Freshly Stirred Christmas Pud

Three months to the day since I launched the stirrer on a unsuspecting world, I have to say we’ve made an excellent beginning.

Let’s see more debates (like the one we are currently having over state-based marriage between Luke Gahan and Rodney Croome), gracing our pages in future. Congratulations to both for conducting a (mostly) gentlemanly argument out in the open. As it should always be.

I cannot stress this enough: the stirrer is not designed for reportage: that’s what we have a gay press for. Reportage costs money: they have it, we don’t. the stirrer is a platform for analysis, debate and contention. Why do you think it’s called the stirrer ?

Individual authors may take sides: that doesn’t mean the stirrer does. Indeed it can’t if it is to reflect the diversity of our community. Just because we run a piece calling into question the response to the latest stats on HIV, doesn’t mean that this is the stirrer’s view. As soon as we receive a cogent, readable piece arguing the contrary, we’ll run that too. It’s up to you. Hint: we’re still waiting.

Other debates that need to be out in the open instead of behind closed doors:

  • The negotiations with the AFL over homophobia in their ranks and the lack of out gay players. We can’t have a situation where a few people negotiate an outcome, however worthy, behind closed doors, and then just dump it on us as a done deal.
  • The way beyondblue is spending the millions it has allocated to tackling homophobia. All praise to them, great praise indeed, for taking this on, but too much is happening out of sight and that leads to mistakes, like the clumsy ‘left-handed’ campaign.
  • Why is the campaign to get religious instruction and Christian chaplains out of school failing, and what can we do about it?
  • How do we counter the pernicious interference of the Roman Catholic church in our political life, especially the Labor Party, and end it?

I’m sure you can think of more: I have only room for so many bees in my bonnet.

I think I know why you’re so shy about standing up and stirring. It’s Christmas.Let me indulge in a little history.

Back when I was a teenager, homosexuality was decriminalised. Up to then, most of the businesses servicing our community were tied up with organised crime. Only they had the cash and muscle to keep the authorities out of the bars, clubs and saunas. Only they had the networks to distribute gay porn mags, whose rafts of small ads were our main channels of communication.

As the community gained in confidence, the high prices and low standards began to irk us. We began opening businesses proudly labelled “gay owned and run.” This quickly became a bit of a joke, because more often than not, ‘gay owned and run’ quickly turned into ‘closed down and bankrupt’.

Not surprising, really, when your competition is organised criminals, who can intimidate not just you, but your suppliers, your landlord, your distributors. When they have connections in local councils and police forces – neither particularly sympathetic anyway – stretching back years. Lots of gay businesses, including my own, suffered because of this in the early days.

It’s not like that now, of course. Gay owned and run businesses and organisations are no longer vulnerable to such pressures. But the effects linger. We still live in fear that the little we have might be taken from us. So we are excessively loyal to our organisations and establishments, even when they are clearly dysfunctional, or possibly worse. We know what blood sweat and tears have been expended by poorly-paid staff and unpaid volunteers. We can’;t bear to let them go. We fear the replacement may be worse – if there is a replacement at all.

But what if the effort is being expended on the wrong things? Should we just stay silent?

Apparently the community thinks, ‘yes.’ What else explains the long slow demise of the ALSO Foundation, which out to have been dragged to the headsman’s block years ago? Instead of storming the citadel, people who should have known better – who did know better – slank off into the shadows as ALSO was sucked down into the quicksands, turning a blind eye as scarce community dollars disappeared who knows where.

Sheltered by this cowardly and sentimental community mindset, organisations become complacent, inward looking, self-serving, and potentially even corrupt. Control falls to the same inward-looking cliques.

We must not be afraid to behave like mature adults and have our disagreements in public. We must never fail to question actions and demand public justifications. Prudent, well-run organisations have nothing to fear – indeed they should welcome it and actively participate. In the long run, it will force them to improve. This is what living in a free democracy is all about.

So, if you have any brain cells left after the onslaught of cheap sentimentality, rich food and lakes of booze that is the festive season, come January 2, rinse them in coconut water, sharpen up your quills, take courage, and get stirring.

I’ve written before about Why I Stir. Now it’s your turn. This is what the site is for. A place for you to stand and stir.

the stirrer is waiting.

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)