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May 19th 2014 print

Intolerance At The End Of The Rainbow

Reasonable people can disagree about same-sex marriage -- or rather, they should be able to hold different points of view. Not in my little town, however, where the message from the noisy phalanx of rainbow-draped new residents is that death is the only remedy for dissent

gay eyeToward the end of a recent talk entitled “Homophobia in Rural Victoria” and advertised as  “a rowdy and lively discussion” these words were spoken at our local Neighbourhood House by the convenor,I suppose we’ll just have to wait until they all die off”. That sentiment received an immediate and near-universal endorsement from the 30-or-so present.

I had attended the meeting after interpreting the advertisement to mean there would be an actual discussion around the issue of ‘homophobia’ This was of interest to me as I recently bought a house in the town, and had  noticed that a significant and growing proportion of the new (and a few of the older) residents in the town were gay couples. It seemed to me that the town was quickly becoming not only gay friendly, but gay dominated. I had noticed that locals who have lived in the town for generations tend not to mix with the newer residents, who seemed to congregate at one end of the main street, where there were several rainbow-flagged cafes. My town, it seemed to me, had become divided into three factions — the locals, the gays, and another group conisting of tree-change refugees from the Melbourne suburbs of Northcote and St Kilda. When I saw the homophobia discussion advertised, I thought it a healthy initiative, an opportunity to gauge my neighbours’ feeling with regard to the developing divisions between the town’s three groups.

It turned out that “the discussion” was not as it had been billed. Rather than a free, frank and open exchange of community views it was, in fact, an hour-long lecture by a gay bloke who had written a book about his trip (clockwise) around Australia in which he had discussed over ‘cups of tea’ the ‘levels of ‘homophobia’ locals in places like Kalgoorlie were experiencing. There was some opportunity for questions at the end, during which it became apparent that all present were either gay or very, very keen to show how gay-friendly they were.

I asked the author how many actual homophobes — what he would define that way, at any rate –  he had spoken to during his trip. His response went on so long that I realised half way through that he had not spoken to a single ‘homophobes’ and, further, that he had written his book without any knowledge or understanding of ‘homophobes’ at all. As far as he was concerned, a ‘homophobe’ is someone who does not advocate loudly for gay people in general and gay marriage in particular. Homophobes are the absolute lowest form of life and should be mocked when it is not possible to ignore them altogether. That was ‘the discussion’s’ tone.

Personally, I am gay-friendly to about six percent of the population, which a rough rule of thumb says is a figure that represents the incidence of gayness across the overall population. Beyond that I begin to flag a bit. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I still flinch at the notion of homosexuality. I know I shouldn’t. But I do, because my first unwanted sexual experience was homosexual. It irks me that paedophilia is always viewed from the perpetrators’ point of view. That is, paedophiles are spoken about by the psychiatrists and sociologists as embracing a different form of sexuality from homosexuality. Yet my personal experience as a twelve-year-old was of unwanted and unwelcome predatory homosexual interference. Because this sexual experience was homosexual, I had the added complication for quite a few years of wondering if I, too, was homosexual.

So must I now also be vilified as a homophobe? I remember when they used to say that about the Aboriginal people – “I suppose we’ll just have to wait until they all die off.” Such a perspective pre-supposes a moral certainty which indicates that those who cannot keep up with the ‘morally progressive’ are dead weights on society — Neanderthals, one gathers, were more advanced than people like me, who take no delight in Mardi Gras antics and find the flamboyant, in-your-face displays of gayness somewhat off-putting. There is an enormous arrogance in such throw-away statements. In seeing one party’s demise as the only solution to a disagreement what we observe is a mindless moral certainty and complete dismissal of dissent. Much the same mindset is also apparent in those championing alternative views on any of the big four issues — race, gender, sexuality and religion (including the state theology of the climate-change creed.)

I don’t agree that time and mortality will do away with homophobes, as the speaker at my community meeting hopefully asserted. I think homophobes will persist even after my generation has ‘died off’, and a better policy than the deaf ear would be to actually listen to their concerns and allow them to speak their minds. I do not wish to hand over my ‘moral sovereignty’ to the local Neighbourhood House, where purported “discussions” are exclusively one-sided. I’m aware of what happened in Germany during the Thirties when ‘moral sovereignty’ was surrendered to the group-think of the dominant faction which brooked no dissent.

As I said, I can handle about six percent of my town being gay. Perhaps I’m only six percent homophobic and, as such, still reasonably ‘inclusive’. I wonder if the gay community is also inclusive of me – or are they, by their very nature, exclusive? Are they mindlessly certain of their moral superiority? How is that they can dismiss and silence all dissent by branding all who disagree with the totality of their agenda as ‘homophobes’?

What happened to free speech? Indeed, what has happened to the formerly unchallenged definition of what constitutes ‘a discussion’?

Rather than risk becoming an outcast and the object of further abuse, the author has asked that both he and his small town not be named