Category Archives: opinion

Not just “those people”

When people speak negatively of gay couples, they almost exclusively paint a picture of nameless, faceless people who have nothing to describe them except their genitals. Sorry to be crude, but there it is. They don’t see a person, they see a set of genitals. They don’t realise that these are real people with real lives who have something to offer. They just see “male genitals + male genitals” or “female genitals + female genitals”. Therein lies the root of much of the bias and prejudice.

A couple of weeks ago, I met up with Mum in a shop. I’d just seen that Julia Gillard had been outed and Rudd was back in, and I was excited, and expressed my excitement. The shopkeeper saw fit to comment, and a discussion about politics ensued. That was all fine and well until I mentioned that I don’t like Rowan Ramsey (local politician) because he has ignored the wishes of the people he is supposed to represent, and stated that he will vote no on marriage equality, regardless of what the voters want.

The shopkeeper (who doesn’t know I’m gay; I don’t advertise the fact) saw fit to announce that he has no problem with “those people” as long as they didn’t hit on him (I hate the assumption that gay = predator!), and that they shouldn’t be allowed to have or raise children.

I asked why. He said,
“Because it’s wrong, that’s why.”

I asked how he felt about single mothers, and he said he has no problem with that, because they’re straight. I asked how he knew that they’d be a better mother than a gay woman, and he said ‘they just are’.

I can usually respect other people’s views, but this kind of view is the reason people like me can’t marry, and the reason there’s so much stigma about us raising children. I was raised by a straight couple; my biological father raped me multiple times when I was a child. But hey, he’s straight, so he’s a better parent than a gay guy *rolls eyes*

I ended up walking out of his shop.

See, the thing is that I am not “those people”; most gay people aren’t. I am a woman who is attracted to other women, but I have a name and a face and hopes and dreams and a past and a future. I am somebody’s daughter, somebody’s sister. I have been a mentor to several young folk who refer to me as “Aunty” or “Mum”, folk whose own parents (oddly enough, they were straight) let them down in varying degrees. I am not just a set of genitals.

Gay people are people, just like you. Who we are attracted to does not define who we are.

Rant over.

Disabilities and the PC-Patrol

People try to rename disability as “disABILITY”, handicaps as “handiCAPABLE”, and both as “differently abled”. Of the three, the latter is the only one I don’t find utterly stupid (and borderline offensive!).

I’m sorry, but a disability is a disability, and a handicap is a handicap. If you look at what those words actually mean, and not what the average Joe thinks they mean, then they’re apt.

“Disability”; some aspect of that person is disabled, whether it be a physical or mental function. Think about a machine; it may have five functions, and one or more of them may be disabled. It just means “turned off”, “paused”, “not currently functioning”, “not functioning to full capacity”. It doesn’t mean that the machine is dumb or broken or not capable of other stuff (remember, it has multiple functions), it just means that that particular function is not available. Now think of a quadriplegic; they’re disabled. Their legs have been “turned off”. Their other functions are still active, but that part has been “disabled”. Calling it a “disABILITY” would mean that they could stand if they wanted to, but they’re choosing not to.

“Handicap”; this just means something that makes someone struggle more in a particular area to keep up. Think of a golfing handicap. I’m going to need help with this one, because I’m not familiar with golf, but it refers to the person’s average score or something. It doesn’t mean they can’t play golf, it just means they may require additional coaching or compensation (as in, using a slightly different method/modification) in order to achieve the same score as someone without a handicap, or with less of a handicap. Calling it “handiCAPABLE” means they could play better golf if they’d just TRY!

Now, differently abled, that makes sense. It means that they’re weaker in a particular area, but hey, they’re strong in THIS area. Think of the disabled guy in the wheelchair; running a marathon by foot may be out, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a genius in front of a keyboard. Or if he’s athletically-inclined, maybe he can’t RUN a marathon, but perhaps he can WHEEL it.

To me, swapping one label for another is still saying “there’s something wrong with this person”. You’re still drawing attention to the fact that they have limitations. Saying they’re “differently abled”, however, is accurate, and applies to everyone, not just people with disabilities or handicaps. The focus is on what they can do, or do well, as opposed to what they can’t do.

