Aug 10

There’s so much to think about because the government have moved to a postal vote for marriage equality in Australia. In this 10 minutes I share why I’m having trouble coming to terms with why people should vote on my right to get married.

Please share!

 

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Jul 23

It’s 11p.m. on a Saturday night, and as I’ve done so many times over the years, I’m sitting in front of a computer thinking about going to sleep.

For many years I sat here because I had two young children and I was unable to leave the house.  Tonight is different.  My two now grown up children have left home.  Tomas leaving just this last Wednesday.  Tonight we party.   As I sit here in my own space, a room just for me and my computer, I have the sound of a party happening behind me.  There is the hum of voices and I can hear Caitlin and Tomas talking eagerly with their friends.  Every now and then there’s a crescendo as the stories are told and the voices get excited before everyone breaks off into laughter.  It is truly a wonderful sound of happiness, friendship and unsaid love between friends.  Tonight’s a special night.  For tomorrow the house will be empty.  I will no longer need to live in a 3 bedroom house with room for Caitlin and Tomas.  So, Michael and I will live in a smaller house.

My mind goes back to when my parents left the family home.  The home where we all grew up, all 11 of us.  So many memories of this great house in McIntyre Street.  My parents sold up and moved to Queensland.  I was the last to leave home and remember the intense feeling of sadness as that phase of my life passed.

And here I am again, at the threshold of the start of a new phase.  A free man, without the worry of who is home for dinner and what I need to do.  Of whether or not I need to be aware of who needs to be out the front door in the morning. Of whether or not there is enough cheese, bread or milk in the fridge.

Tonight Caitlin and Tomas have their friends here.  There are people here who have been friends since the early 2000’s.  They have visited us so many times.  They have been to so many parties here in this house.  This place is as much a part of their lives as it has been ours.

They’ve gathered in a circle, about 20 young people.  Their eyes twinkle, their faces are alive with happiness.  They seem to all be talking at the same time.  All around is delight and joy.

The TV is showing photos of our lives in the house and the guests laugh as their younger selves make an appearance.

There’s birthday parties, celebrations and photos of everyday life.  Our home is chocker block full of memories.

Every birthday was had right here, at home.  Friends would come and we’d celebrate.  We would decorate the house for a mermaid theme, or a scary party.  We’ve had a space theme, Star Wars and a Knights theme.

The parties end with all of us standing outside with sparklers and delighting in the sparks flying off in all directions.

We’ve been happy here, we’ve laughed and cried together.  We’ve yelled and been angry.  We’ve broken things and fixed them.  We’ve measured our height on the door post and posted our artwork  to the walls.

Mostly what we have is great memories.  This has been our home.

Like the sparklers dimming and fading, now is the time for us to fade too.

We’re going to light up the world in different ways, and every now and then, we’ll come together to shine.

That’s what our family does.

 

 

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Jun 02

Recently I was on the tele talking about Margaret Court’s foray into the marriage equality debate.  Court is a tennis legend, won all sorts of games in the 60’s and 70’s.  She was good at watching a small green ball and hitting it with a stick with strings.  That’s my understanding of tennis.

 

And here’s Michael earlier in the day talking with Neil Mitchell on 3AW

Court has decided to say some very outdated things about GLBTIQ people over the last week.  There have been calls for the renaming of a court at the Melbourne Tennis Centre named in her honour, The Margaret Court Arena.

The debate has been raging between those who claim that Court is being bullied, those against renaming the court and those who think we should.  Everyone has an opinion.

At the heart of all of this is a single concept.  Free Speech.

Just what is it you’re allowed to say in public?  Of course, you can say anything you like.  Court has spoken in public,  she has used her legend status to be heard.  Now she is claiming that her free speech is being denied, despite having full access to the media and being able to further her ideas and still be heard.

What we’re really seeing here is important.  It’s about what’s acceptable topics in modern Australian society. We are deciding what our community standards.  Australians are struggling with that very notion.

The same as we’ve struggled with holocaust deniers, racist statements and misogyny.  We are witnessing an adjustment in attitude.

It’s simply no longer appropriate to use a public forum to express views that vilify the GLBTIQ community.  It’s not OK to call us products of the devil, say we can’t raise children, or even that marriage is only between a man and a woman.

The days of saying those things in public are passing.  You can see it happening before your eyes.

Before those that will be upset by this notion cry about free speech.  The free speech has been flying for years, and society is saying enough is enough.  Modify your language if you want to have discussions in public.  You’re not being told that you can’t hold your views, you’re not being told to change your views.  You are perfectly entitled to believe whatever you like.

As a society the expectations of community engagement are undergoing an adjustment.  Just like there are the deniers, the racist and the misogynist still out there, they have mostly being told to shut up.

Bigotry around gender diversity and sexual orientation is next.

Our society will be better when that bigotry is added to the list of unacceptable talking points.

Time to adjust the attitudes.

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May 20

Recently the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has been attempting to cast themselves as being bullied into silence by the gay activists.  The suggestion being that somehow people like me, people like Michael and a whole gaggle of others, in using our voice, our free speech, somehow impinges on their rights.  They manage still to get their word out.  The ACL continues to spread misinformation about the reality of our lives, our families and our rights.

I think the reality is that they are the modern-day face of the bully.

Today, Michael and I, and a stack of other allies, supporters and our GLBTIQ community have been at another Equal Love Rally in Melbourne, where we stand around and people tell us that the government needs to let us get married.  We all yell and cheer, boo at times.  So many of these I’ve been to.

