Feb 01

Yesterday I wrote about how I wasn’t reading so much from those who oppose marriage equality in Australia, and here I am with another blog about it!

The Australian Christian Lobby’s Lyle Shelton manages to do his very best to look like a dick, he doesn’t need my help.  Let me just run through his latest media announcement following an essay written by Penny Wong where she writes:

“The ‘think of the children’ argument is among the most hurtful in the marriage equality debate,” Senator Wong has written in an essay in The Monthly magazine.

“It posits that gay and lesbian relationships harm children, that gay and lesbian parents are bad parents.”

Queue the waaambulance rider Lyle to tell us all just how silly Penny Wong is and how it’s not about her parenting skills, but it is really:

Kids’ rights to wherever possible be raised by their mother and father cannot be left out of the marriage debate, the Australian Christian Lobby said today.

This is simply a bold-faced assertion that has no merit.  It’s an attempt to create division in the community where none actually exits.  The christian thinking on this can be summarised in 10 points:

  1.  God made Adam and Eve.
  2. Adam and Eve got married by God and had kids
  3. God makes it clear that this is his plan for parenthood.
  4. God made gay people and told the straight people that the gays are an abomination.
  5. God told the straight people to kill the gay people by stoning them to death.
  6. Christians aren’t allowed to stone anyone, not even adulterers, any more.
  7. Christians still think gay people are evil and deserve death but don’t say so out loud.
  8. Because gays are evil, they want to convert kids, therefore they pretend the only way to have a family is to get married and have kids.
  9. They don’t like to be reminded that same-sex couples already have kids and their families do just as well, if not better than other families.
  10. Gays must not ever be given any rights, and if they are we must still make suggestions that they are trying to recruit children into their ranks.

Mr Shelton was responding to comments by Labor frontbencher Penny Wong implying that the child-centred argument should not be used in the debate about redefining marriage.

That’s right, it shouldn’t.  It’s not relevant.  Same-sex parents already have children, have done for as long as there has been same-sex relationships.   They are doing really well.

“We all know that kids sometimes miss out on a mother or father because of tragedy or desertion, but same-sex marriage causes this as a result of government policy,” ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton said.

Well no, marriage equality does no such thing.  It simply allows everyone to have equality before the law, and those couples that already have children will continue to have them.  Nothing really changes.  He is also more or less saying that kids who are missing one parent are better off than those with two parents of the same-sex.

“Our objection to the state redefining marriage is not that same-sex parents cannot be good parents – of course they can be.

hypocrisyThen why are you using it as an objection?  Seems counter-intuitive.  We all know that the real reason, never stated, is that you view homosexuality as a sin, therefore known sinners can not be in charge of children as they will corrupt the children, and that can’t be a good thing.  Keep the evil sinners away from children!

“The concern is that no matter how great a mum is, she is not a father. And however great a dad is, he is not a mother.

This is just a nonsense sentence.  What does it even mean?  This is probably some creepy stereo-typing, you know, fathers can’t talk to their daughters about sex stuff.

“If this view is wrong then we need to tell the scores of people out there who lament having grown up without either a mother or a father that they really didn’t miss out on anything.

More nonsense.  Who is writing this stuff?  Scores of children?  Is that similar to the scores of people who already hate their father, but love their mother?  How do you tell them that they missed out on something?  Why are you so sure that children of same-sex parents lament not having one of the sexes represented?  What about those that keep close relationships with biological parents?

“We would have to tell them that their regret is irrational and false.”

Or perhaps you tell them, oh I don’t know, the truth?  You were adopted, we had a surrogate mother, and then maybe, here’s you dad’s phone number, shall we call him?

Mr Shelton said there are many children that are brought up in alternative family structures, including those whose parents have divorced.

“But when making public policy we should have the very best intentions for our children and aim for what is ideal,” Mr Shelton said.

So, you’re saying Lyle, that same-sex parents don’t have the very best intentions for their children?  Is that it?  That two dads don’t really have the best intention for their children?  That’s quite a statement to make.  You are also claiming that my friends who are same-sex parents have no idea about what is ideal for their very happy and well-adjusted children.  Have you noticed, Lyle, in the world all the children growing up in opposite-sex households who are not doing very well at all?

Mr Shelton said that policy debates must be had even when they deal with hard subjects.

Of course.  This isn’t a debate from you though, is it?  It’s more a string of words and stereo-types that has no rational basis.  You really believe that people should grant you a platform to say outrageous things and not defend them or provide a basis for your objections.

“If the opportunity to make these arguments in a respectful way is not allowed, then the issue of same-sex marriage will not be openly discussed and debated in the lead-up to the plebiscite. Everything must be on the table for open discussion as the Australian people work through the merits of this policy proposal.

There are plenty of discussions going on.  And when you talk about respect, you just said that same-sex parents don’t have the best intentions of their children at heart, that they shouldn’t have children and that they are lousy parents.

“It is not possible to provide the benefits of so-called marriage equality without lifting Australia’s prohibition on commercial surrogacy and again allowing anonymous sperm donation.”

‘Provide the benefits’?  You don’t need marriage to ‘provide the benefit’ of being a parent.  Also, marriage equality is not ‘so-called’.  It just is.  And why not allow more children in the world.  Isn’t that what you want?

Mr Shelton said it was good that there was to be a people’s vote on changing the definition of marriage because there were big consequences for children.

That’s just another bold-face assertion that has no basis in anything other than the list of 10 things above.

Nothing much will change for families when we allow all parents to have their relationship formally recognised by the State.  In fact, a lot more love will happen, families will be happier, children will be healthier. Life will be better for everyone, except maybe for people who think same-sex attracted people are detestable.

 

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Jan 31

I’ve spent the last 10 years reading widely the thoughts on what the christian right has to say about homosexuality, discrimination, marriage equality and the way they think the world should be.  Last year I pulled back, I unsubscribed from various blogs and newsletters and turned my back on the intolerance and hatred coming from those that would dearly love to return to the basic tenets of their religion, where they were right, homosexuals should be stoned to death and women are nothing more than their personal servants.  I can’t say I’ve missed them.

consequencesEvery now and then I like to check in, as I did with Lyle Shelton the head priest at the Australian Christian Lobby.  He does this sort of pretend radio spot and puts it up on the website, so I had a listen, as he was talking to David Van Gend, a bloke who thinks he has authority because he’s catholic and a doctor.

