Lightly Butted Pollie Brings Heavy Weather

Pic: David Goehring “Chicken Little: This Can’t End Well”

So, some twit who happened to be wearing a YES badge (allegedly) lightly head-butted (or roughly kissed) Tony Abbott, and it’s the end of the world. Well, it is if you’re one of the 0.4% of the viewing public who watch Sky News, apparently. Chicken Littles are on special this week at Woolworths. Who knew? Me, I think it’s a storm in a teacup. Until the next one.


You cannot expect a downtrodden community who have spent years having equality dangled before us, perpetually just out of reach, perpetually jerked away each time we go to grasp it, to sit patiently for two months while we are vilified, trashed, insulted and physically bashed. Now and then someone is, quite rightly, going to lash out. Totally regrettable. Totally understandable.

It will happen again because there is no respected leadership to hold things in check. There is not even much of a campaign. There is no sense of momentum, no sense of hope. A complete vacuum, in which we wait and hope for other people to make decisions about us.

What leadership there is consists of a lot of people (whose strategies and plans, let’s remember, have for years consistently failed to deliver marriage equality), asking us to sit down, shut up, take it, do not fight back, keep smiling, don’t answer back, mummy and daddy will take care of it, do as you’re told, be good little children and maybe, just maybe, Santa will bring you a wedding for Christmas. But only if you’re good and don’t annoy the Big Bad Boogeyman.

Keep making the nicely nicely phone calls and house calls, and if someone’s mean to you, just smile, say thank you, wipe off the blood and move on. Whatever you do, don’t campaign, don’t talk about issues, don’t upset them. Post happy smiling couple pictures. Burble about your babies and pets and pretty little house.

In this infantilised condition, it’s little wonder so many of us itch to burst out with childish tantrums. Which is of course exactly what our enemies want.

This is a strategy for people who have spent years inside the political process, for whom this kind of grind is second nature, even preferable. Nutting out little gains, a bit more each year, never asking for too much, never pushing the other side too hard, learning to be satisfied with another crumb, and another crumb, and another crumb, hoping to eventually have enough to bind together into a loaf.


Well, good luck to you, but count me out. I haven’t made phone calls. I haven’t doorknocked. And I’m not going to. I will not behave like a slave, forced to beg for what is mine by right, even if I were fit enough to do so. I can’t help it if that makes you think less of me. I must be true to myself. The very thought of all that grovelling makes me sick to my stomach. Literally.

Like many other people, I’m finding the mere existence of this survey is taking a huge toll on my health. I’m barely sleeping. I find myself suddenly silently weeping for no particular reason. Two weeks ago my physical health suddenly deteriorated, with a massive flare-up of diverticulitis. I was in almost constant pain. I could barely eat, or stand, much less walk. I am still weak and easily exhausted.

I am listening to my body. I quite literally cannot stand this. I literally cannot stomach this.


I wear my YES shirt whenever I’m out, with my We Are All Equal badge, but more and more, I don’t want to leave the house. Yes, there is the occasional nice and uplifting encounter, but I’m all too conscious of the sullen resentment of the majority. The only place I feel safe right now is behind my own four walls, and for my sanity’s sake, that’s where I’m staying.

To steal a phrase from Paul Keating, they are waiting for us with baseball bats. As one who has quite deliberately decided to live in the outer burbs rather than the gay bubble of the inner city, I’m well aware that behind the superficially polite band aid of tolerance, there lurks a throbbing cyst of homophobia, stretched tight with barely contained pus.

I only hope we can get through this without a Matthew Shepherd style incident.

We thought we were approaching a level of acceptance: we now have to face the fact that, outside a few pockets of relative civilisation, we’re hardly even tolerated.

I will not expose myself to this any more than I have to. Call me a coward if you like, I don’t care. At 67 years of age, I’m taking care of me.


So I shall do what I have always done. As have so often joked before, I will be like that other old British Queen, Elizabeth, whose constitutional role is to Remain Above The Fray; Advise, Guide and Warn from the sidelines.

The Officially Sanctioned Advice of Gay Inc., is, as noted, smile, grit your teeth, don’t rock the boat, and generally be a well-behaved convict on Master’s farm, at least until this is all over. OK? Consider yourselves advised.

This may or may not work to stem the loss of support we seem to be experiencing. I have my doubts. Try it and see, if you can.

Our best hope now is that Bolt, Abetz and company work themselves into such an overheated frenzy that they all fall down dead with steam spurting from every orifice. Or middle Australia finally sees them as they really are and falls about laughing.


My guidance is, be prepared for a loss, or, what is probably worse, a narrow contested win. Where our enemies have yet more ammunition to use against us. Anything less than 75% YES will make marriage equality, or even marriage apartheid, difficult. The lower the percentage, the more likely we get no bill, or a bill so compromised we may have to reject it.

Whatever kind of ‘win’, expect more and more delays.


Do not accept whatever is offered, if it isn’t equality. Do not accept any bill containing religious exemptions, unless it comes with a cast iron pledge from Bill Shorten to remove them on day one of his Prime Ministership. It is a very dangerous thing to allow discrimination to be written into law, and it must be resisted to the utmost. Not just for our sakes, but for the sake of all minorities, present and future. Don’t go there. Equality is not susceptible to compromise.


And my warning is this: if there are any more ‘incidents’, however trivial, between now and the survey closing, you may make it politically impossible for Bill Shorten to keep his 100 days promise, even if he ever wins office. Which you will also have made less likely.

In short, this is a process with no good outcomes . The best we can do is ride out the storm. And prepare for casualties.

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)