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.


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.


Why religious exemptions are important to me

From the abstract political in recent posts on this topic, to why I personally feel the religious exemptions in the anti discrimination act are horrible.

I’m in IT. This is fortunately an area in which there are a number of fantastic and progressive employers. But some people in IT wind up working with and for community service organisations- a sizeable number of which are run by religious groups. The Catholics, the Salvos, the Anglicans, the Uniting church, and many more.

I work for the IT department in an organisation providing aged, disability, and children’s services. And one of the questions I had to delve into about my organisation in the light of the recent federal bill was “are they a religious organisation? Will they retain the right to discriminate against me because I’m gay?” I went hunting across the Internet and I’m satisfied that the answer is “no”. I know they were aware that I was a gay activist before they hired me. (It doesn’t take more than a basic google to uncover that information, and what employer doesn’t google their prospective employee?)

The religious exemptions as they stand in the draft bill mean that people like me, particularly working in the community services sector, have to do a lot more research before we accept positions to make sure we make our decisions armed with all the facts about our employers and their ability to discriminate against us.

This institutionalised blanket permission for discrimination places a higher burden on anyone who might feel that they might at some point be protected by anti discrimination legislation in order for them to feel secure in their positions.

I’m out to a point that going back “in” isn’t an option for me even if I wanted to. And that means that I will have to be wary should I wind up considering a job offer from a religious employer… That’s the only positive in recommendation 12 in the report: employers would have to announce their intention to discriminate up front. They won’t be able to simply change their mind about me later…

Make it simple, don’t let people discriminate without demonstrable reason.

The Anti-Discrimination Bill Inquiry Report

There are a total of 12 recommendations to come out of the Senate Inquiry Report. I posted about the deficiencies I noticed in the current draft recently, and so I’m going to address the four recommendations that relate to those inadequacies.

Recommendation 1
7.20 The committee recommends that the definition of ‘gender identity’ in clause 6 of the Draft Bill be amended to read:

gender identity means the gender-related identity, appearance or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual (whether by way of medical intervention or not), with or without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth, and includes transsexualism and transgenderism.

Perfect! It does away with that troublesome genuine basis stuff and makes the definition more readily accessible to those who may be discriminated against for perceived gender identity difference.

Recommendation 2

7.21 The committee recommends that subclause 17(1) of the Draft Bill be amended to include ‘intersex status’ as a protected attribute. ‘Intersex’ should be defined in clause 6 of the Draft Bill as follows:

intersex means the status of having physical, hormonal or genetic features that are:

(a) neither wholly female nor wholly male; or

(b) a combination of female and male; or

(c) neither female nor male.

In my first read, I was provisionally happy with this definition. I’m not Intersex and while I haven’t had an issue with gender-diversity, the terminology is still kind of new to me. I have since noticed that this definition is verbatim the one suggested by Gina of OII. If OII suggested it, I know it’s going to be the right language. Well done OII!

Recommendation 11

7.80 The committee recommends that the Draft Bill be amended to remove exceptions allowing religious organisations to discriminate against individuals in the provision of services, where that discrimination would otherwise be unlawful. The committee considers that the Australian Government should develop specific amendments to implement this recommendation, using the approach taken in the Tasmanian Anti‑Discrimination Act 1998 as a model.

This is big. This is very big. This recommendation expands on the aged-care provisions in the Draft Bill and removes the religious exemption for people they are providing a service to…
That means that religious schools would have to accept, for example, the children of my Baptist Pastor friend even though they question his “commitment to Christianity.” They also would be unable to expel a student for being gay or pregnant.

On the very day this recommendation came out, the opposition called on Labor to rule out its implementation – not that they have any intention of supporting this bill anyway…

So reading through 11 good recommendations in a massive step forward, I was a bit thrown by the twelfth.

Recommendation 12

7.81 The committee recommends that clause 33 of the Draft Bill be amended to require that any organisation providing services to the public, and which intends to rely on the exceptions in that clause, must:

  • make publicly available a document outlining their intention to utilise the exceptions in clause 33;
  • provide a copy of that document to any prospective employees; and
  • provide access to that document, free of charge, to any other users of their service or member of the public who requests it.

