Six Months of Australian Homophobia: January – June, 2016
by Nicholas Butler
The Coalition’s plan to hold a plebiscite on marriage equality – now looking significantly less likely given the election result- has been defended by people who claim that it will not trigger an increase in hateful or hostile expressions towards LGBTI people.
On October 22, 2015, Malcolm Turnbull stated that “I have great faith in the decency, in the common sense, in the humanity, in the wisdom of the Australian people.” Meanwhile, the Australian Christian Lobby has stated that “Australians have shown that they can be trusted to respectfully debate sensitive issues.”
But a review of homophobia in Australia in the past six months suggests that these stances are at best, overly optimistic, and at worst, deliberately dishonest. It also calls into question Scott Morrison’s assertion that religious opponents of marriage equality face comparable prejudice.
This summary includes public homophobic actions, as well as statements by politicians, advocacy groups, or in mainstream media. It does not include, for example, comments by private citizens on social media, as it is not indicative of social moods. It deliberately takes a conservative approach, and excludes multiple instances of negative expressions towards LGBTI people, giving these instances the benefit of the doubt. Notwithstanding these exclusions, there appears to have been a resurgence of homophobia in Australia in the first six months of 2016. [Click on the dates for the full story]
A gay man is bashed in the St. Kilda Gardens, by people yelling “fucking faggot, get the fuck out of here”.
News.com.au reports that flyers have been posted on Melbourne reading “Cure AIDS: Kick a poofter to death”.
The Australian Marriage Forum states that the Safe Schools Coalition is a “calculated homosexual recruitment program” and is inflicting “moral damage” on children.
Glen Tattersall, a Catholic priest appointed by the Archdiocese of Melbourne, writes a letter to his congregation, in which he calls the Safe Schools Coalition “a thinly disguised instrument for the corruption of youth”, “depraved and insidious” and a cause of “moral pollution”. He also writes that “to permit a same sex “date” at a school function is to give a clear message to students, parents and teachers that aberro-sexual behaviour is condoned.”
A conservative group attempts to sabotage a formal for LGBTI youth. More here.
Two gay men are bashed in Sydney.
Another gay man is bashed in Sydney.
February 21 Paedophiles
On ABC Radio’s “Sunday Nights” program, a caller states that if marriage equality becomes legal, “too many pedophiles are going to be getting hold of children”.
New Matilda reports that the email campaign against the Safe Schools Coalition included many homophobic emails, one of which read “Any society that can countenance such evils has reached an advanced state of auto-destruction.”
The Guardian reports that Safe Schools researchers are receiving abusive and threatening emails.
Dawson MP George Christensen makes his infamous parliamentary speech about Safe Schools, in which he falsely alleges that it directs children to pornography and adult venues, based on nothing more than a number of indirect web links that can eventually lead to something inappropriate – a reality of all Internet content. He states that the program “look[s] a lot like the grooming work that a sexual predator might undertake.
The Australian Christian Lobby endorses Christensen’s claim. Although the blog post has been removed from their website, their endorsement is verifiable by its URL.
On his program, 2CH radio host Kel Richards labels Safe Schools “disgusting gay and lesbian propaganda” and calls workers in the program “child abuser[s]” because they are “getting into the minds of these little children and filling them with misleading information, untrue information” and “doing something really dangerous and really terrible to those children.
On ABC’s “Q&A” program, Australian Christian Lobby managing director Lyle Shelton compares same-sex parenting to the Stolen Generations.
The Australian publishes a letter to the editor that holds the LGBTI community accountable for the alleged destruction of Australian society. It sarcastically reads “The Left, Islamists, climate alarmists and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community will triumph and we’ll all live miserably ever after in a dystopian state of anarchy.”
The Guardian reports that Safe Schools workers (as opposed to researchers) are receiving abusive and threatening emails.
A false Herald Sun story reports that the Start Early program administered by child welfare group Early Childhood Australia will be introduced into childcare centers, will teach “about sex, sexuality and cross-dressing” and will “explain cross-dressing to kids”. The Early Childhood Foundation rebuttal is here.
As early as 9:52 that morning, the Australian Christian Lobby jumps on the story, and suggests that LGBTI people are imposing the ideas expressed at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras on children. The ACL states that “It is one thing for adults at the Mardi Gras to celebrate questionable values of sexual anarchy and gender denialism, it is quite another to impose rainbow ideology on children in childcare centres.” The vast majority of LGBTI people recognise that Mardi Gras would be inappropriate for children and would oppose forcing its expressions on them.
The false story further spurs a homophobic piece by conservative commentator Bill Muehlenberg, who writes of the “sexual evil” of the program and of the “the annual parade of sleaze and perversion”.
Conservative columnist Rowan Dean writes about Safe Schools: “At the same time as we are conducting a royal commission into those institutions that in the past turned a blind eye to the rampant kiddyfiddlers in their midst, taxpayers are funding a program that allows today’s authority figures to engage in another rampant form of abuse: fiddling with young kiddies’ minds. All in the name of “anti-bullying”. He also calls the program “repellent” and “sickening”.
In responding to the release of the government-commissioned review that vindicated the Safe Schools Coalition, George Christensen says “I think it would shock many parents to know that a paedophilia advocate [La Trobe University academic Gary Dowsett] was overseeing the organisation that came up with the Safe Schools program.” While his description of Dowsett as a “pedophilia advocate” is unfortunately accurate, Dowsett has had no role in creating the program.
