Fearless Firsts: Australian “No to Homophobia” Campaign Aims to Change The Workplace

The ALSO Foundation, a Victoria, Australia-based LGBTQ rights and visibility activism organization, launched its high-profile anti-homophobia campaign last year, meeting with continued acclaim and supportive media coverage.

Entitled “No to Homophobia,” the campaign raises consciousness and encourages role models to liaise with the community to teach acceptance and inclusiveness to the community at large.

Jason Ball, a prominent out gay Aussie footballer, is one of the foundation’s many in-community campaign leaders who’s teaching AFL players to stand in their truth, and requesting that the AFL ALSO’s  anti-homophobia ads during footy (their first campaign was successful and the advertising  aired on national television during the AFL preliminary finals).

According to the ALSO Twitter page, The ALSO Foundation is “Australia’s first public campaign targeting #homophobia, #biphobia, #transphobia and LGBTIQ harassment.” In its video and television ads (http://www.youtube.com/user/NoToHomophobia), the foundation illustrates common scenarios where social and workplace harassment might go unreported.

Former ALSO CEO Crusader Hills told the Australian press, “There’s never been a television commercial about homophobia, let along around transphobia and biphobia.”

The short, impactful ad spots deal with thoughtless—and illegal—comments made in workplace or intersocial environments, spotlighting bullying or ignorant remarks and gestures. (For example: male workers say something to a lesbian about her personal life after she asks them a simple work-related question).

Victoria, Australia’s anti-bullying legislation does provide certain protections, and the public relations and community outreach teams for The ALSO Foundation aim to ensure  the public is made fully aware of their rights under the law.

Topics covered in the PSA series include homophobic/trans-phobic/bi-phobic harassment in sports and at work, sexually-based harassment, and gender-based harassment, as well as the legal steps to take, such as  filing reports with local authorities.

Anna Brown from the No to Homophobia campaign told The Age Online:

“This is a community-driven grassroots campaign that really aims to raise awareness of the harm caused by homophobic harassment, and the fact that it’s directly linked to anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide. The consequences of this harassment can last a lifetime. We’re really encouraging the community to understand that we all have a responsibility to stand up to homophobic harassment wherever it occurs, and even if we’re not the targets ourselves. So if you witness harassment and do nothing, you’re condoning it or letting it continue unchallenged.”

The commercials ask viewers to take action “No matter how subtle” the harassment may be.

Anna Brown continued, “We have a comprehensive online resource…it provides people with the resources they need to get informed, find support, and take action to put a stop to homophobia. We’d encourage everyone to go there and find out more about what they can do to respond to homophobia personally. But also to spread the word amongst their friends, colleague, neighbors and people to really raise awareness and tackle homophobia as a community.”

For more information, please visit http://www.notohomophobia.com.au.

If you witness or experience harassment or bullying in the workplace, do you know what your options are or what the next steps to take might be?

New Studies Give Support to Same-Sex Parenting

While many see that one of the next big things for the lgbt movement to tackle will be adoption rights, they might not have to worry about dissenters commenting on same-sex parents and their ability to raise children.

Two recent studies, one in Australia and one in the U.S., point to children raised by same-sex parents not differing from, though perhaps even doing better than, children raised by opposite-sex families.

Melbourne University conducted the “Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families,” which is touted as the world’s largest study to date looking at the impact of gay and lesbian parents on their children. The study collected data on 500 children around Australia up to the age of 17, and interviewed 315 gay, lesbian, and bisexual parents by having them complete the world recognized “Child Health Questionnaire.”

Preliminary results in the study indicate no differences between children raised in same-sex and opposite-sex families in terms of physical and mental health, as well as in their social interactions among peers and adults.

A major difference though was that researchers found a higher degree of family cohesion and general health and happiness in children raised in same-sex families. A drawback to this is that children are more likely to experience discrimination because of their parents’ sexual orientation, which, lead researcher of the study, Dr. Simon Crouch, does think matters. “One of our hypotheses is that this experience of discrimination does have an impact on child health and well-being.”

However, as Dr. Crouch points out, this may be the reason why family cohesion was greater in families of gay and lesbian parents: “Because of the situation that same-sex families find themselves in, they are more willing to communicate and approach the issues that any child may face at school, like teasing or bullying. This fosters openness and means children tend to be more resilient. That would be our hypothesis.”

The other study, published in the July/August edition of Child Development, studied 104 families all across the United States: 50 headed by heterosexual couples, 25 by lesbian parents, and 29 by gay male partners. The children were all adopted at birth or within the first few weeks of life, and at the time of the study all were around three years old.

Researchers Dr. Rachel H. Farr, University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Dr. Charlotte J. Patterson, University of Virginia, found that ultimately, regardless of the gender of the parents, the children with positive child behavior lived with parents who had supportive co-parenting interactions, including greater pleasure, engagement, and communication between parents. The children with behavioral problems lived in homes with competition between the parents and dissatisfaction with divisions in child care. Dr. Farr and Dr. Patterson commented, “it was the parents who were the most satisfied with their arrangements with each other who had children with fewer behavior problems, such as acting out or showing aggressive behavior.”

