russian alert

I wish to protest in the strongest possible terms the passing of new laws restricting the behaviour of gay people in Russia. Specifically in St Petersburg new laws prohibiting the transmission of so-called “gay propaganda” to children and the general intuition that this is soon to become the state of affairs nationally appalls me. You join the barbaric state of affairs of countries like Uganda. This I find deeply shocking; I am the gay son of Dutch and Slovenian parents. I have always looked to Russia for a cultural lead in the world arena. I look to Tolstoy, Tchaikowsky, Nijinsky, Kandinsky for peerless greatness in cultural matters. Has Russia nothing better than to create these backward laws? These are the symptoms of a repressive state. They are not even sexually observant. An opportunistic heterosexual male has more opportunity and often the inclination, if he is married and has children, to sexually abuse them. The state considers such an individual automatically beyond reproach. Instead you seek to demonise powerless outsiders. You are not worth serious consideration as a tourist destination. By all means descend into primitivism and repression. Shame, shame. Tostoy would be weeping in his grave.

This was my letter of protest to the Russian Embassy in Canberra; I wrote it upon hearing on SBS TV of a new anti-gay law being passed in St Petersburg. It reminds me instantly of the sad, pathetic slogan a failed NSW Christian Democrat contender wrote on the side of his truck, which he drove from Gosford up the coast to a prayer meeting in Brisbane prior to the state election there.

The misguided bigot is Peter Madden; the pathetic slogan on his truck was: “the dark side of same-sex marriage… homosexual sex-ed for young children”. The article from the Star Observer, Mar 23 2012, shows the truck becalmed in Lismore, and redecorated by locals with a more loving commentary.

Australia is a country of laid back, rather conservative people; we are not inclined to seriously engage with issues, they give us headaches that complicate social drinking. But our culture firmly espouses the fair go. The majority of Australians believe that the state should indiscriminately recognise the relationship of all eligible couples. This belief has taken some time to crystalise, and what will come of it is by no means certain. We sat and watched PM John Howard enshrine the Federal Marriage Act with Judeo-Christian-Moslem terms of reference. I insist on including the Islamic belief in that Abrahamic category, although it sanctions polygamy. As a population we prefer not to recognise polygamists, nor the possible discomfort of satanists, atheists and couples of other religious persuasions having to be united under foreign terms of reference. The simplest thing for the current PM, herself an admitted atheist, would have been to remove the religious references in the act; to then declare that religions would be able to sanction whatever marriage rites as they saw fit. However, as in France, the town hall and the registry office would be able to solemnise civic unions for all eligible citizens. This would be a neat enactment of the gospel exortation: render unto Caesar etc. From that moment on, hopefully the prevaling federal parliament would MOST severely discourage religious groups such as Mr Pell’s guys in frocks from making public homophobic remarks. A benign quid pro quo.

However a wider dilemma exists, which requires our attention. As I remarked in an earlier chapter, I began to insert references to my being gay into any possible lull in conversation, often to the discomfort of my audience. I was tired of the love that dare not tell its name, however I would not shut up. Now ironically, the rest of the population seems to be vigorously engaged with the issue. We must ask why. Why have we suddenly become a threat to the religious right?

The Afro-American bisexual cultural theorist Edie Kosowsky Sedgwick described the prevalence of heterosexual panic and paranoia. She wrote that hetero males constantly assessed each other for slippages in maintaining public identity; and irregularities or slipups were energetically ridiculed. But the pubic scrutiny I attract from heterosexual males tells me a more complex story. Kinsey in the 70’s developed the concept of a spectrum of sexual identity. At the age of 15, I consulted our country town priest who was also a trained psychologist; I was concerned about the sexual initiation I had received from his predecessor. My concern was that I was gay; his diagnosis was that I was not, but that I might easily become gay. He also said that in sports teams, in the army, in jail, men formed homosexual relationships that they found difficult to break out of. This always puzzled me. Freud thought that all males progressed through an immature homosexual stage. Some of us stayed immature; some of us regressed?

When I was growing up, the gender divide was clear cut, precisely defined. Men were strong and aloof. My dad being european behaved a little differently; he was affectionate, until his own personal concerns locked him away in his cancerian space. I was reminded of this whilst waiting in line at a Newtown bank. Ahead of me was a young man with his young son: dad’s head was clean shaven. His son was neatly, in fact semi-psychedelically dressed: tshirt, patterned pants, bright red plastic sandals, all co-ordinated. Dad held him close, rubbed his cheek against his son’s forehead and tenderly kissed the top of his head. They went forward to the teller, dad seating his son on the foot-wide ledge of the counter during the transaction.

That bond of overt feeling would not have happened in the 1950’s; encoded in the public discourse of the time was the belief that excessive affection between men meant that you were gay or might lead to your becoming gay. Today, the lucrative porn industry lures young men into acts that ordinarily they might not commit, kissing, active then passive anal. Is it a training ground for crossovers, or is it all just gay for pay? And then there is the legend of the US Marines, they will do anything, just not kiss??!!

We seem to have bred a generation or two of gentler, more relaxed males. Are they also more relaxed about gay activity? Kaiser in his Gay Empire, a history of homosexuality, says not; he conducted a survey of 20 year olds who felt that the paranoia and uptightness of the Mart Crowley play Boys in the Band was exactly how things stood for their generation. Personally, I am separated by too many generations to comment; a recent two year course in hospitality amongst 20 year olds showed all of my classmates interacting sexually in lunchbreaks. Several even extended the offer to me!!

But why is this such a threat for the religious right? Both they and their adversaries accuse each other of social engineering. The lesson I would draw from this state of affairs is that the heterosexual majority has to include gay, lesbian and gender-variegated folk in their world view. This is slowly happening because my community are stepping forward, admitting their nature to parents and friends, no longer fearful of being ostracised. In the 1950’s few people knew someone who was … you know… like that.. funny, peculiar. Now everyone has someone they don’t want to lose through rigid prejudice. BUT, the next step is logical. It is not a further demand for outrageous, special privilege, as the fundamentalists describe our claims. We all need to adjust our world view, make our picture of existence all-inclusive, not a medieval scenario of privilege and grudging tolerance. Anything less plays into the hands of the bigots, the religiously retarded and the politically devious.

If this account seemed to ramble blame mercury & mars both retrograde. In two lines: gay is a part of the natural order; those who have ignored our existence to date live in an incomplete world & must find a place for us in their world view or continue to live incompletely. As for the sad misguided truckdriver, madden is as madden does.

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About anton veenstra

tapestry weaver, fibre artist, gay/qr activist, multiculturalist
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