Lecturer at James Cook University and conspiracy theorist Merv Bendle writes in the conservative Quadrant magazine that LGBTI people are guilty of a “successful subversion of Australian society.”
The ABC reports on leaflets distributed about gay former Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson by the Bayside Community Coalition, opposing his eventual preselection for the seat of Goldstein. Senior members of the Liberal Party acknowledge that the leaflets are, in their words, “grubby and homophobic”.
The Sunshine Coast Daily reports that the schools in Queensland that are members of the Safe Schools Coalition will not be made public knowledge due to the schools receiving homophobic abuse.
A gay man is bashed in the Sydney suburb of Newtown by people calling him homophobic slurs.
At the Australian Christian Lobby’s national conference, American conservative Christian author Eric Metaxas warns that “God will judge” supporters of the Safe Schools program and calls for “riots in the streets” against the program.
Metaxas may regret his call for “riots in the streets”, because that’s close to what happened the same day over in Perth. A rally in support of Safe Schools was counter-protested by the United Patriots Front, members of whom shouted “pedo scum off our streets”. Five members of the United Patriots Front initiated a conflict with Safe Schools supporters, and one UPF member pushed a woman.
Neo-Nazi activist Neil Erikson assaults a protester at an Australian Christian Lobby event. The assault was preceded by a video posted to his Facebook page, in which he said “Because I don’t see any fucking fags coming out against Safe Schools, I’m going to paint all you finooks with the same brush. Youse are trying to infect our children with your dirty, dirty, filthy, borderless minds, You are fucking filth.” (The protest did include some disruptive behaviour from pro-LGBTI protesters, which is not approved of, but the violence was by anti-LGBTI protesters.)
The Age reports that leaflets opposing a Pride Match in the Victorian Football League were distributed at the match, and compared same-sex parenting to the Stolen Generations.
A column by Merv Bendle published in Quadrant links homosexuality to the rise of Nazism in Germany, and uncritically promotes The Pink Swastika, a book that makes this point by anti-LGBTI activist Scott Lively, who has visited Uganda to advocate for its anti-homosexuality legislation.
News.com.au reports that the aforementioned leaflets were also distributed at a Liberal Party fundraiser.
A blog post by the Australian Christian Lobby criticises the Safe Schools Coalition for promoting the International Day Against Homophobia, saying “the Safe Schools hub also encourages schools to celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia. There is no international day against bullying over body image – the most rampant form of bullying in schools by a long way.” The events in Orlando surely refute this argument.
Pedestrian reports on the homophobic emails that Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has received for his strong and unequivocal support for LGBTI equality.
The Australian Christian Lobby publishes a blog post by Lyle Shelton that says, in reference to LGBTI equality: “The cowardice and weakness of Australia’s “gatekeepers” is causing unthinkable things to happen, just as unthinkable things happened in Germany in the 1930s.” The Nazi comparison draws significant controversy and derision within Australia, including coverage in Fairfax Media, a report on Channel 10’s “The Project”, and condemnation by LGBTI and Jewish groups. The comment also receives international attention.
A lesbian couple is harassed and abused by an Uber driver, who calls them “faggots” and threatens to drag them out of the car.
Mildura local newspaper the Sunraysia Daily reports that Mildura Mayor Glenn Milne had severely criticised the Safe Schools Coalition, saying that it was “garbage” “championed by those promoting pedophilia”. Called to apologise.
A gay man is harassed and nearly assaulted on a Sydney train by people who said “I can’t be on the same train as faggots.”
In the first of three incidents in a troubling day for LGBTI people, gay Greens candidate for the seat of Higgins Jason Ball finds his campaign posters have been vandalised with the word “fag”.
Tim Wilson is approached by a woman who tells him “you’ll probably be offended: I was going to vote Liberal then I found out you were gay, so I am not going to.”
Despite condemning the Orlando massacre earlier in the week, Malcolm Turnbull hosts a dinner for the evening breaking of the Ramadan fast, in which he prioritises cultural sensitivity to Islamic homophobia over the rights of LGBTI people. One of the guests is Sheik Shady al-Suleiman, who has previously said “homosexuality was spreading all these diseases. Allah will send on them diseases they have never experienced before.”
In a further negative development in the aftermath of the dinner, The Australian reports that “the Australian National Imams Council, of which Sheik Alsuleiman is president, has at least three executive members who believe the only punishment for homosexuality is the death penalty, according to Islamic law.”
The SBS reveals that multiple Christian churches are renting public schools to preach homophobic messages, with some joining the three aforementioned members of the Australian National Imams Council in advocating that LGBTI people be executed.
The resurgence of homophobia in Australia over the last six months has taken place during vigorous and hostile debates over marriage equality and the Safe Schools Coalition. These debates seemed to have directly fuelled the increase in homophobia, which has spilled over into violence in multiple instances. A plebiscite would establish the most vigorous and hostile debate yet, which would likely fuel even more homophobia and lead to even more violence. With this in mind, should the Coalition form government, it would be wise for it to reconsider whether a plebiscite really would have no negative consequences for LGBTI people, as its members have so confidently and repeatedly asserted.