Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What the last Q and A didn't answer

I watched the last Q and A with a mix of horror and revulsion.  Not because of what was said - but because of what wasn't.  Katy Faust and Brendan O'Neill simply had too many free kicks.  And I'm afraid many in the Australian public think they actually landed goals.

Here's what I think:

Katy Faust can't get past the fact that marriage and having kids are two different things. LGBTI people can, and already are, having children - and have been legally recognised as parents in most Australian jurisdictions for some time. Allowing LGBTI people to marry won't "increase" this - it will just give long-deserved equal recognition to the legal status of people in committed long-term relationships, regardless of their gender.

Katy, you can't keep blithely assuming that "marriage is about having children". It isn't. More and more people aren't getting married but are still having kids. Many people are getting married but aren't having kids.

You say want to "keep all options on the table" (including a gay partnership) in case adoption is required for a "broken home". Yet at the same time, you don't like the idea of LGBTI unions being given equal recognition because it might "lead to more gay parenting". These viewpoints seem contradictory to me.

Do you really think that preserving a discrimination that presently exists under Australian law will lead to more "gayness" - and more "gay parenting"? Seriously Katy: people will continue to do what they have always done, families will continue to exist in a variety of "non-standard" forms - regardless of the recognition they receive under the law.

When you give LGBTI partnerships equal recognition, all that changes is the respect we accord to the partners - and any children who happen to be raised by them.

Of course you're right on one count - both mothers and fathers are important to children (just as men and women both need to be represented in Parliament - a point you gleefully made).

But honestly - how many people do you think actually get the archetypal heterosexual nuclear family with father and mother both playing out their parental roles to near perfection?  Do you live in a 1950s sitcom?  The real world is very, very different.  In it, we take what we can.  One thing is for certain: nothing you nor I do is going to suddenly change the fact that a staggering number of people make absolutely horrid parents - and that a loving couple of the same gender is 1,000 times better than the wreckage left behind when you get dreadful heterosexual parenting.  You seem to forget that the primary thing that matters to children when it comes to their parents isn't gender: it's love.

And don't forget that people do what they do, regardless of the law.  No law is going to change the fact that people of the same gender are presently raising, and will continue to raise, children.  Recognising this is, as my mate Dave likes to say, "calling a running dog".  It's the obvious thing to do - as well as the decent/kind/fair thing to do.

Anyway, if you're that concerned about gay parents being "sub optimal", then why not campaign for legislation to "ban gay parenting (except where it is the only option left on the table)"?

Good luck with that.

But this has nothing to do with the question of marriage. And really, you should know this.

Oh - and all those studies and UN conventions to which you referred that apparently support your stand against gay parenting?  It turns out they don't.

Brendan O'Neill, on the other hand, is really crying foul about the fact that it is no longer socially acceptable to discriminate against LGBTI people. And with any luck, the last discrimination institutionalised under law (the fact that LGBTI people can't get married) will also soon be removed.

Poor Brendan.

He reminds me of the racists who lamented the fact that they were being "vilified for their beliefs" during in the civil rights era.  Or, more recently, during the dying days of apartheid in South Africa (I was there to see it).  I'm pretty sure even he would re-evaluate his anger at being "shouted down" for "raising issues" with "same sex marriage" if the latter expression were changed to "interracial marriage"...

Brendan, what you're noticing is that that times have moved on.  You've been left behind.  And if you're honest, that is what bothers you.  You want to continue to be free to look down on LGBTI people.  You hate the fact that you're now being "forced" to show them respect.

Leaving aside the fact that you've grossly overstated the "baker being sued" example as some sort of trend, you're quite right: being homophobic is about as acceptable now as being racist.  Both are (rightly) understood in today's world as being discriminatory - in the worst possible way: a way that is unfair, lacking in empathy, hurtful and damaging.

And you can't hide your discrimination behind "religious belief" or some semantic "definitional" argument any more than you could do so if you opposed interracial marriage on the same grounds.  You'd be exposed as a bigot - and rightfully so.

So yes Brendan, you will be vilified for your "stand" on the present marriage equality debate. Get used to it. You're on the wrong side of history.  In a decade or so, you'll be vilified even more.  In 40 years, you'll be a poster boy for just how backward we used to be.

See also: Marriage equality: it's about normalisation.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Let's help Guy!

My good friend and fellow Pikkelig Press author, Guy McGowan, was recently burgled and lost his treasured computer notebook (with all his work on it!).

