Sep 22

What a week I’ve had.  What a month it’s been.  It’s Saturday morning and I’m sitting out on the deck thinking about all that’s happened.  I wonder just how people survive at times.  There is such a swirl of feelings and emotions going on all the time for me as I struggle to make sense of all that’s happening.

A hectic week at work as I pick up the pieces after a couple of weeks off.  I’m at the pointy end of a couple of major projects, which is a great feeling.  All the planning and research that at times is tedious and difficult finally pays off and I’m at a stage of making in one project, a really well-informed decision.  That’s good. The addition of another contract has set off a whole raft of events that needs my focus, so at the end of a mammoth work week my head is spinning. It’s not so much daunting, it’s more along the lines of mixing in the new project with the old and giving them all the right attention.

In my personal life I’m listening to and supporting the mother of my children as she continues to live with her terminal cancer.  It’s a challenge. I’ll do what’s needed to take care of her.  Nobody deserves such a rough end.  When it’s someone you love and care about, that makes it all the more difficult.

After four years, Michael and I continue to co-habit in a wonderful life together, we at times struggle with each other, but somewhere within us is a deep love and respect for each other.  It helps us sort out our relationship.  It also helps that he has gorgeous brown eyes and a winning smile.

Looking back a bit further, I’ve reeled in horror at the outrageous demonisation of my sexuality and therefore me by Wallace at the ACL, and then heard that reinforced by Jensen on Q&A – it’s been really demoralising to hear such vile words repeated often in the media, making it sound like all people who are gay are a health risk, not just to themselves, but to society at large.  The underlying and unsaid meaning coming from the likes of Wallace and Jensen is that gay people are not worthy of life.  Certainly not worthy of any recognition in our society.

It was heart warming to see the PM pull out of her keynote speech to the ACL, Gillard is against marriage equality, so for her to withdraw her support from the ACL was gratifying and appeared to be supportive.  I took it as a glimmer of hope.

The other big story of course, is the vote in both houses of the Australian Parliament.  It saw two marriage equality bills soundly defeated.  Further cementing the feeling of second class citizen status in my own country.  Somehow my relationship isn’t worthy of recognition.

What a week.

I know my worth as a person, I get on with my job and I’m pretty sure I’m a valued and respected member of the team at work.  I know that my adult children love me and we enjoy each others company.  I have a good network of friends that seek me out.  My partner (but not husband) loves me and I revel in our relationship.  Overall, I’m a fairly well-adjusted person, contributing to the lives of those around me, contributing to my society and to the broader Australian community.

The marriage equality debates in the Parliament have had a profound effect on me.  It’s not that I expected a different result. I don’t think there were too many people who thought that there would be any change.  But I did have hope.  It was with eager anticipation that I watched the House of Representative vote on the legislation.  There was always an outside chance I thought, that our elected members would actually do the right thing on this.

I caught up with the speeches in the Senate at the end of each day, watching the senators and reading their words. There were some wonderful supportive thoughts.  But there were also some ugly speeches that showed an underlying contempt for homosexuals and where in some people’s minds gay people belong.  Cory Bernardi’s speech is an example of where his thinking is, and typical of the religious response to marriage equality.  In his speech he links homosexuality with bestiality.  In the bible there is a passage that links homosexuality with bestiality and calls it an abomination and a perversion.  Religion over the years has been unable to see past that.  To the minds of many believers that puts the two issues on the same level.  Bernardi’s attempts to suggest he has been taken out of context is to overlook the basis for his slippery slope argument.  The link has been long-established and religion is to blame.  It’s why they always look like a rabbit caught in the headlights when somebody takes them to task about it.  Just below their surprise you can see the internal cogs slipping as they try to understand why nobody else has read that passage in the bible.

Then there are the detestable words of Senator Boswell that should upset all men and women, regardless of sexuality.

Same-sex marriage says that a mother or a father does not matter to a child—and it does. Two mothers or two fathers cannot raise a child properly. Who takes a boy to football? Who tells him what is right from wrong? What does he do—go along with the two mums? How does he go camping and fishing? Yes, there might be some attempt by one of the mothers to fill in as a father figure but it will not work. It is defying nature. And what about a young girl changing from a teenager into a young woman? Is it fair to say to her, ‘You don’t have a mother; your mother can’t take you shopping’ or to not be able to help her understand how her body is changing? What are we trying to do here? Why are we trying to defy what has been the right thing for hundreds of thousands of years? What suddenly gives us the inspiration to think that we can have gay marriage and it will not affect anyone?

