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?

 

Advertisements

Some People Aren’t Straight, Get Over It!

Earlier this week, Catholic school. St. Francis Xavier College, in Berwick, Melbourne, made headlines when it was alleged that the Principal set up an assembly and demanded the children in Years Eight and Nine tear out pages of a health text book that dealt with losing your virginity, how to negotiate sex, same – sex relationships and sexual orientation. The Principal, Vincent Feeney, originally argued that the discussion about sexual relationships and sexual orientation should be discussed in Religion classes, not Personal Development, Health and Physical Education. He later admitted that the move was heavy – handed.

Earlier in the year, everyone (in Australia at least), would’ve heard about the controversy about Safe Schools, a program that talked about tackling homophobia and transphobia in schools. I do think they went too far, especially the program aimed at pre – school aged children. There have also been criticisms and concerns from experts about the accuracy of the information being presented; the number of people who are LGBT+ and the video case studies. I get all that.

 

Here’s the thing. Sex ed has been around years. We had it when I went to school from Years Seven to Ten. Anyone remember the “putting a condom on banana”? Yeah, I do. Relationships were talked about, especially in Year 10 (I remember that vividly), and… no one complained. Not to my knowledge anyway.

So what’s everyone up in arms about now?

Short answer: LGBTQ+ people are starting to be discussed. The gay/ straight dichotomy is finally busted. Now bisexuals, asexuals, etc are starting to be discussed. Frankly, a part of me wishes I was in school now! I thin it’s great; providing the information is accurate and age appropriate, that the LGBT+ community in all it’s forms is starting to become visible. My hope that one day, we’d hear about students being aware of asexuality is coming true.

Here’s the thing. Like I’ve said, I think some of the criticisms aimed at programs like Safe Schools are called for. There were inaccuracies and from what I’ve read, it lacked support for students who experience same – sex relationships/ encounters early in life, but end up identifying as straight. That aside, I can’t help but think that the reason why people are so up in arms is because heteronormativity is no longer pretended to be everyone’s orientation. It’s bringing the LGBTQ+ out of the closet, so to speak and people don’t like it. Yet, for a small amount of people, it’s reality. Why can’t it be discussed in schools? Why can’t LGBTQ+ students feel included? It’s reality. Only for a small amount of people, but still, it’s there.

 

Some people aren’t straight, get over it!

Safe Schools Is… Well… Safe

The review has happened and, the Safe Schools Program is safe, despite fierce opposition from the Right of the Liberal Party. The reviewers from University of Western Australia Emeritus’ Professor Bill Louden, has found that, while the program needs modifications, the Safe Schools as a whole should not be scrapped or de funded.

I get changes were needed. When I looked at various websites to see the what was in it and what everyone was getting worked up about, I didn’t agree with everything that was in it, but overall, I thought it was good.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, teachers, Guidance Counsellors and other staff NEED correct information on ways to support LGBTQ+ students. One of the reasons why I was (and am) a supporter of this is because the program goes beyond the gay/ straight dichotomy. I think it’ll be a useful resource for teachers and other staff who’s students don’t identify as cis – gender, something that was barely talked about when I was at school.

Let me back – pedal just a bit and talk about the high school I went to. It was a great school. The staff were great. I had great support throughout all my trials and tribulations. But sex – education, in particular was very black and white. There was no real discussion about questioning sexuality. There was only two mentions of asexuality… both misconceptions. This is NOT damning the school! I want to make that perfectly clear. It just shows that back between 2005 and 2007 for me, it was very black and white, and, while very, very supportive, none of the KNEW about asexuality and some had a very “well, if your not gay (or haven’t worked it out by 15), then you must be straight” mentality. I’m not begrudging that, I want to make that clear again. I just think that with this resource, the teachers and even Guidance Counsellors may not be so out of their depth when trying to assist someone who is questioning their sexuality or doesn’t identify as gay or straight by the time their fifteen.

 

Another thing that wasn’t talked about was the different types of attraction and how romantic attraction doesn’t always go hand – in – hand with sexual orientation. It would’ve explained a lot. If teachers through professional development can learn that sexual orientation and romantic orientation are not always linked and that there are other forms of attraction, then I think it’ll help them help the students, particularly those who are confused with their sexuality.

I’m glad it’s staying, I really am. People need to know that people are different and that not everyone fits a neat box. Students need to know that they will be supported, without question, by teachers and other staff (most would, I’m sure, I’m not trying tu suggest they won’t). A little reassurance and access to information will go a long way for staff who support students and I truly think it’ll give reassurance to a lot of students themselves.

