The signs are there that it won’t be a respectful debate




“Are you guys gay?” was the question a stranger recently asked me as I was walking down the street. I was walking down Beaufort Street in Mount Lawley and had just stopped at the junction to cross the road.

My mind immediately went on fast rewind, had my friends and I been talking about gay things? Were we wearing gay clothes? Was it because we were four friends together and we were all male? Maybe it was my mate’s stylish haircut that gave us away? and anyhow, where did this tall imposing man demanding to know about my sexuality come from, and how long had he been with us?

“Yes”, I declared. “I’m gay.”

The man quickly moved on to a probing interview on why I didn’t like having sex with women. I gave an honest answer “I wouldn’t know what it’s like to have sex with a woman… because I’m gay.”

He told me and my friends that we shouldn’t commit to being gay unless we’ve given everything else a good try; “Don’t knock it until you try it” he scowled.

Since we’d opened the door on opening very personal sexual questions I asked the looming stranger if he’d ever had sex with a man? He seemed to be offended by the suggestion and screwed up his face in disgust.

“Don’t knock it until you try it.” I offered back his own advice.

He burst into a rant about how it all began with Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve and we left him standing at the lights.

I found it unsettling that someone would question me about my sexuality in the middle of the day on a busy street and one of my first thoughts was ‘this is because of your plebiscite Malcolm Turnbull.’

As we move closer to the proposed national opinion poll on gay people’s rights, I’ve noticed an increasing number of signs that it won’t be a respectful debate. Our LGBTIQ+ community will be returning to the abuse, impositions and disrespect we experienced decades ago.

In the OUTinPerth office we get calls from anonymous strangers who shout abuse at us down the phone. One caller told us that we’d ruined the world and destroyed everything.

A pastor in South Australia writes emails to us chastising us for being gay and promoting sin. This didn’t happen in the first five years I worked at OUTinPerth, but it does now. I know it used to be common place for gay journalists back in the ’90s.

In a local pub I’m waiting for a beer, a random man at the bar asks if my friend is my boyfriend. I reply that we’re just mates. The guy launches into a stream of what he thinks are hilarious homophobic jokes to impress his mates. The bar man winces, but watches on.

I’m experiencing more negative comments about my sexuality now than anytime within the last fifteen years, and I acknowledge that I speak with certain privileges of ethnicity, age and socio-economic status.  I worry what people who are younger than I am, less confident that I am, are experiencing.

The abuse is not one sided though, it’s been noted that the staff at organisations like the Australian Christian Lobby regularly receive abusive calls and emails. Surprisingly they want to remove anti-discrimination laws so people can say what they really think.

Yesterday Diane Teasdale, an independent political candidate in Victoria, faced a barrage of Facebook comments for her suggestion that homosexuality and pedophilia are connected. While most of the 6000+ comments intelligently refuted her position, and a few threw creative insults – “fossilised cake space” was quite a gem – others were over the top, and as equally offensive as the politicians original post.

And while I think Senator Cory Bernardi’s views are ridiculous, I don’t think people should be trashing his office either.

But if we have a plebiscite on marriage equality in Australia then we’ve got at least another six months of trading insults, invasive personal questioning and degrading insults to go.

Last night the Prime Minister told the ‘Q&A audience that he believed our nation will hold a respectful and intelligent debate. It’s a pity Q&A only have a ‘fact check’ service, a ‘reality check’ is needed for that statement.

Graeme Watson

What do you think? Are you experiencing more or less homophobic comments? Are you worried about what might happen in the lead up to a plebiscite on marriage equality.

Share your thoughts below or on our social media pages and we’ll publish them in our July issue.

Got something that you want to get off your chest! Write an opinion piece for OUTinPerth.


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