Born This Way, Not My Fault.

I recently saw a memory on Facebook which prompted this piece.  I’d linked to a piece by rampant homophobe, Bill Muehlenberg, which linked to a really interesting article by David Benkof. These points are made about being gay because that’s my experience, but I suspect that a lot of this may translate to the fight for Trans rights as well.

A friend and I had discussed Benkof’s piece before Muehlenberg’s article. We explored the sensibility of claiming that sexuality and sexual identity have been the same throughout history, and are therefore immutable across time and space, and whether “Born This Way” was a good strategy for claiming equal rights.

Perhaps in our struggle for rights, we should not be relying on a claim we don’t actually know the truth of.  We don’t really know if or how we are “Born This Way”.

Sexual identity is a social framework built around sexual attraction. That’s how we have straight men who still have sex with men. The way you’re wired biologically combined with the social climate you’re in will affect the way you identify, all of this without making a specific choice. “Being gay” is something that only happens in societies where “being gay” is an option, though same-sex sex occurs throughout human history.

So where do our rights come from?

The right to have a child without being in a relationship is enough in itself to permit motherhood. Or the right to be in a relationship as a de facto couple without having to solemnise it as marriage. These changes were achieved without a requirement of immutability – these rights are, explicitly, the protection of a person’s right to choose what is right for themselves.

The same goes for anti-discrimination. There are lots of attributes that we protect with our anti-discrimination laws.  There are three broad categories these attributes fall into: Things that are inborn, things that you choose, and things we don’t typically choose but might not be inborn.

  • Race is inborn.  That’s the way you are the day you were born, and you can’t really make a choice to change it.
  • Political opinion is something we largely choose. even if you haven’t consciously chosen it now, you can choose to re-examine and change your political opinion.
  • Disabilities are things we don’t typically choose for ourselves, but many people acquire well after they’re born.

In our society, the immutability or innateness of an attribute is not a requirement for its protection.

With these examples in mind, the rights of gay people to carry on a consenting adult relationship is surely enough in itself without us needing to be “born this way” to achieve equality.

The disturbing subtext of “Born This Way” is “Not My Fault”.  And when we’re talking about fault, we’re typically talking about something “bad”. “I was born gay, why should I be punished for something that isn’t my fault?” Thinking like this feels right to many of us because we instinctively know we didn’t make a choice – that’s why it’s such a tempting argument to make. It also has the benefit of being compelling.  But does this throw bi or pan people in same-sex relationships under the bus?  After all, they could have chosen to be in a heterosexual relationship, right?

Why does it have to be “not my fault” in order to have my relationship treated equally under the law when my religious views are protected even if I’m a recent convert to Christianity?

Our right to safety and happiness as queer folks should not and must not require that our sexuality or gender identity is inborn. The notion that “being gay” is not strictly biological isn’t a reason to deny equal treatment to gay people.

Given that we don’t really understand how sexuality and gender identity happens, I worry about building our rights on the “Born This Way” mantra.  Because what happens if that foundation turns out to be false? I don’t want to re-fight the fight for our rights because we picked the wrong basis for our original arguments.

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Tell your loved ones…

So it’s been a while. I try to only write when I have something to say.

Most of my readers would know that Australia is spending $122m on a ridiculous non-binding survey of the Australian Electoral Roll (That won’t actually wind up including lots of people overseas).

At 2:15 on Thursday 7 September, 2017, the High Court ruled that the survey could go ahead.

I’ve already done a bit in the lead-up to this whole thing – I spent an entire weekend walking my suburb asking people to enrol to vote. I asked every person I had even the most casual conversation with (outside of my working hours – our clients pay for my expertise, not my political needs)

But there was one person I was quite worried to ask, worried that I already knew what the answer would be, and that my sister and I might forever have a little bit more distance between us.  And then I considered the price of not knowing, of always wondering whether may fiancé and I were being judged, and I realised that I really didn’t lose much by asking – that not knowing was just about as hazardous to my family relationships as knowing it was a “no” vote. And at least if I knew I could try to change it, right?

But asking that question of family was terrifying.  It was coming out all over again. I was learning if I would ever be fully comfortable at a family gathering ever again.

Fortunately, I was wrong.  That concern, in this case, was based on assumptions I’d made about my sister and her church – I’m glad I asked because it’s clarified something for me that I should have asked more directly about years ago. But I’m pretty sure that if I expand my family circle from “immediate” just one or two layers and asked my parents’ siblings, their partners, and their offspring how they plan to vote… Well I expect that a few would vote “no”.  But without asking I face the prospect of never knowing if the family member I’m having a conversation with at Christmas voted to prevent me from fulfilling my promise to marry my partner.

