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The Hon Justice Michael Kirby AC CMG

In honour of The Hon Justice Michael Kirby AC CMG who retires today, I thought I’d republish the opening ceremony speech he gave at the GAY GAMES VI in Sydney on 2 November 2002.  It is truly inspiring.

OPENING CEREMONY SYDNEY
SATURDAY 2 NOVEMBER 2002
COURAGE

The Hon Justice Michael Kirby AC CMG

Under different stars, at the beginning of a new millennium, in an old land and a young nation, we join together in the hope and conviction that the future will be kinder and more just than the past.

At a time when there is so much fear and danger, anger and destruction, this event represents an alternative vision struggling for the soul of humanity. Acceptance. Diversity. Inclusiveness.
Participation. Tolerance and joy. Ours is the world of love, questing to find the common links that bind all people. We are here because, whatever our sexuality, we believe that the days of exclusion are
numbered. In our world, everyone can find their place, where their human rights and human dignity will be upheld.

This is a great night for Australia because we are a nation in the process of reinventing ourselves. We began our modern history by denying the existence of our indigenous peoples and their rights. We their place was in the kitchen. And as for gays, lesbians and other sexual minorities, they were an abomination. Lock them up. Throw away the key.

We have not corrected all these wrongs. But we are surely on the road to enlightenment. There will be no U-turns.

Little did my partner Johan and I think, thirty years ago, as we danced the night away at the Purple Onion, less than a mile from this place, that we would be at the opening of a Gay Games with the Queen’s Representative and all of you to bear witness to such a social revolution. Never did we think we would be dancing together in a football stadium. And with the Governor. And that the Governor would be a woman! True, we rubbed shoulders on the dance floor with Knights of the Realm, such as Sir Robert Helpmann and with a future Premier, such as Don Dunstan. But if an angel had tapped us on our youthful shoulders and told us of tonight we would have said “Impossible”. Well, nothing is impossible to the human spirit. Scientific truth always ultimately prevails. So here we are tonight, men and women, indigenous and newcomers, black and white, Australians and visitors, religious and

It is put best by Corey Czok, an Australian basketballer in these Games:

“It’s good to be able to throw out the stereotypes – we’re not all sissies, we don’t all look the same and we’re not all pretty!”

His last comment may be disputed. Real beauty lies in the fact that we are united not in the negatives of hate and exclusion, so common today, but in the positives of love and inclusion.

The changes over thirty years would not have happened if it had not been for people of courage who rejected the common ignorance about sexuality. Who taught that variations are a normal and universal are no big deal. And that, between consenting adults, we all just have to get used to it and get on with life.

The people of courage certainly include Oscar Wilde. His suffering, his interpretation of it and the ordeal of many others have bought the changes for us. I would include Alfred Kinsey. In the midst of the McCarthyist era in the United States he, and those who followed him, dared to investigate the real facts about human sexual diversity. In Australia, I would also include, as heroes, politicians of every
major party, most of them heterosexual. Over thirty years, they have dismantled many of the unequal laws. But the first of them was Don Dunstan. He proved, once again, the astonishing fact that good things sometimes occur when the dancing stops.

I would also add Rodney Croome and Nick Toonen. They took Australia to the United Nations to get rid of the last criminal laws against gay men in Tasmania. Now the decision in their case stands for the whole world. I would include Neal Blewett who led Australia’s first battles against AIDS. Robyn Archer, Kerryn Phelps, Ian Roberts and many, many others.

But this is not just an Australian story. In every land a previously frightened and oppressed minority is awakening from a long sleep to assert its human dignity. We should honour those who looked into themselves and spoke the truth. Now they are legion. It is the truth that makes us free.

§ I think of Tom Waddell, the inspired founder of the Gay Games. His last words in this life were: “This should be interesting”. Look around. What an under-statement.

§ I think of Greg Louganis, twice Olympic gold medallist, who came out as gay and HIV positive and said that it was the Gay Games that emboldened him to tell it as it was.

§ I think of Mark Bingham, a rowdy Rugby player. He would have been with us tonight. But he lost his life in one of the planes downed on 11 September 2001, struggling to save the lives of others. He was a real hero.

§ Je pense à Bertrand Delanoé, le maire ouvertement gay de Paris, poignardé à l’Hôtel de Ville au course de la Nuit Blanche. Il a fait preuve d’un très grand courage – et il est un homme exceptionnel. When the gay Mayor of Paris was stabbed by a homophobe he commanded the party, at which it happened, to “Dance Till Dawn”. Do that in his honour tonight. And in honour of the Cairo 52; the Sister movement in Namibia; Al Fatiha – the organisation for Gay Moslems and many others struggling for their human rights.

§ And I think of all of you who come together on this magical night to affirm the fundamental unity of all human beings. To reject ignorance, hatred and error. And to embrace love, which is the ultimate foundation of all human rights.

Let the word go out from Sydney and the Gay Games of 2002 that the movement for equality is unstoppable. Its message will eventually reach the four corners of the world. These Games will be another catalyst to help make that happen. Be sure that, in the end, inclusion will replace exclusion. For the sake of the planet and of humanity it must be so.

Amusez-vous bien. Et par l’exemple de nos vies défendons les droits de l’humanité pour tous. Non seulement pour les gays. Pour tout le monde.

Enjoy yourselves. And by our lives let us be an example of respect for human rights. Not just for gays. For everyone.
 


The Hon Justice Michael Kirby AC CMG

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