I’ve written about Shelton and Van Gend before.

I love to flex my mind and listen to their reasons why I shouldn’t be allowed to get married, here I’m unpacking some of what they have to say.   You’ll find the full audio and transcript linked at the bottom.

The blog is pretty long, sorry about that.

We start with Lyle doing the intro.

Ever since the Greens member from Melbourne Adam Bandt stood up in the Federal Parliament in December 2010 and moved a motion that MPs consult with their constituents about changing the definition of marriage. The so called gay marriage debate has been on in earnest.

It’s been happening since the Australian Government changed the marriage act in 2004, and it has been earnest, that bit is right.

It’s been five long years as a small minority of activist urged by a willing media have kept this issue alive in the public square and in politics, despite opinion polls seemingly showing majority support for the idea of changing the definition of marriage. The polls also show it’s a very low order issue with voters. It is well down the list of people’s priorities that they think politician should be focusing on.

By defining the group agitating for change as a ‘small minority’ is to suggest that because it’s a small group it’s unimportant, put that in with the idea that people think there are more important things to worry about is saying just how unimportant the whole debate is.  The easy answer is then to simply change it as most people think the change should happen, gets it off the table to focus on more important things.  It’s also important to remember that Lyle thinks that he his being denied his right to free speech, somehow the small minority is the only voice that is being heard by the willing media.

We should also note that the Australian Christian Lobby is a small minority, he is suggesting that they are somehow significant.

The same-sex political juggernaut has seemingly been unstoppable

Oh good, a small minority that is a political juggernaut!  Such power that doesn’t seem to have been successful yet.

…last week in London the same-sex political agenda suffered a significant setback. Anglican Primates from around the globe met to consider the issue because leaders of their church in the United States and Canada have accepted same-sex marriage in defiance of the bible’s teaching. Instead of endorsing the North American’s capitulation to the culture, the 27 of the 36 voting Primates voted to actually censure the North American Church for straying from Christian teaching on marriage.

Perhaps he could define how this is significant.  The anglicans did just what they are supposed to do.  Play by the rules of their religion.  You’ll note that this ‘significant setback’ has not got the United States or Canada governments rushing legislation through to comply with the Anglican Primates biblical teaching.  Nothing has changed really, just a bunch of men (are there any women here today?) in silly hats telling another bunch of men in silly hats that they can’t play with each other for a couple of years.

This is very, very significant. It just goes to show that with courage and conviction this agenda can be turned.

Umm…..

One man who has been showing great courage for many years in this battle is Toowoomba GP and president of the Australian Marriage Forum Doctor David Van Gend. Last year Dr. Van Gend had his doctor surgery spray painted with the word bigot and television advertisements that he produced refused broadcast by the tax payer funded SBS. Dr. Van Gend joins me on the line now, welcome to the program David.

Oh the man is a hero, someone sprayed bigot on his surgery and SBS refused to show his ads on the tele.  Give the man a medal!

Lyle Shelton: David, this meeting of Anglican Primates. I made much of that in that in the introduction because I do think it’s significant that when people stand up, this agenda can be resisted and can be turned around and that’s something you’ve been doing in your work and private capacity as president of the Australian Marriage Forum.

Doctor David Van Gend: I think so because a lot of people understand that there’s something enormous at stake with marriage.

Seriously?  Like what, the end of civilisation perhaps.  Everyone agrees that Ireland is heading towards full destruction, New Zealanders are all turning gay and that the US has found the hand-basket and now slipping on the slope to the pits of hell.

It’s not a religious issue so much with Anglican or with people have every right to weigh in on this.

The anglicans seem to think it’s about what’s in the bible, that sounds like a religious issue.  But Van Gend is right, it’s not a religious issue, it’s a civil issue and people from everywhere are weighing in on it.

It’s about the truth of nature that marriage is a man, woman thing in our culture because it’s a male, female thing in nature.

This is just a nonsense.  There is no marriage in nature, when was the last time you saw a moose priest preside over the marriage of a buck and a doe?  Do they sign their certificate with the horns?  Marriage is a human construct, probably an extension of the males desire to lord it over the woman and be the boss.

It only exists doesn’t it because male, female relations typically have been momentous consequence of creating children and children need the love and protection of a mother and father.

So now it only exists because of children? Before it was a natural thing.  Just a reminder, there is actually nothing momentous about having children.  Have a look around, the whole of our biodiversity rests on our ability to reproduce.  It’s pretty commonplace and happens all the time without marriage.  While we’re talking about love and protection, sadly that’s not actually the case.  This is a fanciful notion that once married you live happily ever after.  We all know the reality of filicide, familicide, mariticide and suicide.

They need the identity and the belonging that goes with being bound to their real mum and dad. That is what marriage achieves. For every child marriage gives them a mum and dad and so-called homosexual marriage makes that impossible. Impossible and that’s the injustice mate.

Mate, listen up, there are plenty of kids out there growing up in families with same-sex parents.  They actually don’t have identity issues.   The injustice is trying to make the world fit your flawed model.  Families are made up of many different types of formations, your ideal is just one of many.  Each have their own merit, none is the best.

Lyle Shelton: Now. This isn’t about being anti any people you just very eloquently said what marriage is and why it’s a justice issue for children

Good Lyle, it’s not about being anti-gay, despite the fact that Van Gend just said gay people can’t really have children.  It’s impossible.

but you’re a doctor and you see people from all walks of life including same-sex attracted people and your advocacy for marriage is not in any way motivated by any animus towards people.

He’s a doctor!  He sees gay people!  He has no animus towards people like me.  Keep that in mind.  The good doctor from Toowoomba sees gay people.  And note this sideways move now, he moves to talking about sexuality and connecting people’s same-sex attraction with marriage.  The two really aren’t connected.

