the Christian, the question, and the queer

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it happened. today. in a seemingly innocuous moment of asking a colleague what their weekend had in store for them, they let me know they were attending a debate about marriage equality to be held in their church. and then we had a conversation.

let me preface this by saying that while I have been passionate about marriage equality and will be voting yes for the sake of my community, my future and generations of LGBTI people to come, I have not been emotionally attached or taken the “respectful debate” to heart. Aquarians.

But here I was, faced with the opportunity many people have talked about the importance of – to reach an influential, undecided individual. not a drop of mud was slung, nor any personal attack entered into. what was said went something like this:

he told me he was afraid that the freedoms of his community would be restricted should marriage equality be granted – that it would open a door to people of faith being further criticised and denigrated in wider society. I expressed to him my compassion, as I too was afraid that the personal, security freedoms of my community would be restricted in turn should the result be “no”. I genuinely don’t think he realised that – that we both feared the same things for those we loved – that something we believed to be so inherent to who we are – me my love of men, him his love of God – would be used as a tool to oppress us.

he told me he was scared to be judged as a Christian, that to tell people you believed in Jesus these days could attract a lot of hate and dismissal. I told him I could empathise, as telling someone I was gay has the same effect; it is a gamble. For instance, when I told a pastor attached to mission my church supported, she openly told me that for me to want to help others was selfish because God couldn’t act through me, as I was an abomination. I promptly lost my love of God, many of my friends, and a foundation of faith on which, at that time, a lot more of my life than I had thought was built. I told him not to worry, to be judged hurts, especially the first time. That you get used to it. That it gets better.

I’m sure by now you’re realising the parallels in our two perspectives as we face this issue in Australia. The irony of what I was telling him was not lost on either of us. I think if I had made the point with any derision or sarcasm, as I know is tempting to do for many people, it would have been closed to him.

So then he reveals he has suffered some incredibly isolating issues from which he knows his spiritual journey rescued him. I once again shared my empathy because I felt the same way when in amongst all my pain and confusion, the realisation I was gay allowed my mind to make sense to me, when I realised there was still love I could have, it made a peace inside me that turned my life from a sorrowful pilgrimage to a productive salvation all its own.

He said he didn’t know where he stood on the issues concerning children. I asked him if his thoughts would be the same about me having a child with a woman, which I can do, though I won’t love that woman like I would another man, though I would love my child as much. There is no law stopping me from having children, and marriage will not change my ability to procreate. On top of which, waving a marriage certificate in the school principal’s face will not play any role in whether that principal decides to deliver messages of equality, conciliation and understanding, nor what curriculum or programs that principal decides to implement or not. Being a parent is now, and has for many years been, acceptably mutually exclusive from being married.

It all came down to the same thing. They’re feeling something, potentially for the first time in the context of their social and spiritual identities: shame. Nothing awakens our defensive mechanisms like being ashamed – of our country, of our society, of our families, of our friends, of ourselves. Whatever causes us to question ourselves is often treated with contempt and rejection, because we don’t want to feel wrong; we barely want to feel unsure.

I don’t know if people opposed to marriage equality are homophobic; I feel like that’s a by-product of the real issue: fear of change. I too hope the spiritual mores of hospitality, kindness, love abundant and unconditional for one another will in this moment reign supreme over intolerance and wrath. What some call ignorance I still think of in some way as innocence. Though I am determined to move forward, to love freely as any other, to call out and disperse prejudice. Change will come, there is no stopping that. And communities under pressure of discrimination and persecution will forge what they need to for survival.

$122M could have saved lives. It could have improved health, education, environmental action or climate change. I reminded him it could be improving his pension. Instead, it’s being used to conduct a manual opinion poll, using methods that inherently discriminate against homeless people, regional communities, expats and holidaymakers.

I’m voting yes because I understand that swimming against the current is the surest way to drown, and that using these moments in our history to divide and deviate is a tragedy. I’m voting yes because I believe it’s the vote that will save more lives, bring more people together, and create more joy in this country. And now, he might too.

Keep an eye out for your ballot. Tick the box. Vote. If you are someone who believes this issue should be resolved and life progress beyond this prejudiced issues and focus on more important things, then please vote. Make the effort, on the behalf of those being slandered and belitted and abused and beaten up for who they are – and often just who they appear to be. Christians may be taking heat now, but it will die down after marriage equality is won in a way LGBT people can only dream of. Winning this will cost us, but it will be worth it, because the whole country knew we earned it.

Big love,
B.

artwork by Rachel DelaGardelle.

