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.

Asexuality is becoming more visible in the media!

Anyone who had read my blog Asexuality in A Sexual World would know that I followed media coverage on asexuality very closely.

The years between 2012 and 2016 really saw a surge in media stories about people who identified as asexual. One of the first stories I remember was on Johanna Qualmann in Cleo in 2012. I remember that being a big deal. This was the first time that I saw a mainstream media organisation do a story on asexuality. It was limited, and Qualmann admitted that at the time (i.e, there was no mention of romantic orientations or social issues that many asexual people face).

I also remember The Project doing a story on it. While the story they did was good, I was disappointed at 2GB’s Steve Price’s response. I wasn’t the only one as I found out later. Vitrix from the blog Reflective Ace critiqued a number of his comments very well — a lot better than what I did. I think I came off as a sook. I was grateful at Carrie Bickmore’s defense of the asexual community, though.

I think Mamamia’s post on asexuality that year hit me and made Mamamia’s publisher and founder Mia Freedman one of my heroes in the media.

Screenshot of story featured in Mamamia on asexuality in 2014,written by Jo Qualmann
Jo Qualmann had a story published in Mamamia on her experiences being asexual.

Asexuality visibility broadens

Reporting on asexuality in Australia has suddenly broadened. What I mean by that is that the reporting on asexuality is starting to cover people who are not aromantic or hetero – romantic. well, that’s starting to change. On Friday 7 July, Queenie of Aces of blog Asexual Agenda posted the weekly Linkspam. One of the links was an article from Huffington Post Australia about a British homoromantic couple who were planning to marry on 21 July this year.

Screenshot of Huffington Post Australia article
Huffington Post Australia does an article on a homoromantic asexual couple.

It’s bit more of a coincidence with tge timing of the article, considering what’s been happenibg in Australia recently. But I am so glad that homoromantic asexuals are also starting to gain vosibility. Hopefully, in the future, they’ll gain acceptance along with the rest of the LGBTQ+ community. I think that this article added another dimension to the same – sex marriage debate. No, it is not about sex — that is literally true in this case.

This week, Queenie of Aces linked a Buzzfeed article 19 things asexual people need you to understand about asexuality. Rather than focusing on a particular couple, the article exposed some myths and challenges faced by members of the asexual community. I think, the more of that, at the moment, the better. Hopefully, one day, things like this article won’t be needed.

 

So, what now? I’ve read that some asexual people want more depictions in fiction — accurate depictions of asexuality. Not like the damning storyline of the controversial episode of House in 2012 or the more recent accusations of asexual erasure on Netflix’s Riverdale. Just as a disclaimer, I didn’t see either show. It’s just what I’ve read. Itvdoes seem that there should be better representation of asexuality in fiction. I’m hopeful that this will come. In my opinion, the mainstream media has made leaps and bounds in a few short years when it comes to asexuality.

What have you seen/ read about on asexuality lately? Feel free to drop a link in the comments on what you’ve found! 

How do you think the mainstream media has reported on asexuality? Do you think improvements have occurred over the years? What more do you think can be done? I would love to know what you think.

 

Free speech and the responsibility to speak out

Last week and today, Newscorp columnist, Andrew Bolt condemned cartoonist Larry Pickering for anti – Muslim and anti gay slurs. He also slammed former Coalition member, Ross Cameron for not calling Pickering out.

Well done, Mr. Bolt.

No, really I mean it. It means a lot for a respected columnist/ commentator to use his platform to stand up for the LGBTQ+ community, and especially gays that have been persecuted in one of the most brutal regimes. I also applaud him for confronting South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi for his controversial comments on same – sex marriage back in 2012 while he was a guest on Sky’s ‘The Bolt Report’ last Monday night.

It is great that Bolt is being consistent in calling out homophobia, racism, etc when it occurs. I hope he – as well as other journalists – CONSISTENTLY continue to call homophobia, racism and other forms of discrimination when they  occur. As I wrote many times last year, I was very disappointed when Bolt and most other journalists didn’t call out and condemn the threats made toward Melbourne’s only LGBTQ radio station JOY 94.9FM last year during the plebiscite debate. Since it’s a new year, (well another year since that event), I’m willing to believe that Bolt and others are willing to turn a new leaf and call out homophobia when it happens and not excuse it. So far, I have been pleasntly surprised with Bolt and his support for members of the LGBTQ+ community – at least condemning abuse. I hope he keeps it up. I also hope others follow in his footsteps.

