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Jump in the Pool


Are we really as easy going and open minded in Australia as we think we are?

So I attended a dinner party on the weekend. Yes I know, cliché way to bring up a hot topic, but the anecdote is fresh in my mind. I no longer live at home, so I ventured down to my parents place for one night, when they’d be entertaining some of their closest friends. Eventually the dinner conversation shifted towards family and relations, and we began discussing the dos and donts of handling sensitive situations with sons and daughters (especially impressionable teens).

I was horrified to find that as soon as the conversation turned to homosexuality, open mindedness went out the window for my dad’s friend Marcus. So uncomfortable with the whole notion of being gay, he could not even provide a hypothetical answer to how he might chat to one of his teenage sons if they were to approach him one day and officially come out. He couldn’t even acknowledge it as a possibility – to him it just wasn’t on the cards because surely something like that couldn’t happen to his family. I felt so sorry for his kids. Imagine how hard their process of self-discovery is going to be throughout life when their own father has limitations to what is and isn’t acceptable.

 Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t relay this story to bag out Marcus, or my parents’ choice in friends – but this did raise that incredibly significant reality for me that so many people still think this way. So many successful, family-oriented, well-educated men like Marcus share such feelings despite the fact that they should know better. I imagine its got a lot to do with the environment these men (and women of course, we’re not exempt from this issue) grew up, just as Julia Gillard acknowledges her own conservative childhood. 

 But that does not make it OK. How the hell do we communicate open mindedness, diversity and tolerance to our own kids in today’s society when we can’t acknowledge within family circles that being gay is a completely normal and acceptable sexuality? Those teen years are some of the most influential to one’s development. If our family structures are isolating individuals from the start, and making them think of themselves as outcasts, how can we expect them to maintain healthy self-esteem? You just can’t expect ridiculous societal misconceptions and stigmas to die in schools and workplaces when we’re not addressing them in the home.

 And don’t even get me started on the issue of Equal Marriage in Australia. Its appalling that in 2011, we still haven’t progressed from some seriously ancient policies. Gillard’s stance against equal marriage is incredibly disappointing, especially when you realise that 60% of Australians believe that same-sex couples  should have the right to marry. And from what we can gather (Rodney Croome does a great job of deconstructing the illogical government oppositions here), fear of unraveling ‘traditional’ concepts of marriage and trampling on religious toes really don’t cut it as justifications for the antiquated stance.

I could go on for hours on how behind Australia is here on their exclusion against same-sex couples. But is time we crossed to you - What are your thoughts on how sexuality is accepted in our communities? Have you struggled in work places, in schools/uni or within your family?

Finally, for any parents / siblings out there who still don’t feel so comfortable with the idea of homosexuality – keep an open mind, and remember that your support is crucial in eliminating exclusion in the long run in regards to sexuality. It starts with each and every one of us, and change in social perceptions must surely lead to policy changes too.