Mar 30

Every now and then I think of my mate – Geoff.  I think of his wife, Marie.  My heart breaks.

Tonight I’ve spent the evening out with Michael.  We’ve had a good time.

Before we left my 21 year old son, Tomas, wasn’t home.  That’s a bit odd.  Caitlin my 23 year old daughter didn’t know where he was.  I don’t worry.  At least, I think I’m not worrying.

That’s until I get home some 5 hours later to see his bedroom door is closed.  Caitlin’s bedroom door is also closed.  That means that no matter what has transpired today – both of them are home and in bed.  It’s only then that I realise that the closed doors offer me comfort and remind me that my children are safe.  It’s then that I realise that I worry.

To lose a child would be devastating.  Every time that thought cross my mind, I think of my mates, Geoff and Marie.  Because they lost their two children in a road accident 10 years ago.

Their pain is my nightmare – but I’ve not spent 10 years living it.  I’ve not spent 10 years seeing the open bedroom doors.

A flash of memories of Kate and Daryl is all I have. Quiet words said at the funeral.

My words will never describe the deep sense of loss.

I see it in myself, I can feel the despair.  It will pass for me because the bedroom doors are closed.

Mar 26

Here’s Lyle Shelton, head of the Australian Christian Lobby:

“Whether or not the Greens like it, the taking of human life in the womb is an issue that should be debated politically and not silenced.

“Our society’s inability to support women with unsupported pregnancies to the point where abortion is so widespread is a matter of serious public policy and people are right to express a view publicly by way of protest or prayer.”

Let me call bullshit on this.  Taking the life of a foetus in the uterus has been settled and is not a political debate on anyone’s radar other than some out of touch christians.  Women are supported in pregnancy.  There are plenty of organisations helping.  Sometimes women have abortions, for whatever reason.  There is nothing wrong with that.

lyleShelton is protesting that a Greens Senator has taken a stance against christians standing on the footpath praying.  He doesn’t see why that is a problem.  I do.  You can pray anywhere.  What makes him think that praying near an abortion clinic is going to make any difference to the way his god responds.  They could all sit at home and pray, but no, instead they gather quietly and peacefully, just like a bunch of hyenas, waiting for the right moment to pounce on their unsuspecting victim.  If you challenge them they smile and say that they are going about the lord’s work.  What they are really doing is providing a barrier between the front door and the women who are within their rights to seek the service of the clinic inside.  This deliberate act is designed to shame women into not having an abortion. It is a device to intimidate women and deprive them of their choice.  It is not peaceful or pleasant, no matter how much the nice christians in their beige cardigans and corduroy trousers look.  This is an aggressive gesture that has no place in our society.

Women have the right to an abortion.  This isn’t something that needs further discussion.  The matter is settled.

Oh, and stay at home to pray.  It’s warmer.

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Mar 06

It’s pretty hard for me to think about violence against women at the hands of men.  I find the notion of violence truly disturbing and that hit, beat, maim and kill women are detestable.

shoesI also have little time for those who seek to find justification for maintaining the patriarchal model in society.  The whole concept that women are somehow required to accept that the men are in control and they need to simply accept it, but it’s OK, because we men folk will look after you and respect you, that I find ugly and unnecessary.

I often find that fundamentalist religious people struggle with the whole equality notion. One in particular is David Ould, a fundamentalist Anglican Minister in charge of a small parish somewhere just outside of Sydney.  We’ve had dealings before.

He thinks that the ‘headship’ of a family is the right of a man.  That’s what the bible says, and his example is Jesus.  It was Jesus who sacrified all for his ‘bride’, that’s you and me, and we should follow that example.

Clearly David finds violence  against women abhorrent; that’s not in question here.  He says he does and will intervene as part of his work.  That’s commendable.

However, the patriarchal model is the cause of this scourge in our western society.  Christianity has a lot to answer for, from the biblical perspective, and David sums it up well in his recent blog post where he highlights this passage from his ‘gold standard’ book:

Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands

He explores a bit about the term ‘in the same way’ but in a nutshell this is referring to the previous chapter on slaves.