Michael has lovely eyes.

See.

He posted this to Facebook with this message:

Take a moment to think how lucky we are to be able to attend a Pride Rally and walk around with rainbow paint on our faces in Australia without fear of persecution or being sent to a concentration camp.

And he’s right.  Even as we protest the government’s inaction on equality for all Australians, we live in a civil society that lets everyone get on with their life.

Today, as I stood there, a man was handing out bibles.  There was also a group of muslims talking about their faith, and the Socialist Alliance were there too, milling about hoping to get a few signatures on their petitions.  Such a mixed bag of people with very different views.

Among the crowds mingle the Police.  Present to keep the peace and, more importantly to show their support.

And check out this Police badge on the back of a Police Officers hi-vis vest.  It’s in the rainbow colours.

She even had a smaller one on the front.  It’s a comforting picture.

It’s not too long ago when the GLBTIQ community could be subjected to murder, bashings and being locked up by the police.

I posted this image of the rainbow badge to Facebook and someone commented about how she’d been bashed in the last couple of years by the police.

That’s really horrible.

For some of us, being non-straight is still horrific, life threatening.  The person has little respect for the police and, it would appear, no trust.

During the week the hate-group the ACL published a blog with the headline:

Now The Queensland Police Uniform Is Being Used To Promote Rainbow Politics

Here’s a copy of the page, and here’s the link. (The ACL often delete their blog posts)

Wendy Francis, leader of the Queensland branch of the hate-group, says this:

“Of course no one wants to see any member of the community bullied or discriminated against for any reason,” ACL Queensland Director Wendy Francis said.
“And of course ‘phobia’ towards other people is irrational.
“But the rainbow political flag, adapted to police uniform lanyards represents a political agenda for marriage and re-shaping society’s understanding of gender.
“Exerting soft pressure on police to identify with the rainbow political agenda for redefining marriage and teaching children their gender is fluid through so-called ‘Safe Schools’ is not appropriate,” Ms Francis said.

The point of course has flown over her head like a cowshit hitting the grass in the paddock, splattered and leaving a smelly mess.

Police have long been known as being quite intolerant of the GLBTIQ community.  Even today we have stories of cover ups and bashings.

The rainbow vest badge seen today and the Queensland lanyards aren’t political statements.  They are however statements.  They say “Hey, you can trust me, I’m one of you, I won’t hurt you”.

It takes a modern-day bully to pretend that every time they see a rainbow that somehow it’s about gay marriage or a political statement.

Francis can talk about soft pressure, her pressure is more like she’s run her fingers through the cowshit and smeared it all over her face.

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May 12

This is my dog.  Was my dog.  He’s gone now.  Went a long time ago.

He was a Koolie, an Australian working dog.  He was also a little thick.  Still a wonderful dog that was devoted and happy as dogs tend to be.

We called him Waddley Archa.  Waddley for short.  It’s a name I picked up from a song that I learned in the USA in 1984.  I was working at an American summer camp with the Scouts for 6 weeks.   Every week we’d have a campfire as the grand finale of the week with that group of boys.  We’d sing lots of songs, I’d lead them in Waltzing Matilda.  It was a fun time.

I learned several new songs, as you do when you travel around.  I brought them back to Australia and taught my own Cub Scouts these new songs, Waddle-ee-ah-cha was one of them.  It was really just a nonsense song, no purpose to it, and it had a nice little tune, good to sing around a camp fire.  It may have had some actions, and I’ve been sitting here singing it and going through the actions, they don’t seem right, and I look a right dill waving my arms around poking my nose and kicking my feet up.

Here’s the lyrics as recorded in the song book from the summer camp:

 

Waddle-ee-ah-cha, waddle-ee-ah-cha

Doodle-ee-do, doodle-ee-do,

Waddle-ee-ah-cha, waddle-ee-ah-cha

Doodle-ee-do, doodle-ee-do,

Some folks say there ain’t nothing to it,

All you gotta do is doodle-ee-do it.

I like the rest but the part I like the best

Is doodle-ee-do doodle-ee-do, Oy!

So, nice story.  But wait, there’s more!

I was playing around on the net and found myself at archive.org, The Internet Archive.  It’s a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.  I saw that they had a bunch of music recorded from old 78rpm records.  I’ve got a few old 78’s in the cupboard, and an old gramophone to play them on.  So I began searching through the treasure of old music to see if there were any recordings that I knew.  And there was.

In amongst them was one called Doodle-Le-Do  by Harry Raby and the 3-D Valley Boys.  It’s not dated.  I almost went right on past it, then the words began to sing in my mind and I thought, no, it couldn’t be.  I hit play and there it was!  The song actually has music to it!

So, here’s to Waddley and Darcy, our two dogs.  Hit play and feel free to sing along.

Waddley and Darcy.

 

 

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Apr 02

News Ltd continues its unwarranted attack on Michael, ignoring the substance of his activism.  Piers Akerman is the latest bully to make shit up.

IT’S a sad truth that those who so recently claimed to be the bullied are now among the world’s greatest bullies.

Great way to start an article, an assertion, without any substance.  Essentially saying that we, the GLBTIQ activists, that are being bullied by the media, are in fact the bullies.  And we’re really good at it, we’re up there with the greatest of the world’s bullies.