Doctor David Van Gend: I don’t think it’s possible, yeah, I don’t think it’s possible to know especially young gay people but older ones too, I don’t think it’s possible to know them and not just want to put your arm around them and say, “Look, it’s going to be okay, it’s going to be okay.” Something’s happened, something’s happened to put you in a position of, to these patients I see, of considerable suffering and anguish. They don’t know where this attraction came from. They don’t know why they go it, they don’t know what to do with it and a number of them have a conflict between those feelings and their own convictions about what marriage and parenting and family is. This is sets up a terrible tension and I think that tension can be resolved. I think we need to get to a very clear position in Australia. Where gay couples have all the liberties and all the equality of any other couple, any other couples married or defacto that as you know Lyle, they already have all that liberty and called.

Where to even start.  Now the GP is a psychologist, I’d like to see his qualifications. He wants to hug gay people and tell them everything is ok, as if that will somehow help people come to terms with their sexuality.  People like me, he suggests, don’t know where this attraction comes from, but that’s ok, because he has the answers.  It’s because something has happened to put me in this position, therefore it can un-happen.  Oh, and he sees a lot to these patients, a lot!  In Toowoomba!  They have considerable suffering and anguish.  Sounds like they’re all rushing to his surgery because it’s got bigot painted on the outside.  But that’s ok, he can resolve the tension, no doubt by telling you that god loves you. attaching electrodes to your testicles and zapping you with 1,000 volts while showing you pictures of an erect penis.   Oh, and that’s ok, because when you go back to the real world, you’ll be treated like everyone else because you have all the liberties and the equality you’ll ever need, just like real couples.  On one hand we are suffering and in anguish, on the other hand we are treated equally.

Lyle Shelton: That’s right 85 laws were changed in 2008 and state governments have allowed relationship registers. There is no discrimination in Australian law against same-sex couples.

You know Lyle, when you tell someone that they can’t do something because of who they are, that’s called discrimination.  You can get married to the partner of your choice (at least, I’m assuming it was a choice), but I can’t.

Doctor David Van Gend: Perfect. That’s it, they have full relationship equality and that is what a liberal society should achieve.

Perfect?  I don’t have full relationship equality.  I can’t get married.

That’s where we’re at but you’ve got to also let children have the one institution in society that exists for them. Marriage exists for children, they’ve build around mother and child.

Rubbish.  Marriage is between two adults, has nothing to do with children.  This is really easy to test, plenty of kids are born without their parents being married, plenty of them live with one parent, plenty with same-sex parents, plenty of them without parents.  Marriage exists because we want it, not because we have kids.

The very word matrimony is broken into two words, mother and the state of. It’s the state of motherhood is matrimony and marriage exist to serve the interest of mother and child. It serves to bind men, feral by nature men to their mate so that both of them can be bound to their child. That’s the whole purpose of it and gay people get this.

Excuse me, I’m not feral.  I don’t need to be bound to a woman to be tamed.  I’m not sure how it works in your part of the world.  And the binding doesn’t work, men and women still have sex outside their marriage, they still have children outside their marriage, and they still break up.

You’re going to listen to Christopher Pearson used to write about marriage needing to be a to man, woman thing, or Dolce & Gabbana, the great fashion gays what they said about it or Doug Mannering, all these other serious principal gay guys who say we got what we want. We got the liberty and benefits that we want. Don’t take marriage away from children, it’s their only structural institutional possession and that’s where we’re at Lyle. We can all get to this point of saying, yes, yes our fellow citizen who are same-sex attracted must have all the liberty and equality of any of us, and they do. Now that is enough do not let them usurp the one child sense of institution that there is and remake it in their own adult centered image. That is an injustice against child and that’s where we draw the line.

Ho hum.  A few gay people don’t want to get married, or have the jesus bug, therefore all gay people should listen to them.  In their minds this also works for chrisitans.  David and Lyle are good mates and christian, therefore the whole world should agree with them because they have jesus and they are right.  Between them they have worked out where to draw the line and you’re not allowed to cross their line because… well because jesus!

Doctor David Van Gend: It breaks all marriages because I was sitting in America couple of months after their definition of marriage was changed. I looked around this restaurant. None of those married men and women, none of them have the same marriage they used to have because marriage has now become purely an adult romantic affair. A relationship between any two adults of any sex was no further meaning than that.

This sort of makes my brain hurt.  It’s a huge assumption to say that everyone in the restaurant is married, and if they are, that they are sitting at the table with their spouse.  So because the US now has marriage equality, people already married don’t have the same marriage as before because same-sex marriages exist?  SMH (that’s shaking my head)  And…. their marriages have now become purely adult romantic affairs!  So before it was what?  A child’s romantic affair?  No romance at all?  Marriage is not romantic?  Well at least us gay guys have put the romance back into marriage, you’ve gotta be happy with that.

What they signed up to is marriage being the vocation of a man and woman given by nature itself to undertake the great task of creating a home, a new family and new generation. That great vocation, that great honorable life task has been degraded into a mere romantic association between any two people.

This is it!  The world is ending!  Straight people lives have been wrecked by two lesbians calling each other wife and setting up  a home and a family and a new generation!  You should see my face right now, I’m simply horrified!  I had no idea that getting married to Michael in New Zealand would change the world so much.  Why didn’t someone stop me?  (I’ll leave the answer hanging…)

So that’s gone but more importantly Lyle, the relationship between all parents and all children is redefined when you change marriage as the great lawyer Margaret Somerville pointed out when Canada brought in gay marriage. They changed all of the legal reference to natural parents and made it legal parents. Now, a natural parent is a fundamental, natural relationship which government has to respect, has to stand back and let natural parenthood prevail but once you abolish natural parents because you got rid of natural marriage. All parents and all children are related by a government definition which the government can damn well change whenever it likes. It’s a legal fiction and no parents and children any longer have a natural relationship. They have a legal fiction for a relationship. Be like profound, you’re playing into the hands of big government. People have no idea …

Adoption.  That’s where the old parents have their rights removed and have them assigned to another parent(s)  You know, the government damn well changed the legal fiction.  The relationship is established by law.  Has nothing to do with nature really.  If want you are saying, Davo, is that every child has a mother and a father, then you are right.   What happens after that, nature doesn’t give a rats arse about.