Further reading
https://marriagesurvey.abs.gov.au/

http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/08/10/same-sex-marriage-how-vote-postal-plebiscite
http://www.smh.com.au/business/samesex-marriage-postal-plebiscite-doesnt-pass-the-pub-test-20170817-gxyhdj.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/08/15/marriage-equality-postal-plebiscite-what-you-need-to-know_a_23077619/

 

 

 

 

The Seven Deadly Sins of Male Feminism

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There are few punchlines quite like the male feminist punchline. Besides the shining examples of Matt McGorry and Justin Trudeau most men who stick up for feminism, and possibly many who stick up for women period are labelled as sissies, pussies, gay, traitors, and ulterior-motived letharios. For those men with the balls to say they’re all about that gender parity and those rights for women, it’s worth noting that feminism isn’t something you just talk out your dick about or casually mention when someone questions your Alanis Morrissette-heavy playlist on Spotify. If you want to really earn your stripes, bear in mind these sins committed by all-too-many blowhard blokes.

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#1 Interruption
I noticed recently a female friend whose sentences have a way of trailing off after a while. They rarely really punctuate, just taper down. However, when we’re in company she’s the wittiest, punchy conversationalist. I realised that the reason I hear the fade out is because I’m unlikely to interrupt her mid-sentence. I imagine many women have mastered the art of getting their point or punchline out straight up before some guy cuts her off to deliver his own opinion, interpretation, agreement, disapproval, or joke of his own. There’s nothing wrong with just listening. Being a feminist doesn’t make it your fight, it makes you backup. Wait for the general to give you her instruction.

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#2 Ignorance
Who’s Gertrude Steinem? What’s the suffragette movement? What did bras do to deserve burning? Why is there a Minister for Women? Here’s a tip, don’t call yourself a feminist unless you know your shit, and the shit you don’t know? Ask. I know it might seem like a vulnerable position to be in when you confess ignorance about issues, people, events, policies key to the feminist movement, but if you’re not willing to show the simple respect of asking women to inform you about feminism, you’re on so many wrong tracks you’re basically Ludacris.

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#3 Martyrdom
We should all by now be in agreement that Masculinism and #notallmen are the devil. When male feminists use their feminism to whine and sulk that they feel tarred with the same brush and it’s not fair – welcome to what “sluts” might feel like, welcome to what it means when “women’s issues” is used to diminish your struggles in society. Far be it from me to school you, but being a feminist when you’re a man is not something you own, it’s something you earn. And until you’re willing to take a hard look at the brotherhood and gamble your place in it to stand up for women being disparaged, dismissed or degraded, no-one will respect your stance. This goes for all men masking their misogyny by asking for forgiveness because “I can empathise with the other side”. There is no other side for rape, abuse, murder or slander.

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#4 Tokenism
I’ve asked men why they became feminists and stood there being told how into Beyoncé they are, how inspiring she is. Now I’m all about the Queen, and her pop-feminism is doing beautiful things for forward motion in the masses, but I’ll be damned if your first response isn’t “because women deserve all rights available to any human being around the world, and deserve to fight for those rights and be regarded”. Feminism isn’t a trend, or a movement from the sixties, it’s a centuries-long battle that we are the latest recruits to take up shield, sword, pen, tongue in. So get to work, and don’t tire out when it suddenly becomes less popular to be the f-word.

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#5 Inaction
Hopefully by this point in the list you’re starting to realise that getting the door doesn’t make you a feminist, neither does following Clementine Ford on twitter, and sharing the domestic duties with your wife isn’t cutting it. When was the last time you asked your work if your pay was comparable with women’s pay in equivalent positions? When was the last time you checked your kid’s school uniform or bullying policy for gender equality? When have you checked for gender equality on the board or executive of your university, your super fund, your political party and allowed that to impact your choice? Don’t get confused between contributing to change and common courtesy. Actually actively do something.

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#6 Grandstanding
In the spirit of practicing what I preach, I searched for women who wrote about what male feminism is and how it’s important to the movement. However there were too many articles written by men. IS THIS THING ON?

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So here instead is a list of women who wrote about what to watch out for where male feminists are concerned. Get to clicking.
Jamie Utt and Jenika McCrayer
Lane Moore
Alicen Grey

#7 Evasion
You know how you’ve subconsciously assumed that doctors, actors, surgeons, lawyers are men sometimes? And you know how you never call a man a bitch unless he’s femme-gay? And when just between you and me, menstruation makes you uncomfortable? And when you surreptitiously don’t see a movie because it’s a chick-flick? It happens, it’s OK. We acknowledge it so we can fix it, and we should be mad about it. Because that’s misogyny impacting your life in the tiniest ways that allow a little more room for the bigger ways to somehow seem somewhat permissible. Being a feminist means being diligent, it doesn’t make you better than anyone else. On the contrary, being a feminist should be status quo. Be honest with yourself, challenge your interpretations and allow yourself to be part of a mass of people standing up against bigotry of all kinds. As a male feminist, just because it’s not about you, doesn’t mean it’s not valuable to you at all.   

