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.

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.

Seriously!?! Rude!

as part of the Gladstone plans I fired up my account on a week ago and changed my location to Gladstone. (I'm

For those of you who don't know, gaydar is kinda like a gay dating site.  Except you can say "just looking for friends" and you can say who with.  I explained the situation in my profile, said I was in a relationship, I'm looking for friends so that I'll know someone up there when I get there, yadda yadda.

Up until yesterday all of the messages I've gotten have been decent, they seem like nice guys, and yeah.  But today! Today I received:

"Hi man gee don't expect too much looking the way u do"

My response to this is a bit of shock followed by "Seriously!?! However accurate it might or might not be, that's so uncalled for!  A message like that from out of the blue invokes my "fuck you" reflex.

"yeah thanks. I'm only looking for friends because I've already got a partner. Been together for 4 years. Don't expect too much, acting the way u do…"

What possesses someone to send a message like that? It's not like I'd sent him one before.  Does he feel so inferior that he has to put down random people on the internet?  He would have been attractive if he hadn't sent that message. Isn't it odd how one statement can change how you'd look at someone completely?

My question:
Where have all the manners gone?

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Straightening up the house

I saw this in a forum that I post in, and I found it really touching, somehow.  Maybe because I have friends who straighten up the house when their parents are likely to come calling.  I might send it to a couple of them.

Written by Romanovsky And Phillips:

Straightening Up The House

Sometimes getting the house ready for Mom & Dad's visit requires
more than a dust rag and some Pledge…)

Today I took the nudes down off the wall
Ten minutes after I received her telephone call
She'll be here Friday morning so there's not much time to clean
Better hide the Advocate and Mandate magazine
We'll redecorate the guest room so it looks like it's been used
Separate our wardrobes or she'll really be confused
Then get ready for a lonely week of sleeping on the couch
We're straightening up the house

Tomorrow I will put away your gay pride shirts
And our Halloween assortment of jewelry, pumps and skirts
Then pack up all the books by Quentin Crisp and Rita Mae
And the "His & His" towels that you bought me yesterday
And you'd better hide the albums by that lesbian group
She has no ear for music, but she has been known to snoop
And remember not to kiss me, just forget that you're my spouse
Straightening up the house

The snapshots of the two of us in Spain will have to go
Don't tell me this is totally insane, because I know
And I cannot wear the wristwatch with our names engraved in gold
The one that says "I love you, John, with all my heart and soul"

This is our first Christmas here in our new home
In a hostile world, it's our only safety zone
I never should have promised I'd continue with this lie
But Dad was so certain if she found out she would die
But if it's killing anyone I think it's killing me
'Cause it tears me up inside to hide my true identity
And asking you to help me makes me feel like such a louse

I'm thirty-two years old, why am I acting like a mouse?
I'm a man and he's my lover
If she freaks out she'll recover
C'mon and help me to just CLEAN the house

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Yesterday, the day that nobody remembered…

… me.

that's not quite true.  The Divine Miss C remembered. but it feels like she was the only one.  I asked B on Monday if I could stay at his place last night so I could go to a group for gay Christians.  I also suggested a Wine Time afterwards.  Yesterday while I was killing time between the end of uni and the group, Ben came home, and when I asked about the Wine Time, he said he "forgot" and was going to stay at his bf's place.  How hard is it to remember for one frigging day?!?!  I mean seriously.  And it's not like the bf isn't invited to wine times.  So that was bugging me.

Then I went to my gay Christians group.  This is usually a really recharging experience, and I rarely go away feeling worse than when I arrive.  But last night was one of those nights.  Right on the heels of being forgotten by B, I got basically ignored by the group.  Now, I'm sure that it wasn't intentional, but it hurts nonetheless.  To explain:  The group I go to is basically a support group for GLBTI people and their friends/family/supporters with a bit of a Christian focus.  Each meeting we have a little bit of a devotional thingy and an opening prayer, and then we go around the group talking about how our month was.  Mine has been a bit crappy, a bit hectic, a bit up and down, and just generally exhausting.  We had a quasi-new member this week, (a number of the group had met him before and knew him for his efforts in GLBTI reconciliation in his local area)  and we got him to talk to us about his life and his locale.  then we went around the table.  I was sitting next to the newbie, and the guy on the other side of me started talking about his month.  They got right around the table to the girl sitting next to Newbie, and then just broke off and started talking amongst themselves.  I said in a clear, loud voice, to no-one and everyone in particular "My month has been exhausting!" and one person said, the third time I said it, "I don't think they've noticed, so just tell me"  This was quite sweet, and I must send an email to the guy thanking him, but it highlighted that no-one else had noticed at all.  I live the furthest away out of the whole (regular) group (the newbie was from further away) and going to the group impacts 2 days out of my week. (I stay in town, which involves all the inconveniences that staying somewhere not-your-home entail) Not to mention the fact taht I worked extra-hard so I'd have time to go to it. I'm left wondering if I should send an email to those present.  On any other day, or for any other month, I'd probably be fine.  but that day, the month just gone, I needed to have my spill, and it hurt that they didn't even notice that I didn't get a chance.

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People and relationships

I was at a group the other day, and one member talked about an issue she was having with her mother and brother.
this girl is gay, her brother is gay, and her mother is having difficulty accepting it.  That seems fine. The issue she was in fact talking about was between brother and mother, and the fact that the mother was having trouble accepting the brother as gay.

"Is that your issue?  Does it need to be your issue?"
"How is it your issue?"
"If she can't accept my brother, how can she accept me?"

