One of the through-lines of the plebiscite debate has been straight people giving their opinions to the LGBTQI community. That's fine, but Rebecca Shaw draws the line at a Rowan Dean column in News Corp papers that tells LGBTQI people how they should feel, think, and act. Here's why.
By
Rebecca Shaw

20 Sep 2016 - 2:31 PM  UPDATED 20 Sep 2016 - 7:58 PM

Lots of things have made me angry about this whole plebiscite situation. There’s the homophobic arguments we have to hear, the fact our government won’t simply legalise equal marriage even though the mechanism is available and it is what a majority of the country wants, the fact that it is even an option that the rights of a minority might be literally put to a vote, and of course the fact that McFlurrys at McDonalds are no longer flurried, only stirred.

 

Okay that last one isn’t plebiscite specific, but still, it’s outrageous.

 

So yeah, there’s been plenty to be mad about. It’s been great for my insomnia, thanks everyone. However, I thought that I might finally get a break from being mad and sad for a few weeks while we wait to hear if the ALP is going to block the plebiscite, but what a naïve adult baby idiot I was. Yesterday, I foolishly clicked on a link I saw on Twitter and was taken to an article by Rowan Dean, titled:

 

Wow, first of all ‘Wake up gay Australia’ is a wonderful idea for a Wiggles parody song. Second of all, I do not want any straight person waking me up, except for maybe my mum when I go back home for Christmas.

 

Thirdly, could you BE any more patronising Rowan? (If you are too young to understand this 'Friends' reference please Bing it! Which is btw another good joke). 

 

 

On a more serious note, reading this sentence immediately caused my hackles to rise. The column is conceivably written by someone who is ‘on our side’. This is a column about how my community should best get equality. However, calling us ‘gay Australia’ instantly indicates that you are not part of the community. And in case you think it may have been a headline he didn’t write, he immediately refers to ‘the gays’ in the first sentence. Nobody who is part of the LGBTQI community and cares about it as a whole, or who is actually involved with the community would distill us down to ‘gay Australia’, or ‘the gays’. Yuck. 

 

And this example of semantics is actually important in this case, in which (spoiler) a straight person lectures to us about how we should think, feel, and act in regards to the plebiscite. Worse than that, it is someone assuming the position of caring about the LGBTQI community and equality seemingly in order to bash the leftwing, the Greens and the ALP.

 

Dean begins by asking where are ‘the gays’ speaking out in favour of the plebiscite. He knows there must be some, saying, “they must exist”, immediately telling us that he personally hasn’t come across any. I wonder how this is possible, seeing as he no doubt spends so much time with queer people and caring about them and talking to them. He goes on, saying:

 

Moderate gay and lesbian couples who enjoy a loving, monogamous relationship, possibly with kids, a cat and a backyard barbie in a quiet street, and who would love nothing more than to enjoy the acknowledgment of being “married”, are being intimidated by gay extremists into opposing the plebiscite.”

 

Ah, there it is.

 

Same-sex couples who ‘behave themselves’, who aren’t ‘weird’, who act exactly like heterosexual couples in every way, they can be tolerated. They are okay. Anything outside of that is unacceptable, and actually EXTREMIST. And in this case, the extremists are those members of the LGBTQI community who don’t want the plebiscite. And these Acceptable Queers, The Gays, they are being intimidated into opposing it.

 

Because if the pesky extremists weren’t around to bully them, everyone would be cool with minority rights being voted on. Everyone would be happy to waste $170 million dollars on a non-binding vote deciding an issue that could be resolved in parliament almost immediately. The non-extremists would be stoked to have anti-equality and homophobic sectors given millions of dollars to spend on a months-long concentrated attack campaign. If not wanting that makes me an extremist; well then I am the most extreme of them all. Look out!

 

This is beyond disrespectful to….well, everyone. It is disrespectful to activists who have been working for decades to get us to the point where equality is even an issue. It is disrespectful to Dean’s ‘The Gays’, who he describes as some kind of amorphous blob made up of people who don’t have their own opinions and feelings, able to be bent to the will of others. And it’s disrespectful to the community in general, as it ignores what a huge amount of us have been saying. It ignores the fact that we are the ones that have lived our lives in this country, through multiple iterations of this debate, and it dismisses our experiences and the reasons as to why so many of us are concerned about a plebiscite. 

 

Dean then spends several paragraphs talking about how Green and Labor are not friends to the community, and that the Labor party didn’t act on this issue while they were in power (true). He then goes on to say that Labor didn’t do anything because they are political opportunists.

 

“When the tide turned towards acceptance of gay marriage, did you notice how swiftly sanctimonious poseurs from all sides of politics underwent dramatic conversions and changed their minds?”

