Thirty years on: my coming out, among other things

Actually I don’t have an exact date for my coming out, a torturous process that in fact took decades and cost me dearly psychologically and in other ways. But when around 1985 I actually ventured, having been out for less than a year, into a gay venue – the Britannia Hotel, then Beau’s, in Chippendale – this is one of the young men I met. With him I attended my first Mardi Gras Parade. For a while we saw a lot of one another.

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That is from a (linked to image) posting on YouTube which appeared in the Lost Gay Sydney Facebook Page. It is 1984 on a TV current affairs show which seems to have considerably more gravitas than the genre later developed. The people interviewed are very articulate. The occasion? Commemorated in NSW Hansard in March 2014 thus:

The Hon. PENNY SHARPE [7.19 p.m.]: On Saturday night I was proud to march in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras with over 100 Labor members and supporters to commemorate 30 years since homosexuality was decriminalised in New South Wales. I want to thank the hardworking Rainbow Labor Team, without whom there would have been no float. Thirty years ago this year, Labor Premier Neville Wran introduced the Crimes (Amendment) Bill 1984 as a private member’s bill, removing the criminalisation of homosexual activity from New South Wales law. Premier Wran’s bill was subject to a conscience vote for Labor members of Parliament and was passed with the support of a majority of Labor members and a number of Liberal members of the New South Wales Parliament. This was a monumental law reform from which so many other reforms have been made possible in the last 30 years. The significance of this reform cannot be overstated especially at a time where we are seeing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex [LGBTI] people in Nigeria, Russia, Uganda, and closer to home, in the Pacific, becoming criminalised simply because of who they love. Premier Wran’s bill drew strong opposition at the time, with a conservative member stating:

      What a pathetic and smutty epitaph this bill will be to a failing Premier.

Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile spoke of his concern that decriminalisation could mean that:

      Those potential homosexuals, the confused teenagers or young people in our society, will assume that as this bill is passed by our Parliament it is lawful, normal and acceptable to engage in acts of sodomy in New South Wales.

But as the Australian newspaper wrote at the time:

      Mr Wran took the bill into the House after virtually browbeating his troops into accepting that homosexual law reform was needed in New South Wales if the State was to be able to claim the title of most progressive in the country.

I pay tribute to Neville Wran for his courage as leader to bring this bill to the Parliament. I pay tribute to former Labor members such as George Petersen, Frank Walker and Jack Ferguson who had to fight within Labor and the Parliament to see this reform made a reality, yet were unsuccessful the first time. But I especially pay tribute to the gay and lesbian community members who showed true courage by campaigning against the criminalisation of homosexuality—at great risk and great threat to themselves and those they loved. Since the establishment of the Campaign Against Moral Persecution—better known as CAMP in 1970—gay men, lesbians and transgender activists had raised the profile of the issues faced by gay men and lesbians. In 1978 these same people, joined by many others, marched in what was a visibly gay rights protest to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York. This protest saw the birth of Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. People like me as individuals, and indeed all of the LGBTI community organisations who followed, owe these elders a great debt. During the debate in 1984 Premier Wran said:

      I feel that New South Wales and the New South Wales Parliament will be completely out of touch with current community standards if some substantial reform of the law is not achieved. This approach seems to me to involve not only a recognition of the reality of contemporary social circumstances, but the implication of such important concepts as the freedom of choice, and the rights of the individual and freedom from discrimination.

I often wish we had more debates that put these freedoms at the centre of our laws…

Fred Nile has not evolved at all since then…

I recall exactly where I was when that hit the news in 1984: Boyce Street, Glebe. And I recall who I was with, but there is another anniversary this month, this time 25 years – more on the day. See my post In 1983 I learned more than I knew I was learning….

Last night I forewent the delightful ABC political satire Utopia in order to watch SBS Living With the Enemy.

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The first episode in a series of documentaries, Living With the Enemy, produced by Shine and SBS, will focus on a gay couple that spends ten days living with a conservative Anglican minister who opposes gay marriage.

Gregory and Michael are gay activists and atheists and David is a father of three and an Anglican minister.

The film documents what happens when they become immersed in each other’s lives. The couple go to live in the minister’s world for five days then they swap and go to stay in the gay couple’s home.

“Living with the Enemy confronts major issues by bringing together a provocative clash of beliefs, ideologies and personalities that will have audiences shouting at the television”, Tony Iffland, SBS Director of Television, said. – Cec Busby, GNN/SX

Interesting that gay marriage was not the major topic among gay people thirty years ago, but in recent years it really has become a living area of change where we lag behind New Zealand, among other places. On that and other related matters see posts on this blog, on my previous blog, and on the one before that!

I have to say that David on last night’s show – respectable reality TV – was not a total idiot like this guy. He was warm and loving, could listen, and modified his attitudes if not his beliefs – those fairly typical of evangelical Sydney Anglicans. The perils of proof texting became apparent when he cited Leviticus 20: 13.

If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

Stoning such people to death was quite OK back whenever this was written, probably not by Moses but several centuries later. That text and similar ones are explored in The Bible and Homosexuality

Most Christians do not apply commands in Leviticus to their lives. They believe these laws are not binding on Christians. They do not believe they are under obligation to perform ritual hand washing, to refrain from eating pork or to abstain from sex during a woman’s period.

Christian churches do not make much of an attempt to apply the commands in Leviticus to corporate life. The requirements in Leviticus was that no priest serve the Lord, unless he was physically perfect. That is no longer the case. Pastors and priests are not required to marry virgins, as commanded in Leviticus 21:13. Churches do not check potential pastors for blemishes, eye defects, physical disabilities and inspect a potential pastor’s testicles to ensure they are perfect before the pastor is hired (requirement in Leviticus 21:16 to 21). For Christians who feel Calvary wipes away the need to keep the laws in Leviticus, enforcing Levitical laws on homosexuals is grossly inconsistent theology. Those Christians who wish to enforce the laws of Leviticus upon gay people need to admit their theology is very inconsistent and is potentially flawed.

One question that comes to mind regarding Leviticus relates to the word abomination. Leviticus 11:7 talks about pork as being unclean meat. Most Christians do not take the numerous texts in Leviticus seriously where the word abomination is used. Leviticus 11:10 is one of a passages where unclean food is called an abmomination. Christians generally do not consider eating pork an abomination, but Leviticus (11:11) considers even the carcases of unclean animals to be an abomination. Clean and unclean meat laws are not something most Christians feel any obligation to keep, yet many Christians insist that being gay is an abomination, when eating they feel eating pork is not an abomination.

Leviticus 18:21 -22 And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through [the fire] to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I [am] the LORD. Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it [is] abomination.

According to the respected Keil and Delitzsch Biblical commentary, Moloch was a Canaanite idol. These commentators believe going through the fire was a ceremony in which children were dedicated to the god Moloch. Immediately after a prohibition has been given to worshipping a pagan idol, by dedicating children to a pagan god, we see the what appears to be a prohibition of men having sexual intercourse with other men. The immediate context of this verse is worshipping other gods. Because the immediate context is worshipping pagan gods, one cannot be sure if this is a prohibition against gay relationships. This could be a prohibition against having sex with a man as a form of worshipping another god…

OK, some fair points and others that I find rather less persuasive, when the real point, I now believe, is that God has not written or caused to be written ANY books – Bible or Koran – that are in any way infallible, inerrant, and binding in all times and places. That is right: NONE. Though when considered as aspirations to be read respectfully, tentatively, and with scrupulous scholarship about origins and context, these products of earlier civilisations still have much to tell us.

Jesus himself said ZERO about homosexuality. Mind you he didn’t say much about computers, radios or ballpoint pens either.