By MIA FREEDMAN
This morning I read some media headlines and hundreds of tweets that said a public figure had compared paedophiles to gay people. If true, it’s the kind of story we would jump to cover on Mamamia. We have a proud and fierce reputation for advocating for marriage equality and we are champions of the LGBTQI community. It’s something I’ve fought passionately for my whole life.
So on any other day we would have ripped into this issue and joined the outrage.
Except today, as I write this, the person being accused of such heinous things is me. And I’m mortified.
Not because I have ever or would ever compare homosexuality to paedophilia – that idea is repugnant to anyone with an IQ above room temperature – but because I accidentally gave ammunition to haters and bigots and caused the words homosexuality and paedophilia to appear in the same sentence in headlines and a Twitter pile-on.
Let me be absolutely clear: I unreservedly apologise to anyone I have upset, confused or outraged and to anyone who thought I would ever ever ever stand with bigotry or homophobia.
I know the facts: there is no link between homosexuality and offending against children. And after the hundreds of hours of live TV and radio I have done, I should have known better; it’s dangerous to try and make a complex point about such an important topic in 10 seconds.
You run a huge risk of your words being twisted, taken out of context and fed to the enemies of your cause. Last night I forgot that and I’m incredibly distressed that the result has been more pain and suffering for the gay community.
What actually happened was this:
When a subject about which I feel passionately – the rights of convicted paedophiles to ‘privacy’ vs the safety of children – I made the wrong call and tried to make a point that was way too complex for a 5 second grab. I recognise now that the long history of people damagingly linking homosexuality and paedophillia, means the two topics can never be inoffensively connected.
In a conversation about paedophiles reoffending (they have one of the highest reoffending rates of any type of criminal), co-host Josh Zseps was talking about the importance of therapy and rehabilitation for paedophiles. Something that always makes me blind with rage is the emphasis on criminals rather than victim, so I came out swinging – not at Josh but at the idea of paedophiles being able to be rehabilitated. I believe they cannot be.
The point I was trying to make was this:
Sexual orientation is real; it cannot be ‘cured’ or ‘changed’. We reject the idea that gay people chose to be gay. We reject the idea that straight people choose to be straight. As a society we have come to accept the intractability of sexual orientation.
So why do we assume that people who have sexual feelings towards children can be ‘cured’ or have those feelings changed with therapy? Instead, shouldn’t we accept that the feelings of paedophiles cannot be changed but that acting on those feelings can – and must – be restricted.
Many people have angrily pointed out that I could have used heterosexuality as a comparison instead of homosexuality. So why didn’t I? I could have – and in hindsight I really, really wish I had.
But heterosexuals don’t have any history of people trying to change their sexuality. There is, however, a long and shameful history of religious organisations trying to ‘cure’ homosexuality with ‘therapy’. We have run many stories on this here at Mamamia such as these four:
The idea that someone could – or should – be ‘cured’ of their sexual orientation is repugnant. So that’s what informed my analogy. Was prime time TV in a 10-second sound bite the right place to make that point? Clearly not. I was trying to raise concerns about our capacity to rehabilitate child sex offenders and I chose a bad example to try and do so.
What devastates me most is the idea that I have unwittingly handed ammunition to haters and bigots who might read two words in a headline and think I was on their side. That distresses me and horrifies me beyond belief.
So what to do? I immediately apologised on Twitter last night before deleting the app from my phone after the abuse became too intense. Today I see my apology has been called both “grovelling” and “insincere”. That was certainly not my intention but when a truly reprehensible view that you don’t hold is being attributed to you, of course you want to immediately correct the record.
I wrote this post to explain what happened, what I was thinking and how I could not be more united with the LGBTQI community in everything they do and everything they stand for. I truly hope my heartfelt and sincere apology is accepted.