 

Wow, you are kidding me. Politicians changed their minds to go along with their constituents, when their constituents turned in favour of an issue? Mind-blowing. Incredible political analysis, you really got them good. Next you’ll be telling me that sometimes people change their minds on social issues as time goes on.

 

Dean explains that Australians have been consistent in their approach to the issue.

 

In a nutshell, although some Aussies are uncomfortable about homosexuality, most are ambivalent, and the vast majority happily accommodate it – even gay marriage. But – and it’s an important but – as long as this cultural shift doesn’t interfere with other cultural norms.”

 

?? I don’t know what he means by this. The majority of Australians support marriage equality, got it. I agree with that, it is a fact and why it should just he passed. I am unsure what he means by the cultural shift interfering with other cultural norms. I don't know what it means, but it doesn't sound like something I am happy about. 

 

This next part is where I really got annoyed and my lesbian hulk burst through my skin.

 

“Malcolm Turnbull, sensibly sticking to a policy devised by Tony Abbott to appeal to mainstream Australia, has promised a gay marriage plebiscite on February 11. That’s only a few months away.

 

Turnbull has promised a plebiscite in February, which is ‘only a few months away.’ Oh well then, okay. Because the community didn’t realise that it’s only a few months. Thanks for telling us, Mr Dean. I thought February 11 was seventeen years away, because I’m too gay and stupid to use a calendar. Thank god you were here. I’ll talk to the group at the next meeting where we all decide on this month’s groupthink, and we’ll vote to accept the plebiscite. Considering it’s only going to be a few months of a concentrated hate campaign towards our community. It's going to only be a few months of non-stop hatred and homophobia, so that's fine. It’s only going to be a few months of people saying terrible things to us, debating our humanity, and be given money to put literal advertising on television that discuss how abnormal and abhorrent we are.

 

One sec, i'll just tell the closeted gay kid in rural Queensland to just hang in there, bucko. It’s only a few months of nonstop and rampant homophobia as everyone around him discusses the plebiscite, because they have to, because they will need to vote on our rights. Because he will be sitting in the loungeroom when homophobic ads come on during the news. Good, glad that a straight person is here to tell me not to worry about kids like that. 

 

For gay couples who long to exchange wedding vows, what could be better? This is your chance. Spend the next few months supporting the plebiscite rather than opposing it, and demonstrate that this is an opportunity to unite the nation behind your love and goodwill.”

 

Oh hey, here’s what ‘could be better’ – if we didn’t have a plebiscite and parliament made equal marriage legal as they have the ability to do so almost immediately.

 

And Nope. No. Sorry. Nah. Yeah Nah. Get bent, to be honest. Apologise for my harsh language, but rack right off. It is not our job to be quiet and support the plebiscite nicely in order to convince scared straight people. It is not OUR JOB to put on matching sweaters and invite you over to our houses and throw dinner parties all to demonstrate what Good Gays we are. You either believe in equality for everyone, or you don’t.

 

We are not obligated to be any one thing to prove that we deserve equality. We are not obligated to make people feel comfortable about our relationships. 

 

“If it were that simple, I have absolutely no doubt that the plebiscite would pass with flying rainbow colours, just as it did in Ireland last year. 
But …

The big “but” is the insidious Left. The ABC, Fairfax, Labor and the Greens are hell-bent on destroying this opportunity. They kick and they scream about the discord, anguish, hatred, confrontation and violence that will occur if the plebiscite goes ahead.”

 

First of all, you’re the big butt (nailed it). Even if you believe in the idea of the ‘insidious left’, in this case the people kicking and screaming about all of the bad things that the plebiscite will bring are the people who will experience it. If you want to dismiss the ABC and Labor and the Greens or whoever you think has a political reason for not wanting the plebiscite, that is one thing. But for the rest of us who oppose it, the personal is political and they cannot be separated. We are the ones who have to live with the consequences. Those of us (the many) that are against the plebiscite, are not against it because we were told to by the Prime Minister, or Bill Shorten, or news organisations, or some terrifying queer extremist group. We are against it because we have lived in these bodies, in this world, all of our lives.

 

And if you haven’t, you get no say in how we react. You get no say in demanding we do or say certain things. You get no say in if we support the plebiscite or not. Your opinion is not helpful, and your demands on us are not wanted and will not be heeded. Think twice before lecturing us on this. Think again before patronising us. You are not telling us anything we have not been told, discussed, or thought about. We never stop thinking about this kind of thing, because this actually impacts our lives. If your life will not be impacted, but you still somehow feel the need to try and tell us how to think or feel, just don’t.

 

Wake up gay Australia and voice your support for the plebiscite before it’s too late.

 

No. Wake up straight Australia, and voice your support for what our community wants, before it’s too late.  

 

 

 

 


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