 As I look back at my child-raising days, I’ve been there for my daughter through her changing from ‘a young girl’ and helped her understand how her body works.  I did it without being a woman!
The words of Senator Brandis make me wonder how he lives inside his head:
discrimination against people on the grounds of their sexuality is always wrong, but it does not follow from that proposition that every institution in society, for that reason, must be redefined.
 On one hand he acknowledges that discrimination is wrong, but on the other it’s ok.
Senator Joyce from Queensland has some very odd views, way outside my level of understanding of conservatism.  He says this in his speech:
 If you want to be married, because of the requirements of nature, it involves a male and a female connection for the hope and possibility of having children. You cannot do it with a male and a male. You cannot do it with a female and a female. It is just not possible. The institution of marriage stands ultimately behind the reality of nature. It does not matter what piece of legislation we pass; you cannot change nature. You cannot change that reality. But what we can do is go down a path of a new form of social engineering—about which we really have no idea of the consequences
 Well, marriage is a human construct, nature has no requirements as such.  Gay couples also enjoy a connection for the hope of having children.  And yes, two men or two women can have children, it’s true that they can’t physically conceive them as a couple, but they can and they do have children.  Always have, and will continue to find ways to do it.  Marriage has nothing to do with nature and everything to do with humans setting their own rules.  It’s our rule.  His underlying notion is that to allow gay people to have a family would mean that every family would have to have same-sex parents at its head.  What a crock.  Nothing changes as the Australian society already has same-sex couples raising children in marriage like families.  It’s a reality, and last time I checked, reality was not on the blink.

I didn’t see the Senate vote, but I did watch the vote in the House of Reps.  It’s not every day you see Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard vote together.  I was stunned to see most of the Labor Party stand up and move to the other side of the chamber to vote with the Liberal Party to stop this bill.  Despite the Labor Party having a party platform that is in support of marriage equality, most of them crossed the floor and voted with the Liberal Party.

The image of Julia Gillard and most of her cabinet sitting there with the Opposition, smiling and talking, laughing will stick with me. Here I am watching my Parliament take a decision about my rights as a human and they are laughing.  It seem to lack any sort of dignity.  It was simply another function to perform without any real understanding of the impact that it would have on the people who it affects.

All the words of support and the standing up for us against the likes of Jensen, the ACL and Senator Bernadi are wiped away in a few minutes.   All the talk about stopping discrimination and accepting gay people vanish.

The majority rules.  They’re happy that they’ve done what they can, passed 80 odd bits of legislation to correct some discrimination, you know, stuff around property rights, medical rights, financial rights. Purely functional things. But they can’t vote in favour of the most fundamental right, that of love.  That of marriage.

It’s been a couple of sad days.

I feel gutted, cheated and demoralised.  I mean that.

I am determined and I won’t give up.

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Sep 14

There’s been a lot of talking this week about Catherine Deveny and what she said on Q and A on Monday night.  There’s plenty of information out there.  I’d like to spend some time looking at what Peter Jensen said.

Jensen who has the title of Archbishop of Sydney, was a quietly speaking, smiling man with what seemed a sunny disposition.  It’s the same sort of smug attitude I’ve noticed on others who think they’re right and have nothing to worry about.

I’ve taken the following from the transcript of Q&A.

This Question was asked:

PETER KEEGAN: The Australian Christian Lobby has again made the headlines for offensive remarks made by its director, Jim Wallace. As a Christian, I continually find that the ACL does not speak for me and does not represent the kind of faith that I see reflected in the teaching and ministry of Jesus. Archbishop, will you publically say that contributions like those we heard from the ACL pose a greater risk to the health of our public discourse and the integrity of our faith than the presence of lifestyles or beliefs that may differ from our own?

And Jensen’s response:

PETER JENSEN: Again, thanks for the question. No, I won’t say that. I am generally supportive of ACL, I have to say. I don’t support everything that’s said by its leaders.

Jensen straight off makes it clear that while he is generally supportive of the ACL, he agrees with them in this case.

TONY JONES: What about this very specific statement where Jim Wallace suggests that homosexuality poses the same kind of health risk to the community as smoking does?

PETER JENSEN: It needs to be observed that he has been somewhat quoted out of context in some reports.  I’m not sure about that one but in some reports he’s been somewhat quoted out of context.

No it wasn’t. This is evident by Wallace restating the claim many times in the media after the event.  There is no doubt that he said that being gay is worse than smoking.

 But what he has done for us, rightly or wrongly, what he has done is given us an opportunity to talk about something significant, namely the question of health risks.