And don’t get me started on client vs consumer, ugh!

Enough with the political-correctness. Let’s quit focussing on which label we’d prefer to tag people with, and focus on what a person can DO, eh?

And before anyone feels the need to tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about, I identify as disabled due to multiple physical, mental, and cognitive issues. I don’t feel that calling myself disabled/handicapped is derogatory, I feel I’m just stating a fact.

A political jaunt

Or jaunty politics, take your pick. Meh.

During a rather heated discussion about Australian politics today, a lovely friend of mine from “Up Norf” in England brought my attention to an English political party called the “Monster Raving Loony” party.

For the first time in my life, I have found a political party that reflects my views! I have contacted them to ask if they have an Australian branch… watch this space 🙂

http://www.loonyparty.com/ – ’nuff said. What can I say that’s not there?

I’m on the bus!

I boarded the bus at 20:08 tonight. And that’s where the fun begins…

When I booked my ticket, I requested the very last seat at the back of the bus. This is my usual procedure, since I have anxiety issues related to having people behind me. No worries, the driver wrote “13A” on my ticket, and I boarded.

The bus was occupied by about a hundred wide-eyed feral tweens. Fighting the immediate panic I felt at the sight of such a full bus, I made my way to the back. My panic increased when I saw that all three rows at the back were full.

A helpful onlooker, and possible RAICOF (Responsible Adult In Charge Of these Ferals) helpfully suggested that some seats near the front were vacant. I squeaked “13A!” and she shrugged. Another possible RAICOF to my right said,

“It’s okay. Those two at the back are meant to be in front of me. I’ll make them move.” And she did. The tweens glared at me as they were displaced, but it was MY seat!

So I settled in to my seat, pulled out the computer, and logged on to the interwebs. All good, I relaxed, I was in my spot and I was safe.

And then the singing began. It started as one off-key wannabe popstar who mistook us for a dedicated audience, and she was determine to give us our money’s worth. So I took out my headphones and tuned her out with my own music.

Ah, bliss!

Then three other wannabe popstars joined in, and even the headphones were insufficient to muffle their screeches. To make matters worse, about a million of the ferals decided to enhance the concert atmosphere by turning their overhead lights on and off rapidly in quick succession. Ugh!!!

Then another of the RAICOFs piped in with,

“You lot, leave those lights alone!!!” The ferals complied. And the voices went down. Peace resumed, and I decided to do some study. I put the headphones back on, resumed moodle, and lost myself in the cheerful world of elderly incontinence and sputum.

And gradually became aware of a rising chorus. That’s right, the popstars were back. Only this time, all billion of the ferals had chimed in.

On the verge of calling animal control, I was relieved when a RAICOF near the back of the bus suddenly shouted, in a deep growly bass,

“YOU LOT SHUT UP! THERE ARE OTHER PEOPLE ON THE BUS!!!”

That was 15 minutes ago. Peace has prevailed, and the dozen ferals have been subdued.

For now.

To be continued…

Love letters

Every so often, God sends us a “love letter”; a “coincidental” piece of encouragement that lifts us up when we’re feeling discouraged. I received one tonight.

I was just out in the shed, cleaning (again; I had to put the new welder somewhere, and that meant rearranging things again), and was moving a pile of old newspapers (which I use for damage control when re-potting plants) when an article leaped out at me:

REJECTION: A BADGE OF HONOUR

The article was about people who had tried … and failed. Like Stephen King, whose novel “Carrie” was rejected by 30 different publishers (the article speaks of how he had given up and thrown it in the bin, but his wife encouraged him to try just one more time …), or Walt Disney, who was sacked as a journalist because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas”. It speaks of Oprah, who was sacked as a reporter because she was “unfit for TV”.

These people tried, and failed, time and again. Just like I’ve tried, and failed, time and again. Of all the articles in all the newspapers in that pile that could have leaped out at me, that was the one I needed to read the most, right now. So yes, I take this as a “love letter” from God, saying “don’t give up”.

