Yesterday a group called STOP SAFE Schools Coalition posted this on their Facebook page.
That’s right, that’s a group of adults buying tickets to a same-sex gender diverse formal to stop LGBTI kids from being able to get a ticket. So far they’ve apparently bought 50 of the 500 tickets.
That follows on from a conservative campaign in the last week against the Safe Schools programme, a voluntary scheme that seeks to educate children in late primary and early high school about homosexuality and transsexuality. Some objections claim that teaching kids about LGBTI issues will “confuse” children. Others are offended at what they claim are efforts to “bully” heterosexual kids (apparently objecting to homophobic taunts is “reverse bullying”). Indeed the admins behind the “Stop Safe Schools Coalition” are now complaining that they’re also being bullied online.
This is the topsy-turvy world of Australia’s gay rights debate, where people who oppose a program called “Safe Schools” are victims of bullying, and heterosexuals are oppressed by the mere discussion of homosexuality. It’d be absurd if the wider context wasn’t so tragic. Gay kids kill themselves at four times the national average, and up to 50% of trans people have actually attempted suicide.
Watch the incredible Cate Macgregor candidly talk to Mamamia about her experience. (Post continues after video.)
Watching this debate unfold, I recalled a recent conversation with a friend. He recounted to me an event at a Melbourne bar where he and his partner, standing waiting to order with their arms around one another’s backs, were approached by a gentleman. The man gestured to a couple of early primary school age kids at a nearby table and said “Excuse me fellas, I don’t want to be rude at all, but I was wondering could you not do THAT here?” The THAT in this case was being gay. The gentleman continued “I just don’t want to have to explain IT to the kids in the car on the way home. You understand.” He walked away. The real question, as it was put quite well by a friend of mine on Facebook is: “Forget who’s going to explain homosexuality to them, who’s going to tell those kids that their Dad is an arsehole?” Touché.
Moments like that happen all the time to gay people and the place we’re most likely to experience homophobia is at school (80% of gay people experience homophobia at school). Sometimes those moments are formally endorsed by educational bureaucracy, such as when all Catholic schools received “Don’t Mess With Marriage” pamphlets that attacked same-sex marriages.
I’d be tempted to completely ignore bigots like the Stop Safe Schools Coalition, because the truth is there isn’t a debate to be had here. On one side are a group of people who want to be treated with respect. On the other is a group that wants to harass and bully that group. Except anti-gay hate groups are about to be given a national platform for their views as part of the Turnbull government’s plebiscite on same-sex marriage.
It’s now been revealed the Australian Christian Lobby is demanding that anti-vilification legislation be rolled back in the lead up to the gay marriage plebiscite, to ensure that the “No” camp can make their case properly. To give you an example of the kinds of laws we’re talking about here, in NSW legislation bans “any public act that could incite or encourage hatred, serious contempt or severe ridicule”.
The ACL is also demanding that the government fund both sides, equally. Remember this is for a debate on same-sex marriage, something that 70% of the community now supports.
Can you imagine any other debate in which one side would seriously ask that legislation designed prevent hatred or contempt be suspended? Imagine being a young gay kid at a religious school during this proposed debate remembering that 80% of gays experience homophobic abuse at school as it is. What exactly do we imagine the consequences of this proposed, government funded ACL attack on the gay community will be for young people?
If the efforts by the Stop Safe Schools Coalition to ruin a party reveal anything it’s how immature and toxic the attitudes of a small minority of the community towards LGBTI people are. The plebiscite will create a national platform for that hatred when the best way to deal with it, usually, is to ignore it. The other way to help deal with this particular example is to support a campaign to help at-risk LGBTI youth go to this party. For $40 you can sponsor kid who otherwise couldn’t go. I did and you should too.