Dear Toowoomba... It's ok to be me
My years in Toowoomba were both full of wonderful things and also wrestling with the need to come out publicly in my authentic gender. So it has been good to reflect again on this as I responded recently to the invitation to share in the Make Visible project developed by artist Shannon Novak with the support of QAGOMA. This aims to grow support for the LGBTQI+ community in Queensland, Australia by making visible challenges and triumphs for this community. One of the satellite sites and partners is USQ at Toowoomba, who asked me to write a short letter, headed 'Dear Toowoomba'. They also invited me to be a part of the Launch of the project 'Its' ok to be me' at USQ and to share in a panel on ways forward. I hope my contribution may be part of contributing to the further maturing of a city with so many fine features and people, but still with a little more work to do in fully celebrating and empowering all its people. It has also reminded me of the many people (and a wonderful dog!) I miss in Toowoomba and its achievements and potential...
It’s time for all your flowers to bloom. Your rainbow garden needs attention. For sadly, like many LGBTIQ+ people, I had to leave you to be fully myself.
Atop the Range, you can try to enforce great social divides or be a gateway to better futures. As a regional meeting place of many peoples, you are a potential lighthouse of love. Yet you so need to nurture your queerer plants and fruits. To be a true ‘family city’, all your children matter.
I know you as much more than Pleasantville, but you still have to come out to your own best self. Listen to the kinder voices of your diverse faith and other communities, and not so much the fundamentalist choir seeking to be a buckle of a Bible Belt. For you are a city pledged to international peace and harmony. Your new airport, university, refugees and settlers from many lands already make new connections, enriching the traditional Giabal and Jarowair lands and cultures. Yet some seeds still lie deep underground or cannot burst through to fruitfulness. They live with shame, suspicion and suppression. It creates ugliness and hurt in a place seeking to shine with beauty.
When Islamophobia rose, you fostered rich awareness of faith, humanity and diversity. You can do this with homophobia and transphobia. For you are a city of education, and of economic balance. You can be a larger garden of delight.
I still love you and pray you may love us all – fully, soon…
(The Revd Dr) Josephine Inkpin, formerly Rector of the Anglican Parish of St Luke, Toowoomba, and past chair of Toowoomba’s Goodwill Committee for the City of Peace and Harmony Initiative, and the first out transgender priest in Australia
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Jo Inkpin is an Anglican priest serving as Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney, a trans woman, theologian & justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice & sustainable creation.