Begging gets us nowhere

I saw a note on Facebook the other day that we have been begging – and I use the word advisedly – for equality in marriage for thirteen years now. Why has it done us almost no good, to the point where we are now having to fight rearguard actions to protect other gains we’ve made?
Like Safe Schools.

We’re way too nice, playing by the rules that our opponents set. Rules designed to make sure they always win. Turning the other cheek to “Christaliban” attackers who never follow their own advice.

The rules

Divide & rule

Prevent any coalition of militant LGBTI groups. In unity there is strength; a truism that is no less valid for all its triteness. An effective coalition of LGBTI groups might be the first step toward a real LGBTI revolution.

Demonise & discredit

Prevent militant LGBTI groups and leaders from gaining respectability, by discrediting them to three separate segments of the community: “respectable” LGBTI people; straight “liberal” sympathisers; their own followers.

Blockade & starve

Prevent the long-range growth of militant LGBTI organizations, especially among youth. Specific tactics to prevent these groups from converting young people must be developed.

Actually, I adapted the above from an old FBI document on how to keep black people down. But it sounds remarkably familiar, doesn’t it? Isn’t this exactly what we’ve been dealing with these last thirteen years – and countless years before?

We’ve never managed to build and maintain a united national LGTBTI rights movement – although efforts are again underway.

Not unconnected with the above, we recently saw attempts to demonise and discredit people like Rodney Croome and Shelley Argent, in favour of nice respectable rich white gay men like Tom Snow and Alex Greenwich.

And what is the attack on Safe Schools but an attempt to prevent LGBTI children from learning who they are, the heritage they come from, and the rights they ought to have? To blossom and grow as they should?

Turning the tables

British writer Douglas Murray recently wrote on how to confront terrorism:

“At present we ask “why do they hate us”, “what did we fail to give them”, and suchlike. It is time [we] woke up to the fact that [our opponents] will never like us. And we should not want to be liked by them – so we should stop flattering and playing up to them.”

This is how we must confront the endemic, systemic homophobia of Australian society. Stop being nice, understanding, patient, tolerant. Be very firm in our demands. Niceness hasn’t worked, and never will.

Because the hard core of opposition will always hate us, no matter what we do. No matter how many babies we rescue from burning buildings, at the risk of our own lives, they will always be waiting on the sidewalk to snatch them from our arms, at once, before they can be contaminated with gayness.

End appeasement

Now it’s our turn. Our turn to divide and rule, demonise and discredit, blockade and starve them, just as they have done to us. Principally by going after their funding, and doing our damndest to choke it off. I’ll leave a discussion of that for another post.

Right now a bunch of clueless celebs have been persuaded – by whom, I do not know – to put their names to a bill of appeasement: a petition to replace Safe Schools https://www.change.org/…/a-national-anti-bullying-anti… with something that meets THEIR needs and does not offend THEIR sensibilities. Bugger whether it’s any use to the LGBTI community and LGBTI kids: does it pass the raving Christaliban backwoodsmen of the LNP “sniff test”?

This is not a question we should even be asking (the full text is below).

My reaction is simple. As I wrote to The Age:

Bugger tolerance

Re: Celebrities Lobby Turnbull for Safe Schools 2.0 – without the ideology.

If ever we needed proof that being a celebrity is no guarantee of intelligence, this is it. This proposal would set LGBTI rights back a generation. Not even “acceptance”, but “tolerance”? Stuff your “tolerance”. “Tolerance” is patronising, demeaning, belittling bullshit.

What’s imperative is inclusion, acceptance and celebration of LGBTI in every school subject, not just sex and relationship classes. GAY stands for Good As You, and every aspect of school life must reflect that.

If you really want to cleanse “ideology”, “indoctrination”, and “social engineering” from schools, it’s not Safe Schools you need to dump, it’s chaplains and “Religious Instruction”.

Zachary Williams wrote:

This morning I woke up to a Facebook feed with news about a letter that some queer celebrities have made a letter urging the government to make another generalised anti-bullying program to replace Safe Schools, as a way to address LGBTI+ bullying while also removing the controversy and stigma that has surrounded the Safe Schools program since its attack from the anti-LGBTI+ crowd in Australia. While I’m sure everyone who has signed this letter is well meaning, I have numerous issues with this.

1. The word tolerance is mentioned. It makes me squirm to think that people should be required to just ‘tolerate’ me and my friends in the queer community’s existence. I’ve had enough of just being tolerated, we should be treated as equal. That’s it. I’m a bit sick of playing nice with the oppressor. Quite frankly it’s demeaning and reminds me of that ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ crap that always sounds condescending in the context of Christians who hate homosexuality but still proclaim they love gay people.

