The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

An open letter to Israel Folau

Izzyyyyyy! Maaaaaaaaaate!

How’s it going, champ? I guess that’s a silly question though eh mate. It wasn’t that long ago that you were raking in the big bucks and you were loved by everyone and you’d helped us lose our 16th Bledisloe Cup in a row. Then a few short months later you’re out on your arse and only liked by Christians and Andrew Bolt and you’re reduced to begging for money and you probably won’t get to help us lose our 17th Bledisloe Cup in a row. I feel for you mate. That really sucks. What do you think has sucked the most?

I reckon it would have to be not being able to play for your country any more. They say there’s nothing quite like pulling on that Qantas Wallabies jersey and losing a Bledisloe Cup for your country. I wouldn’t know cos I never got the chance to lose for the Wallabies. Not because I wasn’t capable, mind you. I reckon I could lose a game of rugby like nobody’s business. No, I never played for the Wallabies cos my mum wouldn’t let me cos I don’t have any muscles and I’m a bit of a sook. She was right, of course, but it still hurt.

I would have loved to represent my country. Imagine being able to represent the country of ANZACs and Dame Nellie Melba and Cathy Freeman and Russell Crowe. How proud must you be to be given the opportunity to go into battle for us, your fellow Australians, who were one of the first people to give women the vote and decriminalised homosexuality and recently had over 60% of the population vote for marriage equality, despite religious opposition to all three of them. Oh I guess it also sucks to lose a $4 million contract.

Or maybe the worst thing was having to choose between representing your country and telling atheists and adulterers and drunks and gay people they’re going to hell. That’s gotta be a tough choice. I mean, not many people like the pious judgement of people they don’t know, but that’s not your fault, Izzy. And people need to know these things.

That’s why I told the new Jewish guy at work that his people killed Jesus and he’s probably going to burn in Hell for all eternity. Shimon got all butt-hurt about it, of course, but Shimon loves getting butt-hurt, and I was just stating facts. What am I meant to do? Keep my opinion to myself? How would he know he was going to Hell? It was all fine though. The next day he came to me and told me that he’d thought about it and he’d completely renounced his Judaism, accepted Baby Jebus as his Lord and Saviour, and regrown his foreskin. So I guess I did the right thing.

Then there was that time that I told the CEO of my company that he’d lied about our projected profits. He tried to say it was just an unexpected experience deviation, but that just made things worse. “Try telling that to Jesus!”, I said with a chuckle. Yes we were at the Christmas Party but a lie is a lie no matter what time of year it is. Then I took his drink off him because he’d had two already and Jesus doesn’t like drunks.

Anyway, Izzy, the point is that you’re amazing. Just imagine how many liars have stopped lying and drunks have stopped drinking and rimmers have stopped rimming because of your Instagram posts. I only saved two people from Hell, but you’ve probably saved millions.

That’s all for now mate. I lost my job at the last Christmas party so I gotta go finish my resume. Good luck with the fundraising, and don’t lose hope. You’ll be back losing games for the Wallabies in no time.

Yours sincerely,

Tim

Latest Vatican Research Findings: Boys Have Penises

The Vatican or, more specifically, The Congregation for Catholic Education, has just released a document regarding the teaching of gender theory. As part of the GBA service, I have read this document so that you don’t have to waste the precious moments of your life doing so.

Plenty of other press organisations have covered the provocative timing of this release, as well as the reliably dissident Jesuit response, but there’s been little to no engagement with the actual arguments as yet, mostly owing to that tried and true journalistic practice of never reading more than the abstract and conclusion of anything, no matter what it is. I, however, believe that there should be little to no engagement with the actual arguments because they’re either not actually arguments, or they are arguments, but they’re stupid.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, beyond the usual guff about love and doctrine, and that curiously unique Vatican style – all technical sounding multi-syllables interspersed, seemingly at random, with sudden bursts of mediaeval English and Latin. I knew that it would basically be a combination of rebuttal book and conversation starter: a set of things teachers can say when confronted with non-Catholic or, as I like to put it, sane views of an issue, as well as a call for academics and whatnot to engage with their position. This kind of polarity is also typical of the Vatican – an open-hearted and sincere wish to listen, combined with a greasy bag of low-down sophistry designed to maintain, at all costs, their doctrinaire view of the world and of themselves. Like an obese contortionist covered in food waste, official Vatican thinking has a tendency to be simultaneously compellingly beautiful, impressively agile, and deeply repugnant.

I knew, basically, that it would be very like other Vatican documents from this department. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was how dim-witted it would be. Its attempts to define and answer gender theory reminded me of nothing so much as an octogenarian attempting to use Snapchat. The little tour of ‘gender theory’ the authors take us on is so befuddled, so obviously confused and intellectually outpaced, that it’s almost charming. One of their more risible contentions is the idea that the body, the sex, of an individual is a primary determiner of gender. This isn’t amusing or insane in and of itself, of course – what’s laughable about it is their assumption that gender theorists don’t agree with this. They do. For the same reason that most academics agree that rocks are made of stuff that forms rocks.

And then there’s their central contention – that gender theorists believe that gender is solely down to “human choice”. Now, I’m undecided on whether this is disingenuous or dim-witted, but the strong implication of the language is that this means an individual human’s choice. This is emphatically not an accurate summation of gender theory. Most theories of gender performativity, etc., emphasise the role of social and cultural constructs in the formation of gender. The radical bit is pointing out that these are artificial, and that the individual can and often does have significant agency in determining whether or not to conform to them. Which is actually a near identical position to the one adopted by the Congregation. Which would obviously be inconvenient and embarrassing, so I guess I’m going to opt for ‘disingenuous’ as the word which best describes the logical core of the argument.

Another charmingly oblivious aspect of the paper is its consistent use of the term ‘ideological’ to describe what they term to be the ‘radical’ end of gender theory. In the same paragraph – often the same sentence – as a call for the rejection of “ideologically based” theories, is a call for teachers to promote “doctrine”. One man’s ideology is another man’s doctrine, I guess. But this seemingly genuine lack of self awareness is another example of unexpected charm. It’s like Basil Fawlty – so flawed he can’t see his own flaws which, in certain contexts, is counter-intuitively endearing. The whole Catholic Church is a bit like that, and this comes through very clearly in this pretzel-like grab bag of random half-truths and invalid arguments.

