May 16

This Friday, May 17th is IDAHO, changing to IDAHOBIT, the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.  Established in 2004 IDAHO aims to raise awareness about homophobia.  In almost 80 countries around the world, loving someone of the same-sex is still considered illegal, at times involving lifetime imprisonment and, in nine countries, it is even punishable by death!  When I think about that I think how lucky I am that I live in a country where being discriminated against means I can’t get married or if I worked for a church I might get fired.

Homophobia comes in all shapes and sizes and while it may mean a fear of homosexuals the reality is that homophobia is used to cover so much more these days.  It’s more about how people react and behave in relation to others sexuality and if that reaction is negative then the use of the word seems appropriate.  Julia Gillard is a really good example, she isn’t really scared of gay people, but her stance on marriage equality means she’s labelled a homophobe.  I think that’s fitting.

Much work is being done by No to Homophobia in Victoria and their website is worth a visit.

Homophobia can also happen when people are completely unaware of your sexuality, as I came to grapple with who I was I was acutely aware of the attitudes of those around me.

I started working in 1999 at a non-profit counselling agency. Not that long ago all things considered. When I started there I was still pretending to be a happy heterosexual.  I had started on my journey to embracing my sexuality and it was slow and at times very painful.

IDAHO-rr_tcm7-115931The Agency was very welcoming, I wasn’t ‘out at work’ but I was working towards being honest with those around me.  There was no outward homophobia within the Agency.  That’s a good thing. There was however plenty of little things that to someone struggling with their sexuality can be quite confronting.  And it’s the small things that made me squirm.  There was the payroll joke about Michael Fitzpatrick something along the lines of “Must be gay, Michael Fitzpartick and Patrick Fitzmichael” or when I won a competition of a weekends accommodation.  It was known I was single and people teasingly asked who the lucky lady would be.

As I began to get more comfortable in my relationships and started dating I had a few boyfriends, looking for Mr. Right.  I had to keep track in my mind about whom I had told about my sexuality and who I hadn’t.  It was always a decision to make about whether or not to share it with someone.  In my mind I imagined some people would reject me, I don’t like to feel rejected.  When I bought a footy hat from the Op Shop, it was well-known that I wasn’t a fan and when I said it was for my partner I surprised the fellow staff member who asked what her name was.  At times I’d use gender neutral language “My partner and I went away for the weekend” instead of “My partner, Michael”.  Using this language at times makes it really difficult to maintain conversations.  “Oh, did she like it?” to which the response is “Well, yes, my partner did like it”.  Just sounds crazy!

Then there is the expectation that everyone you know is a heterosexual, this for me was compounded because I was married and I had children.  People would often say things like “You don’t bat for the other side” or even worse when I finally do say “I’m gay” the response is “No you’re not”

Times have changed, over the years I’ve become more confident and able to talk about my relationship.  Now I make the assumption that everyone knows.  (Apologies to those who just went – “He’s gay?”)

My point here is that I was struggling to come to terms with a new world with a new me.  It was really stressful.  It takes a lot of energy to contain and hide yourself.

It wasn’t that work had an entrenched homophobia.  In fact, it was and is very diverse.  This was my personal struggle.

Imagine how hard it is to come to terms with something as innate as your sexuality when those around you are making assumptions that you’re a heterosexual.  It’s not intentional and even I have to challenge my perceptions about people, because underneath you just don’t know how life is for someone else or what their life is like away from your limited interactions.

For me, the Agency has been a safe haven.  Jo the CEO was quick to twig that things were happening and showed her support and quietly helped in her own way by making sure that things like our code of ethics included mentions of sexual orientation and would deflect people’s questions such as the weekends accommodation by saying “I don’t think we need to ask if he’s taking anyone”.

 If you’re looking for the impact you have on people, here it is.  I remember conversations about sexuality.  I have lots of conversations every day and hardly recall most of them.  But I do remember every single conversation about sexuality I’ve had with people in my ‘pre-out days’.  I think I remember them because they didn’t sit well with me and made me uncomfortable.  I remember the slurs and jokes, the assumptions and the denials.

Words matter.  But, I guess you already knew that.



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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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