In the wake of IDAHOBIT, thank you, but keep fighting

Rainbow Pride flag
Image: iStock

 

17 May is the International Day Against Homophobia, Bi – phobia, Intersexism and trans – phobia. (IDAHOBIT). 17 May 1990 was the day when the World Health Organisation officially declassified homosexuality as a mental qaillness.

I said about a year ago about how IDAHOBIT was a great day for the LGBTQ+ community to show appreciation for those who have stood by us, fought for the rights of LGBTQ+ people and stood by LGBTQ+ people who are in distress. This is still close to my heart. Thank you again for everyone who has been a part of making our lives a little bit easier, especially last year during the same – sex marriage postal survey debate.

But, of course , the work is not done; not here and not around the world. Currently,  seventy – four countries still outlaw homosexuality, some of where the death penalty can be carried out for same – sex relations.

 

The Australian LGBTQ+ community won a major battle last year; same – sex marriage finally came legal after 61.6% of survey participants agreed that same – sex couples should be able to marry. The Act now states that two people can marry, with no mention of sexual orientation, sex or gender identity. This is monumental.

The battle for the right to marry for LGBTQ+ people is won. Where we still need to be vigilant is the reversal of anti – discrimination laws. Last year, there was discussion about whether businesses should be able to discriminate against LGBTQ+ couples who want to marry on the grounds of faith or conviction. I have expressed numerous times how I think this is a potential slippery slope and how there is no guarantee that it’ll only be cake bakers or other wedding suppliers that will be exempt, but also teachers, other educators, counsellors, psychologists, etc like it has in parts of the US. I plead for our allies to be vigilant about that and, if it comes up, to vocally protest against it.

I still feel strongly about LGBTQ+ students being supported in schools. If not through Safe Schools, I don’t think it would hurt to have another program aimed at tackling homophobia, bi – phobia and trans – phobia etc. As I’ve said before in the context of education and AFL’s Pride Roun, I really don’t think it’s enough for students to have to assume that they are not at risk of being rejected. It needs to be made obvious. The voices in the head of someone even questioning their sexuality can make one assume the worst; that they won’t be accepted, that they deserve to be bullied, etc.

Not all advocacy is political either. Increasingly, the issue of proper LGBTQ+ visibility in the media and pop culture comes up. There are still issues with misrepresentation or invisibility, especially of bisexual people. Negative stereotypes about bisexual and pansexual people still persist and have negative consequences on their mental health.

While things are improving for asexual people,including visbility, things can still improve. For starters, it would be great if people would get to know what asexuality is. Allow people to define their own sexuality and/ or relationships, without resorting to comments that it’s a phase, etc, (often it’s not).

 

The West have made great strides in LGBTQ+ rights. I am really hopeful, although cautious, about the future. The world as a whole has a long, long way to go. Hopefully IDAHOBIT in the future can bribg positive change where it’s needed.

Have you, your school or workplace done anything for IDAHOBIT? Also, what do you think can improve for LGBTQ+ people?

 

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

open book
Image: Pexels

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

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!”

Same – sex marriage affects people, maybe including people you care about

I watch Sky News Australia from Monday to Thursday. I have my regulars: The Bolt Report at 7 p.m. Paul Murray Live at 9 and Chris Kenny’s Head’s Up at 11 (although recently, I’ve only been watching the start).

Not surprisingly, their sick of the same – sex marriage debate. I get it. For them, it means nothing. Bolt, Murray and Kenny are straight and married. So are most (almost all) of the panellists they have.

But what about people they love?

Gay marriage image: rainbow coloured hands holding each other.
Image: Canva

To his credit, at least Andrew Bolt has acknowledged his LGBTQ+ friends and family during this debate. Last year, in an interview with Senior Pastor James Macpherson of Calvary Christian Church, Bolt admitted that he regretted the strain that the same – sex marriage debate had on his relationship with someone he’s close to. Recently, I have to say, on his shows, both on The Bolt Report and 2GB, he is often very cautious and keeps his loved ones in mind when talking about his view, even in his recent criticisms about the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and their data on same – sex parenting.

Pic of Andrew Bolt last year being interviewed on "Think Again" conference
Andrew Bolt expressed regret over the strain that the same – sex marriage debate has had on some of his loved ones

But while Chris Kenny and Paul Murray don’t oppose same – sex marriage, I get annoyed that they talk about the plebiscite as if it’s of no consequence to anyone. That’s how I view it, anyway. Yes, lives ARE affected. Whether you like to admit it or not, some LGBTQ+ people do see this as a personal attack on their rights to live authentically.

