Aug 04

Just last week in Jerusalem, at their annual pride march, a man described as an ultra-orthodox Jew stabbed 6 people.  He was heard to say that he was doing the work of god.

We balance this with the news this week from the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) who admitted Keshet, a group for gay Jews into their association.  Showing us that despite religion, you can actually accept people for who they are.

MBThe JCCV decision comes at the end of a very long road of agitation and negotiation by my husband, Michael Barnett.  He has no direct involvement with Keshet, but he has been tirelessly working away in the background.

Several years ago he broke off communication with the JCCV, well, the other way around, they stopped communicating with him, he has been working hard to change opinions, to challenge the status quo and to break through.

The journey for Michael goes back to 1999 when the JCCV decided not to admit Aleph,  another support group for gay Jews, into their ranks.  In fact, not only were they against it there were a number of ultra-orthodox organisations that said some particularly nasty things.

I haven’t known Michael for that long.  In our time together I have watched him take on the JCCV leadership and tell them things that they just didn’t want to hear.  And this journey has not been easy.

I recall sitting at a meeting with Aleph and the JCCV and the response from the JCCV leadership was less than desirable and amounted to Michael being abused and yelled at.

The JCCV then established their own GLBTI Reference Group and froze Michael out.  Despite this he continued to do his work of trying to break down the barriers for young gay Jews, always with the aim of removing those barriers to help reduce the suicide rate for those growing up in the Melbourne Jewish community.

Michael may never be recognised for the job he has done.  You can’t take your finger and trace a map of the 1999 Aleph knock back to the Keshet acceptance.

Keshet becoming an associate of the JCCV is a lot of work by many people, the current JCCV leadership has steered the way and the Keshet team have been fully engaged.

Michael has also been putting in and talking with people along the way, doing what he does so well.  Making connections.

The road to today has been carved by Michael Barnett, others have come along behind him and been able to take advantage of his work.  That’s the way it works.

I and indeed our family have supported Michael in this journey, we’ve been the sounding board, his personal advice centre.  We’ve had the tough conversations, we’ve acknowledged when the good things happen.  We heard his pain, we saw it on a regular basis.  Above all we took this man and loved him.  Because he was right.

The important part here is that finally we have the orthodox part of the JCCV supporting the gay people, accepting them, becoming a better and more whole community.   The same people who opposed this move all those years ago.  This will have an effect on those young questioning people.  Maybe this acceptance will save lives.

My admiration for Michael is boundless.  In the face of adversity he has stayed the path.

I’ve told Michael that he should take pride in this result.  It is his work that delivered this result.

I’m proud of him, the work that he has done.

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Jan 16

Most of us are pretty unaware of discrimination against other people.  Unless the discrimination personally affects us we generally don’t notice.

Much has been done to reduce discrimination against people who are disabled and against our indigenous people.  These are two fairly common areas that our society has worked hard in trying to ensure equality exist.1

It comes as no surprise that I feel discriminated against in several ways.  I find that this discrimination is led mostly by religious people who use their religion to claim a special right to say discrimination is ok.

I’m not asking for special consideration, I’m simply asking that I am treated the same as everyone else.  Instantly this places me in a dilemma.  The churches will say that being gay is a sin against their god.  They’ll also say that because of this moral objection, the church should not be forced to interact in anyway with people who are gay.  They get away with it, and if I so much as say that I think that’s wrong then it’s me that is told I’m evil and that I don’t respect their view.

Well, on that one they’re right, I don’t respect their view.  That’s my judgement call.  Sure, have your views, but don’t try and tell me that they are somehow sacred and can’t be changed.  I’m not buying that for a minute.

But religions want it both ways, they want the government to legislate to protect them against gay people.  There are plenty of examples of how governments will make sure that equal rights legislation will cover the rights of indigenous people, the rights of the disabled and the rights of women.  Here in our very own state, the new Liberal government was barely in power for a week before repealing legislation allowing religious organisations to fire someone simply because of their sexuality.

The whole issue of marriage equality is a classical example.  Religious types are all up in arms that if allowed, the world will end.  The pope even said so.

Consequently, policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself

When he says family, he means a man, a woman and as many children as possible. He wants there to only be one type of family, his ideal.  The man, in the dress, with red shoes and a smart hat wants to ensure that governments the world over do not legislate for marriage equality.

He’s very shy on the reasons why.  What makes it even worse is that he doesn’t care about the fact that there are many different types of families now.  A lot of them are not based on the man, woman and children model.  Allowing marriage equality isn’t going to change the way families actually form.

It’s not just the christians who strive to enshrine discrimination based on gender and equality.  It’s the jews and muslims too.

While the jewish community does a little to support the rights of gay people, there is much to be done.  For example, the JCCV in Victoria published this media release that included the line:

Rabbi Rapoport contends that the GLBT community must accept that they cannot become official members of the JCCV as this would fracture the Jewish community. However, the JCCV has a responsibility as the roof body to what it can do for the GLBT community within this restriction.