Slaves … submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh…  But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? … To this you were called,because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

Read it to get the full context.

To any sane person the suggestion that a wife needs to submit to a husband and endure a beating is crazy talk and surely not appropriate.  But there it is, in the bible.  Of course, Christians like David insist that the man is to treat the woman with respect, based on this bit of text

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

These passages cause David to call into question the real meaning and he needs to do some verbal gymnastics to make it make sense in his world view:

I find this incredibly challenging. What do those of us who want ourselves to submit to the Scriptures make of it?…

But perhaps as we think these things through a little more we need to just stop and consider exactly what we’re saying and who we are seeking to please when we say it.

Again, you need to read it to get the full context of his writing.

I would have thought that the obvious answer to this is very straight forward.  The words in the bible are out of touch with a modern world and have no right to be used by modern thinking men.

The whole ‘headship’ ‘submission’ and notion that it’s all for Jesus is wrong.  If we can accept that a slavery is wrong and a ‘slave’ has rights and that this passage has fallen by the wayside, then surely it’s time to let go of the other ridiculous passages.

David doesn’t come out and say it, but makes the point that the wife needs to submit to her husband, as he is head of the house, like Jesus is head of the church.  He uses the oft used symbol of Jesus as the groom and the church as the bride.

This little gem is the most repulsive bit of justification that I’ve ever read:

None of this means we ought not seek to empower and help her if she chooses to remove herself from an abusive situation. But is it so wrong, was Piper so wrong, to suggest that her choice to submit might have a flavour of “in the same way” and that this might actually be a Godly wise choice?

How to balance that thinking with his earlier statement:

And I think it says something incredibly shocking to all of us.

Yes, it is incredibly shocking.  The problem for me is that after putting this all together, doing the verbal gymnastics, rather that decide to ditch the bible as an irrelevant book, he persists in maintaining it as the guide-book for how men and women should be.

By that justification fundamentalists get to maintain their power base of the patriarchy, women are not allowed to be priests, nor the head of the household, nor to tell their husbands what to do.  They can choose to stay in a violent situation and the fundamentalist won’t interfere and will probably just shrug their shoulders when death comes and say “What could I do?  At least she’s in a better place now”.

No matter how they try to read the words and give them meaning in a modern context, the words will be abused by others because at the end of the day the passage is quite clear.  It says you as a woman need to submit and if that means a beating, then your only hope is that it’s given with respect.

While the Christians trip themselves up trying to work out the meaning, they miss the obvious thing right in front of them.

God should have said, with no need to check translations or go back to the old testament or a different book, “It’s not OK to beat or kill your wife under any circumstances”.

Why isn’t that there in plain text for all the world to see?  Because the bible is not the word of god, but simply the made up words of a bunch of men written long before a modern understanding of the dignity of each person.  The words are either written or translated by men that think women are not equal and need to comply with the wishes of their husbands, because in their reality of 2,000 years ago (or whenever it was translated into English) the men with the dicks are in charge.

 

 

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Mar 02

unicornHis hand was trailing along the ground behind him.  Which sort of meant that somehow he was travelling along on his knees because as far as he knew his arms didn’t really normally touch the ground as he walked.  He looked down to find his feet, only to discover that somehow they had disappeared so he glanced over his shoulder and yes, there indeed, on the end of this legs where his runners.  He was thinking that perhaps his feet weren’t in his runners, but that seemed a silly concept so he just accepted the current reality. That was strange in itself as his reality normally made some sort of sense.  Well, it did if you ever understood what was really going on around the corner.  He’d been around the corner a couple of times and never really understood that either.  When he was a lad, going around the corner was always exciting as you never quite knew just what it was that you would find.  Most of the time he would find small gnats flying about mouth level and would always inhale several of them before coughing uncontrollably and running in the other direction.

Running.