Cyber-bullying

Yes, I know, another blog on that played-out theme … cyberbullying. The difference here, though, is that I have personally experienced the brutal effects of cyber-bullying, as opposed to many of these ‘experts’ who are on the outside looking in.

A few years back (2009, I think it was), I was friends with a gay couple. P was the older of the two, and had schizo-affective disorder. C, the younger, was a little hyper-protective of P. I myself had been diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder at that time, the latest in a long list of ‘diagnoses’ that had been given to me to try and pinpoint what my exact problem was (the current, and most fitting so far, being BiPolar).

I was friends with these two for about two years, I think. I shared a lot of personal details with them, and they did likewise. And then one day P ended up in hospital due to an episode of his illness. I was one of a small group that C took into confidence about this event, and I respected that confidence.

Earlier that year, I had written about my experiences with mental health problems in response to a challenge in a creative writing group I was part of. At that time, I had had several requests for more information, and so I promised that at some point in the near future I would write about it. Well, not long after P ended up in hospital, and completely coincidentaly, two friends asked in the same day for me to tell them more about my experiences. Neither of these two knew about P’s current struggles, and I personally didn’t link the timing of his struggles to the timing of these requests for information. So I wrote about my experiences. I made no reference to P whatsoever.

And then hell broke loose.

C decided I was ‘grandstanding’ P’s illness, and proceeded to harrass me. He told mutual friends about “what I’d done”, and I received harrassment from them also. Attempts to explain the actual circumstances of the blog were met with hostility and accusations, and I began to receive nasty messages about how I was “stealing P’s story” and how I was a nasty person. Several mutual friends turned their back on me, and the stress of the situation landed me in hospital myself, having triggered an episode of suicidal depression and psychotic delusions.

Upon my release from hospital, I was again attacked, this time via a publicly-available blog entry from C claiming that I had never been in hospital, that I had made it up, and that there were “more holes” in my “story” than swiss cheese. A friend of mine stood up for me and was attacked for her efforts. I ended up abandoning that blog and hiding behind a new, private persona. My trust was deeply affected, both online and offline, and it was close to a year before I began to venture out again.

Cyber-bullying is every bit as real as any other kind of bullying, and has much the same effect.

I heard one ‘genius’ quip: “if you’re being bullied on the computer, duh! Just turn the computer off!” That’s over-simplistic and fails to take into account the psychological effect of bullying. ANY bullying. For many people who are bullied online, they’re online in the first place because they have trouble being accepted in the “real world”. Fat kids, awkward kids, kids with zits, kids with glasses, kids who stutter … all find refuge in the internet, because nobody can see their “imperfections” online, the only thing that shows is their personality. These kids (and adults!) can find acceptance online because that first visible barrier is taken down.

That said, telling someone to “just turn the computer off” if they’re being bullied is the same as saying “if you’re being bullied at school, duh! Don’t go to school!” or “if people bully you at work, duh! Don’t go to work!” or “if people bully you when you play sport, duh! Don’t play sport!” It’s telling people to let the bullies chase you away from whatever it is you’re doing.

That’s not the answer. The internet, for all its flaws, has opened up a world of friendship and opportunity to people who previously couldn’t access them. It’s a place where being a ‘nerd’ is something to be proud of. So why should people just walk away from it because someone gets off on being nasty?

Nope. The answer, like the answer to any other kind of bullying, is to stand up to/ignore the bullies. Just like the kid in the playground who steals lunch money, cyber-bullies get a kick out of getting a rise and having people fear them. So don’t give them that kick. Ignore them, and just enjoy the online experience elsewhere. Report the bullies to admins where possible, use the block feature where available, and just don’t give them that kick. Whatever you do, don’t let them get to you, because then they’ve won.

I took a long time to learn this. I hid for years after I was cyber-bullied. I feared venturing away from my own little page where I’d built a fort made of privacy controls. I even went to the extent of trying to justify myself by posting copies of psychologist/psychiatrist reports to prove I wasn’t lying. All I had to do, though, was simply block them and move on to better people. It’s the online equivalent of walking away from a schoolyard bully, and denying them that power. You haven’t left the schoolyard, you’ve only left the bully.