Meanwhile, my partner’s grandmother is falling out with family who are posting hateful and hurtful homophobic things.

That’s the legacy of this secret ballot. Division, distrust, and suspicion.

If you know someone gay, please, don’t make us ask you how you’re going to vote – make sure we know.

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/

Gays: An Inconvenient Truth

In recent times, a long-time friend of mine has noticed that I post a lot of gay stuff on my Facebook.  I’m going to call her F.

F uses this piece of rather obvious information as evidence that I’ve changed, and I’m not the same person she used to know…

I accepted her criticism, and accepted F’s statement that I’ve changed. Because it’s true. I’m more outspoken, more active, more confident in myself and more comfortable in my own skin.

I apologised for changing.  I regret making that apology.  We should never have to apologise for growing.

What I don’t think F realises is that she has changed in the 10 years we’ve known each other too.

My friend is straight.  Recently, her child started school – a Christian School in one of the “God in every part of the curriculum” senses. Which is fine.  A bit surprising, but fine.

Since this happened, My friend has been spending a lot more time being involved in the church, from where I sit it seems to have built her confidence and given her a feeling of acceptance, and both of these are good things!

But she’s also started complaining about how much gay stuff I post, that “I’ve become my sexuality” and more.

Recently, on one of my posts about gay marriage, she wound up commenting that kids shouldn’t be exposed to homosexuality, that they should be able to retain their innocence.  When queried about whether they should be exposed to heterosexuality, in that case, she said something along the lines of  “heterosexuality to a point, but homosexuality, no.” (this is from a few days ago and I can no longer find her comments) She expanded on this saying that her child shouldn’t be exposed to “sex, gay, or porn” early on.  Essentially, there was no kissing, or any kind of public display of affection for gay couples, no matter how benign, so that she didn’t have to explain “gay” to her child.  

Being told I have to be less “me” around her child? hurts.
Being told that she views my very nature as similar to “sex… or porn”? Hurts. 

All of this brought home to me that gay parents, on top of the usual “my child is going to school for the first time” jitters, also have to deal with how the kids are going to react to their child having two mothers or two fathers, how the other parents are going to react to their child having two mothers or two fathers?  I have asked myself on more than one occasion “is it fair for a child to potentially cop flack just because I love men rather than women?  Should I really have children?” And my answer is: “Yes. My children will be part of a new generation where gay is not taboo, and they will be loved beyond measure.”  How do I know gay won’t be taboo?  Because I’ll be influencing that generation.  I’ll be teaching my child about the intrinsic goodness of all human beings.

When I get a husband and a child or two, and send my child to school, would my child allowed to talk to F’s? What if he mentions having two dads? Or would my child’s day to day existence threaten F’s child’s innocence? Would F’s child be allowed to come over and play if our children like each other, or would my home life threaten F’s child’s innocence?
What about seeing Dylan Jr, my husband and me in the street after school?  Would that threaten F’s child’s innocence?

In this country, you have the right to bring your child up based on your religious and personal values. But that right ends when it impedes my right to go about my life in a way that would be deemed entirely appropriate if I were straight.  If you’re pressed to explain, couldn’t you just tell your child “Dylan Jr’s Dads love each other like Daddy and I do” and leave it at that?  If you’re in the anti-camp-camp then perhaps “Dylan Jr’s dad and his friend live together in a  life of sin.” or whatever little hateful thing floats your boat.

So no. I won’t turn off my “gay” for the sake of your child.

There is nothing more or less innocent about being gay than being straight, and we, GLBTIQ folks, shouldn’t have to bear a day-to-day burden for uptight straight people’s discomfort.  And we won’t.

 

 

 

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.

 

Time to Invest in Equality

Howdy ho Readerinos!

Equal Love and CAAH (Community Action Against Homophobia) are uniting in their goal to raise $5000 between Sunday July 21 and Thursday July 25 to help fund their ongoing campaign for Marriage Equality in Australia. August marks the 9th anniversary of the same-sex marriage ban, and we intend to make these rallies louder, bigger, and better than ever.

Money raised is being split evenly across the 5 Equal Love and CAAH groups in Brisbane, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, and Melbourne.

We call on you to invest in the Marriage Equality campaign in Australia either by direct deposit or Kaching.

Account details:
Commonwealth bank
Name: Equal Love
BSB: 063123
Account number:10436080

Or Kaching to phone number 0403019430 and reference Equal Love

We in Equal Love are banking on your support!

For the skeptics among you, here’s the post on Equal Love’s website:
http://equallove.info/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=61%3A5k-in-5-days