A mental health survival guide for the religious freedom debate

Psychologist Colin Longworth shares some ideas on how to cope with the constant debate surrounding ‘religious freedom’ and whether it’s okay to tell gay people they’re going to hell.

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York on 28th of June 1969 and coincidentally we have debates in Australia about whether people who have adopted a religious orientation should have “special rights” to discriminate against LGBTI people, here’s a few tips about what you can do to protect yourself.

In no particular order, do whatever is “right” for you, but consider;

Writing, phoning, emailing or visiting the office of your Federal member of parliament to voice your opposition to ‘special religious rights’ – see the Parliament House website for contact details;

Get together with a group of friends to watch one of the docudrama about the Stonewall riots, like the 2015 Stonewall version or the 1995 Stonewall earlier British film of the same name, (watchable via YouTube) both should be available via one of the streaming services;

Watch the recent episode of the ABC TV program Planet America that included a segment on the 1969 riots;

Catch up with a group of supportive friends to watch one or more LGBTI films like Love, Simon, or Love! Valour! Compassion! or Beautiful Thing, Milk or Pride;

For those wanting a reminder of how things have improved over the years, there are a few films or documentaries like The Hidden History of Homosexual Australia, or a film from the 1970’s A Very Natural Thing (available via YouTube) or the 1961 film Victim – which as I understand it one of the catalyst for law reform in the United Kingdom;

Consider a digital holiday – i.e. avoid the social media to avoid being reminded of the presence of the homophobes and haters lurking in cyberspace;

Read a bit about our collective LGBTI history via books like Stonewall by Martin Duberman, or for Australian LGBTI history you could look at From this day forward : marriage equality in Australia : where the debate came from, why the reform matters, how change will be achieved, with some digressions on Australian history, gay identity and Tasmania or A history of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras by Graham Carbery.

Admittedly this includes information and suggestions I’ve previously suggested in an OUTinPerth article about Protecting yourself and your family from marriage equality hate (August 2017).

To finish I’d like to again quote an online article by Jim Wolfe about the end to a right to discriminate the I’ve referred to before that says in part that:

“In good faith, Australian states have attempted to accommodate the sensibilities of religious bodies with exemptions to their anti-discrimination laws. Unfortunately, many religious bodies have not managed their use of the exemptions well – rather, they have applied them arbitrarily and secretively. In Tasmania it has been shown that religious organisations can thrive in an environment that values both religious and sexual minorities.

Granting an exemption to a law bestows a great privilege, and a heavy responsibility on the beneficiary of that exemption. In failing to responsibly manage the exemptions available to them, many religious organisations have shown themselves unworthy of the privilege. At the same time, they’ve proven that the current exemptions to discrimination laws are indeed unnecessary for the free practice of religion in this country.

It’s time for the exemptions to go.”

Otherwise I’d suggest for those feeling overwhelmed or wanting a supportive ear to listen to them to phone Q-Life on 1800 184 527 they are available from 3pm to midnight to talk or chat online.

Colin Longworth

Colin Longworth is a psychologist in private practice and long-time volunteer counsellor with Living Proud and its predecessor organisations.

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