While it's hard for any of us to help him with the lost work, we can at least help the talented artist and graphic designer replace his primary work tool.

Accordingly I pledge to give 100% of the royalties of my books for the month of August to Guy in order to enable him to replace his stolen hardware.

That's right: the proceeds of every one of my books you buy this month will go towards helping Guy replace his computer.

Let's make this a reality folks!

My fiction catalogue can be found here and my best-selling martial textbook "Essential Jo" can be found here.

Come on - you can help a talented artist recover from a devastating loss - and get a good read to boot!  Join me now!

*Note: Due to Kindle's new policy of not paying its authors except by "pages read", this pledge relates only to physical books, not ebooks.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Mirror Image of Sound as a short film?

Here's a short film that covers the sci-fi element of The Mirror Image of Sound rather perfectly!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Marriage equality: it's about normalisation

Years ago I remember reading the letters to the editor in our local newspaper The West Australian.  One irate woman wrote in to say that she'd identified the secret "Gay Agenda": to "normalise gayness."

Shock horror.

Well I have news for that woman: this "agenda" isn't so secret.  In fact, it's obvious.  It always has been.

One sector of society (we'll call them the "social conservatives") somehow think this is reprehensible.  Another sector (we'll call them the "social progressives") think this is laudable.  What role does this social division play in the current debate on marriage equality in Australia?

Some time ago the Australian ABC screened a controversial episode of the children's programme "Playschool", featuring a child with two mothers.  This was during a segment called "Through the Window" which commonly examined different, everyday social situations.  Needless to say, the episode provoked a storm of protest from social conservatives in Australia. When you delve beneath the usual arguments of "When I want my kids to know about this kind of stuff, I'll tell them myself," you find there was really only one objection to the show: that it "promoted homosexuality".

The first question I have is quite simple: how in the world was this "promoting homosexuality"?

The unspoken assumption is this: it would "promote homosexuality" by presenting it as an everyday social situation.  By normalising it - by making it unexceptional in society.

But how would normalisation "promote homosexuality"?  Here we face two more unspoken assumptions:
  • that being LGBTI is some sort of "lifestyle choice"; and
  • that if we make it seem "normal" we'll encourage more people to engage in this "lifestyle".
As to the first point, I couldn't imagine a worse "lifestyle" to "choose" than being LGBTI.  Being picked on, abused, discriminated against, beaten up?  No thanks.  Not feeling free to show my chosen partner affection in public?  Hmm.  Pass.

With that it mind, it should come as no surprise that every single bit of scientific and anecdotal  evidence suggests that people are born with a particular sexual orientation and identity due to a complex mix of genetic and in-utero factors.  As I've noted, simple logic would suggest that there can't be any "choice" in it.

Yet, based on the first, ludicrous, assumption of a "lifestyle choice", opponents of "normalisation" go one step further: they presume that society can "limit" incidence of LGBTI by stigmatising it: by making sure it is seen as "abnormal".  Heaven forbid if we treat LGBTI people as "normal" - everyone will be doing it!

Hmm.  So the only thing keeping me - a straight male - from "turning gay" is the threat of prejudice, discrimination, social ostracism and abuse?  Funny.  Because if that were the case, you'd think that in my private moments "turning gay" might have occurred to me, a person raised in a home where being gay was regarded as no different to being left-handed.  But it never has.  Why?  Because (as regards orientation) I am simply not attracted to my gender.  And (as regards identity) I identify as male and only male.  I can't remember ever choosing these things; they just are.  I hold it to be self-evident that I am no more likely to "turn gay" than a gay person is likely to "turn straight".

So what are the opponents of "normalisation" really aiming to do?  Whether they know it or not, they're proposing a policy of deterrent suppression.  All this would do is drive more LGBTI people back into the closet.  Things would be like the "good old days": when "girls were girls and men were men" - or at least when we lived behind the fa├žade of a simple, binary world.

Of course, we don't live in such a world.  LGBTI people have always existed and will always exist.

Some people are born with a sexual orientation towards their own gender (lesbian and gay).  Some people are born with an orientation towards both genders (bisexual).  Some are born with no particular orientation to either gender (pan or asexual).  Some are born in one gender but identify as as the other (transgender).  Some are born identifying as neither male nor female (intersex).

Some of the LGBTI community are born with physical/chromasomal characteristics that underlie their orientation/identity (eg. androgen insensitivity syndrome, where a woman discovers, sometimes only after her first period has failed to materialise, that while she is female on the outside and feels/identifies entirely as a female, she actually has male chromosomes).