Yes, that was it, he recalled, a few minutes ago the runners with his feet embed in them at the end of his legs were running.  Now he was doing a sort of shuffling motion like some zombie from “The Walking Dead”.  He tried to do the moan like the zombies do but all he could muster was a small burp and a simultaneous fart.  The resulted in him chortling.  His knuckles hit a rough patch and he stopped chortling and stopped the zombie shuffle, brought his hands around in front of his face and inspected them.  They seemed ok on the palm side, so he turned them over and to his horror discovered a large welt with little tattoos of unicorns had appeared just below both his left thumbs.  That wasn’t there before he thought.  Desperately his mind tried to make a connection between unicorns, running, zombies and being able to burp and fart at the same time.  Apart from this very moment he couldn’t make a connection.

Suddenly he became embarrassed as he realised how rude it was to burp, both mouth and bottom, in public.

He blushed.

Said sorry to the small gathering of adoring unicorns just out of sight, stood up and continued on his run.


No, nothing is wrong and no, I can’t explain it.

 

Feb 24
Drawing: Picture by a child in immigration detention.

Drawing: Picture by a child in immigration detention.

While our Federal Government is busy saying that the problem with the Human Rights Commission report “The Forgotten Children: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention 2014″ is its author, Gillian Triggs and they’re trying to find a way to get rid of her, they ignore the substance of her report.

Regardless of the motivation, we have reports from the Immigration Department of 44 allegations of sexual assaults in detention centres.   They can’t say how many of the 44 cases involve children.  However, the HRC report does – it says

233 assaults involving children and 33 incidents of reported sexual assault, with the majority involving children.

The HRC report, “The Forgotten Children: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention 2014″ in its forward says this:

It provides compelling first-hand evidence of the impact that prolonged immigration detention is having on their mental and physical health. The evidence given by the children and their families is fully supported by psychiatrists, paediatricians and academic research. The evidence shows that immigration detention is a dangerous place for children. Data from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection describes numerous incidents of assault, sexual assault and self-harm in detention environments.

Just dwell on that, assault, sexual assault and self-harm.

How is this OK?  I’m sending a letter to my local member asking for an explanation and what actions the Government is taking to address these very serious matters.

What will you do?

 

 

 

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Jan 11

Last night Michael and I along with Andrew, a friend, went out for dinner to a lovely Vietnamese restaurant in Fitzroy.

Michael dropped me off and drove off to find a car park.  Andrew was waiting on the street for me.  We greeted each other with a smile and a hello.  I would have like to have kissed him on the cheek.  A small gesture of friendship.  The right way for me to greet him.  But I didn’t.  Nor did I shake his hand, because that just felt too formal and business like.

We three sat at a table and after a time the table next to us was taken by 4 men, clearly a couple of couples out for a similar night of good food and company.

Here we are, a group of homosexual men surrounded by straight people.  All enjoying the company of our friends, eating, drinking, talking, laughing, looking.

handholdingI sit next to Michael because I like to be near to him.  I rarely touch him in public.  When I do there’s a risk analysis that my mind runs through before I reach out and place my hand on his knee or around his shoulder.  I’m looking around me to see potential threats.  Is that bearded bloke behind me with the tattoos of a skull on his elbow ok?  Will that mother over there try to shield her daughter from me?  Will the staff treat me differently?

Then I have to remind myself where I am.  I’m in funky Brunswick Street, Fitzroy.  It’s a pretty happening crowd with all sorts of people from all walks of life.  Surely they’re all gay friendly?  This won’t be an issue for anyone.

Only after that do I reach my arm out and place it around Michael’s shoulder.  Michael responds to my touch by either touching my hand or relaxing into my arm and moving closer to me.  It’s a natural, normal response.  A shared intimacy that I love.  Mind you, it only last a minute when I realise that he’s sitting to my right and my right shoulder aches too much for me to sustain it.  I wonder if I always sit with him to my right as an unthinking way of protecting my perceptions of threats.

Nothing happens, of course, apart from my shoulder aching.

When I walk down the street, I never simply slip my hand into to his.  Holding hands requires me to do another assessment of my surrounds.  I’ve had the looks of both support and scorn from others.  I’ve heard the phrase ‘faggot’ muttered when people pass me by.  That, quite frankly, scares the fuck out of me.

