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An open letter to Fred Nile

Penny Wong with partner Sophie Allouache

Dear Fred,

Unless you count that time I wrote to Michael J Fox in Grade 2, this is the first time I’ve written a letter to a public figure (Michael never wrote back and I don’t expect that you will, either.) Should I have opened with this letter with “How are you?” I guess if I’d started with that, you’d have to answer with “Prejudiced, backward and homophobic.” Because that’s what you are.

Federal Finance Minister Penny Wong announced yesterday that she and her partner, Sophie Allouache (yes, a lady) are expecting a baby through IVF and you quickly took the opportunity to speak out against this. You said it was “a very poor example for the rest of the Australian population.” You said that

Minister Wong’s decision to make the announcement about her partner’s pregnancy “just promotes their lesbian lifestyle…to make it natural where it’s unnatural.” You also said – and this one’s my favourite – “I’m totally against a baby being brought up by two mothers – the baby has human rights.”

Ordinarily, Fred, I wouldn’t give a flying continental what you think. Over the years that you’ve flapped off at the mouth I’ve tended to ignore your ramblings because while I’ve never agreed with them, they haven’t really affected me and I’ve always just dismissed you as a bit of a nutbar. But I couldn’t ignore what you said today, Fred, because last weekend I went to a birthday party.

A beautiful little girl named Jemma turned 1 yesterday, Fred, the same day you made your ugly comments. I went to school with her mummy, who invited me and my family to come over and celebrate. Jemma’s other mummy was also there, as was Jemma’s older brother and a whole bunch of their friends and family.

Christian Democratic Party MP Fred Nile

We ate party pies and sausage rolls. The kids tore through the house and around the back yard while the adults supervised and caught up over a few drinks. When the cake emerged we all sang Happy Birthday and gave three hearty hip, hip hoorays – just your standard one-year-old’s birthday party, Fred. And the birthday girl didn’t stop smiling the whole day.

I’m glad Jemma’s not old enough to read yet, Fred, because I know how devastated she’d be by what you said. To make it crystal clear for you how Jemma got here: Jemma and her brother share the same sperm donor dad. His sperm joined one mummy’s egg via IVF to make Jemma’s brother, who was carried and delivered by that same mummy. Three years later, the same donor’s sperm was used to fertilise the other mummy’s egg via IVF and made Jemma, who was carried and delivered by the same mummy who birthed Jemma’s brother. Got it? Read over it a couple of times if you need to, Fred. Unlike you, I think it’s important to take the time to understand.

If you wanted to be very strictly clinical, I guess you could argue that IVF is “unnatural” but that doesn’t make Jemma any more unnatural than an IVF baby born to heterosexual parents and I don’t think you’re suggesting all IVF parents are setting a “poor example.” No, Fred: I think you’re clearly saying lesbians are unnatural. And that’s a bloody shame.

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Jemma’s mummies love each other very much: they’re one of the most adoring, devoted couples I know. They live in a “normal” house in a “normal” suburb, drive “normal” cars, wear “normal” clothes and work “normal” jobs. Are you picking up what I’m putting down, Fred? There’s nothing abnormal about Jemma’s mummies. (Except maybe the fact that they were forced to hide their relationship for a long time until they felt supported enough to come out, and the fact that one of them doesn’t go to mass anymore because of how the Catholic church views her and her family, and maybe also the fact that one of them wryly jokes that the reason seven houses in their street have gone up for sale in the time since she and her family moved in probably has something to do with them. But apart from that it’s all been sunshine and roses, Fred.)

You said you’re opposed to a baby being brought up by two mothers because the baby has human rights and you know what, Fred? You’re right: babies do have human rights. They have the right to be nourished, nurtured, and protected. They have the right to live as part of a family in a home that’s clean and safe. They have the right to be swaddled, cuddled, rocked to sleep and showered with kisses when their eyes open. They have the right to access their biological heritage when they come of age. Above all, Fred, they have the right to be loved. And there’s nothing to prove that a baby being brought up by two mothers would be denied any of those rights.

Like Jemma’s mummies, Senator Wong and her partner may not be in what you’d consider to be a “traditional” relationship, Fred, but that fact alone doesn’t mean they won’t make fine parents. And as I’ve just explained, it doesn’t mean that their baby will be denied any of its human rights. Like Jemma, Senator Wong’s baby has as much of a right to be brought into the world by two loving parents as you, a 76-year-old man, have to wear cable-knit cardigans. And I don’t see anyone telling you you’re setting a bad example for that.

I’m not sure how to end this letter, Fred. I think I signed off with kisses when I wrote to Michael J Fox but I don’t know if that’s appropriate here. On second thoughts, I did call you nutbar, didn’t I? Not to mention prejudiced, backward and homophobic. Ok, now it’s awkward. How about this: in the spirit of acknowledging negative labels, Fred (and I know you’re familiar with them) I apologise. What say we sign-off-kiss and make up?

Terri xx

Terri Psiakis has worked as a stand-up comic, comedy writer and broadcaster since 2000.  She is an accomplished writer for both TV and in print, Terri worked on ‘Rove’ for eight years, currently writes a column for the Melbourne City Weekly and her first book, ‘Tying The Knot Without Doing Your Block’ was published by Random House in 2009.

This was originally published on Terri’s blog here and we republish with permission.

What would you want to say to Fred Nile?

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