Another shooting: 26 people murdered at church in Sutherland Springs, Texas

Yet, another gun massacre in the United States.

At least 26 people have been murdered in Sutherland Springs Baptist Church, southeast of San Antonio, Texas.

The gunman has been named and has been confirmed to be dead (I won’t write the perpetrator’s name here. The scum doesn’t deserve it).

This comes two years after a white supremacist targeted Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Nine people died.

 

So, is anything going to change? I doubt it. That’s what is so frustrating. These senseless shootings keep on happening. Why can’t things change? How about banning semin- automatic weapons or something? Demand that the National Rifle Association (the leaders at least), allow proper checks (criminal and medical), nationwide!

I’m probably being naive, but the number of gun massacres in the U.S. is becoming beyond a joke. Surely something has to change!

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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.

 

 

‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ – a great end to a great series

Book: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
The last book of the Harry Potter series. A fine ending to the series.

I finally finished the seventh Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It was great. A fine end to what was overall a great series.

I started reading Harry Potter when I was about eleven. I got the first book either for Christmas or my birthday (can’t remember exactly. And I might have been twelve when I read it). It was like nothing I’ve read or (later in the movie), seen before.

It had a strong story line and characters. It was sad in parts. I cried when Harry Potter saw his parents in the Erised mirror in the Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone movie.

I thought the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, was better than the first. It had a great plot, and gave good context to the origin of Hogwarts, the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry and Ron turn out to be more mischievous.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
2nd Harry Potter book

 

I won’t go through the whole series. You can read them for yourself, if you haven’t already. What I will say is that, what the whole series did really well is revealing the true colours of characters. And often, it wasn’t obvious at the start: for example, Sirius Black (Prisoner of Azkaban) was not a wanted criminal, but a man who was falsely accused of being a Death Eater and Harry’s godfather, Professor Gilderoy Lockhart, celebrity and fraud who stole credit for other people’s achievements (Chamber of Secrets) and, of course, the revealing of Tom Riddle’s real identity – Lord Voldemort (a.k.a “He Who Must Not Be Named’).

I’ve got to say, my least favourite of the books and movies was the sixth one, Harry Potter and the Half – Blood Prince. It started off alright, with the revealing that Professor Snape was a Death Eater, but by the second half, I though the story fell a bit flat. The movie just went on for too long and there were moments in the film that I thought were unnecessary. This turned me off Harry Potter for a while.

However, I’m glad I finally did read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It took me over a month, but I got there (it was nice reading an actual paperback book, too, rather than a digital one). Rowling could not have finished the series any stronger if she tried.

Interesting things I’ve realised while reading the ‘Deathly Hallows’

When I was reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I realsed things throughout the series that I hadn’t noticed before. There are quite a few historical references (in characters’ names mainly), and strong social and political themes.

Historical names

Minerva McGonagall: Minerva,was of course the ancient Roman goddess of wisdom, intellect, arts and war. She did seems wise, I guess. I wonder if that was deliberate.

Another ancient Roman reference is the name of Professor Remus Lupin. Remus was believed to be a demigod; son of Mars, who along with his twin brother Romulus founded Rome. Remus ended up being murdered in a bitter dispute with Romulus, who ended up naming the city.

Does anyone know exactly why Rowling used references to ancient Roman mythology?

Social issues

If you look closely, there are a number of social and political themes in Harry Potter. The main one, at least I picked up on, is discrimination. That is first evident in the Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone when Draco Malfoy calls Hermione Granger a “Mudblood”; an offensive term used against those who weren’t born into a “pure blood” wizard/ witch family. The level of hatred toward non – Magic (Muggle) or mixed families becomes much more explicit in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when Voldemort and his followers attempt to weed out non – pure blood witches, wizards and Muggles (non – Magical people).

Not only is there implicit and explicit discrimination in the wizard and non – wizard world, but there is also historical tension between wizards and goblins. In the Deathly Hallows this is revealed by Griphook’s lack of trust towards Harry, Hermione and Ron (Weasley), which prevents him from allowing them access to Godric Gryffindor’s sword.

The importance of friendship is also prominent in all the Harry Potter books and movies. Harry learns to allow his friends to help him when he needs it. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Dumbledore admonishes Harry to allow Ron and Hermione know what’s troubling him. In the Deathly Hallows, Neville Longbottom pleads with Harry to allow him to help him defeat Voldemort.

 

Harry Potter is undoubtedly one of the greatest fiction series, at least in the past ten years. I doubt that such creativity and success will be reciprocated any time soon. I’m glad I’ve gone through the Harry Potter journey.

Have you read all the Harry Potter books or seen the movies? What’s your favourite? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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

Woman holding hand up to stop attacker
Image: iStock

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!

"Stop sexual harassment' sign
Image: iStock

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. 

Sologamy: Fad? Good idea or selfishness?

7C00BE02-D90C-45EF-B18B-912AD35C6AD2
There is a bit of a trend of people; men and women,’marrying’ themselves. (Image: iStock)

Emmajane Love, 33, got married… to herself.

It happened last year on the Gold Coast, with friends and family from different parts of the world attending the ceremony.

It’s not legal here, and in the US state of Arizona where she currently is. So, it’s symbolic.

It may seem strange and it worries some experts. Some regard the concept as “the saddest trend you’ve ever seen”.

While many say it’s narcissistic, I can actually see the logic behind it.

Love told David Koch and Samantha Armytage on Seven’s Sunrise that sologamy was the chance to declare a love to the self. According to Love, this came about in the aftermath of toxic and abusive relationships. For this reason, I’m sympathetic to the idea.

 

More than anything, I think the ‘sologamy’ movement brings up conversations that society needs to have.

One is self – esteem and self – worth. Even now, I think these two things are (mistakenly) linked to marriage and significant romantic and sexual relationships.  The link between lack of marriage and loneliness is still emphasised, even though it’s not always the case.

Too often, women (and men) can feel inadequate or broken for not having a ‘significant other’. While marriage and long – term relationships are the norm, marriage is not something that people should be pressured into. People’s self – worth should not be tied up in finding “the one”.

On a second, and more sobering note, I think we need to talk about those who need healing from toxic or abusive relationships. Domestic violence is way too prevalent worldwide, with the World Health Organisation stating that around one in three (35%) of women are victims of sexual and/ or physical violence at the hands of a partner, spouse or non – partner in their lifetime. Data from the 2012 ABS Personal Safety Survey said that 1 in 22 men have experienced sexual violence since the age of fifteen. Survivors of abuse need to be given permission and tools to heal from such trauma. If a “sologamous” wedding provides that, then good luck to them.

 

On the other hand, as I researched for this blog, I have noticed that some women have had’sologamous’ weddings to prevent nagging about finding a partner and getting married from friends and family. This should not be necessary. Some adults are single; happily single, single, but want a relationship and those who may have given up on finding love. I strongly believe that the stigma towards these people, especially those in their 30’s needs to stop. Some people won’t get married. Ever. Or get married again. These people should be left to be. If they want to find someone, then let them look. BUT for those who aren’t on the look out, they should NOT be made to feel broken or lesser than anyone else.

 

Will sologamy be a dying craze or keep growing? We’ll have to wait and see. It certainly brings up a lot of interesting things that should be talked about: healing from toxic or abusive relationships, how society views single people, particularly women over thirty and the ability to love yourself unconditionally.

What do you think about sologamy? 

 

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!”