Category Archives: LGBTIQ Equality

The hate that dare not speak its name

AUSTRALIA is fighting a very old battle. It’s been Trojan-Horsed into every household in the form of the Turnbull Government’s postal survey on federal marriage law. Like all wars, the propaganda is rife.

“It would make for a better, fairer and more entertaining match if #TeamNo owned the label ‘homophobes’.”

We’re being asked to vote on altering the Marriage Act to allow equal access to couples of the same gender. Naturally enough for Aussies, we’re dealing with it by forming teams in a numbers game over the country’s oldest political football.

In one corner we have gay-friendly #TeamYes in bright, inclusive colours, although the commentators can’t avoid the war references, labelling them everything from rainbow authoritarians to the gay gestapo. 

In the other corner #TeamNo is pitching itself as the underdog, and while it’s still working out what colours to wear, #TeamYes has been chanting Ho-mo-phobe! Ho-mo-phobe! Ho-mo-phobe!

Understandably, it’s unsettling for them, but what label would #TeamNo prefer?

#TeamConservative

This would be apt had Western right-wing governments not led their nations to major marriage equality wins long ago. It was David Cameron, Tory prime minister of Great Britain who said that he supported equal marriage rights for the same sex-attracted because he is a conservative in a now famous speech that forever ruled out conservative as a more accurate label for a homophobe. 

#TeamOrthodox

Many of Australia’s faithful are sticking to their ancient creeds, led by the Australian Christian Lobby’s Lyle Shelton; but this label fails on two counts. First, anyone upholding all the Abrahamic scriptures in the twenty-first century must broaden their definition of marriage beyond one man and one woman. The Old Testament allows a bloke more than one wife and a list of exceptions to consensual monogamy. Second, Australia is replete with people of faith who are publicly voting yes to marriage equality. 

#TeamFamily

Upholding the nuclear family is another excuse for refusing same-sex couples equal marital rights. Family First’s breakaway Senator Lucy Gichuhi is one champion in this hard-fought corner. But family values come undone as an excuse for disliking marriage equality when we have multiple generations of surrogate, adopted, biological and foster children that have no different outcomes as a result of being raised by same-sex parents. 

#TeamTraditionalist

Resisting change for change’s sake is a hybrid of orthodoxy, conservatism, and family values, practiced enthusiastically by the likes of Senator Cory Bernardi. However, when a minority group seeks access to a traditional legal institution such as the Marriage Act, Mr Bernardi’s objection to sharing traditional marriage with gays can only be homophobic. This might be why several sub-teams pop up in the traditionalist camp to diffuse the simple yes/no question in the marriage law survey – #TeamFreedomOfSpeech, #TeamReligiousFreedoms and #TeamRadicalGenderTheories, to name a few.

#TeamSorryNotSorry

Social media is replete with players enlisting themselves onto #TeamNo because they feel bullied by #TeamYes, led by the dummy spit of columnist Tom Switzer. They were going to vote for marriage equality, apparently, but their vote was dependent on same sex-attracted people playing nice in a respectful match. They usually profess “heaps of gay friends” yet preface lengthy anti-equality statements with the word “but” to discriminate against the same people. Exclusion on the basis of a rough game is not victimhood, it’s homophobic.  

#TeamAntiGayMarriageGays

Internalised homophobia is a thing. Anyone who was ever closeted will tell you how easy it is to catch a bout of it, even long after coming out.

#TeamHomophobiaIsNotAThing

If all the above players are to be believed, homophobia has never existed and same sex-attracted people are making up all the laws that saw us arrested, chemically castrated and executed across the centuries.

What didn’t exist for a long time were terms to describe the evolution of equality, but as same-sex attraction made space for itself in Western culture, phrases and words were added to the lexicon. It’s an evolving process and commentators need to keep up.

During Oscar Wilde’s trials in the 1890s, homosexuality was analysed around the euphemism ‘the love that dare not speak its name’, but by the middle of the twentieth century the fluid term ‘gay’ was in common use and doing little harm.

But pejorative words for homosexuality came into widespread public use as gay liberation got serious in the late 1960s. It’s hardly surprising that a blanket term ‘homophobic’ – coined by a psychologist – was swiftly owned by same sex-attracted subculture, replacing ‘wowser’ and ‘zealot’ in the gay pride push-back.

#NoWin

#TeamYes earned its stripes long ago and has plenty of skin in the long game to full equality.

It would make for a better, fairer and more entertaining match if #TeamNo owned the label ‘homophobes’. It sounds more easily curable than bigotry; there is no law against being inherently homophobic, and religious freedoms are already protected in the Marriage Act.

Their failure to self-identify is what proves any equivalence between #TeamYes and #TeamNo to be so false, and the whole match stacked against a clear win for anyone in Malcolm Turnbull’s survey.

We are right to suspect that is the aim of the game.

© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.

Vote yes in the Marriage Equality survey, just look out for Uncle Mal

A PUBLIC vote on marriage equality is delivering what some Australians have craved for years: an excuse to publicly trash LGBTIQ dignity.

The usual pundits are hailing the Coalition’s survey as a victorious tipping point for the fortunes of the Turnbull Government, but at best it’s a hand-holding exercise for the prime minister.

“A sad, embarrassing uncle – let’s call him Malcolm – is trying to get us to pull his cracker; but we know what’s coming.”

