Did Tina Turner get it right when she sang, “We don’t need another hero”?
By Luis Augusto Nobre
When Tina Turner passed away last May, I spent days with one of her songs playing over and over in my head. I have loved her voice since an early age, but I got stuck with “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)” because of its lyrics. The song is an immense success eternalized by Turner and the anthem of the 1985 film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Those words, written by Graham Lyle and Terry Britten, inspire me to continue looking for a better future and life “beyond Thunderdome.”
Lyle and Britten probably created the song based on the plot of Mad Max, and I cannot imagine if they (and you) also connected the inspiring words to the realities of 2SLGBTQIA+ people worldwide. Many of us are the children left behind who are expecting a better life beyond the societal dome that has imprisoned our communities for decades. Our communities have been looking for respect, love and compassion, and we should be aware that this hateful wave is because those in power know that their castles were built in the air.
Keeping us apart and afraid is the strategy to keep controlling us under this invisible dome. The lyrics explore the myth of the hero, who has enough power to save those in need, but from a different perspective. They chant not to be saved but to leave them to follow their lives without repression and restrictions – which is basically what queer and trans communities have been fighting for. We want to remove the invisible dome of systemic oppression that is trying to control us with terror, violence and discriminatory practices.
The goal is to extinguish this fear created on us and about us. We aren’t calling for a single hero; however, we need a collective effort from our queer and trans communities, friends, allies and society. The communications strategist for the American Civil Liberties Union, Gillian Branstetter, once shared: “If we are going to be a priority for our enemies, we need to be a priority for our friends. We cannot fight this off on our own. We need people to hold the line on our own humanity.”
Our 2SLGBTQIA+ communities need this support more than ever, and it goes beyond raising Pride flags or rainbow colours. We need more people to fight with and for us against this hateful wave and the increased discriminatory legislation in several places. On the other hand, it is vital to celebrate the advances experienced in recent years, such as the ban on conversion therapy in Canada, the decriminalization of homosexuality in five countries in 2023, and the recognition of same-sex marriage in other places. Those facts, and other equal-rights advancements, should inspire us to continue our journeys in building a more inclusive world. They should help us to feel stronger and show we can overcome fear with love and respect. Our celebratory chanting will remove all segregational domes.
Although there is still much work to be done by us as members of the queer and trans communities, allies and friends must be more vocal and step it up, even when we are not there. We even have to rethink the allyship between 2SLGBTQIA+ communities, because many of us have been discriminating against particular identities in the acronym. We cannot leave trans and non-binary people alone at the mercy of their fate. We also must join counter-protests with drag performers who have been targeted by specific groups in the name of morality. The work these performers do in drag storytime is essential to build bridges and engagement, besides educating people about the importance of diversity and inclusion. It is a creative, fun and inclusive way to promote child protection that considers queer and trans children.
There is this call for us to protect our queer and trans communities. Many drag performers and trans activists have been under attack for years, and they are still facing our backs. It is a general assumption, you might think. However, pay more attention to details in your surroundings, and you will see that the reality is hard for some groups. Look at your friends, and analyze if they have been toxic with others, reproducing misogyny, homophobia, body shame and other discriminatory habits. Those hateful practices toxify our environments.
What happened with Fae Johnstone in the past year is a perfect example of the challenges that we have been experiencing in infected societies. People from all sides – including gays and lesbians – targeted Johnstone because of her trans activism and queer liberation. Award programs and campaigns that involved her received threatening and violent messages from all over North America, and that could breathe new life into trans discrimination in other countries. However, Johnstone wasn’t alone, and many queer and trans peers showed their support and joined the #Act4QueerSafety campaign, organized by Momentum, which calls on the Government of Canada to address 2SLGBTQIA+ rights and give better protection to us all.
We have to continue our engagement in protecting our future and rights while we live on hiatus until the next Pride month, when the importance of Pride and 2SLGBTQIA+ inclusion discussions will peak again. It is indispensable to sensitize employers, politicians, parents, media and other groups to act and stand for us – for all members of LGBTQIA+ communities.
Turner sang about not having another hero, but it is time for us to sing a different song, “Heroes,” by David Bowie. Let’s chant it together with our total lung capacity: “We can beat them just for one day, we can be heroes just for one day…we can be heroes.”
LUIS AUGUSTO NOBRE is the senior communications coordinator of Pride at Work Canada/Fierté au travail Canada, a leading national non-profit organization that promotes workplace inclusion on the grounds of gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation. For more information, visit prideatwork.ca.