Growing up is hard enough without the scrutiny that comes with being a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex or Queer youth (LGBTIQ). This month Vibewire has been looking at the experience and key discussions of identifying as LGBTIQ. Vibewire video journalist Taehyun Kim went out to the streets of Sydney to find out your thoughts on the important conversations of the LGBTIQ community.
Have an opinion? Let us know in the comments section below!
It was quite a surprise when President Barack Obama recently spoke in support of same-sex marriage. Until now President Obama has only supported equality for same-sex couples but through means other than marriage (for example through civil unions). Being a close ally of the U.S., same-sex activists hoped this change in stance would influence Julia Gillard’s views on same-sex marriage. However this does not seem to be the case.
It is clear that the debate around same-sex marriage has resurged, so, what does this mean for same-sex marriage equality in Australia and why is Julia Gillard refusing to change her views on same-sex marriage?
First, it needs to be clarified that there are differences regarding the implications of political leaders voicing their support for same-sex marriage. As marriage is a state issue in the U.S., Obama’s support will not directly impact legislation regarding same-sex marriage and essentially only influences his own popularity and political standing. With a U.S. election coming up in November 2012 it can be said that this is part of Obama’s strategy to gain support for the upcoming election.
On the other hand, same-sex marriage falls under federal legislation in Australia. This means if Gillard were to openly support same-sex marriage, there would be an expectation for her to pass legislation that worked towards equality.
Why should these be passed when same-sex couples can receive many of the same rights as married couples through civil unions?
Clover Moore and Mark Textor argued that the symbolic nature of marriage means a lot to same-sex couples. Being able to marry means having the opportunity to have their love recognised by Australian law as equal to that of heterosexual couples. Until this is addressed our law will continue to be perceived as discriminatory in nature. Furthermore, by allowing same-sex couples to marry this will help normalise homosexuality which despite significant social progress is still a factor in bullying incidences.
Supporters of same-sex marriage (Trish/Bergen Record)
Many believe that Australia is falling behind internationally in relation to same-sex equality and that her support for same-sex marriage does not necessarily have to translate into immediate marriage law reform.
On the other hand, it can be argued that just because other nations are changing their views on same-sex marriage, Australia shouldn’t have to, after all isn’t that what national sovereignty is about? And there are still many nations opposed to same-sex marriage though many of these countries base their legislation on religious values.
As Australia is a secular country which advocates the freedom of religion (which includes the freedom not be part of a religion), it doesn’t make sense for legislation to enshrine a religious-based reluctance for equality.
Anti same-sex protesters (AP)
Though it was a highly unpopular idea during the debate, Professor Nick Tonti-Fillipini argued that marriage was based on an inherently biological basis that should remain in place. Animals have evolved so that a male and a female come together to procreate so that every child ends up with a biological father and a biological mother. Removing a child from their biological father or mother can lead to significant problems.
Professor Annamarie Jagose proposed a more interesting argument against same-sex marriage. When most people hear that a person is against same-sex marriage they automatically assume that the person is against homosexuality. However, Professor Jagose’s point of view was based on the unequal privileges afforded to those in a marriage above those in other relationship statuses such as singles, bigamous or polygamous relations, etc. She argued that for true equality marriage should be abolished entirely and the rights afforded to married couples should be extended to all people regardless of their relationship status.
With less people getting married this seems like a valid point, however I think getting rid of the concept of marriage is easier said than done.
Back to the media debate in Australia, Gillard stated in February earlier this year that same-sex marriage is ‘inevitable’, but, unlike Obama, still refuses to change her mind on the issue. Her views are not based on the religious argument about the “sanctity of marriage” as she is an atheist. She is not married herself and is currently in a de facto relationship which indicates that she is open to alternate family arrangements.
It may just be a case of Gillard trying to show voters that she is a leader who stands by her convictions. After the broken promise regarding the carbon tax perhaps she wants to demonstrate that she doesn’t always change her mind on issues.
This week, Khan Porter explored the hidden reality of food shortages in Australia. He points out the irony that in developing countries such as Australia, the issue of hunger is often related to the issue of obesity – “if you don’t have enough food then you look for ‘fill ‘em up’ kinds of foods. The other thing that happens is that if you don’t have enough food on a regular basis then when food is available, what will you do? …you’ll binge, that’s right.” He also points to the fact that the problem of Australians going hungry is not one of supply – there is plenty of food to go around – but rather one of affordability.
Over the years there has been a huge debate in Australia about climate change. The debate, as Gavin points out, is not about whether or not it’s happening, but whether it is caused or exacerbated by human activity. Most recently, the debate has culmulated into a recent ABC documentary, Can I Change Your Mind About the Climate?, where one young environmental activist, Anna Rose, goes head to head with a major political conservative, Nick Minchin. The unlikely pair headed around the world, visiting people on both sides of the debate in an attempt to convince each other of their own view. Gavin covers the ins-and-out of the documentary and interviews Anna Rose in his informative piece.
The Best of The Rest…
Here at vibewire HQ, we’ve also checked out some other great articles which analyse and inform. Check them out below:
The Australian budget was delivered on Tuesday this week, as too was a great deal of press coverage. This interactive page put together by the Sydney Morning Herald gives a great overview of where the nation’s funds are coming from and what policies and initiatives they’re going to. You can also find links to associated analysis and coverage.
This week, Obama made the inspiring and symbolic move to support equal marriage in the US. As a result, he has been both compliemented and criticised by his countrymen. The BBC covers the reaction to Obama’s announcement from both sides of politics.
