The status of the LGBTIQ community in 2012

This is a more or less random assortment of articles that interest me, but if I had to pull a uniting theme out of my, um, brain, it would be the status of the LGBTIQ community in the present moment.  That’s in relation to both mainstream politics in Australia and the United States and to the HIV epidemic.

1/ My Croakey post on the Queensland LNP defunding of Healthy Communities

Remember the bad old days when conservatives wouldn’t let teachers even mention homosexuality in case their students caught the gay?  Well, the LNP in Queensland is clearly stuck in that era, claiming that QAHC’s concern for such things as LGBTIQ youth suicide prevention shows it has ‘lost its way’ — even though it was encouraged and funded to do these things by QLD Health.

Campbell Newman’s government has announced plans to replace the HIV prevention programs, but not the suicide prevention ones: it would rather gay teenagers kill themselves than tolerate the public visibility of healthy homosexuals telling them it’s okay to be gay. Which leads me to…

2/ Bill Jesdale’s article on the evolution of his thoughts about gay marriage

One of the most thoughtful contributions to LGBTIQ health debate I’ve read in a long time.  In this account, gay marriage was a fight the conservatives picked with us — as Bill argues, they were looking for a political controversy that would sustain heteronormativity now that the closet doors had burst open.

What we might want to worry about, at this point, is the more sophisticated forms of social control that will inevitably emerge and follow in the aftermath of those blunt instruments, the closet and the fight over gay marriage.  They’re likely to involve new ways of pitting ourselves against each other, instead of LGBT against the Religious Right.  And they’ll be subtle, less visible.  One of them, as gay marriage rights spread around the world, is most likely going to be a new puritanism about promiscuity.

3/  An HIV-negative gay American man talks about taking PrEP

If you’re an Australian gay man, I’d love to hear in the comments if you’ve heard about PrEP yet.

PEP is short for post-exposure prophylaxis, meaning you start a month-long course of 2 or 3 antiretrovirals within 72 hours of a possible exposure to HIV infection.  PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis, where you take a 2-drug combination with very few side effects — one pill every day — before you have the sex that might otherwise cause your infection with HIV.

Given the expense of the drug, it will only be cost effective if it’s highly targeted, i.e. only available to people who would otherwise almost certainly become HIV-positive anyway.  That’s also why its longer term side effects, like increased risk of bone fracture, aren’t more of a strike against it.

When the debate about this strategy finally hits in Australia, listen carefully for all those people saying ‘why can’t those filthy barebackers just be boring married like me?’  That’ll be that puritanism I was talking about under 2/, above.  Its consequences come through loud and clear in this frank and cogent account of a PrEP experience from an anonymous San Francisco man.

Doctors for the Family — but not evidence

If a doctor wants to abide by his or her conscience on the question of gay marriage, I’m fine with that.

If the same doctor claims to speak for the evidence on the health and social impacts of homosexuality, but instead speaks from his or her moral beliefs and distorts the evidence to do so, then I have a problem.

The Herald-Sun reports today that Prof Kuruvilla George, Victoria’s Deputy Chief Psychiatrist and Government-appointed member of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, joined a list of signatories to a Senate Inquiry submission by “Doctors for the Family” opposing theMarriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010.

The submission was made after Prof George’s appointment to the Commission and makes his tenure there impossible;  lawful sexual activity is one of the attributes the Commission was created to protect.

Disagreeing about gay marriage isn’t the problem — it’s how the Doctors for “the” (sic) Family went about it.  They explicitly argue their case on health grounds, saying they were created to “highlight the health aspects of marriage and family and ensure a healthy future for our children.”  Their terms are medical, rather than moral.

“We submit that the evidence is clear that children who grow up in a family with a mother and father do better in all parameters than children without.”

The source they cite is a report by a Law professor from a study commissioned by the Australian Christian Lobby.  This is not medical evidence;  nor is it free of bias;  nor is it accurate about the current state of the evidence, which shows that children raised by same sex parents do as well as (and sometimes better than) children of opposite sex parents.