None more so than the ­alphabetical jumble of the ­gender confused in their pursuit of the destruction of the ancient and revered traditional form of marriage.

Straight into it then, lets insult the GLBTIQ community, call it a jumble and tell us were confused and want to end the world!  This notion that we want to destroy marriage is plainly and clearly stupid.  Marriage will continue once marriage equality is here.  How then will it be destroyed?  Simply, it won’t.  People will get married, some will have children, some will stay together, some will divorce, some will be happy, some won’t.  There will just be more of us doing it.

To his great credit, Glenn Davies, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, called out the thugs running the so-called marriage equality and diversity campaigns and exposed them and their brutish standover tactics in an unequivocal article in The Australian on Friday.

Thugs? Brutish stand-over tactics?  Davies is kicking up that some folk dare to challenge the status quo and question the authority of the church to set the tone of the debate.  Apparently we should all just shut the fuck up and let archbishops tell us what to do.  Davies uses this antiquated church office of privilege to tell the rest of us what to think and say.  It’s been a long time since the church had any moral authority.

“Not only has this minority view tried to swamp the public debate with its introspective, authoritarian denial of free speech, it has struck at the heart of Australian democracy and the freedoms that we all cherish,” he wrote.

I really want to laugh.  However, I think he is serious.  For centuries the church has been claiming that we are deviants.  We had no way to combat this absurd claim.  We have been killed, locked up, vilified and abused.  We are finding a voice, using it to point out that our treatment is not fair.  For this he claims that we are swamping the debate!  We are denying free speech.  We are undermining democracy and freedoms.  Like we somehow have superpowers to overturn our political system.

Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies spoke out against the “same-sex marriage campaign”.

The use of quotes around same-sex marriage campaign here tries to minimise the reality of the campaign.  It isn’t something that is marginal or unbelievable.  It’s real and happening, right now.

“This narrow-minded, freedom-restricting carping is what the same-sex marriage campaign has come to.

“At the beginning, the promise seemed to be innocent enough — change one word in the marriage legislation and there would be equality for all.

“Now, as people start to ­digest the magnitude of such a social change and the ramifications that would follow for families and the rest of the community when marriage is cut adrift from the significance of gender distinctiveness (the Safe Schools Coalition program is only one of these side effects), other voices are starting to speak up.”

Sigh.  So much to do, so little time.  We start by getting married, then we will begin on the social ramifications, we’ll make sure that your children will understand that they don’t need to be restricted to the narrow-minded version of the world that archbishops see, but that the world is truly diverse and you can be who you want to be and the world won’t end.

The archbishop cited ­numerous examples of the manner in which the homosexual marriage lobby had threatened its opponents and attempted to block debate on this issue with putrid campaigns designed to target Christians, in particular, but discourage all those who refused to fall into line.

Who on the homosexual marriage lobby has threatened anyone?  We’re not blocking debate, we are leading it.  Nobody is being shut down.  That is such a laughable statement.  Here are the archbishop, Akerman, the ACL and the whole of News Ltd speaking out.  Just how are you being blocked?  You wanted a debate?  You got it.  No longer does this debate have to be on the terms you want.  I for one am sick of playing by your rules where you get to tell me how to do it.

He mentioned the forced cancellation of a meeting of church leaders last year in Sydney after staff at the planned venue were subjected to an ­extremely ugly campaign of harassment and threats.

Please refer to the centuries of harassment and threats perpetrated on the GLBTIQ community that still goes on today.  The church leaders meet in a public place to discuss strategy on how to block our efforts for equality and we should just stand back and let it happen.  Use Skype.

He pointed to the case brought against the Catholic Archbishop of Hobart Julian Porteous before the Tasmanian Anti-­Discrimination Tribunal when that archbishop merely supported the current laws on marriage, which also happen to be the view of his church — all churches — and that held by civilised nations for millennia.

The key word here is merely.  It was so much more than that.  It’s a clear example of the church flexing its control and trying to shut down debate.

Archbishop Davies also drew attention to the manner in which some so-called leaders in the corporate world had folded before social media­ attacks of online pests like serial protester Michael Barnett, whose vile Twitter feed opposing views contrary to his own gives the lie to his claim to be a supporter of “diversity”.

They’re not so-called leaders, they are the top management, CEOs and managers.  You know, leaders.  They don’t fold because someone sent a tweet.  Seriously, you don’t get to be at the top by folding every time someone sends a tweet.

Our ABC showed its own weakness in this debate by posting an apology to Barnett on Thursday which said its program The Drum had “incorrectly” drawn a connection between the marriage equality debate and Barnett’s references to corporate commitments to “Pride and Diversity”, an employer program that campaigns for inclusion for the ­alphabet soup of gender iden­tity.

Or… they realised they made a mistake.  Go figure.

There is not the clichéd cigarette paper’s separation from the issues, they are indivisible, just two sides of the same coin, but the ABC hand-wringers, signed up members to the homosexual marriage and diversity push, rushed to collapse and apologise rather than simply telling Barnett it had fully embraced his ­agenda, even if it may not have agreed with his more abhorrent tweets.

They are very different issues, however, because both issues, diversity and marriage equality, are about the alphabet soup of gender identity I can see why you’re confused.  It’s all to do with the gayz, so therefore all the same issue.  We are just a single body of people who are all in the same soup bowl.

The Barnetts of the world have adopted the bullying tactics used by the climate change lobbyists, formerly known as the global warmists.

