Warning: depression, suicide and homophobia. If these issues affect and/ or trigger you, feel free to skip this post. If you have any struggles, please get help.
On Q and A on Monday night, they were talking about mental illness, as a part of ABC’s “Mental As” campaign. One of the questions that were asked from the audience aimed at Federal Member of Kennedy, Queensland, Bob Katter. The question was:
Thank you. My question is for Bob Katter. The youth in this area that belong to minority groups and in particular homosexuals, have a much higher rate of suicide. In the past, you have not addressed the topic of gay rigfhts, as you see it as irrelevant. Do you think it is appropriate for us to have a discussion about the links between regional Australia and suicide and willilngly omit an entire group of at risk individuals?
(Note: To put Katter in context, about 2011, his party came under fire for being behind an extremely homophobic advertisement that was, for a while, portraying a male gay couple in a most harmful stereotype. I for one haven’t seen that ad in ages, but it was even condemned by conservatives who aren’t for gay marriage. Katter has been linked with that ever since). Katter has in the past continued to ignore such concerns (or seems to) while continaully talking about other issues such as the economy, drought, etc. In reply (in short), Katter said:
I”m quite happy to address the issue any time anyone brings it to me, right? I have an electorate where I have a person committing suicide between Longreach and the Gulf of Carpentaria every two weeks in the cattle section. I have large First Australian communities, where it is absolutely endemic, right, and if you’re saying well, what’s your priorities? Well, the priorities that I got are the people that are confronting me and quite rightly confronting me. That is the problem that i have to deal with. You have a problem that you may have to deal with in your own life and if I can assist you in any way, I’m only happy to do that.
Here’s my point, I can see sort of where Katter is coming from and what his priorities would lie in rural Queensland. Coming from a rural town myself, I can attest that there isn’t a lot of discussion about LGBT issues in rural areas. It’s quite possible that Katter himself hasn’t been directly asked by his electorate about issues surroudning LGBT+ rights. I’m not saying this to defend the advertisement his party was involved in or anything, I’m just saying that the discussion around LGBT+ rights in rural areas is minimal at best. A city near where i live is starting to talk abou it; people are coming out, etc, but it’s still only minimal.
Asexuality, not surprisingly, is barely discussed at all where I come from. I have bought the topic up with one friend directly and I’ve got my blog posts displayed on my Facebook page, but that’s it. Can I really blame anyone for being ignorant about asexuality if it isn’t been discussed directly? I don’t think so. And this is what I felt with this Q and A episode. Bob Katter can only deal with issues that people from his electorate tell him. If people haven’t opened up about LGBT+ issues, then how can he deal with them?
My guess is that as time goes by, there will be more honest discussion about LGBT+ people in rural areas, but i think it’s going to take time for people to get their head around. Maybe the more people that are willing to come out, or families share about members of their family to others who may identify as LGBT+, the more media exposure in country areas, maybe then, the more when Members of Parliament around Australia, including rural areas, can really join the discussion about LGBT+ rights.