Doctor David Van Gend: …It was an article in Courier Mail and they had for and against forum. I was asked to write the case against gay marriage and someone else wrote the other one. … this is what I’d said, I’d said, yes, yes, it is discrimination to prohibit the marriage of two men but it is a far worse case of discrimination to allow this and thereby abolish a mother from the life of any child created within that marriage or words that effect….Of course we discriminate against two men by saying they can’t marry because they can’t.

Remember, they told us that there is no discrimination.  Remember that they have no animus towards gay people.  Remember, Michael and I are married, even though he says we can’t.  We have a marriage certificate with both our names on it.

It’s not possible because marriage is by definition a natural institution of male and female

It is possible, nature doesn’t define marriage, humans do.

but more importantly they can’t because that would impose a far worse injustice on children who will be created by surrogacy or adoption or whatever under this new institution not by tragic circumstance law but this kids won’t miss out on their mum because their mum’s died or there’s a divorce. These kids in the future will miss out on their mother because an act of parliament today decreed that they will miss out.

I have two children, neither of them have missed out on their mother or father.  Michael and I will not have children, therefore we can get married.  Or wait, nobody else can have children because Michael and I are married, but if a straight couple do have children one of them must leave so the other can marry a person of the same-sex.  And this is ok, because it’s not tragic.  At least that’s what I think he is saying.

Doctor David Van Gend: Actually Lyle, from a wide reading into the activist literature on gay marriage and gay issue.

He reads widely apparently, he reads activist literature on gay marriage.  Excellent, it’s good to have a well-rounded view.

That’s actually the main objective. Gay thinkers, gay activist don’t really care about gay marriage, they actually despise it.

This is right, however, reading as widely as you do Davey, you surely understand that this is but one of many, many views.

They always have despised marriage. It’s a bourgeois, hetero normative, slightly religious patriarchal repressive thing that cramps your gay style.

I have never despised marriage, I’m gay, I’m an activist.  However, I understand that Julia Gillard, who is a woman, not gay and probably not an activist had some thoughts about marriage and it being repressive.  Perhaps I’m not reading widely enough.

They despise it, they always have but in the mid ‘90s, they realize that there’s this new thing in town called antidiscrimination law

Well no, I think you need to wind it back about 20 years when gay people starting saying stop beating us up, stop putting us in jail.  Stop telling us who to have sex with.

and if you normalise homosexual marriage in law, you have normalise homosexual behaviour in all its manifestations with the force of the law and that gives you two things.

Homosexuality has been normalised as you say.  It’s actually not considered abnormal for people to be not straight.  Remember that he has no animus towards gay people.

It gives you control of the curriculum so that all children with gay marriage bought in. All children must be taught the homosexual behavior is no different to the relationship of their mum and dad. That it is normal and natural and right and if parents disagree to bad it’s the law of the land.

Children must be taught?  The sub-text of this is that he still considers homosexuality unnatural, and something to be ashamed of.   Just below the surface here is that vague notion that gay people are recruiting children to be gay.

You’ve missed your chance, it’s gone and the second thing is they the big stick of antidiscrimination law to beat the churches and other conscientiousness objectors into submission and that is what they are trying to do now but we can resist it now. We will not be able to resist it when gay marriage is the law of the land and they know that and this is why they want it.

And here in lies the real reason, at the end of the interview.  He really doesn’t want gay people telling him what to believe.  He really wants to maintain his right to discriminate against whomever he wants.  He sincerely believes that once gay people are allowed to get married that they will set about dismantling society and force him to get gay married, or something.  While he admits that marriage equality is inevitable, he is attempting to frighten people into thinking that their world will change so much that civilisation itself will come crushing down, and the people who are not currently being discriminated against and those that he bares no animus towards will be fully responsible.

Despite what these two white men with their wealth and privilege say, this is about power and control.  This is about their rank as men, head of the household, rulers of the world.  It’s bad enough that women want to do things other than be mothers and dedicated wives, now they have to contend with same-sex couples wanting to get married.  And when they go back to the basis of this power and privilege – the bible – it says that homosexuality is an abomination, that those that participate in it are worthy of death, women should not be heard, that there is no divorce and children should be seen only.  This is the world they want, where they are the centre of the power, so the small town doctor and the pretend high priest are treated as demi-gods.

PolicitalSpotTranscript-Jan2016

Part 1

Part 2

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Jan 16

Michael and I were interviewed in December by William Brougham about our activism.  I always enjoy an opportunity to express my thoughts about where things are with equal rights and the GLBTI community.

William has a good selection of interviews on his YouTube Channel that is worth working your way through.  Many though provoking topics from a range of people.

Be sure to watch the whole 28 minutes here, for me I think one of the key points is the topic of the day, a plebiscite.  This is Malcolm Turnbull’s deal with the right from the Abbott Regime.  He seems determined to leave Abbott’s ill thought out concept in place at present, I think the whole notion is quite appalling and in the interview I explain why.

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Dec 30

“Through the years, we all will be together, if the fate allows”

Christmas wrapped up for another year, and this Christmas again marks a change in the ever evolving tradition for me.

Christmas night as Michael (Did I say how much I love him?) and I walked along Beacon Cove after our Christmas Day he asked the question, “What is your earliest memory”.  A question provoked as he recalled his return to Australia to the nearby Station Pier, he told me of his memory of standing on the deck of the Galileo.  He was young.

The question is a good one that spun around in my head.  Michael always manages to find questions to ask that generate a cascading effect.  Earlier in the day he asked me if this Christmas was different, noting the change from this year to last year.  He asked me how I felt about that.

Here’s my answers.

My childhood Christmas memories are of my family coming together on that one day to celebrate.  I remember the excitement of Christmas morning.  I would wake, often before sunrise, and find my Santa sack, a pillowcase put at the end of my bed the night before.  I always tried to be as quiet as I possible could be, not wanting to wake anyone else!  I would have been sharing my room with my younger brother and a couple of older brothers.

santastockingThe pillowcase would be jammed pack full of goodies. It always had a Santa stocking in it.  The stocking, very similar to the one pictured, would have some lollies along with cheap plastic toys, such as a whistle or a water pistol.  This is a tradition that I continued on with my own children until recently.  I do have a memory of feeling the sack in the dark and it being big and bulky, I’d give it a tug and pull out whatever I could without making too much noise.  I can’t recall a single gift from it, apart from the stocking.