What this means, dear readers, is that if you apply to work at a religious organisation, they must provide you with a copy of their discrimination policy. They’re simply obligated to tell you how they intend to mistreat you before you sign the contract. This is a step forward for transparency, I suppose. I hope that people will call out our religious providers for their policies. But unless this recommendation is fleshed out in legislation to require a clear explanation of which subsections of Section 33 the organisation intends to use and how, I expect that we’ll see a lot of policies that state that they “retain the right to discriminate on the basis of [the whole list], as outlined in Section 33 of the Bill.”

On the surface, this transparency is at least a start. It is quite sad though to think about all those people in industries like aged care which are dominated by religious groups. Those poor folks gain little from this legislation if all of the policies are as bad as each other. I’ve heard the opinion that this gives the public a chance to shame the organisation into fixing their policies… I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but religious groups are to renowned for moving with the times or even caring too much about public opinion. I think to think that they will be shamed into changing is naive unless some church groups release policies saying they do not intend to discriminate.

On this point, I would like to say thank you to UnitingJustice Australia – a social justice arm of the Uniting Church who supported the removal of blanket religious exemptions for the following: (pp58/59)

We acknowledge…that the exercise of religious freedom is subject to the regulatory norms that govern Australian society…

We do not believe that [clause 33] is necessary, in light of the need to balance the rights of the wider community with the freedoms to be afforded to religious groups…When religious bodies are provided [with] what amounts to a ‘blanket exception’, there is no incentive for that body to ensure that it does not discriminate, and no incentive to promote equality and inclusion in areas of employment and representation other than those leadership positions necessary to maintain the integrity of the religious organisation.

The Coalition dissenting report has recommended that the bill not be supported, but that:

1.35 Coalition Senators recommend that Part II of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 be amended to include identity as a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex person as a protected attribute to which the Act extends.

Given they want to ensure that religious exemptions still apply, I view this second recommendations as a token statement designed to appease the GLBTIQ lobby without giving ground where it really matters.

I’m just left hoping the Greens, Independents, and other minor parties work to force the government to do the right thing with this bill, since it’s clear that neither major party will put the amendments forward…

There’s a petition being presented to the Attorney-General on Tuesday – go sign here: http://www.getup.org.au/campaigns/anti-discrimination/time-for-action/sign-the-petition
Don’t forget to write to your MPs, senators, and papers on this issue.

Anti-discrimination Exposure draft – the issues

I have realised that I have been remiss in my blogging, having completely missed out the Exposure Draft Human Rights and Anti-discrimination bill put forward by ex-Attorney General Nicola Roxson.

On the whole, it’s a good idea, and it’s basically an effort to harmonise state discrimination legislation to a high standard.  It will be the first federal anti-discrimination legislation in Australia.

There are, however, some problems with the draft, which need to be rectified before it should be passed.

Early on in the bill, in the definitions section in fact, we note that there is no entry for “intersex”.  This is a group of people who can and do experience discrimination based upon a vast array of genetic conditions.  The closest they get to being covered under this bill is under gender identity.  From the draft legislation (Chap 1, Part 1-2, Division 2, Section 6 – p15)

gender identity means:
(a) the identification, on a genuine basis, by a person of one sex
as a member of the other sex (whether or not the person is
recognised as such):
(i) by assuming characteristics of the other sex, whether by
means of medical intervention, style of dressing or
otherwise; or
(ii) by living, or seeking to live, as a member of the other
sex; or
(b) the identification, on a genuine basis, by a person of
indeterminate sex as a member of a particular sex (whether or
not the person is recognised as such):
(i) by assuming characteristics of that sex, whether by
means of medical intervention, style of dressing or
otherwise; or
(ii) by living, or seeking to live, as a member of that sex.

Looks good right?  On the surface, the right words are there – there’s a second clause which exists for people of indeterminate sex.  But read it a bit harder, and you’ll see where the problem is – “the identification, on a genuine basis, … as a member of a particular sex”.  Gender identity does not permit intersex people (or any people, for that matter) to identify as neither, or both, or indeterminate, or anything except either male or female and still receive the benefits of the anti-discrimination legislation.

