Is it necessary to get rid of heteronormative language?

I know it’s nearly Christmas and I wasn’t planning on writing something this heavy, but I think it’s something that needs to be said – again.

Is this really necessary? According to Andrew Bolt, Victorian government workers are being told not to use cis – hetero – normative language, particularly around LGBTQ+ clients. OK, I’m cis – gender. I have never questioned or struggled with my gender identity, so I’d like to hear some views from trans and gender – diverse people about this. Is it really necessary for people to avoid cis – hetero – normative language around you? I mean, sure, it’d probably help if they don’t assume, but is it possible for you just to say “actually I prefer the pronoun X”. Also, when dealing with LGBTQ+ couples, just use a gender – neutral noun like “partner” or another term the couple themselves prefer. Is that so hard?

In regard to relationships, in Australia, marriage is still legally defined as between one man and one woman. I have heard of some parents, other family and friends of LGBTQ+ people blocking their ears at marriage ceremonies in protest of the current definition of marriage in Australia as celebrants are mandated by law to state the current legal definition. I sort of understand that. The issue of same – sex marriage is very real and personal for many people in the LGBTQ+ community and allies. I get that. But I don’t see how adjusting language completely will help combat homophobia and trans – phobia or fight for change in marriage laws. In fact, as I’ve said many times before, I think it’ll end up backfiring on the LGBTQ+ community – even if (when?) –  same – sex marriage is legal.

 

But I wonder whether it goes deeper than that. Is it still treating LGBTQ+ people like “the other”, so to speak? Does it help or hinder the LGBTQ+ community to have bureaucrats to impose an acceptable standard on the rest of society when it comes to simply interacting with the LGBTQ+ community. Shouldn’t we be able to speak up for ourselves? Can’t we say, “this is my partner” or “I prefer the pronoun ze, hir, or they?”. Or even for some asexual/ aromantic people, “this is my queer – platonic partner”?

In the aftermath of the Trump victory in the US, Brexit and the rise of One Nation here, one thing is made abundantly clear – people are tired of being ignored, being lectured at and having bureaucrats dictate what is acceptable. People are tired of feeling guilty and walking on egg shells. Stand up for your rights and the rights of others, by all means. But what is happening now isn’t working. Or, it may seem like it’s working now, but don’t be surprised when people continue to rise in revolt – possibly leaving the people that are meant to be protected even more vulnerable.

Should the LGBTQ+ community be concerned about Donald Trump?

Watchin  the video below, you’d think that the American LGBTQ+ community has nothing to worry about when Donald Trump becomes US President from next year.

While I get Paul Joseph Watson’s critique, I do think that people do have a right to be concerned, not just about marriage rights, but – among other things – anti – discrimination protections introduced by Barack Obama.

If Trump is for LGBTQ protections, then all power to him. But that does not sooth the fears of LGBTQ+ community, especially when his Vice President, Mike Pence and other Republicans have a reputation of being opponents of LGBTQ rights. Pence himself has been knlwn to advocate for the highly criticised conversion therapy. I, for one will be hoping that all legal rights will stay in tact for LGBTQ Americans.

Religious exemptions is a must

According to LGBTQ publication, SameSame, there is a “Plan B” on legalising same – sex marriage in Australia… well, in theory, anyway. Openly gay Coalition MP, Tim Wilson has met with founder of marriage rights activists group, just.equal Ivan Hinton – Teoh to discuss the plan. There is a mood that same – sex marriage should become legal in this term of Parliament, as it’s a debate that’s not going to go away, and provide religious – based exemptions in anti – discrimination law. Wilson has vehemently denied this exemption will be extended to businesses, like bakers (that’s where a lot of trouble has been in the US), but rather it would allow people with convictions that marriage should be between a man and a woman to be able to state it without prosecution.

I think it’s reasonable.

