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

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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.

 

 

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What the same – sex marriage result really means

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The Senate has voted overwhelmingly to legalise same – sex marriage, forty – three to twelve affirmative. Plus 62.1% of people who took part in the postal vote also voted “Yes”. It’s going to happen.

So, what does that mean? I try and not be too mean about this, but, as I pointed out before, the ‘no’ campaign was a complete failure. Why? I think it was because they had no argument. They focused on Safe Schools. And through that, I truly believe that a lot of it was about painting LGBTQ+ people as sexual predators. The “slippery slope” arguments turned ridiculous and dangerous, with Senator Pauline Hanson saying that there needed to be a referendum to make sure child marriage doesn’t become legal (I’m not kidding).

Most Australians, including senators, obviously took a different approach. They realised that same – sex couples and LGBTQ+ people in general aren’t some sick conspiracy. Most people don’t link same – sex marriage to polygamy, or bestiality or child abuse. Many people, over 7 million Australians, were fair minded and thought about the debate through their own eyes (if they are LGBTQ+) or through the eyes of a friend or family member. The debate was, to many of those Australians, was about the future of their loved ones.

Over 7 million people didn’t think about schools teaching children how to masturbate. Most people who didn’t think that LGBTQ+ people were automatically linked to socialism (even though I do think the “Yes” campaign did become too closely aligned with Socialist Alliance and other far – Left organisations). The last ‘Coalition for Marriage’ advertisement was the most bizarre, making links between same – sex marriage and the Chinese Cultural Revololution of the seventies and eighties. LGBTQ+ people and same – sex marriage activists aren’t out to massacre anyone!

The biggest strength of the same – sex marriage debate (this time around), was that LGBTQ+ people were given a voice, particularly in the media. I think women’s site Mamamia did it the best, doing articles on people who are gay or in same – sex relationships (who may have been in an opposite – sex relationship before) and their families. This put a human face to the debate, taking away the conspiracy theories and paranoia about it. Founder, I think Mia Freedman has been a hero to the LGBTQ+ community over the years. I have so much respect for what she and the other writers and editorial staff.

Same – sex marriage opponents and skeptics haven’t been all bad either. While i think he’s been a scaremonger in the past, I applaud Newscorp’s Andrew Bolt for also giving LGBTQ+ people a voice, both on The Bolt Report, 2GB and on interviews he’s done, including on Christian show Think Again late last year. He has mentiojed his loved ones, including his sister, and their views.

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Andrew Bolt expressed regret on the strains on his relationships with LGBTQ+ friends and family over same – sex marriage.

Love didn’t win. Well, not just that. The humanity of the LGBTQ+ community did. The majority of the Senate and over 7 million Australians showed the LGBTQ+ community that they are viewed as people, worthy of the same legal rights as non – LGBTQ+ people and couples. My hope now is that there is healing in both mental well – being and relationships where there’s been damage.

As I’ve said before, I hope this is only the start — the start of LGBTQ+ people being fully accepted. The start of young people feeling safe admitting they are LGBTQ+ or are questioning their sexuality/ gender identity. The start of LGBTQ+ people being fully acknowledged in education, media and other institutional settings. And, I think the public and the Senate have taken the first step.

UPDATE: potential step back. According to The Guardian, Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull has caved in  to the conservatives in his party and guarantee anti – discrimination exemptions to charities and civil celebrants. Maybe that was always going to happen.

The vote was a victory, but it doesn’t mean wounds are healed

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To be honest, I hope this is the last time I write about this. The announcement that 61.6% of people who participated in the Marriage Postal Survey said ‘Yes’ include same – sex couples in the Marriage Act.

the result was better than what I thought it might have been. I was fearing it’d been much closer to 50/50, or, frankly, a slight loss for the ‘Yes’ vote.

Some say that this was a ‘a vote of love’ toward the Australian LGBTQ+ community. I believe there is an element of truth to that, to be honest. This vote did prove that many people are willing to see LGBTQ+ people as equal and worthy of love as heterosexual people. I hope that this does signal a future where LGBTQ+ people don’t have to have any fear about coming out, or being seen with their partner/ spouse out in public.

However, and this is a big however, it DOES NOT mean that it was a painless process or that all wounds have been healed. As I wrote in the past, a number of counselling services across the country had seen a spike in the number of calls by LGBTQ+ people who were distressed during the vote. For some, it brought back bad memories and insecurities. The result announced on Wednesday may have relieved some of that, but for other LGBTQ+ people, healing will take a lot longer.

The fact that over seven million voted ‘yes’ may do little to help LGBTQ+ people who have felt betrayed by family members who voted ‘no’ and/ or don’t accept for who thwy are. The process may have poured salt into those wounds that, frankly, may never heal.