When Michael visits me at work we always kiss each other on the cheek.  What I really want is to be able to do that without thinking about it.  The same way I don’t give a second thought to that goodbye kiss in the morning, or the hello kiss at the end of the day in the safety of our own home.  I work in a wonderful diverse environment, and nobody raises an eyebrow about my sexuality.  Yet, I still do a scan of where we are before and after a kiss.

Why don’t I feel safe in my own country?

The ongoing threat to safety is there for me.  Real or perceived it doesn’t matter.  Years of growing up in a world where gay people have been derided and despised takes it toll.  Reports of gay bashing, discrimination and verbal abuse are presented to me on a daily basis.

I want to walk down the street and hold his hand.

I want to put my arm around him.

More than anything, I want him to sit to my left.

Take 20 minutes now and watch Panti speak at TED in Dublin.

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Oct 22

We all have impact on the people around us in many ways.  My recent television experience with Michael has had a number of people comment that they couldn’t do what we did.

Influence is important when you have a passion and a drive to make changes.  I have a passion to see all people in our society treated equally, in particular the GLBTI community and women.  It seems so odd to me that a large section of our society has to struggle for recognition and equality.

The Financial Review and Westpac have been running a recognition program to identify 100 women of influence for the last 3 years.

Their website says that they are wanting to increase the visibility of women’s leadership in Australia.  What a stark contrast of how valued Australian women are when we consider that only one woman is in the Federal Cabinet.  Where are the voices of the other half of our population?

There’s 100 of them being recognised today.  One of them is Jo Cavanagh.  In male speak, she’s my boss.  That’s right.  I work for a woman.  I would not refer to Jo as my boss.  I would say, this is Jo, she is the CEO at Family Life and we work together.  If pushed further, yes, I do report to her and we have many robust conversations, we have a good working relationship that is honest and trusting.

Let me now talk about why I admire Jo Cavanagh, OAM – CEO.

2014-Jo-CavanaghJo is without a doubt a simply amazing person.  Through her own family life and history she has a passion for fixing the injustices in the world.

Her life is dedicated to her own family – and they are equally amazing, and to her work.

She heads up an organisation of 530 people, made up of volunteers and employees.  Her passion for the well-being of children, women and families, the most vulnerable in our society is foremost in her mind.  Our mission at Family Life is through effective services, support and connections, enable children, young people and families to thrive in caring communities.

Without a doubt that is what we strive to accomplish.  It’s not easy, however, Jo is up for the challenge.

I’ve heard her speak on many occasions.  Her passion is right there.  From the moment she starts to tell the story it’s clear that she knows what she’s talking about, she knows what is required and she knows how you can help.

When Jo engages with the staff of the Agency I know that she is trying to get the best out of us to reach our mission.

When Jo advocates for our clients, our community, to our Government she does it with that same drive.

Jo is always open to learning new things, she keeps up with the latest research, she understands the nature of people’s lives and uses her skills to try and make the world a better place.

I’ve worked with Jo for over 15 years now.  I’ve been a part of the growth here at Family Life.  When I started we had about 20 staff and 1 office.  We are now 130 staff and 13 sites.  The budget has likewise grown.

This doesn’t happen through anything but hard work.  For that to happen you need someone who can drive the program forward.  You need someone with passion, love and concern for those around them.  You need someone who is forward thinking, can see what has happened in the past and what should happen in the future.

You need a clear vision, a clear mission and you need to be influential.

Jo Cavanagh is one of Australia’s Women of Influence.

She has been recoginsed with an Order of Australia Medal and now as the 2014 Woman of Influence in the Social Enterprise and Not-for-profit category.

It is fantastic to work with such a dynamic person and a true inspiration.

Congratulations Jo.

Long may you influence.  Long may you be inspirational! The world needs more people like you!

 

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Oct 18

My family has 11 children.  My mother gave birth to 5 sons and then a daughter.  I understand that there was much rejoicing when the first girl arrived.  It was said that she would be able to help my mum with all those boys and then look after my parents in their old age.

