Volume 9, Issue 4
I heard an ad on the radio while driving home from uni – apparently Australians are into REAL sport, unlike the Irish. I don’t remember it exactly, but in the ad, a father asks his daughter what sport she likes the most, and she says river dancing. Then he asks his son, and the answer is the same. The father sighs, but then tells the son to show him what he’s got, the ad continues with Irish folk music and the father calling out encouragement. The ad’s tagline, is that Australians like real sport (Fox sport!).
My first thought was that, obviously, the implication that the father and son weren’t REAL men. They didn’t, after all, like REAL sport. They were, actually, a little bit gay, drawing on a common stereotype about dancing and homosexuals, and reinforcing what people mean when they discuss “men” and “REAL men”. Ireland had also, fairly recently, voted to introduce same-sex marriage. My second thought was that I was being paranoid. The ad was maybe a little bit sexist or old-fashioned, but it wasn’t necessarily homophobic.
A far more straight-forward example of homophobia was that contained in a recent article in the Herald Scum Sun, which ran a piece declaring an Australian primary school morally bankrupt because they were teaching children as young as 7 about sex – even GAY sex (won’t somebody think of the children?!)
Despite how obvious it was to me, my disgusted comment that such “reporting” was (obviously!) homophobic was met with a scathing rebuke from a family member – it wasn’t homophobic to specifically incite disgust at homosexual sex being discussed with children. I was being overly sensitive, too politically correct, and was just plain wrong. Apparently, the use of such language was perfectly normal and acceptable.
But am I too being sensitive or too paranoid? Or is it that casual bigotry is so accepted in Australia that it isn’t even remarkable or noticeable?
Recent “debate” (or homophobic hysterical whining from a bunch of cowards, as I like to call it) about the Safe Schools program has demonstrated just how toxic attitudes about homosexuality can be – all while oh so subtly (not) hidden in concern about the children. Apparently the program, which aims to reduce bullying against LGBTI-identifying children and teens, is just a way to groom them into being victims of gay paedophiles, or worse, actually turn them gay!! Oh the horror. Aside from how pathetic the old trope of the “he’s gay, he must be a child abusing rapist” thing is, it’s absolutely shocking how much respect and acceptance is being given to the politician saying such things.
Apparently, an inquiry is needed to ensure the anti-bullying program isn’t actually a recruitment tool. As if being gay worked like that – if being straight or cisgendered was a choice, I fully admit we’d probably almost all be straight and cis. Why? Firstly, because it’s just so much easier. Secondly, because the world we live in is geared towards heterosexual-normativity. For many gay and transgender people, they are the first gay or transgender person they ever meet.
The Safe Schools program wasn’t just about saving the lives of LGBTI young people, though (what, like society should value that? Perish the thought…) – it promoted the message that everyone should be safe and respected for who they are, no matter what they are. This message seems applicable to everyone, because bullying so often relies on picking on people who are ‘different’ in some way. I cannot understand how such a message and aim is being so heavily distorted, unless you’re wilfully looking for a way to (ironically) bully gay people.
Which leads me to the second big GAY popular topic – the potentially upcoming (and wildly expensive) proposed plebiscite. Apparently the Australian Christian Lobby wants hate-speech laws suspended in order for it to “debate” the merits of same-sex marriage. Given they already refer to homosexuals as a whole host of lovely things, I cannot wait to see what they’ve been holding back for fear of legal action. It’ll be fun. It won’t even just be expensive – it will also directly contribute to increased depression and anxiety for those in the LGBTI community. Can’t imagine how.
Do I sound sarcastic? Maybe a little bit angry and bitter? Or totally paranoid?!
I’m actually just tired. And I’m only in my 20s. I’m well aware of LGBTI friends who self-harm and self-medicate with alcohol. Who attempt suicide because they cannot endure the consequences from family, friends and society that being gay or transgender brought them (through no fault of their own). Many of us have depression. Many of us are still in the closet. I’ve been yelled at and insulted on the streets – odd and often sadly unimaginative insults (“Are you enjoying your Pussy Riot?!” was flung at my partner and I as we walked hand in hand in Brunswick, of all bloody places – and no, not a fan of their music, thanks for asking). My partner and I have been followed down the street, by men offering to sexually assault us, basically to rape us (apparently, then I’ll know what a REAL man is like, and just won’t be into my partner anymore). I cannot imagine how exhausted older members of the LGBTI community are, having fought and struggled and endured for years under even harsher legal mistreatment and inequality, and within an even more intolerant society.
Within Australian society, it is no longer acceptable to suggest that a mixed-race marriage should not be legal. The decision of two legally consenting adults of different races to marry, so long as they are of opposite sexes, has been successfully defended by racists and bigots who previously objected to such a union. However, it is apparently completely ok within Australian society for politicians to question the actions of two legally consenting adults when they are of the same gender – this view isn’t bigoted, or offensive. This view, apparently, is actually worthy of serious, respectable debate, and should be considered and weighed equally with the opposing view – that gay people are just people too.
Katherine Smith is a third year JD Student
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