I think the debate around around ‘religious exemptions’ and ‘conscientious objections’ have been another hurdle that may also trigger negative memories and feelings from members of the LGBTQ+ community because the validity and value of LGBTQ+ people has been up for  debate. Again. To many, they still don’t feel equal. What LGBTQ+ rights will clash with conservatives and lose out? Exemptions for religious leaders and celebrants were always goibg to happen, and are fine. Extensions to florists, bakers, etc, however concern me (although James Patterson’s Bill has been dropped and Patterson is willing to debate and work to ammend the Dean Smith Bill. Let’s hope the Bill doesn’t end up opening Pandora’s box and allow other discrimination; against children with LGBTQ+ parents, for instance.

 

The last few days have brought a lot of people joy. Many may have found solace in the huge ‘yes’ response and that may have been enough to heal any hurt, fears and doubts. But it’s also true that, for a number of LGBTQ+ people, familial and friend rejection and the pain it’s caused will override the ‘national cuddle’. Because if you don’t feel accepted by the people you love the most, over seven million ‘hugs’ from strangers will seem hollow.

How did you find the Australian Marriage postal survey and the debate?

 

 

 

Q & A same – sex marriage debate exposed the weakness of the “No”campaign

Screenshot of Monday's Q and A same - sex marriage debate featureing Magda Szubanski, Karina Okotel, Anglican archbishop Glenn Davies and Jesuit priest and human rights lawyer, Frank Brennan
While the debate on ABC’s Q & A was respectful, it exposed the weakness of the “No” case.

I always get nervous when people say that the “Yes” voters will win same – sex marriage. Remember how many people said that Trump couldn’t be come US President? Or that the UK would not leave the EU? I think we’ll just have to wait for the result on the fifteenth of next month.

ABC’s Q and A had a episode dedicated to the same – sex marriage debate on Monday. I want to commend everyone who was a part of it. It was respectful. I thought the host, Tony Jones was respectful, too. He only interrupted if a panelist was going off topic or someone needed to get to the point.

I thought that a number of answers were well done. I was particularly impressed at how Jesuit and human rights lawyer, Fr. Frank Brennan answered the question on the sacrament of marriage (as is stated in Catholicism), and its separation from civil marriage. To be frank, I think many progressive Christians/ Catholics tend to trip on these sort of questions.

The “No” campaigners, Karina Okotel and, to a lesser extent, Anglican’s Glenn Davis didn’t do the “No” much justice. They proved how weak the “No” campaign is.

To be clear, I don’t want to be disrespectful. I have friends and family who have voted “no” in the postal vote and feel strongly about it. This is in no way a reflection of these people as individuals. I am purely basing my observation on the overall campaign and the Q and A episode.

With all that out of the way, here goes…

The “No” campaign is weaker than water.

The argument about children proved to be a big downfall for both Okotel and Davis. Karina Okotel said that one of the reasons why she opposed same – sex marriage was because children were best raised by a mother and father (common argument). However, when being confronted with a young man who was raised by two lesbians and a pediatrician arguing that children of same – sex couples are well adjusted, Okotel back pedaled on her original claim. Most studies on same – sex parenting that The Conversation referred to suggest that it’s not the gender of the parents that have the big impact, but rather stability of the family.

The “No” campaign’s frequently claim that freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the right for parents (not same – sex parents apparently /sarc) to have control over what is taught to their children will be affected. This is the argument that the ‘Coalition for Marriage” currently use in their advertisements.

To back their campaign, they have a Canadian father of two, Steve Tourloukis. He argues that since same – sex marriage was legalised in Canada back in 2005, his children were forced to “celebrate homosexuality.

Tourloukis did lose a Supreme Court case last year when he tried to sue his children’s school. But it wasn’t because he personally opposed homosexuality. Tourloukis was demanding that his children’s public school give him adequate notice when “false teachings” were going to be taught. What was perceived as “false teachings” went beyond same – sex relationships (although that was one). It extended to “environmental worship”, (I’m guessing that’s things like climate change, etc), moral relativism and sex education, as well as homosexuality and transgender-ism. After six years, Justice Robert B. Reid ruled against Tourloukis, stating the following reason:

[The public education system] by definition, provide education to the broadest possible cross-section of the population. To the extent that the concern about “false teachings” outweighs other advantages of the public school system, the applicant may need to seek other alternatives.

So, Tourloukis didn’t lose the case simply because he didn’t want his children to ‘celebrate homosexuality’, (can anyone tell me exactly what that means? Dancing to ABBA in a rainbow wig?), it was because he demanded that the public education system to change to fit his personal religious beliefs. I can understand why, in Canada or anywhere in the West, that those sort of demands wouldn’t be granted. The public education system has to include everyone, including those who’s parents aren’t conservative Christian, Greek Orthodox, etc.