2. For a community that has a tremendous amount of diversity within it, I feel like it’s not a particularly diverse list of people that have signed this letter. Just seems to be LGB celebrities, no teachers, education experts, doctors, experts on LGBTI+ people, mental health experts etc. Not to mention the lack of trans and intersex people…

3. As numerous comments in the article below* have stated, there are already numerous programs that exist that are generalised anti-bullying programs, along with numerous other programs designed to target specific types of bullying. Examples listed include the general Friendly Schools and targeted programs such as Racism No Way and Don’t Dis My Ability. Is it really necessary to create another generalised program?

4. The comments discouraging Safe Schools because of its controversy, politicisation and ideology don’t sit well with me. I feel they’ve just said to those against Safe Schools that it was really about dangerous ideology, cultural Marxism, radical leftie brainwashing or whatever other rubbish the Australian Christian Lobby, the journalists at The Australian and the far right in the Liberal National Party confected. When in reality it was a program that was working and was creating a more accepting environment in schools. They’ve helped do the work of Australia’s anti-LGBTI+ crowd for them. Besides, in the current day anything to do with our community is politicised. It doesn’t matter how small it is, someone out there (often Lyle Shelton of the Australian Christian Lobby) will turn it into an issue of ideology and/or politics.

5. This letter also comes across as those involved trying to appear as ‘acceptable queers’, trying to appease those who hate their sexuality. I’m sorry but being nice to those who hate you isn’t always going to work. Safe Schools is something that we should be putting all of our weight behind, no compromises. No trying to be nice to the precious feelings of those who hate the gays. The lack of trans and intersex people as pointed out in point #2 makes me think that the issues those people face will not be addressed and that section of our community will be thrown under the bus. Yet again.

6. Related to point #4, we all know why Safe Schools was targeted. It was targeted for the same reason that the campaign to legalise marriage equality and other campaigns to bring LGBTI+ people closer to equality under the law were attacked. We all know why the people responsible for these attacks smeared anyone who stuck up for the community, whether that be LGBTI+ activists themselves, Safe Schools creator Roz Ward or Greens and Labor politicians who defended the program. The Australian Christian Lobby hates gay and trans people. The majority of those who work for The Australian hate gay and trans people. Many of those in the Liberal National Party hate gay and trans people. Many average Australians who have been empowered by this outpouring of hate can now too proclaim how much they hate gay and trans people. Anything that addresses the queer community will be shot down by these same people who campaigned against Safe Schools.

Why bother create another program in an attempt to please these people who will never be pleased unless we stay quiet and accept that they think we’re not normal and we’re perverted freaks. Or worse, we just sit by and accept that we are bullied because of who we are, we have alarming rates of suicides because of who we are and some of us are even put through conversion therapy because of who we are. I for one am sick of it and demand we are treated better than we currently are. Stop letting the bullies in Australia get their way.

Damian James on Facebook wrote:

There’s a really key misunderstanding around the notion of “tolerance” and how our society values it. We don’t “tolerate” people who are “different” to any arbitrary cultural norms. There’s no question of “tolerating” women, LGBTI people, people of colour, immigrants, people with disabilities, people who are not neurotypical, people who blaze trails and find new ways to live and to be. By and large those people are us. They are often the ones who build the things we value most in our society, the ones we teach children to emulate, the ones of whom we are most proud.

The ones we “tolerate” are the bigots and racists and people who think everyone needs to conform to some norms they grew up believing were universal. The ones who teased the kids who were different. The ones who want less immigration, who think gay marriage takes something away from them, the ones who would ban muslims and atheists and wearing socks with sandals.

We tolerate these people so long as they don’t actively make life more difficult for the rest of us. Those are the people whom a tolerant society leaves alone with their opinions that are antithetical to the tolerance that permits them to continue to exist. And the key point is: that sort of tolerance is always conditional, in the same way that your freedom to swing your arm ends when your fist strikes my face.

The petition is missing two vital words. “OR ELSE”, with a clear plan of action for when the actions requested in the petition are denied. This is no time to be turning the other cheek. Let the ACL play that “Christian” game for the first time in their existence. If they dare. Time for us to go on the offensive.

THE FULL TEXT

Dear Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Education Minister Simon Birmingham,

We the co-signed urge you to implement as soon as possible a national anti-bullying, anti-violence program in schools across Australia that targets bullying in all its forms.

We understand and accept that programs implemented in recent history, such as Safe Schools, have become highly politicised and controversial. We wish not for controversy but for a program with a goal that everyone can agree on: an end to bullying and domestic violence in Australia.

As ambitious a goal that might sound, we believe that it can be achieved by way of a national program which aims to prevent violence and bullying not only in schools, but later on in a child’s adult life.

One in four Australian women has experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner. This is not a statistic to be proud of. LGBTI people have the highest rates of suicidality of any population in Australia. In fact, gay teens are 14 times more likely to commit suicide in Australia.  Further research suggests that the majority of male-to-male bullying in schools is homophobic, and that such bullies often become perpetrators of domestic violence later on in their adult lives.