Safe Schools Program

 

Trigger Warning: brief mention of sexual assault, bullying and harassment. 

I was going to make this post about the stink about the Safe Schools Program, but I want to change direction. (I think the Safe Schools Program did have some good points from what I’ve read on it by the way).

I want to talk about the word that LGBTQ+ critics use all the time, including in this latest row – agenda. “Teachers should teach not push a political “agenda”. This sort of statement really agitates me. Why are we an “agenda”? What is our “agenda”? What is the “agenda” for the whole LGBTQ+ community? For LGBTQ+ students to not be verbally or physically assaulted perhaps. Or not be sick with worry that if you do open up about your questions about your identity, or when you open up about your confirmed identity, you won’t be rejected by friends, family, or, quite frankly, school staff? )These fears are real, by the way. I want to talk about that a bit more later.)

Do you want to know what my agenda, as an asexual person is?

  • For people to be properly informed about what asexuality is
  • For young people to be able to be given correct information about asexuality so that they hopefully won’t spend years wondering what is “wrong” with them
  • For female asexuals (in particular), to not be heckled into dating when they don’t want, or worse, indecently assaulted and/ or raped because of their identity and expression of not wanting a sexual partner
  • For asexuals, both single and in relationships, to not be asked rude or intrusive questions about their genitals, their behaviour in private (e.g. masturbation etc)
  • For asexuals to not be left out of education programs and teachers will be informed enough to support asexual students, as well as (other) members of the LGBTQ+

 

On ABC’s “The Drum”, Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz lamented that all bullying should be condemned and that there is no need for a separate one for LGBTQ+ students and… say, children being bullied because they have red hair. There is a difference with the two. Let me explain.

All bullying should be condemned. And it most often is. BUT, being bullied based on sexuality or gender identity (or perceived of the two), can be harder for victims to speak up about, due to the moral weight often put on LGBTQ+ issues. There is a real fear of being rejected or ignored, not just peers, but, quite frankly, staff as well. I know it sounds silly, and yes, often these fears are unfounded, but the fear is no less real.

Secondly, it’s important that teachers are properly informed about what it means to be LGBTQ, asexual or other minority in a bid to help such students. When I was at school (I graduated in 2008), asexuality was barely talked about, and even though the support I received was great and I’m forever grateful, I was exposed to two key misconceptions when I queried whether I might be asexual: that asexuality doesn’t exist or that asexuality does exist, but is only a phase. Both are not true, at least for the most part (some people may identify as asexual only to identify as something else later on. Some asexual people, though, always and always will lack sexual attraction).

The program says it’s aim is to help teachers support “same – sex attracted and gender diverse students”. I hope this includes students who may think they are romantically attracted to the same – sex, not necessarily sexually attracted. I hope it’ll also extend to teachers being able to help students who are questioning their sexuality/ gender identity beyond Years 7 and 8. This is one of my main criticism of the Safe Schools Program. What about students in 9, 10, 11 and 12? Sure, most students know who they are in terms of sexuality/ gender identity from an early age (about 15), but not all. My struggles with my identity didn’t happen until I was 16.

Contrary to what the opponents have said I have read NOTHING about chest – binding, penis tucking or age inappropriate sexual content. If anyone wants to prove me wrong providing a DIRECT QUOTE from the CURRICULUM ITSELF, I’d love to hear it, because maybe I missed something.

So, that’s what I think about the Safe Schools Program. It may not be perfect, maybe it could be modified, but I do think overall it is needed.

 

 

 

 

Invisible Orientation: An Introductoin To Asexuality Review – Part 2 ctd

Today, I’ll be talking about the section of the book “Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality” by Julie Sondra Decker, continuing with Part 2.

After discussing the LGBT communities and discrimination, Decker talks about the asexual community and the diversity of ages in the group. Unfortunately, most data and forums that are available about asexuality are skewed to young people, probably mostly under 30. Some of these reasons might be obvious, like most of the discussion surrounding asexuality tends to happen online, something that many older people may not be involved in.

As Decker pointed out, young people have become somewhat more open about their sexuality than in the past, which in turn, has had younger people admitting or at the very least, realising that they may not experience any sexual attraction at all.

There is data to suggest that people are “coming out”, whether gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, a lot younger than in the past. In the past, gay people didn’t come out until they left home and gained independence, around the age of 16. Today, teens and even preteens are identifying as LGBT and coming out much earlier. (I want to talk more about younger people coming out as asexual later).