I have expressed fear about how this may turn out multiple times. After the Kim Davis case in Kentucky, multiple court cases, and, most scarily, preachers praising the Orlando massacre in June, my fears haven’t died down. This is why I initially agreed with a plebiscite – to give everyone a chance to have a say, get whatever they needed off their chest, and, if it passed, then at least opponents couldn’t say they’d been ambushed with it. However, like so many others, I got suspicious when I realised the process, the fact that it wasn’t binding, and how there was no real discussion on the mental health of LGBTQ people until MP Warren Entsch brought it up. I firmly believe that this should’ve been a serious consideration for both parties from the start – and by serious considerations, I’m not including the blackmail that Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten tried to use when he used teen suicide and a young teenage boy being raised by a same – sex couple as a political pawn. Why were Labor too eager to bow down to the conservatives while they were in power and openly supported the plebiscite initially? Both parties have treated the LGBTQ+ community as pawn, and neither side has given a damn about the impact. While they may applaud themselves, I put members of the Coalition in that camp because of how they tried to push this, without any protections toward the LGBTQ+ community. They said they’d advertise both sides, without any concern how it’d affect LGBTQ youth and families. The talk about mental health, brought on about Entsch, was too little, too late.

 

Back to the marriage versus conservative debate. I guess with the lack of exemptions for businesses, I guess Australia doesn’t have the constitutional clashes the Americans have and  hold so dear (i.e. the freedom of religion and speech vs. the rights of same – sex couples). So, maybe the backlash against the LGBTQ community may not be so major… or at least people won’t have a leg to stand on. The thing is though, I don’t want anyone – regardless on their views on marriage – to get hurt. I don’t want my LGBTQ+ friends and family members to get hurt. I want everyone to be safe, happy and live without fear. If same – sex marriage does become legal, but there is a backlash against the LGBTQ community, is it really a victory?

Would quotas in politics benefit the LGBTQ+ community?

I heard on Sky’s “Paul Murray Live” on Monday that the Queensland Labor government is starting to talk about quotas in government for the LGBTQ+ community. In other words, having parliamentarians/ Senators employed because of the fact they identify as LGBTQ+. I have had two thoughts about this. At first, I thought that it may be beneficial to members of the LGBTQ+ community at least in some areas.Having an LGBTQ+ Senator may be able to directly address issues facing the LGBTQ+ community and implement policies that make LGBTQ+ Australians safe, healthy and productive members of society. They may be able to give insight into issues directly affecting the LGBTQ+ community in Australia. For example, according to Australian Human Rights’ “Face the Facts”  fact sheet (2014), 34% reported hiding their sexuality and/ or gender identity from their doctor. The study showed that, as of 2014, homophobia was still a major issue. The study found out:

  • 6 in 10 had experienced verbal homophobic attacks
  • A fifth (20%) had experienced physical homophobic attacks
  • Another 1 in 10 (10%) experienced other types of homophobia

 

LGBTQ and mental health

According to other sources, such as Beyond Blue indicate that bisexual women especially, suffer higher rates of depression and anxiety than lesbian or gay individuals. Transgender people, however, face the highest rates of depression and anxiety at over 50% – especially trans – women.

So, how can an LGBTQ+ senator help with this on a State level? Could they point out where more resources and services are needed to assist LGBTQ+ Australians? What about on issues such as marriage equality, medical services for transgender and/ or intersex people? The fact of the matter is, as much people are tired about hearing and talking about LGBTQ+ issues, sorry, but we’re here. We are your brothers, sisters, siblings, aunts, uncles, work colleagues and classmates. As indicated in the link from the Australian Human Rights Commission, homophobia was still a major issue as recently as 2014. Too many LGBTQ+ hide in fear of being rejected (as indicated again, by the link above).

The problem with tokenism

However, I believe there are some potential downsides. First, in my opinion, governments employing someone because they represent a certain group hasn’t worked in the past. For example, former Julia Gillard appointing former athlete Nova Peris in a bid for the sake of employing an Aboriginal person only ended in tears… literally. Peris ended up bowing out last year before her term was up.

