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Friday, May 22, 2009

Gay Rights

We finally caught up with the film Milk, which I’d been wanting to see for ages – because I think Sean Penn is a great actor, and because I was moved and inspired by the TV doco about the wonderful Harvey. Even more so by the movie!

What a hero! And how brilliant he was – judging from his articulate speeches, his quick mind in political debate, and his grasp of both principles and strategy. It seems that for him the principles were the strategy.

It was also an education for me in the history of gay rights in the US. I didn’t know it in anywhere near so much detail before.

I’m better acquainted with what has happened in Australia, and I’m glad to say the tide of discrimination and prejudice is turning. For instance we now have a majority of Australians thinking same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. Pity the Federal Government doesn’t yet agree! In many areas there’s still a way to go, but we’re getting there. (Details in Wikipedia.) Which is no reason to slacken off in pushing for reform!

Recently I attended a human rights meeting in our locality, one of many held all over the country by the National Human Rights Consultation Committee to gather information about what Australians want in regard to rights of all kinds. It was very well set up, the large number of participants grouped in tables of six. One person at ours was an Aboriginal man who had been victimised by police with no redress. He was outside a hotel and went to help a woman who was in some kind of trouble (he didn’t say what), the police were called and promptly assaulted and arrested him. A clear case of racist assumptions. He was further attacked at the police station. At his court case the woman herself gave evidence in his favour, and he was freed. He has been trying ever since to get some kind of compensation from the police, as a matter of principle. This kind of thing happens often to Indigenous people. Not to mention that his health has suffered as a result! No-one will help, no-one wants to know.

Another man at our table told us of his disabled wife who often needs help walking. One day she managed to totter down to the local shops only to be mugged by some young teenagers. He knew the boys; said they came from affluent families. His agenda was not only the right to safety on our streets, he was even more concerned about the right of children to be taught proper discipline and values.

I’d invited my 18-year-old gay friend but he said he was uncomfortable about speaking out in public. Pity! He wouldn’t have had to. We all conferred at our tables and wrote down our conclusions on big sheets of butcher paper which were gathered up at the end to be taken away and considered. There were opportunities for people to speak, and several did, eloquently, on all manner of issues, but it wasn’t required.

One lesbian lady pointed out that lesbians tend to get lumped in with gay men on gay rights issues, or with women on feminist issues, whereas they are in fact a special category with their own specific needs.

I did raise some issues of gay rights in our group and they were duly noted on our butcher’s paper – but I can’t speak first-hand. It was good to learn that people still have time to put in individual written submissions and I am encouraging my young friend to do that.

He lives in a small, homophobic locality, is fairly isolated and would like some friends his own age – just mates to hang out with and talk to over coffee about mutual (non-sexual) interests. He breeds labradoodles, he loves photography and jewellery, has done silversmithing and goldsmithing courses, is a whiz at Mac computers … but straight guys tend to back off, assuming he’s got designs on them! And he has encountered a lot worse that that, too, but has become wiser about staying safe. Sad that he has had to!

I am also wishing I’d thought to invite him to see Milk with us. It’s just about finished in cinemas here, but there is one more opportunity; otherwise will have to make sure he sees the DVD when it’s out. It’s one of the few movies I could see again myself any time.

Meanwhile, I think I’ll just trot out my HUG badge and post it permanently on my page here, with a link to an explanation. (There, it's done.) Consciousness raising is one small way I can contribute!


  1. A great post, Rosemary. Glad to hear human and civil rights are on the march for GLBT peoples in Oz, too.

  2. Lovely post in all respects. I, too, have recently watched and enjoyed Milk. I think Penn's performance is stellar.

  3. Sure deserved that Oscar!

    Thanks for commenting. :)

  4. Instances like these make me so angry. I can never quite get my head around how people can be so cruel. Nor how people can think anyone else is worth less than them just because they have a different sexual preference, a different skin colour, a different gender, a different culture... whatever!

    I haven't seen Milk, but on that review, I think I'll have to!

  5. Can't get my head around those things either - they defy logic as well as humanity.

  6. Wonderful post, Rosemary. Yes, I found your blog at last and am adding you to blogs I follow by feed at the bottom of my links on mine. I'm going to explore more, now. Glad you're doing your part for gay rights in OZ. I hate it when someone can't be who he or she is without fear, shame, or bad treatment.