The next part of the day is the distribution of presents from under the tree.  There was much anticipation for me.  Our Christmas tree was always a real pine tree and often placed between a couple of the lounge room couches.  I would be sure to have the best seat in the house.  I would actually pick the seat the night before and when the announcement for presents was made  I would be the first in the room and sitting as close to the action as possible.

I would have to wait for my older brothers to come home with their new families, my nephews and nieces.  Dad would come into the lounge room and there would be a lot of chatter.  He would start to distribute the gifts by calling the name of who it was for followed by who was giving it.  “Gregory from Mum and Dad”.  There were always a great big stack of gifts to give.

tape playerThere are two presents that stand out in my memory.  One was a cassette recorder.  The other a Dolphin Torch.

The cassette recorder was probably one of the best gifts I ever received.  It would have been in the late 1970’s and fed directly into my desire to be on the radio.  I was able to pretend I was a real radio DJ with it!  One of the first songs I ever recorded off the radio was Flash N the Pan’s Hey St. Peter.  I remember that it broke, possibly a day after I got it, and I had to wait until the shops opened again so we could replace it.

The dolphin torch was something that I asked for.  I needed it for camping, big, bulky and waterproof.  The real reason I remember it however, was that it marked a change in my thinking on Christmas.  I guess I was may 15 or 16, and that year the only gift I got from Mum and Dad was the torch.  I felt a great deal of unhappiness about that!  The Christmases of Plenty had passed.

As the family started to expand we all bought gifts for the new additions.  We also bought gifts for each other.  So, that’s 11 children, two parents and an ever-expanding growth of grand children and partners.  There would be laughter, squeals of delight, the rustling of paper and a big mess everywhere.  This tradition went on for many many years, all the way into the ’90s.  That’s at least 20 years.

I’ll come back to this point in time, the mid 70s.  Let me just explain this video of the presents under the tree.  I took this in 1990.  I’m 27 years old, my first wife (ok, my only wife) is the first adult through the door, she’s preceded by some of my nieces, a steady stream of children and adults come into the room.  Finally in what seems like a TARDIS space we’re all in their and my Dad begins the handing out of the presents.  You can see my Mum and Dad under the tree, bums up in the air, handing out the gifts.

This isn’t all of us either!  By 1990, some of my older nephews and nieces, along with my brothers, didn’t come to this part of the day.  We’d already started changing the long-held tradition and celebrating Christmas in our own way with our new families.  This is one of the final times that we gathered in the family home at 9 McIntyre Street, Hamilton.  My parents moved to Queensland and that changed Christmas forever.

Back to the 1970’s.  Once the presents were over and done with we would then be getting ready for lunch.  The size of our family meant we didn’t go anywhere.  People came to us.  As the years rolled on and we had my brothers wives and there children, we also had additional grandparents, uncles and aunts.  We often had two sittings, and somehow my mother prepared both meals.  At a guess we’d have about 30 for each meal, lunch and dinner.

Specific memories are a little faded, and all sorts of celebrations roll into one, I imagine that it was all very traditional.  Two things about the food stand out, White Christmas Slice  and Christmas Pudding.

christmas pudding steamerThe Christmas pudding was made by my mother’s mum, Grandma.  I have a fleeting recollection of it hanging in a calico bag from the kitchen ceiling, months before Christmas.  It was boiled in a special aluminium steamer pot and served with lashings of cream.  I recall my Dad’s mother, Nana, being responsible for putting the sixpence in the slices.  Yes, sixpence, even years after the move to decimal currency, she managed to use sixpence.

That was my Christmas day, full of family, laughter and good times.

Christmas is now much different.  When Mum and Dad moved to Queensland that was the end of our family get togethers.  By then I had children and we spent Christmas visiting my in-laws.  That was nothing like my childhood Christmas.  They were full of stress and anxiety.  I got out of them as soon as I could when I separated, then I would spend Christmas day with my sister, Angela, much more relaxed.

This year, Christmas was lunch in the city with some good friends, followed by Christmas dinner with my children, Caitlin and Tomas, future son-in-law, their mother and my husband.  For the first time Caitlin wasn’t here on Christmas morning, Angela and her family were in Queensland and I took a train ride to the city to have lunch in a restaurant.

Things change, my memories fade.  All I’m left with are a few snippets and glimpses of how things once were.  Christmas will continue to change.

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Dec 24

In November Michael and I celebrated 7 years together.

What can I say.  It didn’t take me very long to discover that Michael is a wonderful man, and after this short space of time, I understood that I wanted him in my life.  I love him.

Like all relationships I need to give care and attention to it.  I don’t always get it right, but I’m willing to change, adapt and learn from the experience of sharing our lives.

vowsWe are a married couple.  He is my husband.  For me it was important that I find a way to say to my family, my friends, and the rest of the world how important this relationship is to me.  What better way to share the way I feel about Michael than a public declaration of my love for him.  What better way than marriage to say to this key person what he means to me.

We traveled to New Zealand to get married.  It was a quick trip, part of a TV documentary called Living With the Enemy.

That meant we had to share our special event with a fundamentalist priest from the Anglican sect of christianity.  I remember him, Father David, many times asking us to explain why it was that we wanted to get married.  Michael and I had to let him into our little secret.  That we wanted to change the world!  We wanted everyone to get gay married.  As that seems unlikely it would seem that the reason for our marriage is based upon a mutual love for each other, the desire to share that with our family and community at large, and to say to each other just how important we are in each others lives.

That seems perfectly sensible.

 

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Dec 11

Two years ago a work colleague lost her life.  Which is a really stupid thing to say.  She didn’t lose it at all.  Her husband killed her.  He took her life.  He stabbed her.  She died.

Her children have had to deal with this, their families and friends and then people like me.

I had a drink with her the night before.  There was nothing I can remember that set any alarm bells off at the time.  In hindsight there are lots of “if only” and “I wish”.

The impact of family violence is much broader than family.  It has an impact on all in our community.

