Jason Ball, Greens candidate for the safe Liberal seat of Higgins in Melbourne, has had campaign material vandalised by homophobic messages twice in the last few days, but the most recent incident has pushed him to speak up.
In black graffiti, ‘FAG’ had been tagged above his campaign posters.
Ball said people shouldn't give in to intimidation, posting a photo of the slur on Facebook with a message that has quickly gone viral.
"It really cut deep and it brought me back to that place where I felt scared to be myself for fear of what people would think," he told SBS.
"I wanted to send a message to young people that even when things look bleak there is strength in our community, and ultimately love will triumph over hate," he said.
In just four hours, that message has been shared over 1,000 times, received almost 8,000 reactions, and attracted hundreds of comments.
“I post this picture not to give the haters oxygen but to send a message to young LGBTI people that I have their back. To let them know I won't be passive or silent in the face of bigotry,” Ball wrote. “The last time I had this word written about me it was scrawled across a school toilet door. I was 15.”
Ball wrote that homophobes are now in the minority, but that acts like these don’t happen in a vacuum. Posting to Facebook, he wrote:
In recent times our community has faced relentless attacks on our dignity and basic human rights. Politicians have likened us to pedophiles. Religious leaders have compared the fight for equality to the advance of Nazism. This week, media commentators who have previously vilified us, leapt on the unspeakable atrocities in Orlando and used our grief as a battering ram to prosecute their own agenda against another minority.
Then they wring their hands and offer us their "prayers and sympathy" whilst conveniently ignoring the fact that acts of hate and violence are the logical conclusion to a public 'debate' that maintains we are abnormal and not worthy of the same rights and respect as our fellow citizens.
We should not have to fear for our safety just for daring to live our lives openly. We must not be scared to hold our partner's hand as we walk down the street.
And we can't give in to intimidation when we stand up for our values in public life.
So I won't. I will continue to be out, loud and proud about who I am. Because love is love. And ultimately love will win.
Ball is not the only gay candidate contesting the seat, currently held by Liberal MP Kelly O’Dwyer. Labor has drafted the brother of federal MP Bob Katter in the Melbourne electorate.
“It’s good of Jason to challenge this and profile it,” Carl Katter told SBS. “There’s many other people out there who have horrific stories of homophobia, and this is one small example of that.”
“It’s surprising though I must say in an area like Higgins where everyone is pretty comfortable with diversity,” he said.
Carl Katter, also openly gay, is publicly at odds with his more conservative brother on LGBTI issues.
Ball and Katter have both suffered homophobia in the past. Growing up in rural Queensland, Katter was regularly called ‘faggot’ and ‘poofter’ – he’s also been the victim of gay bashings and death threats.
Ball was Australia’s first openly gay AFL player at any level and says he’s consistently challenged the AFL to take a tough line against homophobia.