“We’ll help you, but you have to pick one.  Until you pick a side, you’re fair game.”  No room for a Switzerland in the gender divide, it seems.

So this is one of the major failings of the draft.  Another is the inclusion of the wording “on a genuine basis” – There are going to be some interesting judgment calls over the next while on what exactly “a genuine basis” might be.  How will someone prove that they genuinely identify as a member of the opposite gender – and how do they challenge the assertion that they don’t genuinely identify?

And then there’s the other thing I have a major problem with: (Section 33, pp48-49)

Exceptions for religious bodies and educational institutions
Protected attributes to which these exceptions apply

(1) The exceptions in this section apply in relation to the following
protected attributes:
(a) gender identity;
(b) marital or relationship status;
(c) potential pregnancy;
(d) pregnancy;
(e) religion;
(f) sexual orientation.
Exception for conduct of body established for religious purposes
(2) Subject to subsection (3), it is not unlawful for a person (the first
person) to discriminate against another person if:
(a) the first person is a body established for religious purposes,
or an officer, employee or agent of such a body; and
(b) the discrimination consists of conduct, engaged in in good
faith, that:
(i) conforms to the doctrines, tenets or beliefs of that
religion; or
(ii) is necessary to avoid injury to the religious sensitivities
of adherents of that religion; and
(c) the discrimination is on the ground of a protected attribute to
which this exception applies, or a combination of 2 or more
protected attributes to which this exception applies.
(3) The exception in subsection (2) does not apply if:
(a) the discrimination is connected with the provision, by the
first person, of Commonwealth-funded aged care; and
(b) the discrimination is not connected with the employment of
persons to provide that aged care.
Exception for conduct of educational institution conducted in
accordance with tenets etc. of a religion
(4) It is not unlawful for a person (the first person) to discriminate
against another person if:
(a) the first person is an educational institution that is conducted
in accordance with the doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings
of a particular religion, or an officer, employee or agent of
such an institution; and
(b) the discrimination is connected with employment by the
educational institution, or with the provision of education or
training by the institution; and
(c) the discrimination consists of conduct, engaged in in good
faith, that:
(i) conforms to the doctrines, tenets or beliefs of that
religion; or
(ii) is necessary to avoid injury to the religious sensitivities
of adherents of that religion; and
(d) the discrimination is on the ground of a protected attribute to
which this exception applies, or a combination of 2 or more
protected attributes to which this exception applies.

In short: Schools, Employment agencies, and in fact any religiously affiliated body can choose to withhold services from people on the basis of:    gender identity; marital or relationship status; potential pregnancy; pregnancy; religion; sexual orientation.

So if your church believes only those women who cannot get pregnant should be teachers, in their school, they can discriminate on those grounds.  They get to discriminate in their disability services, choosing not to provide services to transgender or gay clients – provided they can make the claim that it’s a belief of their religion.  If living together unmarried is a sin, they can choose not to hire you – or for that matter, refuse to accept your children into the school.  These organisations can choose not to provide services that the government pays them to provide on the basis of attributes otherwise protected by federal law. (Unless they’re providing aged care – aged care institutions are not allowed to discriminate against clients)

And it doesn’t stop there – oh no. They can also discriminate when it comes to hiring staff – even if they’re an aged care provider. We are seeing people fired for being pregnant out of wedlock, for being found out as being gay, for “living in sin”.  Whether they’re a cleaner, a teacher, a nurse, or a receptionist, people the government have identified as being at risk of discrimination are not being protected against Religious Organisations who are some of Australia’s biggest employers.

Some people have suggested that Section 32 is a problem as well.  I don’t. It basically permits religions to discriminate how the like when it comes to appointing their ministers.  I think that it *is* reasonable to discriminate for these positions as having someone that does *not* fit your belief-mold is a bit hypocritical when they then espouse the conflicting tenet.  They get to pick and choose on 11 of the 17 protected attributes.

I think concern about s32 is misplaced.  I wouldn’t want to dictate who could be a minister of religion – that *is* a religious decision.

Other people have also raised concerns about the inclusion of offence as part of the discrimination act – I can see their point, but I don’t think it’s as important as the two points I’m writing about tonight.