Because when the 122-million-dollar show comes to an end – and regardless of the result – if he wants to harness the voice of the people Mr Turnbull will still need to stand on his own two feet, walk into parliament and vote on a bill with his colleagues.

Not one outside voice, recorded at great cost to the Australian taxpayer, will echo in that chamber.

It happened that way five years ago this month when the parliament last voted on legalising marriage between any two Australians regardless of their gender. The Prime Minister was Julia Gillard, who crossed the floor and sat with then opposition leader Tony Abbott to vote the reform down 98 votes to 42.

In 2017, the numbers are a lot tighter thanks to a monumental campaign on multiple fronts, but it’s a very brave pundit who would predict the outcome.

If parliament votes on marriage equality – and there is nothing about the Coalition’s survey that binds it to vote on the result – the leadership vacuum may well see the status quo maintained.

Turnbull assures the country he and Lucy will vote yes… but remember, Mal, Lucy doesn’t get a vote where it really matters.

Uncle Mal

LGBTIQ Australians are in for a turbulent patch, and whenever our detractors pause from labelling us as dangerous to society they’ll be busy playing the victim, set to lose their freedom of speech and religious rights.

The display is already astonishingly vile, and when same-sex-attracted Australians and our supporters crack the shits and bite back, I support them, because it’s just not possible to debate human rights respectfully.

This survey is akin to a family Christmas where the LGBTIQ community has been seated on folding chairs at the wobbly card table, inches lower than the ‘adults’. It’s just assumed we’ll listen to the ignorant windbags sitting at the other end and consume whatever gets served up.

A sad, embarrassing uncle – let’s call him Malcolm – is trying to get us to pull his cracker; but we know what’s coming… a dumb joke and a cheap trinket.

It’s just another opinion poll, this survey. I’ll vote yes just like I’d wear Uncle Mal’s silly hat… for the sake of appearances, not because I’m having a great time.

Tricky Andy

It wasn’t Peter Dutton MP who came up with the marriage equality postal survey, as it’s often reported by the mainstream media. It was hatched in a Queensland backwater known as the electorate of Bowman, currently my home.

Here, Andrew Laming MP has annually surveyed constituents by post for years.

His techniques include publishing running tallies on Facebook, thousands of ‘lost’ forms, unscrutinised counting and only one vote per household. Unsurprisingly, Mr Laming has never announced a result that wasn’t a fervent no to marriage equality.

However, the electorate was independently polled in 2017 and the result was 59 per cent in favour.

It was also petitioned in 2016 and the result was overwhelmingly in favour of equality for same-sex couples.

For all of his ‘ask the people’ cleverness and claims of giving voice to democracy, none of Laming’s surveys ever united this electorate or resolved the issue once and for all, and it will be the same nationally.

Whatever the outcome of this misguided moment in the long game, creating legislation with the result will take a prime minister who leads the nation from the front.

There’s absolutely no guarantee that will be Uncle Mal.

This article also appears on No Fibs.

Dodging reality with E.M. Forster

A writer’s review of E.M. Forster’s The Life to Come.

IN THESE glimpses through the window into Edwardian and post-war restrictions on homosexuality, much of them still chillingly relevant to our times, E.M. Forster recreates his own inner life – and that of gay men everywhere.

8073306Where his living, breathing gay protagonists meet allegorical endings in Classical juxtapositions, Forster was simply staying the hand of damnation he witnessed in the shadow of the Oscar Wilde trials, keeping these men safe in another place and time.

Any writer doing that, and in private – most of these works were not published in his lifetime – was likely to be calming his own rising sense of panic and anger at tired British fears about sexual diversity.

Other stories (such as ‘The Obelisk’ and ‘Arthur Snatchfold’) are gloriously lust-filled in and around taboo themes of male sex, yet always replete with Forster’s tempering wit.

My favourite is the collection’s first, ‘Ansell’, the story of an academic forced to eschew the life laid out for him in books and letters, which has undertones of Forster’s most complex novel The Longest Journey.

“Essential reading, particularly for conservatives who believe it’s ‘all good now’ for the LGBTIQ community.”

‘Ambergo Empedocle’, the story of a strapping young Britisher, honest to his bootstraps and set for a life of convention, is an Italian-set tragedy akin to Forster’s debut novel ‘Where Angels Fear To Tread’. It explores the state of closeting so accurately, and the desire for anything but inhabiting a life where the core restriction cuts to the soul.

Forster often sends his protagonists to other states instead of this world in the denouement of his stories. More often than not, author or protagonist label this a ‘dodge’, a kind of schoolboy’s mind game.

It’s a literary technique that comes straight out of classical mythology, but Forster’s use of it inspired generations of writers decades after he’d hung up his literary tools, including Joan Lindsay, the Australian author of Picnic at Hanging Rock.

While they blend myths and legends with a Sci-Fi edge, these moments reveal Forster capturing the genuine suicidal motivations experienced by a significant proportion of same sex-attracted people.

I have read and reread these stories all my adult life, and will continue to do so. They are essential reading, particularly for conservatives who believe it’s “all good now” for the LGBTIQ community.

In them, Forster is celebrating what he got away with sexually and emotionally, yet imagining what the risk could have cost him. Thank Jove he didn’t burn them, like he did some of his other gay-themed work.

© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.