Of course, when once we get past the impressive sounding ‘philosophical’ language, and the big-hearted rhetoric of universal love, the charm starts to wear off. Actual analysis of this document reveals that its entire position is based on a straw man and a false dichotomy. The egregious misunderstandings of gender theory are revealed as not so much befuddled as they are wilfully, shamefully dishonest and misleading. And the notion that only the most radical aspects of gender theory are being taught in schools, and that this represents a cultural crisis, is in actual fact on the same level of sanity as Alex Jones or David Icke. It does not represent reality in any way, and this isn’t because it’s a bunch of doddering confused old men doing the thinking. It’s because the Church is pulling an extremely nasty trick – the same one they’ve been pulling for about 1800 years. “We love you, whoever you are,” this document says, “so please come and talk to us so we can explain to you why you’re not allowed to own who you are.”

The Jesuit priest James Martin hit the nail exactly on the head. Or, to be more Catholic about it, rem acu tetistigi-ed. “Sadly, …[this document]… will be used as a cudgel against transgender people, and an excuse to argue that they shouldn’t even exist.” He’s right – it will be. Primarily because that is exactly what it was made to be.

In which I am proven to be an amazingly prescient genius person and not just because I know the word “prescient”

Hi there. I’m Tim. Sometimes I make predictions. Sometimes they are hugely false, like that time I predicted Trump would resign after six months because he would get sick of working eight hour days. Silly me… I should have figured he’d only work a three hour day. But sometimes… sometimes I prove to be amazingly prescient. Like the time I predicted this:

Once marriage equality comes in, the objections [to it] will stop. The bigoted fear-merchants who fought for so long, and warned of such dire consequences, will put down their tooth and nail, pack up their placards, and fade into obscurity.

You see, today marks the first anniversary of that time the Liberal government made us all waste $120 million to spend a few months vilifying the LGBTIQ community to re-verify the results of countless already-available public polls and decide on an issue that wasn’t the public’s business and parliament could have voted on for free. So it’s a perfect time for me to reflect on my prediction and check in on how amazing I can be. And lemme tell you… all signs point to me being quite amazing.

You see, I have noticed a little bit of a trend in conservative objections to progressive ideals, which seems to be thus:

  1. An injustice is recognised.
  2. A proposal is made to correct the injustice.
  3. We are told that correcting the injustice will lead to the wholesale destruction of society.
  4. The change is made anyway.
  5. Society is not destroyed.
  6. All the people who said society would be destroyed forget about it and move on to something else.

This exact sequence of events has played out in a multitude of historic advances. Female suffrage, inter-racial marriage, no fault divorce, IVF, and the decriminalisation of homosexuality, to name but a few. In each case, we were told that to make the change would be to ring the death knell of life as we knew it, and usher in a new era of calamity and universal suffering.

We know, of course, that in each case, no such calamity ever came to fruition. Instead, we collectively benefited from a society that was more accepting, more kind, and one step further along the long path to true equality. Every time these disastrous changes were made, we saw that, ultimately, life went on, and after a while, most people didn’t care.

I should point out that, logically speaking, this does not at all prove that their objections were unfounded (there are many other reasons that prove that). What it does highlight, however, is the perfidy of their professed sincerity.

Let’s just think about this for a second. Female suffrage, we were told, would be an absolute disaster. One poster that depicted the dangers of female suffrage showed “a grim-looking man arriving home from work to a scene of domestic chaos, with weeping children, a dangerously smoking lamp, and a casual note attached to a suffrage poster – ‘Back in an hour or so’”. My god, that sounds horrendous! Can you even imagine? If you can’t imagine, the people of the time were happy to produce gems like this to help out:

Yes, friends… if women were allowed to vote, it would definitely, definitely result in never ending nagging.

So, with so much on the line, what did such people do when women were finally granted the right to vote? Did they fight to their last breath to have universal suffrage overturned? Are they still fighting today? Or did they all die from incessant nagging? The answer to all of those questions is a resounding “No”. I wonder why.

Which brings me to my prediction about marriage equality in Australia. We were told that it would destroy families. We were told it would result in people marrying their cats. We were told that there would be another stolen generation, which was a rather oblivious objection, coming as it did from the sort of Christians who instigated the original. Even I can admit that, if true, that would be a high price to pay indeed.

History now shows that they lost, as they were always going to. That’s not particularly interesting, given the multitude of polls that showed that defeat was inevitable. What is interesting, is what happened next.

And what happened next was… nothing.

Sure, there were a few whinges on social media. Lyle probably cried, not there’s anything wrong with that. But apart from that… nothing. No extended campaigns to reverse the decision. No marching in the streets demanding the maintenance of the status quo. No bills introduced to parliament to prevent this catastrophic change to Australian society.

Which means one of two things. They’re just a fear mongering bag of dïcks, or they don’t really believe the shït they’re shovelling.

And just to be fair, I’ll let them decide which.

Is he allowed to Izzy Folau?

So apparently some guy who is good at handling balls and rolling around on the ground with other guys told some guy that any guys who handle balls and roll around on the ground with other guys will spend an eternity with all the other guys who handle balls and roll around on the ground with other guys unless they stop handling balls and rolling around with other guys. The original guy was of course Israel Folau, who started life as Palestine Folau, until his mother realised that name wasn’t as marketable. And the guys who roll around with other guys are of course the gays (and definitely not rugby players), and the place where they go to roll around with other guys is of course HELL (and definitely not a club on Oxford St).

If that all sounds like a bit of a mouthful, I will refer you to the words of young Izzy himself, who is probably also a bit of a mouthful, but only for women because that shït will send you to hell. To wit, when asked on what appears to be an express cocaine delivery service called Instagram what God’s plan is for gay people, young Izzy replied that God’s plan for gay people is:

“HELL – unless they repent their sins and turn to God”.

