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.

Open Letter to the Socialist Alternative

Dear Socialist Alternative members

I can’t tell you how my heart sank as I watched this banner being erected at the Brisbane Marriage Equality Rally.

Socialist Alternative Banner
I don’t have a great shot. On the right it says “Dear Tone, Stahp ur homophobia or else, sincerely de gayz”
On the left, a depiction of Abbott being hung by the neck using a rainbow noose.

Put simply, Socialist Alternative, if that’s your idea of supporting our cause, then we don’t want or need it, leave us alone.

More disturbing to me is that it really reveals how you see us. You seem to see us as a weapon, a tool to get what you want. The only piece of gay imagery on the whole banner is the rainbow used in the noose.

We are not your weapons, and not your tools. We aren’t the rope you’re going to hang Abbott with, and if you think I’m going to do anything *remotely* like fucking Abbott, you’re totally delirious.

These are *our* rights that you’re toying with. I get that you see them as part of your political theory, for some of you, I know, they are more personal… but they are my, our, everyday life. Our reality you’re playing with and using as a platform. You see it as a left-of-centre thing. I see it as a spectrum of life thing. There are plenty of Liberal-supporting queer and queer-supporting people out there. There are a multitude of people who, like me, actually don’t hate Abbott, they just think he’s wrong, and some of them only think he’s wrong about one or two issues.

Equal Love rallies are peaceful. I will never condone violence against anybody. I will not remain silent while people threaten our prime minister regardless of how I feel about him. I cannot condone actions which will cost LGBTIQ rights the support from the right that we actually need.

So, Socialist Alternative, Take your red wedge and stick it wherever you find it most uncomfortable. I don’t want it, and I reject it.
Sincerely,
Dylan Carmichael.

(This is my personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of any organisation I am involved with. I am a member of Equal Love Brisbane, but this statement is not endorsed by or a reflection of their opinion.)

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.

 

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.

Marriage Equality Rally 18th May 2013

Brisbane had its Marriage Equality Rally yesterday at Queen’s Park.

With over 1000 people in attendance, we had 7 speakers –

  • Liz Ross, Author and Activist, and marched in the first Mardis Gras in Sydney in 1978
  • Graeme Perrett, Labor Member for Moreton [my apologies, I previously had Graeme down as a Candidate, thanks to Phil Browne for spotting this – twitter @palmboy4444 ]
  • Adam Stone, Greens Candidate
  • Rowan Oost and Rachel Gilmore – Trans* Activists
  • Jake Harrison – a finalist from My Kitchen Rules
  • Kat Henderson – Speaker from Equal Love
And the event was MC’d by Local documentary maker Chad St James and Equal Love’s own Kym Mead

I would dearly love to comment on the speeches, on everything! But I was simply too busy – I was manning the merchandise stall and so many people wanted things – it was all a bit of a blur until it was time to march for me to heft my trusty megaphone and bellow for all I was worth!

“What do we want? Marriage Equality! When do we want it? Now!”
“Hey hey, ho ho, homophobia’s got to go”
“Gillard, Abbott, ALP: We demand equality!”
“Homophobia: No way! We’re going to fight it all the way!”
“Gay, Straight, Black, White: We demand our civil rights!”

About halfway through, we stopped at the corner of Adelaide and Edward Streets and chalked a massive rainbow across the intersection!

Yours truly featured on SBS for 2 seconds in the National/International Marriage Equality story here (at 9:16) and the Brisbane Marriage Equality rally was also covered on Channel 7.

The atmosphere was AMAZING and the crowd marched and some of them danced their way down the streets. I can’t wait for the next one! Although I hope the Bandt/Wilkie bill passes on June 6 and we can raise awareness of other queer community issues!

See you all at the next rally on August 17th – first weekend of the (Official) Election Campaign

[Author’s note – I know some of you might have seen this before I posted the rest – I accidentally hit “Send to blog” early – whoops!]