Identity Politics in the Age of Trump

I was recently watching a documentary about the Trump Presidency and saw a highly disturbing interview with a man representing an organisation called ‘Gays for Trump’. I was shocked that a gay man, someone who has presumably experienced a level of discrimination himself, could support a candidate who so clearly fans the flames of hatred and division.

Unfortunately, of course, this isn’t really that unusual. Right-wing political parties in Australia have LGBTQ members and many LGBTQ people continue to support parties that actively stymie progress on our human rights. Voters weigh up a variety of factors before casting their ballots and LGBTQ people, like all other members of the community, wear a number of different hats. We are workers, bosses, parents, brothers, sisters, partners — all of these identities colour the way in which we see ourselves and the political world.

Continue reading “Identity Politics in the Age of Trump”

Blocking A Plebiscite Is The Best Way To Achieve Marriage Equality

I remember my first ever Gay Pride march. I was in my mid-20s at the time. Trying to get into the after party on the streets of Adelaide, I had to negotiate my way through angry preachers waving placards linking homosexuality with murder and rape.

Even though I’d been out of the closet for a few years, the experience left me feeling shocked, angry and scared. Fast-forward nearly a decade and I shudder to think what would happen if this kind of hate was amplified by a national plebiscite on marriage equality. If these preachers weren’t just waving placards but were armed with the powerful megaphone that a plebiscite would provide.

Continue reading “Blocking A Plebiscite Is The Best Way To Achieve Marriage Equality”

Orlando Massacre Is A Tragic Reminder Of Violence Against LGBTI People

This week, a horrific hate crime targeting a gay nightclub in Orlando has devastated LGBTI communities and their allies right across the world.

It is a stark and sobering reminder that acts of violence are still an all too real experience for many LGTBI people, even in places known for their liberal values and ideals of equality. Despite all we’ve achieved in the journey for human rights, prejudice and homophobia persist as dangerous forces in our world.

Continue reading “Orlando Massacre Is A Tragic Reminder Of Violence Against LGBTI People”

It’s Time To Strengthen Our Anti-Discrimination Laws

This week we marked International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. It’s an opportunity to celebrate how far we’ve come on the road to equality for LGBTI people, but also to reflect on the challenges that lie ahead.

Here in Australia we have much to be proud of. Community attitudes have changed considerably and LGBTI people are more visible than ever before. Yet despite this, the parliament continues to lag behind when it comes to eliminating discrimination under the law. Discrimination in the Marriage Act has been a hot-button political issue for many years in Australia. It is now no longer a matter of ‘if’ we will see marriage equality but ‘when.’ And hopefully we will get there without Turnbull’s $160 million plebiscite!

Continue reading “It’s Time To Strengthen Our Anti-Discrimination Laws”

More Action Needed To Combat Homophobia In Schools And In Parliament

I was about 10 when I was first called a “fag” and a “poof”. At that time I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I knew it wasn’t a compliment. The names had a new sting when I realised that I was gay and even though I was in the closet for my teenage years, it seemed there was no fooling the kids in the school yard. The idea of coming out and being open about my sexuality filled me with dread.

There’s no doubt that Australia has changed a lot since I was at school. There are far more gay people in public life and popular culture and differences in sexuality are discussed much more openly. That’s a wonderful thing. But unfortunately homophobia is still alive and well in the school yard and, as demonstrated last week, in parliament.

Continue reading “More Action Needed To Combat Homophobia In Schools And In Parliament”

A Plebiscite On Gay Marriage Would Tell Us What We Already Know

When Malcolm Turnbull seized the Prime Ministership from Tony Abbott two months ago, the nation breathed a collective sigh of relief. At last, we might have something that looks a bit more like a 21st century government, rather than the Jurassic Park we had come to expect during the Abbott era.

 One issue that came to represent the Abbott government’s archaic world view was marriage equality. Most Australians looked on in disbelief as the Prime Minister concocted one elaborate excuse after another to prevent progress, eventually settling on a plebiscite as a last-ditch attempt to head off a free vote in the parliament.

Continue reading “A Plebiscite On Gay Marriage Would Tell Us What We Already Know”

Coming Out Day Celebrates A Lifelong Process

Today is Coming Out Day, an opportunity to celebrate the importance of pride and reflect on my own personal journey with sexuality.

I was 12 when I realised I was gay. It was a pretty frightening thing at the time. I didn’t know any gay people or have any sense of what a gay life might be like so my impressions were largely shaped by the caricatures I saw on TV.

For many years at primary school other kids used to joke that they thought I was gay, well before I had even thought about it. That experience always lead me to believe that being gay was not really something a man should aspire to be.

Continue reading “Coming Out Day Celebrates A Lifelong Process”

Time for Labor to bind on marriage equality

Buoyed by growing momentum for marriage equality, Deputy Labor Leader Tanya Plibersek is leading the charge for her party to put its money where its mouth is by making support for this reform binding.

While some in Labor’s right flank might resent being forced to toe the line, ultimately the ALP only stands to gain should it finally show some backbone on this human rights issue.

Continue reading “Time for Labor to bind on marriage equality”

You already knew Thorpe was gay? No, you didn’t

 

Ian Thorpe’s declaration that he’s gay has been met with a combination of celebration and mockery. While many have praised the Olympian for speaking out, others have joked that he has simply revealed what everybody already knew.

