The QUO Podcast: Ep 7 - 'Gay rights are being used to advance heterosexuality': Dr Chris Pepin-Neff
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;
Story

The QUO Podcast: Ep 7 - 'Gay rights are being used to advance heterosexuality': Dr Chris Pepin-Neff

Stories/789 , Issues/Policy , Issues/LGBTQIA+
Sydney NSW
9th Apr 2021
The QUO Podcast: Ep 7 - 'Gay rights are being used to advance heterosexuality': Dr Chris Pepin-Neff

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“Mainstream gay lobbying returns power to the powerful. Intersectional or LGBTQ lobbying disrupts power,” Dr Neff says.

In this episode, we speak to Dr Christopher Pepin-Neff, whose research as senior lecturer in public policy at the University of Sydney focuses on LGBTQ+ politics and draws upon his years working as a full-time lobbyist in the United States for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Neff explains that lobbying involves approaching a legislative office or parliament and telling them your issues in about seven minutes. The ultimate goal is to influence the outcome of a rights-based decision.

“I’ll say to them [legislative office or parliament], I think we need to advance the ball of LGBTQ+ rights, and they say, oh, it’s really hard, and I say, that’s irrelevant. They say, let’s negotiate and I say something like I will not negotiate on LGBTQ+ rights,” he says.

Dr Neff was pushed to pursue LGBTQ+ lobbying by his mentor, Frank Kameny, an icon of the LGBTQ+ rights movement in the United States.

“I was told to step up, rise to the challenge, get off your arse and do something,” he says.

The repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the ban on gay, lesbian and bisexual service people in the United States military, has been a high point in his lobbying career.

“If you told your mother you were gay, you could be discharged. There were regular witch hunts, even murders. 14,000 people were fired between 1994 and 2010,” says Dr Neff.

Dr Neff wrote the first bill to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and introduced it to congress in 2005, although it wouldn’t be formally repealed until 2010. He describes it as “the most pro LGBTQ+ victory in American history”, with over 65 per cent of senators voting in favour of LGBTQ+ service people in the military.

“It was the service members and the families of slain service people who made lobbying happen. They deserve the credit,” he says.

Earlier this year, Dr Neff published LGBTQ Lobbying in the United States, where he argues that mainstream gay lobbying communities don’t work for today’s LGBTQ+ interests.

“Mainstream gay lobbying returns power to the powerful. Intersectional or LGBTQ lobbying disrupts power,” he says.

Dr Neff argues that marriage equality is an example of mainstream lobbying, because the institution of marriage is in itself a core mainstream institution.

“I’m not saying we should be discriminated against, but when we set up the priorities of the movement, I think we should be focused on poverty, homelessness, racism and white supremacy,” he says.

He argues that gay rights are being used to advance heterosexuality in the same way events like pride are being used to advance corporatism.

“You’re letting yourself be manipulated by heteronormative culture. They want you to be heteronormative and we say, thank you, we’ll be heteronormative and then we reproduce that sexism, ableism, racism, and classism against our own community,” he says.

“The queer and trans community could solve LGBTQ+ rights in 30 days if we spent on LGBTQ+ rights what we spend on hair products and bars,” he says.

The core difference between mainstream gay lobbying and intersectional LGBTQ+ lobbying is in what they respectively ask of policymakers.

“In lobbying, the climax is in the ask,” Dr Neff says.

While mainstream gay lobbying sets priorities that lawmakers are comfortable with and will ‘kick the can up the road’, the intersectional approach is entirely different.

“Let’s ask for everything, Let’s ask for it now. The business community is asking for everything now. The only people asking for scraps at the table is the queer and trans community,” he says.

As for the future of LGBTQ+ lobbying, Dr Neff’s hope is that it will begin to deal with system issues like racism, domestic abuse and gendered violence.

“I’m looking for the gaps. The things we don’t know yet, that are falling through the cracks. That’s where I want to go in the next 20 years,” he says.

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