Needless to say, this caused quite the kerfuffle. No one likes to be told they are going to hell – oh, sorry, I mean HELL – just for being who they are. Well, that’s not quite true. Personally, I couldn’t give a cräp if young Izzy told me I was going to HELL. I guess it helps that I’m heterosexual, so god obviously loves the cräp out of me. Not literally though, cos that shït will send you to HELL. On the other hand, I am an atheist, so god hates me just as much as the gays. Maybe even more. But on the plus side, he doesn’t exist, so I’m in the clear, along with all the gay people, which is nice.

So what’s all the fuss about?

Isn’t he free to decide what belongs in his own personal sin bin? Why should I care if some random rugby player decides to tackle an issue on an express cocaine delivery service called Instagram? Does he deserve to be publicly mauled, or should we let his views pass by without comment? Should he be penalised for his views, or would that amount to religious persecution? Izzy just a ruckwit? And finally, should I ask any more questions, or should you all go back and appreciate all the rugby puns I just made?

Given the furore young Izzy’s comments have generated, you would be forgiven for thinking that these are difficult questions to answer. Like, “Why is there no light in the freezer?”, or “Why doesn’t my iron have an off switch?”. Thankfully, however, Good Bad Asinine is here to navigate through the confusion. So here we go.

Isn’t he free to decide what belongs in his own personal sin bin?
Oooh good, an easy one to start with. Yes, of course he is free to do that. He is also free to advise us of his thoughts on deconstructed coffee, and whether Han shot first.

However, his views on the gays are… interesting… once you realise two things.

Firstly, the bible being what it is, it’s actually very easy to construct an argument that says gays won’t go to HELL. And a great many Christians have done just that.

Secondly, as a work of moral guidance, the bible’s authors have covered themselves in something, but it certainly isn’t glory. Just look at my favourite bible verse, Deuteronomy 22:10:

You must not plough with a donkey and an ox yoked together.

Yes, Izzy, the Great Book that gave you “GAYS GO TO HELL” also felt it necessary to issue advice on bi-species land management practices. And OK sure, maybe you can waive that away as a bit of silliness. A Biblical version of Jar Jar Binks, if you will. But how about Deuteronomy 25:11-12:

If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.

Apart from being very interested in why this was such a common occurrence as to warrant its very own rule, one also has to wonder whether cherry-picking the bible really is the best way to decide what’s right and wrong, especially in a sport that regularly features men reaching out and seizing other men by their private parts (the imaginatively named and much feared squirrel grip).

So yes, as silly as his view is, Izzy is free to decide what belongs in his own personal sin bin. Whether we should actually care what some random rugby player thinks, however, is another matter…

Why should I care if some random rugby player decides to tackle an issue on an express cocaine delivery service called Instagram?
Oooh nice segue! And another easy one… two words – frikken empathy.

As a heterosexual atheist, it’s extraordinarily easy for me to say I don’t care if some narrow minded biblical literalist publicly states what I already know narrow minded biblical literalists to believe. An eternity of suffering for being mutually attracted to the people that some imaginary being made you attracted to? Pull the other one, mate (just don’t pull it too often… that shït will send you to HELL). But, thankfully, not everyone is the same as me, and I’m not stupid or insensitive enough to expect that if something doesn’t upset me, then it shouldn’t upset anyone.

Whether he should be publicly mailed, however, is another matter…

Does he deserve to be publicly mauled, or should we let his views pass by without comment?
OMG… these segues are amazing!

Well, on the face of it, it may seem like young Izzy doesn’t “deserve” to be singled out for expressing a view that is as old as it is tedious. And let’s face it, a throwaway comment on an otherwise unremarkable Instagram post isn’t exactly the same as using your post-match press conference to call for a return to (Biblically-mandated) public stonings. There is a problem here, however.

You know who else Izzy believes should go to HELL? Murderers, that’s who. And rapists, obviously. Not to mention adulterers, pedophiles, thieves, liars, blasphemers, Muslims and atheists. This list is not exhaustive, of course, but it does illustrate my point quite nicely. Young Izzy believes that two people in a loving, consensual homosexual relationship are on the same moral level as a murdering rapist who lied about how much goddamn shït he stole by hiding it in his underage mistress’ burqa. Looking at it that way, it’s not a stretch to suggest that young Izzy might like a return to the good ol’ days, when instead of wasting millions of dollars deciding if gay people could marry, we just locked them up instead.

And that, my friends, is why we need to call young Izzy’s comments out for what they are. And what they are is pretty cräp. Whether he should be penalised, however, is another matter…

Should he be penalised for his views, or would that amount to religious persecution?
If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably thinking, “Get to the point, you muppet”. Which is basically another way of saying, “You’re so right, Tim… but what, if anything, should we actually do about it?”.

On the face of it, this seems like a tricky question to answer. His comment was odiously stupid, of course, but people do odiously stupid things all the time, and we just let them glide on by without so much as a nipple cripple. Golfers, for example. And Camry drivers. So why are so many people calling for Izzy to be sacked from the Wallabies, but not Warren, who drives his Camry to Riverside Oaks every frikken day of the week?

Well, for starters, Warren is too slow and uncoordinated for the Wallabies (that’s why he’s playing golf). But more than that, Warren doesn’t have a legion of adoring fans, who look to him for guidance and inspiration. Warren doesn’t have thousands of children show up each week to watch him showcase his skills. Warren doesn’t walk around after the game, surrounded by people asking him to sign their “WARREN” jerseys. And, let’s face it, no one has posters of Warren on their bedroom wall.

You know who does, though? Israel Folau. Well, he doesn’t have a Warren poster on his wall, but you know what I mean.

Like it or lump it, young Izzy has a lot of fans. And some of those fans will be young, and either openly gay, or struggling with their sexuality. For those fans, Izzy’s comments aren’t just little bit of odious stupidity. They are yet another reminder that the bullying they endure at school doesn’t end when they leave, and that there will always be people who treat them as second class citizens. Even some of their heroes. And all for the apparently awful crime of just being themselves.

And so, from the ARU’s point of view, the question isn’t so much why he should be penalised, but how. And if young Izzy doesn’t like it, he is welcome to play rugby in Uganda, where I’m sure his views will be welcome.