This was a long line of ugly so – called “identity politics” that is still raging in Australia today. It also shows that tokenism should be avoided by everyone. I don’t think tokenism does anyone any good, including the people they are suppose to represent. Gillard’s tokenism only exacerbated Labor’s unpopularity at the time and also did not assist the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, as far as I know. So, I think there’s a chance that if, an LGBTQ+ person was elected or appointed by a politician because of their sexuality/ intersex status or gender identity, it may only add to the groan factor  across the country, rather than being of any benefit to the LGBTQ+ community.

 

My conclusion is that merit, not quotas should be a reason why someone is elected to State or Federal parliament. I think anything other than that will not do anyone – including the LGBTQ+ community any good in the long run.

 

What do you think about my assessment of quotas in parliament to add more LGBTQ+ people? Do you agree or disagree? Let me know what you think in the comments below. 

Short open letter to Mia Freedman – you can’t speak for all the LGBTQ+ community

 

Dear Mia,

You are a great LGBTQ+ ally. Thank you for all that you’ve done to support and raise awareness on the LGBTQ+ comunity, including publishing articles on asexuality. I really do appreciate your voice to increasing asexuality visibility. You’re passion for justice for the LGBTQ+ community is much appreciated, I’m sure.

However, your comment on Liberal Senator Josh Manuatu was out of line. You, or anyone else, has no right to dictate yo how LGBTQ+ individuals feel about issues like same – sex marriage, adoption, or political persuasion. We are all indibiduals, just like all straight people don’t share all the same values and political ideology.

 

Manuatu isn’t alone as someone who is gay, but opposes same – sex marriage. In the lead up to the Irish referrendum, openly gay people opposed same – sex marriage, mainly because they believed that marriage there to raise children in a traditional nuclear family. In a protest that occurred in France to the lead up of same – sex marriage in May, 2013, people who were openly vocally opposed same – sex marriage for the same reasons. I have also heard that here, in Australia, gay peoplesay they’re againsr same – sex marriage, but feel like they can’t be open about their views in fear of a backlash from the wider LGBTQ+ community. This is unacceptable, just as unacceptable itvwould be to bully and ostracise an LGBTQ+ person who felt like they need the right to marriage.

Mia, you are a valuable voice in supporting the wider LGBTQ+ community. The way you’ve allowed LGBTQ+ people to tell their stories and continual advocacy for the LGBTQ+ is to be commended. It really does. However, the way you attacked Manuatu on Twitter is not the way to advocate for LGBTQ+ people. Please keep that in mind next time. And keep on speaking up.

 

Love and respect,

 

 

S.

Do you identify as LGBTQ+ and oppose same – sex marriage and/ or adoption? Feel free to leave comments below.

 

 

 

Support for plebiscite plummets.Wonder why?

According to Newscorp columnist, Andrew Bolt, support for the plebiscite on same – sex marriage has crashed to 39%. Wonder why?

People are sick of it?

Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t argue for it properly? (Bolt’s answer).

The idea that the plebiscite is non – binding, that the Parliament have to vote on it anyway?

All the above?

The so – called “debate” on same – sex marriage has been pathetic and BOTH the Coalition and Labor are to blame. The Coalition should’ve set a date in concrete ages ago. Labor need to stop playing politics with the issue. The cost of the plebiscite, originally said to be $160,000,000 has now ballooned to a possible $170,000,000 – $185,000,000 (all AUD), due to be supposed promise that Turnbull allegedly made to fund advertising both the “Yes” and “No” advertising campaign.

Labor hasn’t been angels on this either. No, they’ve been hypocrites on it. They are playing the victim cards; exploiting a teenage boy raised by lesbian parents and Opposition Leader being accused (I think rightly), of “emotional blackmail” after linking the plebiscite to the high rate of gay teen suicide. This is government who didn’t have the guts over six years to do anything about same – sex marriage. Add  threats against motel staff where a Christian meeting was meant to take place, but had to be cancelled and a (what I thought initially was under – reported) bomb threat made against a Melbourne LGBT radio Station JOY 94.9 FM. Respectful debate? Yeah right!