My sister was Helen, the 6th child.  She died before Mum and Dad and I don’t know how well she looked after my older brothers, and I’m not at all sure she looked after her younger siblings – as I remember rightly she introduced me to smoking and was once told by Sister Jean that girls that wear jeans have abortions.  (It was the 70’s!)  When we were young we fought with each other on a regular basis!

When going through some of Mum and Dad’s things, I came across a folder of letters to Mum when Helen was born.  This first letter is from my grand parents, Dad’s parents.  This is written in 1960.

Handwritten by Nell Storer - June 1960

Handwritten by Nell Storer – June 1960

Dear Ev,

Well what a lovely surprise for us all with your dear little daughter we hoped and prayed you would be blest with a little girl so now we are happy.

I’m sure you can hardly believe its true, you would be surprised how many people enjoy our happiness too, and a lot are outsiders.

Dad & I are going to try and see you Wednesday night, if they will allow us in, & isn’t Pat thrilled to think baby arrived on her birthday & wasn’t she pleased when Brian asked her to be God mother.

How do you feel Ev, well I hope, Brian says you are back to your old form, he is a happy man indeed they all say you both deserved your daughter.

Jeanette rang last night & she was so pleased when we told her, she says there is still hope for her. I must close Ev & hope to see you soon. Lots of love,

Mum & Dad & Pat xxx

for baby
XXX

Let me just help decipher the family tree here for you!

Dear Ev,

Mum’s name was Evelyn, she was called Eve, Ev and sometimes Evie.

I’m sure you can hardly believe its true, you would be surprised how many people enjoy our happiness too, and a lot are outsiders.

We have a very large family – I think outsiders refers to non-family members.

Dad & I are going to try and see you Wednesday night, if they will allow us in,

Uncle Graeme, Aunty Pat and Helen

Uncle Graeme, Aunty Pat and Helen

It was 1960 and not everyone got into the hospital to see patients!  I also like this quaint idea that she refers to my grandfather, Pop, as Dad.  I think that my Mum did call them Mum and Dad, but I don’t really recall.

& isn’t Pat thrilled to think baby arrived on her birthday & wasn’t she pleased when Brian asked her to be God mother.

Pat is my Aunty, Dad’s younger sister – I’m guessing she was still living at home with Nan and Pop.  Brian is my dad.  Helen was born on the June 18th, same date as Pat, something I’d forgotten about.  It must have been a thrill to be asked to be God Mother!

Jeanette rang last night & she was so pleased when we told her she says there is still hope for her.

Jeanette is my Aunty, Dad’s sister-in-law she also had a number of sons and no girls.  She did have one girl, maybe just after Helen was born.

I’m making my way through a small box of memories, there is a lot in there the provokes the thoughts of childhood and fond memories, and letters like this written before I was born, things that I knew nothing about.  I don’t know if Nan and Pop lived in Hamilton at the time, if they did, why did they write a letter?  Was it delivered to the hospital inside a card perhaps?  Did my dad take it to her?  Things we can only guess now.

Family stories.  Do your bit to ask those questions now.

 

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Oct 11

I love the spring!

The best place to smell the roses is Halls Gap in spring.  Well, smell the wildflowers at least.

Michael and I headed up to the Grampians for a weekend recently to do just that, smell the wildflowers and enjoy the great outdoors.  We left on a Friday night getting there late.

The first thing to strike me is the smell of the trees, then as you step out of the car the amazing array of stars spread across the sky above.

I think as I stop to soak it in how the First People who have lived here for over 10,000 years must have often looked up to the sky and looked in awe at the view.  The black outline of the ridges that gives way to the brilliance of the stars.  The First People called this place Gariwerd.

We started Saturday morning with a run from our motel out past Brambuk, the visitors centre, and back, just about 6 kilometres.  My normal run is several times around the local running track, so to be out in the brilliant sunlight in the cool of the morning surrounded by towering mountains, the smell of eucalypt and the odd mob of kangaroos is a real treat.

From the top of Mt William

From the top of Mt William looking towards Victoria Valley

After our breakfast our first stop is Mt William.  The mountain is the highest peak in the Grampians at 1,167 metres. The mountain reminds me of my youth.  Many times have I climbed to its peak and looked at the fantastic surrounds of the Western District and the Grampians ranges.  It’s pretty easy to get to the starting point for our walk.  You drive.  The fun starts after you get out of the car.  It’s just 2 kilometres to the top on a well paved road, however, it’s steep!

