Freshly Doug Tuesday

Gareth Sloan

I’ve been asked why it says “Agitate. Agitate. Agitate.” at the top of our front page.

In 1895 America, Frederick Douglass, a runaway slave, published his autobiography. He was forced to flee to England, where abolitionists raised the money to buy him his freedom. He returned to the USA and started an abolitionist newspaper, The North Star. Douglass befriended President Abraham Lincoln and encouraged him to free the slaves.

When a young student asked him what his advice he would give to the young people coming after him he replied “Agitate. Agitate. Agitate.” Don’t accept something simply because “That’s the way things are”. Never give up. On the day of his death, he gave the same advice to a women’s suffrage meeting. On his return home, he re-enacted the moment for his wife. “Agitate. Agitate. Agitate.” were allegedly his last words.

Tasmanian marriage advocates are taking his words to heart, holding a beach barbecue for equal marriage despite the failure of an equal marriage bill in state parliament. 

Also continuing to stir it up, the New Zealand AIDS Foundation. Undeterred by all the defeatist talk about people having ‘given up on condoms’, they have tackled the decline in condom use head on, ramped up pro-condom campaigning, and produced a 33% decline in the rate of new infections. And they’re not too impressed with using HIV meds as preventatives, either, when they only have a 42% success rate in stopping HIV transmission – versus condoms, where’s it’s as close to 100% as you can get.

They fear that promoting unsafe alternatives to condoms will only undo all their good work and destroy the successful ‘condom culture’ they’ve worked so hard to create and sustain.

Elsewhere, the low profile of World AIDS Day and the lack of visible red ribbons on celebrities and others has been noted, while US AIDS campaigners are worried about the impact of budget cuts and changes to healthcare funding on HIV+ people.

You might think that even conservatives would see that promoting a ‘marriage culture’ with it’s attendant expectations of fidelity can only be to the good for improving public health generally, as well as helping constrain the spread of HIV. But no: their latest paranoia is that gay marriage will somehow lead to children having sex – especially gay sex – at a very young age.

The Supremes are still not signing a gay wedding song: the US Supreme Court might have something to say on Friday, or maybe Monday, or then again, it might be the week after . . . .  Israeli justices, meanwhile, have just granted the first gay divorce.

There a depressingly familiar story about gay men jailed in Senegal: efforts to help one of the men by three human rights agencies have been rebuffed by his lawyers and family, apparently out of shame.

But let’s end on a good note: a couple of straight Aussies crowdfunding (my, this is a popular activity: maybe I should take it up) to make a pro-same-sex-marriage movie. Another one for the Christmas list.

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)