Rainbows promise end to intolerance

Jenny Eldridge (left) receives a flower from Tom Brennan and Bryce Johnson in Warrnambool’s Lava Street.
Jenny Eldridge (left) receives a flower from Tom Brennan and Bryce Johnson in Warrnambool’s Lava Street.

IT’S been less than a week since someone hurled homophobic abuse at Shane Hernan — but the south-west gay rights advocate insists progress has been made in fighting intolerance.

A small group marked International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia yesterday with “random acts of rainbow” — handing out flowers, bracelets and ribbons in the city’s CBD. 

The day recognises the same date in 1990 when the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from a list of mental disorders. 

But despite the calendar saying 2014, homophobia is still very much a problem in the south-west. 

“It’s more subtle than being out in the open, like bashing, but there is a lot of judgment in the community and preconceptions,” Mr Hernan said. 

The Warrnambool youth is no stranger to slurs. 

“The last time was within the last week — it was just a call out from a car, but physical (abuse) hasn’t happened for two or three years — it’s a slight improvement.” But that’s not to say everyone has held on to the prejudices of the past — there are plenty of rainbows in windows and shopfronts around Warrnambool. 

Mr Hernan also points to the other supporters dressed in rainbows.

“Ten years ago I don’t think we could have been walking down the street looking like we do — but in 10 years so much as changed. 

“It’s all about what we’ve come through in the last couple of years and it’s celebrating who we are.” 

Brophy Family and Youth Services and the YUMCHA youth diversity group have also been approaching businesses around the city getting a commitment of tolerance towards the gay community. 

Brophy community development and enterprise projects team leader Lyn Eales said the safe and welcome place initiative aimed to make gay couples feel at home in public.

“It’s just a safe place to be ... without worrying about anyone looking over your shoulder,” Ms Eales said.