Sep 08

The Australian Dream written by Stan Grant

It wouldn’t be right to say that I don’t like football. It wouldn’t be right to say that I do like football either. I don’t go out of my way to watch it or participate in it. I don’t have a passing interest in it or really care in the slightest about it. I accept it as part of the culture in Victoria.

Mind you, I don’t really follow any sport, so I’m not singling football out.

When you live in Victoria, it’s pretty hard to escape football. I mostly manage. Apart from those family dinners on a Friday night where the telly comes on after the meal and those of us interested sit around it watching, the rest of us sit at the table and continue our much more interesting chit-chat.

When Michael suggested to me that I might like to go and watch a movie about Adam Goodes, who until recently was guilty of being a football player, I thought perhaps my husband had begun his descent into madness.

Now, I know of Goodes. He was after all an Australian of the Year, even though he was a football player. He been the subject of much media coverage over his stance on racism in Australia football.

I guess he’s an OK bloke, even though he used to play football.

So, anyway, on a cold Melbourne Saturday afternoon, the sort that’s usually reserved for die-hard Richmond fans to go to watch their team play in the mud at Windy Hill, I found myself sitting in a cinema watching strapping young men kick a football around.

The story that unfolded before me was so gut-wrenchingly powerful that at times I had tears rolling down my face.

Here is the story of a man who clearly loves his footy and found himself at the top of the game. He then left it when the focus of others was on the colour of his skin, instead of his ability to kick a football.

Adam Goodes is an Indigenous Australian. During his time on the footy field, he was recognised as a player of note. Played in grandfinals, got medals, you know, the sort of things that mark you as an elite sports person. At the same time, he became a controverisal figure when he refused to accept the casual racism that was being hurled around. As Stan Grant says in the Australian Dream, he was a loud angry aboriginal, nobody likes that. The footy crowd would take to booing Goodes every time he got the ball. This ultimately led to him leaving his much loved game.

Let this sink in. At a football match with tens of thousands of fans, a whole bunch of them boo every time you touch the ball.

I do recall most of this, as it happened. Only because it crosses from football into society. Goodes becomes a topic of conversation outside of football. News bulletins lead with it, newspapers gave it front page, social media lit up. People like me couldn’t miss it.

What I did miss however was the nuance of the story. For this I had to see the movie. It was pretty clear, pretty quickly, that this story wasn’t so much about football. It is about the very essence of racism in Australia.

I don’t think I’m a racist. But how would I know?

I can pick a homophobe for you, because I know what it’s like to hear the casual homophobia in day to day comments. Take this little example from today, as I was trying to write this blog I saw this tweet:

Still not sure? What is a manly hug? Why does he need to give it to another man? Why didn’t he give him a womanly hug? A gay hug? An affectionate hug?

Adams is 80 years old. In his time, you probably didn’t hug men at all, in case it’s seen as gay. If you do have to hug another man, for example, because their wife just died, that’s ok. But you better give them a manly hug. In case people think you’re gay.

Is Adams a homophobe? I have no idea, I’d be surprised, based on his politics. Is this an example of casual homophobia? Yes, I think it is. It’s the sort of language that isn’t needed and seeks to establish himself as a man that doesn’t want to be perceived as gay. As if there’s something wrong with being gay. Of course, if you’ve never been at the end of homophobic language, this would roll off you and you’d find yourself booing me every time I touched the ball.

Have I ever been guilty of casual racism? You bet. Lots of times. At times I’ve been an all out racist. For this I’m sorry, and for all the times I’ll be a racist into the future I hope that someone is there to call it out.

Australian Dream not only tells the story of Goodes, it tackles an issue that so few of us what to hear about. The ingrained racism that is in every part of white Australia. None of us want that racist label, and yet we are so unaccustomed to listening to the voices of those that are impacted by our words. We dismiss their feelings and responses rather than listen to them.

Evidence shows that a young aboriginal person is more likely to kill themselves than their white counterpart. We lock up aboriginal people at a much higher rate than any other group of people. We still won’t let them be acknowledged in the constitution.

Australian Dream looks at racism from the eyes of those being discriminated against.

You need to see it.

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Aug 31

There is no doubt in my mind that bullies and people who intimidate abound in Australia. It would seem that this is the case in the Australian parliament where Julia Banks, my local member resigned with these stinging words:

They know that I will always call out bad behaviour and will not tolerate any form of bullying or intimidation. I have experienced this both from within my own party and from the Labor Party.

The scourge of cultural and gender bias, bullying and intimidation continues against women in politics, the media, and across businesses. In anticipating my critics saying I’m “playing the gender card” – I say this. Women have suffered in silence for too long and in this last twelve months the world has seen many courageous women speak out.