We wind our way up and around the zig-zag road.  The day is beautiful.  Bright sunlight, not too hot.  Just perfect for a slug up a mountain side.  The flora changes as we ascend.  From the tall eucalypts to the stunted bushes of the semi-alpine area.  There’s not much to stop the wind at the top as it whistles through the communications tower when we reach the summit.

It’s a hard slog, but well worth the effort.  We scramble around on the plateau exploring the rocks and taking in the view.   We head southwards towards the Major Mitchell Plateau, this is the one spot in the whole world that I want to return to.  It’s an incredible hike that takes you down the side of Mount William to the valley floor then the steep climb up the side of the MMP.  However, that’s an adventure for another day.  All I can do is look at it for now.

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The Major Mitchell Plateau from the top of Mt William

As we head back down the road to our car we pass a few people walking heading up – stopping to take plenty of photos, including a few of a 3 metre snake that winds its way across the road in front of us.

Once at the car we head on to Jimmy Creek to stop for a coffee, then onto Mafeking, home of the Grampians gold rush in the early 1900’s.  We take a stroll around the old town where once 10,000 people lived.  There’s nothing but bush here now, and a few mine shafts that have been covered up with wire mesh barriers to prevent you falling in.

Sunday morning dawns even brighter than the previous day.  Today is wildflower day.  It’s Halls Gap Annual Wild Flower Show, now into its 75th year.

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A tree with character – click on it to see the larger version

First stop is the Botanic Gardens.  I had no idea that Halls Gap had such a place.  We wander around the gardens and look a the display of wildflowers on show.  Mostly cut flowers put into old ice-cream tins.  A permit is required to pick flowers in the Grampians, so not something you’d wander around the bush doing for a lovely display on the mantlepiece at home.

There’s this fantastic tree in the gardens.  A survivor.  Be sure to click on the image to the right to see the larger size, note the ice cream tin at the foot of the tree.

We wander through the exhibition in the local hall, grab some lunch and then head southwards again to Lake Bellfield.

We stop here, as we often do at Dairy Creek, the spot never disappoints with the local corella  population taking up residence in the trees and making a fuss that only they can do.  There seems to be thousands of the things gathered in the tree-tops.  We stop for some photos.

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Corella’s at Lake Bellfield

As we drive out I’m scanning the sides of the road looking for wild flowers.  While it’s great to see the variety on display in an exhibition, what I really want to see is the real thing, flowers in the wild.

In my mind, looking at wild flowers means grasslands with huge stands of blossoms blowing merrily in the wind.  The reality is quite different.  The flowers here are tiny.  Small delicate blossoms close to the ground and scatter among the dead twigs, leaves and other tiny plants.

IMAG0793

Common Correa (Correa reflexa)

A flash of red and I stop the car.  We get out and wander a few metres into the bush.  There are the flowers, on the floor, barely 10 centimetres high with tiny flowers no larger than a 10¢ coin on the end of their slender stems.  There’s a few here and there and we carefully trod our way through the undergrowth taking great delight in finding the perfect specimen to photograph.

IMAG0976

Pink Fingers Orchid (Caladenia Carnea)

At one point I was crouched down looking at an exquisite orchid  and as I looked up at ground level my eyes were greeted with the wonderful array of flowers close by, a wonderful moment of connection for me with my husband, the ancient ground beneath my feet, the beauty of the orchid forest in front of me and the mountains as the back drop.  The warm sun, gentle breeze, the sounds of the corellas, currawongs,
kookaburras and the occasional magpie.

Another great weekend away in a place that I never tire of visiting.  It gives me a sense of mental renewal to be among such staggering beauty with the man I love and the bush I enjoy and admire.

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Native Daisy

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Oct 07

I’ve been in a very reflective mood today as I mull over the events of yesterday.

Two things happened.  Bob Katter appeared on Q&A and as expected more or less said that there are no gay people in his electorate.