Frankly, I’m not completely convinced that the “Yes” vote will win next month. I think a lot of damage has been done because of the actions of some on the far left, so – called LGBTQ+ ‘allies’. But the “No” camp have been getting quite desperate. It’s starting to become more and more obvious that they don’t have a convincing argument against legalising same – sex marriage in Australia.

 

Revelations of Harvey Weinstein bring revelations of more harassment and assault

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CW: sexual harassment, assault

The revelations about Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein has emboldened a number of women into opening up about their own experiences of sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape and other violence.

Social media has also been flooded with stories of sexual harassment and assault. The hashtag #MeToo on both Facebook and Twitter saw many men and women tell their own stories of harassment, abuse and rape. It’s also been used to shine a light about the need for consent:

 

It’s good that people are feeling strong enough to tell of their own stories. It’s also scary how prevalent sexual assault, sexual harassment and rape is. It’s horrible! How can this be so widespread? How has it ever been so widespread?

 

When I first wrote about the Weinstein scandal, I wondered how there wasn’t better protection and how abuse of power became so prevalent in the entertainment industry. Could the same be said for society in general? What can be done to combat this plague?

The actual purpose of this post was to give a shout out to women and men who found the courage to speak out about their own experiences of abuse and harassment. I can only imagine how hard that must be. I hope you get the support you need, if you haven’t already. To the rest of us, I think it is imperative to believe victims who speak out. We also need to demand that victims of sexual assault, rape and harassment get justice.

 

Exposing harassers and abusers is an important step. Changing attitudes about gender, sexuality and, most importantly in this context, power, is more important. Both men and women need to say enough is enough.

Everyone look up at link of the tweet I embedded earlier in this post. No means no! If someone doesn’t or can’t give consent, then, it’s a no! Don’t touch, don’t argue, don’t manipulate, nothing. If there is a power imbalance, then it’s a no! Don’t bribe, hassle, manipulate or threaten ANYONE into giving what sexual ‘favours’ you think you deserve but don’t! NO ONE owes you ANYTHING!

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A note to those who’ve experienced assault, harassment or rape: my heart bleeds for you. I want to give you a big hug. My prayer is that you find support, comfort and eventual healing. Nothing will be able to reverse what has happened. I hope you get some kind of peace of mind knowing that you DID NOT deserve what you experienced. It was in NO WAY your fault.

I want to also give a shout out to male survivors of sexual assault, rape or harassment. NONE OF IT was your fault. It doesn’t make you any less of a man. If anything happened to you that you didn’t or couldn’t have given consent to (i.e. you were under the age of consent or someone in power assaulted you), it is the perpetrators fault, not yours.

 

If anyone needs general counselling, you can call Lifeline: 13 11 14

NSW Rape Crisis: 1800 424 017. For more information from the website, click here.

For readers who are from overseas, please feel free to drop any contact details of any counselling or sexual assault/ harassment services that you know in your state/ country. 

International Day of the Girl Child: how far have girls’ and women’s rights come?

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Yesterday was the United Nations’ International Day of the Girl Child. On Paul Murray Live last night, they were talking about women and girls’ rights, including here in Australia.

There is no doubt that women’s and girls’ rights and attitudes toward them have changed in the past forty years in the West. Some may argue that in some areas, such as education, the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Education experts have suggested that the education is nurturing for girls, yet failing boys. Attempts to reengage boys into education through non – traditional mean, while not wide – spread, seemed to have a positive impact.

By law, in New South Wales, women can’t be discriminated against on the basis of their gender, marital status, pregnancy or sexuality (there are exemptions for areas such as marital status and sexuality. Single – sex institutions/ clubs also are protected with exemptions).

There has been a push to make workplaces more ‘family friendly’ with many employers trying to accommodate for new mothers. Some companies, such as retail giant, Myer, offer female employees paid parental leave. The government also offers mothers eighteen weeks’ paid parental leave at A$695.00 a week.

Another area where women in Australia benefit is health awareness, with campaigns that are endorsed by celebrities making a commitment to raising awareness for breast cancer and putting it at the forefront of people’s minds. Movember aims to raise awareness at men’s health, particularly prostate cancer and mental health every November. While it’s a start, more can always be done.

Domestic violence has become another hot issue. In recent years, the Australian court system has come under heavy scrutiny over how domestic violence perpetrators, including murderers (yes, that’s what they are when they kill someone. I don’t buy the “guilty plea makes it manslaughter crap), are given way too lenient sentences.

More recently, the public has become aware of “child brides” (a.k.a. rape victims). These girls who are often barely teenagers, are often ‘married off’, (i.e. raped), to men decades older than them. These ‘marriages’ (a.k.a condoned child abuse), have been solemnised by religious leaders. Unfortunately, when taken to court, perpetrators have been given insanely low sentences.