What?  As far as a rift to change keys go, this is more like the band leaving the stage and being replaced by some kids with xylophones.  I’ll have to cut a few paragraphs where he attacks climate change, racial discrimination and the colour of black.

Confronting ideas with ideas was once the goal of great universities and the foundation of the great civilising ideas that enabled the growth of the West.

Yeah, so here we are confronting your ideas of how the world should work. Just like it’s been happening.  The world is round, it spins around the sun, around the huge galactic central point.  It doesn’t spin around you and your keyboard.  We’re busy pointing out that ideas are bigger than just doing things the way we’ve always done them.  People are more diverse than you would like to acknowledge and they too have a place in our society to be recognised as fully-fledged citizens.

You know, we’re enabling the growth of the West.  Whatever the fuck that is in a globalised world.

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Mar 30

Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2.

I wasn’t going to write a Part 3 – I thought I’d covered it all.  However, this has taken on a life all of its own and is a good example of how the media has its own agenda and will use their strength to steamroll anyone who doesn’t meet their criteria.

Today The Australian, and I won’t link to them any more, ran another article on Michael and his activism.  They go digging into the past, give little snippets and avoid the whole story.  This tactic enables them to paint a less-than-rosy picture of Michael’s activism.

The headline screams, well, that’s a bit much, it doesn’t scream at all, it is a headline.  There in big letters it says:

Twitter troll who bullies brewers has little love for LGBTI peers

Now Michael has a bunch of new labels.  His name badge is getting quite large.  He is now a Twitter Troll and a Bully and  a Little Love.  I consider him to be my big love.  That’s all he needs on a badge.  I shall get one made up.  He isn’t a Twitter Troll.  You want to see trolls, go look on the Internet, there’s plenty of real trolls.  Michael has raised concerns with people in positions of authority over conflicts of interest.  Hardly trolling.

It’s true of Michael that for some of his peers he has little love.  I have little love for some of my peers too – I guess you probably do too.  You know, just because we’re all part of humanity doesn’t mean that we have to love everyone.  Just because we’re all part of this rather odd bunch of GLBTI people doesn’t mean we all get along.

I want to go through this article sentence by sentence, but I won’t.  Let me be selective, fill in some gaps and leave out a bunch of stuff.  After all, that seems to be the way the media operates.  They have all this essentially unlimited space online and still leave stuff out.  Go figure.

Having pressured Coopers, IBM and PwC and their senior staff to sever links with Christian associations, gay rights activist Michael Barnett has turned his sights on academia, demanding Macquarie University force one of its lecturers to renounce a Christian educational organisation.

He didn’t pressure Coopers any more than the hundreds of other people did.  Likewise there has been no pressure on IBM, PwC or Macquarie University.  It’s about as much pressure as you’d apply to a leaky balloon with a bit of sticky tape, not the weight of an elephant stepping on your head.  As for ‘force’ and ‘demanding’ and ‘renounce’ I mean, really?  

Barnett doesn’t want to talk about how Aleph members tried to sack him? Star Observer, April 15, 2010:

A growing rift in Melbourne’s Jewish gay community saw a war of words via email last week, with members of gay Jewish support group Aleph accusing current convener Michael Barnett for being too hostile.

Sack him?  I was at the meeting, no mention of sacking at all.  People were very cross and expressed themselves.  Of course, what is missing here is the background as to how it came about.  It’s easy to create a picture of division when you only part tell the story.

Melbourne’s LGBTI Jews were not happy with Barnett’s bullyboy act. Star Observer, continued:

… other members of the 80-strong group had been “embarrassed” by Barnett’s constant “angry” emails and the group is now discussing ways to establish a new executive committee which may or may not include Barnett.

Yeah, that’s right.  The 80-strong group, they talked a lot.  Offered little support before they were embarrassed, made a lot of noise and disappeared up their own clackers never to be seen again.  In the long run, Michael’s ‘angry’ emails paid huge dividends in the community.

Barnett hasn’t changed his spots. Aleph’s official Twitter account, Nov­ember 25 last year:

We have cancelled our registration in the 2017 Pride March due to @midsumma accepting @newscorpaus sponsorship. First absence since 1997.

What do you mean spots?  Clearly you don’t know him very well.  Michael has remained steadfast in his commitment to diversity, celebration and acceptance of people over all the years I’ve known him.  We, he and I, continue to learn and modify our approach to how we engage.  Boycotting Pride March and Midsumma this year was because of  The Australian and other News Limited media sponsorship arrangement with Midsumma.  It was a reaction to the ongoing vilification that these media outlets engage in on a regular basis.   I still can’t believe that Midsumma didn’t give up this sponsorship.  Again, Michael’s actions are vindicated by this continuing unwarranted attack on him.

The smear campaign is supported by the Letters to the Editor in The Australian.  They show just how the influence of the media can skew the intent and influence the reader.  Here’s a smattering.

Activists are engaging in systematic persecution

A provocative headline to the letters, and simply untrue.  

I thought we lived in a democratic society where freedom of speech, religion and association were protected (“Gay rights activist turns on Christian academic”, 29/3), so I find the actions of these LGBTI campaigners disturbing. They are doing to others what they have suffered in history.

Somehow we aren’t entitled to enjoy freedom of speech?  So, others have suffered in history.  I’m here to tell you, Vita Mezzatesta from Pascoe Vale, Vic, we are suffering right now, and we are kicking back.  Using our free speech and pointing out what’s wrong with the world.

