What should we tolerate in the name of free speech?

A topic dominating the media in Australia is free speech and anti – discrimination laws, both when talking about multiculturalism and the same – sex marriage plebiscite. Currently in Australia, there are a number of laws in each State and Territory protecting people on the basis of characteristics, such as race, sexuality, gender, carer status, relationship status and other grounds (Racial Discrimination Act (1975), the Anti – Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW) 1977, the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, among others.The Anti – Discrimination Act and Sex Discrimination Act in NSW, currently prohibit discrimination, harrassment, villification, etc on the gay and transgender community. Tasmania’s anti – discrimination also protects LGBT people from discrimination from public services and employment against the LGBTQ+ community.

Due to issues surrounding multiculturalism, the fear of radical Islam and the dropped case against Archbishop Julian Porteous last year and other events, anti – dupiscrimination laws have come under increased scrutiny. In light of the case against Archbishop Porteous, there have been calls from the Australian Christian Lobby to have anti – discrimination laws that protect the LGBTQ community to be scaled back while the plebiscite debate is underway. Columnist for the Australian, Sharri Markson has publicly condemned the plebiscite, arguing that it was giving a license to spread homophobia.

 

If you asked me ten years ago about this, I admit I would have said unequivocally that under NO circumstances should anti – discrimination laws – including those that protect the LGBT community should EVER be scaled back and NO ONE should EVER be exempt from such laws.

Now?

I’m kind of torn. As a GSM (gender/ sexuality minority) and someone with a disability, I would love it if minorities didn’t had to feel attacked, and, to be honest, I wish the lives of LGBTQ+ people weren’t up for such fierce, and, quite frankly, sometimes hurtful ‘debate’.

However, silencing debate – especially on controversial issues, such as same – sex marriage, I fear, will only backfire. It won’t stop opponents of the LGBTQ community, it will only make some of them bite back even harder. Frankly, I think it’s happened in countries, especially the US, where conservatives felt like the SCOTUS ruling on same – sex marriage in 2015, have bitten back with a vengeance – one notable example is Arizona pastor who said he ‘wasn’t sad’ about what happened in Orlando. There has reportedky been backlash with PayPal, Apple and YouTube cancelling his acounts (YouTube must’ve backtracked because his videos can still be seen on the site – including the one about Orlando.

I’m not saying that the above (and extreme) example is right, or that it is a view shared by most opponents of same – sex marriage. What I’m wondering is whether it’s helpful for the LGBTQ+ if such people like Anderson, or even less extreme examples are silenced by the law.

Should we tolerate such views in a democracy? Can we fight back without relying on the law to help us? And, how much should us in the LGBTQ+ community simply… I guess… tolerate?

What are your thoughts?

 

Why All the Semantics?

I just read a post about the SCOTUS ruling and the “love wins” mantra. The blogger, who is of the LDS faith (Mormon), argues that the mantra should be “tolerance wins’, arguing that not all opponents against same – sex marriage are haters.

Last Sunday on “The Bolt Report”, columnist Miranda Devine and Andrew Bolt were talking about the term “marriage equality” instead of “same – sex marriage” being used in the media. Devine even went as far as saying that you’d think marriage equality meant the equality between a heterosexual couple.

Are we seriously going to resort to wordplay in the same – sex marriage/ marriage equality debate? Is that what the argument is going to be about for the next two years or so? I really want to put a perspective on both of these with respect to those who disagree.

Firstly, marriage equality versus same – sex marriage: for those who read this blog, you’ll have noticed that I use the term “same – sex marriage” as opposed to “marriage equality” or “gay marriage”. The reason for the first one is probably habit. The second reason is because when addressing the issue, I’m usually talking about more than just gays and lesbians. I’m usually talking about others who are, or who are likely to be in same – sex relationships: homoromantic asexuals, bi – romantic asexuals, pan – romantic asexuals, pansexuals, etc. There are arguments that “gay marriage” is exclusionary and erases the people I just mentioned. So they’re my reasons.

Secondly, the “love wins”. It was a popular mantra both at rallies and on social media when the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), ruled in favour of legalising same – sex marriage across all 50 states on June 26, 2015. The reason? I think it was because now under US law, same – sex relationships were legally treated the same as any heterosexual/ opposite – sex relationship. Love won because they were now considered equal under the law. Keep in mind that in America, the states that didn’t legalise same – sex marriage, or prohibited it, legally, same – sex couples were denied numerous rights often attributed to opposite – sex married couples.