The fact that asexual people who are more likely to be open about asexuality has its drawbacks; that people mistaken asexuality as a phase, something that people will “grow out of”, or will “change their mind on” once they have had sex. This is contrary to much research that indicates that many people experience  and start to work out their orientation in early to mid teens,either with or without sexual experience. http://www.case.edu/lgbt/resources/safe-zone-resources/truth/

Asexual teens and young adults can experience alienation from most of mainstream media and their peers, where sex and sexuality are often main talking points. I can relate to this personally, especially before I identified as asexual. I actually tried to avoid all conversations about sexuality at this time. That got frustrating and lonely. To be perfectly honest, Personal Development (or as it’s called in Australia, Personal Development/ Health and Physical Education or PDHPE) classes didn’t really help in Year 10 because of a no real talk about sexuality outside the gay/ straight binary, the assumption that everyone knew whether they were gay or straight by the age of fifteen (I didn’t) and no distinction made between sexual and romantic attraction. I didn’t get any real dismissive comments about my age, although some did say that I was still young. On the other hand, a lot of it was the opposite. Because I was sixteen at the time, I was expected to have worked out who I was and the fact that I hadn’t identified as gay by then (or before), some people just assumed I was straight. So, I was straight… and felt no attraction to men… yeah, it made perfect sense… not. Just to be clear, I don’t begrudge anyone about this. I come from a small town and went to high school in a small town (not the same one) and, as I’ve written before, the discussion about LGBT and the complexities of sexuality can be limited.

Just another point about teens. It can be particularly for adolescent boys to acknowledge their own lack of sexual attraction. Society bombards young men with the idea that men are supposed to be “full of testosterone” and “getting laid”. The stigma surrounding lack of sexual attraction can be stigmatised by both people who are straight and the gay community. So much of how masculinity is viewed is largely based on sexual performance or the desire to make sexual conquests. I can’t help but think that this can only lead to low self – esteem in young asexual men, and other problems.

There is a tragic paradox when it comes to older asexual people. On one hand, society likes to desexualise older people, yet older people who are asexual are often ignored. Children get “grossed out” if an older couple visibly displays affection or talk about sex. Conversely, older asexual people, especially women, are often looked down upon if they are not partnered by a certain age. Now, this is according to Decker. I know a few older people (who aren’t asexual to my knowledge), but they are single. I haven’t heard any negative comments about them. What does plague women though, especially over thirty, is the “ticking” of the biological clock. Women are told to hurry up and seek a partner/ spouse before it’s too late to have children. I find that annoying, to be honest. I get that it can be harder for older women (especially over 35) to fall pregnant, but just telling women to “hurry up” isn’t necessary going to help. And, what about men? Just saying. It takes two to tango, right? Then again, there are IVF, fostering, etc that is open to single women and same – sex couples in some States (I think NSW is one of them). Just putting it out there. I get that it’s often controversial. I’ve talked about both sides of the gay parenting/ adoption debate before.

Funnily enough, according to Decker, women in their 30’s who identify as asexual are often referred as “late bloomers”. No kidding? That’s late… except of course that as I pointed out before that sexual orientation is often (not always) discovered in the teenage years, including asexuality.

I just want ot talk about the desexualisation of older people. In aged care, it’s now expected that workers acknowledge the sexuality of their clients, including those who are LGBT. All community service workers are expected to acknowledge and respect the fact that elderly people are (often) sexual beings. It’s actually unlawful under anti – discrimination legislation to prevent couples to express affection to each other in aged care facilities. This includes same – sex couples. I hope that this doesn’t put undue pressure on people who don’t want to seek or engage in sexual activity or be partnered, regardless of whether they identify as asexual or not. I’m hoping that it’ll be discussed more in the future and, ultimately, respected.

 

There are asexual people who don’t, or didn’t realise they were asexual until after they married or entered long – term relationships. For these people, their lack of sexual attraction is pushed aside and there is a lot of compromise in the relationship; more than what would’ve happened if the asexual partner would’ve known or acknoweledged their asexuality. This has lead many people in long – term relationships to be frustraed and the asexual partner internalising harmful beliefs about them and the relationship. There does seem to be a very damaging perception that people “owe” sex to their partners (or anyone).

