My take on the religious freedom debate after same – sex marriage

open book
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The inquiry into religious freedom after the legalisation of same sex marriage in Australia still rages on. Advocacy group just.equal has been able to access and upload PDF files both for and against more  so-called “religious freedom”. Here’s what I think.

While I don’t think that churches or other worship leaders should be forced to conduct same – sex marriage (which I thought was never a problem anyway), I am suspicious of calls for further extensions.

It’s all sounds really good and gentle. So you’re someone who wants to deny services to a same – sex couple wanting to get married? Then you lose business. Sounds fair, right? And everyone else should be able to exercise their conscience, right? Well, who, exactly, should be able to ‘exercise their conscience? Florists? Bakers?… Doctors? Pediatricians?

This is what I fear. And my fears aren’t completely baseless. In Tennessee, for example, it’s legal for mental health workers to refuse to treat LGBTQ+ people on religious grounds. In Michigan, just before same – sex marriage was law nationwide, a pediatrician refused to see a toddler because she was raised by same – sex married parents. That was legal, by the way.

I’ve seen comments on articles and social media that that won’t happen here. They argue that people should be able to refuse to cater for a same – sex wedding. Nothing else.

Yeah. For now.

Let’s get one thing straight (no pun intended). These people who are asking for extensions in ‘religious freedom’ are asking for the right to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people. Do you think that a baker will refuse to bake a cake for a couple that is getting remarried after a divorce? For some reason, I doubt it.

‘Religious freedom’ extensions are asking for the freedom to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people. I wish journalists and conservatives in general would just admit that. If you don’t want to work for or cater LGBTQ+ people, then don’t work in the business or community services sector. Frankly, it’s that simple.

 

Thing is, I’m not convinced that it’ll stop at catering for weddings. If I did, I may have some sympathy for those arguing for it (I actually did once).

LGBTQ+ people have already had their lives debated endlessly for months in the lead up to same – sex marriage. Some were triggered with homophobic and transphobic abuse, which they thought they’d left behind. And now, people want the right to ‘other’ them… again.

Think about this another way.

You’re LGBTQ+. You’ve ummed and aaahed, fretted and dreaded coming out to your family, friends, church, workmates, etc due to fear of being rejected. This is also hard for young people who are merely questioning their sexuality, (believe me, I know). Unfortunately, for too many young LGBTQ+ people, their fears are realised and they are ostracised from loved ones, abused in their faith communities, kicked out of home, and sometimes, physically abused. Just imagine, you’re LGBTQ+ fret about telling your friends, family and faith community and your worse fears are confirmed. Your parents kick you out. A friend who you thought you could trust betrays or rejects you. You’re rejected by your faith community, unless you go through ‘conversion therapy’. You do the whole lot: prayer, exorcism, fasting. Nothing changes. You feel like you’ve ‘failed’. The cycle starts again, until you break. You may get your life on track after years of therapy, soul work and immense internal healing.

Years later, you meet the love of your life. You want to spend the rest of your lives together and decide to do that officially through marriage. You and your partner go through all the preparations. You come to planning your cake… then, you hit a brick wall. The baker refuses to make it on religious grounds. All your past comes back to haunt you. The rejection of your family, your friends, your colleagues.

 

Lastly, what peeves me off to no end is the reason why people are arguing this. And, no it’s not religion. It’s because they can’t see LGBTQ+ people as people. They see them as pornified stereotypes. Go online and see what people who are against LGBTQ+ couples say; that they are ‘practising homosexuals’. References to anal sex, etc. See what I’m getting at? They immediately put their head in the gutter and refer to LGBTQ+ people as ‘acts’ that they imagine they do. How icky is that?! And dangerous. I really believe that is the reason why hate crime against LGBTQ+ people occurs around the world. Get your head out of the gutter!!!! The couple asked for a cake, not for you to participate in a brothel!

There is another solution. Let businesses be able to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people, but they should have to advertise it. Both on their premises and all their advertisements both in traditional and social media. If there is a backlash and they go bust, it’s their fault. But don’t allow them to drag LGBTQ+ people along, only to crush their dreams.

And, to those politicians who want this ‘right’ to be enshrined, don’t you DARE extend anti – discrimination laws any further. As many people on sofial media have said, last year, Australia voted for less discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, not more.

 

What do you think of the enqiry

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About allies

Rainbow Pride flag
Image: iStock

 

I thought what an ally was was common knowledge. Maybe it’s only within sections of the LGBTQ+ community.

Apparently, not everyone does, according to what I heard last night on 2GB.