So there’s a report out on the 18th, which I’ll be reading and forming an opinion on for you shortly afterward!

In short, Section 6’s lack of Intersex and Section 33’s broad application to clients and employees of religious organisations alike I find disturbing.  I had hoped that the Abbott and the Opposition might make efforts to force amendments to the bill in these areas, but they’ve indicated they’re just going to vote no instead.  I guess they couldn’t afford to look like an effective opposition.

Jimbo Wallace – warped again

Jim Wallace was on The Project (Seg 1: Headlines, 6:00) on the 16th of January to justify Prime Minister Gillard’s stance on Anti-Discrimination Legislation, specifically the blanket exemption for religious organisation.  Religious organisations will have the ability to fire unwed mothers, and gay people.

Wallace tells us that Gillard has assured the ACL that “Gillard has assured that religious institutes will still be able to discriminate based on sexuality, this means schools and hospitals will be entitled to fire/refuse to hire members of the LGBT community.” (OutInPerth, 17 Jan 2013)

Gillard’s spokespeople have neither confirmed nor denied this, simply stated that “we don’t comment on discussions with stakeholders.

It will come as no surprise to any of my readers that I consider Jim Wallace to be a vile man and a disgrace to Christians everywhere.  I also believe that he single-handedly does more damage to the reputation of Christianity than any other Australian figure (Though Cardinal Bishop Pell is close).

Aaaaaaanyway… during his interview he makes a few statements and I don’t think one of them is actually unassailable.

For those too busy to read the whole thing, there’s a “What can I do” section at the end.

Christian Values

Gorgi Coghlan: “Why should you have the right to fire a receptionist who uses IVF or a cleaner who lives with his girlfriend?”

Wallace: “When the church goes into the public square… it’s trying to demonstrate the values and ethics of Christ.”

The values and ethics of Christ.  The same Christ who spoke out so harshly against the pharisees?  The same Christ who purposely associated with the outcasts, the poor, and those who were discriminated against in Jewish society?  I have news for you Jimbo, you are in the public square, and it is you who is failing to show the values and ethics of Christ.

We don’t try to get employed by you…

Dr Andrew Rochford: “One of those wonderful values that I took away from Catholic Schooling was do unto others as you would do unto yourself … Surely you wouldn’t want to be discriminated against, so why is it OK for you guys to discriminate – against anyone?”

Wallace: “Well, I don’t think anyone is. All we’re trying to achieve is the same as every politician in Australia has, in that they’re not required, if they’re a Labor MP to actually hire someone who’s a card carrying member of the Liberal Party as their chief of staff.  And I certainly don’t try to get myself employed, and I’m not aware of any Christians trying to be employed in gay bars or gay institutions, and I would expect that the gay population should be extending that same privilege, same courtesy to Christians”

Can you just hear my head spinning?

There’s some dissection required here.  I’m going to leave the Politician statement for a moment, because they go further in depth in the next question. But there are a few flaws in that second statement.

The False Dichotomy:

Where you say things are one or the other, not both.  Wallace clearly believes that you are either gay, or Christian, but never both.  He is wrong.  In fact, The Project very recently did a story on Gay Christians, and I know quite a number of Gay Christians personally.

The Argument From Ignorance:

Also known by the saying that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” – an accusation that the church levels at atheists from time to time, so I would’ve thought Jim would have been familiar with it, but I digress – Just because Jim doesn’t personally know of any Christians trying to be employed by gay institutions, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t Christians employed by gay institutions.

The biggest problem with this argument is that all it takes is one person with a single data point to refute it. For example, I know a straight Christian man who is occasionally a presenter on JOY.FM – a gay radio station.  I have a Christian friend who was on the board of Working It Out Inc, a GLBTI organisation aimed at helping people accept their sexual orientation or gender diversity.  And those are two examples I can think of in the space of five minutes without any serious brain-wracking.

The False Analogy:

This is a fallacy where you take two things that are not the same and treat them as if they are.  Wallace supplies a fantastic example by suggesting that Faith-based employers and gay institutions are the same.  They aren’t.