These activist groups can’t touch me directly, and so I write to express my displeasure with all the self-centred, self-serving, intolerant minorities that now attempt to control our lives. There was a time that you could just say bugger off and that was the end of it, but now they have this need to force feed their views on everyone.

You make me laugh Richard Thomson from Kent Town, SA.  Michael is not self-centred or self-serving.  Control your life?  You’d like to tell us to bugger off?  Get back in the closet perhaps?  Force their views on everyone?  Come on.  Perhaps you simply don’t like having your attitudes and beliefs so directly challenged.  Perhaps those beliefs are outdated and wrong.

Then we hear from Alex Greenwich from the lobby group, Australian Marriage Equality.  Alex is a key player in the group and a NSW MP.  This is what I’d call the lead group from our community that is leading the charge to achieve equality for us in marriage rights.  They are self-appointed.  It’s unclear as to how they are funded or how they decide what to do.  

Here’s Alex’s letter.

Our campaign for marriage equality has always been and always will be based on positive, respectful and inclusive conversations to win over the hearts and minds of Australians. The national conversation about marriage equality will only be won if people can have conversations and are allowed to ask any genuine questions they may have.

For many people, same-sex couples having access to civil marriage is a straightforward reform that takes from no one but provides a profound positive change to the lives of lesbian and gay Australians, their parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents and friends.

However, there are still people who have genuine questions and it’s important that we continue to listen and engage respectfully. It is because of our respect for the institution of marriage that we will keep engaging until we can join millions of Australians in marrying the person we love in the country we love.

As we continue along the journey to achieving marriage equality, we must do it through uniting, not dividing, and being respectful of everyone’s views along the way.

Alex Greenwich, Australian Marriage Equality, Darlinghurst, NSW

Alex has really let the side down on this one.  He has an ideal opportunity to reset the debate, but instead goes on the sneaky attack.  Essentially Michael’s activism around Pride in Diversity is thrown under the bus by AME.  Michael has supportively pushed, promoted, encouraged and engaged with AME for many, many years.  Not one of them so much as picked up the phone for a chat with him.  Not a Facebook message, an SMS or even an email.  It’s not like they don’t know who he is.  Alex says that we must achieve marriage equality through uniting, not dividing and being respectful.

Michael’s current concern has zero to do with marriage equality.  Alex could have discovered that quite easily.  He could have distanced himself by saying that Michael isn’t talking about marriage equality, he’s talking about Pride in Diversity and members of the ACL employed by organisations that pride themselves on the diversity.

Let me put this as clearly as I can.  The ACL is not the church, they don’t represent a denomination.  They exist to promote their version of christianity, and in that version there are no gay people, no lesbians and no transgender people.  They might tolerate the bisexuals if you only have married sex with the opposite sex, and intersex people if you have surgery to conform to either male or female.  The Lachlan Macquarie Institute is wholly owned by the ACL.  

These two organisation are intolerant of anyone that isn’t heterosexual.  They pretend to be nice, but underneath the facade is a real desire to spread their version of Christianity far and wide.  They are not our friends.  They seek only to have it their way.  They represent a very small part of our society, even smaller than the GLBTI community.

They are not our friends.

Alex had the chance here to give them a kick in the nuts, instead he plays the nice gay boy who doesn’t want to upset the apple cart.  The News Limited media support the ACL.  They don’t play nice and need to make Michael out to be the bad boy, hold him up as an example of what is wrong with the ‘gay lobby’.  Make their readership, that already hates us, justify that hatred.  We play into their hands, and to the hands of the ACL when we, the activist, the ‘gay’ lobby groups and the ordinary GLBTI folk placate them, pretend we are being inclusive when in fact the media is driving the wedge between us and the rest of society.

That is a missed opportunity.

 

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Mar 30

In Part 1 I looked at the background of how Michael’s tweets started, what was driving them and the conflict between holding personal views that are at odds with those you’ve signed up for in the work place.

To recap, Board members of the right-wing religious institution, the Lachlan Macquarie Institute hold positions in organisations that are part of Pride in Diversity, an organisation that benchmarks diversity in Australian workplaces to gauge how inclusive those workplaces are.  The institute is fully owned and run by the Australian Christian Lobby, an organisation that lobbies to keep gay people out of the public sphere and deny equal rights because that’s what Jesus would want.

Michael’s activism in this case has been around the conflict between the two organisations; a simple question of how can you deny the GLBTI community their place in society (Institute’s view) while working at a place that encourages and values the GLBTI community.

The Australian newspaper, owned by News Limited, is no friend of the GLBTI community.  News Limited constantly publish stories, opinion and cartoons that vilify me and everyone in the community.  It’s not a pretty look for a news organisation.

The non-heterosexual citizens of Australia have long been the plaything of the media.  They love to get a good ‘gay’ story to play with.  It drives people to read and interact with their publications. It enables them to generate outrage and to dehumanise those who are different.  I’ve seen it time and time again and have blogged on it.

This is the ultimate.  To take a few tweets and conflate them into something quite ugly.  The tweets asked the two organisations how it was possible for someone who clearly doesn’t support diversity is able to hold positions of leadership at both organisations.

Once The Australian had run front page stories on this, other media ran with it.  However, The Australian made the issue about marriage equality, which it has never been about.

Let’s just track this through a little.