According to Human Rights Campaign, an ally is:

… someone who is supportive of LGBT people. It encompasses non – LGBT allies as well as those within the LGBT community who support each other.

So, that’s it. An ally is someone who is supportive of LGBTQ+ people. Pretty simple. Allies are crucial to the LGBTQ+ community and it’d be great if we could all support each other: cis – gender people standing up for trans people, etc.

 

When you have a habit of catastrophising and always thinking the worse, having people I can be myself around is really important. It’s crucial really. I think we owe a debt to those who supported us during the same – sex marriage debate last year. We’re also going to need them to make sure rights of LGBTQ+, particularly anti – discrimination protections, are not watered down.

At least six out of the seven million who voted in favour of same – sex marriage last year would have been straight. That’s over six million people who think that LGBTQ+ people should be free to love and have that love recognised like straight couples under Australian law. This is huge.

There were media personalities who were great allies during the campaign. These included Mamamia founder, Mia Freedman and the panel on The Project. No, they aren’t perfect, (the Margaret Court “interview” was a train wreck, in my opinion and what Freedman said about Josh Manuatu on Twitter in 2016 was uncalled for). But they lent their voices to support members of the LGBTQ+ community who were calling for change to marriage laws to include LGBTQ+ people (now sex nor gender is a determining factor of who can get married in the law). Paul Murray from Sky’s Paul Murray Live was also a great ally. He consistently (more than others in the media, I’ve got to say), called out extremists in the “No” campaign, as well as calling out those on the “Yes” side.

These people, including some in my personal life, made the campaign a tiny bit more bearable.

Allies were also great before the same – sex marriage debate took full swing. Family and friends I’ve come out to have been awesome. One of them was really, really sweet. It was great to know that our relationship wouldn’t be affected negatively in any way. It’s great to know you’re unconditionally loved by them. It’s also great that most of these people are open about their support.

That’s what I’d say to allies. If you support the LGBTQ+ community, if you can, please be open about it. Let LGBTQ+ people in your life know that they are safe to be themselves around you. We’re not mind readers. For those who are, I love you.

What does ally mean to you? What do you want any allies to know? Leave your thoughts below in the comments. 

 

 

Enough about Barnaby Joyce

Laptop on news site
News turned into tabloid journalism. Or am I being too harsh? Image: Pexels

 

 

 

Give it a break.

The Barnaby Joyce affair, I mean.

I still stand by what I said in the last post. He’s a hypocrite after everything he said last year. However, this just continues to play out like a bad soap opera that never ends. If he’s misused public money or acted in a way that goes against political protocol, than the Liberals and Nationals should deal with that. If not, leave it alone. And stop dragging his family along.

 

Enough, enough, enough.

To be honest, I do wonder why the media, lead by Sharri Markson from The Daily Telegraph jumped on the story the way they did. Was it really because they thought it was in the public interest or just an excuse for tabloid journalism? I’m not saying what Joyce did was right. Of course it wasn’t. I just think the story has gotten out of hand. In a few months, a child is going to be born into this mess. How will the media treat the child when (apparently he) is born? Will the scandal follow him for the rest of his life?

 

Let the families have space. Let Natalie Joyce and her daughters deal with the betrayal their way, without constantly having to have it shoved in their faces all the time.

This is the last time I’m talking about it.

After the revelation about Barnaby Joyce, stop being hypocritical about the LGBTQ+ community

It’s been revealed that Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals Leader, Barnaby Joyce has fathered a child that was born from an affair.

Now, I’ve agonised about whether I should write this because I do kind of agree that it’s a private matter and his family shouldn’t be dragged through the mud so publicly.

Having said that, to be honest, I was and am pissed off about this. Joyce was a vocal opponent of same – sex marriage last year. He did end up abstaining when everything hit the fan, but that’s beside the point.

While the final result was a win for the LGBTQ+ community, the same – sex marriage debate was taxing. It did open many LGBTQ+ people up to threats of violence and online abuse, not to mention flashbacks to past abuse and feelings of self – hatred, fear and low self – esteeem. All because of the so – called ‘sanctity of marriage’.

Look, I never, EVER want to hear or read the terms ‘sanctity of marriage’ ever again! For too long it’s given people a licence to treat LGBTQ+ people like dirt. It was a shield for people who didn’t have the guts to admit that they opposed LGBTQ+ people entirely or saw themselves as morally superior because they’re straight.

Well, enough!

No LGBTQ+ are not a harm to children! You know what has proven to negatively affect children? Divorce.