Is he just a ruckwit?
Despite the above, I’m sure young Izzy is an otherwise lovely young man, so the answer to this is, probably not. I just really wanted to say “ruckwit”.

Should you all go back and appreciate all the rugby puns I just made?
Definitely!

Otherwise, feel free to go to HELL. 🙂

Why you should vote “Yes”, even if you don’t want to

Well, the day is finally here. The High Court challenges have been struck down, the campaigns have been run, and now here I am, walking up the street to cast my vote, in the warming sun of spring-time Sydney.

As I approach the polling place, I cannot help but smile that the vote should take place in a church. How satisfying, to imagine god looking down upon me as I vote. I must remember to look up and wink at him, right when I mark my ballot paper. Not in a sexy way, mind. That would be a little hypocritical, given why I’m here. Just in a completely platonic “Hey buddy, I got this” kind of way. But anyway… what a sweet irony, that the democratic process of this lucky, prosperous, fair-go-for-all country should call on me to vote in god’s own house. And how fortunate, that that same democratic process is giving me an opportunity to have a say in how other people live their lives.

But that’s the problem, isn’t it. It’s not just a say in how they live their lives. It’s about how their lives affect me. Even they admit there aren’t many of them. What is it, like 8% at most? And yet they already affect every aspect of our lives, and, more importantly, the lives of our children. That’s what this is really about – a battle. A battle for the minds of the young. Because the future is forged in the minds of the young. And fart jokes. Fart jokes are also forged in the minds of the young. Their side has always known that. Probably not the bit about fart jokes, because they never appear to have a sense of humour. But definitely the bit about the future. And that’s what they’re trying to do here.

But even if they weren’t trying to convert our kids, I’d still vote “No”, because they’re wrong. As simple as that. They’re wrong and they want to drag the rest of us down with them. I can’t stand the thought of all the things they do and say behind those closed doors. It’s gross. And ridiculous. It’s… it’s… dammit. I was trying to combine “gross” and “ridiculous” into a word but I can’t, because I’m so angry and grodiculous.

These are the thoughts that consume me as I shuffle along in the queue, smiling at my own righteousness, and breathing in the delicious smell of sausage. In fact, all I can smell is sausage. Far out, now all I want to do is eat a sausage. Not in a sexy way, mind. That would be a little hypocritical, given why I’m here. It’s just a democracy sausage. I’m allowed to eat a democracy sausage.

Eventually I find myself completely alone in a small cardboard cubicle next to 30 other people completely alone in their own cardboard cubicles. I try and stifle the similarities with that weird night out in Hong Kong, and I look down to see a piece of paper, and a crappy pencil, and a simple question. But no sausages.

And the question is beautiful. And just what I wanted. And I will vote “No”, because that’s what I believe, and that’s what they deserve. So I grab my crappy pencil, which is way too short and digs into my palm. And as I look down at my hand, and at the pencil digging into my palm, I am struck with both the simplicity and the power of it all. There’s no fighting in the streets, no storming of the palace gates. All it takes is me, armed with a simple pencil, and answering a simple question, and the lives of many are changed forever. And I imagine the hand of a “Yes” voter poised above the same ballot, possibly right next to me, and I grin as I imagine what she must be thinking. She’s also thinking about the simple question, and the simple pencil, and about how right now millions of her fellow citizens are grinning, just like me, at being able to have their say in how she lives her life. Her hand is probably shaking… with rage, or fear, or embarrassment, that something so dear to her, something so innate and precious, is being subjected to the whims of a bunch of complete strangers.

Wait, what? Where did those thoughts come from?

This isn’t about her! It’s about me, and my children, and what’s right. Right?

My pencil hovers above the “No” box. Now it’s my hand that is shaking. What am I doing? I look once more at the question before me, the question previously so simple and beautiful:

“Should we continue to allow the public practice of Christianity?”

I read it again, and again, and again. And suddenly everything is not as simple as I thought. Their faith is misplaced, and it does affect my life, and they do try and influence our children.

But it is precious to them. And sincere. And their right.

We’re all different, but we’re all in this together. And a part of our democracy would die if we were to take it away from them.

So I vote “Yes”. Not because I agree.

But because it’s right.

Marriage Equality And Our Captains Courageous

Marriage Equality

I’m a bit sick of the marriage equality/same sex marriage/marry a donkey or a cat/won’t somebody think of the Christians/children/God’s apparently delicate feelings ‘debate’. One of the reasons I’m sick of it is because it’s never really been anything worthy of the name ‘debate’. Depressingly successful attempts to reduce the issue to a semantic dispute, inflate it into some sort of moral existential crisis, or otherwise obfuscate a very clear-cut issue with rank silliness, have left me deeply unwilling to participate in any way. Except for one, of course. If our Captains Courageous are successful in their bid to abrogate their moral and legal leadership and shift it back on to us, I will emphatically vote in favour of marriage equality, even if I have to use the experimental archaeology skills involved in doing this by ‘post’. Whatever that is.

Sure, there’s a few problems with this. There’s the problem of religious protections, for example. Now, religious protections are crucially important for a free society. They’re the same protections which allow me to suggest that fundamentalist Christians should be de-registered as humans because nothing with a cognitive ability that low should be given either a vote or a seat in parliament. I’m looking at you, Magic Mike Baird and the right faction of the Liberal Party. And I suppose it’s important that the poor beleaguered minority of Christian cake makers, eking out an existence in the majority religion of the nation, shouldn’t be bullied by horrible militant gays or suchlike. Actually, it probably isn’t. But the preservation of real and actual religious pluralism is definitely top priority if I’m not to lose my right to say that belief in an anthropomorphic interventionist god should be classified by the UN as a disability. Leaving aside the fact that it’s got four fifths of diddly squat to do with marriage equality, in the abstract, it’s an important principle.