 

Aboriginal women are particularly vulnerable to domestic  violence. with statistics indicating that Aboriginal women are thirty – five times more likely to be hospitalised because of family violence than the general population. Until recently, this is another issue that people have been keeping their heads in the sand about. Fortunately, more people are speaking up. Last year, former National President of the Labor Party and Chairman of Government Advisory Council for Aboriginal Affairs, Warren Mundine wrote an article in the Australian, condemning the epidemic of violence in Aboriginal communities, the actions (or inaction) of prominent Aboriginal leaders and the demonising of people who dared speak out.

 

Girls and women around the world

Obviously, Australia is, by and large, much better off than many other countries around the world when it comes to the rights of women and girls. Last month, I wrote that even though women were able to drive in Saudi Arabia,  no long – lasting change would happen unless attitudes changed.

 

According to UNESCO, around the world, there is 31 million primary school – aged girls that don’t go to school. 34 million adolescent aged girls don’t attend high school. Women make the majority (two – thirds) of people who are illiterate world wide. This means more than 60 million girls and teenagers are at risk of early marriage and pregnancy (which, for many can be fatal for both the baby and the mother).

 

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is also a big issue. It’s been brought to the attention of Westerners due to cases that have happened in the UK and here in Australia. Worldwide, it’s estimated that over 200 million girls are  victims of the barbaric ‘procedure’. This is due to myths and scaremongering over females and their sexuality. This is inexcusable.

 

While many countries around the world have made strides in women’s and girls’ rights, many still have a long way to go. The West in particular should not turn a blind eye to the atrocities that happen to girls worldwide, nor excuse them. I think it’s also important for women in the West to acknowledge that great strides have been made to benefit us. It’s not perfect, things by and large are still good.

 

What do you think is the greatest achievement made in regard to women’s and girls’ rights? It can be happening anywhere around the world. 

Older people are being left out of discussions… until now

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Older people need to be included in current social and political debates. (mage: iStock).

 

Actress and activist, Jane Fonda along with Robert Redford is starring in a new movie, Our Souls at Night. According to Studio 10 on Wednesday, the movie is about Addie Moore  and Louis Waters, who fall in love with each other in their senior years.

I have no intentions of seeing the movie, to be honest, (might one day. who knows), but it got me thinking about how society is just starting to add older people in discussions about social issues.

Mental health is one. In 2016, Mindframe reported that the age demographic with the highest suicide rate was men over 85. To his credit, Sky News’ Australia’s Paul Murray has raise this issue on Paul Murray Live. Other than that, you don’t hear much about it in the media.

Also to do with mental health is the impact that becoming widowed can have on the spouse left behind. Loneliness and often abandonment from family are also issues that too many elderly people face.

 

Then there are the social issues like same – sex marriage (I know everyone’s sick of the topic, but please hear me out).

When the issue of same – sex marriage is raised, it’s often young LGBTQ people that are the point of the discussion. It’s the mental health of young LGBTQ+ that cause commentators to worry and for politicians to attack. What isn’t talked about as often is how it affects LGBTQ people over fifty. On Monday, a man, probably in his fifties or sixties, rang up Sydney’s 2GB, saying that the marriage debate had brought back bad memories from when the Australian LGBTQ community started demanding rights, including the decriminalisation of homosexuality. The 1978 protest, the first Mardi Gras in Taylor Square started peacefully, but turned into a violent clash between gay, lesbian and transgender people and the police, which saw a number of the protesters were arrested.

One day, I was reading a Facebook post from a counselor who said that he had an increase in the number of LGBTQ+ clients contacting him for help during the same – sex marriage debate. A number of these were same – sex couples over fifty; those who lived through the period when homosexuality was criminalised. These debates were deja vu for them.

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Older people tend to be left out of the same – sex marriage debate, despite the affects that the 1978 clash with police might have had on them. (Image: iStock)

 

Poverty is another dire issue that many elderly people, especially women, face. One of the reasons for this is a lack of super, due to having time off to have a baby. This is a reason why I do support some sort of adequate paid parental leave scheme for new parents. Also, this is why the energy debate in Australia is so heated (no pun intended) at the moment. Of course, people should be able to live comfortably in their homes during the range of weather conditions that Australia is well – known for!

 

I’m certain that there are multiple other issues I can add. I’ll just leave you with this. People over fifty need and deserve our love and support. They should be a part of our national debates. They need to be heard.

I’d ask people too, if you have elderly people in your life, grandparents, great aunts, great uncles, friends, that you check up on them. Keep them in your mind and (if your religious/ spiritual), in your prayers.