Last Friday, the Federal government announced its changes to the Safe Schools program. The changes included limiting the program to secondary schools only, removing gender diversity role-playing activities and announcing that parents should have a right to withdraw their child from the classes. Toby Halligan writes for Mamamia about why this is such an issue for children in today’s society.
I’ve had dozens of conversations with heterosexuals explaining and sometimes defending homosexuality. Some have been at dinner parties with older people, some with people my age, some with people who looked like they wanted to punch me in the face.
The strangest moment of dialogue occurred late at night in Canberra. A friend and I were eating fried chicken and chips when several quite large blokes my friend knew from school recognised him and began joking that he and I were “massive fags”. I’d had a bit much to drink so I challenged one of them on why that would be a problem.
There was a moment of stillness. I’ve learned to recognise that moment. It’s the moment where this chap was deciding whether he was going to hit me or talk to me.
Fortunately, probably because he knew my friend, he decided on the latter and we had a chat about being gay and why I thought it was alright. As we know from the statistics on homophobic violence these moments often end quite differently, with consequences for both parties.
Of the changes to the Safe School programme, the most disappointing is allowing parents to withdraw their children entirely from classes dealing with gay and trans issues. If you’re the kind of parent who’s inclined to pull your child from such a class you’re exactly the kind of parent who’s probably raising a homophobe. It’s the kind of change drawn from the unsafe minds that have pursued this campaign.
The “gutting”, to quote the charming MP George Christensen, of the Safe Schools programme ought to be a profound disappointment for everybody except for professional homophobes. It’s not just that people like Christensen, or Corey Bernardi, or the Australian Christian Lobby, are unrepresentative of most Australians. It’s that their profiteers from the division they’re causing.
Bernardi and Christensen win prestige, media attention, political points, and thus votes. The ACL gets media attention and fills its coffers with donations from frothing homophobes. The programme was originally launched in June of 2014 during Tony Abbott’s tenure as Prime Minister. But political opportunity beckoned after a couple of stories appeared in News Corp papers and the rest of the reaction has been entirely confected political theatre, a front in the culture war, fuelled by increasing division within the Coalition.