Today, we celebrated another year of great work at my work.  We acknowledged the important work that our teams do in family violence and men’s behavioural programs.  They make a difference to the lives of the people they work with.

It’s been a tough year.  While government change directions and shift funding, the need of people doesn’t change.  It’s still there.  We struggle to reach as many people as we would like to, the funding just isn’t there.

There is a great need in our community, and we can barely cope with the demand.

My heart breaks at the knowledge that we don’t have the resources to help.  My heart breaks that people are suffering and there is nothing that I can do.

When we asked today as part of an activity, “Why do you work here?” the answer was either “Because I want to make a difference” or “I want to help others”

As I listened today to the accolades of special mentions for our outstanding stars, I reflected on the work that my colleagues do.  I reflect on the senseless death of Cathy.  I know we need to do more.

I feel proud to work with such a dedicated group who strive to make a difference.

We have the evidence that the work we do makes a difference – you can help us.  You may not be able to fund the shortfall left by the changing funding models of government, if a few of us can help perhaps we can make a shift.

Donate.

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Dec 06

Cadets was compulsory in Form 3 and 4 at Monivae College.

I hated cadets.

The first ever Cadet Day in Form 3 was dreadful, I was in tears, for whatever reason going on in my young mind, I was dead-set against being a part of cadets.

I got to school, dreading it.  I went to the public phone box on the school grounds, a phone in a small room and called Mum, crying on the phone, telling her that I really didn’t want to do this.

In my cadet uniform Form 3 - 1978

In my cadet uniform Form 3 – 1978

While Mum was trying to reassure me that everything would be OK, she did say she’d ring the school and speak with them and tell them I didn’t want to participate.

I returned to the class room and the guy in charge, Mr. Walsh came and saw me.  He asked why I didn’t want to join in.  He told me all my friends would be in the cadets and I’d be the odd one out.  I thought what a cheap shot that was, I’m a teenager – I get peer pressure and I hate my class mates.

I was made to sit down and write an essay to explain my reasoning.

I don’t think I was able to properly articulate my reasons, the first and possibly only line on the page was “I’m against war”.  That was it.

I still don’t really know why I didn’t want to be a part of it.  Perhaps I saw it as too military for my liking.

In any case I succumbed, and joined.  I probably had little choice.  I seem to recall a sort of threat, from the principal, that it was part of the school curriculum and it wasn’t optional.  Which to me meant if you want to be at Monivae, you have to be in cadets.

So I dressed up as expected, in my greens, and pretended to be a solider.

I had Scouts, and didn’t see the need for Cadets, which just seemed to be a scaled down version with none of the same systems.  I really resented guys my age, or a couple of years older yelling at me.  And that’s what it amounted too.  It may have given leadership skills to those picked to be in positions of power, but the reality was that they weren’t really getting leadership skills, they were just feeding their desire to be the boss of me.  They got to yell and be vindicated for their bullying behaviour, because this was pretend Army and that’s how it worked.

The other thing that I really hated was having to give up my lunch breaks to go and practice marching.  Seriously, you want me to march up and down the basketball courts for what reason?  Apart from trying to train me up in fancy synchronised wafting about what did you hope to achieve?

So, I’d wag Cadet days, pretend to be sick, lie to Mum, tell her it wasn’t on.  Of course, I’d have to go sometimes and I hated it.

Every year we had the big Cadet Presentation Day when some big wig from the Army would arrive and we’d do this strange ceremony of passing over the colours.  We would march out onto the oval (hence the reason for lunch time marching) and spend some hours standing there while some wanker walked up and down reviewing a bunch of boys in greens. Complete waste of my Sunday.

I wagged that too.  Mr. Walsh told me that I needed a letter from my mum as to why I didn’t attend.  I couldn’t get one, because I was too scared to ask Mum.  It would reveal the lie I had told.  So instead of having to front that lie, I told Mr. Walsh the truth – that I didn’t want to go, so I didn’t.  He looked me up and down, probably because he couldn’t work out why I wasn’t scared of him, clearly he didn’t know my mother very well.  He smiled, cocked his head on one side and through his good eye, make contact, smiled and told me “You’re strange, Storer”.

That was that, I received no punishment at all for it.

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Dec 06

This is us.  Well, part of us.  The world is so big and hangs like a jewel in the night.

Its says that the photo was taken from a million miles away, but I’m not sure about that.  Everything we are and will ever be is on this globe.  Sure, we’ve flung a couple of objects into deep space, our light and radio transmissions are knocking about the universe, but really, we are self-contained on this planet.  That means we all come from the same place, and we will all die on the same place.  The space is finite.  Maybe that’s why we squabble about it so much.

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From where we stand now as inhabitants on this world, we understand much, but not enough, about where we come from.  How the planet was formed, how life arrived and our expectations about where it will end up.

As a species we are unique, but only because we store our collective history externally. Here I am doing just that, I’m taking my thoughts and recording them outside my mind.  I’ve been doing that for years, and humans have been doing that for eons.  I marvel at that.

I also marvel at soda water – it has bubbles.

Another uniquely human characteristic is the questions:  When will I die?  When will it all end? I don’t think that this thought has ever crossed the mind of a hairy-nose wombat.  Not even as it is rolling under a truck as it tries to cross the road.

Since Hilary of Poitiers, not Clinton, mutter in 365 that the world was about to end there have been plenty of  speculation about the end date.  It would help if someone could check the bottom of the globe for a use by date – currently, as I understand it the world will end in about 5 billion years, so plenty of time to nip down to the supermarket to buy another bottle of soda water.

There’s a list of the end of the world.  Have a look.  I’ll wait.

The thing that should strike you about the list is that they are all wrong.  Every single one of them.

You will end, and the world will end.  The chances of both happening at the same time is very unlikely, and even if it did – will you have time to know?

So, here we are.  On a planet, with a certainty that we will not get off it any time soon, that we will remain here, with our remains.  And yet we can’t help ourselves and fail to see the point of sharing the same space.  This little bit of the lounge room is no more mine than it is yours.  I like to keep it behind closed doors and keep people out, mostly to hide the empty soda bottles, but to keep my things in one place.  The mine concept extends to my suburb, my city, my state, my nation, my world, my universe.  Keep out!