Here we are presented with a worldview from Julia that clearly says she is a victim of bullying and intimidation in her job. She goes on to say that there is still a cultural and gender bias with politics.

She says that women have suffered in silence way too long.

Support has been plentiful for her position. Kelly O’Dwyer, Sarah Hanson Young among them.

However, others continue to down-play the behaviour. Something that I’ve seen many times. When those of us in the GLBTIQ community say that we are subjected to bullying and intimidation the response from some quarters is to downplay it and tell us that we’re not that badly off, that we need to toughen up.

The missing value here is those that deny the situation haven’t taken proper stock. If someone says that they’re the subject of a bully, then we need to listen to them.

Craig Kelly MP missed the mark when he said her resignation is the wrong thing to do and that she should “roll with the punches in this game”.

Roll with the punches? Such a violent, graphic image. Why should the game require punches at all? After all, this isn’t a game; it’s real life. This is her real job. I’d suggest that approaches like Kelly’s are the issue. Rather than check his behaviour, he tells her she’s wrong and to toughen up.

The Guardian in their article says this:

Former Liberal minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells and the president of the federal women’s committee, Helen Kroger, both said on Thursday that claims should be properly investigated. But Kroger said she didn’t believe there was a bullying culture and Fierravanti-Wells appeared to blame Malcolm Turnbull.

There should be no ‘but’. The conversation needed to stop at ‘properly investigated’.

For Helen Kroger to suggest that there isn’t a culture of bullying is to turn a blind eye to the issues. Craig Kelly more or less acknowledges the problem, Helen Kroger ignores it. That’s her way of dealing with it. Concetta Fierravanti-Wells won’t admit it as a problem, and if it is would instead point at someone else and say ‘look over there’.

We have seen outright lying, sexism, misogyny and now bullying and intimidation.

This is no way to run a country. It’s not good enough to ‘investigate’. If our newly and temporary Prime Minister had any sense, he’d launch a special envoy for bullying and intimidation prevention, throw some money at it, set appropriate standards and change the constitution to allow the dismissal of any MP that breaches the standards.

Because that’s what would happen to anyone else who behaved in a deplorable way.

To bully or intimidate anyone is unacceptable.

 

Mar 30

Bare The Musical is an emotional roller coaster that will have you gasping for breath as you journey with a bunch of teenagers making the transition from adolescence to adulthood.

We join a group of students in their final year at a Catholic boarding school, making preparations for the end-of-year play, Romeo and Juliet.

The storyline cleverly integrates the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet into the lives of the students. We can see parallels between the two as the story moves along.

It’s a compelling tale, one that we have heard and seen so many times. It’s a typical story about teenage angst. The tension between the boys and the girls, the competition between friends, the need to fit in and conform, the adolescent awkwardness and the overarching influence of religion in their lives.

The tension is palpable as the students ready for their performance. Underlying that tension is the battle with sexuality and the church. Our hero, Peter isn’t really struggling with his sexuality, he knows he is gay. His struggle is with how to tell his mother, how to reconcile his feelings with a church that tells him he is a sinner and most importantly how to get his boyfriend, Jason out of the closet.

It’s a potentially horrid time in the life of a young gay man. I know, I’ve been there. In a Catholic school, surrounded by boys who mock, tease and torment anyone who shows a hint of being gay. This musical gets that uncertainty, and the deep-seated fear of being different, right.

The love between Peter and Jason is innocent and sweet. It’s the sort of forbidden love that you know is just waiting to blossom. The actors portray a deep emotional connection with each other as they take us along on their love story of trust, betrayal and redemption.

The storyline drew me in, the world around me disappeared, even the uncomfortable seat of Chapel Off Chapel didn’t distract me as I laughed and cried with the performers.

And cry I did. I cried as I listened to Peter reach out to his mother, told him how alone he felt, how much he needed her and she denied him that.

I cried as Jason tried to sort out his life in the confessional. As he desperately tried to reconcile his faith with his sexuality and came up bare.

I cried as the final song played, the raw tragedy of a young life lost and the grieving of his friends.

I sat stunned as the final moments rolled in and I understood the complicit nature of the church in the death. How the last number No Voice echoed the injustice of a rigid Catholic system that is hellbent on keeping its magisterium intact.

As the lights blinked out, I gasped and covered my mouth in shock at the symbolism in front of me.

All through the play, I saw the potential of suicide. These young people were in desperate times. Whether it’s the unexpected pregnancy, the slut-shaming, the body-shaming or the rejection of love, the possibility of suicide was there.

The acting was outstanding. It seemed that I was watching their real lives play out in front of me. They really did take me along for the journey. I felt the joy, the angst, the fear and the sorrow.

The singing was superb, from the opening number Epiphany in the chapel, to the lament of Best Kept Secret and the hilarious God Don’t Make No Trash, it told the story of the rich and deep lives of this group of youngsters.