Split wedding cake signifying divorce
Image: iStock

According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, many children can be negatively affected by divorce, including in the long – term. Children of divorce run the the risk of having a lower education level and are more at risk of becoming sexually active at a younger age. They also run the risk of living in poverty if the main custody is granted to the mother.

It should be noted that the AIFS also says how it affects the children and their ability to be resilient, largely depending on how the separation is carried out by the parents (conflict exposure, etc).

A study by a reputable source has proven that divorce can put children at risk. No reputable studies, however, has proven that LGBTQ+ people, including same – sex parents has the same or similar negative effects. (The so – called ‘studies’ that did ‘prove’ that children of same – sex parents were worse off all fell apart when peer reviewed).

This is what I was reluctant to write. I know that some relationships are toxic and sometimes a separation or divorce is the healthiest choice for everyone involved. While i think we should talk about the impact of divorce and family separation  more, I don’t want to demonise single parents or those who have recently separated. So please, if you’re a single parent, please don’t take this post as a condemnation.

For those who repeatedly moralise against the LGBTQ+ community, argued against same – sex marriage because of the ‘sanctity of marriage’, you are my target. At least be honest that you think LGBTQ+ people are somehow inferior morally or otherwise to straight people. At least be honest that you don’t or didn’t think that they should be offered the same legal protections that you and millions of others have taken for granted most (if not all) your adulthood.

 

No more hypocrisy. No more using children as pawns. in this war that you chose to wage against the LGBTQ+ community last year. On the plus side, many people didn’t buy it. That children would be harmed or that Stalin would rise from the dead!

We need to talk about men and mental health

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Content warning: depression and suicide(brief mention)

Mental health is a topic that has hit the spotlight again. This year started with a tragic death of Akubra child model Amy ‘Dolly’ Everett, who took her own life after relentless cyber – bullying.

I firmly believe that bullying is something that needs to be taken more seriously, but that discussion isn’t for this post. I want to talk about mental health and men.

 

News came out late last month that Australian tennis player, Bernard Tomic, left the jungle in I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here after less than forty – eight hours. He admitted that he was depressed.

The reactions, to be frank, have been quite appalling. People both within and outside the media has attacked Tomic’s sudden departure. At least one has backed off.

Good on Fordham for having the humility to retract his statement. Yet, I’m saddened that this has turned into a debate.

So, he’s made arrogant comments about ‘counting’ his ‘millions’. According to Jessie Stephens from Mamamia, suggested that Tomic had shown symptoms long before the I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.

Tomic was condemned last year for expressing his desire to want to quit tennis. Loss of interest in once – enjoyed activities is one common sign of depression.

Now, of course, Tomic needs to be diagnosed by a professional, not the general public or journalists. But what has annoyed me is the dismissive attitude people have had. Why has it sparked so much scrutiny? Have we gone backwards in our attitudes toward mental health, especially in men? I really hope not, considering that men are more than twice as likely to die by suicide than women, according to Mindframe, who used Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data in from 1989 to 2016. Over – representation of men in suicide statistics is consistent across all States and Territories and Aboriginal and non – Aboriginal people alike.

 

Anyone suffering mental health issues, including anxiety and depression should have access to necessary treatment without shame. On a similar note, I want to talk about another criticism that Tomic has copped about ‘self – diagnosis’. Most people know in their heart when something isn’t right. Many symptoms of depression can be picked up by the sufferer or their families. There are online questionnaires you can take that may help give an indication of whether you maybe showing depressive symptoms or not. Of course, these tests can not take the place of a professional diagnosis, but it may spur someone to seek out an official diagnosis and treatment.

So, can we please give Bernard Tomic and anyone else who is (or potentially is) suffering a mental illness a break? Can we offer them a bit of compassion, regardless of who they are? The stigma needs to stop. Period.

If you or anyone else is suffering mental illness or is struggling or concerned, you can contact Lifeline: 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636 or www.beyondblue.org.au if you prefer a webchat. For emergencies call 000 or seek medical help immediately. 

If your from another country, please feel free to put contact details of any national mental health or suicide prevention hotlines in your country. 

Happy World Hug Day

Friend group hug
Image: iStock

 

On a warm and fuzzy note: today is World Hug Day. It’s on the 21st of January each year.

Awwww. Can you feel the love?

Actually, it’s National Hugging Day and is formally celebrated in the US (damn!). However, it is also celebrated at some point around the world. Some celebrate it the week leading up to Valentine’s Day. National Hug Day originated in 1986. The founder of the day was Reverend Kevin Zaborney. He thought of a national hugging day when he realised people often felt down between Christmas/ New Year holiday period and Valentine’s Day.