If this is all we have, then what are we doing?  Why do we hold those in need at bay?  Why does my supermarket have bottles of soda water when others don’t?  Why, when we understand that our lives are so short, do we take that of others?

How hard can it be?

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Oct 08

It’s Mental Health week this week.  It seems an opportune moment to press the Publish button on this blog that’s been waiting for a while.

This is from my hand written diary from 1982 and documents the trial I underwent in making the decision to leave school.  Malcolm Fraser was the Prime Minister and What About Me by Moving Pictures was at the top of the charts.

Year 11The entry is written in 1982 about events a year earlier.  I was 17 in 1981, barely coping with my sexuality that I was trying so hard to repress, I don’t mention it directly, but I can see it’s impact in my own words.  I wasn’t letting anyone in to see the real me.  My close friends had left school at the end of Year 10 and Year 11, I was isolated, a few of the students in Year 12 had grown up with me and we’d been through primary and secondary school together – they were my enemies!

It’s clear to me, looking back, that I was struggling with my life, my religion and my sexuality.  I wasn’t in a good place.  The isolation was horrendous and I couldn’t see a way out.  What I didn’t see or understand until some 12 months later is that people really did care, they wanted to help me.  It took an enormous amount of courage for me to reach out and ask for help.

My life did get better.  I have not regretted the decisions I made back then, I’m glad that I went on to bigger and better things.  The adults in my life did want to help me out, they did see my struggles and tried to get me to open up, the real blockage for me was my sexuality.  This internal battle is why I want the world to see the damage that is caused when homophobia isn’t stopped and challenged.  The anguish I went through should not have happened.  It’s hard enough growing up without having an unmentionable and important part of your life that you feel needs to be hidden.

Here’s the entry, I’ve fixed the spelling (apparently I though my peers where piers and I still can’t spell unfortantely without a spell checker) but not changed the wording.

12 Jan 1982

Today I seem to have quite a few entries in the diary – perhaps because I have been neglecting writing things in it.  I think the main reason for this is trying to get motivated.  This attitude seems to be one that is common amongst my peers.  This is I feel is one reason why I failed at having a go at Year 12.  Yet, I, at the moment, don’t regret it.  I often think that had I become motivated in the early stages of ’81 I might have done a lot better than I did, never the less I didn’t, so I have no one else to blame but myself.  My only hope (in fact one of my many hopes) is that I never live to regret my actions.  At the moment this seems unlikely.  As I can’t see into the future it is a hard thing to say it won’t have some repercussions in later life.

School seemed a place that I just didn’t fit.  None of my peers particularly liked me and often was called a poof, suck and many other things.  Such name calling never seemed right to me and I assumed that such things would fizzle out as we (me and my peers) got older and more mature, I think I was kidding myself.1  The name calling continued, perhaps not as much, but it certainly didn’t stop.  I returned to school in Feb. 81 feeling perhaps just a little frightened, like a child and his first day at school, I think I was more frightened of attempting H.S.C., and of course the reaction of my peers2 who I though might have grown up.  They had a bit, at least the name calling had perhaps stopped a bit.  But NO-ONE bothered to talk to me, unless I spoke to them first, even then a conversation was brief and abrupt.  Then again I didn’t really try to become overly involved with my peers. (As you can see there seems to be contradictions in this entry.  Yet it really was like this – Here are even more contradictions).  But I did try very hard to become a bit more involved in school activities.  I was a quiet sort of force behind the Social Services, in starting that.  I was involved in the school newspaper “The Dolphin” in which I wrote some news and so on.  Never the less this didn’t seem to me to be enough to keep me interested in the academic side of school.

The Year 12 retreat3 proved to be a very interesting one.4  I stopped and reflected on my life and what I was doing.5  I think that perhaps I then made a decision to leave school.  The next thing to do was to get enough courage to make a move as there was so much to consider before I made such a decision.  Meanwhile things at school were still pretty useless.  I had enrolled in correspondence school to do music, a subject I enjoyed and one that I looked forward to.  Unfortunately, someone, somewhere, along the line ballsed the whole thing up.  So when my papers did come through I was about five weeks behind.  Trying desperately to catch up, my other school work seemed to be falling behind, as I was more interested in Music.  Finally the pressures of school caught up with me, and depression soon came.  I couldn’t keep up with my fellow students, as I became more and more depressed I began to think about leaving school, a thought which had been on the back of my mind since the start of the year.  I started to miss morning classes because I didn’t want to get out of bed.  I was frightened, (then again I really didn’t try to make an effort) frightened of school because I was behind, frightened of my peers for their harassment.6  I really did become more and more depressed, and I believe that I was on the verge of suicide, something that nobody else could even see, I myself couldn’t see what was happening, and I did want so much to reach out and talk to someone, but the courage to do so was never there so I just closed myself off…. to think.

I lay awake many nights just thinking about what I was going to do, and then finally I set a date to leave school.7  Friday April 3rd 1981 – I wrote in my pocket diary – “THE END – ON THIS DAY I HOPE TO LEAVE SCHOOL FOREVER”

I have no idea when I set that date, but I did, and I missed it.  It was another week before I left school.  Why?  Perhaps I, again, didn’t have the courage, perhaps I wanted another chance, perhaps I was confused about what I wanted or perhaps I don’t know.  Never the less I did try and hack it for another week but to no avail, so on Friday April tenth 1981 (exactly seven days after) I went to school to say to the Studies Master “I no longer wish to continue my education” (That’s a quote!)  So Mr. Shaw (my Studies Master) talked to me about it, and finally agreed that he believed I was doing the best thing, which made me feel a whole lot better.  I then realised that there really are people who care, and people who are willing to help.  The trouble was to find the right person.  Mr. Shaw helped me a lot that day.8  He rang the Commonwealth Employment Service and made an appointment for me for two o’clock in the afternoon.  So that was it, after twelve or thirteen years of school I was finished.