You must be blind.  The health risks of having unprotected sex are well-known.  In an effort to educate people last year there was a campaign in Queensland that included two clothed men hugging holding a wrapped condom.  The image was displayed on bus shelters, and the ACL sought to have that removed1.  They don’t want to talk about it.

Now, I think it is true to say – I think it is true to say – it’s very hard to get all the facts here because we don’t want to talk about it and in this country censorship is alive and well, believe me.

Yes, yes it is.

So what I’m about to say, I don’t want to say because I know I’m going to be hit over the head for the next 100 years about it so – and it’s a virulent censorship. Now, I will still go ahead.

Before the words are  out of his mouth he’s claiming to be a victim.  Don’t forget this is a man who has his tie checked by an assistant2.  It’s hard to imagine him as a victim as he lives such a life of luxury.  Just as his god demands.

What I want to say is that as far as I can see by trying to get to the facts, the lifespan of practising gays is significantly shorter than the ordinary, so called, heterosexual man. I think that seems to be the case.

If you were in the slightest bit interested you would have tested the facts rather than simply stating that they seem to be true.  Plenty of people have pointed out that Wallace has relied on discredited research.  Check out Chrys Stevenson’s great blog to start with3.

 Now what we need to do is to look at why this may be the case and we need to do it in a compassionate and objective way.

People already have, it’s called research, and it’s out there and available.  Alas, you seem reluctant to accept it.

Some people say it’s because of the things I say and the position I take and that creates, for example, a spate of suicides. That may be true but how can we get at the facts if we’re never willing to talk about it? Now, there may be other things as well.

Jensen accepts that some people may kill themselves because of the words he says and the position he takes.  Let that sink in a bit.  Really?  He admits that people may die because of his attitude?  You’d think if he understood that he’d actually take the time to ensure that he’s right.  Instead he again ignores the research from some very well-respected people who clearly shows religious intolerance causes emotional distress to young people.  The facts are out there, they are being talked about.  How hard can it be for a church man to access the internet and check?  You could check the position statement of Suicide Prevention Australia, in particular this paragraph:

Similarly, those belonging to religious faiths that promulgate negative discourses about homosexuality are particularly vulnerable to suicide and self-harm. Conflicts between spiritual or religious beliefs and sexuality can result in significant psychological dissonance as well as division and exclusion from family, friends and community.

Then a video question is played from Alistair:

ALISTAIR CORNELL: My question is for Peter Jensen. I was born and bred Anglican but at the age of 15 I tried to take my own life. What advice would he give to a 15 year old suffering almost to the point of death from the rejection of his community about being gay?

PETER JENSEN: Thank you and thank you for the courage of coming on and telling us that story.

I agree, it does take courage to tell the story.  Alistair, thank you for sharing with everyone and showing us the depth of your despair.  I for one am glad you didn’t reach the point of death.  That must’ve been horrible for you.

You see, one of the difficulties is to get that story, to get it to someone like me and to give me the chance to assess it for what it is.

We know what it is.  A young many struggling with rejection for his community.  What assessment do you need to do?  And why?

to offer whatever pastoral advice I may be able to offer, to listen to what’s being said, but to recognise that we’re dealing with very, very complex issues here.

Leaving aside the fact that his solution is to offer pastoral advice rather than get some real help for people like Alistair.  I find it rather difficult to swallow that this is complex.  This isn’t an unknown issue.  The churches reject homosexuality.  Some people are homosexual. That means that they either leave the church, some through suicide, or follow the churches’ rules.  The church has a high level of intolerance on people’s sexuality, at least the hierarchy does.

It may be that the things I say are having such an effect but it may be something quite different all together and…

TONY JONES: Such as what, for example?

PETER JENSEN: Well a 15 year old sorry, I need to be careful here. We don’t want to talk about this particular young man with his courage.

I disagree, that’s exactly what we want to talk about.  But you don’t because then it becomes about a real person.  Someone who has said the words to your face.

But clearly a teenager is going through a period in their lives, exciting as it is, in which they’re seeking to find themselves. A person who feels in themselves same-sex attraction and I might add, a lot of such folk have talked to me over the years, is seeking, I think, to find themselves, to find an identity and in our sort of society, with its emphasis on sexual activity as an identity finding activity, there is therefore the opportunity to think that that is the way to do things and yet here you have this frowned upon same-sex feeling.

It’s hard to unravel that little beauty.  It seems to me that he’s saying young men have confided in him about their same-sex attraction and that he’s told them it’s frowned upon and that it’s because society has an emphasis on sex and being gay is just a phase you’re going through.