A final thought for those who know someone who is being cyber-bullied; stand up for your mates! Let them know they’re not alone, even if it labels you “uncool”. What a bullied person needs most is support, and with that support, they’ll survive. And if enough people stand up to support the victim, the bully ends up with egg on their face. What got me through, in the end, was friends.

Gay Pride?

All of what I’m about to write is purely from my own perspective; I can’t speak on anyone else’s behalf, and I wouldn’t try to. No matter what ‘group’ we’re in (and we’re all part of any number of groups, there is no one group that completely defines up), we’re all individuals within that group. The group in question for this entry is the ‘gay’ group, but that is by no means an exhaustive description.

There’s this belief in the existence of ‘gay pride’. Parades are held in the name of gay pride. People wave rainbow-coloured flags to show their pride. I always just accepted that that meant “proud to be gay”.

In light of recent events, though, I have to wonder about that. I was sitting here tonight, beading a dongle for my bag, and I picked up a rainbow-coloured bead to head the row of beads and show my ‘gay pride’. That got me to wondering … what exactly am I proud of?

Am I proud of the fact that I’m attracted to women? No, I really don’t think so. I really don’t see a need to advertise my same-gender attraction, and attraction to a particular gender is not brag-worthy, it just is. Some people are attracted to the same sex, some to the opposite sex, and some to neither sex (it’s true; there are some people that are just not interested in pursuing a relationship of any kind, they’re happy to be single and they have no sex drive to speak of. And that is fine, that’s who they are).

So what am I proud of?

Well, my ‘gay pride’ lies in the courage it took to stand up and be myself in the face of much opposition. Being gay is not a popular thing, there is a whole world full of people who will pursue, condemn, hurt, and even kill people just for being gay. It takes guts to be yourself in the face of that. I take pride in the fact that I was able to come out to my parents in the end. I take pride in the fact that they have accepted me as I am, and have placed no conditions on that acceptance.

For me, at least, gay pride means being proud of the courage to stand up and stop living a lie. Gay pride is about being honest with yourself, and honest with others. And demonstrations of gay pride, even a simple bead dongle, show other people that they can be true to themselves as well. It extends beyond being gay; showing pride for the courage to be openly gay means that others can find courage to come out about the secrets they’ve been hiding. Maybe it gives them courage to stand up to their peers who pressure them to take drugs they don’t want. Maybe it gives them courage to say no, I won’t drive like an idiot, I want to be safe. Maybe it gives them courage to say yes, I will wait until I’m married before I have sex.

Gay pride is about so much more than who we’re attracted to. Gay pride is about personal integrity. At least, that’s what it means to me.

So I’ll go back to making that dongle now, and I shall wear it with pride!

The beauty of nature …

When you hear someone speak of the beauty of nature, you probably call to mind such traditionally beautiful things as bees in a meadow, or a robin singing merrily, or a magnificent waterfall. But I wonder … do we give all of nature its due?

I was out in the shed today, continuing the work I started yesterday (namely cleaning, organising, and de-mousifying), when I came across a Daddy-Long-Legs spider standing near an egg sac. The spider saw me, grabbed the egg sac, and legged it. It looked for all the world like a momma screaming “my babies! My baabiieeeeeeeeesss!!!”

You can call it instinct if you like, preservation of the species, but I call it nature’s wonders. I wondered about the same thing on Friday when I saw a picture of a snake, and for the first time really saw into its eyes; curiousity, interest, and something else benign that I couldn’t identify.

We fear these creatures, and we’re right to fear them; after all, many of them can harm or kill us. But do we give them enough credit for their uniqueness?

And what about harmless but traditionally ‘ugly’ creatures such as mice? I opened up a box yesterday, reached in to pull out some papers, and a little grey mouse poked his head out and looked at me with interest in his eyes. In that split second before I screamed with surprise (I’m not scared of mice, I used to breed them), I registered a complete lack of fear or malice in his approach, just pure curiousity.