 

I’ve written before about the need for more voices from the LGBTQ+ community and those who care for them or work with them (i.e. in mental health), into the debate. Not that I’m knocking people, especially Paul Murray for his stance, not just on this, but other issues as well, such as the alleged bomb scare at Melbourne’s Joy 94.9 last year. His regular panellist, Graham Richardson defended Alan Joyce after he was publicly criticised by tennis champion, Margaret Court. I’m not knocking these guys. I’m really not. But while we should value them as an LGBTQ+ ally, I don’t think it’s the same as letting an LGBTQ+ person being able to openly talk about their own experiences; why the issue means so much to them.

 

Mamamia has done this. Angie Green wrote a passionate open letter expressing why same – sex marriage was important to her, and it was her brother. Why can’t we hear more about relatives of LGBTQ+ people about how they feel about same – sex marriage?

The reason why I bring this up is because, for some, this is not a ‘non – issue’. This is about people’s lives. It is about safety and for certain members of the community to live authentically, without fear. It is about being legally recognised as married, but also, I believe a social affirmation that LGBTQ+ have freedom of expression and can do things like hold their partner’s hand in public. That is a separate issue, and it won’t be automatically granted if (when) same – sex marriage is legalised. But that’ll be another crucial step to acceptance.

Mia Freedman deserves a hug over same – sex marriage, not crucifixion

Media personality, Mia Freedman has come under fire if she tried to start a campaign #married4marriageequality on Twitter and on an article which she originally displayed her wedding ring (she deleted it in the following photo of the article).

Screenshot of article that sparked the controversial "married4marriageequality campaign by Mia Freedman
Mia Freedman comes under fire for standing for LGBTQ+ people and their right to marry with #married4marriageequaility campaign

This is ridiculous.

Freedman deserves a hug from the LGBTQ+ community, not crucifixion. She is an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. Has she been perfect? Of course not! No one has. But I think it’s unquestionable where her heart is on this issue.

It goes beyond the same – sex marriage issue, too. She, along with the other staff at Mamamia has been instrumental in LGBTQ+ advocacy and visibility, including asexuality visibility. The Mamamia website has also advocated for LGBTQ+ people being persecuted overseas, calling on the government to give them asylum.

So, LGBTQ+ people, don’t crucify Mia Freedman., She’s for us, not against. She was using her status as a married woman to fight for LGBTQ+ rights, not to push it in our faces. Straight people can support LGBTQ+ people, you know. I believe, at least at the moment, we need their support.

It’s not just her, either. It warms my heart to see straight people support LGBTQ+ rights. I love it when they speak out on our behalf. It’s when LGBTQ+ are deliberately left out or shouted down I get critical. Mia Freedman is not one of those people.

 

LGBTQ+ people need to be careful not to push out allies away. In fact, we need them if we want same – sex marriage here. Already, I’ve read comments and columns from people who have been scared off supporting same – sex marriage because of the overreaction from certain members of the LGBTQ+ community. We are really shooting ourselves in the foot for looking for a witch hunt all the time when it’s not needed. We should call out comments that harm the LGBTQ+ community or when someone makes grossly unfair comparisons (i.e. linking LGBTQ+ with bestiality and paedophilia), but this isn’t a battle to pick.

Mia Freedman should be embraced and applauded by the LGBTQ+ community. We should be grateful at the tireless campaigning she has done for us. We should applaud, that, unlike others, her support for us hasn’t wavered.

 

If you see Mia Freedman in Sydney, or where ever, if you can, give her a hug for fighting for us and the LGBTQ+ community around the world. Thank her for using her status as a media personality give a voice to those who are affected by issues like same – sex marriage. At the end of the day, like I said, we still need voices like hers to win the eventual fight for acceptance, and yes, marriage.

Sounds like plebiscite is about to take its final breath and the football of LGBTQ+ rights

Voting booth with 'no' sign through it
Images from Canva

It looks like the plebiscite on same – sex marriage is dead. Well, Liberal MPs including Warren Entsch and Tim Wilson and two others I can’t think of now, have sided with Labor and the Greens and pushing for a free vote in Parliament.
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(Video from 7 News Sydney, Facebook)

This is obviously going to create a backlash and a war in the party if indeed it does happen. I’ve got a funny feeling that there’ll be a push to kick Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull after the 2019 election at the latest. That’s my prediction.

I just hate that this has all become a political game. And that’s what it is — a sick game. I don’t trust LNP or Labor to legalise same – sex marriage without strings attached. If Liberals legalise same – sex marriage, there will almost certainly be talks — or demands — that there be conscience – based exemptions. That’s became a dangerous slippery – slope in the U.S, with mental health professionals being exempt from anti – discrimination laws under “conscience” grounds. While laws and the Constitutions of Australia and the US may differ, make no mistake, this will be a battle that LGBTQ+ people will have to fight. I don’t doubt, either that trans people will be on the hit list as well.