Overall the play has an anti-catholic feel to it. A couple of numbers balance that a little. It’s pretty clear that the priest carries the churches line and the nun is far more accepting. Mostly it seems like an accurate reflection of where the church currently sits in relation to sexuality.  I can see how you might squirm a bit if you are Catholic and believe in god.  As a social statement, there is an undertone of ridicule and an attempt to hold the church to account.  The cry of Are You There? as the students seek answers to their prayers says it all about the futile nature of needing divine intervention in your life.

Make no mistake though, the message is clear. That teenage angst puts these kids on the edge of oblivion. The pressure to conform is real. Sure, it’s not unusual for any of us to have our hearts broken, and our first loves disappoint. When you’re already vulnerable, however, it’s vital and incumbent on the adults to have empathy, and more importantly, take on the role of mentor and friend to help guide the next generation into happy, healthy lives.

Chapel off Chapel is an ideal venue for this musical.  You’re sitting in an old church decked out with its stained glass window.  The lighting is stunning and the soundtrack performed by a live ensemble makes the show.

Bare, The Musical is on at Chapel off Chapel until April 15th, 2018.

Dec 15

I am utterly outraged by reports today that two Australian archbishops have dismissed out of hand the recommendation of the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse to remove the seal of confession in relation to sexual abuse.

Dennis Hart, Archbishop of Melbourne, and Anthony Fisher, Archbishop of Sydney have both dismissed calls to change the rules.
(https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/dec/15/royal-commission-final-report-australia-child-abuse”)

I tried when I was a kid to ‘confess my sin’ of being rude to a priest. (See my blog from 2012)

When asked what I meant, I said ‘with my brother’, he never followed it up to discover what that entailed.

I was sexually abused multiple times. Each and every time I confessed this because I thought it was me doing wrong.

An astute priest, you know, someone with some training, may have picked up on the abuse.

But what good would it have done with the make-believe ‘seal of confession’ that the church so loves?

If my confessor had have picked the abuse up, he could well have prevented further abuse happening to me by way of intervention. He could have prevented the abuse of other siblings.

Fisher said:

“Any proposal to stop the practice of confession in Australia would be a real hurt to all Catholics and Orthodox Christians.”

Children are the ones suffering the real hurt.  The Catholic church is hurting real children. The child who thinks they are the sinners, may well confess the sin and be met with the ‘pontifical secret’ barrier.

Hart and Fisher show by their words and actions that they have no interest in the well-being of children, they merely care about the right of the Catholic church to be beyond the reach of the law of the land.

They lack ethics and are morally bankrupt.

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Sep 27

My posts of late have been videos about the marriage equality ‘vote’ here in Australia.

It really is a tough time for me right now.  I’ll never forgive the parliament of Australia, my government, for putting me through this ‘debate’.  It is completely unnecessary.

For me, this mess comes at a time when I’m trying to study, my daughter is preparing for her marriage, the mother of my children is at the sticky end of her long battle with cancer, I’m settling into a new house, my son is settling in a new life at uni, my husband is in full-on activist mode, the dog next door barks all day long, my savings are dwindling, my emotional well-being is at an all-time low.

So, pardon me while I take a big mind-fart and say fuck you.  Not you, the person over your shoulder who thinks I shouldn’t be allowed to get married for reasons that only they understand.

At this time my resilience is really low.  It’s easy to become hyper-sensitive to every little slight that floats across a social media feed.  I can feel the tension in the community.  We are all feeling it to some degree.

In all of this, I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

The colours of the rainbow so pretty in the sky, are also on the faces of people going by, I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do, they’re really saying I love you.

That’s my song.

Here’s a rendition that had tears running down my cheeks.

I will not stop fighting for my own personal human rights, and I will fight for the rights of those in the GLBTIQ community.  We are all human.

The world is wonderful.  I am a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars, I have a right to be here.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.

And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

(no, I haven’t rediscovered god.  I don’t conceive a god at all, I’m at peace with that, relax)

The world is wonderful.

I don’t do this alone.  Michael is beside me.  Caitlin and Tomas are there.  My family is right behind me.  My friends are supportive.

The reason the world is wonderful is because of love.  All these people love me for who I am.

Thank you.

You make the world wonderful.

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Sep 22

I started out to do another video.

Didn’t get far.

 

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Sep 14

The box has been marked and we’ve sent our survey forms back.

I can’t begin to tell you how bad this makes me feel.

Maybe one day soon I’ll do that.

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Sep 09

The plebiscite was never a good idea.  However, here we are with this rather pathetic attempt at giving every Australian a say on my relationship with Michael.

We’ve gone from a compulsory plebiscite to a voluntary postal survey.  It’s just crazy.

Here are my latest two videos on the topic.

 

 

 

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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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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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