It all starts with the head honcho of the ACL and openly-straight man, Lyle Shelton.  I  say openly straight because whenever someone is not straight, they need to be labelled as such.

Wilson, an openly same-sex attracted man, spoke in favour of redefining marriage and Hastie, an unashamed “Bible reading” Christian spoke for retaining the definition of marriage.

Moderated by Matt Andrews, the short video was simply designed to showcase the Biblical virtue of disagreeing agreeably as part of the Bible Society’s 200th anniversary celebrations. The issue being discussed was immaterial as the Bible Society has not been a participant in the political debate.

I assume that Matt Andrews is an openly opposite-sex attracted man.  It would help if Lyle said so, just so we are clear.  I’d hate to think he was some middle-aged gay bear.  In his meandering blog post Lyle says:

A quick scroll through the #boycottcoopers hashtag on Twitter revealed many of the same vicious people who troll me.
Michael Barnett (Twitter handle @Mikeybear), for instance, was instrumental in spooking Price Waterhouse Coopers last year because one of their senior partners was a board member of ACL.

Lyle goes on to bring every other issue dear to his heart into the blog and finishes with the Leak cartoon of men in rainbow uniforms, a really very disrespectful and downright vilifying cartoon.

At this stage, Michael has called for Coopers to clarify if they support marriage equality.  Which it turns out that they do.  All good in a days work.

Then we have all these CEOs from top Australian companies signing a letter that calls for the government to make marriage equality a reality in Australia.  This made big news, everyone was onto that one, after all one of the people to sign the letter was Alan Joyce, an openly-gay CEO.

Mr Dutton yesterday suggested CEOs, including openly gay Qantas boss Alan Joyce, should “stick to their knitting” rather than trying to “bully” governments into certain positions.

And here starts this notion that writing a letter asking for something is bullying.  It’s a theme that the media and lobby groups love to tout.  It would seem that if you disagree with another’s point of view that somehow makes you the bully.  If you tweet about something that makes other uncomfortable you’re a bully.

The Australian’s Rebecca Urban,  then publishes this headline:

Jewish LGBTI activist defends his role in Coopers boycott saga

along with this paragraph,

A vocal gay rights activist has defended his role in the Coopers boycott saga, claiming he did not accept that the company was hounded into professing public support for marriage equality.

Michael Barnett, convener of Jewish LGBTI support group Aleph Melbourne, said it was unfortunate the brewer had severed its long-term relationship with the Bible Society in response to the backlash over its beer featuring in a “lighthearted” debate about same-sex marriage.

Michael is now a gay rights activist, a Jewish convener.  Neither label is appropriate.  Any more than an author being called Rebecca Urban, Lesbian Writer and Member of the Knitters Minders Club.  (I made both of those up).  Why define Michael as Jewish, what’s the point of that, apart from saying to everyone something along the lines of look – this gay Jewish poof is getting out of line.  This Jew is telling us Christians how to do things.  He’s way too vocal, let’s put him back in his box.

The next part in the saga happens when Michael notes that a member of the Lachlan Macquarie Institute board is also on staff of IBM.  IBM, as I discussed last time, is pretty big on Pride in Diversity.  Our Lesbian Writer and Chief Knitter takes to her paper and says:

Marriage equality advocate IBM Australia is being targeted by ­militant gay rights activists who have condemned the company over a senior executive’s links to a ­Christian organisation.

Urban makes it about marriage equality.  Which it isn’t.  It’s about the conflict between the company diversity policy and an executive’s personal position.  We now have more labels; Michael is now militant and gay.  Militant.

Others jump into the discussion.  Andrew Bolt uses the phrase ‘Totalitarian Gays’, the ACL says he uses ‘standover tactics’, he’s on a witch-hunt on the ABC.  The Australian editorial calls him a ‘Jewish Campaigner’, the ABC’s God Forbid show thinks he is ‘thin-skinned’ and somehow free speech is under attack.

Meanwhile all sorts of abuse is hurled our way with none of the big guys calling anyone to account for their hatred and vilification.  Not IBM, not Macquarie University.  Silence.  They’ll just ride it out.

The best bit comes when the ACL takes the really odd step of removing all directors information from their website and asks the ACNC to remove details from the public database, something about safety fears.  Pretending that somehow hordes of the gayz will descend upon them with desires to gay marry them to their knitting or something.

The saga will go on I’m sure, and from where I stand I’m aghast at how quickly the media gets off track and makes things up.  I’m not surprised at all.  It’s the way it works.  It’s important to have a villain in every story.  The Australian love to vilify those who aren’t, well, aren’t like them.

Michael’s actions are described as ‘the gay lobby’, ‘rainbow agenda’ and various other untrue areas.

And where are the gay lobby groups in all of this.  Where is our gay press?

*Crickets*

Not only has nobody from Australian Marriage Equality told him to shut up, they haven’t uttered a single word of support.  Not one of the Just Equal crowd have re-tweeted or Facebook-ed a message of support.  The gay press is silent and happy to let it run.

Yes, there’s support out there, plenty of it.  Michael runs alone with this, doing what I would see as good work it holding big corporations to account, as much as a single solitary person can.

It’s not an easy task and we often talk about how each of us handle the onslaught, how we respond and what we think about our approach.  We do it with respect and love.  Something that other parties should think on.  It doesn’t take much to respect other people and to question why they are doing this.

There will be a Part 3, there’s more to talk about.