For the majority however, it remains simply a function of how their brain is "wired": they are born with an orientation/identity that is at odds with their physiology - and consequently what society has traditionally regarded as "normal".

But what is "normal"?

That's the kicker isn't it?  Just because the majority of society is born right-handed, we don't call those who are left-handed or ambidextrous "abnormal", do we?

Currently we know that about 10% of society is born left-handed.

The total percentage of LGBTI people is difficult to ascertain due to the historical stigma and discrimination associated with "coming out", but latest estimates range between 3-7% of the population.  It might be even higher.  I suspect Alfred Kinsey was right in the first place: about the same number of people are born LGBTI as are born left-handed: around one in ten.  Whichever way it goes, the percentage is far from insignificant.

And, despite many centuries of persecution, it seems that this has always been the case.

And this reality isn't confined to the human species either, but occurs throughout the animal kingdom.

So at what point should we stop doggedly insisting that the world exists in a "binary" state: that being born neither A nor B is somehow an "abomination"?  That we can somehow "shame", "ridicule" and otherwise "discourage" people into choosing one of the "binary options" just because that would suit some early Iron/Bronze Age view of the world?

Let me go back to that Playschool episode about the kid with two mums.  What I found most wonderful about that episode is that it accorded "normality" to the family.  They were treated no differently to any other.

And indeed, this is precisely what outraged the social conservatives.

Heaven forbid that this kid with two mums should go to school and find a bit more acceptance. Heaven forbid that the kid should face just a little less ridicule and ostracism.  Heaven forbid that the the two mums might face a bit less discrimination in the community.  Because, it seems, we have to "deter" this sort of "lifestyle" by marginalising anyone who puts his or her hand up as LGBTI - and any child who happens to be raised by an LGBTI person.  We have to "punish" the few to "safeguard society".

How ignorant.  And how cruel.

So now we come back to the question of marriage equality.  You'll notice I don't refer to "gay marriage".  Social progressives like me refer to marriage equality for a reason.  We don't seek to reinforce the "difference" of some people - their "abnormality".  Rather we point out the obvious: that people shouldn't be discriminated against simply because of the sexual orientation/identity into which they were born.

Marriage equality is no "twentieth order issue".  It goes to the very heart of the question of eliminating discrimination against a large sector of society: the last institutionally sanctioned discrimination of our own citizens (I'm leaving aside our treatment of refugees for the time being).

At this point I invariably face two arguments:
  • But why would they want to get married anyway?  I don't favour marriage for anyone - look how mine worked out!  Why would they want something like that?
  • I just believe marriage is between a man and a woman.  Why don't they have their own "civil partnerships"?  Why force a redefinition of "marriage" onto all of us?
The answer to both arguments is the same: LGBTI people should have exactly (and I mean exactly) the same rights as any other members of society.  If the secular state allows individuals to register certain unions as "marriages", this should be open to LGBTI people as well.

No one is insisting that churches be forced to marry gay couples.  Marriage is, and always has been in Australia, a secular institution that churches can also ratify if couples (and the churches) so choose.

No one cares whether you "don't like marriage anyway".  No one cares how you like to "define" things.

The issue centres on  human rights.  Real people trump your tastes and definitions.

Until LGBTI people can get married - the same as any straight couple - they will always be "different".  Their status will be "exceptional", if not "diminished", in the eyes of society.  They won't be equal.  They won't be seen as "normal".

Which is a problem.  Because, as near as I can make out, LGBTI people are as "normal" as any other.  They always have been.

Australia, it's time we, the last English-speaking Western nation in the world, started treating them accordingly.  There is no valid reason to tell someone who is born different to your "binary ideal" that he or she can't get married.

So to hell with your definitions and your sophist arguments.  We need marriage equality now.

It's time.

Monday, July 6, 2015

A Hazy Shade of Twilight Kindle Update

The Kindle version of A Hazy Shade of Twilight has now been updated to fix various formatting discrepancies.

If you bought the old version, your Kindle or Android etc. reader will allow you to update it.

If you haven't bought it yet - what are you waiting for?  At $3.95, the e-version is a steal!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Hazy Shade of Twilight now on Kindle!

A Hazy Shade of Twilight is now on Kindle!

A Hazy Shade of Twilight published!

A Hazy Shade of Twilight is now available for purchase here.

For those who read it online, note that, after advice from my editor, the ending and structure have been slightly revised.  Think of it as a "Director's Cut".