‘Yes’ won, so let’s stop the abuse

gay wedding cake with couple, aerial view of Australia
Images: iStock

December 7 was a historical day for Australia’s LGBTQ+ community. The Bill to legalise same – sex marriage passed the House of Representatives in a landslide.

January 9, 2018 is to be the day when same – sex couples can start registering their marriages, (excluding one special and sad circumstance).

We have won. But has love won? Daily Telegraph, news.com.au columnist and Studio Ten host, Joe Hildebrand has slammed  some ‘Yes’ voters for using the victory as an excuse to bully prominent ‘No” campaigners.

I agree with his assessment.

Australian LGBTQ+  won the opportunity to marry the person that they love. Yes, it was a hard battle. It was taxing. It did see many in the LGBTQ+ distressed. Counselors, including at Lifeline, saw a spike in the calls for help during the debate. Unfortunately, a number of LGBTQ+ people felt let down when finding out family members voted “no”. I won’t got into all the horror stories I’ve read about the tactics of some of the “No” campaigners.

However, despite all the the antics of some “Yes” campaigners and — dare I say it — scaremongering from the “No” camp, 61.6% of those who chose to participate in the voluntary survey decided that LGBTQ+ people can marry the person they love. Most of those seven million did not have a personal stake in the fight. They weren’t fighting for their rights. They chose to fight on behalf of many LGBTQ+ people. We can’t take this for granted!

The 61.6% result was better than what I expected. I thought it would make fifty per – cent, if lucky, or just under. I read comments on blogs about how people changed their vote because of the disgusting behaviour of some of the “Yes” campaigners. And, “No” campaigners and other skeptics of same – sex marriage, exposed that as much as they could.

Now, despite the antics of some of the “Yes” campaigners and scaremongering of the “No”, about 7 million Australians agreed that same – sex couples should be forwarded the right to marry. This is a victory for the LGBTQ+ community. About 5 million still oppose, or were scared off voting “Yes”. We shouldn’t treat them appallingly. In our victory in another step towards LGBTQ+ rights, let’s be civil towards opponents, even though some of our scars may not have fully healed. Let’s use this opportunity to reach out to our family members and friends who did vote “no” and be the first to build bridges.

 

On social media, STOP the abuse! (CW: cyber – abuse, coarse language)

 

This does NOT, I repeat, NOT represent the LGBTQ+ community or their supporters as a whole. But this vile minority will no doubt be used to prevent further rights and protections for LGBTQ+ people. Or worse, it will be used to demand a backpedal of existing rights and protections.

Final thought: These tweets, and probably more examples I haven’t yet stumbled upon), are nothing more than blatant hypocrisy. They scream “love is love”, then abuse opponents. I know many people have been hurt by the vote process. It’s been hard and taxing emotionally. I get it. Frankly, I felt it. But let’s use this time to all heal, rather than inflict more wounds.

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Same – sex marriage is won. My hopes for the future

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Images: iStock

It’s happened. The Upper House and Senate voted overwhelmingly for legalising same – sex marriage on Thursday. There were celebrations and tears across the nation.

61.6% of eligible voters that decided to take part in the postal survey made the decision that people in same – sex relationships should be able to marry. This is quite an optimistic result. It has made me positive for the Australian LGBTQ+ community in the future.

 

Over seven million people believe people in same – sex relationships should be treated legally as those in opposite – sex relationships. They have the choice to make that commitment.

So, what does this mean for young people who are yet to recognise their sexuality or those who have been previously married (in a straight relationship), but find themselves in love with someone of the same sex? Will it easier to admit their same – sex attraction, without fear of retaliation from those who they care about?

The extremes of the ‘Yes’ campaign were right in one sense. This does go beyond marriage for same – sex couples. It should. Here me out and I’ll explain what I mean. My hope is that with this embrace of same – sex couples, that other members of the LGBTQ+ community waill also be embraced – that bisexual and asexual people will be believed and safe. That bisexual men are believed. That transgender, including non – binary people feel safe to come out and express their gender identity. I hope that intersex people will be granted the right to be autonomous and have a voice in what happens to their bodies medically, rather than being forced into having invasive surgeries without their informed consent.