The researchers noticed that gay and lesbian parents were more likely to share equally in childcare tasks, while heterosexual parents would specialize in their chores. Even with this division, researchers concluded that it didn’t matter: “It appears that while children are not affected by how parents divide childcare tasks, it definitely does matter how harmonious the parents’ relationships are with each other.”

While the number is unclear, there are reported millions of children living with same-sex parents. With these two important studies, it gives great support to advocates of same-sex parents, showing that it really is the love of the parents and a supportive atmosphere that raises the best and most well-adjusted children.

Australian Political Leaders Say No To Gay Marriage Referendum.

Hopes of holding a referendum on Gay Marriage in Australia were dealt a cruel blow recently when both the anti-gay prime minister of Australia Julia Gillard and leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott have ruled it out.

The Independent MP Tony Wilson had suggested holding a referendum on gay marriage on the same day as the general election in September this year. However Gillard rejected the notion outright, ‘the most appropriate way for the government to consider such an amendment is through a conscience vote in parliament’, she said.

Abbott also rejected the idea of a referendum, saying ‘I think the coming election should be uncomplicated by other matters’.

Oddly enough the only groups strongly in favour of a public vote on legalizing gay marriage are religious groups who oppose a change in the law. The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils’ assistant secretary Keysar Trad said ‘Let’s have a referendum but a referendum of this nature is a little strange if people who don’t believe in God are allowed to tell people who do believe in God about a religious matter. Marriage is a religious union under God, it has always been and should always be. God sets the rules, not parliament.’

Australian Christian Lobby and head of the Christian Democratic Party Reverend Fred Nile, also called for a referendum. ‘I think people should decide the issue,’ Nile said to Fairfax Media. ‘But the question has to be clear. A question like “are you in favor of marriage equality?” will confuse some people. I’m in favor of marriage equality – between a husband and a wife. ‘The question has to be black and white: “Do you agree that homosexuals should be legally married?” I think the majority of people would vote no if the question was clear.’

National convener of Australian Marriage Equality, Rodney Croome, said that the anti-gay groups’ enthusiasm for a referendum shows why he is against the idea. ‘Overseas referenda on marriage equality have been exploited by cashed-up, anti-gay groups to conduct fear and hate campaigns against gay people,’ said Croome in an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald. ‘An Australian referendum would give anti-gay stalwarts such as Fred Nile the biggest megaphone they have ever had.’

Ban Gay Sex Says Australian Psychologist

A homophobic psychologist and candidate seeking election in New South Wales, Australia has demanded gay sex to be outlawed and for the right to discriminate against Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender citizens.

Philip Pocock, who claims to be a psychologist, is standing as an independent representative in Canberra, in the Australian Capital Territory, uploaded a video in 2008 defending the Pope’s anti-gay doctrine. In the YouTube rant he argues that homosexuality resembled a threat to humanity as great as climate change claiming the Pope was “correct, even from a scientific view”.

“The first step to dealing with the problem is to accept that despite genetically different levels of masculinity that are often visually evident, no one is a homosexual unless they practice homosexual acts, in the same way that no one is a bank robber unless they rob a bank” Pocock prattles on in the video.

The future politician criticises Australia’s political establishment for paying “lip service” to social conservatives, Mr Pocock refers to gay people as “perverts”. He also wants to see “rules” against sex before marriage, infidelity and divorce. According to local reports, he recently told the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn that most politicians are either inadequate to enforce “legitimate sexual expression” or they are addicted to “distortions of sexuality.” He also declared that “a true ‘union’ only occurs in heterosexual vaginal intercourse and homosexual unions not only deserve no special rights but must be seen as the destructive behaviours that should be actively discouraged.”

Pocock doesn’t trust his fellow Australians, claiming that sexuality should not be left to individuals but regulated by the state,  “It is not something that should just be left to individuals, in the privacy of their bedroom.” he said.

However, one supposes we could be quite lucky, for Pocock stops one step short of provoking and promoting physical violence saying that nobody had the right to engage in “poofter bashing”.  But apparently this is not an attack on gay people,  it is, according to Pocock an expression of love.   His warped idea of love we can well do without.

Sadly Pocock’s views are not isolated, there is an increasing atmosphere of homophobia and discrimination reported since the bill for marriage equality failed to get enough support a little earlier in September.

Gay Marriage Will Bring In Polygamy

A senior cleric from the South Australian Catholic Church has warned state Premier Jay Weatherill’s backing of same sex marriage will open the door and the floodgates to polygamy and lead to “weaken the family as the basis of society”.

Mr Weatherill has backed a move for South Australia to go it alone on marriage equality if the Australian Federal Parliament does not move on the issue in the coming year. There are a number of legal disputes regarding whether states have the power to regulate marriage, which would need to be explored and resolved before South Australia could change current marriage discrimination.