The submission goes on to refer to ominous “health consequences of that behaviour [i.e. homosexuality] for children”, but the footnote turns out to refer to HIV and syphilis infection.  These are vanishingly uncommon among children, and they are the consequences of epidemics of HIV and syphilis, not homosexuality.

These are not complicated moral questions: they’re matters of fact.  In giving health advice a doctor has a professional and legal duty to be informed and unbiased.  In claiming to speak as doctors and to offer advice about public and children’s health, these citizens have created that expectation and then signally failed to fulfil it.

The Australian Medical Association has firmly refuted the claims and the ABC is reporting the Minister for Mental Health, Mary Wooldridge, has asked Prof George for an immediate explanation. Attorney-General Robert Clark, who appointed Prof George to the Commission, needs to do the same.

Given his willingness to put scientifically unfounded personal beliefs ahead of the established evidence on homosexuality and same sex parentage, Prof George’s tenure as Deputy Chief Psychiatrist for Victoria and membership of the Commission are unsustainable and should be terminated.

Mark McCormack interviewed by Dean Beck & Lauren Rosewarne

I finished high school in 1999. Homophobia was rife, and being gay I took it all personally.  In first year uni I came out as gay, and went back to my old school to coach Year 9 debaters.  Now, 14-15yo teenage boys are pretty awful.  But they quickly figured out my sexuality — the Onion headline ‘Newly Out Gay Man Overdoes It’ could have been written about me — and the gay jokes ceased.  Every now and again they’d slip up, blush and say ‘Sorry’.  Gay was no longer some abstract anti-ideal; it had been personalised.

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Mardi Gras says ‘no banners’ to poly group

Remember how I wondered about the symbolism of removing ‘gay and lesbian‘ from the name of Sydney Mardi Gras?  I wondered if love is really such a universal virtue that we can all gather under its banner. Well, it now seems we can’t.

From today’s poly mardi gras float list:

**IMPORTANT PLEASE READ AND PASS ON**
I have just got off the phone from Victor from the Sydney Mardi Gras about our entry.

Victor was very clear that Sydney Mardi Gras does are not include us as part of the LGBTIQ community. He said that while we can express our support for the LGBTIQ community, we cannot have any signs that talk about polyamory or say things like “polyamory is ethical/natural etc”.

I have also had no reply to my email asking them exactly what the definition of queer is, and was told that we are not considered LGBTIQ even though our group is primarily composed of LGBTIQ members. When I pointed this out, he offered to “help me understand” the new Mardi Gras categories.

I am pretty angry and insulted about this, and let him know that we were already not considering participating because a large number of community members were upset at not being considered part of the LGBTIQ community.

I am inclined not to participate because of this. However, I obviously I need to represent the community on this, and I don’t know how everyone else feels. I have told him I will consult with other community members and touch base with him on Friday. We will need to have an entry form submitted by Monday if we are going to be in it, stating that we will not have messages about what polyamory is as part of our float.

It isn’t new to point out that what many gay marriage activists want is not just equality with heterosexuals, but sameness with them.  They claim to be fighting for ‘Equal Love’ but in fact they are fighting for one very specific configuration of love: the monogamous couple, married in the eyes of the law, promising forever together.  There is nothing queer or progressive or radical about it.

Poly relationships aren’t of necessity more equal, radical or progressive either, but as a practice they are unquestionably queer, mounting an embedded and practical critique of heterosexist norms of monogamous, dyadic romance.  It is profound hypocrisy for Mardi Gras to think it can police what kinds of consensual, adult, non-violent expressions of love are acceptable in its parade.

Update: HipPOLYta comments below that Mardi Gras didn’t recognise the poly group as queer and have allowed them into the parade on the condition their banners specify they are queer polyamorists.

Make love, not history: the new meaning of Mardi Gras

So the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras has ‘rebranded’. Apparently being specific about what you’re celebrating is exclusive to the things you are not celebrating, and as everyone knows, being exclusive is bad. We should celebrate diversity and inclusion instead!

And so we get this:

So now we’re celebrating something so bland and asinine, everyone can get behind it, i.e. LOVE.

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