Christian employers are some of the largest organisations in the country – They operate nursing homes, schools, employment agencies, foster care and adoption services, emergency housing, and more, all with surprisingly little oversight on how monies given to them by the government are spent.  Gay institutions are typically small, very focussed, and subject to outcomes-based funding.

If you are considering going into aged care, for example you have almost no choice but to apply with faith-based organisations.  And the same with a lot of social services.  Show me a scenario where to work in a certain industry, you almost have to be employed by a “gay institution”.  I have a vague notion that a drag queen might find it difficult, but that’s about it…

And under the new legislation, gay institutions would not be eligible to discriminate against the Christian anyway – so is he advocating that we should be able to do so?

But we don’t know it’s not a choice…

Gorgi Coghlan: “Jim, when you talk about political affiliation… If I vote Greens, it’s because I choose to vote Greens, if I vote Liberals, it’s because I choose to vote Liberals but if I’m gay that’s not a choice, so is this really fair?”

Wallace: “Well that’s arguable because we haven’t really found a gay gene.  But without opening that up, I think the reality is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights actually protects as a fundamental freedom, freedom of religion.  And amongst that is for instance in the situation of schools the right to come together in community and educate your children in the faith.  And that involves creating the environment for that.”

We haven’t found a single “gay gene” – he is correct.  But there are links between genes for female fertility and increased incidence of homosexuality, as well as connections between finger-length and sexuality.  We also have the environment in the womb and a few other factors that have been identified as increasing the likelihood of homosexuality. The American Psychological Association says that “Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.”

As for his reference to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, he is referring to Article 18.

1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.

3. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

4. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.

Article 26 states “All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

Article 26 would surely be a clause under which 18.3 is invoked.  And I do not believe that Religious Schooling was what was in mind for Article 18 regardless.  “Manifesting your religion in teaching” would, I believe, refer to teachings of doctrine from the pulpit, not the teaching of a general curriculum with a Christian bent.  Wallace has combined sections 1 and 4 to come to his statement.  To ensure the freedom to come together in community is to ensure the freedom to gather as a church would gather and section 4 says that you have the right to impart to your child the values and beliefs that you want to.  I do not believe that if Jim took a case to the Human Rights Commission based on his stated interpretation, it would succeed.

The fundamental freedom to practice religion ends when you impinge on my fundamental right to not be discriminated against.

Lets not talk about the help…

Charlie Pickering: “You say lets not open up that debate about choosing sexuality, but in essence we have to, in essence you’re picking and choosing on what grounds you get to discriminate against someone when it really doesn’t matter.  I’m curious to know how a gay person working at a high school answers the phone any differently to a straight person”

Wallace: “You always reduce it to the lowest common denominator – the receptionist or the gardener, but we’re talking her more fundamentally about the teachers and what they teach the children, we’re talking about the example that they set for children in their moral lives and for a Christian school for instance, it’s a very important issue”

That could be because you’re fighting for the ability to fire receptionists, gardeners, nurses in aged care facilities as well as teachers… Tell me why your exemption isn’t just for schools, or teachers in schools if that is your concern – why keep the blanket for employment agencies, aged care facilities, and all the rest?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when you take public money to provide a service to the public, that is not an opportunity for you to proselytise and show your faith.  It’s an opportunity to exercise your gifts by doing a service for the community.  And because it’s government money, you need to provide that service for and with all sections of the public.

My overall opinion: Public money, public rules. If you want to discriminate, do it on an entirely religious dollar.

What can I do?

Finally, what you can do: The anti-discrimination legislation legislation isn’t passed yet, so there is still time to influence things like religious exemptions and protected attributes.
Don’t forget to:

Mark Regnerus is at it again…

After the infamous Regnerus Study, you’d hope that Mark Regnerus would have fallen of the face of the sociological planet, would’t you?  Not quite, although his article for The Witherspoon Institute might just make it happen.

His article begins:

 Young adult men’s support for redefining marriage may not be entirely the product of ideals about expansive freedoms, rights, liberties, and fairness. It may be, in part, a byproduct of regular exposure to diverse and graphic sex acts.

It turns out there’s this interesting correlation between the amount of porn men watch, and the level to which they support same sex marriage – these figures come out of the New Family Structures Study which is no surprise, since this data underpinned Regnerus’ last paper.  He has however, steered well clear of the data which was so controversial last time – a good choice on his part.