And then, of course, there’s the issue of this whole postal plebiscite/survey/waste of time/display of moral cowardice/popular vote thing. If I were to display the same kind of moral rigour as a Cato the Elder, or either of the Brutii, I’d probably be required to treat this whole debacle with Olympian detachment and abstain. The grounds for this would be that voting to change back a piece of legislation which was more or less arbitrarily changed by a befuddled reactionary thirteen years ago simply isn’t my job. It’s parliament’s. And that actual equality before the law for all citizens, regardless of orientation or creed, is not a question of popular will, but of moral and legal necessity. And that this is not so much a bid to gauge the (entirely irrelevant in this case) popular will, but rather a pathetically transparent delaying tactic designed to appease the government’s conservative Catholic base. Leaving all that aside, my personal belief is that it’s incumbent on us to rise above the nonsense and gently but firmly show the government the bloody obvious, rather like a new dog owner pushing a puppy’s snout into the mess it’s just made on the carpet.

So, regardless of what happens in various courts, or in the morally mendacious lower house and its mentally deficient cousin, the upper, I’d say the order of priority would run as follows:

  1. Vote ‘yes’ on marriage equality
  2. Demand parliamentarians do their actual jobs
  3. Marry a cat

That last one’s basically designed to keep Corey Bernardi happy. Because when he’s not happy, he talks about stuff, which is almost as bad as having a government who actually has to ask the general public whether or not it should continue to actively deprive sections of the population of their basic statutory and human rights.

For the love of god, just be honest

And so, it would seem, the Safe Schools program has ended in NSW. For while our Victorian counterparts vowed to fund the program themselves after Federal funding ended, here in NSW the government is apparently Fred up with it, and has sent it sailing down the Nile.

But fear not! According to Education Minister Rob Stokes, it will be replaced with another program with a broader focus:

Bullying will never be tolerated in NSW public schools — whether it be because someone is overweight, gay, based on the colour of their skin or for any other reason.

Well that sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? School can be a horrendous experience for people who are a little different, and we should do whatever we can to eliminate the bullying elicited by such differences. And not just for LGBTIQ students, obviously. As the good minister says, children who are overweight or not white enough or who like golf are bullied, too. And if we’re serious about eliminating bullying from schools, we need to cover all these differences, right?

Well, yes, of course. But there’s a problem. Why is it that the loudest voices advocating for change are also the biggest bullies when it comes to the LGBTIQ community?
_____

You may have noticed lately that there are a few ostensibly contentious issues floating around. Now, I say ostensibly contentious because, really, they aren’t contentious at all. They are rendered contentious, however, by a typically small, but always influential, minority. The most contentious issue of recent times has been, to my mind anyway, the debate around Marriage Equality. But there are, and have been, a multitude of others. The debate around abortion rights, for example, never seems to go away, not to mention the sporadic agitations for euthanasia. Then there is the teaching of scripture in public schools, vaccinations, same-sex adoption and surrogacy, the gender pay gap, climate change, changes to the Racial Discrimination Act, corporate tax cuts, gun control, treatment of refugees, the decision to axe Renegade – and that’s just off the top of my head. The list, it seems lately, is endless.

Thinking about all these issues, and how we debate and decide on things as a society, I was struck by three thoughts:

  1. In most cases, the resistance appears to be geared towards maintaining the status quo;
  2. There is normally a single, core belief at the root of such resistance, which, paradoxically, is never mentioned;
  3. The decision to axe Renegade was the worst decision in the history of mankind. (You should all take a moment to watch the link before proceeding. You will thank me later.)

Thought #1 is not new, and has been observed by countless observers who observe things worthy of observation. Humans are nothing if not creatures of habit, and old habits die hard, with a vengeance, sometimes. Thought #3 is also fairly obvious. I mean come on, he was a cop and good at his job. Why would anyone axe a show like that? Thought #2, however, deserves some attention, if you can spare it.

Let’s look, for a moment, at Marriage Equality. While a large number of nations have embraced it with open arms, and have not yet descended into debaucherous anarchy, in Australia the resistance to change has been as fierce as it has been needlessly prolonged. Countless polls show public support has hovered around 70% for almost a decade, and yet still the opponents of change drone on and on with the same old tired arguments that were debunked on day one. Marriage has always been between a man and a woman, you see. So we can’t possibility change it now. And it’s all about the children. Don’t forget the children.

There’s a problem, however – these arguments fall apart at the smallest nudge with a logic stick. For starters, when you’re in a debate about changing the legal definition of something, you can’t just appeal to the current definition and pretend it’s an argument. Oh, and if you are going to stubbornly point to the legal definition, you can’t claim that marriage is all about children when your cherished definition doesn’t mention children at all. Silly, right? And yet here we are, in 2017, and same-sex couples still cannot marry.

The truth is that there is not a single, logical reason to deny marriage equality. Not one. And yet still people oppose it. Why is that? Why are people still opposed to euthanasia and abortion? Why do people still deny climate change, when there is such overwhelming evidence to the contrary?
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In the case of marriage equality, the reason should be obvious – the overwhelming majority of opponents are religious. A survey of some 40,000 Americans conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute found that, while around 55% of Americans were in favour of marriage equality, 91% of the people who oppose it identify as religious. This can’t be a coincidence. And if it’s not a coincidence, it means that the reason they are opposed to marriage equality is not because of some disingenuous claim like children do best with their biological mother and father. It’s because they view the existence of gay, interesex and trans* people as anything from slightly distasteful to morally reprehensible, depending on affiliation.

This is not, however, a slight on the religious in general. How could it be, when the same survey found that, for every four people who support marriage equality, three of them belong to a church of some kind. Clearly there are a lot of people who are able to either reconcile their decision with their faith, or set it aside for the sake of their LGBTIQ brothers and sisters (and everyone inbetween).

Likewise, this is not an attack on the right of people of faith to oppose marriage equality because of that faith. I don’t agree with it, but if that is their choice according to their conscience, then so be it.

What I do take issue with, however, is deception – if you’re going to deny LGBTIQ couples the right to marry, at least be honest about why.
_____

So how does all this relate to Safe Schools? Well, why don’t we have a look at what some of our favourite people have to say about it, shall we?

“Good that NSW is scrapping so called Safe Schools, a social engineering programme dressed up as anti-bullying,” said Tony Abbott.

Apparently Tony doesn’t like social engineering presented as something else. Which is interesting, given the $250m his government set aside to put trained chaplains counsellors in government schools.