On ABC’s The Drum, Jonathan Green laments the loss of intelligence in public debate. He looks to an exchange between previous Prime Minister, Paul Keating and a talk-back radio show caller who expressed racist views which aired on ABC’s Four Corners on Monday. Keating explicitly dismisses the caller as a ‘racist’ and says that the caller has no business in expressing his views until he informs himself. Green comments, ‘You just know that today, the caller would be indulged; their opinion flattered with undue attention. So it is that today we see a political discussion that rather than excluding or marginalising the voices of the uninformed.’ Ultimately, Green concludes, today’s politicians are at
On a lighter note, it’s mother’s day this weekend (don’t forget!) Clemintine Ford delivers a hilarious ‘gift guide’ in Daily Life. It was especially relevant to us in our discussions about women and equal rights in society.
For many years Bert and Ernie have been entertaining children all over the world on the iconic children’s show Sesame Street. In addition to entertaining children they have been having playful arguments, sharing a bedroom, eating cookies in bed, making clay sculptures of each other and doing lots of other things that ‘normal’, most definitely ‘not homosexual’ Muppets do in their spare time. Considering the unique relationship that Bert and Ernie have it’s not hard to see why there have been rumours around their sexual orientation since the characters came into existence. However not everyone is inclined to agree with or acknowledge the homosexual undertones of their relationship, which is fine, after all anyone who has ever lived in a share house would understand that you can live with someone and not have a relationship with them. While the nature of Bert and Ernie’s relationship has been under speculation for years, the recent legalisation of gay marriage in New York has spurred a movement to have the couple get hitched, which as you can imagine doesn’t go down to well with the Tea Party and co. Strung up in-between political movements and simple kids entertainment Bert and Ernie have become a hot topic for a much wider audience than simply the kiddies.
In June New York became the largest state to legalise same sex marriage, and with it a petition was started to get the two long standing Muppet room mates down the aisle too. But not everyone is so keen on this idea. The Sesame Workshop President and CEO Gary Knell has said ‘they are not gay, they are not straight, they are puppets they don’t exist below the waist’ and Sydney Morning Herald columnist Ros Marsden asked ‘has anyone noticed Bert and Ernie are puppets? They’re constructed of cotton, wire and acrylic hair’. Marsden and Knell seem to be under the impression that people have been watching Sesame Street and thinking it was real. What Ros Marsden? They’re puppets you say? I had no idea! I am glad you have pointed out that they are constructed from wire and cotton because usually when I see bright yellow and orange furry creatures on TV I think they are real. I mean seriously, give the audience a bit of credit. It is all very logical to point out that Bert and Ernie are puppets, but they are also prominent characters of one of the worlds largest and most influential kids TV shows, one that plays a big role in shaping children’s views. This attaches a whole lot more power than a simply being a puppet and any adult should be able to see that.
If they are Puppets not humans then why do Miss Piggy and Kermit have a relationship? If they are puppets why to they interact, why do they talk, why do they eat, drink, have fun and experience feelings of being happy or sad? If they are puppets not humans how can Ernie and Bert be ‘good friends’? If the characters can be male or female, it makes sense that they can have a sexual orientation. What is interesting is that Sesame Street has been pretty progressive in the past and has included people of minorities in it’s show. So why haven’t they included any gay characters yet? Why not change that now?
In a sense I can understand why some people don’t want Bert and Ernie getting married, I thought they were something closer to brothers when I watched the show as a child. Whether it is Bert and Ernie that getting hitched or introducing a new character into the show, the gay population should be represented and children should know about these issues from a young age. Because if they do not become familiar with these issues when they are young the implicit Otherness that comes with learning about ‘taboo’ subjects cannot be avoided, and at the end of the day being homosexual should not be a taboo, it should be as normal as Miss Piggy and Kermit going on a date.
Many people have been vocally apposed to the idea of Bert and Ernie getting married for a variety of reasons. One reason is the old ‘slippery slope’ argument that is popular among many conservatives seen in the NYDaily News article saying ‘Why stop there? Why not march Yogi Bear and Boo Boo down the aisle, too?’ Well obviously not, the idea of having a gay couple on the show is so it can accurately represent the different people that make up our society. Despite what people who subscribe to the the ‘slippery slope’ augment may think, just because two same sex characters get married on Sesame Street doesn’t mean that the Grouch and Elmo, Tin Tin and Captain Haddock or Gumby and Pokey are going to be walking down the isle. And really, there is absolutely no logical reason to assume this. At the end of the day the gay community need to be represented, just like any other group within society. Sesame Street has represented a variety of characters that stretch beyond the usual straight-white-male template, there are Mexican, Jewish, African American and female characters. So why not represent the gay community?
The NYDaily News article then goes on to say ‘the years from two to four, must be walled off from the passions of adults.’ What is this ‘passion from adults’? We seem to be obsessed with this idea of protecting children’s innocence, but what does that even mean? Is a mother and father living together a ‘passion’, is an old married couple a ‘passion of adults’? If that’s the case you may as well hide children away in a place where they will never encounter anyone in a healthy monogamous relationship. Yes, then our children will be safe with their innocence preserved…and they will have Absolutely. No. Idea.
Other critics say that they don’t want their kids TV shows to be loaded with political agendas.Which makes me wonder, have these people ever watched a Disney movie? Here’s a political agenda for your child, that of a white male. Cinderella saved by a Prince, ignored colonialism in Pocahontas, Belle and Ariel suffering as a result of their intellectual curiosity, we could read into the patriarchal tendencies of Disney movies but that would get us no where. The point is there is no such thing as an ideology free zone, there is no such thing as pure entertainment and while we like to think that kids really like watching Elmo get tickled we can’t deny that TV shows like Sesame Street help to shape a children’s view of what is normal. And in our modern world, I really hope that sometime soon we can start calling same sex marriage normal.