What baffles me though, is that at the start of the article, you get the block-quote above.  The second-last paragraph starts

Of course, correlation doesn’t mean causation, and I’m not suggesting causation here.

He’s got this partly right, correlation does not mean causation, however, contrast this statement with the following one and the blurb paragraph, and he most certainly is suggesting a causative link.

And the last paragraph in its entirety:

In the end, contrary to what we might wish to think, young adult men’s support for redefining marriage may not be entirely the product of ideals about expansive freedoms, rights, liberties, and a noble commitment to fairness. It may be, at least in part, a byproduct of regular exposure to diverse and graphic sex acts.

Here, I’m going to take Mark to task over sloppy, sloppy language choices:

a byproduct is an unintended or unwanted product of a process, but it is still a product. A product of a process is caused by that process.

The Good Doctor has just said that young men’s support for redefining marriage may be a byproduct of pornography viewing.  One single paragraph after denying that he is suggesting causation, he states that he believes there at least a partial causative link.

I don’t want to get into the pros or cons of porn here.  Regnerus throws up a few straw-men though, particularly to make it look like he’s explicitly denying the causal link.

I can agree with him on one point, I don’t think that same-sex marriage support causes porn viewing.  But his answers to the “alternative explanations” are transparently insufficient – he suggests “Religion? Politics?” and goes on to say “While religiosity indeed matters for perceiving marriage as outdated, it does little to alter the stable link between porn use and same-sex marriage support”

My dear Mark, Religiosity has little to do with same sex marriage support or porn use?  Go back to your data.  Anti-gay sentiment is typically rooted in a religious societal undertone, and disapproval of porn is certainly high on the Church’s list. Someone with religious conviction is (I believe, though I have no data to back it up at the moment) less likely to view porn, and less likely to support same sex marriage.  The perception of marriage as outdated has little to do with either.  With that in mind, someone who is not religious is more likely to both view porn and support same-sex marriage because their world-view doesn’t paint those things as bad!  As for political affiliation, I have no idea – why would you bring it up.

The art of science, Dr Regnerus, is to come up with a hypothesis that explains the data, and then test to see whether it is true, not to come up with answers that could never explain the data, or worse, throw away a hypothesis that could because it doesn’t fit your vantage-point…

If you were given a shred of credibility in Social Science circles (and that open letter of 400 of your peers including 5 colleagues suggests you aren’t) I would weep for the state of Social Science.

Fortunately, it looks like everyone else thinks he’s a quack too.

Dylan Carmichael, signing off

Religion and Sexuality – The Gay Bible

I was surprised when I saw this come across my feeds:

The Queen James Bible

“Sounds kind of interesting” I thought, so I went for a more in-depth look.

The Queen James Bible seeks to resolve interpretive ambiguity in the Bible as it pertains to homosexuality: We edited those eight verses in a way that makes homophobic interpretations impossible

“Edited”?  Well that’s a curious one… I don’t believe for a second that there aren’t editors for various translations of the Bible, but this pricked my ears… Why isn’t this a re-translation – even if only of those eight verses?

So, naturally I go to see who thinks this Bible is The Real Deal…  And find that there is no earthly author and no translator who has put their name to the Queen James Edition.

So they started with the King James, for a few reasons that make varying degrees of sense, and they changed:

  • Genesis 19:5
  • Leviticus 18:22
  • Leviticus 20:13
  • Romans 1:26-1:27
  • 1 Corinthians 6:9
  • 1 Timothy 1:10
  • and Jude 1:7
I have opinions on all of these verse changes, and since you’re my readers, I guess you want to know what they are.
You can see the reasoning (Which I’ve read and used in this article) here.
Disclaimer: I am not a biblical scholar, but I am willing to stand by my opinions with my real name – more than the editors of the QJV are willing to do at the moment.

Genesis 19:5

KJV: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, “Where are the men which came in to thee this night? Bring them out unto us, that we may know them.”

QJV: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, “Where are the men which came in to thee this night? Bring them out unto us, that we may rape and humiliate them.”

