Talking about religion 

Discussing religion has always been a bit tricky for me, mostly because an old American saying that has stuck with me: “The quickest way to clear out a room is talk race or religion.” 

  

My parents were from two separate branches of Christianity, my father was a Catholic and my mother was Baptist. (I should add that they both frowned upon Pentacostal theatrics.) This created somewhat of a conundrum for them when it came to what branch I’d be raised in. What they came up with was what I’d call “Commercialist Protestantism” although that wasn’t what they called it.

“Commercialist Protestantism,” is basically “Christmas = Santa Claus and presents” and “Easter = candy and the Easter Bunny,” with a belief in The Golden Rule and that you can always talk to God. 

To their credit, they wanted me to establish my own spiritual relationship with the world, although my mother often worried that I was never baptised (oddly enough, Baptist liturgy says that children shouldn’t be baptised as it is a choice one should make on one’s own without pressure). 

I mention my religious background because one of things I have encountered a lot as a gay man are other gay men for whom religion was wielded as a weapon of fear and intimidation. It’s something I really cannot comprehend:  how can any faith sustain itself when it scares others into such trauma? 

Personally, I have no ill will towards any religion, and I believe that there are not necessarily bad belief systems, but rather people who seek to use faith to serve their own biases and selfish ends.

And in case you are wondering if I still subscribe to Commercialist Protestantism? Well, I do…with a bit of a twist:

  

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The Antipodean Dilemma of the Gay Traveler

I’ve lived in Australia for 4 years now, and I do love living here, but it’s location in the world can be trying.

If you have your family and/or business mostly in the Western part of the United States, getting there is about a 12-14 hour nonstop flight to Los Angeles or San Francisco.

(This also explains why Australians tend to view the US through a Californian lens, and worthy of its own post.)

Getting to the Midwest or the East Coast generally involves adding on a flight from California to one’s final destination, adding on an extra 3-6 hours.

QANTAS itself operates a flight from New York to Los Angeles (where you can subsequently connect to its flights to the Australian East Coast), mostly due to the presumed reputation of US carriers and also to get its own significant slice of the fare pie.

Now, the reason I bring this up, is because QANTAS has been in the Australian media a lot these days because of their new alliance with Emirates, a major carrier from Dubai.

Emirates has been making serious inroads into the Australian market because whilst it’s 13 hours to Dubai from Sydney, it’s also 5 or 6 hours from Dubai to Europe, and the Europe to Australia market is huge and competitive.

Whereas before one generally flew QANTAS from Australia to Europe via Singapore (where homosexuality is illegal, but the law is rarely enforced), or via Hong Kong (where it is at least legal to be gay), or Bangkok (same), now those who want to fly the main national carrier will be routed through the UAE, a country where there are significant legal differences with Australia, homosexuality being illegal and prosecuted being a notable difference, as this article in the Star Observer points out.

Even the Australian government itself warns gay travelers to the UAE.

The other main Australian carrier, Virgin Australia, has an alliance with UAE carrier Etihad Airways, to fly its Europe bound passengers via Abu Dhabi. (Oddly enough they don’t emphasise the daily Virgin Atlantic flight from Sydney to London via Hong Kong, but that’s a bit of a quirk of Virgin Australia’s ownership.)

Getting to Europe without going through the UAE is seemingly difficult, but not impossible.

Air New Zealand avoids the issue by having its London flights via Los Angeles, though it’s not the most pleasant transit experience from what I’ve heard.

China Southern, Cathay Pacific, Thai, and JAL have been encouraging Australians to get to Europe (and the US) via Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Tokyo respectively.

That said it is hard to avoid the intense advertisement by the UAE carriers. I gave in, even though I was fully aware that by doing so, I was giving money to a homophobic government.

So I flew to Chicago from Melbourne via Abu Dhabi.

The flight was present, but when I got to the lounge, I was not able to log into several gay-identified websites (AfterElton, JOY94.9, The Advocate), because they were blocked.

Perhaps this is a bit close to my heart, because I’ve worked in the LGBT media. Others might not be bothered by it.

For me, personally, the cost savings were outweighed by the moral compromise.

It’s the little things that can unnerve

This morning’s edition of The Courier-Mail (Queensland newspaper, owned by News Limited) features an article by Ainsley Pavey that mentions how the former partner of a millionaire has won a big settlement partly due to the fact that the partner undertook significant housekeeping duties during the relationship.

The judge’s ruling gave that as the reason for rewarding the settlement.

Pretty cut and dry, and not too shocking in this era of multi-million dollar divorces, etc.

However this is the headline: “Millionaire’s former gay lover wins a slice of his fortune for being housekeeper during their relationship.”