Because of this, some United States programs are now combining anti-bullying and anti-domestic violence teachings. Importantly, these programs teach tolerance and respect of LGBTI people. We would expect nothing less from any similar program that is rolled out in Australia. Such a program in Australia must include tolerance and mutual respect of LGBTI people at the core of its teachings, as well as teaching students not to bully people based on their religion, sexuality, race, gender, faith, disability, skin conditions, social standing or political persuasions.

Make no mistake of our request: we do not seek a program that seeks approval of the way certain members of our society live. We seek only mutual respect and tolerance.

The NSW government has abandoned Safe Schools, while the Tasmanian government has chosen to roll out an anti-bullying program in its place that will cost $3 million over four years. Meanwhile, the West Australian government was re-elected on a campaign that involved funding Safe Schools; the Queensland government has said it has no plans to discontinue the Safe Schools program.

With the federal budget set to be handed down May 9, we urge you, Prime Minister, to allocate federal government funding to a program such as the one outlined above.

While you might argue that this is not a federal matter, the fact is that a previous federal government did allocate funding to a similar cause. And we believe you can do the same.

To summarise, we request the following:

  • The introduction of a nationally rolled out, federal government-funded anti-bullying, anti-violence program in public and private schools by the start of 2018 that includes tolerance and mutual respect of LGBTI people at its core. It should also teach students to not bully classmates based on their religion, race, gender, sexuality, faith, disability, skin conditions, social standing or political persuasions.
  • The program’s curriculum should consult education experts, paediatricians, psychologists and criminologists before its rollout.
  • An advisory board of experts should be appointed by the Education Minister that consults on the program and any teachers’ feedback on a biannual basis. The board should independently be able to alter the program if they choose fit with no interference from government. The board should be required to consult with community groups, including those from the LGBTI community, before making decisions that alter the program’s teachings.
  • Such a program should aim to prevent all forms of bullying, including that which is based on religion, race, gender, faith, sexuality, disability, skin conditions, social standing or political persuasions.
  • $6m was allocated by Labor at the last election for a similar program. We would expect to see a similar commitment from the federal government for the program outlined above.

In conclusion, Australia needs an anti-bullying, anti-violence program with a focus on LGBTI bullying that isn’t just another anti-bullying program. What Australia doesn’t need is a program that is tied up in politics and controversy.

If we don’t act now, future suicides, self-harm, murders, and domestic violence will continue unabated.

Now is the time to act, Prime Minister Turnbull.

We urge you to do so before further victims continue to suffer.

Sincerely,

  • Troye Sivan Mellet – Actor, singer, songwriter
  • Laurelle Mellet – Activist and Sivan’s mother
  • Missy Higgins – Singer, songwriter
  • Zoë Badwi – Singer, songwriter
  • Guy Pearce – Actor, musician
  • Harley Breen – Comedian
  • Emelia Rusciano – Comedian, writer, singer
  • Kent ‘Smallzy’ Small – Broadcaster
  • Joel Creasey – Comedian
  • Tom Jay Williams – Singer, songwriter
  • Paul Mac – Musician
  • Tracey Spicer – Author of The Good Girl Stripped Bare
  • James Mathison – Broadcaster
  • Harry Cook – Actor
  • Evangeline – Artist
  • Jack Vidgen – Singer, songwriter
  • Sullivan Stapleton – Actor, producer
  • Chris Ledlin – Director of Social Media, Southern Cross Austereo
  • Samuel Gaskin – Recording artist and entertainer
  • Nic Kelly – Radio broadcaster, content creator
  • Adam Wilkinson – Producer management, artist management, real estate/property development
  • Mark Pesce – Futurist, inventor, author, educator and broadcaster
  • Jack Colwell – Singer, songwriter
  • Dylan Rass – Singer, songwriter
  • Mitchell Coombs – YouTuber, media producer
  • Alright Hey (Matthew Hey) – YouTuber, social media influencer

Footnotes

Homophobia and sexism are intrinsically linked to peer aggression and harassment, particularly by boys (but also girls). Source: https://tinyurl.com/kgbowx8

Bullying and teasing by those in their early adolescence is mostly homophobic based and generally focused on gender and sexuality. Source: https://tinyurl.com/m78zxvp

Homophobia in schools discourages students from studying as hard as they could, while stigmatising boys that have platonic female friends. Source: https://tinyurl.com/n4nsnxa

Internalised homophobia can lead to violence. Source: https://tinyurl.com/kd4ljek

Report: LGBTI People Mental Health & Suicide. Source: https://tinyurl.com/hwwnc25

Evidence that misogyny and homophobia go hand in hand. Source: https://tinyurl.com/kpy9h7x

The full letter to the PM and Education Minister signed by the participants is available at https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9xtU429YfcLNVpFaGw0dEJuc1k

Be Sociable, Share!

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)