This is one of the edits that I don’t mind.  It follows the prevailing opinion on the interpretation of the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, and is consistent with the word “know” in this context.  I don’t think this really alters the base meaning of the text, just disambiguates it.

Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13

Leviticus 18:22

KJV: Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination.

QJV: Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind in the temple of Molech: it is an abomination

Leviticus 20:13

KJV: If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

QJV: If a man also lie with mankind in the temple of Molech, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

The words added in both verses are “in the temple of Molech”.  I do not disagree with the interpretation that is put forward as “support” for this edit.  It sounds plausible, in fact.  My issue is that it creates a whole limiting clause which did not exist in the original text, for the sake of a bible whose potentially homophobic statements are edited out. If you’re going to limit the “lie with mankind” clause, make it clear. “Thou shalt not lie with temple prostitutes as he lieth with a woman” would have the same effect.  Their entire justification for both changes only references the context of Lev 18:22, not 20:13 at all. The closest verse with reference to Molech is verse 5, and has a stanza-break statement between them in vv 7 and 8 – “(7) Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy, for I am the LORD your God. (8) And ye shall keep my statutes and do them: I am the LORD which sanctify you” Verses 10 through 22 are all about sexual sins such as incest, adultery, and beastiality.  I do not believe the “In the temple of Molech” qualifier can be legitimately applied here.  This interpretation information would have been better applied as a footnote, leaving the original text intact.

Romans 1:26-27

KJV: (26) For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against their nature: (27) And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.

QJV: (26) Their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, left of the natural use of the woman, burned in ritual lust, one toward another; (27) Men with men working that which is pagan and unseemly. For this cause God gave the idolators up unto vile affections, receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.

(Emphasis mine)

Given Paul’s past suggestions that wives are for the weak, and sex equally so, I don’t know that I put much stock in his opinions on the subject.  This is claimed as the QJV’s crowning glory.  Like the Leviticus 18:22 changes, I think this is possibly how we should interpret the verses, but it should be as a footnote, rather than altering the text, unless there is a legitimate translation reason that these words be included (i.e. it comes to light that the Hebrews used a particular word to imply non-Jewish acts where acts within judaism were referred to differently.

Corinthians 6:9

KJV: Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

QJV: Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor morally weak,  nor promiscuous,

This change actually does relate to a translation issue. in these verses, “Effeminate” is translated from Greek “malakoi” which means “soft” – both physically such as fabric, or morally soft, undisciplined, decadent, easily influenced.  Traits that were (wrongly) attributed to women at the time. 

And “abusers of themselves with mankind”? it’s a really interesting one.  I’m led to believe that the greek word “Arsenokoitais” has been used exclusively by Paul in his writings, and has not been seen outside of the Pauline letters.  I’m not so sure about their “The man who has many beds” definition, but have heard many potential translators talking about arsenokoitais being those who use male child temple prostitutes (yeuchh!).  I think “fornicators” and “adulterers” has “promiscuous” covered, so I think they’d have been better putting “those who use temple prostitutes”

1 Timothy 1:10

KJV: For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;

QJV: For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;

I don’t necessarily mind this, I’d suggest that they mean “the perverted”, “the promiscuous” or perhaps, “those that defile themselves with man or woman” since there seemed to be a clear sex message there.  The omission of the second person element loses the meaning of promiscuity that I think the verse implies.

Jude 1:7

KJV: Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

QJV: Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after nonhuman flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

I think the justification for this change highlights that these are people without biblical understanding.  The male mob in Sodom did not rape the angels, because Lot offered them his daughters instead. (Part of how we know that this wasn’t a roving band of homo’s, since that wouldn’t have helped if they were) The angels stuck the mob in Sodom blind so that they couldn’t find the doorway. That said, the mob were pursuing flesh which was strange in that it was “angelic” rather than in the sense of being of the same gender as them.  I think the QJV could have kept some of the poetry of the KJV by using the term “angelic”… but non-human seems fine if clunky.

The Verdict

I like the idea of a less ambiguous, less homophobic bible, and I like the poetry of the King James Version.  But this whole thing from start to finish seems a bit strange.  From “Editing” rather than “Translating” (which just makes me draw parallels with “Revisionist History”), to adding and removing words to alter meaning, to the clumsy slip-up for their Jude justification. (Again, the change is fine, but the justification shows a disturbing lack of understanding.) 

