I won’t dwell on Jeff Kennett’s appalling attack on gay parents this week (sugar-coated with a load of bollocks about children “needing a mum and dad,” which is a) not actually supported by the facts and; b) see a).
Jeff wouldn’t have the cojones to say it outright, but the essential message he was putting across was that “single parents and gay people are incapable of properly raising children.” Which, fine, if he wants to believe that, then he’s an ignorant jerk and he’s an example for others for how not to conduct oneself. Except he’s not just an ignorant jerk, he’s an ignorant jerk who also happens to be the chairman of BeyondBlue, the national depression initiative, and he seems to get more media exposure than any washed-up premier in the country.
I was a pretty anxious and lonely teenager and never quite felt like I fit in, and homophobic bullying was always a part of that. Attitudes like Jeff’s are what made me disinclined to reach out for help. That, I think, will be the result for many young gay people in Victoria after this very public slagging of gay people.
But this kind of nastiness is not particularly new. We saw it with the Miranda Devine column making the stupid link between the London riots and Penny Wong’s baby news. Remember the Wendy Francis “gay marriage is child abuse!” Tweets?
It got plenty of coverage at the time, but for some reason people seem to forget about it.
Senate candidate for Family First Wendy Francis today stood by comments she made then deleted on social networking website Twitter, on which she compared legitimising gay marriage to “legalising child abuse”.
She went even further in an interview today, comparing children from same-sex families with the stolen generations.
Ms Francis, Family First’s lead Senate candidate in Queensland, said in a Twitter message yesterday: “Children in homosexual relationships are subject to emotional abuse. Legitimising gay marriage is like legalising child abuse.”
Wendy Francis is now the head of the Queensland brand of the Australian Christian Lobby, after failing to win the Senate seat, where she would no doubt carry on the embarrassing legacy of Steve Fielding. I remember she first achieved a kind of notoriety with an appearance on Sunrise with Australian Sex Party president Fiona Patten in which she was so thoroughly rebuked that towards the end she was reduced to giving a meek “well, everyone is entitled to their opinions.” (Why do people feel the need to state something so obvious in a debate? Do they seriously think that having their opinion proved wrong is the same as being told they aren’t entitled to hold it?)
Among Wendy’s greatest achievements since then has been orchestrating a campaign to bring down the Rip’N'Roll safe sex ad. She made a lot of noise about the ad being about the “sexualisation of society” and not the fact the two men involved are gay, but the bigotry and homophobia that motivated the campaign was betrayed by the homophobic nature of the complaints, most making some reference to the unnaturalness and unhealthiness of two blokes going at it.
What I’ve often wondered when people criticise gay parents is whether they would ever think it was okay if their own parenting were put up for public debate. Imagine a gay activist pointing to the ACL and saying “gosh, their kids must be terribly embarrassed of who their parents are, going around telling off gay people. They probably don’t get to watch telly or do anything interesting, they’ll grow up socially retarded or something.”
Or, more pertinently, whether they would think it’s okay to criticise gay parents out in public, to their faces, where the victims of their very personal attacks aren’t just an amorphous group of people they’ll never have to talk to. I don’t think they would defend gay parents and their kids if they were being discriminated against, but I also don’t believe they would be the ones doing the discriminating. What Would You Do? did a really fantastic scenario about this that I seriously recommend to everyone.
But yeah. It frustrates me endlessly how people who aren’t exactly crazy in the traditional sense understand it wouldn’t be okay to tell off a gay parent to their face and before their children, but sit them at a computer, under studio lights or before a studio microphone, and they trip some wire in their head and think it’s okay to make unfair (and fundamentally untrue) criticisms of gay families.
Seriously dumb. And it needs to be challenged.
But oh! Wendy has “the right to stand firmly on principles.” Some principles you’ve got, lady.