Is that not beauty, in and of itself, that a creature so small and vulnerable would approach a relative giant just to satisfy his curiousity?

I think we need to redefine what is beautiful. I don’t think beauty is limited to those things which are pleasing to the eye, or the soul. I think beauty is all around us, in the everyday wonders of discovery and individuality, even in such creatures as mice, spiders, and snakes. What do you think?

Pondering Religion in a Census

There is this simplistic view that if a person has a certain belief, they can be fit into a certain checkbox.  Believe in God? You’re a christian.  Believe in Allah? You’re a muslim.  Believe in reincarnation? You’re a hindu …

For the purposes of this entry, I’m going to focus on Christianity, because it’s the faith I subscribe to, and it’s the one I know most about.  I feel it would be disrespectful and counter-productive to focus on a religion I know less about.

I came across an event page on Facebook today stating that Australians who don’t actively go to church should just write “no religion” in the upcoming census.  Why?  Because if you’re not active in church, you’re only aligned to that religion because somebody told you to be, and you’re taking “numbers” away from the atheist community and thereby disadvantaging them (there was even a claim that it leads to discrimination against non-Christians).

As a non-conformist Christian (aka a freethinking Christian), I know first-hand that going to church isn’t a mark of a Christian.  It’s one of the accepted practices, sure, but it’s not all there is.  I personally avoid church because I find too much hypocrisy and conflict in there that distracts from God.

There were other statements made in this thread, that Christians are anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-euthanasia, and that they’re the reason gay couples can’t adopt in Australia.  I find it interesting that someone who would mock me as “unintelligent” and “believing fairy tales” would make such fallacious statements and thereby show their lack of research and understanding.

For one thing, Australian laws are not solely decided by Christians.  In fact, Christians often get upset because their views aren’t even taken into account.  But that aside, you can’t know what someone thinks on a certain issue based on their religion.  I’m not anti-gay, I’m not pro-gay, I simply take the view that each person is responsible for their own lives, and if that is their life, I have no right to say otherwise.

That said, I actually have no issue with gay people, and I certainly can’t support anti-gay hysteria using the Bible (you know, that book that has love, forgiveness, charity, and acceptance as its core message).  And the statement about gay couples not being allowed to adopt is rubbish anyway; had that commenter done their homework, they would see that not only is adoption by gay couples legal, gay couples can also get legal de-facto status and be recognised by government agencies as a legal couple.

I’m anti-abortion (except in certain cases that I’ll probably go into at some point), but that’s not because I’m Christian and have been told to think that way.  I’ve been anti-abortion since I was 15 and really started to research what abortion was.  I’ve been a Christian since I was 19.  I was anti-abortion four years before I became a Christian!  I’m not the only one who is/was anti-abortion without being Christian; most pro-lifers don’t have any kind of religion, they simply believe in the inherent right to life.

I’ve also been told that my belief in creation theory is brain-washing by the church, and no intelligent person would believe in a literal 7-day creation.  Actually, I started to question evolution theory (yes, theory, not fact; it’s just one of many theories) when I was 13.

It just didn’t make sense to me; if we came from bacteria that turned into sludge, where did that bacteria come from? (“Particles in space” is the answer I was given when I asked this in class).  Where did those particles come from?  “Another planet”.  But who put them there?  How did creatures select certain adaptations?  Why would an Emu develop the ability to run rather than fly, and why didn’t they then develop arms instead of useless wings?

I started to doubt evolution theory back when I was 13.  That’s six years before I became a Christian.  I had no Christian upbringing; the one time I asked to read the Bible as a kid, I was told “no, it doesn’t make sense and you wouldn’t understand it”.  I’d hardly call that being brainwashed.

As far as the question of voluntary euthanasia, that is being decided by ethics committees and lawmakers, not christians.  No doubt some of the people involved in the process are Christian, but they won’t be allowed to use “the Bible says” as an argument.  They will need to provide legal evidence and case studies, etc, to support whatever stance they take.  Same as anyone else.