TONY JONES: Okay, I’ve just to interrupt because we do need to hear other panellists on this subject but put simply are you saying or repeating, in a way, or making, you know, a sort of more complex argument about what Jim Wallace said, which is homosexuality is bad for your health? Are you seriously trying to make that argument tonight?

PETER JENSEN: I would like to know see, people tell me that it is and they produce literature on the subject. I can’t get a discussion going on this because it’s a forbidden subject.

You’re happy to take the words of Wallace as they’re said, but anyone else has to present the literature to you.  There’s plenty of it out there.  Perhaps your staff could do a Google search for you.  The discussion is happening right now, in lots of places, so why are you claiming it’s a forbidden subject?

Now, I’m open on this. I hope it’s not true, Tony. I don’t want to see my friends dying and I’ve seen my friends dying. I don’t want to see that. I don’t want to hear stories like that. But, dear friends, sorry, when do we get to the point where we can talk about this without shouting at each other and hurting each other?

When you stop insisting that Wallace is giving you facts and when you are open to others talking to you.  You’re not listening to all the other voices out there are you?

PETER JENSEN: Sorry. Yes, I am really serious but I would like to know in a dispassionate way, in an objective way, what the facts are. I think it’s very, very…

CATHERINE DEVENY: I think she’s got the facts for you.

PETER JENSEN: I think she says she has the facts.

Just like Wallace thinks he has the facts.  How easy it is to dismiss someone else’s point of view because it doesn’t match yours.  If you’re serious about having a dispassionate discussion then all you have to do is call on a few academics to give you the heads up.  It’s really very easy.  While you wait for someone to show you the facts, rather than find them yourself, young people are dying or in great mental anguish.

PETER JENSEN: Thank you, Tony. God did create homosexuals. I don’t need the gene to tell me that. God created homosexuals. God created every person and loves every person, without doubt.

TONY JONES: No, I mean he created if there is a gay gene, would you say the creator was responsible for creating that?

PETER JENSEN: Well, I would say that that that may be the case but we’re not talking about same-sex attraction, we’re talking about the acting out of same-sex attraction. We’re talking about well, I realise that we’re living in a very, very different world from the one I’m talking about but I’m living in a world where a number of my friends have life long committed themselves to no sexual relations.

The admission that his god is said to have created homosexuals, but they’re not to have sex.  That’s what it amounts to.  People may like to not have sex, there are those who seem very happy to abstain.  But for a vast majority of the population that’s unacceptable, unfair and unjust.  To even suggest that just because you’re attracted to somebody of the same sex means you can’t be physically intimate with them is to deprive them of the most basic of human desires.  To be accepted and loved.  Putting people inside marriage may curb the desire to have multiple sex partners, but there are plenty of divorces out there because one of the two had sex outside the relationship, and there is no escaping that sex outside marriage is probably happening more than inside marriage.  Jensen is right, he lives in a different world, and he is allowed.  Where I take issue is when he attempts to use his world to force the rest of society to follow it.

And that’s the crux of the matter.

Jensen and Wallace are not interested in hearing anything that gives approval to homosexuality as normal and natural.  They use their positions to push their own ideology, ignore any research that disputes it and rejects anybody that shows them the research they rely on is flawed.

Under Jensen’s facade is a determination to treat gay people as second class citizens, and that is driven by the bible.  He considers me to be a sinner.  Sin comes from the devil, therefore I’m evil.  I’m immoral, I’m without hope.

Jensen is allowed to have the last words for the program:

PETER JENSEN: Well, the last word is that in Jesus Christ we have that equality and in Jesus Christ was have that salvation and all I can say is the most wonder that the love of God for everyone, no matter who they are, no matter how they’ve lived or whatever, is the greatest reality in the world.

I accept that this is Jensen’s belief and he’s entitled to it.  He can believe whatever he wants.  I’ve also said that my acceptance of his right to believe means I have the right to not believe.   To suggest that the love of his god is for everyone and that that is the ‘greatest reality’ is false.

In my mind his devotion to his religion causes great harm, and using it to influence government policy is unethical as we don’t all subscribe to his religion.

The facts are out there, religion causes harm.  Gay people are more likely to be kicked to death by a duck than have a fundamentalist Christian sect accept all people as equal.


  1. Initially the posters  were removed, but later reinstated.  Brisbane Times
  2. As observed by Catherine Deveny “At one point I watched Jensen’s adviser straighten his tie and wondered how much Jensen had been groomed and prepared for the appearance.”
  3.  In her blog Chrys reverse engineers the ‘research’ that Wallace and the ACL rely on.  A bit of research would help the ACL see the truth.
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