 

Note to people AND POLITICIANS on both sides of the debate. LGBTQ+ people are PEOPLE! Not political pawns, bargaining chips, etc. If you really care about the welfare of of LGBTQ+ youth, then grow up, have a debate and make a decision. Do NOT use us to further your cause. Remember, you are talking about the lives of people here. So enough! Have a plebiscite, have a vote, just do it!

 

To the general public. Think about how your words and actions can people around you. Respect all people in this. If you want to challenge someone’s positions, argue with FACTS; statistics, etc. For opponents, don’t just make the LGBTQ+ community look like caricatures or stereotypes. I’d say the same thing about proponents. Stop treating opponents like monsters under the bed. It’s not doing the campaign any good. They are brothers, sisters, lovers, etc, just like you are. Again, argue with FACTS, not stereotypes or abuse. I know why some LGBTQ+ people are angry. I do. But taking your anger and using it to abuse others is not going to further your fight.

 

 

Can or will polygamy ever be legalised in Australia if same – sex marriage is?

Newscorp journalist, Andrew Bolt warned (again) about the increasing demand for the legalisation of polygamy, and that proponents of same – sex marriage won’t be able to resist it based on their arguments for same – sex marriage. He’s argued this again and again. I’ve got to say that the blog post he published on Monday nearly had me convinced, or at least open my mind to his concern. Then, I did some research… and now… not so much. Still possible, but…. I’m less convinced.

Let’s get one thing on the table first (which does make sense, but I didn’t know conclusively – the difference between polyamory and polygamy (plural marriage). According to “Love Outside the Box”, there are similarities between polygamy and polyamory, but also, quite significant differences. They include:

Similarities

  • Multiple partners
  • Deserving of human rights (I’ll get back to this point when talking about polygamy in more depth)
  • Lack of government and social recognition as a family status

 

Differences

This is where things get a little interesting

  • While polyamory is deemed egalitarian, polygamy is patriarchal
  • Polygamy is often based on religious ideology rather than secular freedom of choice
  • Partners in polygamous structures exclude people who identify LGBTQ. It’s heterosexual – based whereas polyamory can be practised by people of all orientations and gender identities
  • Polyamory is permitted in the US, where as polygamy is largely outlawed
  • Polyamory is based on romantic/ sexual relationships and desires, where as polygamy is generally about family
  • Polyamory isn’t necessarily cis – normative, whereas in polygamy, all members are expected to fit the male/ female gender binary

These differences sound benign, yeah? Maybe apart from polygamy being LGBTQ+ exclusionary. People may also be uncomfortable with a supposed lack of equality between men and women in polygamous relationships, if this list is anything to go by. And family and children? I”ll talk about that shortly, because that is one issue that is raised frequently in the debate of same – sex marriage.

Polygamy vs Bigamy

I wonder if these terms get mixed up. Bigamy – the act of having more than one legal spouse is not legal in any country that has permitted same – sex marriage. According to lawyers.com both polygamy and bigamy are illegal in the US. However, it’s impossible to police and implement, as was proven in one case.

According to Huffington Post, a polygamous family featured in “Sister Wives” unsuccessfully overturned Utah’s anti – polygamy laws. The initial 2013 ruling by Justice Clark Waddoups was overthrown earlier this year because the Brown family hadn’t been prosecuted in the first place. The family’s attorney and legal scholar, Jonathan Turley said in a blog post that he’d challenge the ruling.

Countries, like Canada, have taken a strict stance. Section 293 under the Criminal Code outlaw both bigamy and informal multiple – partner arrangements. In 2011, Chief Justice Robert Baumann ruled that the anti – polygamy law be upheld due to fear of the effect that polygamy has on women, men and children. The claim that this ruling has been in breach of Canada’s “Bill of Rights” has fallen on deaf ears. Ironically,  prolific polygamist and fundamentalist Mormon leader, Winston Blackmore, has come out in support of Chief Justice Baumann’s decision, saying that polygamy exploits women.  Blackmore has been charged under the anti – polygamy laws in 2007 (which were dropped), and 2014. The 2014 charge is still pending, with no trial date being set as of 3 August this year.

