Queer festival Fambo celebrates all kinds of families
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Queer festival Fambo celebrates all kinds of families

Stories/361 , Issues/LGBTQIA+ , Issues/Arts & Culture , Issues/Youth
107 Redfern St, Redfern NSW 2016, Australia
27th Sep 2018
Queer festival Fambo celebrates all kinds of families
Fambo is a subversive celebration putting queer families and culture front and centre.

For the LGBT+ community, the act of celebration has a historical precedent of being subversive in a positive and self-affirmative way. We need look no further than the birth of our own Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in 1978 to see this. In the face of police violence and the ongoing criminalisation of homosexuality in NSW, what began as a small group of protesters has become a hallmark of Australia's cultural heritage.

The launch of Fambo, a queer festival for all kinds of families, continues this subversive spirit of celebration. A first of its kind, Fambo offers a unique opportunity for children and families to engage in queer contemporary arts and culture during their school holidays.

Pictured: Shahmen Suku as Radha La Bia.
Pictured: Shahmen Suku as Radha La Bia.

As the name suggests, families of all shapes and sizes are encouraged to participate. However, Fambo's artistic director, Jenn Blake, is prioritising the invitation towards queer families and LGBT+ or questioning kids. They believe that it is important to create a space for all families in the community to celebrate queerness with their kids.

"The Safe Schools curriculum could have been such a great opportunity for young people to learn about and celebrate the diversity of each other and themselves. I think creating an alternate space outside settings that are more controlled by government, like schools, is something that we need to do more of," they asserted.

It was last year's postal survey that compelled Jenn to lean in more to her queerness. "I feel like it's my power now to be very out," they said. Jenn, as a queer parent, knew first hand that opportunities to connect with the LGBT+ community most often take the form of nightlife and other events that aren't family friendly.

"I thought about the types of experiences I wanted to be having as a family, and those were very much centred around our identity. I wanted something that also gave us the opportunity to connect with the queer community because as a parent and as families, it can be quite isolating", Jenn said.

Beyond this, Jenn was aware that the historical othering of LGBT+ communities and the social policing of parenthood made rainbow families a primary target for criticism.

"The obsession we have as a culture around parenting, matched with the historical fear and shame around sexuality, has created a perfect storm for people and has certainly been used by the extreme right", they said.

Prime Minister Morrison's recent comments about trans school students coupled with his refusal to condemn conversion therapy in Australian churches show that despite legal reform, it is crucial that we continue to advocate for LGBT+ people. As Jenn aptly put it, "it isn't new for queer people to be attacked in the media and by our leaders." Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's review of the Safe Schools, a program aimed at ensuring schools are safe spaces for LGBT+ students, led to an increase in homophobic rhetoric.

"For every person that wants to say something really hateful and misguided, if our attention as queer people was always diverted to that, we would never get anything done. it's a constant," Jenn said.

Last week, the Human Rights Law Centre released a statement that the Hate Crimes Act needs to more comprehensively protect LGBT+ people from prejudice. Their report End the Hate: Responding to prejudice motivated speech and violence against the LGBTI Community states that LGBT+ people reported more than double the amount of verbal and physical assaults.

Senior lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre Lee Carnie said, "This is absolutely unacceptable. Hate speech and hate crimes that target people because of who they are affect how safe they feel in our communities but also diminish our society as a whole."

For Jenn, the key to progress for the LGBT+ community lies in both increasing visibility and normalising queer culture. They hope Fambo will not only normalise but celebrate Rainbow Families.

"Through celebration, we are relaxed enough to be visible. Celebration is really powerful political vehicle", they affirmed.

Jenn admits that when it comes to the language used to describe different kinds of families, it has been a learning curve even for them. The word 'parent' is in itself limiting because many people who identify as part of a rainbow family are not parents in the nuclear sense of the word.

There is a huge amount to look forward to in Fambo line up, but Jenn is most excited for Sharmen Suki's Banana Project workshop. It is a very rare family, rainbow or otherwise, that are not brought closer together through food.

"Both adults and children are really drawn to food, sharing food and having a hands-on experience doing that. I think it will be something families can enjoy together, which is really important to me as far as the program goes".

Fambo will be take place at 107 Projects this Saturday 29 September.

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