Ivan Hinton-Teoh returned to his home town to confront the past.  He was a victim of homophobia in his small rural town.

Ivan is an online friend, we both have an interest in marriage equality, Ivan is the Deputy National Director of Australian Marriage Equality.  His story is powerful and emotional.  A story that needed to be told.  It made me think about my own small town experience.  It has awakened in me just how much I hated growing up.  I felt I was surrounded by bullies and vilified on a constant basis at home and at school.

The home stuff was a lot about being teased.  I was pretty good at teasing too and would wind my brothers and sisters up as much as they did me.  What we didn’t know at the time was that I was gay. The best way to niggle at me was to tell me I was a poof.  At one time my name was Gregory Elizabeth Storer. For a young lad trying to come to terms with his sexuality that sort of teasing had a lasting impact on me.  There was no intent from my siblings to cause any damage other than normal sibling rivalry.  I’m not trying to lay blame at all.  I want to highlight just how easy it is to damage the young mind and how long it can take to undo that damage.

School was just horrible.  From Grade Four I was labelled a poofter, well before I even knew what any of that meant.  I was often the victim of playground taunts and bullying.  That only escalated in Secondary School.  By the time I reached adulthood I was doing everything I could to appear heterosexual.  I lived a double life.  I had a boyfriend and we would sneak away as much as we could. I would pretend to be straight for my family, my work, the scouts and the church.

I knew how bad it was to be gay, how we spoke about gay people.  Religion, the community, my friends, they all despised homosexuals.

I suffered from my own personal homophobia.  I hated the gay in me.  I felt a cheat, a liar, dishonourable, fake and a freak.  My personal integrity is key to my sense of self-worth, so being fake and dishonourable weighed heavily on my mind.

At times I wanted to die.  Often.

I was well-regarded in my small town.  I was even made Young Citizen of the Year.  On the inside I would be arguing about how much I would be hated if only they knew that I was really a homo.

It took a long time, a lot of money, a shitload of personal reflection for me to work out that the public me and the inside me could be joined together.  I didn’t need two sides of me.

In fact, if you don’t mind me stroking my own ego, I am honourable, reliable, decent bloke.  And I am that because my key value is honesty.  Above all else I hold that to be significantly important to me.

I was devastated last night watching Q&A to witness the blatant disregard that Bob Katter has towards gay people.

As Josh Thomas was taking him to task Katter was unable to even look at him.  Here is Katter talking about the importance of mental health for farmers and he is completely unable to acknowledge that gay people exist and at times suffer great mental anguish, something that he has had a hand in creating.

It is his attitude and those of people like him that allows him and our society to marginalise and vilify people just like me.  It is people like him that I went to school with that picked on me and thought it was all in good fun.

It is people like him that even now cause me uncertainty.  Every day I have to deal with what I tell people.  Will they treat me differently if they know I’m gay?  Do I tell them?  What would the ramifications be?  I’m trying to do a job here and it shouldn’t be an issue.  Do I come out to that contractor?  How much of a friendship do I want with that supplier?  Is that a look of contempt from a colleague because I’m gay?

More and more now I simply don’t care, people can like it or lump it.  But a lifetime of checking oneself is hard to simply give up in 10 short years.  How much of it is in my head?  How much is real?

So that’s me.  I have resilience and support.  I have a great well of support, my husband, my children, my family, my friends, my work-mates.  Despite the odd bit of insecurity, I know who I am, I’m not afraid to tell you and will even take you to task at the drop of a hat.  But imagine being young, searching, unsure.  If you are gay and trying to understand yourself and how you fit into this society then last night’s program may have had a negative impact on you.

If you’re a Bob Katter then you need to watch what Ivan has to say.  You need to feel his raw emotions on display for the world to see.  You need to see his vulnerability.  Because Ivan is the young gay kid in every rural community struggling to make sense of himself in a world created for heterosexuals.

Thanks Ivan.

This is mental health week – take care of your mental health.  Be aware of other people’s mental health.

You never know where your homophobic attitudes will land.


If you need to talk to someone about mental health, please phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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