The fear about the treatment of women in polygamous/ bigamous settings are not uncommon, nor unfounded. According to The National – UAE, a survey of 100 women conducted by associate professor in the department of English at the American University of Sharja Dr. Rana Raddawi, revealed that many women who took part in the study felt neglected and experienced jealousy.

According to Zainab Al Hammadi, some sociologists have suggested that in some communities, polygamy (as in polygyny – one man, many wives),  has economic and productive advantages and is widespread particularly in agricultural areas where the inhabitants’ education is limited. Howver, Al Hammadi’s LinkedIn article tends to echo the gender inequality of other studies:

Polygamy refers also bias gender and why males are allowed to marry one wife, two or three wives; this indicates males have advantage in bearing responsibility, so that they have ability to take decisions in their marriage type. The main problem may face wives that men are always love new wife in particularly young wife. This desire changes in men’s desire toward older wives. As in indicated in the “Her Three Days”, story narrated by Numbe, said Mustafa had married a younger women. This sudden realization of the facts sent a pain to her heart, a pain of anguish.” (Sembene) (sic)

According to Al Hammadi, the feeling of neglect by older wives in a polygamous family is common. Studies indicate that the jealousy gets so intense that it can cause women to be physically harmed and sometimes some may take their own lives due to the distress. The first wife is particularly vulnerable.

Children are often negatively affected, due to aggression that can be present polygamous households. Drug and alcohol abuse and other problem behaviour isn’t uncommon among teenagers in the Middle East who live in polygamous households. In 1985, a study in Kuwait found that women in polygamous households were over represented in needing mental health care. I think you get the idea. It’s not a pretty picture. You can read the whole study here. Other negative effects that have been shown in areas where polygamy is widely practised include: overpopulation (McMahon, 2010), the struggle to maintain rate of sexually transmitted infections (Beamer and Calder, 2013). Polygamy has even shown to  negatively affect men. They face issues such as alcoholism, bought on by psychological problems (Jencks and Milton, 2010), and they often have lower education levels than monogamous counterparts. However, women are said to be more negatively in polygamous families.

 

Now, I have to be fair. These studies I’ve just (tried) to summarise refer to strictly polygyny; one man, multiple wives. It does not take into account arrangements like polyandry (one woman, many men), or any polyamorous/ LGBTQ+ – friendly groupings. So, what are the studies and what do they say? In 2013, Elisabeth A. Sheff PhD, CASA, CSE published an article in Psychology Today on a study she conducted on poly – families.  Her findings I thought were interesting. Now it is important to note that Sheff admits early on in the article that the sample (which was voluntary), included people who were generally happy and well – adjusted in their poly families. She also admits that information that she could get from American universities was restricted because of confidentiality protocols, so the respondents couldn’t be directly contacted after the study or give further information. Issues such as people only being in a poly lifestyle for a certain time naturally dropped out of the study, which also affected the sample.

Findings

The participants were middle – class Westerners and many were highly educated. This contrasts with polygamous families in the U.S. where some children don’t even finish primary school. This is an interesting finding, and in my opinion, does create a bit of contrast between polygamous/ polygynous families versus polyamorous families. Education allows people to make choices and maintain independence and autonomy.

The overall finding was that children in poly families  were not any worse off than traditional/ monogamous families. This is an interesting contrast compared to the negative effects of polygyny on children in countries where it’s widely practised. As I pointed out above, abuse, spousal neglect and drug and alcohol abuse seemed to be common concerns repeatedly raised in those studies.

However, some people disagree that children are not affected in poly families. James Lopez of “The Stream”, argued that children are worse off in poly families, arguing that a child is best off with his/ her biological parents. It gives one point to marriage traditionalists. In short, he uses the argument that children are best off when raised by their two (preferably married), biological parents and that children who are not in that sort of environment are at higher risks of abuse, neglect, and in some cases, homicide.