Bishop Greg O’Kelly of The Port Pirie Diocese issued a statement this week attacking Mr Weatherill’s position. “What the Premier has described as marriage equality is not the equal to marriage as all cultures and faiths have understood it throughout the centuries,” Bishop O’Kelly said, adding “Marriage demands a man and a woman in a vowed permanent union that is open to life. If people are to be entitled, as the premier says, to express their identity in any way they wish, and that is all that constitutes marriage, then the gates are open to all sorts of arrangements like polygamy and polyandry, and the weakening of the family as the basis of society.”

Bishop Greg O’Kelly

Some of South A ustralia’s MP’s are preparing to bring in a vote at the states Upper House if Federal Parliament does not back its own gay marriage bill. Similar to Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings who has also backed a Tasmanian state-based reform push if the Federal Govt don’t move forward.

Many are just dismissing the Bishops remarks as those often spouted by outdated and out of touch homophobic clerics when it comes to same sex equality and same sex marriage.

Australian Gay Marriage Support Rises

Marriage Equality support in Australia is at its highest ever level according to according to a new Galaxy poll. They surveyed a sample group of 865 Australians aged between 18 and 69 years, distributed throughout the Australian states. This poll found that 64% agreed that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, of which 32% indicated strong agreement of that point.

Interestingly the results also showed that 41% were more likely to vote for the opposition Coalition, if it allowed a conscience vote on same sex marriage, while 32% claimed their vote would not be affected.

Alex Greenwich of Australian Marriage Equality pointed out that it will be a win win situation for same-sex couples, their families and Tony Abbott’s Coalition, despite Abbott’s reluctance to allow a free vote. ‘A Coalition conscience vote won’t just benefit same-sex couples and their families, it will also benefit the Coalition at the ballot box,’ he said.

‘Support for marriage equality has risen to its highest point ever because Australians are increasingly realising that marriage equality will strengthen relationships, families and marriage. If [the federal parliament] ignore the aspirations of the majority of Australians and fail to support this reform, it will occur anyway. State by state and territory by territory.’

This is great news for not only the gay and lesbian community of Australia, but also the wider world, where marriage equality has become a global issue, with the governments of many nations gearing up to debate and vote on equality.

In Australia a brand new advertising campaign has just been launched, promoting the message that marriage is about family and equality rather than the gender of the marriage. This interesting video features a gay couple and their extended families, showing how they support the couple’s relationship and embrace each other as family. An image of emotional attachment and inclusively that is often forgotten or ignored by many who oppose marriage equality.

Watch the video here. 




Getting Healthy Down Under!

Australia will become the first country in the world to administer the human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV) to all teenage boys as a matter of course. HPV is the virus that causes genital warts as well as various types of cancer including cervical and anal as is passed through sexual contact.

HPV Immunization

It is expected that the introduction of the vaccine to boys come into force early next year and should significantly lower the risk of infection to the young population of Australia, including gay men who are considered to be in the highest risk group in Australia. The vaccine is already routenly given to teenage girls and has shown a reduction in the number of cases presenting.

“Every parent wants their child to be healthy and that is why the Australian Government is delivering the best protection we have against HPV related cancer through this vaccine.“ Australian Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said recently. “By building on Australia’s world-class immunization program, we’re stopping preventable HPV related disease and cancers, and that makes a difference to the quality of life of our families. Already the HPV vaccine has had an impact – significantly reducing the number of lesions that lead to cervical cancer amongst women in the vaccinated age group. It is estimated that a quarter of new infections will be avoided by extending the vaccine to boys.”

In the UK the British Association Of Sexual Health and HIV made a call to the government stating the HPV virus vaccine should be administered free to gay men. A suggestion backed by the HIV/AIDS charity Terrence Higgins Trust among others.


Just 10 More!

The Australian Marriage Equality group have reported today that only ten more votes are needed pass same-sex marriage through the Australian senate.

This remarkable and welcome news was issued in a statement from the advocacy group who now call on all Australians to contact those undecided senators and urge them to support the legislation which would allow equal marriage the chance of being passed, reports Jason Shaw.

The AME say that 20 out of the 76 senators in the house are against same-sex marriage whilst another 27 are still yet undecided or have not declared their views on the matter.

The group have started a campaign page on the AME website which allows voters to see which senators in their state are undecided. The site can then direct the visitor to the senators’ contact details hopefully so voters can lobby them on the issue. Already there has been remarkable response with over 10,000 emails already sent, despite the campaign only starting a day or so ago.

“Only ten more votes are needed for the Senate to pass a reform that will strengthen families, provide couples with greater security, and fulfil the aspirations of a clear majority of Australians.” said Alex Greenwich of AME, adding that the senate inquiry into same-sex marriage was so supportive and the house has strong advocates for the issue such as Penny Wong, the senate is ‘the obvious chamber to start the marriage equality debate and vote.’

There is a real possibility of change in Australia, despite the ultra homophobic anti marriage equality Prime Minster Julia Gillard who wont change her opposition  on marriage equality.