So we come back to this group of atheists.  The basic drive of their campaign is to “get religion out of politics” (not that it’s in there anyway, that’s just a scapegoat for their own agenda).  They make such claims as “us atheists are being forced to live under Christian rule” (Australia has no official religion; we’re considered a Christian country only because the majority write “Christian” on the census) … and yet they want to make sure that atheists have the majority vote, which would put us under atheistic leadership.

Can’t they see it’s exactly the same as what they’re against?  One group dictating to the other how they can live?

The major issues are decided by lawmakers and ethics committees and occasional polls.  These include representatives from atheists, agnostics, christians, muslims, hindus, etc, etc, etc.  There is no one group in control, and we’re better off that way.  It allows us to think for ourselves should we choose to, and it gives all the groups a voice.

And the census isn’t political, it’s about gathering data.  This group, however, is using it to push a political agenda.  And mocking and belittling anyone who dares to stand up to them, making such statements as “the ‘holy books’ belong in the fiction section of the library, and anyone who believes in those fairy-tales is an idiot”.  If a religious group made such definite claims that their beliefs are right, it would be “Bible-bashing”.  The hypocrisy astounds me.

Why doesn’t she leave?

I was reading a post on Facebook today that made me angry, as similar posts in their arrogance always do:

“I give up! If she wants to go back to that dipshit, she’s obviously happy being abused”

So simplistic!  Of course everyone who stays in Domestic Violence is perfectly happy, that’s why they call it Domestic Violence; it’s code-name for “land of happiness and bliss”.  And if you’ve never been in DV yourself, it can be almost impossible to understand why someone would escape just to go back again.  And again.  And again.

So why DO people go back?  Is it an underlying sado-masochistic tendency that enjoys being abused?  Some people seem to think so.  Let’s explore that, though … if a person is truly sado-masochistic (or whichever term you’d like to apply, “sucker for punishment” perhaps?), then why do they leave in the first place?  Leaving is often traumatic in and of itself, so why go through it again and again?

I’ve been in Domestic Violence.  My partner had violent mood swings, and would lash out at me over the simplest things; perhaps I hadn’t folded his washing exactly right.  Perhaps I bought the wrong size drink.  Perhaps I just happened to be standing in the wrong spot.

I justified his behaviour.  I explained to people that he was under stress, or that he’d had a hard life, or that he was just having a bad day, he wasn’t normally like that.  I explained away the bruises.  When my parents revealed that he’d been preventing me from receiving their calls, I explained that he was just protective of me.

It was bullshit of course, but when you’re in that situation, there’s always an explanation.

By the time I finally decided to leave, I was on my own.  All my friends had turned away because I obviously liked it, or I wouldn’t have stayed.  My family had been distanced by his behaviour.  I ended up on the street briefly because I had nowhere else to go.

So I went back.

The next time I left him, I took what little money I had and I went to a caravan park.  He begged me to come home, promised me he’d change.  So I went home with him.  I was convinced that I loved him.

And then I got to a point where I hated him, but then my confidence was so low that I believed I didn’t deserve any better.  So I stayed.

It wasn’t until he violently raped me, resulting in a pregnancy that resulted in miscarriage, that I could finally leave.  I threatened to call the police if he came around again, because the grief of losing the baby was stronger than any hold he had over me.  If that hadn’t happened, I might well still be with him now.

So when I read comments like “well, she obviously likes it or she’d leave”, it re-opens those wounds.  Were those years just self-inflicted pain?  That’s what comments like that imply.

It’s easy to judge when you haven’t been there.  Of course it looks simple enough to leave, when you’re sitting there in your comfortable life, with your store of confidence, and things are going well.  Of course it’s easy to see he’s an asshole when you’re on the outside looking in.  But when you’re on the inside, it’s not so black and white.

I’m helping a friend right now who is in Domestic Violence.  He can’t seem to leave either.  Yes, it happens to men as well …

Maybe if we can get people to understand what living in DV is like, they’ll be a bit more supportive of their friends who are in it.  Because support is what’s going to help them get out, not more judgement and criticism to reinforce what they’re getting at home.

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