Radical Women talks to young queer activist, Siann Fox

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Siann Fox is a 17-year-old queer rights activist from the LaTrobe Valley, about 130

kilometres from Melbourne. She says that growing up in rural Victoria is what propelled

her into activism and joining Whatever, a young queer group based in the Gippsland

region. Radical Women recently met Siann and talked about Whatever’s work.

“In rural Victoria, safety and acceptance are issues for young queers. People try to hide

that they’re queer. They won’t hold hands in public. They fear the violence — being

called horrible names or getting bashed. There are so many queer youth out there, but

because there aren’t many networks, they don’t know where to go. Whatever offers a

place where they don’t feel alone and isolated. People come from towns throughout

Gippsland.

Whatever is a youth diversity project started two-and-a-half years ago by two youth

workers, Liz and Helma. It’s run by young people in the LaTrobe Valley and supported

by Kilmany Uniting Care and Head Space, a mental health support group for young

people.

Whatever‘s name expresses its purpose: young people should be whoever and whatever

they are and feel safe and comfortable.”

Whatever outreaches as far as it can to ensure young queers know they can use it for

support and to connect with others. Says Siann, “We go where young people are, like

schools and festivals, putting up posters, distributing pamphlets, setting up stalls. We also

do talks at high schools.

“We get a really good response. A lot of people come up to us and say how are happy

they are to find an organisation like Whatever. It’s not only a place for safety, it’s good

for social networking. You don’t feel so alone. I’ve made heaps of friends through

Whatever. Before, I didn’t have any friends who were queer. It’s much easier to know

people in the same boat and understand what you’re going through.”

Asked what changes she wants to see, Siann answers: “Equal rights to be who you are

without being tormented and physically hurt. People are really scared about being found

out as gay, because they could be beaten up or thrown out of home. Young queers also

need events, like concerts and socials, to give them the chance to get together and have a

fun time. We don’t have anything like that here.”

Whatever has an anti-discrimination case in the Equal Opportunity and Human Rights

Commission against the rightwing religious sect, The Exclusive Brethren. Whatever and

Way Out, another group for young queers, booked its facilities for a weekend awareness

camp. Once The Brethren found out about the organisations, it cancelled the booking.

The case will be heard in early 2009.

For Siann, being both female and queer makes life really hard. “Some of these laws

are really wrong. You have to stand up for what you believe in. Anyone can make a

difference.”

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