So, married biological parents are best environments for children. So, that excludes same – sex parents, yes? Academically, a number of studies have been done on this topic. 74 out of 78 of the studies recorded that there was no significant difference between children raised by same – sex parents and children raised by heterosexual parents, while four did suggest that children were adversely affected. One study was by Mark Regenerus from the University of Texas, who’s “study has been praised by conservative Christian organisations such as the Family Research Council. However, Regenerus’ study has come under fire for using flawed methodology. Professor Simon Cheng (University of Connecticut) and Brian Powell (Indiana University), accused Regenerus of mis – classifying many of the people used in the studyIn part, Powell and Cheng noted:

Research communities in the social sciences have long been aware that methodological decisions can potentially affect the inferences of survey research (Firebaugh, 2008). This threat to the validity of research inferences is particularly challenging for studies that focus on a very small group of interest, such as some racial minority groups, atypical families, and same – sex families (Cheng and Powell, 2005 and Cheng and Powell, 2011). In such research, even a tiny percentage of measurement errors for the small subsamples could powerfully distort patterns from the surveys, and other methodological choices can similarly affect empirical results. When research findings from these analyses are used as policy guidelines, the threat goes even beyond scientific communities, It is therefore incumbent for scholars to critically assess the impllicatoins of these decisions in their own work as well as that of others.

On Regenerus’ study:

Below, we first discuss the NFSS and Regenerus’s measures of family types using the data. and highlight the difficulties in using the NFSS to accurately distinguish between family types, using adoptive households and intact biological families as illustrations. We then discuss the challenges in accurately identifying same – sex families. We follow this discussion with a closer look at the NFSS survey and demonstrate the potential for misclassifying a non – negligible number of respondents as having been raised by parents who had a same – sex romantic relationship. Finally, we assess the cumulative implications of these possible classification errors and other methodological considerations from from various stages of the research process by reanalyzing the NFSS seven steps.

These reanalyses provide a “reality check” regarding the conclusions from the original Regenerus study. The patterns from these reanalyses offer evidence of the fragility of these conclusions – so fragile, in fact, that they are due primarily to methodological choices made by Regenerus. Or, to put it another way, when equally plausible and, in our view, preferred methodological decisions are used, a different conclusion emerges: adult children who lived with same – sex parents show comparable outcome profiles to those of other family types, including intact biological families. That this (sic) revised conclusion is consistent with those reported in most previous studies and inconsistent with Regenerus’s findings illustrates how the accumulation of research decisions throughout the research endeavor – and, in particular, measurement decisions that overlook inconsistent information within the data – may lead to questionable conclusions, even with a population-based large sample.

(All emphasis mine).

A year later, Regenerus himself admitted to (ironically) Focus on the Family that the findings in his study were “too weak to draw the conclusions that many have made”. I can hear/ see critics now blaming Cheng and Powell for being biased against Regenerus because of his Christianity, etc, but either the facts stack up or they don’t. And clearly, in this situation, the study conducted by Regenerus wasn’t done to a satisfactory standard.

Going back to the slippery slope argument in general – I have yet to be convinced. Frankly, I think a lot of it scare mongering. Then again, I guess no one can know for certain that it’d never happen. Personally, I won’t hold my breath, considering much of the information I’ve linked to and written above. In regard to same – sex marriage in general – it’s most likely going to be a plebiscite in February, or if Labor block it, nothing until at least 2019 if Labor win the next Federal election. Until then, my hope is that the LGBTQ+ community stay strong. For non – LGBTQ+ allies, families and friends, please be there for your LGBTQ+ family members/ friends if it all becomes a bit too much. For anyone who needs help, the Lifeline number is 13 11 14. For support and information, you can also look up Beyond Blue and, QLife. If you need help please get it.

To finish off, I want to quote Ellen Degeneres. “be kind to one another”.