Mardi Gras

Sydney’s Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras parade was held last weekend and it was the first time in about 7 years that I didn’t attend to march in the parade. The Democrats have had a presence in the parade for many years to show support for equality for all people regardless of their sexuality or gender status. The Party Leader, Senator Lyn Allison marched this year along with NSW State MP Arthur Chesterfield-Evans. Senator Brian Greig has gone a number of times over the years, as have Aden Ridgeway and Natasha Stott Despoja.

A few of the photos on my website (such as here and here) were taken at various parades over the years and part of me was wistful at not being there this year. Being part of the parade as opposed to watching it is an unusual experience, as there is always such an immense outpouring of goodwill from the crowds of people watching, as well as from other parade participants.

This is a total contrast to the extraordinarily hostile response I often get some people when I speak in support of equal rights for gay, lesbian or bisexual people, as well as for transgender or intersex people. As a politician, I expect people to sometimes strongly disagree with things I say or do. For example, I did a posting on this site a few months back giving some examples of the type of antagonistic comments that can happen when I speak in support of refugees, (although this issue provokes a much less heated response than it did a few years ago).

However, nothing ever matches the ugly, hate-saturated comments I often get on issues related to homosexuality and same sex relationships. What makes these all the more unfortunate is that they almost always purport to present a Christian perspective, occasionally selectively quoting a bit of the Old Testament to reinforce the ‘correctness’ of their view.

I do tend to find this distressing – not so much personally, but because I know how deeply such comments can wound a person and it is sad to see that people think it is OK to say such things. I noticed a few of the usually quite civil blog sites developed quite a strident exchange of comments around the issue of a lesbian teacher who was sacked in Victoria recently for discussing the topic with students in her class.

Normally though, I like the comment aspect of blogs, as it provides quick and open feedback – sort of like an instant letter to the editor (usually without the editing). Often the comments are more interesting than the postings of the blogger. It was through reading some of those comments that I came across this very powerful article by a National Party MP, Adrian Piccoli. I hadn’t seen this before, but it is a great expression of how seriously this issue can affect people.

UPDATE 15/3: In another example of good things to be found in blog comments, the teacher I mentioned above who was sacked in Victoria wrote this posting which details her experience. It is a brief but very compelling story of the personal impact and experience of prejudice.

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  1. Spek for yourself, Niall.
    As for ugly, hate-saturated comments, they come from all sides. At present, the one person who cops the most hatred in Australia is John Howard.

  2. I agree about the negative comments often pushed toward these ‘minorities’ in our society today. I recently had my eyes opened to the plight of those in detention centres, especially ‘boat people’ through recent university studies – I now see what an unjust system we currently have. But so many people cannot see it from the eyes of others. I read the Introduction and 1st chapter of a book called ‘Borderline’ by Peter Mares – these alone completely changed my whole attitude to the issue. It helped me to put myself in their shoes, and this taught me a great deal of compassion for their cause. People only hear the fanatical side of detention centres – lip-sewing, riots etc. The media doesn’t ever tell the human side of the story that may help to change people’s attitudes.

  3. EP wrote:
    “At present, the one person who cops the most hatred in Australia is John Howard.”
    As all PM’s before him did, and I’m sure all PM’s after him will too.

  4. Don’t worry, EP, when Howard’s got toadies like the Liberal Party, Piers Akerman, you and the rest of the right-wing Ozblogosphere to make him feel special, I don’t think he needs to worry too much about the hate he cops. (In this, too, Howard is no different from any of his predecessors and successors, all of whom would’ve had or will have a support base of unthinking drones keeping them afloat uncritically.)

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