why it’ll never be #MenToo for me

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there is a reason I have imposed the rule on myself ‘no twitter before my self-esteem kicks in‘.

because when I see this hashtag it irks me some, but that’s OK we’re all different and we have different ways of communicating things. and when I see the “what about the men?” posts it causes me a fair bit of discomfort because to me this isn’t a competition, but that’s OK there will always be a need for the more inflammatory discourses to create attention. but when I see a post saying that if people don’t retweet or donate or mobilise around the “#MenToo movement” then that’s sexist, and demonstrates abandonment of men who’ve survived sexual trauma, well I find myself compelled to defend myself as an involuntary member of that group.

but before I do that, I’d like to remind readers that there are countless women who’ve written about this in different ways from perspectives other than mine to whom I credit how mine has developed, and if you click on their names you can – nay should – read their hard work, both written and lived. Van Badham. Clementine FordEmily Reynolds. Lea Rose Emery. Elizabeth Brico. Laura Hartnell. and of course the movement’s founder Tarana Burke.

Now, back to bullshit.

To me, #MenToo will always represent a society-wide need for men to wrestle women’s liberation from their grip and assume ownership in their initiatives of self-empowerment. That impression is mostly derived from many such posts and advocate accounts always feeling the need to pitch their purpose in opposition to the experience of women, “men get abused too!”, “why don’t men get”, “where’s the men’s movement?!”, “it’s harder for men to disclose”. I believe to pitch men in this homogenised way is the same as #NotAllMen – talking about men as an idea, as a collective noun, as a supreme incorporation.

I recently heard Tracey Spicer speak about how #MeToo affected her career and conviction to investigate sexual harassment and abuse in the media industry that so drew her in as an aspiration, only to dash her dream by demeaning her and exhausting her until finally turfing her out when she had the nerve to become a mother. That hero of a human woman stood up to some of the most powerful people in the world, and now helps other people do the same. Men and our allies need to be energised by that, not alienated by it because Tracey is a woman and we are not. Tracey being a woman is not an excuse for us not to tread the path she and many women before her wore in for us to follow. Men deserve the joy of following, of supporting, and women deserve the power of being followed, and supported. And not just white women like Tracey we can relate to, but women we can learn from and grow by the influence of. Women like Nakkiah Lui, Carly Findlay, Sally Goldner, Nayuka Gorrie, Emele Ugavele, Ayeesha Ash, Mama Alto, Ilana Charnelle, and Phoenix.

Tracey spoke about something else that irks me: the idea that is often woven in to delineate men’s and women’s experiences that acts of sexual violence are on a spectrum, and some behaviors are worse than others. There’s even a pyramid that did the rounds recently, and though I agree with it to a certain extent, I am wary of anything that affords any ground to the argument that some behaviors aren’t as bad as others. The act is relative to the person whose body and mind that act is committed upon, and how they respond based on their experiences past and present is no less valid regardless of the act. This pyramid lends itself to stigma that would mean someone feels enough shame to believe that when their family member grabbed them “all in fun”, they should suppress their feelings because being gang-raped would feel worse. If the pyramid is suggesting that being asked to show a car full of men pleasuring themselves in a car “the lips your mother never kissed” is as damaging and as harmful and as reprehensible as if those men pulled you into that car to force you to do what they had demanded, then I personally see that as valid.

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Coming back to the topic at hand, I’d like to tip my hat to Terry Crews. A physically powerful man of color who has worked through unimaginable prejudice already to enjoy reasonable cultural capital. At an event he attended with his wife, a man who believed himself to be more powerful than Terry in terms of industry clout, decided to molest him in public. Terry Crews recently testified to the US Congress about this! His story will make massive positive change to how this conversation involves men, and it will also do good things for women. He’s a personal hero of mine. Here’s the best bit: to my knowledge he has made no mention of his manhood qualifying him differently, nor has he called for a “#MeToo for Men”, and when he tweeted out his story he didn’t even feel the need to use the hashtag!

Men don’t need a movement, because in general everyone already moves for men.

