It was a beautiful sunny day, a rarity in the sub-Antarctic, and on 17 May 2022, with the help of Macca's official flagbearer, we raised the progress pride flag at Macquarie Island research station for the first time in recognition of IDAHOBIT 2022 and the challenges facing LGBTQIA+ people in remote areas and polar science. IDAHOBIT is the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Discrimination against Intersex people and Transphobia and is celebrated worldwide. The Australian Antarctic Division has a long and rich history of expeditioners from the LGBTQIA+ community who have forged a path of inclusivity and visibility in an underrepresented and historically challenging environment and industry for marginalised groups. Celebrating IDAHOBIT, showing pride and continuing these important conversations recognises the contributions of these people and welcomes, supports and protects the next generation of expeditioners.
As a rural and remote medical doctor, I’m no stranger to living in small and isolated communities, and have had the joy of working with many vibrant LGBTQIA+ communities and individuals across Australia. LGBTQIA+ people in rural, regional and remote areas can be at higher risk of social isolation due to a lack of community awareness about LGBTQIA+ people’s lives, or due to more active prejudice and exclusion. This leads to increased mental health issues and poor access to healthcare services amongst other challenges, the things IDAHOBIT was started to highlight and challenge. Being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community combined with being a healthcare professional makes it so much easier to provide culturally safe and appropriate care and advocate for patients. In the Antarctic Division we live in some of the smallest, most isolated groups on earth and are selected with personal qualities in mind to build supportive and inclusive communities. It’s incredibly important we continue to diversify our expeditioners to build strong communities’ representative of those passionate about polar science and the polar regions.
I personally brought the progress pride flag from home with IDAHOBIT and the newly minted polar pride in November in mind. The progress pride flag is based on the iconic rainbow flag from 1978, redesigned and brought into popular usage in 2018 to celebrate the diversity of the LGBTQIA+ community. In the spirit of inclusivity, black and brown stripes represent marginalized LGBTQIA+ communities of colour, with the pink, light blue and white adapted from the Trans flag.
We’re two months into our season on Macquarie Island and while sunny days are rare, I’m very lucky with the sunny disposition of the whole wintering team here and the incredible experience of the vibrant ever-changing nature of the island itself. On the back of televised Eurovision Song Contests at Mawson and Macca, the second ever Polar Pride in 2021 and the first time the progress pride flag has been flown at Macquarie Island, the future is looking brighter for LGBTQIA+ expeditioners.
Dr Dane Brookes
Macquarie Island Antarctic Medical Practitioner 2022