Homophobia thrives in silence.

Content warnings: Violence, Homophobia.

As you may know, we’re a week after IDAHOBIT.
As you may also know, I grew up on the North West Coast of Tasmania.
Why are they related?  In a 2005 study, NW Tasmania was named the third most homophobic region in Australia.

I don’t talk or think a lot about the years from 1997 to 2003. They were painful and my first reaction is to bury them. I experienced homophobia before I even knew the word. Before I’d even accepted the fact that I was gay.  I was bullied at school, back before bullying was A Serious Thing.  I believe it was homophobia that made me less than human in the eyes of enough of my fellow students – and maybe even some of the teachers – that I was an acceptable target.  My friends at high school were mostly the teachers.  Thank you for keeping my high school life bearable.

But homophobia thrives in silence. So today, I’m talking about some of my experiences.

There were lots of incidents of me being called all sorts of derogatory synonyms for “gay man”, and I was nicknamed “Dildo” but the verbal assault was so commonplace I can’t recall specific incidents. I was physically assaulted twice in my high-school years – 1997 to 2000.

In 1998, in the halls at school, I had a student come up behind me at the lockers and pull a length of chain hard against my neck for what felt like minutes but could only have been seconds before they released me.  The school issued him an overnight suspension at 2:30pm.  So they were obviously *very* concerned about seriously inconveniencing him for my assault.  I don’t remember anyone from the school really checking that I was ok – I guess the teachers who might have cared never really knew.

And then, in ’99 I’d hit puberty, realised I liked boys, and continued to throw myself even harder into the fairly Evangelical/Pentecostal Baptist Church I’d been going to. As a Same-sex-attracted Pentecostal type, this meant a lot of private prayer and agony trying to pray myself straight, along with not daring to tell anyone for fear I would disappoint them.

That was also the year that when I was walking home and someone decided that it’d be hilarious to drop a lit match on my head.  They laughed as I freaked out, the incident was reported to the school, but to my recollection, nothing was ever done to the student in question as it was off school grounds.

Neither of my attackers mentioned sexuality during those attacks. They didn’t have to – I knew what I was picked on for even if I didn’t know why they thought I was gay.

By mid-99 I’d joined an art enterprise, making kiln-formed glassware.  This gave me somewhere to be that didn’t involve other students during breaks. I was early to every class, and basically made sure that everywhere I went where there were other students I was visible to a teacher.  The price of safety was the surrender of any kind of unmonitored social interaction with my peer group.

Internalised homophobia made my life even more miserable.  I spent a lifetime receiving clear messages from my parents that Gay wasn’t OK.  It turns out that while I was burying myself in bible study and prayer one of my good friends had accepted himself and was surreptitiously giving me signals. Perhaps if I’d allowed myself to admit it to anyone to even contemplate it being OK at that point, I’d have had a happier existence. But I was so focussed on “getting better”…

In 2001 College happened and I found my own little group of outcasts – who I said nothing to about being gay until I eventually accepted it myself as year 12 ended in 2002.

And now for Act II: The Church

I was moving away, so I told my trusted friends in the church. Almost all of them had negative things to say to me. I remember that out of all the people I told, there was only one who said anything even remotely supportive. She was the oldest church member I had told, and simply asked me to make sure I stayed safe – the safe sex talk and all. Another of these “trusted friends” betrayed my confidence, telling a church leader who came to my house and invited me to go for a walk and a talk, and his blunders were so spectacular I actually arrived home feeling simultaneously sick and triumphant.  Some of these people I’ve never spoken to since. The support network I had built up in this group felt like it basically evaporated over the space of about 4 weeks.

I moved away to Launceston, and landed myself at another church. I went to a youth bible study group there and was relatively open about my life, but a few months in, after about 6 weeks of “private debate” with a couple of the girls leading the group, eventually I and my (non-christian) boyfriend at the time were invited to coffee.  As they invited me, I just knew what it was.  I was told that I could either renounce my homosexuality and boyfriend then and there in front of him, or I had to stop coming to the study group.  Such amazing respect for another human being, I thought – even if I had been willing to renounce, I wouldn’t have been willing to do it in a way that would hurt someone I loved like that. Another support network, this time in my new town, was gone.

A week later, the pastor from the same church called and asked to come and see me. Again, I knew what it had to be about. I did the dutiful parishioner thing and baked.  The smell of cinnamon did, and still does make me feel safe and at home.  I had already learned to use manners as armour.  I invited him in, and gave him a slice of delicious warm cake with butter, and a cup of coffee. After we exchanged some pleasantries, he directed me to stop taking communion. I felt like I was being told that I was unworthy to be considered a Christian.  I think I used the word “excommunicated” at the time, though I know that’s not a Baptist thing.  I never darkened the doorway of that church ever again. Another support network was gone.