In the posts that, Bolt was talking – as he often does – about free speech and not having anti discrimination legislation such as Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 to deal with it and instead, have racists, homophobes, etc, have to face criticism by the wider public. This can only happen if people are willing to speak out. This only works when people refuse to turn a blind eye or deaf ear to what’s happening. People who call out racism or homophobia, including slurs, should be able to do so, without having everyone on their backs. Members of the LGBTQ+ community and racial minorities NEED to be able to tell of their experiences. Some things that are said maybe uncomfortable to hear. Tough! If free speech is the way to comat racism and queerphobia, then members of racial minorities and the LGBTQ+ community need to be able to speak and be heard!

 

Lastly, I think there needs to be an overall community effort to eliminate homophobia and racism – in schools, health and the widercommunity. Generally, I think we’ve done this quite well in Australia, with, for example, the Pride Match between St. kilda Saints and Sydney Swans last year. At the time, I said that I thought it was great for such a major, traditionally macho, pastime and cultural icon in Australia to open their arms out to LGBTQ+ players and spectators.

Of course, the mainstrem media has played a major role in embracing members of the LGBTQ+ community and rallying behind their causes. Over the years, I’ve written about the media’s increasing reporting on asexuality and I think that most of them have done a decent job. I still continue to see articles, most which are pretty well written. They mostly validate the experiences of asexual people, which I think is important. This month, Cosmopolitan has released a special LGBTQ Pride issue. I want to talk about it in more depth at a later date.

 

Maybe with all these advances and perceptions slowly changing around ethnic minorities and the LGBTQ + community, things like 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 won’t be needed. But I  believe that is going to put greater onus on all of us to not accept, and more importantly, call out racism and queerphobia. Are we as writers and a community willing to harbour that responsibility? Are YOU willing?

Media hype about same – sex relationships – help or hindrance to the LGBTQ+ community?

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Trigger warning: homophobic violence

I feel like there is a bit of disparity here. It seems all the rage for mainstream media – especially magazines – to write about same – sex relationships or – more often – same – sex relations that rarely last more than one night. Yet, LGBTQ+ youth still face untold struggles around the world – something much of the media doesn’t talk about.

 

Earlier this year, I wrote about homophobia, transphobia and how LGBTQ+ youth are over – represented in youth homelessness statistics in the U.S. LGBTQ+ youth are more than four times more likely to experience homelessness. That’s only if you go by the “10%” figure which is widely criticised.

Also, around the world, many LGBTQ+ people face the risk of violence and not just in the countries where homosexuality is punishable by death in the penal code.

Pink News wrote a story of Brazilian mother, Tatiana Lozano Pereira was charged with murder after stabbing her 17 – year – old son Itaberli after a row on Christmas Day. The 32 – year – old had her son bashed before stabbing him to death. I have also pointed out in Brazil, there has been a violent backlash against the LGBTQ+ community after same – sex marriage was legalised in 2013.

Closer to home, the story of 13 – year – old Tyrone Unsworth made news after he committed suicide after facing violent homophobia due to this perceived sexuality. Unsworth isn’t alone in being victimised because of his perceived or actual sexuality. NOBullying.com reveals that studies conducted by Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) that:

  • 82% of students were bullied over their sexual orientation during the previous year (2015)
  • 64% of LGBTQ students surveyed felt unsafe at school
  • 44% of students felt unsafe at school due to their gender identity
  • 32% of students avoided going to school for at least one day in fear of being bullied
  • 44% experienced physical harassment
  • 22% experienced more serious violence
  • 61% never reported abuse
  • 31% said that the school made no effort in combating abusive behaviour.

As for adults, as I research this, I’m having a hard time finding data on present or very recent anti – LGBTQ violence against adults. There’s a lot of historical stuff – the 1980’s and 1990’s were particularly bad for gays and lesbians. But I can’t find something significant in the past two or so years. This is, frankly, concerning in itself. Why isn’t this monitored and studied more regularly to keep up with current rates of homophobic or transphobic violence so it can be combated? I don’t doubt that over the past thirty or so years, attitudes about gays and lesbians have greatly improved. Still, some actual stats wouldn’t go astray.

