social needs and will always be better off having a place where those needs can be addressed in unique ways."

Historically, Zimmerman says, queer-friendly spaces, such as gay villages or 'gaybourhoods', "came into existence for the same reasons as any ethnic neighbourhood: people after a central hub to socialize, buy and sell specific goods, watch out for potential husbands and so on."

From a queer nationalist perspective, these self-contained territories, complete with LGBTQI+ people pushed to the margins of society banding together to form geographical and cultural enclaves insulated from the homophobic hostility of wider society, are a model in miniature for a gay homeland.

Gay ghettos like the Castro District in San Francisco boast gay clubs, gyms, cafés and bookshops. There's an LGBT walk of fame and a queer history museum as well as regular parades and festivals such as the Dyke March and the Castro Street Fair. Public parks and plazas are named after famous gay rights activists, sidewalks and crossings are painted in rainbow colours and streets are lined with rainbow flags 365 days a year.

Logistically, Zimmerman says a gay state would depend on a "sophisticated strategy", beginning with self-declaration as a non-territorial sovereign entity like the Order of Malta, before graduating to an extraterritorial settlement like Hong Kong or Macao, with the "final goal" being a fully sovereign, territorial gay city-state, similar to the Vatican.

Some scholars regard the gay community as a distinctly homogenous group with a shared culture and history, like the Jewish diaspora. If that's the case, then a gay homeland might employ an immigration system similar to Israel's Law of Return, which allows anyone with verifiable Jewish ancestry to apply for citizenship.

Not everyone agrees with this monolithic view of queerness. Evan Beck at The Atlantic wrote about the problems with perpetuating the idea that the LGBT+ experience is singular and ignoring the additional injustices faced by those who occupy intersections of race and queerness, something a gay nation-state would need to address.

"As the issues of homelessness, health, and marriage suggest, there is no one cause that draws on the heart and purse strings of all gay people," Beck said. "But these varied identities and unique problems demonstrate that the LGBT/gay community, beyond being a semantic shortcut, is an inaccurate moniker for such a diverse group of individuals."

Semantics aside, going by precedent, a gay nation-state is (at least theoretically) possible. But is it necessary?

In Nile's statement, he warned of the dangers of separatism, saying the "poison of identity politics is ripping our society apart" and "putting Australian against Australian". Of course, given Nile's entire political career is stacked on his divisive anti-gay platform, this could be seen as a tad hypocritical - but there are others who question the necessity of such an approach now of all times.

One of the organisers of the Alpine County proposal, Gay Liberation Front founder Morris Kight, told a reporter at the Los Angeles Times in 1975 that "all of America has become Alpine County."

"Gay people have liberated jobs, housing communities, their own minds, their own personal feelings of goodness about gayness, and in increasing numbers have liberated the minds of non-gay people about the way they feel about us," he said. That was more than 40 years ago.

Conversely, Zimmerman says he doesn't believe "the bright future where gays can live freely everywhere on this planet" is coming anytime soon.

"There will probably always be a substantial number of gay people born in the wrong place at the wrong time who would be better served having a gay state as a second option," he says.

That said, there is something you can do to help right now: make sure you mark 'Yes' and return your postal ballots by November 7, 6pm. You have just over a week to be counted in the survey.

#PostYourYes today.

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