I hope that schools become safer places for LGBTQ+ students and their families. I hope that anti – LGBTQ+ bullying will not be tolerated and that victims don’t have to doubt whether they should speak out in fear of further attacks or rejection from family, school staff, or peers.

I hope that asexual people will be acknowledged in school. I hope that when there is talk about sexuality, there is a separation between sexual and romantic orientation, allowing potentially asexual students the ability to experience their romantic attractions (if they have any), without the worry or confusion.

 

Even though the process was painful for many in the LGBTQ+ community, I hope the vote showed that many non – LGBTQ+ people are willing to treat us like people, not outrageous stereotypes or caricatures. I hope that this means that lesbians and bisexual women are not treated or viewed as a porn fantasy. I hope this means that gay and bi men aren’t negatively stereotyped and attacked because they are not “masculine” enough.

My guess is that over seven million people didn’t buy into the paranoia that gays were out to get kids, or to turn them gay, or that transgender people (especially transwomen) are predators. Like the general population, the vast majority aren’t!

 

So, here’s to love. Here’s to acceptance. And, most importantly, here’s to LGBTQ+ people being free to be who they are without fear.

 

 

A big call out to LGBTQ+ supporters

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In the eve of the same – sex marriage postal survey announcement, I want to give a shout out to all those who stood by and advocated on behalf of many LGBTQ+ Australians.

Thank you to those who have actively campaigned for LGBTQ+ rights: written to politicians; called them; and used your voice in the survey.

Thank you to the counsellors/ psychologists who dedicated much of the last few months listening to and supporting LGBTQ+ people who were distressed.

Thank you to those who comforted LGBTQ+ friends and family. It hasn’t been an easy process, (in fact, at times for many, it’s been downright hard!). Thank you to those who have offered a shoulder to cry on when needed.

Thank you to the religious leaders who have called for compassion toward the LGBTQ+ community and have aimed to build bridges between, what have been warring factions. Thank you to those who joined campaigns like Equal Voices, and called for healing and reconciliation between the Church and the LGBTQ+ community.

Thank you to older LGBTQ+ people. like Anthony. Venn – Brown and Magda Szubanski, who have offered their advice and advocacy to younger LGBTQ+ people. Also, thank you to other LGBTQ+ people who have been willing to be open about their own struggles, but pushing forward and fighting for what you want. You have been so brave and strong!

Finally, I’d like to thank media personalities for standing by us. Thanks to Mamamia founder Mia Freedman and other staff for being an endless advocate for LGBTQ+ people. Thank you for giving LGBTQ+ people and their families a voice. You don’t know how much that means to us.

Thank you to Sky News’ Paul Murray and Patricia Karvelas for also being outspoken supporters for same – sex marriage. Thank you also, for being, sadly the few, who have consistently called out and condemned abuses from both sides of the debate.

Who would you like to thank for supporting you or the LGBTQ+ community more broadly during this debate?

Anti – discrimination exemptions: a slippery slope?

The issue of anti – discrimination is heating up in the same – sex marriage debate here in Australia. This week, Andrew Bolt interviewed owner of Arlene’s Flowers, Barronelle Stutzman, a florist who was sued for not making flower arrangemwnts for a same – sex wedding. From what I heard of the case, the case turned pretty callous, with Stutzman receiving death threats. That is horribly wrong. It’s disgusting and whoever sent threats to her should have the law book thrown at them.

Former florist Baronelle Stutzman on The Bolt Report
Former florist Baronelle Stutzman war s Australia that they face similar issues if same – sex marriage gets up here

I was sympathetic to cases like Stutzman. It was one of the reasons why I opposed same – sex marriage for a while.

However, what I worry about — and what Stutzman nor Bolt discussed, is what has happened since then, especially since Trump took office.

This has gone beyond caterers and florists. Last year, Tennessee Governor, Bill Haslain, signed a bill that allowed mental health workers to discriminate against LGBTQ+ clients for religious reasons.

A year earlier, a pediatrician in Michigan refused to treat a baby girl because she was being raised by a married lesbian couple.  Luckily another pediatrician was available.

Then, there was the whole “Bathroom Bill” debacle in North Carolina, which prohibited trans people to use the bathroom that coincides with their gender identity. Former ADF officer, Cate McGregor put it quite bluntly on ABC’s The Drum, saying that it was putting trans people at risk of violence.