Despite this, magazines, like Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire (Australia) are more frequently featuring women who admit to having sex and/ or relationships with other women. Very few, of the women, however, identify – or end up identifying – as LGBTQ+ – some foregoing labels altogether and most going back to having relationships with men. Now I do believe that there are some people who can’t put a label on their sexuality. Some may forego them because they are too scared to admit they’re gay or bi. Some may say their bi, only to identify as gay later on. I’m not knocking anyone who identifies as LGBTQ or foregoes labels. Sexuality can be – and sometimes is – more complex than a simple label.

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What I’m wondering is: does the media’s constant portrayal of same – sex/ non – heterosexual relationships help or hinder the LGBTQ+ community, especially when the person doesn’t identify as such? Does it enforce common myths about bisexual people? To be fair, many of these magazines do occasionally do proper articles on bisexual people and their experiences. Articles like the ones above seem to be more frequent though.

Does the media’s constant portrayal of WSW (women who have sex with women) unintentionally give people the impression that bisexuality is a phase or diminish the experience of lesbians, even enforce a theory that lesbians don’t exist.

 

In my opinion I think it could be all the above. Yes, sexuality can be complex and fluid for both men and women. It is kind of good that the media and people admit that. But bi – erasure is a problem faced by many bisexual people. There also needs to be emphasis that some women are attracted to women and only women, the same as that some men are attracted only to men. If we can be frank about all people’s experiences with their sexuality without erasing LGB people or diminishing other people’s experiences, then I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

 

What do you think? Does this portrayal of same – sex relationships help or hinder the LGBTQ+ community? Does more of this help gain acceptance or increase myths and stigma? Let me know what you think in  the comments below. 

New year, new blog and reflections of 2016

Happy new year!

I hope this year will be good for all of you. I know there were a few sour notes for many in 2016, and some downright tragedies. It was a year that saw much fear, anger and sadness. It held some largely unpredicted events, like Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. Election. I’ve got to say, the reaction from some Hillary Clinton supporters has been apalling, and, if anything, hasn’t done progressive/centre -Left politics or causes any justice.

The backlash against centre Left extended to Australia, with conservative parties like Pauline Hanson’s One Nation winning major influence in the Senate. Things went pear – shaped when Pauline Hanson refused to help Rod Culleton pay personal legal bills. Culleton later resigned.

The same – sex marriage debate dominated the political landscape for a few weeks. So – called ‘respectful debate’ ended up in intimidation against Mercure motel staff in Sydney, and a bomb threat against Melbourne’s LGBT radio station, 94.9 Joy FM that that caused 30 staff to be evacuated. Unfortunately, the second event got minimal coverage in the mainstream media, and little condemnation. Should I be surprised or not?

 

Tragedy and terror rocked the world, with Nice in France, Belgium and the U.S. to name a few being attacked by terrorists. One that I wrote about was the shooting massacre in Orlando, Florida, where 50 people were gunned down at the Pulse Nightclub.I wrote that the attack opened a floodgate of fears among LGBTQ+ people, bringing back memories of a history of violence and abuse sparked by queer – phobia. It did bring people together and many people did stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community. I hope the solidarity continues. Please continue to support and love your LGBTQ+ family members and friends. And, when safe to do so, speak out against queer – phobic violence. That includes media personalities.

2016 saw a continuation of one of the worst human rights and humanitarian disasters in living memory. Reports have claimed that the conflict has caused the greatest refugee crisis since World War II. The reports, images and footage in the mainstream media and on – line have been absolutely horrific. Late last year, a cease fire was declared in the rebel – held city of Aleppo in order to let citizens escape from the war – torn region.

 

So, what about this year? Who knows. I hope to hear less about culture wars. Even though they are good to blog about, they can be emotionally draining. I really don’t know what else to say about Syria. It’s such a tragedy. I don’t see it ending any time soon, to be honest. I’ll just leave it at that.

On a more personal and a lighthearted note, I’m so glad to be starting this blog. I can’t wait to see what happens with it. Surprisingly, I had moderate success in the three blogs that I wrote in the most, which I’m grateful for. But I think it’s time to move on. Plus, I have study and other stuff I’ll be doing throughout the year.

 

What are you up to this year?