Get a translator on side, put a publisher’s name, a translator’s name, and the names of your editors on the book purchasing page. (Putting “God” as author and “Jesus Christ” as contributor is cutesy and sickening, frankly)

My big concern is that people think they can just edit out the bad rather than taking the time to build a proper translation, even if just for the verses they have a problem with.  The QJV will be attacked on the grounds that it’s an alteration to the Word of God rather than a retranslation.  Sadly, I think there are verses in the Bible which are outright homophobic, but there are better ways to interpret them than editing.  I lean heavily to footnotes giving interpretive assistance, rebuttals, context, history etc, rather than rewriting passages to suit the agenda.


In brief: Good idea;  Poor Execution.

Religion, Sex, Politics.

That’s right!  Today I’m talking about those three no-go conversation topics: Sex, Politics, and Religion.  In particular, I want to explain my position on how they should interact…

Politics and sex

My position here is fairly simple: what consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedrooms, homes, dungeons, etc is theirs and theirs alone to worry about.  The important thing here is the noun-phrase “consenting adults”.  This is not: an adult and a child; an adult and an animal; or an adult and a non-consenting adult.  Let the government legislate, indeed, the government should legislate to protect those who are unable or unwilling to consent.  But legislating what forms of activity one or more consenting adults do with themselves or each other is both impractical and unjustifiable.  Yet there is a candidate in the ACT (A consultant psychologist no less) who, when answering an election questionnaire for the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn wrote that “[He] believe[s] sodomy of man or woman should be regarded as a criminal offence” and that people “should have the right to discriminate in terms of employment, accomodation etc as they do in dealing with drug addicts”.  According to the Star Observer, he also wrote that the government should manage “distortions of sexuality” such as masturbation, oral sex, and sex before marriage… On one hand, I can’t reach any conclusion except that he’s a bit mental – government intrusion on masturbation… does he intend to make chastity belts a requirement? But on the other hand I can’t help but wonder if the Religious Right have put him up to this to show just how mainstream and normal their views are (by comparison).

Politics and relationships (I’m reaching here from “sex”)

There have been many people saying that “The government shouldn’t legislate relationships” over the recent debate.  I agree and I don’t.  I believe that two consenting adults should be able to get married.  No, I don’t believe that “marriage” is the right word for polyamorous relationships.  I don’t believe that their relationships are lesser, I do believe that they’re different to a two-person relationship, and a relationship contract between 3 or more people is a far more complicated one than between two.  There are more complex separation and severance issues at play for a start, as well as including additional members into an extant relationship… but I digress.  Beyond “consenting adults” what other tests are reasonable to impose on couples for relationship status?  No familial ties and no current pre-existing relationship are probably about it.  I believe that is the point at which the government needs to stop legislating who may or may not be in a relationship.

Religion and Sex

I don’t care how your religion affects your sex life – that is entirely your business – though I hope that you are happy with how it turns out.  This is very much the same as how my religion (or lack thereof) applies to my sex life.  Please bear in mind that your religion and my sex life should never meet, and the same goes for the reverse. 

Religion and Politics

Since the political landscape applies to both you and me, there’s a little more give and take that needs to go on than in the interplay between religion and sex.  You want the country run according to your religious beliefs.  I, naturally, want the country run according to mine.  Or at least, I want to be free not to have to abide by your values system if I don’t want to.  And so, when you put forward your case, by all means state that you hold this position as part of your religion – in fact, it would be nice to be told that up-front rather than all the hiding that goes on these days.  Once you’ve done that, back it up with reasons why it’s important for those who do not follow your religion  (I also suggest you argue the issue itself rather than using a slippery slope argument, by the way).  Convince me why it would be good for me to follow your religion’s moral perspective on this issue when I do not subscribe to your religion’s moral code, and do not subscribe to your religion’s reward/punishment system.  My arguments will likewise be made on secular reasons and evidence.

I don’t expect everyone to agree with my perspectives. I do expect civil conversation.  Comment away readers!