 

If the issue on same – sex marriage exemptions stayed solely on that, I would be fine with it. i’ve read that even some LGBTQ+ people have rallied behind Stutzman. But what I’ve noted above concerns me.

There’s another issue, too; what if cases like the pediatrician happens in a rural area? Rural areas are always crying out for more GPs, nurses, etc, but they’re not always easy to come by. So what’s an LGBTQ+ person to do if the only doctor they have access to wants to discriminate against them because of who they are? What if an LGBTQ+ person needs mental health assistance and the only psychologist/ counsellor available doesn’t want to treat them because lf ‘conscience objection’?

This has gone beyond cakes and flowers and marriage. This is about whether LGBTQ+ people should be able to access services that they need.

I think there is a possibility that ‘religious’ or ‘conscientious objections’ loopholes in anti – discrimination laws (beyond religious leaders and celebrants) can be widened, widened and widened to the point where LGBTQ+ people, especially in rural areas, are denied essential services, leaving them vulnerable to poor health outcomes.

While I sympathise to a degree toward those who feel targeted, a part of me wants to tell objectors to suck it up. If you own a business, you serve the public. That includes LGBTQ+ couples. And LGBTQ+ people should NOT be refused essential services!

What to you think of the Baronelle Stutzman case? Do you think businesses should be able to refuse services to people, including for certain events (weddibg of a same – sex couple)? What do you think about health workers discriminating against LGBTQ+ people and their families? Should that be allowed?

Let me know what you think in the comments. Sorry for the amount of questions. Just so much I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on. You don’t have to answer all the questions.  Just please let mw know what you think.

 

 

We will rise: Episode of Gaycation offers LGBTQ+ people hope

Screen shot of image of Gaycation: United We Stand
Despite fear about the win of Trump last year, the LGBTQ+ people and their allies’ unity was touching and something Australian LGBTQ+ people can take strength from.

I won’t lie, the last few months haven’t been easy for many in the Australian LGBTQ+ community. That includes me. I’ve been quite strong and have offered my own support to LGBTQ+ family and friends but on and off for the past couple of weeks, it’s finally got me. Old insecurities and worries about how others viewed me came back. And I’m not even in a same – sex relationship. I feel for those who are.

On Wednesday, I saw the end of a repeat of Gaycation: United We stand  on SBS Viceland. It was about the immediate aftermath of Donald Trump’s 2016 election win. Many people were worried about the President’s Cabinet and their links with organisations and political parties that had been opposed to LGBTQ+ rights, including Vice President, Mike Pence, who was responsible for the Religion Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana, which permitted businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people on the grounds of personal belief. (Apparently, he did backpedal in legalising discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, despite anger from conservatives). There was also worry about the rights of trans people and their ability to access medical care.

While the backdrop of the documentary was quite grim, the end of the documentary was surprisingly uplifting. It gave me hope for Australia in the postal vote process. I took strength from the fact that the LGBTQ+ community and allies were determined to stand together and not allow things to backslide to where they’d been in the past. They were not going to let those with homophobic or trans – phobic views win. Caucasian and people of colour were willing to stand together. They seemed to believe in the cause and their right to, not just exist, but live freely, love and express their gender that they saw fit.

It was heartening to see parents of LGBTQ+ people, including co – host Ian Daniel’s father, who were willing to stand by their children and fight for them. I truly think that these people don’t get enough credit. They are such a great source of love and strength. You have seen the same thing with the postal vote process. I’ve been heartened at the number of straight people; including parents and grandparents, who are willing to have their LGBTQ+ children’s and grandchildren’s back.  If you are a parent, friend, family member, educator, who’s been a shoulder for LGBTQ+ family or friends to cry on, on behalf of members of the LGBTQ+ community, can I just say, thank you. You’re love, support and contribution in our lives will never be forgotten. To LGBTQ+ people, please, give these people in your lives a massive hug! They deserve it.

Can I please implore Australian LGBTQ+ people to take heart. It will be OK. If we can stick together, we can get through this and more (if the US is anything to go by, this won’t be the last fight).

If we keep going, we will win this. We will gain the right to love, to be safe and express our gender authentically. To quote Swedish melodic death metal band Arch Enemy: We Will Rise. To quote them again: “United we stand!”