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.

That’s the way the condom ruptures

This article is explicit and confronting. It talks about sex and about sexual health. I make no apologies for that, as this was an incredibly confronting time and one in which I discovered I just had to be matter of fact about everything.

I had just moved. It was my first sex in probably a month. I came. He came. And then the drama began…

“Fuck!” I said, as soon as I climbed off my bedmate. “The condom broke!” It was odd to see, little rubber ring still around the base, but the rest of the rubber limp against his groin, rather than still enveloping the deflating member. He wasn’t exactly a one night stand, but we weren’t exactly dating either. I had never been in this situation before, and neither had he.

He had a shower, I had a shower. He told me he had tested negative recently, had only been safe since then and that he would get tested again. I told him my last test date and that I was also negative. I believed him, but I couldn’t convince myself that I was believing him for a good reason. So I called one of my closest friends, M, and blurted the situation out to him. “What the fuck do I do now?” M is always incredibly matter of fact. “Well you have two choices, you can do nothing and hope that everything is ok, or you can go to the hospital, and demand Post-Exposure Prophylaxis” (PEP) He warned me that I might have to demand it and to make sure I got it before I left. He suggested I go to a hospital near Gay Central, and told me to go now and that I could call him any time I needed to.

I arrived at RBWH at 11:03pm, about an hour after the break happened. I told the triage nurse that I was there because a condom broke and I wanted to make sure I got Post Exposure Prophylaxis (in keeping with M’s advice to ask and keep asking). She was quite understanding and looked sympathetic, asking if I’d asked his status, whether he said if he was negative or positive (in my state of confusion I just answered “yes” to the first question) and whether or not I’d been on PEP before.

I was processed by their clerk and went to sit in the waiting room.

It was at this point that I started feeling incredibly concerned for myself, and decided that my story, however it turned out, might be useful for someone else who would otherwise have no idea what to expect. Because I certainly didn’t.

I was called in for some basic observations and asked again what had happened, and some medical history. I was a bit miffed by their writing “denies” when I told them “no” to a question, because it felt like they didn’t believe me – looking back I suspect that it’s just a terminology thing to be clear about what they are told vs what they have actually verified.

Looking around the waiting room, seeing other people prioritised in front of me, I realised that it could be much worse. I wasn’t in any physical pain and my life wasn’t in immediate danger. I was there mere hours after my potential exposure so PEP had an incredibly high chance of working if he was lying or wrong.

Eventually I saw the doctor, who asked me similar questions to the nurses, but in more detail (“did he come inside you?” and similar). He went away, got me a PEP starter pack, and asked the obs nurse to draw some blood. The doctor advised me of the potential side effects of the medication he was giving me, and told me to make sure I was practising safer sex. He stopped there and looked a bit sheepish, saying he knew I was this time as well, and that rather I needed to continue practising safer sex if I was having sex. He also told me I would get a call in the morning with an appointment time for the Infectious Diseases Clinic.

I got home at about 4am and emailed my immediate boss and her boss saying I’d been at hospital and was ok, but might not make it to work later and would have a number of follow-up appointments I would need to go to. I got myself up at 6:30am feeling refreshed and went to work. My boss was away, and my boss’s boss came into my office and asked what the hell I was doing there if I’d been at hospital that late. I responded with something like “doing normal” and he just told me to go home when I felt like it (and preferably to make it soon.) it was very much in a “do what you need to” kind of way.

I have a good relationship with my boss, and explained the situation to her in more detail when she returned (what the trip to the hospital was and the reason for the follow-ups) and she was incredibly understanding about the whole thing (in context, I’d only recently been made permanent, and didn’t want it to look like I was going to be unreliable now I was permanent.)

To start with I was on a combination of Combivir and Kaletra. I spent a lot of time feeling nauseous and tired in the first couple of days. There was diarrhea too. (I told you I’ve been doing matter of fact, and also that this would be confronting)

On the fourth day, I went to the Infectious Diseases Clinic. I felt awkward, I was an early appointment that day so I was sitting alone in a waiting room which was open to the hallway, whose only posters had “HIV” and some other STI on them. I felt very conspicuous.(handy hint: if you’re facing the posters, anyone else looking at them will only ever see the back of your head.)

They asked me how I was going on the starter pack and what symptoms I was having… I explained and they suggested switching Combivir for Truvada to lessen my symptoms. It helped. I didn’t feel tired or nauseous any more. They also explained what happens from here, being a 2 week appointment, 6 week appointment and blood test, and a 3 month appointment and blood test. They also told me that I was negative based on the sample they took in Emergency. I called the other guy and let him know my results. His came in a couple days later, all clear, he tells me. Again, I believed him, but had no good basis to, so I decided to continue with the PEP for the full course, to be safe…

I have lousy timing. About a week into this whole thing, I was introduced to a boy. We hit it off majorly. About a week in, and after we’d had sex, I explained my situation. That conversation was hard and scary for me. This boy I really quite liked, I felt I hadn’t really done the right thing by, and I was scared that by telling him about it (and the fact that I hadn’t told him sooner) I might push him away. Fortunately for me, I was wrong! He was incredibly understanding, including about me failing to disclose my “unknown” status beforehand.

After the first fortnight of the Truvada/Kaletra, my body adjusted a bit and my nausea vanished, my other symptoms became a bit less problematic too. I went back to the clinic, felt a bit self-conscious in the waiting room again, and they asked me how the medication was going.
Two weeks later, it was done and I was back to my normal rhythms of everything. Another fortnight, and I got my 6 week test taken, and the following Monday got the result: Negative. Thank fuck! Apparently most people get to a detectable level in 6 weeks. That just left the 3 month. At this point I was pretty confident I was free and clear.

I went to my 3 month appointment after giving my blood sample the Thursday before, and got the news: I was negative! I smilingly told the receptionist on the way out that it was nice to have met her, but I hoped never to see her again in a professional capacity!

I was so relieved. I had gone through moments where I imagined I would be positive. Where I envisioned a life forever taking these pills. And I had, to some degree, made peace with that. I told myself I’d done everything right, and so I would feel no guilt over being positive, if that’s how it turned out. What would be would be, and I’d done everything I could to make sure that what would be would be the thing I wanted it to be. If I was going to be positive it wasn’t through a lack of trying not to be. If I was going to be positive, it wasn’t going to be the end of the world, it was just going to make life a little bit harder and a little more stigmatised.

Fortunately, what would be for me was that negative result. And it’s worth a bit of discomfort and awkwardness for a couple months. While that is a situation I never want to be in again, I would take the meds and do the treatment in a heartbeat. I would encourage anyone I knew to be going through a similar situation to do the same.

The shortest I can say it is: “Get tested regularly, and if you’re potentially exposed, get treatment ASAP”

There are lots of free testing options available at the moment. And if you’re ever in a situation like mine, I’d encourage you to go to the hospital as soon as humanly possible. You can basically change your mind at any time if you start PEP, but if you don’t start, it might be too late if you change your mind later.

I hope this look at my experience helps you somehow.
Dylan.

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.

 

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.

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