Whenever I post something, anywhere, where I call out Christians, I invariably have someone comment that not all Christians are like that. I know. I spent another 4 years in the Uniting Church with some absolutely wonderful accepting people before I came to the conclusion that Christianity wasn’t for me.  I really do understand that #notAllChristians.  I have to tell you though, these three incidents aren’t my only experiences of Christians’ discrimination, just the most personal.  The fact of the matter is that these days, when I discover someone is Christian, I tense up, I choose my words carefully, and I watch closely for signs of homophobia – and sadly, I discover its presence all too often.  Occasionally I discover that someone is a decent human being *despite* being Christian.

So why is all this here? Homophobia affected my life most severely while I was the most vulnerable, and I walk through my life now wearing rainbows as armour to keep bigots at bay. I’m wary of people’s motives.  Watching, waiting for them to try to hurt me.

Homophobia kills.  It’s not just the obvious maniacs who kill us outright.  It’s the constant stream of insults, the constant reminders that society thinks we’re less than. It’s the support networks that evaporate when we eventually tell people.  It’s the Christians who only ever pop up to remind us that not all Christians think like that when we post things that criticise Christians, and who won’t be openly supportive for fear of their own stigmatisation.  It’s how tiring it is just to try and stay safe. It’s the fact that homophobia is so pervasive in our society that internalised homophobia is a thing.

Worst of all, homophobia kills in such a way that almost none of the people who contribute to our deaths are made to take any responsibility for them.

Homophobia thrives in silence. Speak up when you hear it.

PS. My parents are quite the supporters these days. They changed their views.

Marriage Equality: the fashion issue of this election

On Saturday in Queen’s Park, a whole bunch of people are going to support the “fashionable” notion of Marriage Equality. This crowd clearly knows how big of a trend it is and wouldn’t be caught dead in anything else. Tony Abbott recently declared that he wouldn’t support “radical change based on the fashion of the moment.”

Equal Love Brisbane, a local well-known group of fashionistas and gay activists, are holding a rally as part of a nationwide campaign to keep Marriage Equality the election issue that it is. And we would like to welcome you to our runway: the streets of Brisbane. Come dressed to impress in your Equality-promoting couture, and sashay through the streets of our city in support of the height of fashion: equal rights for all Australians.

“Tony Abbott’s statement about Marriage Equality? A fashion don’t!”

This election, make sure you stand for someone who thinks human rights are more than a passing fad. Come to Queen’s Park (opposite the Treasury Casino) on Saturday 17th at 1PM and add your voice to the the call. Equality is always in vogue!

The Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/173194766188014/

Conscience

Well, I know how you all love to look at my gorgeous face…  So I made another video!

This time, I’m reciting a poem I wrote about our politicians voting on Marriage Equality and the Liberal/Labor stances on the issue.

Conscience: Written and spoken by me (Dylan Carmichael):
The leaders of our capital L parties, so great,
Both are straight, and so
They vote on rights they will never use in their life.
And yet, they are rights they already have.
To have and to hold the person they love in the eyes of the state,
Something to which nothing else can equate.
A right granted simply because the one they love is different to them.
A right withheld simply because homophobes hum, haw, and hem.

Concerned about causing offence, our politicians commit one instead.
Failing to stand up for those who suffer in the daylight,
After taking away some of their rights, almost a decade ago.

And to those leaders, I say
That the time has come for you make amends for your vote to pass the 2004 Marriage Act amendment.
Atoning for the moment when the conscience so necessary to grant rights today was not consulted in the process of taking them away. On that fateful day, shut out of the chambers, your conscience ignored, overridden, not given any sway.

All that we want to hear is you raising voices together. An answer to our question that will echo through the years, prompting a flood of joyous tears from those of us who just want to marry who we love. Telling our future countrymen, who will hear that this government refused to be lead by Christian fear.

We crave a government who will right past wrongs.
A government whose final answer belongs
where it will be,
Writ large on our nation’s history.

 

Sexism is like homophobia

I just finished reading Michelle Rodriguez made me cry at Comic-Con and can I say, it’s amazing to me how much of this is transferable?!

She talks about how guys in line with her spoke about women, the disabled, and black people. And how she didn’t go and stop it. She wasn’t sure that her outburst would make a difference.

I want to tell you that this is the reality for the Queers who live among us as well. Chances are that if you’re reading this, you already know… We hear all sorts of language that ranges between being casually negative to being outright and intrinsically offensive on a daily basis. And we wonder whether making a point about it brings more good than harm.