This girl is the one who came out first. 
So my response was "If she doesn't accept you, how can she accept your brother?"

I don't think she got it. I was left with a blank look. I explained:
"Your mother has had a year or more to get used to the idea that you're gay, she's had a month to deal with the fact that your brother is.  Why should she find it easier to accept that her son is gay than that her daughter is gay?  Surely she would come to accept you first, and then your brother." (In reality, I know that once the penny drops for one person, it's usually for all of them at the same time)

My point through all of this, which has been a point that I've made to her many times over, is that she would probably do better to be taking care of her own relationships with her mother and brother, and let them worry about theirs themselves.  Why am I involved? She keeps asking for advice.

In another conversation "My mum wants me to reconcile with my sister, but if my sister wants reconciliation, she can come reconcile with me"

I was flabbergasted.  Then my brain kicked into action:

"Reconciliation is a two-party process, and it only works when both parties are willing"
"I'm willing, but she has to make the first move"
"Both parties need to be equally willing, or it will fail."
"I'm willing to make it work, but she has to come to me and accept some blame"
"If you're asking her to extend further than you're willing to extend yourself, then are you really equally willing?"
"I think so?"
"You're asking her to take a risk you're unwilling to take. You need her to be more willing than you are to start the reconciliation process.  For reconciliation to work, you need to make a step. If you want it, if you think it needs to happen, then make a step."
"But she won't accept responsibility for what she did, I mean, I know I'm partly responsible too, but she won't accept any responsibility, even though she's the one that pushed me to say stuff and do stuff"

I gave up on the direct approach, and later in the evening, the group was talking about emotional healing.

I said:
"To be free, to be unhindered, we need to be able to let go of not only the good things, which are sometimes easy, sometimes hard, but also the bad things, the painful things, because it's only when we hold onto them, and let them colour the way we see the world, that they've really hurt us in a meaningful way."
Some discussion ensued
"And beyond that, we need to be able to let go of these things without needing someone to take responsibility for the hurt, pain, sorrow, suffering, anger, or negativity that they have caused us, because sometimes, you'll never ever get them to say it."
"Yeah, Some people just won't accept any part of a wrongdoing" (this wasn't the girl in the first section here)
"But beyond that, some people will never have the opportunity to take responsibility, or shoulder blame. There are people you'll never see again, I'm sure, who have hurt you in some way or another, and they may not even know they've hurt you, they might not care, or they might have no way to find you to tell you that they acknowledge and apologise for the pain they've caused, so you need to be able to let go, without needing them to say 'sorry'"

I know. This stuff is incredibly hard to put into practice, but if you can do it, even giving it a shot, tends to improve your day-to-day emotional attitude.

Those are small snippets of bigger conversations, but I think they help get across my take on some relationship stuff.

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Victorian Adoption and our Illustrious Leader

EvilWombatQueen posted about this in more detail, and I see no reason to make an identical post here,

In short,

The Victorian Law Reform Commission has recommended to the Victorian Parliament that gay couples be allowed to adopt and lesbians have access to IVF treatment.

PRIME Minister John Howard says he is opposed to gay couples adopting children and heterosexual adoption is a benchmark society should maintain.

Mr Howard said today he believed children should ideally have a mother and a father.

"I know for some that sounds harsh, I don't think it's harsh, I think it's something that most people believe is the desired, the ideal outcome.

news article

I agree with EWQ's rant, and have one more bit to add:
"But Australian Families Association spokeswoman Angela Conway said the changes pandered to the gay agenda without considering the best interests of children."

hmmm… the best interests of the children wouldn't happen to include providing them with a stable home and parents who really love them, by any chance… because one major factor in the whole issue that no-one at all seems to think about, is that gay parents will only be having kids because they want them! If the condom breaks, pregnancy isn't the concern, it's STIs (for non-monogamous or couples where one partner has an STI from previous activity). Lesbians don't need to take the pill for contraceptive purposes. Inherent in our same-sex attraction is the fact that unless we do something which is against our nature (sleep with a person of the opposite sex) we can't have a child.  Is it in the best interests of children to leave them starving in foreign orphanages, etc when there are people who genuinely want a child, want to provide them with a good life?

I want to have children someday, but I see no reason to bring one more into a world where there are millions of babies who need parents, any parents, people who will care for them. The ban on international adoption (not sure if it's a state or federal thing, that one) for gay parents is bad enough.  Here in Tasmania at least, if one of you is biological parent to a child, your partner can adopt them. (although there is no presumed parenthood, you have to go through all the motions of a regular adoption, parenting classes, income tests, etc)

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Well, I've been at church most weeks recently getting up to talk about the 2006 Moscow Pride March, mainly because it was happening again. Anyone who watched ABC news monday 28th May, would have seen the horrific stuff that went on there, and I'm ashamed to say, perpetrated and sanctified by *spits* -Christians-.  I'd love to disown them, say that they're the Russian Orthodox Christians, and nothing to do with us. But I can't… because they choose to label themselves Christian, what they do there, in the name of their religion, impacts on the way Christianity is viewed here and worldwide.

for those new to the despicable acts of the Moscow Mayor and Russian Orthodox Church, in collaboration with the Russian Neo-Nazi movement, check out (the english version) and look up the Mayor's statements, ie that homosexuality is satanic. and the Christians, in the weeks preceding the event predicted that "gay blood would be shed"

Check it out… I don't know what we can do to help, but I want to do -something-

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