The Australian Christian Lobby can always be relied upon to fulfill Jesus’ central mission of making life miserable for gay people 1, so let’s see what they have to say:

Make our schools safe for all students
The federally funded ‘Safe Schools’ initiative is supposed to be an anti-bullying program. [But] this radical program is being used to introduce children from primary school age up to sexual concepts that are not age appropriate.

Well they sound like legitimate concerns, don’t they? We must teach children that all bullying is wrong, and the material should be age appropriate. I wonder if Lyle Shelton, the head of the ACL, would change his mind about the program’s LGBTIQ content, if those concerns were addressed? What say you, Lyle?

Despite the rainbow carpet being rolled out in schools, gender theory is highly contested with leading feminists such as Germaine Greer scathing. Women and girls should feel safe in their toilets and change rooms from male-to-female transgender people who have not undergone a sex change, they rightly say. And there is no scientific evidence that anyone is “born gay” or that little boys and girls have been born in the wrong body and that surgery, hormones, tucking or binding are the solution.

Needless to say, your intellectual rigour is on shaky ground, if you’re resorting to “leading feminists such as Germaine Greer”. In any event, we’re getting closer to the crux of the matter – it seems like Lyle is not so much concerned with the program’s specificity or age-appropriateness, as he is with the existence of gay and transgender people themselves.

Even people like Fred Nile can’t seem to just come out and say what’s really on their mind:

Naturally, we are deeply concerned about the proliferation of such programs which are ideologically driven with the aim of recruiting children.

To nobody’s surprise, he is happy to follow Tony’s lead, and merrily support the ideological teaching of Scripture in NSW public schools with the aim of recruiting children. But that’s for another time.

Unfortunately, we need to stoop to Bill Muehlenberg to find out what all of the above people are thinking, but are too afraid to say (some LGBTIQ people may want to skip this one):

The war against reality, against biology, against who we are as human beings is getting out of hand. For those of a religious persuasion, it is a direct assault on our Creator and the way we were created. In the beginning God made us male and female. He did not make us with gender fluidity or with a smorgasbord of sexual expression and choices.

And there you have it. Thought #2 in a nutshell. People like Tony Abbott, Lyle Shelton, and Fred Nile exert an extraordinary amount of energy opposing social change. They have thrown up all manner of arguments against marriage equality, euthanasia, abortion and “Safe Schools”. But no matter how many of their concerns you assuage, no matter how many of their arguments you prove misplaced or wrong, their opposition will never waver. For neither Tony Abbott, nor Lyle Shelton, nor Captain Christian himself, Fred Nile, seem to ever mention the one thing – the only thing – on which their opposition is founded.

Their god 2.

Which, when you think about it, is simultaneously a little weird, and perfectly understandable. But also really annoying.

So, to Tony, Lyle, and Nile… I, for one, wish you would talk about your god. Don’t tell us it’s all about someone’s child, unless that child is Baby Jebus. For not only are you denying your own faith, much like Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane, and not only would it save us all a helluva lotta debate time, but it’s downright cowardly.

Bill Muehlenberg may be an ignorant buffoon, at least he’s honest.

– Tim
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Footnotes
1. I don’t think this was Jesus’ central mission, but the ACL seems to, judging by the focus of their media releases.
2. Or rather, their own personal interpretation of their god.

The real problem with “gender theory”

Remember when life was simple? When men were men, and women were women, and men loved women, and women loved men, but only after marriage, and then after marriage men were still men, and women were still women, but the women cooked and had sex with the man whenever he wanted? Ahh, those were the days… everyone just lived their lives according to the way I wanted. There were no gays, just straight-as-an-arrow legends like Rock Hudson, Peter Allen, and the dad from the Brady Bunch. And if anyone was gay, they had the decency to live miserably by internalising it so I wouldn’t get upset. It was a different time. People were thoughtful back then – because I made them think about me.

But my, how times change. Now everyone thinks they can be true to themselves. Oh, you’re a man, attracted to men? Sure, go ahead, do the bum sex! Never mind that it makes me feel icky. Or perhaps you’re a woman, who likes the boobies? Well muff-dive right in, the waters fine! Don’t even think about the fact that I don’t want to see lesbians on the street because I only like to watch fake lesbians on the internet in the comfort of my basement. It’s selfish, that’s what it is. Everyone thinks they can just be with the person they love. But what about what I love? I love people to conform to my ideals. Why can’t you just love who I want you to love? Why don’t I get a say? Doesn’t my view count anymore?
___

And that, my friends, pretty much sums up every conservative’s objections to LGBTI rights. Since the dawn of humanity, apparently, something about gays and lesbians has made people uncomfortable, and you have all had to fight tooth and nail to gain what few rights you now enjoy. We have, of course, made some progress – but it’s clear that, as a society, we still have a long way to go.

The latest (public) battle in the LGBTI war, of course, is trans* rights. And while you and I know that each of the letters in the LGBTI acronym represents a distinct and diverse sub-set of queer-folk, to conservatives you’re all the same. To them, you’re all just people who refuse to accept their version of your reality.

The latest blow is the apparent banning of the teaching of “gender theory” in NSW schools. As ACL’s NSW State Director, Mark Makowiecki, said:

Parents will now no longer have to worry if their children are being taught harmful gender theory at school after the NSW Government today banned it.

The NSW government, you see, has apparently conducted a review of the teaching of “gender theory” in NSW schools. The review “was tasked with evaluating the scientific merit of the research underpinning the materials in question, [and] appears to have made a negative determination in relation to the validity of the research.”

Well, well, well. Interesting. Apparently the science is not as settled as the intellectual elites on the Left believe.

That will of course come as a shock to the scientists who actually study such things, but, happily, for the purpose of making people like Mark Makowiecki look like jerks, the scientific research doesn’t actually matter.

Yes, you heard right. I could sit here and list hundreds of studies and articles, and I could quote all kinds of social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, in support of “gender theory”. But I don’t need to. Because people like Mark Makowiecki are quite happy to defeat their own argument without any science at all.