A couple of months ago, I had an incident on a training course I went on where someone in my class was talking about the “gay metro UI” of Windows 8. By which he clearly meant that Metro was “bad”. (It’s not, it’s just different, ‘k?) I spent the rest of the day asking myself whether there was a point taking him to task on his choice of language, and failed to speak to him that day about it. Why? Because I worry about being “that gay guy”, being “the troublemaker”, being unliked, shunned, or for people to censor themselves around me more than anyone else.

I did wind up talking to him, and asked him why he chose “that word”. To him it “was just a word” a much like to the guys in Kate’s article it would be “just a joke” He understood my point that he has no idea who’s around him and no clue how it affects them.

I think it’s important to point these things out. People often don’t know/don’t realise what they’re doing, or its impact. I understand that. Just today I had someone pull me aside and say ‘I don’t use “herp” or “derp” because they’re ableist’ which is something I hadn’t thought about in the slightest before. I won’t be using those words again.

But much like there were guys who said that “women talk too much” at Comic-Con, there are people who will (and do) criticise me and other LGBTIQ peeps who organise rallies, protests, and/or write or talk about this stuff with any regularity. We get accused of only talking about gay, and aren’t there more important topics, and told that “straight people don’t need a rally” or “to declare they’re straight”.

But no. This stuff *is* important. People need to understand that for us life includes ignoring the many jibes, many little things that remind us that we’re not seen to be as good as the straight people. That hearing “that’s so gay” uttered by the local idiot at the supermarket is yet another example of things we ignore or deal with on a day to day basis. It’s another decision (or many decisions) we have to make, every day, that many people don’t.

So discrimination in one area is much like discrimination in another. Tolerate no discriminatory language ever. Because when they talk that way about people like me, they’re not far from talking like that about people like you.

Queer Discrimination – alive and well

I was saddened today to see that the QLD & NSW Firefighters Calendar have actively excluded Same Sex Attracted Communities from their launch events.

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This event is “ladies only”. I must presume that they will be checking their deeds of nobility at the door… But all joking aside…

You’ll notice that I say “saddened” and not “surprised”; there’s a history of this sort of thing at events like the Chippendales, Manpower, even the weekly show in Fortitude Valley on Friday night, and more. Apparently these boys are freaked out by the idea that men might want to look at them “in the flesh” so to speak.

To make it worse, it was suggested that perhaps they should also do a “men’s only” night. (Implication of the posters was pretty obviously for the male show.) The response: “if the females do a calendar again.”

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This sounds to me like not only are the male performers exclusively catering to a female audience, but it is presumed that female performers would be for an exclusively male audience.  Apparently there are no Same-Sex Attracted jollies to be had from the QLD and NSW Fire Fighters Calendar Launches, regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman.

They say “There’s no offence.”  Actually. They’re wrong.  There is offence. I am offended, and so is the commenter in the above screenshot.  I’m offended by your decision to completely shut out and ignore people who have bought and would buy your calendar unless they’re actually in the act of handing over money and you don’t have to be in the same room as them.

Yes, I understand that they mean “there’s no offence meant”, but a) that isn’t what they said, and b) I have to tell them, if at any point you ever have to say “no offence meant” you’re either a klutz and you’ve realised you’ve accidentally made a double-entendre, or you’re saying something that you know will offend.  Even worse when they say “please let it be this way with no negative feedback”.  I have to say, saying that is like holding up a red rag to a bull.  Why? Because it’s saying “We’ve offended you, and we know it, but play nice and don’t call us on it.” It is basically asking the offended to silence themselves on the issue of their own discrimination for the sake of their reputation

And yes, it is discrimination.  Outright homophobia in fact. If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know how I hesitate to apply that label.  But this conscious choice to downplay, ignore, and exclude the Queer community in an in-person setting is homophobic.  The gymnastics required to presume everyone commenting is straight (especially given my Facebook picture is basically a face surrounded by rainbow) belies any other explanation.

I won’t be purchasing the calendar any more.  A part of me is considering burning the two copies I own for the irony factor.

I hesitated to write this article without knowing where the money goes to – I don’t want to damage those causes that rely on these funds. So I’ve discovered from their website that those beneficiaries are the Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation and that the support “also assists firefighters to compete in Emergency Services Competitions i.e. [sic] The Firefighters Games.”

Rather than spend $14 per calendar, $3 of which is P&H and another portion of which surely goes to covering costs, can I urge you to donate that $14 directly to the Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation, so that they can do more with your money. Rather than going to the show – which will have cost them money to set up, transport performers, etc, talk to your local fire station about how you can help Firefighters get to competitions.  Because lets face it. You can look at attractive men for free on the internet, you don’t need to buy their calendar.

Why spend your money to allow homophobes to feel good about themselves for raising money.  Spend it making yourself feel good about contributing to good causes – you might even get a tax deduction into the bargain..