When I mentioned in yesterday’s post that homophobia in media is a problem that can be addressed now, this is a prime example. I do not know Ms. Pavey, but I will make a fair-minded assumption that she’s not intentionally homophobic, and that the copy editor who proofed this article was not governed by trafficking in homophobia in order to bolster sales. Rather, I’ll just assume that they had a deadline and that for whatever reason old offensive lexicon fell through the cracks. Maybe it needed some extra pizzazz beyond “property developer and ex-partner resolve 3 year legal battle.”

(Disclosure: I have a subscription to the Courier-Mail and I’m for Queensland too…except at State of Origin, but even then…)

The headline says “former gay lover.” Apparently having money puts you above sexual orientation, but being the financially dependent partner is another matter entirely.

The headline and article also uses the word “lover” and “ex-lover” throughout.  While the gay community has used the word “lover” in the past, present-day discourse actually uses the word “partner” to refer to those in a long term relationship. Given that the Australian government has had legislation for de facto partnerships (inclusive of same-sex ones) for quite some time, and the general practice is to use the word “partner” instead of “lover,” the article infers an inequality between same-sex partnerships (who can’t marry) and heterosexuals who choose not to. Again, perhaps the person who proofed the article hasn’t bothered to ask any of the gay people they know as to what the proper term is. It’s not an offensive question though, feel free to ask.

The article then launches into the standard summary of the judge’s findings.

Now, this is up for interpretation based upon how familiar one is with how gay men have been treated in media through the ages:

Now, with that build up before getting to the actual basis of the judgement (the judgement is oddly enough a sign that same sex relationships are equal), the article immediately distances itself from any gay readers.

To a reader that may not have as much knowledge of gay representation on film, the archaic phrasing of “former gay lover” is in itself off-putting. To a reader, particularly one who is aware and knows openly gay people, this particular article recalls the “bad old days” when to be openly gay in Queensland was a crime.

 

We are all slurs

An advisory: This particular post contains use of racial epithets and homophobic language. My hope is that this will engender some discussion, and perhaps any discomfort will be, in the long run, brief.

Words have a power all their own

Words have a power all their own (Photo credit: Lynne Hand)

I had an interesting exchange in a cab here in Melbourne some time ago. The driver told me that he was glad that I was a Black American, as opposed to a Somali immigrant, because in his mind and/or experience Somalis are “violent thugs.”

Cowardly, I did not call him on that. In fact, I didn’t think about that incident until today when I told someone that journalists and others should call out a performer for calling someone a “faggot.”

My response was that it’s a point of respect: how can you be a fan of someone who will gladly take your money but not respect who you are intrinsically?

I feel the same way about the use of the word “faggot” as I do about “nigger.”

They are slurs. Period.

I do not understand the purpose in reclaiming them. Is it a lack of creativity? Or is it a sense of saying “I’m not like those people, so please don’t be prejudiced against me?”

Living here in Australia, often times I come across social media where two Australians will refer to each other as “nigga,” under the belief that it’s a term of endearment.

The funny thing about social media is that it’s public.

On a completely emotional level, I would like to go to every house in this nation and tell them the history of this word. This word was used to dehumanise, demean, and sell people. This word was the last thing some people heard before they were lashed by whips or hung by a tree.

And some might say, well that was years ago, it has no impact on the present.

ABSOLUTELY NOT!

This word and its history exist as long as we continue to have racial discord in this world, and I mean racial discord between any races.

The second that you fail to see how a slur against someone else affects you, you become the next likely target.

This is also a matter of self-respect. If you don’t love yourself, then how can you expect others to love you, or even respect you?

By using these terms or even accepting these terms in the public sphere, you are allowing them to breathe.

Most likely, the reason why these words exist is because of lyrics: People want to emulate celebrities that they respect. If they feel that they get a better sense of who they are and what they want to be, then that is totally fine. The real problem comes from wanting to emulate without thinking.

Here’s a three letter word that isn’t used as much as it used to be: Why?

Why are these celebrities the way they are? What struggles have they gone through? What have they seen that perhaps you have and perhaps you haven’t?

Love the music. Love the film. Love the show, but don’t think that for one second playing verbal dressup will bring you closer to understanding your role models.

Listening will. Listening to what they have to say and why they said it will. Reading will. And here’s the tough bit: You can’t skip the listening, no matter how much you want to.

Otherwise, you’re just front.

I’m not trying to clamp down on expression, far from it. I’m just wondering at what point does personal responsiblity for that expression kick in?

Saying that you heard XYZ celeb say something and therefore by extension you can say it too, is a cop out. It places you on the level of a parrot. And the parrot has an excuse, you as a human being don’t, because you have a brain that is capable of complex thought and get a load of this:  Capable of compassion towards others both animal and human.

Compassion and listening will break down more walls than downloads and blog posts.