Finally! What took him so long?

But did we really already know and who determines when it’s time to come out?

Continue reading “You already knew Thorpe was gay? No, you didn’t”

Coming-out myths and why we fear fluid sexuality

Olympic diver Tom Daley created a media splash on Tuesday when he announced that he was having a relationship with a man. The response provides an interesting insight into community attitudes towards sexuality and suggests that while there is growing acceptance of difference, most people still have a pretty narrow view of what it means to be “not straight”.

Some media outlets greeted the news with rapture, enthusiastically proclaiming that Tom Daley had “come out as gay” while others on Facebook and Twitter burst into spontaneous applause as Daley finally confirmed what “everybody already knew”.

Continue reading “Coming-out myths and why we fear fluid sexuality”

Radio Adelaide

“It was great speaking with Brodie and Sam about LGBTI politics on their program, Pride and Prejudice on Radio Adelaide on the 13th and the 23rd of December.

Topics included the ‘gay panic defence,’ marriage equality, identity politics, gay stereotyping on film and television and the federal court’s judgement on the ‘Peter Slipper case.’

You can listen to these podcasts via the Radio Adelaide website or at the links above…”

007: License to Stereotype?

The latest instalment of the Bond franchise not only marks the 50th birthday of the world’s most famous spy, it’s also the first time 007 has faced-off against a gay villain.

It might be a first for Bond, but cinema is no stranger to the ‘gay psycho’ theme.

While community attitudes have changed considerably since Sean Connery first ordered a martini in 1962, shaken not stirred, Hollywood still has a long way to go in terms of providing more diverse representations of homosexuality on screen. In fact, negative stereotyping of same-sex attracted people through film is older than James Bond himself.

Hitchcock’s 1951 film Strangers On A Train typifies Hollywood’s traditional take on gay characters. Two men meet randomly. One develops an unhealthy obsession with the other and both their lives are turned upside down.

It’s a theme revisited in 90s’ hits Single White Female and The Talented Mr Ripley. Even Judi Dench gave it a go in the noughties with Notes on a Scandal – cast as an ageing lesbian obsessed with her much younger, straight female colleague.

Thrillers and horror films are best understood as modern allegories and the message is always the same; play with fire and you’re going to get burnt. Badly.

In this context, gay relationships are presented as being fraught with danger – synonymous with obsession, unrequited love and misery. Such representations reflect the traditional belief that homosexuality (especially among men) is somehow threatening to heterosexuality.

In recent years these representations have changed. The dangerous psycho has evolved into the insipid handmaiden to a usually female protagonist. In fact, the perennially single gay character with acerbic wit has been a mainstay of virtually every romantic comedy since My Best Friend’s Wedding.

While the harmless gay friend may be a step up from the ‘gay psycho’, there is hardly cause for celebration here. Such characters add a dash of colour (and gratuitous fashion advice!), but they never pose any serious threat to the dominance of their heterosexual peers. Their own life-stories and romantic desires are usually airbrushed over as they live vicariously through their female friends.

The gay character of the rom-com may win social acceptance, but he only achieves this by being captive to the agendas of heterosexuals.

There have however been some notable exceptions in recent years. For instance, Milk and Brokeback Mountain were both commercially successful films that offered different depictions of gay characters.

There are also some notable examples on television. Since Ellen came out (both on screen and off) in 1997, gay characters have been central to a range of sitcoms, including Will & Grace,Modern Family and Glee.

A step-up from their two-dimensional peers on the big screen, these characters generally enjoy positive relationships that are respected by their families and communities. In so doing, they potentially build acceptance for same-sex attracted people and their relationships.

Despite these advances in television, film continues to lag behind. The silver screen generally presents just two, equally unflattering representations of homosexuality: ‘predatory sociopath’ or ‘harmless half-wit.’ Gay men are either to be feared or ridiculed. They can’t be strong and intelligent without being crazy, while lesbians are practically invisible.

So why are these depictions important? Indeed, gay and lesbian people are not the only population group to face unflattering characterisations on screen. The difference is that in the instance of same-sex attracted people, these characterisations are rarely balanced by more positive and realistic representations.

When a group is largely absent from popular culture, negative characterisations are all the more powerful. Here film has the potential to not only reflect existing social anxieties and attitudes but magnify and even legitimise them. Cinema is a remarkable medium, one that can both mirror society and project a version of society. In doing so, it shapes social values and attitudes.

This social and cultural power is evidenced in the depiction of women on screen. While the 70s may have been a period of women’s liberation, the 80s and 90s saw a backlash through cinema as ‘career women’ were all too often presented as emotionally unstable and dangerous. Fatal Attraction is perhaps the most famous film of the genre. While cinema has certainly diversified its female characters in recent years, many of these stereotypes still endure in contemporary culture and have the potential to influence social attitudes today.

While gay and lesbian people have achieved some positive human rights advances in recent years, if cinema is anything to go by, the battle is far from over.

It’s time for Hollywood to move beyond the straight and narrow and better reflect the diversity of the community. Finally creating gay characters with the popular appeal of James Bond (rather than his nemesis) would be a good place to start!

* This piece was first published on the the Drum Online on the 7th of December 2012.