Straight head of gay festival says she was harrassed over her sexuality

Cassandra Liebeknecht

Cassandra Liebeknecht Bil Browning

“I’ve been spat on, I’ve had people scare me, I’ve had people contact me at work anonymously, saying ‘I know where your children go to school’,’” Cassandra Liebeknecht says. “There was also a gentleman who continues to this day to slander me for my sexuality.”

Liebeknecht is the general manager of the Feast Festival, a popular queer arts event held each year in October in Adelaide, Australia. She is also heterosexual. But when word got out that she wasn’t actually a member of the LGBTQ community, she says, people became “vicious.”

“There’s a lot of stuff on Facebook,” she laments. “In regards to discrimination, being the general manager of Feast … it has not been easy.”

Coincidentally, at the same time Liebeknecht says she was being harassed for her heterosexuality, she was also accused of “professional misconduct” allegedly involving the mismanagement of finances. As a result, she has been placed on paid leave while the board investigates.

“I’ve sought legal advice,” she says. “There’s been enough slander against me. I’m very concerned in regards to any further slander. I’m concerned about my future and my family and what this might do to me.”

She also says that it shouldn’t matter what her sexual orientation is as long as they are the best qualified person for the job.

But not everyone agrees.

“For me, the issue is more about, does the person have the knowledge, the trust, the networks and the skills, to engage and represent that community?” Karen Bryant, a lesbian artist, says.

Bryant believes that any group that is supposed to represent minorities “should be doing everything it can to ensure that leadership comes from those communities.”

Meanwhile, officials from the festival say Liebeknecht’s heterosexuality had nothing to do with her suspension from work, saying: “Feast’s view is–and always has been–that someone’s sexuality or gender should never be discriminated against. We support and celebrate all sexualities and gender identities.”

The organization declined to comment on the current internal investigation surrounding Liebeknecht.

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