B.

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“just another dead fag to you, that’s all” – Wake Up Australia

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I broke out in hives on my thighs. I slowly stopped dressing. I have been shaking with cold and anger for hours now. They are hanging us in Africa. They are imprisoning us for life in Asia. They are throwing us from rooftops in the Middle East. They are luring us on dating apps into cars, then robbing, stripping, beating and leaving us for dead in abandoned parking lots. They’re shooting us down daily. They’re legally allowed to after all in America. It brings into stark contrast how it’s not so bad Down Under, but we’d all be kidding ourselves if we think ourselves fortunate or that we’re not being hoodwinked.

The man swapped-in to lead my country erased me today. He made the massacre of my community, the largest single-event death toll in the States since 9/11, about him and about “us all”. This is the same man who won’t put marriage equality, the same party who wouldn’t amend the gay panic defence’, the same coalition who have stripped young people struggling with their identity of knowledge, safety and community in their schools by taking apart the only program that acknowledged their specific challenges when it comes to bullying and socialising. He tried to erase me, tried to deflect off me, tried to wash me out and assimilate me into his cowardly rhetoric, and he is not alone.

I have been so afraid that this event would be used to prove that marriage equality creates discord and should be avoided. That this event would be used to fuel the fires of xenophobia, and destroy resources for young people who need them to know they’re not alone, and help is within reach. All my fears have been realised by straightsplaining politicians and newreaders, by vicious anonymous twitter handles and facebook pages. We’re not so far removed down here. In Australia we are the last Western first-world nation to put marriage equality, and we only this year dismissed gay panic as a justifiable excuse for assault or murder. We have every reason to support our gay community, but our leadership just won’t. That kind of aversion sends a clear message not just to young people, but to all people – that being anything other than exclusively heterosexually monogamous is wrong and will be contested. It sends that message to me, and I cannot comprehend how anyone purporting to be a leader would see people suffer at the hands of prejudices against their very humanity, and remain completely impotent and manipulative of fact to maintain such a sad status quo.

Something missing from all the anguish and blame, is the simple knowledge that the root of this attack is homophobia, the extreme and ungoverned hatred of gay people. Not Islam, which is circumstantial in this case, nor guns, which are legitimate problems but only the tool here, but unwarranted unchecked murderous rage brought about by the lives of other people. This is not just a hate crime, but a systemic genocidal episode. And for goodness only knows what reason, some people just can’t admit that they’re accountable for the perpetuation and permission of this behaviour.

In a similar way we let misogyny go by and excuse it, using words like ‘gay’ and ‘faggot’ to discriminate and demean is behaviour that frequently goes by without being questioned, challenged or stopped. So it breeds, becomes more hurtful, more hateful. Someone glitter-bombs you a little too roughly. Strangers come up behind you and whisper sexually aggressive or threatening things in your ear. You hear ‘faggot’ yelled out of a car, and watch for brake lights in case they decide to turn around. You have one drink at a bar and within minutes feel suspiciously faint. As every act of violence is sensationalised by the media, the population of people who think it worthwhile to take a few lives as a means to express the exponential anger and disgust they’ve been allowed to feel and act on all their lives grows. When I was ten, I was told to just ignore it. How do you ignore a bullet in your back?

We do have to call out homophobia and hate crimes wherever we see them, and to whatever extent they might offend or frighten. We do have to teach teachers how to put their personal politics aside in favour of saving a child’s life from bullying and self-harm, which LGBT youth are at much higher risk of. Stop attributing homophobia to gay students; you don’t need to be gay to be called a faggot, or to be beaten up for dressing ‘like a leso’ or to be accused of representing a different gender. You can cry all you want about how our kids are doing too much social learning and not enough algebra; there’s no need for arithmetic when you feel worthless, and students struggling with a sense of belonging perform poorly in scholastic environments anyway! And as to the argument about how such education should rest solely with the parents, take a read of the shooter’s father’s statement. Or better yet, Brock Turner’s dad’s about his rapist son. You can’t ask the parents to teach something they’re ignorant of, that you didn’t teach them either. And producing a child does not in any way equate to making a person altruistic or just.

We do have to stamp on workplaces to create anti-homophobia policy and we need to hear and be proved politicians’ stances on these issues before we elect them. Where we shop, what we buy, where we invest, who we encourage, it’s all part and parcel of reaching equality. Think critically about what you do, what you let slip by. They say everyone knows or is related to a gay person. Do they know you’ve got their back today?