The Straight Problem
Like the U.S., Australia has no state religion and its constitution prohibits the Commonwealth government from establishing a church or interfering with freedom of religion. In everyday political discourse, religious voices aren’t heard as strongly as they are in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean they’re not there or that they’re less influential. Australia may consider itself a secular country, but when it comes to homosexuality and marriage, it may be just as conservative and asinine in its reasoning as the U.S. And the source of the homophobia and discrimination is the same: Christianity.
Homosexuality has been a hot topic in the media lately. The head of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) Jim Wallace said that smoking is healthier than the “homosexual lifestyle”. Wallace claims there is a higher rate of drug use and suicide among the gay community and that the life expectancy of the gay man is reduced by as many as 20 years. Consequently, “normalising the lifestyle by the attribution of marriage, for instance, has to be considered in what it does encouraging people into it.”
This is an excellent example of using selective facts to distort the truth in order to fit and promote a discriminatory and hateful agenda.
There are various myths in these few lines quoted and paraphrased. First is the myth that being GLBTI is a lifestyle, a choice. Study after study has revealed that sexual orientation is biological in nature. Homosexuality, like Wallace’s heterosexuality, is determined by a complex interplay of genetic factors and the early uterine environment. Same-sex marriage will not encourage people to try homosexuality as if it were an exotic food you’ve never tasted before.
The second myth is that being GLBTI carries greater health risks than being straight. I wonder if Wallace knows what the rate of drug use and suicide is among heterosexual men, married and single. I wonder if Wallace knows that one reason drug use and suicide are up in the GLBTI community is due to the self-loathing and bullying that GLBTI people, especially teens, experience because people like him consistently argue they are not normal and do not deserve the same civil rights that the rest of us enjoy. If he’s referring to risky sex, I hope he realizes heterosexual people don’t always make the best choices either.
The third myth is that apparently only men are gay or only male gayness matters or is most threatening. Wallace talks about homosexuality, but just as people really mean ‘Christian’ when they say ‘religious’ when it comes to public discourse, what people mean when they say homosexual is ‘gay man’. One reason for this may be that women tend to get lost in male gendered language. Another reason is that lesbianism is more accepted than male homosexuality. I mean, lesbians are hot, right? Especially when they’re sexy and fake, staged for the male gaze.
I wonder if Wallace knows somewhere deep inside that there is no just reason to oppose marriage equality. He does so under the pretense that an ancient text condemns homosexuality. Never mind that the Scriptures also condemn eating shellfish, wearing mixed fabrics, and a long list of other things Wallace and many other Christians conveniently ignore. The truth is probably likelier to be that Wallace opposes homosexuality simply because the idea of two men fucking make him so very uncomfortable.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard declined to speak at the ACL’s national conference following Wallace’s remarks, a move that has been praised by some GLBTI advocacy groups, but I’m not going to let Gillard off the hook so easily. A bill to legalize same-sex marriage is before the federal Parliament, but it’s expected to be defeated by Gillard’s party (Labor) as well as the Coalition. Gillard, an atheist, opposes marriage equality on the basis of her conservative upbringing. Again, we have no just reason for such discrimination other than the Bible, which should not be dictating laws.
The laughable thing is that there are members of the dominant class – the heterosexual class – who feels that extending GLBTI people the civil right to marriage is granting them a special privilege. A female caller to 3AW this week said she feels discriminated against by recent ads promoting tolerance. I’d love to talk with her more.
You were bullied during your adolescence due to your heterosexuality. You contemplated suicide. How did you emerge from such a dark place?
Where did you go after your parents threw you out of the house when you told them you were heterosexual?
Tell me about the time you lost your job after your boss discovered you are heterosexual.
Where did you go after you got evicted when your landlord found out you are heterosexual?
Do you feel comfortable walking down the street with your partner? Holding his hand and offering him a peck from time to time?
What does it feel like to know you can’t marry the love of your life? Oh wait….
What does it feel like to know you and your partner can’t adopt a child in four Australian states? Oh wait….
Do you actually know what ‘discrimination’ means?
Let me help you out. Discrimination occurs where a person is disadvantaged and treated less favorably than another person in the same circumstances on the grounds of characteristics such as age, disability, race, nationality, sex, gender, and sexual orientation. Discrimination is the systematic denial of certain people’s full rights. There is nothing rational or scientific about discrimination. It happens because people have irrational prejudices based on factors such as socialization, conforming behaviors, and rigid, blinding submission to authority forms.
There is no rational reason to oppose marriage equality. It will not hurt us a society. It will not make straight people gay. It will not damage kids any more than everything else that already damages us as no credible study has ever found that children are negatively impacted by being raised in a lesbian or gay household. It will not affect the so-called sanctity of marriage any more than extramarital affairs and existing divorces already do. You can’t seriously argue that Britney Spears, who was married for a whopping 55 hours, and Kim Kardashian with her 72-day marriage are worthier of this civil right than Tom Ford and Richard Buckley who have been together for 26 years or George Takei and Brad Altman, together for 21 years.
And, yes, marriage is a civil right. The religious ceremony is optional. What is required is meeting the eligibility guidelines as set forth by the law and then registering the marriage with some local legal body. That marriage between two people of the same sex may be offensive to your God is not relevant. We do not live in a theocratic state. We have a President/Prime Minister, not a prophet, a Dalai Lama, or a pope. We should be making legal decisions based on what is good for our community and not on selective interpretations of middle eastern and Greek texts that are more than a thousand years old. If the pink elephant in the room is that homosexuality makes you uncomfortable on some deep and fundamental level, then you need to reflect on that, not project and impose your issues on others.
Marriage equality is the civil rights issue of this generation. Someday we’ll look back on this period of our history with the same shame that we look back with on slavery, treatment of indigenous people, child labor, and denying women the right to vote.
About the featured image: Gay marriage cookies from Diary of a Mad Hausfrau.