I get sex can be seen as an important part of a relationship to most people, but I think it’s gotten to the point where dangerous attitudes have been accepted by society, such as if a partner/ spouse doesn’t get sex, then the other partner deserves to be cheated on. I get that deliberately withholding sex in a relationship, especially out of spite is not the best idea, but the load shouldn’t all be on the asexual person either. Both parties should take part in voicing their needs and desires and work out individually what compromises can be made (if any). If a compromise can’t be met, then they may make the decision to break up. But it’s not up to everyone else to decide who should do what.

 

Asexual visibility is relatively new. It’s clear that the lack of visibilty and acceptance of asexual people has affected people across all age groups. Overtime, I hope this will improve (I’m quietly optimistic).

 

 

Sex – Positivity and Inclusiveness In the Church

I follow the blog Church and Sex and have read a number of posts, especially from Patheos about the backlash against the purity movement, particularly in the US. I don’t want to get into an argument about what the morality of it all is, I can already imagine what people are going to say. I just want to talk about how sex – positivity could possibly affect both asexuals and people with conservative views on sex and sexuality.

First thing, most people are, so called “sexual beings”. I say “most people” because, of course, some people are asexual. But then again, maybe it depends on one’s definition. I believe that each person should be free to at least acknowledge the fact that they are (or aren’t) sexual. I don’t think people can kid themselves too long about that stuff. However, I don’t think acknowledging your sexuality is the same as being sexually active.

So, some people are starting to believe that sex doesn’t need to be saved until marriage. I’m just pointing out that some people think that. Again, I’m not here to debate the morality of it. Just, people think that… including some Christians, with some look at the original biblical transcripts (Greek mainly – New Testament).

I’ve written before the damage of the ethos that (at least what I think) drives the far – Right American Christian culture. However, I also warn the Progressive/ Left not to go too far the other way, as in to demonise people with conservative viewpoints and those who don’t want sex (whether they are asexual or not). I’m glad to say that I’ve seen posts on the Internet about Christianity and asexuality that are quite affirming, and to those people, I give credit. I just hope, outside the Internet, the Church, liberal or conservative, is accomodating to those who want to wait until marriage, people who have no desire for sex period (e.g. asexual people), and those who are genuinely believe they are called to celibacy.

That includes being ACCOMMODATING to these different types of people. That means not having a “married with children”, “newly married”, etc groups and leaving singles and celibates out of the church culture. It means not putting unreasonable pressure on singles to couple – up and making them feel like they’re a failure (I thnk that’s slowly decreasing). It means, as much as possible, to respectfully discuss conflicting viewpoints… if that’s possible (I say this because I tend to shy away from such debates).

That’s what I think about the future of the church and the discussion of sex. It’ll continue evolving, I’m sure. Hopefully not into a fight, though.

Acceptance

TW: suicide

The suicide of transgender teenager Leelah Acorn brung to light the conflicts that many LGBT face and the importance of acceptance, especially from parents. I just thought I’d talk about the term acceptance, including what it means in the context of asexuality.

What acceptance is NOT: 

  • Acceptance doesn’t mean understanding, in the sense that you know exactly what your LGBTA+friend/ child/sibling, etc is going through. Chances are you don’t really have a clue of what someone who is LGBTA+ is going through if you haven’t experienced things like they might. That’s OK. It doesn’t give your or anyone else the right to be rude or condescending though.
  • Acceptance doesn’t mean that you’ll immediately change your beliefs about things. Even on Tumblr, Alcirn admitted that. Some people have deeply ingrained views about sexuality and gender, particularly if they’ve been heavily involved in a religious organisation where certain views on gender and sexuality are very black and white, particularly in a highly conservative environment.

What acceptance IS:

  • Acceptance is believing what the person is saying, or at least respecting the person enough not to be dismissive about what the person’s been telling you.
  • Acceptance means your overall view of the hasn’t been negatively affected to devastating proportions. If someone has ‘come out’ to you, and you need time to process what you’ve been told, by all means do it. May I suggest maybe doing research on gender/ sexuality information relevant to the person who’s come out to you. Read blogs, research papers, books/ ebooks/ iBooks, articles,whatever you can, just to gain some insight into the worlds of the group of people your friend/ loved one identifies with.
  • Obviously, acceptance means not ostracising the person from you or others

Research indicates that if a LGBTA+ person is accepted by loved ones, they are are lipless likely to be suicidal or self – harm. I think too, they’re less likely to be involved in harmful activities (drugs, etc). So please, please love and/ or respect the person who’s just come out to you. Chances are, the decision for the person to come put wasn’t the easiest for them either. It can be a nerve wracking experience, even when the likelihood of something bad happening is slim.