You heard what he said. “Parents will now no longer have to worry if their children are being taught harmful gender theory.” It’s harmful, apparently. But what makes it harmful? Why, people like Mark Makowiecki, of course. Isn’t that neat? People like Mark Makowiecki not only get to claim that “gender theory” is harmful, they also get to create the conditions that make it so. People like Mark Makowiecki get to demonise gender diverse and trans* folk to the point where 41% of them attempt suicide, but – it’s a miracle! – they also have the luxury of claiming that it’s harmful to be trans* or gender diverse. And then claim it’s science.

And that, my friends, is the real problem with “gender theory”. People like Mark Makowiecki will always be around to pull out one of the few studies that goes against the established scientific view, so he can place “gender theory” in inverted commas. But this is one issue in which I’m OK to say that the science doesn’t even matter.

You know what does matter? People.

You see, regardless of what the science says, people don’t tend to randomly choose lifestyles that bring about a lifetime of misery and collective scorn. But that’s what people like Mark Makowiecki apparently believe. “Gender theory” has to be a myth, right? People are just choosing to be like that for the fun of it, aren’t they? It’s trendy, or a fad, or a mental illness. And if we teach “gender theory” to our children then they’ll want to be like that too. Because people love living a life of internal conflict, public shame and discrimination. Right?

Funnily enough, no, they don’t.

What people want is to be themselves, and to live out their lives in a way that will ensure the best chance for their own happiness. What they don’t want is for people like Mark Makowiecki to deny their own reality, dictate who they should be, and place inverted commas around a “gender theory” which they know to be true.

Because everyone has the right to be who they are.

Even if “people” like Mark Makowiecki are too callous to admit it.

One Nation’s False ‘Liberalisation’

Shan Ju Lin One Nation

Shan Ju Lin, One Nation’s Asian candidate for some seat in Queensland I don’t care about and have never heard of, has been something of a propaganda double-whammy for Ms Hanson’s erratic populist juggernaut. Not only did the visible fact of her ‘non-whiteness’ seemingly put to bed the idea of the party’s racism, her subsequent sacking for making ‘anti-gay’ comments must surely be used by the pointy-headed side of politics as ‘proof’ that One Nation is also free of other forms of bigotry. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Let’s tackle the racism first. Pauline recently embarked on a dictionary-fuelled rant on the meaning of the word ‘racist’, helpfully providing us with a disingenuously monolithic definition, possibly as an exercise in clever sophistry, but more probably as a function of her incompetence with the English language. The fact of the matter is that there are many shades of meaning involved in racism which cannot necessarily be found in a dictionary. Anyone looking for a full appreciation of the term need only perform a few more clicks in Google to discover that ‘racism’ also covers Hanson’s obvious and clearly stated positions of forced assimilation in pursuit of some mythical Australian monoculture. One Nation is racist not because it disdains skin colour or point of origin, but because of its much more insidious and dangerous bigotry directed at other ways of thinking and being – in essence, its intolerance of the existence or even influence of other cultures. In many ways, this is more purely hateful than a simple aversion to black and yellow people, in that it’s more deeply considered, and therefore more disgustingly ungenerous and narrow-minded. So really, the fact of Shan Ju Lin’s heritage is irrelevant – her deep seated and militant intolerance towards immigrants of every kind, and her insistence on dividing them into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ camps on grounds which are frankly insane, reaffirm rather than contradict the bigotry which lies at the heart of the party.

And then there’s the curious case for dismissal of homophobia. This should emphatically not be seen as evidence that Pauline Hanson is in favour of gay rights. Shan Ju Lin herself stated that she issued the Tweets because One Nation had “no policy” with regard to marriage equality or LGBTI rights beyond a vague declaration of support for a plebiscite on marriage equality. No, what we’re seeing here is nothing more than a beleaguered chief of staff trying desperately to hold on to control of the party’s narrative. The recent farcical goings on with Rod Culleton, the persistent insanity of Malcolm Roberts and Pauline’s own unfortunate delusional belief in her ability to speak comprehensibly have seriously eroded any capacity for positive messaging. This is clearly a party engaged in frantic damage control in order to maintain whatever vestiges of credibility which remain to them before they field another bunch of whackos, this time for the House of Reps.

And, in true One Nation style, they are going about this by weeding out crazies, oblivious to the starkly obvious fact that a One Nation shorn of lunatics will be a party without a single, solitary member.

The Safe Schools Program Part 2, or, these are not the numbers you’re looking for

One of the earliest problems I encountered during my actuarial degree was being surrounded by nerds. Oh, and also, the Birthday Problem.

There are a few different ways to formulate the problem, but at the time, it was presented to us as:

If you’re at a party, how many people need to be there for there to be a 50% chance that two guests will have the same birthday?

The first answer that might spring to mind is that, since there are 365 days in a year (well, most years), you would need about half that many people to have a 50% chance of two people having the same birthday – so, around 182 people. That is wrong. By a lot.

The correct answer is actually 23. That’s right, you only need 23 people at a party to have a 50% chance that two of the guests have the same birthday. I won’t go through the calculation, because this post is boring enough already, but it basically comes down to combinatorics. Each time someone arrives at the party, there is a chance that they have the same birthday as someone already there. Thus, the second person who arrives has lots of alcohol to choose from, but also has only one other person to compare birthdays to. By the time the 10th person arrives, however, all the good alcohol is gone, and there are nine people who could have the same birthday. In short, the higher the number of people already there, the greater the chance that the next person who arrives won’t find a drink, but will find a matching birthday.

Keep this in mind for later.

Another interesting fact is that any party where this birthday-checking thing happens has a zero percent chance of being fun. I assume I don’t need to explain that one… suffice to say we all learned a valuable lesson at our first end of exams party.
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In my last post, we learned that over-stating the proportion of LGBTIQ people can make some people a little upset. The official Safe Schools Introductory Guide tells us that:

  • 10% of students are same-sex attracted;
  • 4% of students are gender diverse or trans; and
  • 1.7% of students are intersex.

Some people really hate that 10% figure. Like renowned statistical phenomenon Bill Meuhlenberg, who tells us that “the ten per cent figure has always been a big lie” and “homosexual activists have confirmed [it] to be a case of deliberate deception”. But why does it matter? Well, as Bill points out:

If the homosexual lobby is willing to use faulty statistics to support its cause, just how reliable is it in other areas?