I’m willing to say that the rabbi was only giving his opinion, but for the JCCV to then actually publish that is a slap in the face to all people who are gay and jewish.  It’s just another form of discrimination.

The orthodox rabbis also have problems with gay people.  A letter to the Australian in late 2011 included this terrific idea:

This is not intended to show any discrimination against the gay community, but simply to uphold the sanctity and purpose of marriage…
We call upon Australians to stand opposed to any attempt, whether judicial, legislative or religious in nature, to bestow the sanctity of marriage upon same-sex couples.

If it quacks like a duck.

Margaret Court is a minister in the church she founded in Western Australia, she had this to say about marriage equality:

They are not perfect (marriage between one man and one woman), often dysfunctional and despite the fact the role models may be distorted and even severely flawed, there is no reason to put forward alternative, unhealthy, unnatural unions as some form of substitute (marriage between people of the same gender),” she said. “No amount of legislation or political point-scoring can ever take out of the human heart the knowledge that in the beginning God created them male and female and provided each with a unique sexual function to bring forth new life.

When she says alternative, unhealthy and unnatural unions, she’s talking about me and my relationship.  I find that pretty disgusting.  Elsewhere you’ll find how this sort of talk encourages homophobia and contributes to mental health issues and even suicide.

There are some who have been so disgusted by the comments of Court that they plan to make a show of it at the Australian Open by displaying the rainbow flag.  Some are even calling for the court named in her honour to be renamed.  For this bold action of responding to her complete disrespect of me and Michael, the Australian Christian Lobby responds with this:

“Kerryn Phelps has said gays are sick of being punching bags, but who is doing the punching here and look at who they have chosen as a target”
That activists could be calling for Margaret Court’s name to be removed from the stadium that rightly honours her is unbelievable, and typifies the selfishness of an agenda that pays no regard to the feelings or reputation of anyone else, not even a national icon

“Pays no regards for the feelings or reputation of anyone else?”  Therein likes the key to all of this.  I’m vilified and discriminated against, but I have to accept it because it comes from the mouth of a religious person.  A religion that I have no interest in.  I’m expected to allow her the right to say these things about me because it’s her right.  This is religion wanting it both ways.

Suggest that the religious ritual slaughter of animals in Australia should be stopped and before you get to the end of the sentence you’ll have organisations like the ECAJ jumping on you to tell you that what they do is really ok, and that the animals don’t suffer.  To deny them their right to eat meat that has been ritually killed would be discrimination against their beliefs.

Try suggesting that perhaps on a Saturday certain jews could push the button on the lights to cross a busy road rather than spend thousands and thousands of dollars on implementing a new system and you’ll have the JCCV jumping up and down because you’re not respecting their human rights to follow their religion.

Yet, here I sit, having my rights trampled on.  I’m not asking for anything special.  I just want the pope to stop calling me a threat to humanity.  I want the rabbis to understand that my family is not a threat to society, I want the christians like Court to refrain from referring to me as unhealthy, and I want organisations like the ACL to get off their high horse of claiming victim status anytime somebody take exception to christian bigotry.

The likes of the ECAJ, the JCCV and the ACL are outwardly happy to discriminate against people who they deem as unhealthy or unworthy of full acceptance into their communities.  They fight with all their might to continue to exclude the likes of me from things like marriage.  On the other hand, they cry loudly, they stamp their feet and scream about bigotry if any one at all should so much as suggest that perhaps their self-righteous claims to special treatment is antiquated and wrong.  They feel discriminated against, while all the time continually discriminating against gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual and intersex people.

The ACL is a lost cause, their bigotry knows no bounds.  The ECAJ and the JCCV have come a long way, but still we are yet to hear them fully support the GLBTI people in their community.  We are still yet to hear support from them in the area of marriage equality.  The ECAJ says that it:

REAFFIRMS our profound commitment on behalf of the Australian Jewish community to the dignity of difference, gender equality, and a belief in the equality of humankind;

Profound commitment to equality? But there is not any mention of support for marriage equality on their website.

While they are busying talking about killing cows and having automated traffic lights, people in their community are suffering from the anguish of how to deal with their gender identity or sexual orientation.  The focus is on the wrong thing.  The bigotry within must be stopped before the bigotry without can be dealt with.

Every time someone like Court vilifies me I feel it.  Every time the christian lobby says I’m selfish and have no regard for other people, I feel it.  Every time the JCCV lets another orthodox jew call my sexuality an abomination I feel it.  Every time the EJAC refuses to call those same member rabbis to account I feel it.

I really do.  I feel it.  And it hurts.

However, I have support systems around me, that helps me cope with the continuing barrage of hatred and disrespect that is thrown my way on a daily basis.  What about those who don’t?



  1.  Update:  I made a mistake in using the indigenous people, and those that are disabled as an example here.  Clearly both sections of our community continue to endure discrimination.  It’s also pretty clear that my first statement is true, unless the discrimination personally affects me, I may not see it.  Sorry to those that I upset, and thank you to Ericka
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