This, and the surge in anti – LGBTQ hate crime have been the main reasons why I supported a plebiscite when I did. For me, both the physical safety and mental well – being of LGBTQ+ Australians is paramount. Legalising same – sex marriage doesn’t automatically guarantee that.

However, I’m changing my mind on the plebiscite because I see it as a delay tactic. I don’t think the LNP sold their case well. The well – being and struggles that LGBTQ+ people may face, in my opinion, wasn’t for the most part, adequately discussed. And when a person like music pioneer, Molly Meldrum dared to join the debate about Margaret Court, he was, I think he was unfairly jumped on (read the comments).

There are exceptions. Two people who have allowed LGBTQ+ to speak or voiced their concerns on their behalf are Sam Crosby and Andrew Bolt. I have admired how Bolt, even though he’s a sceptic of same – sex marriage, has voiced some of the views of LGBTQ+ people in his own life. He’s did it on Steve Price’s show not that long ago (last week?).

But it was the confrontation between Sam Crosby and journalist Nick Cater on Sky News Australia that got the most respect from me. The fact he gave LGBTQ+ a voice, I think is commendable.

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(Video: Sam Crosby Facebook page)

Like I said, it seems that the plebiscite is about to take it’s last breath. What will happen next will be anyone’s guess. Will a conscience vote happen or will PM Malcolm Turnbull shy away from that route, again? Only time will tell. They should just do something!

To Australian readers. Were/ are you in favour of a plebiscite on same – sex marriage? Are you critical of how any of the parties has dealt with it? Feel free to leave your comments below. 

 

 

The denial or rights to LGBTQ+ people and consequences

The backlash against the LGBTQ+ community in the U.S. has been quite significant. Most recently, former Olympian and transwoman Caitlyn Jenner has pleaded for Donald Trump to reverse the decision to introduce laws that will penalise schools for not demanding children use the toilets that match what they were assigned at birth. Jenner has labelled this move a “disaster”. Understandably, people aren’t embracing Jenner’s call. This is for I think two reasons. One, is the fact that Jenner endorsed Trump and the Republican Party. There’s another reason. Back in 2015, Jenner made her reluctance to accept the legalisation of same – sex marriage on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, admitting in the past, she flatly opposed it.

This sparked a furious backlash against Jenner, with allies to the LGBTQ+ community of Jenner of only supporting causes when they suited her.

 

 

The ‘bathroom bill’ debate must feel so dehumanising. The fact that where you can go to the TOILET is up for debate. Really.  Going to the TOILET has become a hot political issue. It’s ridiculous! I hate how you’ve been stigmatised; how a lot of scenarios have been fabricated by conservative groups and media outlets to make you out to be a predator. Ironically, trans people, especially youth and trans people of colour are particularly vulnerable to being sexually assaulted. Even school aged children who are trans are vulnerable to being victimised. Unfortunately, the issues of violence that trans people often face don’t stop there.

The murder rate of transwomen of colour this year alone (to the 17th of February), is beyond abhorrent. I wrote about the epidemic of LGBTQ+ homelessness and violence both in the U.S. and around the world earlier this year. I also wrote that there are currently no such statistics on the level of homelessness among LGBTQ+ people in Australia at present, which I find cowardly and appalling. The public should know the situation regarding LGBTQ+ homelessness.

The issue of rights to freedom of religion, conscience and speech are often brought up in these debates, with demands that bakers, celebrants and florists be allowed to turn away LGBTQ couples on religious or ‘moral’ grounds. This has extended even further. According to Washington Post, a paediatrician in Michigan refused to carry out a routine check up on a baby because the parents were lesbians. Luckily, another paediatrician was available. What if this happened in a small rural town where another paediatrician or GP wasn’t available? What if the baby had an infection or something else? I’m usually sceptical of slippery slope arguments,  but I’ve got to say, this can’t end well.

In my opinion, this boils down the one thing. It’s got nothing to do with religion, with beliefs or ‘moral grounds’. This is purely refusing to treat LGBTQ+ people as human. I’m surprised no one has learnt from history how that can go. Why do we still tolerate that today? I’m not saying that everyone against gay marriage is like that, but it’s a constant feeling I get when the debate arises. People seem to forget that these debates affect real people – and many times vulnerable people – in our community.

 

I just wish people would stop talking about LGBTQ+ rights as an inconvenience, considering the real human impact it can have. I’m not here to to slam anyone against gay marriage in Australia – to be honest the hostility surrounding opponents in the past has been just as revolting. What I want people to understand is when talking about these issues, forget about caricatures and stereotypes. These are real issues for real people. And please, PLEASE, be there for any LGBTQ+ family member or friend who is distressed by any of this. That’s the human impact I’m talking about.