Bill doesn’t provide an answer, but Murray Campbell has similar concerns about the proportion of intersex people. Apparently, “gauging accurate numbers for sexuality and gender is near impossible”. Even so, Safe Schools claims the proportion is around 1 in 60, while “the American Psychological Association suggests the figure to be about 1 in 1,500”. Ouch. Murray suggests that this is like “a political party taking 10 polls, publishing the one that is favourable and deleting the 9 which are less supportive”. The cynic in me says that a better analogy would be that it’s like ignoring countless free polls showing that 70% of Australians support marriage equality and asking to hold another poll that will give the same result but cost $160m and then ignoring that poll too. But the cynic in me also seems to be trying to derail my own post, so I’m going to ignore him.

In any event, Murray informs us that:

This kind of misrepresentation of facts and science straight away raises questions about the legitimacy of [the] program.

Indeed.

Keep this in mind for later, too.
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And by later I mean now.

Apparently, much like never seeing your parents having sex, getting the proportion right is not only near impossible, but also impossibly important. Because if those LGBTIQ people can’t even tell us how many of them there are, how can we trust them enough to believe anything they tell us? They could tell us that we need to, oh I don’t know, run an anti-LGBTIQ bullying program in schools, and we might end up spending millions of dollars saving fewer people from suicide than we thought we could. Let’s be honest, no one wants that.

But if we can’t trust the LGBTIQ community to give us the true state of affairs, who can we trust? Who can we turn to, to assess the legitimacy of the Safe Schools program? Happily, Bill and Murray, but definitely not Bill Murray, show us the way – if we can’t trust the people who don’t give us the true statistics, all we need to do is trust the people who do. You know, like the people who told Murray the proportion of intersex people.

The American Psychological Association.

Let’s ask them about the legitimacy of the Safe Schools program.

Tim: “Tell me, APA, do LGBTIQ people get bullied?”
APA: “Well, Tim, I’m glad you asked. Lesbian, gay and bisexual people encounter extensive prejudice, discrimination and violence because of their sexual orientation.”
Tim: “Trans people have it pretty easy though eh? Just look at Caitlin. She was in a magazine!”
APA: “No Tim, many transgender people are the targets of hate crimes. They are also the victims of subtle discrimination—which includes everything from glances or glares of disapproval or discomfort to invasive questions about their body parts.”
Tim: “So what you’re telling me is that LGBTIQ people are just a bit precious?”
APA: “No, Tim. The widespread prejudice, discrimination, and violence to which LGBTIQ people are often subjected are significant mental health concerns. Sexual prejudice, sexual orientation discrimination and antigay violence are major sources of stress. Although social support is crucial in coping with stress, antigay attitudes and discrimination may make it difficult for LGBTIQ people to find such support.”
Tim: “Yeah OK, but it’s all a mental disorder anyway, isn’t it?”
APA: “No, LGBTIQ orientations are not disorders. Research has found no inherent association between any of these sexual orientations and psychopathology. Both heterosexual behavior and homosexual behavior are normal aspects of human sexuality.”
Tim: “All right, fine! But they make shït parents, and shouldn’t be allowed to have a family.”
APA: “Studies of personality, self-concept, and behavior problems show few differences between children of LGBTIQ parents and children of heterosexual parents.”

Damn you, APA, damn you to hell. I can still use your statistics on LGBTIQ incidence, though… right? Please?
___

Turning to the proportions themselves, there are obviously a wide range of studies that show a wide range of values. Conveniently, people like Bill and Murray, but definitely not Bill Murray, only ever manage to stumble across the studies that confirm the view they already hold. Surprise, surprise, they also like to use measures that distort the picture to suit their needs. Statistics like “only 1% of people achieved orgasm with a member of the same sex in the last year”, or “only 0.002% of people named Sarah have müff-dived with someone named Nancy”.

I can do that, too. Manipulate statistics to suit my agenda I mean, not müff-dive with Nancy. For example, a quick look at Wikipedia will tell you that:

  • A 2011 survey of 7,725 Italians found that only 77% of people identified as heterosexual;
  • A similar study in Britain in 2009 found that 9% of people identified as non-heterosexual.
  • In an update to this study in 2015, only 72% of all adults identified as totally heterosexual.

Who to believe?

In terms of the Safe Schools program itself, however, there is one aspect of the debate on which people like Bill and Murray (and probably Bill Murray) are suspiciously silent. All the studies they quote attempt to determine the proportion of LGBTIQ people in society as a whole. A society in which the vast majority of people were raised to believe that being anything other than a gender-normative heterosexual was a very, very bad idea. A society in which people might be a little reluctant to admit their sexuality and gender identity to themselves, much less to a stranger conducting a telephone survey. A society in which each generation is a little more liberal than the last. And, returning to the 2015 study above, a society in which 72% of all adults identify as totally heterosexual, but when you look at the 18-24 age bracket, only 46% do.

Which is why Safe Schools based their 10% figure on a survey of Australian secondary students by La Trobe University.

All this leads us to two very obvious, and very important, observations:

  1. More and more young people are identifying as LGBTIQ; and
  2. There are still a shïtload of people out there who are going to hate them for it.

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The best part of all this talk of proportions is that it doesn’t even matter. I love it when that happens.

Because even if we accept the figures provided by people like Bill and Murray (but definitely not Bill Murray), it in no way invalidates the Safe Schools program.

If society is a party, and we are the guests, and instead of comparing birthdays, we compare our various levels of male- and femaleness, and hetero- and homosexuality, and acceptance and bigotry, there is an extraordinarily high probability that someone who is just trying to be themselves will encounter someone who wants to make them feel shït about it. And if that happens often enough, there is a very good chance that the person who is just trying to be themselves won’t want to be themselves anymore, and will think suicide is a good way to make that happen.

And it doesn’t matter if the proportion is 1 in 10, or 1 in 365. Given the number of people at the party, there’s a very good chance it will happen eventually.

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s a risk that’s just not worth taking.