I don’t agree with the idea that because the attention is focused on women (for now), men have a hard time of it – I do believe men feel harder done by when it happens because our experiences contrast so starkly to the freedom of movement we unwittingly enjoy everywhere else. The idea that men are suffering from neglect at the hands of women who’re occupying the resources that support their own suffering infuriates me no end. It is heartbreaking to see survivors pitted against one another, and taking their pain out on each other when the community of survivors is all we have when it comes to empathy, and being believed, and moving forward. Women have worked – are still working – 24/7 to receive the bare minimum of care and recognition we now have available, and male survivors should be thanking them for it, not bitterly complaining about how they feel ineligible to get in on the action. I’m reminded of when, being an eldest child, I had to ask, and remind, and plead, and work and proves myself worthy of an allowance, and the instant I got it my younger siblings were insistent they receive it too, and in the name of equality they did. I was furious – they were half my age, hadn’t had to do any of the work I did to implement an economic system of domestic reward, and yet here they were reaping that reward and, naturally, squandering it on lollies while I invested mine in my flair for scrap-booking. Which conveniently brings me around to how being gay figures in all of this.

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The trouble with the “not all men” argument is of course that it absolves us of responsibility. In the same way that if we blame the victim, we’re condoning the rape of someone else who fits the behavioral bill, when we other the men who rape, we acquit and even endorse the men who don’t look the part. Harvey Weinstein became the fall guy because he was powerful, and rich, and also slimy, and behind-the-scenes and in-the-shadows and no-one liked him. No-one was invested in him being “a good guy”. Spacey was a tougher case, people did like him, and if he hadn’t thrown the entire gay community under the bus to save his neck he might’ve got away with child molestation and statutory abuse – but still a lot of the narrative was “I always thought he was a bit weird”. Then they came for Morgan Freeman. The guy who we trust so much he gets to play God. We’ll see how that plays out. Gay men don’t fit the mold of the man we think of who assaults or harasses or rapes women, but for all we may be exempt from the stereotype, that doesn’t mean we should remain naive or indifferent about leading by example, and continuing the message that sexual violence isn’t about desire, it’s about power.

When Eurydice Dixon was walking home from her job as a comedian, a young man attacked, raped and murdered her. Afterward, police felt it pertinent to remind women to be aware of their surroundings, have their phone on them, and a whole lot of other advice that isn’t what I hope we see more of. And yet Larissa Bielby, Katherine Haley, Alicia Little, and no such statement – their murders dismissed as “misadventures” and “incidents”. I want to see those police looking unwavering right into the lens of the camera and saying “whoever you are, we will find you and you will be punished to the full extent of the law, and if you’re a man out there who believes themselves capable of sexual violence, or has considered violence against a woman in their life, seek help immediately”. That’s certainly the message I have.

We’re all fighting the same battle here, and it’s a battle against human nature itself, which is why it’s a battle we will fight our entire lives; and fight we must.

B.

if you have concerns for the safety of people around you, or ever considered yourself seriously capable of abusing anyone imminently, please contact 1800 Respect, White Ribbon, or Lifeline 13 11 14. or 000 if an emergency.

 

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What being gay ISN’T.

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Is it time for my life and worth to be the subject of public debate again already?! Gosh time flies when you’re a “minority” at the peak of social cool but still pariahs for equal rights. Guaranteed there’ll be a few hurt feelings by the time this marriage equality debacle and anti-homophobia education conniption is over and we can let humans be happy in who they are independent of outdated discrimination. The LGBTIQA community constitutes a vast diversity (and likely majority) of people, all of whom deserve recognition as valuable contributors to the world by virtue of their humanity, not their plight or struggle.

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The incredible Gus. Image from Gayby Baby.

Here’s what being gay isn’t. It isn’t living as though lives haven’t been risked so you can fill yours up with as much self-expression, passion and joy as you possibly can. It isn’t forgetting your worth outside your community as much as in it. It isn’t mistaking triumph of yourself with torture of others or confusing making good with looking good. Having been accused of conforming to a stereotype in one breath and applauded for brave originality in the next, the pressure to choose sides or meet expectations is all-too-familiar when it comes to appearance, apparel, career, conversation, sex and social life. You name it, someone always has a question to ask. The response to such questions are almost always “nobody’s business but mine!”. Being gay ISN’T disrespecting the years of oppression, massacre and persecution LGBTI people have experienced in order to flourish in who you are, and that includes LGBTI people themselves.

