By MIA FREEDMAN
Bob Katter’s Australia Party appears to be making some clear (and worrying) statements about the kinds of candidates it plans to endorse. First this week came candidate Tess Corbett who told a newspaper it would be a sad day if homosexual people had the equal rights to other people. And that “paedophiles will be next in line to be recognised in the same way as gays and lesbians and get rights”.
And yesterday, this tweet from Victorian senate candidate Bernard Gaynor:
Having just dropped my youngest son to kindy this morning, into the kind and loving care of his gay preschool teacher whom he adores, I was moved to write this open letter to Bob Kattar’s Australia Party candidate.
Dear Bernard Gaynor,
My name is Mia Freedman and I have three children.
All of them have been lucky enough to go to the same pre-school where they have been taught by a wonderful man called Robert who is also the director of the pre-school. Has been for years.
Bernard, this may shock you but Robert is gay. Furthermore, he does not hide this fact. Why should he? It has absolutely nothing to do with his job.
Some of the best and most influential, beloved teachers I had during my own school years, I have since come to realise, were gay.
Of course, I didn’t know this at the time. Why would I? Children don’t tend to see their teachers as having lives outside of school, let alone sex lives as you seem to be so panicked about.
My 6 year old daughter is still shocked every time we see a teacher at the shops. She thinks they live at school.
Looking back, I have no idea what ‘values’ my teachers held. And the same goes for my children’s teachers. It’s not like kids kick back over a coffee with their teachers and talk about life.
Personal details like whether or not teachers are married, who they vote for, where they live, what they believe in or who they sleep with are none of their students’ business. Nor their concern.
And the same goes for the parents’. The only thing that should and does matter, is the way they teach.
So Bernard, what exactly do you mean when you refer to “the rights of parents” to object “if they had concerns over the values of teachers”?
Are you actually suggesting teachers should fill out some kind of form detailing their personal views on subjects like sex, religion and politics which are then distributed to all the parents in the school? Should parents then be able to refuse to have their child taught by someone who has different political or religious views to them? Seriously Bernard?
As a Jewish person should I be able to reject a teacher who is Christian? Or who doesn’t identify as a feminist? Or who wears Crocs?
If your rhetoric wasn’t so preposterous it would be laughable.
But it’s not funny because you seem defiantly proud of your homophobic platform at a time when the world is moving overwhelmingly towards acceptance tolerance and an end to the discrimination that gay people have suffered for centuries.
Some people will say we should just ignore your bigoted comments and not give them further oxygen by responding or airing them in the media.
I’ve considered that. But I disagree. Because zero tolerance for homophobic prejudice is the only way to send a clear message that it’s unacceptable. Ignoring something can often be confused with silent agreement. Or not feeling strongly enough to speak out. And people like me who have had direct experience with gay teachers must speak up to counter the repugnant ideas you’re putting out there.
Your claim that gay teachers “promote homosexual lifestyles, either actively or by example, to children” made me wonder what you actually think goes on in schools.
Have you ever been to one? Because your claims are nonsensical, paranoid and utterly bizarre.
Are you concerned that gay teachers will take their students to Mardi Gras as a school excursion? That they’ll force them to watch Ellen during the day instead of doing Maths? That they’ll make them wave rainbow flags during official school functions? Sing the YMCA instead of the national anthem? Or that they’ll give them detailed accounts of what they do in bed?
Because that seems to be what you’re suggesting.
Finally, as for your claim that being gay is “a lifestyle that has serious negative health consequences and is opposed to the values of the majority of Australians” well that’s just poppycock. I have no idea what your values are but we know that the majority of Australians are not homophobic.
In fact the majority of Australians think gay people should be able to get married so best you don’t try to make it sound like you’re speaking for millions of people who reject your bigotry outright.
Fortunately, Bernard, it’s you who is in the minority. The vast majority of Australians are not homophobes.
And to all the gay teachers I was lucky enough to have and all the gay teachers my kids had and will have during their school years, can I just say this: thank you.
UPDATE: Bob Katter’s Australia Party has cancelled Bernard Gaynor’s bid for preselection and suspended his membership following his comments on Twitter. In a statement the party’s director Aidan McLindon said:”The party has made it perfectly clear on a number of occasions to all candidates and officials that KAP does not exist for individuals to air and promote their own personal preoccupations.”