To finish, the Twitter sphere is going off and there are plenty of nasty people lining up to tar us with all sorts of things.

 

 

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Mar 29

It all starts with a tweet:

That’d be my activist husband.  He calls himself on his Twitter profile:

Campaigner for human rights and equality.

Not gay rights, not marriage equality rights, human rights and equality.  For everyone.

Of course, it’s not so simple to say it all starts with this tweet.  Michael had already piqued the interest of The Australian following the Coopers Brewery debacle with the Bible Society and a couple of right-wing Liberal party members.

The misinterpretation and bad reporting by just about everyone starts with this tweet:

Sure, Michael gets sweary.  Some people find that challenging.  I myself try to limit my swearing to private conversations, I’m not always successful.  I don’t find tweets with ‘fuck’ in them much of a problem.  It’s easy to pick up on public swearing as some sort of measure of a person’s moral standing.  Or, you could use it as a measure of the stress and frustration by Michael when a section of society sees non-heterosexuals as deviants, perverts, sinners and plain and simply evil.  They play nice, say nice things, they mean really mean things.

As an aside, as I don’t want to dwell on the Coopers Brewery situation too much.  My objection to this was simply that the Bible Society thought it suitable to have a light-hearted conversation about marriage equality.  That is, my right to have my marriage to Michael recognised by the State.  Human rights are not something our politicians should be having a light-hearted conversation about over a beer.

The Australian has led the charge in indignation following Michael’s tweets.  They’ve splashed his name across the front page of their newspaper and generated quite the media storm with various outlets making assumptions. Most of those assumptions are incorrect.

I can categorically say that Michael has not asked for anyone to be sacked.  I can also say that he has not made a connection between the current marriage equality quest and people belonging to the Australian Christian Lobby’s board or the Lachlan Macquarie Institute Board.  It is so much more than that.

So, the background.  Michael has tweeted about Mark Allaby from IBM and Steven Chavura from Macquarie University.  IBM and Macquarie University are part of Pride in Diversity.  These men also sit on the Board of the Lachlan Macquarie Institute.

Pride in Diversity runs the Australian Workplace Equality Index.  Organisations undertake the bench-marking for a variety of reasons, at the crux of the work is the value that they see in ensuring that their employees are happy in their workplace and that managers are supportive of the diverse workforce they have.

IBM is considered a silver tier employer in 2016 benchmarks.  That is, they have undertaken a significant amount of work in the area of GLBTI inclusion and are currently very active in the space.  Macquarie University are on the bronze tier, they have provided sufficient evidence of work in the space to be considered to have GLBTI inclusive workplace.  Both organisations take their workforce seriously in relation to inclusiveness and diversity with respect to the non-heterosexuals amongst them.  The Pride in Diversity participation is voluntary, and I would guess seen as important to these workplaces, it’s a lot of work to get to the top rankings.

I’m sure that IBM and Macquarie University have staff ethics statements and codes of conduct that talk to this diversity.    One of the sections in the benchmarks is about policy and practice.  Like all workplaces you would be expected to sign these codes and statements in good faith and agree to abide by them.

Lachlan Macquarie Institute is attempting to train up-and-coming leaders of the future.  They would like them to carry the Christian message into their public lives.  They are guided by a board, and that board is very similar to the board of the Australian Christian Lobby.  The ACL has been going out of its way to make life for people like me difficult.  The Institute’s director writes this on the web site:

What we seek to achieve by this programme is the transformation of the nature of politics and governance in Australia. By helping develop the character and intellectual foundations of future politicians, journalists, advisors and public policy influencers before they step into public life.  The hope is that  we  will see more decisions based on a solid understanding of what is good, true and beautiful in light of the revelation of Jesus Christ.

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God”

– 2 Corinthians 5:20

Nick Jensen – Director – Lachlan Macquarie Institute

In a nutshell, they want to train people to carry the hard-right religious message into the world.  That message that says the only good thing in the world is heterosexuals, white and middle class.

How then is it possible for Allaby and Chavura to sit on the Board of the Lachlan Macquarie Institute while at the same time working in organisations that actively work to attain status in the Pride In Diversity Program?

This is the question that is being asked.  The evidence of the staff at both organisations would appear to be at odds.  Further questions I think that are worth asking is do the organisation really want to belong to Pride in Diversity or is it just lip service?  Is it possible to shield your faith from your work when that faith actually requires you to influence your work place?  What protection do the GLBTI community have from those that consider them to be second class citizens?

In part two I’ll take a look at the media-shit-storm that is raging from inaccurate reporting.

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Mar 02

An early morning walk is always good – however I must admit to a certain level of madness to be walking in the hills before dawn.  The rewards are quite stunning.

My watch started vibrating right on 6.00 a.m.  I was already awake, lying there waiting for it to go off.  It’s important never to get out of bed before the alarm goes off, it’s a universal rule and as I will show, universal rules are not to be toyed with.

I turn the light on, stumble around the room, find the suitable attire that I’d carefully laid out the night before, brush teeth, beard and hair, throw some items into the backpack and head out the door by 6.10 a.m.

It is dark.  The stars remain bright, overhead is Spica with Jupiter sitting next to it, well, at least in my sky, there’s really 550 light years between them.  There’s also Antares, I mistook it for Mars as it’s red, next to it is Saturn.  The sky to my east is starting to brighten as I head along the footpath through the middle of Halls Gap.   My only company is the kangaroos and wallabies who are enjoying nibbling the grass without hordes of tourist hanging around trying to get close enough for a photo.