I think it’s such a lovely idea. I’m a big hugger. I believe in the mental health benefits of hugging. Studies have shown that physical affection can determines a baby’s neurological development, which can determine a person’s state for the rest of their lives. The longing for physical touch is also evident for most people throughout their lives and can have great impacts on well – being.

 

The origin of “National/ World Hugging Day exposes a real weakness in humanity. Too often, we neglect human connection. To be honest, this generation (including  my generation), unfortunately try and use social media and technology as a substitute to real human interaction. Yet, while social media is great in keeping in contact with people, it can’t compete. People need real physical interactions.

“But I’m not a hugger”

Not everyone is comfortable with hugging and certain people will ask not to be hugged. These requests should be respected. I believe in body autonomy and after what has been exposed recently, I think it’s more important now than ever to respect personal boundaries.

Asking for hugs, gender and relationships

Having said that, asking for a physical touch shouldn’t be frowned upon either. In platonic relationships, it shouldn’t matter the gender/s of the participants. I love hugs from people regardless of gender. If everyone is comfortable with it, it shouldn’t matter. Hugs between men and women,women and women or men and men should be allowed and encouraged (when mutual).

Of course, hugs and caresses may lead to something else, but it shouldn’t be mandatory in romantic relationships. Sometimes a hug should be enough… at least that’s what I think. Many relationship experts insist that some form of physical intimacy is needed for a relationship to survive and thrive. In my opinion, physical affection in friendships (i.e. hugging), is also really important. It can create trust and further cement the relationship. It creates security and communicates full acceptance. I think hugs are great and needed during times of tragedy, loss or when someone is upset. To allow yourself to be vulnerable, and being allowed to be vulnerable shows the strength of a friendship.

Friends hugging
Image: iStock

 

 

So, happy “World Hugging Day” or for those in the US “National Hugging Day!”. I hope you all have someone that you can hug today and any day. Give your mum, dad, brother sister, other family member or friend a hug for me.

What have you been doing this National/ World Hugging Day? Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

The death of Amy ‘Dolly’ Everett should be a wake up call. Words hurt

Cyber - bullying victim distressed
Image: iStock

 

Content warning; bullying, depression and suicide

People were understandably shocked and upset to hear the passing of 14 – year – old Amy ‘Dolly’ Everett, the face of hat manufacturer Akubra. She took her own life after receiving abuse online.

This has sparked calls for Apple and Google Play to ban apps, like Saraha that allow users to make anonymous comments and posts.

While I sympathise with the campaignersa, I don’t think these calls for a ban get to the heart of the problem.

 

Here’s what people need to get: the saying ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me’ is a myth. I’ll go one step further. It’s total bull.

 

Words can kill. I thought we got this through our heads after the death of former model, Charlotte Dawson in 2014. Apparently not.

 

So, how can we stop this repeating? Maybe we can’t stop it completely. But what we can do is get honest, with ourselves and each other. We need to teach children and young adults that what they say matters. It has an impact and if they choose to bully someone, they will destroy both their lives and that of their victims.

People die due to bullying. That’s the reality. And there’s more. Last year, HealthDayNews reported  on a study that suggested that half of teens admitted into emergency were victims of violence or cyber – bullying. Nearly a quarter (23%) showed symptoms of post – traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The findings were published in journal General Hospital Psychiatry. 

 

Verbal or cyber bullying can and does have other affects, many arguably not so extreme. You’re ability to trust can be severely damaged. For me, it took me a long time to be able to trust people again.

 

Bullying also erodes your self – esteem. My self – esteem has hit rock bottom before. While it’s better now, I wouldn’t say it’s high. I’ve questioned my self – worth and to this day, sometimes feel like I’m not enough.

I wrote what I did above not to gain sympathy. I wanted to be honest about my own experiences and to demonstrate that often, the effects of bullying can last for years.

Fortunately, I’ve never been the victim of cyber – bullying. The rise of the Internet, especially various social media sites and apps, has made combating bullying complicated. This generation of children can’t escape bullying when they get home from school. Another complication is anonymity. They don’t have to see the impact of what their words have.

As I said near the start of this post, I don’t think banning certain apps like Saraha will work, nor is it necessary. Whether people like it or not, social media is the way most people, especially of this generation, communicate and a way they can get information and current events. The world needs to learn how to cope with social media, not avoid it. “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” needs to be exposed for the myth that it is and discarded. Words do hurt and cyber – bullying needs to be condemned. Period.