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Sydney’s first Mardi Gras.

Being part of the LGBTI community does not preclude anyone from other prejudices or poor attitudes, just as being part of the community does not suddenly prescribe someone to a specific type of activity, or permit others to treat them as personal property or entertainment. Being gay ISN’T a novelty.

If being gay were about sex with people of the same sex, I’d have long been excommunicated. And if it were about having a gods-built body, hung for days, dressed designer and 1m followers on instagram, then I might have something to tell my parents. And allow me to note that I’m not a witty, fantastic lush because I’m  gay, but because I’m a witty fantastic lush. Everything I do, I do it for me, which is how I do it for you. What I’m hoping is that by living for yourself, you’ll see that everyone deserves the same rights to living their life, and so open your actions to be accepting, humble and supportive of the people and animals and planet around you. Being gay ISN’T adherence to a trope or stereotype, but the experience of a real, only-given-one-time human life.

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Hearing humans at Slut Walk Melbourne. Image by Chris Hopkins for The Age.

 

The two biggest issues in this country right now concerning diverse communities, of marriage equality and anti-homophobia education, when compared with the battles of other communities (of which some LGBTI people are part), is so far beyond ridiculous that our government should be ashamed, except for the part where it is a tactical manoeuvre of misdirection. Indigenous Australians still do not have the rights their lineage, their contribution to our country’s culture, and their triumph over oppression warrants. Refugees are traumatised further than anything an Australian can empathise with, further upon which we traumatise and torture their futures for no other reason than they were born somewhere else and sought to change their circumstances. Australians living with disabilities, everything from mobility to mental functionality, are continually excluded from spaces, employment, support and education models.

Compared to those issues, and the ones that plague the climate we thrive on, the wildlife we should respect, and the imbalanced economy we are manipulated by daily, the ability for me to marry the love of my life has all the trappings of a first-world problem. However, the socio-political equality that is a key component of the right to marry as my heterosexual or simply hetero-apparent? That is a right for which I should fight because it does impact the rights of others, does improve liberation of all people, and involve the consciousness and compassion of our species further and further away from the archaic, murderous notions that take the freedoms and lives of the brothers, sisters, betweens and beyonds in my community. Being gay ISN’T just about me.

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Speaking of those issues of marriage equality and anti-homophobia education, let’s recap:

  • Homophobia and transphobia impacts ALL children. Anyone can be called a homophobic slur or misgendered as a form of bullying in a school environment. Education about LGBTI people is what prevents those types of harassment from destroying the self-esteem and mental health of those students who experience it as attackers or sufferers.
  • We do have same-sex de facto relationships recognised in Australia, which isn’t the case in many countries where marriage equality has been introduced, and so there hasn’t been as much urgency. However, decisions on end-of-life care, custody of children, provision of insurances and family support, travel safety, organ/blood donation, census information are all impacted by the ability to declare your marital status.
  • The absolutely abhorrent state of sexual education in Australia is responsible for the kinds of abuses experienced that conservative and homophobe alike use to discredit and disparage LGBTI people. Suppression and shame of sexuality can have lasting and dangerous impacts on the individual, and therefore put others around that individual at risk, but not because they’re gay, but because they’ve been mentally beaten and made an animal by their torture, internal and societal.
  • Inclusivity has never had any impact but a positive one on society at large, and it is exclusivity from systems like marriage, like spiritual lifestyles, like politics and education that have created the insanity of our species. That insanity where we kill each other, we revert our very natures, we live in alarming disharmony with the resources of the planet and have developed a way of being to secure our own destruction as soon as humanly possible.

Being gay ISN’T a lot to ask of our fellow human beings.

See I can get married if I want, just not your way. I can have a child, I can educate myself, I can feel love, I can travel. There is no difference between your life and mine, except you’ve got it in your head that your way is the right way. I’ll gladly leave you to the delusion, or I can rescue you from the cruel fate of strangling yourself in your own web of prejudice. Choice is yours, because I didn’t get one.

B.