For those of you who want to check out their Facebook thread in its entirety: click here

Join me in opposing homophobia, no matter the source.  

Dylan Carmichael

God Bless the ACL!

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5
One of many quotes from the ACL’s favourite book which gives me hope that, should Christianity be correct, the earth shall *not* fall to the Australian Christian Lobby…

To me it seems that the ACL are vile, spitting vipers who lash out at everyone who takes a different opinion to them – and it seems that they do this most harshly when the opinion is in the realm of DiGS (Diverse in Gender and Sexuality) rights and protections.

Just today the ACL have accused Kevin Rudd of creating another Stolen Generation, angering both gay and indigenous Australians with their insensitivity. Rudd’s decision to back Marriage Equality caused them to issue a vitriolic statement about children being “taken through technology from their biological parent” and Kevin Rudd creating another Stolen Generation if the law were to pass.

This makes me ask why the ACL is happy to permit any kind of IVF for any couples, since this same argument could be made for couples who use other people’s sperm or ova in order to conceive. This has already been going on, and the Technologically Stolen Generation is yet to appear…

They also say that “The so-called ‘marriage equality’ debate has been conducted by slogans without proper consideration of the consequences. Kevin Rudd is the latest to fall victim to shallow thinking on this issue.”

They’re partly correct – there has been a LOT of sloganism in this debate. I’m not going to say that all of it is from them – we have our fair share of slogans too. What I will say is that pro-marriage-equality slogans are typically respectful and generally do not vilify – though we call out homophobic behaviour when we see it. The ACL and anti-ME crowd however appear to have no such compunction – Jim Wallace’s statements in Tasmania during their State-based Same-sex Marriage debate are proof of that. They seem to fail to recognise, or perhaps don’t care about, the consequences of their position or statements for LGBTIQ Australians.

Then again, they don’t seem to understand how they’re being seen to be trivialising the travesties perpetrated against Indigenous Australians either. Maybe they just don’t understand compassion, empathy, kindness, humility, or many of the other Fruits of Christianity.

They claim that “All major Australian church denominations officially oppose same sex marriage”: actually, the Uniting Church of Australia site states that ‘Currently: “With regard to same-sex relationships the Uniting Church does not have an explicit position’… well that doesn’t seem like “official opposition” to me! It’s not outright support, but it demonstrates the falsehood of the ACL’s statement. And if they can’t be trusted for accuracy in an area where they should have some insider knowledge, how can we trust their word on anything not in their sphere of expertise?

I believe the community’s strongest weapon against the ACL from this point forth is simply to let them keep talking. The more they say, the more irrelevant and hateful they show themselves to be. By all means, we should respond to their homophobic tripe, but with calm and grace, facts and logic. Actually engaging with them directly only lends them legitimacy they don’t actually have.

Bless the ACL, for they shall write themselves out of social relevance, write themselves out of power, and given time, write themselves out of existence.

It wasn’t so long ago…

For the 6 weeks leading up to the Gladstone Marriage Equality Rally in November, I drove everybody (not least myself) insane with blogs, posts, tweets, messages, emails, phone calls, media releases, interviews and more about the Rally.

Well guess what.  It’s Time… for Marriage Equality Rallying!

18th of May, 1PM, at Queens Park, will be Equal Love Brisbane’s Rally for Marriage Equality.

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I’ve told you before why Marriage is important to me.

We’ve seen bipartisan Senate Inquiry recommendations to legislate for Marriage Equality

We’ve seen public opinion jump to an all-time-high approval rating for Marriage Equality, with even a majority of Christians in favour.

What we haven’t seen is a public push from the leaders of the political parties for Marriage Equality, with Abbott refusing to even grant a conscience vote on the issue, despite 74% of coalition supporters saying that he should, and with Gillard granting a conscience vote and then voting against the bill.

It’s time that the Federal Government took notice of the public and recognised that this nation is ready for Marriage Equality, and the nation is saying so loudly.

It’s time. It’s past time. This should be done already, and we shouldn’t need to talk about it any more…

So come march with me and the other organisers of Equal Love Brisbane at 1pm on the 18th of May at Queens Park. Join the FB Group, and join the Facebook Event too – the QR Code below will take you to the event page.  Get in touch with Jess or Kat and ask them how you can help out. Follow @EqualLoveBris on Twitter for updates about this and other rallies. Share the QR Code and the poster, and invite all your friends to come the the Brisbane Rally.

In this election year, lets remind Abbott and Gillard that the GLBTIQ Community do this thing called voting, and at 10% of the population, we’re a demographic with some political punch.  March with us.  Lend us your voice. Tell our leaders that you’re casting your vote for Marriage Equality this year!

EqualLoveQRLg