In a couple of minutes I have crossed the little village, moved beyond the football oval and begun the climb upwards towards Chatauqua Peak.  It’s only a short walk, about 3½km.  The track is a sandy white, it stands out in the pre-dawn light, however it’s dark away from the village lights, and before long my toes are hitting every rock and tree root, causing me to stumble.  Last thing I need is to be rescued by the SES before I’m even out-of-town.   Luckily a thousand years in the Scouts taught me to be prepared and I whip out my headlamp, remove my cap, attach said light to my head, slap my cap back on,  turn on the light and continue upward.

As the blackness gives way to an eerie grey, the birds start to awaken, first kookaburras begin the morning with a solid round of laughter from all directions.  Like a real laugh it seems contagious and in a few seconds I’m surrounded by the calls of the early birds.  The currawongs aren’t far behind, their distinctive call bounces around the mountains.  The magpies join in with their early morning warbling, like the kookaburras it seems contagious and soon there seems to be hundreds all speaking to each other.  Throw in some ravens and lots of small wrens and we have an orchestra of morning song.   However, nothing compares to the awaking of great flocks of cockatoos who begin their morning by screeching to each other.  It’s like a 3 year olds birthday party, everyone wants to play with the new toys now and they’re all going to yell until they get their own way.  Now that’s a sound that really bounces off the mountains.

I can’t tell now if my headlamp is getting dimmer, batteries running down, or the encroaching daylight means it’s less effective.  As it’s now light enough to see, I turn it off and continue the trek and manage not to stumble so much.  Still to early to be rescued, I’m still in mobile phone range.

As I ascend the sky to the east has a bright orange bubble in the middle of a grey sky, the west is still black.  As far as I can see there are no clouds in the way.  The stars don’t fade away, they simply wink out of existence, all the background stars disappear as the sky changes from black to grey as the light extends from east to west.

If I’ve timed my walk right, I should get to the rock hopping stage of the walk in fairly good light.  I know I’ve been rushing a bit, sunrise waits for no person!  As I get to the fork in the track, I pause to look eastward.  The orange now extends across the eastern sky and I can pick where the sun is going to pop up.  I’m a little worried as I think it might be behind Boronia Peak and I’ll miss day break.

I’m now on the final stretch, it’s 6.50 a.m., I’ve made good time and can slow down a little.  This bit of the walk is along the ridgeline and there’s not a lot of space between me and the edge of the cliff.  The light is good and I hop along the rocks with ease.

I reach the summit of Chatauqua Peak just after 7.00 a.m., I’ve got about 15 minutes before the sun rises above the horizon.  I drag out my phone and fire up Sky Maps, I want to be sure I’ll have a clear view of the right point.  I can see that Mercury has just risen on the map, alas, the sky is already way to bright for me to see it.  I have a clear view of the horizon, a few low hills on the edge, but that won’t matter.

I eat an apple and wait.  I mean, what else can you do while you wait for the universe to spin around?

I snap a couple of photos.  The mountains to the west change colours from their nighttime muted tones to a soft orange colour, the trees that spill around their bases a dark green with spots of moving white as the cockatoos take flight.  The eastern sky is blue with an increasing orange bulge in the middle.  It’s 7.16 a.m. This is the time that has been allotted for our nearest star to put in an appearance.  I know this, because I asked Google.  It’s the only conversation I’ve had today.  I said “Sunrise” she said “The sun will rise at 7.16 a.m. in Halls Gap” and went quiet, not much for small talk, either of us.

And there is the proof of the final universal adoption of Google as the holder of all information.  A bright orange light appears on time and in the place that Google said it would.  The little bit of the sun quickly turns into  a huge ball of glowing orange, within moments it’s too bright to look at.  The world is suddenly bathed in a fantastical hue (I’m trying to avoid using orange again), the high peaks behind me are bathed in a warm glow and this shows off the brilliant whites and reds and all the colours in between.  Now with the sun fully risen I snap a few photos of the daily spectacular.

I have no idea what it is about sunsets and sunrises.  They happen on a continuous basis, as the earth spins there is always one of each happening somewhere on the globe.  Yet, every single one of them is unique.  It is its own moment.  This one feels richly deserved, I’ve climbed a mountain, well, a peak.  Risked life and limb to reach the summit in time to see this daily event on a beautifully clear night that is then pursued by a beautifully clear day with a brilliant blue sky and a now white star marching across it.  It is a moment of renewal, it reminds me of the daily grind of the world and how each day starts afresh with a world of possibilities.  Today is a day for me to renew, refresh and start again.

I sit for 30 minutes enjoying the warmth of the morning sun, I can feel the temperature rising already, heading towards a top of 34°

Below me I can see the long shadows of the trees in the brown paddocks, reminding me that the seasons are turning and it won’t be long before summer ends.  The sun is yet to reach the Fyans Valley in which Halls Gap sits, it’ll be another hour at least before it peaks over Boronia Peak.

I start my walk downward, within a couple of minutes I’ve dropped below the peak and into the shadow.  It’s still cool here and I meander down to Halls Gap where coffee and breakfast calls.

My second conversation is “Good morning, I’ll have 2 eggs and 2 long blacks please”

“Morning, how would you like the eggs?”

“Poached, please”

“No worries”

Not one for small talk.

Click all the images for a better look!

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