I cried as I rode my bike out of the gates of Monivae College, knowing that something that had been a big part of my life for six years was now finished.  Perhaps I cried because I again was frightened of being in the BIG WORLD by myself, perhaps I cried because I was ashamed of myself for being gutless and feeling useless that I couldn’t succeed in life because I was no good at school.  I was also very happy.9

I went home and told the folks that I did have an appointment at the C.E.S. at two, so they helped me prepare.10

So at about five to two I rolled up outside, stood for a minute before walking in.  I asked for the right man, only to discover that no one at all knew about my appointment.  But all where pleasant, and I filled out the right forms applying for the dole, and registering myself us unemployed.

After a discussion the nice young (married) lady suggested that I approach Mr. McNaughton and enquire about a job there as I already had a part-time job there.11  I told Mr. Mac. that I had left school and asked him if he was willing to employ me.  He said he would have to think about it, and told me to come back on Tuesday 14th April 1981 – So I did.

At eleven o’clock I showed up, and Mr. Mac. said that he was willing to employ me but only under the following hours.  Monday to Thursday 12.00 noon till 5.30 p.m.  Fridays 10-12, 1-5, 6-8 (in winter 12-5, 6-9) Saturday’s 5.30 – 8.00, 9-12 noon.

I agreed to these hours, and although I wasn’t crash hot on them, thought it was better than going on the dole.

So on Tuesday 21st of April 1981 I started working at P.R. & L.A. McNaughtons Authorised Newsagents, 150-152 Gray St.  Hamilton.

Here ends my true story of the hassle I had in 1981 – and if you think how long all this took only twelve weeks, and I am pleased of the decisions I made, and I hope that I will never live to regret April 10 1981 – A day which will long live in my memory.

I am grateful to Mr. & Mrs. McNaughton, to Monivae College, and most of all my parents who tried so hard to support me and help me, a job which they did and will always do so well.


 

Sane Australia is a good place to start if my blog raises any issues for you and you’d like some help.

 

  1. I could never understand why people thought I was a ‘poof’ as I wasn’t ‘camp’ in the slightest
  2.  Code for someone might work out that I really am gay
  3. This is mostly a lot of prayers and team building
  4.  I was sleeping in a dorm with 15 other guys, some of them I fancied, this was a real challenge for a 17-year-old gay guy
  5. How could I stop being gay?
  6.  Fear of being outed as gay was a huge concern
  7.  I was begging god to take this ‘poof’ stuff away from me
  8.  We later went on to be friends when his son was in my Cub Pack
  9.  The relief of not being found out caused the tears, the freedom to start over and be free of the name calling made me happy
  10.  This was perhaps the first time my father let me make a decision about my life.  He sat on my bed and told me that if I didn’t want to go to school that was ok, but that I had to get a job.  He then asked what I wanted to do, I told him I wanted to be a teacher, he said I wasn’t smart enough to be a teacher – that was devastating and had long-lasting implications for me.
  11.  It was a Newsagents.  I was doing fill in paper rounds and working Saturday mornings
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Sep 29

Michael and I have been away for another couple of days in the Grampians.  One of my most favourite places.  A couple of days there feels like a couple of weeks.

One of the things I love about being there is the sheer difference between the macro and the micro.

Michael and I walked part of the way up Mt William, the Grampians’ tallest peak.  We sat for a while and looked across the Mt William Range to the Major Mitchell Plateau and the Serra Range.  An amazing macro view.

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Our senses are filled with the wondrous view.  The warm sun on your faces, the cold wind whistling between the rocks, the smell of eucalyptus trees.  Then if you take the time to look closely you can see the micro.

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You can see the dew clinging on the sun-dew flowers, the droplets glisten in the sunshine.

The micro world is getting ready to burst forth with its array of colours as the weather warms up. The orchids are just starting to bloom and they are always a treat.

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Leopard Orchid

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Waxlip Orchid

Somewhere between the big mountains and the tiny flowers is the wild life.  A treat is the local sulphur-crested cockatoos that visited our room for the chance to nibble on some sunflower kernels.


Nothing like a few seeds to bring in a crowd.  Each cockatoo has its own personality, this one carefully picks up each kernel to eat, another one would gather 4 or 5 at once, yet another would peck at your hand and others would be gentle.  There were some that would approach carefully, headed cocked on one side to keep you in its view and one that jumped on our shoulder to get to the seed.

There are always plenty of birds in the Grampians, I could and do stand, stare, point and admire.

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Kookaburra

As we’re walking down from the Picaninny, I can hear some twigs breaking so I stop and listen carefully, slowly spinning my head until I find a family of Gang-gang cockatoos sitting in a native pine eating the nuts.

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Gang-gang Cockatoo

The highlight of the weekend however was the journey home.  We stopped to take a short walk up Mt Noorat, just out of Terang.  It’s a dormant volcano.  The crater is an inverted cone.  As we walked around the rim a flash of movement caught my eye as I turned my head to the left there was a single flap of wings and I came eye to eye with the wedge-tail eagle.  We seemed to make eye contact and he let out a couple of short squawks as he glided past us.

We couldn’t believe our eyes.  We had seen eagles before, off in the distance.  This was close.  We watched as he flapped and began to circle, keeping one eye us.  It was just amazing.

As he circled back around and dipped back below the crater rim we waited for him to reappear.  However, not everyone was as excited as us for this moment.  As he flew over the tree tops the local magpie clearly thought he was a little too close for comfort.

An aerial battle began.  It was very one-sided, the eagle not really very interested in the magpie.  The magpie would be flapping its wings rapidly and I could hear that swooping noise as it flew towards the eagle.  The eagle on the other hand effortlessly flapped twice and kept just ahead of its attacker.  With an extra burst of flappiness the magpie managed to catch up and it swooped down on the larger bird and the eagle flapped a couple of times and continued on its way seemingly unconcerned.   The magpie continued its assault and saw the bigger bird off.

The presence of this bird of prey had the mountain buzzing.  The magpies began warbling, and as the eagle circled around the local population of birds began calling out their warnings.

Here’s a short video of the battle:

As we continued our drive home we stopped numerous times to take photographs of other birds, Nankeen Kestrel, Brown Falcon, a Black-shouldered Kite

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Nankeen Kestrel

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Brown falcon

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Black-shouldered Kite

Each a delight to look at.

Take some time to flip through Michael’s photos – They are well worth it!

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