The Obgerfell vs. Hodges case was about Jim Obgerfell, from Ohio, who, when his partner, John Arthur died in 2013, Obgerfell was not legally recognised as his spouse and therefore, he wasn’t afforded widower rights after Arthur died. In the US, stories surrounding medical decisions came with the same sort of result. Same – sex partners were not given the right to have a say about what happened to their own partner medically because they weren’t deemed family under the law. The rights went to the blood relatives of the person in hospital, leaving the partner out.

Under American law, same – sex couples were refused over a thousand rights given to opposite sex married couples. These included social security, illness (as described above), death, etc. They literally weren’t treated equally under the law in many ways, particularly in states that had the “Defence of the Marriage Act” (DOMA) status. This was also condemned as unconstitutional about two yeas ago (can’t remember exactly when, but I do remember hearing about it).

Under Australian law, if same – sex marriage is legalised, the changes won’t be so dramatic, at least in a legal sense. The Gillard Government amended Centrelink and other laws to assure that same – sex couples are attributed the same legal and financial rights as both married and  opposite sex de – facto couples. The big talking point about the legalisation of same – sex marriage in Australia is the issues of adoption, IVF and surrogacy. The laws in each state is different. To my knowledge, New South Wales permits IVF to lesbian couples as well as single women, although, in South Australia, such fertility treatment is only afforded to medically infertile married opposite – sex couples. Not sure about the other states and frankly, too slack at the moment to look them up. Before the last state election in Victoria, Daniel Andrews reportedly did talk about extending IVF to lesbians and single women, but I’m not sure if that’s gone through or what.

So, back to the terms. Does it matter? Like I indicated at the start of the post, I think it’s just semantics. But what do you think?

Also, feel free to add your knowledge about current Australian laws surrounding IVF, surrogacy and adoption that you know and feel free to correct me if I’m mistaken.

Discrimination Against Asexuals

Trigger Warning: This post speaks about sexual violence. If this is triggering for you, feel free to move on from this post. Get any professional help you may need.

I’m up to the part in the book “The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality”. I’m going to change tactic though and say what I think about the whole issue from what I’ve read in the book (the chapter’s too long to do a brief post, I think).

We hear about homophobia all the time. It’s come to a point, where in society, it’s generally frowned upon. Someone can even be sacked or prosecuted for making an overtly homophobic comment, or at the very least, be under public pressure to apologise (especially if it’s caught by the media). However, I can’t help but think the same standards are being held against asexual people. It’s like, in some cases they’re fair game. Now, before anyone jumps on me, I’m very aware of the oppression that LGBT people face. I’ve talked before about it on this blog. But asexual discrimination I feel is just as important, but little known. Some areas of discrimination faced by asexuals include:

  • Not having marriage legally recognised
  • Alienation and disfavour within religious communities
  • Refusal to be able to adopt
  • “Corrective” rape
  • Discrimination from the mental health professionals
  • Self – hatred/ internalised discrimination

Having a marriage annulled because of a lack of sex

By what I’ve read, it sounds like marriages, at least in the US can be deemed iligitimate if it’s known that the couple aren’t having satisfactory sex and a partner complains about it. And this is a problem for the government because? Why not get them to seek professional help (no, not just to ‘fix’ the asexual) to get the couple to work out their relationship and work on a compromise that they’re both happy with? If such an arrangement doesn’t work out, then maybe, the relationship wans’t meant ot be. But once a marriage is in place, the government should be play no role policing how such a marriage should opperate (unless, of course crime is going on). Maybe I’m mistaken. But it just seems a bit off to me.

Alienation and disfavour within religious communities

Some religious communities are very heteronormative, especially if they have a very strict traditional view of gender. She talks about how many asexuals feel demonised for their orintation, or like in mainstream society, made to feel like there’s something wrong with them. I just want to interject a view from what I’ve personally viewed.

In some Christian circles, even Evangelical circles, there is a move away from enforcing marriage and demonising people, simply for being single. They even quote Paul from the bible to accomodate their approval. However, I’ve often wondered whether this comes out of a form of political correctness; like people feel like they HAVE TO accommodate singles in a bid to not be demonised from the outside. Then again, they could just be making the decision to be more accommodating. But this doesn’t cover people in non – sexual, but romantic relationships.

Sex is expected to be a given in marriage in a Christian context, especially if they hone on the fact that they strongly believe that sex should be reserved for marriage. I actually think they go too far sometimes. I’ve even read in a book wher the Evangelical Christian author practically blamed infidelity on the partner that withold sex. Now, to do it out of spite, I can understand that’s not good. But to make a blanket vilification against a partner that can’t have sex or are not comfortable with it isn’t right. I’m inclined to agree with Decker when she condemned such an attitude as being abusive.

Refusal to be able to adopt

Apparently, in the US, there have been incidences where a couple have been refused adoption due to couples (or at least one person) being asexual. I think the idea behind it is that they should be able to reproduce naturally? Anyway, I think it’s ridiculous. Again, invasion of privacy. And it needs to be said, why? Why does a couple’s sexual practices (so long as they are legal and consensual), have any bearing on whether they should be able to adopt or look after a child? I don’t get it. Mind your own business, for heaven’s sake! If a couple is having troubles, let THEM sort it out and determine what action should be taken NOT government agencies!

“Corrective” rape

Decker says in the book, as well as her video on discrimination, that asexual women, in particular, can be vulnerable to sexual assault. The perpetrator can be either a stranger or even a partner/ spouse. It goes on the stupid theory that an egotistical maniac can “turn” a woman because of his own grandiosity (at least for the stranger part), which is ridiculous! In intimate partnerships, an asexual partner can feel bullied into having sex with their partner. When this happens, and the partner who’s been (let’s be honest here), raped opens up, according to Decker, people are likely to be sympathetic to the perpetrator rather than the victim.

NEWSFLASH: spousal rape is now illegal in most Western countries, including Australia in the mid 1970’s. So there should be NO EXCUSE. I’ll say it again, if a couple feels like they need help in regarding sexual issues, they should feel free to look for it, but NOT for the sole purpose of humiliating one of the partners!

Discrimination from mental health professionals

The latest edition of the DIagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V), changed the definitions of Hyposexual Desire Disorder (HSDD) and Sexual Arousal Disorder (SAD), deliberately differentiating them (particularly HSDD) between the disorder as opposed to asexuality, which is the orientation. In 2010, asexual advocates, including founder of AVEN David Jay demanded that these modifications be made. Unfortunately, apparently, not all health professionals have caught on. Asexuailty can be fixated on as a “problem” in a person’s lives, regardless on whether the client focuses on it or not. To me, this is unethical, frankly. Mental health professionals are not there to plant ideas into client’s heads! They’re there to HELP  the client work through their issues (without intruding), so they can live life that they want (I studied Community Services for two years, which included modules on couselling and client/ professional communication). From what I’ve read, if a licensed professional did the same thing to someone who was gay, they’d be deregistered, or at the very least, disciplined by their medical/ psychological board. Why aren’t asexuals given the same respect? Fortunately, there are therapists/ counsellors out there who recognise asexuality as an orientation and are likely to treat the asexual client respectfully. Decker hinted that it might be best to seek a counsellor who has experience in LGBT counselling.

Self – hatred/ internalised discrimination

This part made me cry, because I get it. It is something that people can go through, and it can be quite psychologically harmful. It’s very easy to do, hard to get over. Fortunately, I can honestly say that I’m coming to a place where I’m accepting who I am. I’m not completely there yet, but better than what I have been in the past.

The pain can be exacerbated if the person feels like they should isolate themselves in a bid not be rejected from others. By “isolation”, I’m not just talking about it in a physical sense. I’m talking aboutbeing in a group, but feeling like you can’t (or shouldn’t) open up about your own experiences in fear of being rejected if the topic of relationships, marriage pop up. Somtimes, the second one is more painful. Sometimes, when an asexual opens up, I won’t lie, it can backfire. However, somtimes, coming out can be liberating as well.

The chapter as a whole was quite disheartening. It really opened my eyes to how a lot of work needs to be done to eradicate sexual orientation – based discrimination. I’m quietly hopeful. With more visibiility, more advocacy, hopefully we’ll come to a point where discrimination against asexuals will become more frowned upon.